Dream diary, 5/20/07, The gun and the Converse high-tops

Dream #1: I dreamed that I was at a restaurant with friends (in that dream way, they were close friends in the dream, but not anyone I know in real life). A man came into the restaurant waving a gun around in the air, and everyone in the restaurant started going crazy. I called the police on my cel phone, and then managed to get the gun away from the guy, by hitting him on the head with a large metal valve that was on the table. The police came — but the gun had disappeared, and my friends started saying that they hadn’t seen the gun, didn’t know what I was talking about, and didn’t know why I’d hit this guy (who was still knocked out cold). The police arrested me for assault and for filing a false police report, which they were calling “first degree fraud” and which they saw as much more serious than the assault. The rest of the dream involved me being processed and put in jail, and completely freaking out because it was obvious that my friends were fucking with me or framing me, and I had no idea why. I woke up very upset, and it took me a while to shake it off.

Dream #2: I dreamed that I was in a shoe store trying on sneakers, and discovered that they had started making Converse high-tops with decent padding and arch support. I was very excited — I bought a pair with Tweety Birds all over them, and was thrilled that I could start wearing Converse high-tops again. This was a very happy dream, and I woke up in a good mood, but somewhat disappointed that it wasn’t true.

Dream diary, 5/20/07, The gun and the Converse high-tops

Fred Phelps, Jerry Falwell, and the Blasphemy Challenge

Don’t know if y’all have heard this, but Fred Phelps, the seriously insane right-wing hate-mongering funeral-picketing homophobic fundie nutjob, has announced plans to protest at Jerry Falwell’s funeral.

Believe it or not, that’s not the weird part.

Here’s what jumped out at me. Phelps’s reasons for hating Falwell and believing that he’s burning in hell are basically that Falwell disagreed with Phelps about the correct interpretation of the Bible. And one of the main pieces of Scripture he’s using to support his “Falwell’s in hell” thesis is the one about committing the one unpardonable sin and denying the Holy Spirit.

Exactly the piece of Scripture that the Blasphemy Challenge people are going on about.

The piece of Scripture that many Blasphemy Challenge critics claim is irrelevant.

Apparently, the whole “one unforgivable sin”/ “denying the Holy Spirit”/ blasphemy thing isn’t as irrelevant as some people think. I’m sure it doesn’t get much play in more reasonable, loving, tolerant churches and Christian families. But Ingrid’s dad grew up in a hard-core fundie household… and when we mentioned the Blasphemy Challenge to him, he knew exactly which passage we were talking about.

Now, I get that Phelps is the fringe of the fringe. He is almost certainly mentally ill, and I mean that quite literally. Even other hateful homophobic right-wing fundie nutjobs think this guy is a nutjob. This is the guy who went from picketing at funerals of gay people to picketing at the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq, on the theory that the war in Iraq is God’s punishment of America for tolerating gays and other evil people. His theory that disagreeing with his own interpretation of the Bible constitutes a denial of the Holy Spirit is hubristic to the point of delusional. He gets in the news a lot, but he doesn’t represent mainstream religion, or even a reasonably sizable rivulet off the mainstream, or indeed anything other than a handful of equally insane followers.

I’m just sayin’, is all.

Fred Phelps, Jerry Falwell, and the Blasphemy Challenge

The “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” Prediction Contest, or, The Most Trivial Thing On This Blog To Date, And That’s Saying Something

It’s time.

The book is on sale for pre-orders. It comes out in July of this year. And rumors about the possibility of spoilers are already starting to circulate. So now is the time to begin Greta Christina’s Harry Potter Book Seven Prediction Contest.

I’m not quite sure why I do these. When I did my Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Seven Prediction Pool, I got exactly zero out of five predictions right. But I had a gas doing the pool anyway, and was entertained and impressed by how well other people did on it. (Rebecca and Jack both got four out of five, and the game wound up coming down to the tie-breaker.)

So here are the official rules to Greta Christina’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” Prediction Contest. If you don’t like ’em, hold your own damn contest.

1. Predictions must be posted as comments in this blog. No private emails.

2. Each player should submit a list of five predictions. If you want to make more, you can submit a second list of five — but correct predictions from the two lists will not be added together. Each list of five stands on its own. (No more than two lists per player.)

3. Predictions must not be totally obvious. For instance, “The book will be longer than 300 pages” or “Harry will use magic during the course of the book” will not count.

3a. On that topic: “Harry will defeat Voldemort,” “Harry will kill Voldemort,” and “Voldemort will die” will not, by themselves, be accepted as predictions. You can, however, predict how Harry will kill/defeat Voldemort, how exactly Voldemort will die, or whether Harry will die himself in defeating Voldemort.

4. Predictions must not be totally vague, either. I have to be able to reasonably determine whether what you predicted did or did not happen in the book.

5. Your predictions may duplicate other people’s predictions. You’re on the honor system to not cherry-pick the best predictions from other people’s lists. However, each new player must make at least one prediction that’s not on a previously posted list — so it’s in your interest to post your predictions early.

6. Predictions may not be changed once they’ve been posted.

7. Predictions must be submitted no later than 12:01 am Pacific time on July 20 (that’s the day BEFORE the book comes out). If serious, credible spoilers about the book leak out in the media before then, I’ll stop accepting predictions. (So again, get your predictions in early!)

8. In the case of judgement calls, I will be the final arbiter. If you don’t like it, tough. This isn’t global warming, people — this is a Harry Potter prediction contest, and in the cosmic scheme of things, or indeed any scheme of things, it is utterly trivial.

9. Tie-breaker: Originally, I was going to have my tie-breaker be the same one I used in the Buffy Season Seven Prediction Pool: how many major characters will die in the last episode? But J.K. Rowling has already announced that two major characters will die in the last book, thus completely screwing up my tie-breaker.

Thanks, bitch.

Therefore, the tie-breaker question instead will be: Which two major characters will die in Book Seven?

(If there’s a tie, and both/all winners get the tie-breaker right, then all will win, and all will have prizes.)

Prize: I’m not actually going to do this as a pool this time — it was too much hassle with the Buffy pool. This is just a straight-out contest. The winner, if they live in the Bay Area and are someone I personally know, will receive one (1) homemade chocolate pie, personally delivered to your door. With whipped cream, if I can find my hand-held electric mixer. If the winner doesn’t live in the Bay Area or is someone I don’t know, they will receive, in the mail, 1 (one) batch of my homemade chocolate crinkle cookies.

And now, to get you started, here is my list. Again, I don’t know why I’m subjecting myself to this public humiliation, as my track record on these pop-culture predictions has consistently sucked. But I’ve always promised myself to be fearless in my writing, and that includes being unafraid to make a fool of myself in public over pointless pop-culture trivia.

So here goes.

1. Snape will turn out to be a good guy after all, and it will turn out that he murdered Dumbledore on Dumbledore’s own orders.

2. In his search for Horcruxes, Harry will encounter Snape also trying to find and destroy Horcruxes, and the two of them will have to cooperate to destroy them (or at least one of them).

3. Snape will die heroically attempting to defeat Voldemort. (Unofficial prediction: One of the Horcruxes will be in Snape himself, and he’ll kill himself to destroy it. That one doesn’t count, though — if it turns out to be right, I get nothing but glory.)

4. Dumbledore’s portrait will begin to speak, and will give Harry advice.

5. Harry will NOT die — or if he does, it’ll be some weird temporary “visiting the land of the dead” thing. He won’t be dead at the end of the book.

Tie-breaker: Snape and Voldemort will die in the last book.

Okay, fine. So three out of my five predictions involve Snape. Plus my tie-breaker. So what’s your point? At least one of them wasn’t “Snape will have a torrid affair with a 45-year-old atheist sex writer from America.” I have SOME pride.

So those are my predictions. What are yours?

The “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” Prediction Contest, or, The Most Trivial Thing On This Blog To Date, And That’s Saying Something

Hate Crime Laws, and the Difference Between Speech and Evidence

As you may have heard, there’s a bill winding its way through Congress that would expand the current Federal hate crime law to include hate crimes committed over sexual orientation, transgender identity, gender, or disability. (The current law covers hate crimes committed because of race, color, religion, or national origin.)

I’m not just writing this to beg everyone reading this blog to write or call your Senators. (Although I’m doing that, too. Please, for the love of all that is beautiful in this world, write or call your Senators. This passed in the House, but it’s facing a fight in the Senate, and I’m hearing that the calls against the legislation are far outstripping the calls supporting it. It takes two minutes. Google your Senators’ names, find their official Websites with their phone numbers, and call them. Please do it.)

But that’s not the only point of this post. I’ve had a rant brewing for some time about hate crime laws, and now seems like the obvious time to do it. (Important disclaimer: I’m a smart observant person, but I’m not a legal expert. If any legal experts see any flaws in my understanding of the law, please point them out.)


There’s a common misconception about hate crime laws — which is that they criminalize hateful speech or writing. They don’t. There is an enormous difference between hate speech laws or rules — such as the ones that exist on many college campuses (and which I do, in fact, vehemently oppose) — and hate crime laws.

Hate crime laws don’t criminalize speech. What hate crime laws do is say that, if a crime is motivated by hatred or bias towards a group — a race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc. — then extra time should be added to the sentence.

In other words, they say that certain motives for crimes are worse than other motives, and deserve a more severe punishment.

And that’s a legal principle that is both extremely well-established and widely accepted.

Look at the difference between first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, justifiable homicide, etc. Our laws say that it’s worse to kill someone in cold blood for money than to kill someone in the heat of passion for anger; which is worse than killing someone recklessly and stupidly in an accident; which is worse than killing someone in self-defense. It’s a clear legal principle: different reasons for killing people deserve different degrees of punishment.

Now, some people argue that the problem with hate crime laws is that they are de facto laws against hateful speech — since hateful speech is typically what distinguishes between a hate crime and a regular crime. If you’re screaming, “Die, faggot,” when you’re beating someone up, that’s evidence that it’s a hate crime — and some people argue that this makes hate crime laws a violation of the First Amendment. (I’ve seen this argument made — unopposed — not just in political and punditry circles, but in otherwise generally intelligent and more or less progressive pop culture arenas, such as Law & Order, The West Wing, and South Park.)

But that’s just silly. There’s a huge difference between speech as speech, and speech as evidence of motive.

Again, let’s look at the difference between first-degree murder, second-degree murder, justifiable homicide, etc. If a person who’s killing someone is heard to say, “Ha ha, after months of careful planning, my scheme to kill you for your insurance money is finally coming to fruition,” you can bloody well believe that those words are going to be used as evidence of first-degree murder. Nobody on Earth is going to oppose that on First Amendment grounds.

(And if the killer is heard to say, “You bastard, I can’t believe you’re having sex with my wife, I’m so angry I could kill you,” or “I can’t believe how drunk I am — whoops!”, or “Get your hands off me! Help!”, or “I’m sorry, but the ghost of Millard Fillmore spoke to me through the fillings in my teeth and told me to kill the first redhead I saw,” then that’s going to be used as evidence to support second-degree murder, or self-defense, or an insanity plea, or whatever.)

That’s what hate crime laws do. They don’t make hateful or bigoted words into a crime. They allow those words to be evidence of a particular motive for the crime.

And they do this to support the principle that hurting or killing someone because of bigotry and hatred is an exceptionally bad reason to hurt or kill someone. They say that this sort of crime harms not just the victim, but all of society. They say that our society is exceptionally appalled by crimes committed because of bigotry, and finds them even more intolerable than garden-variety crime.

Now, I’ll remind you here: We already have a federal hate crime law on the books, adressing crimes committed because of race, color, religion, or national origin.

So to oppose this latest law is to say that hurting or killing someone because of any of those reasons is exceptionally bad  but killing someone because of gender, sexual orientation, transgender identity, or disability is nothing special. No big deal. When someone gets beaten up because they’re black or Jewish or Italian — that’s exceptionally serious. When someone gets beaten up because they’re queer, female, transgendered, or disabled — not so much.

That is some fucked-up shit.

Please call your Senator, and ask them to vote yes on the hate crime law. Please do it now.

Hate Crime Laws, and the Difference Between Speech and Evidence

Jerry Falwell

Jerry Falwell, talking with Pat Robertson on The 700 Club, September 13, 2001. Commenting on the 9/11 attacks, two days after they happened.

“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.'”

Let’s just not forget, people.

Jerry Falwell

Reality Porn: British Phone Box Cards

Please note: This post contains fairly explicit descriptions of my personal sex life and my personal sexual practices and proclivities. Family members and others who don’t want to read about that, now would be a good time to stop reading.

No, really.

I recently came across a lovely set of dirty web pages (the site has several pages , but they won’t all let you link directly) devoted to British phone box cards — those cards printed up and placed in phone booths by British prostitutes, dommes, and submissives to advertise their services. (Thanks to Spanking Blog for the tip!)

I’ve always been fascinated with these phone box cards, and have always found them very hot and very sexually compelling. More so in a lot of ways than regular porny porn. So when I had a chance to look over this sizable collection of them — a collection full of examples that happen to push my particular sexual buttons, collected by someone who clearly shares those buttons — it gave me a perfect opportunity to, shall we say, meditate, on what it is about these cards that’s so mesmerizing.

I think it has to do with reality.

I’ve always found real sex, and realistic sex fantasies, much hotter than impossible or implausible ones. Maybe it’s because I have such a literal mind. But there’s an immediacy to real-life sex depictions and realistic porn that I find very compelling. It makes me feel like I’m right there — in the picture, in the story, in the movie. (I write about this a little more in A Sex Writer’s Defense of Visual Porn.) Even when I’m making up sex fantasies for myself, I have a weird compulsion to come up with a plausible back-story before I get to the good parts.

Which brings me back to the phone box cards.

See, these aren’t just sexy photos and drawings of pretty girls getting spanked. They’re sexy photos and drawings of pretty girls who want you to spank them for money. The cards don’t just give you a fantasy for you to whack off to. The cards represent real women for you to potentially get off with. Who are, in fact, actively encouraging you to get off with them.

Obviously, dirty photos and videos depict real women, too. But the fact that these cards are the advertising cards of professional women means that the women are, in theory, available — in a way that, for the overwhelming majority of us, porn actors and models aren’t.

And that gives the fantasy an impact, an immediacy, that regular porn just doesn’t have. It’s so much easier to imagine taking one of these phone-box girls over my knee and spanking her hard — because I could. In real life. (Or if not that exact girl — who knows how old these cards are, and if any of these women are still working — then another one not unlike her.) It could happen. And not just in a “Yeah, sure, theoretically anything could happen,” way, but in an “I could make this happen” way. If I were visiting London, and had a decent amount of extra cash in my pocket, I could find one of these cards, and call one of these girls, and do things with her that I will never in my entire life do with a porn star or a fetish model.

(Or I could do it here in San Francisco, on the Web. But that’s a subject for another post.)

All of which gives these cards a weirdly intense impact on my libido — one that definitely outstrips the erotic power of the images just by themselves.


P.S. I was talking with my friend Tim about this today, and he told me that the Loud Family song “Self Righteous Boy Reduced to Tears” was inspired by one of these phone box cards. (A more dommy one than the ones I’m showing here, I assume.) And I say yet again: Neat. I had no idea.

Reality Porn: British Phone Box Cards

This Space Available

Astute observers of this blog may have noticed a recent change — I’ve begun accepting advertising.

This wasn’t the conclusion of any great moral dilemma or anything. It’s just that the opportunity only recently presented itself. I was just invited to join BlogAds, a network of bloggers organized into hives so potential advertisers can find them. Many other blogs that I like and respect are part of this network, and I jumped at the chance as fast as I could.

And I have my very first ad — appropriately enough, from a gay atheist activist artist. Neat!

Like I said, this wasn’t some big moral dilemma for me. My goal for some time now has been to make a living — or something resembling a living — as a writer. I love blogging with a passion, but until now it’s only ever benefited me professionally in an indirect way, by publicizing my writing and getting it out to a wider audience. That’s not trivial… but there have been times, when I’ve been up blogging until four in the morning several nights in a row, when I’ve wondered whether this was really the best use of my time and energy. If I can bring in a little money selling ads on the blog, then it makes sense for me to keep on blogging.

So if you like this blog, and you want me to be able to keep writing it, there’s now something you can do to help. No, I don’t mean “advertise in my blog” (although if you have a business you’d like to hawk, we should talk).

No, what you can do is this: Tell your friends about this blog. If you see a post you particularly like, email a few friends about it. The more traffic I get here, the easier it’ll be for me to sell more ads. And if I can keep selling ads, then I can keep justifying the ridiculous amount of time I spend here. Thanks.

This Space Available

Mitt Romney: Gay Marriage Makes Baby Jesus Cry

You know, it’s not so much the fact that he’s opposing same-sex marriage that bugs me. I pretty much expect that from any Republican Presidential candidate, and for that matter from most of the Democratic ones too.

It’s not even the fact that Romney used to be both more progressive and more gay-friendly. After all, John McCain needs someone to keep him company in his craven rush to suck the collective cock of the far right.

What’s really bugging me about Romney’s opposition to same-sex marriage is that he’s using religion and the Bible to defend it.

See, this is what I’ve been talking about. When I’m gassing on about the crucial difference between faith and evidence, this is the kind of thing I mean. When elected officials cite religious beliefs — and religious scripture in particular — to defend their political positions, they’re basically saying that they have the right to make decisions about other people’s lives, not on the basis of evidence or ethics or good arguments, but on the basis of unsupported faith.

And not just a general ecumenical faith in some sort of God or some sort of soul, but a specific set of beliefs and rules — about which people all over the world disagree vehemently and violently, and for which there is no basis for believing other than (a) their personal hunch, and/or (b) the tradition and authority of their parents and teachers and religious texts.

They’re saying that, when deciding an important question with a powerful effect on people’s lives (such as same-sex marriage), a book written thousands of years ago in a society that no longer exists — and their own personal interpretation of that book — is every bit as important, and maybe even more important, as what does and does not work to make our society flourish, and to make the people in it stable and happy.

Not just when it comes to their own life — their own marriage, their own body, their own sexuality — but mine, and yours, and everyone else’s.

And that absolutely makes me want to run screaming into the night.

Because the thing about religious beliefs is that they’re not based on evidence. They’re based either on personal inspiration, or the authority of religious teachers and texts (or some combination of the two). And ultimately, they’re not debatable. You can argue with people about their religious beliefs, but eventually it always comes down to, “I believe what I believe.”

And while that is totally none of my business when it comes to people’s own personal lives, it is bloody well not how we should be deciding on laws and public policy. Our decisions about laws and policy should be based on what does and does not work in the world: what keeps people healthy and safe, what makes communities flourish, what helps children to grow up and function successfully as adults, etc. They should be based on what does and does not work to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. They should fucking well not be based on Mitt Romney’s personal faith, and what he believes the people who wrote the Bible meant when they wrote it more than two thousand years ago.

It’s not like Romney is using “religious faith” as another way of saying “my instincts and ethics,” either. He’s not saying. “The inner voice of God within me says this is true.” He’s citing Scripture. He’s saying, “The Bible says it’s true. Therefore, it’s true.”

Now, for the record, I know that there are Christians who don’t think the Bible says any such a thing. I know there are Christians who support same-sex marriage whole-heartedly. That’s not my point. Actually… you know what? It kind of is my point. The Bible is a complicated, self-contradictory mess, written by different people at different historical periods with sometimes wildly different points of view. And it can be used — has been used — to defend just about any position, from slavery to civil rights, from the stoning of homosexuals to the support of same-sex marriage. (As Ingrid said: If you’re trying to pass laws based on the Bible, but you’re not passing laws against blended fabrics or charging interest on loans, then you need to shut up.)

So my point isn’t that religious faith should not be influencing politics and policy because it’s anti-gay. It isn’t always. I know that. My point is that religious faith should not be influencing politics and policy because it’s not based on evidence of what is and isn’t true in the real world. And that’s exactly what law and policy should be based on.

It’s one thing to base your own life on a collective religious tradition or an inspired religious hunch. I think it’s mistaken, I think it’s problematic… but I also think it’s none of my damn business. But when people try to base MY life on their collective tradition or inspired hunch — without actually bothering to look at my life and what would and would not help me and the people around me — that is another kettle of fish. And it’s a kettle of fish that stinks to the skies.

Mitt Romney: Gay Marriage Makes Baby Jesus Cry

So Christopher Hitchens Walks Into A Bar…

You know, there are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to begin.

“This” being Christopher Hitchens’s recent piece in Vanity Fair about why women aren’t as funny as men. The key sentence: “For women, reproduction is, if not the only thing, certainly the main thing.” Because we bear and raise children, women are both more nurturing and take life more seriously than men, and thus lack both the mean-spiritedness and the frivolousness required of humor. That’s a gross over-generalization of Hitchens’s piece; but then, Hitchens’s piece is pretty gross, so I guess it’s appropriate.

I don’t even know where to start. And no, I’m not going to start with the absurdity of “For women, reproduction is, if not the only thing, certainly the main thing.” I have better things to do than shoot that particularly slow and stupid fish in that exceptionally small barrel.

So I guess I should start with the obvious: It isn’t true. Flat out, plain, R-O-N-G Rong. Other bloggers have been busily coming up with lists of counterexamples, so I’m not going to bother. (Google it yourself if you like; I’m putting some of my personal favorites in my illustrations.) Instead, I’ll just say: He obviously hasn’t met my friends. Or my co-workers. Or my family. Or my girlfriend. Or the commenters on this blog. Or… well, you get the drift. It’s as if Hitchens spent 2700 words carefully pondering the question of why birds don’t fly.

And of course, there is the slow, stupid fish in the tiny tiny barrel — the assumption that all women are focused on baby-making above all other forms of human endeavor, a focus that drives everything that might interfere with it clean out of our pretty little heads. (And that no men are like that at all.)

But what really kills me is the assumption that we are all — women and men alike — either completely nurturing or completely mean-spirited; utterly serious or utterly frivolous. You have to be one or the other — you can’t be both. You can’t make chicken soup for your sick girlfriend and then make mean-spirited snarky jokes on the Internet; you can’t spend all week taking care of mentally ill homeless people with AIDS and then spend an hour and half on Saturday night getting dressed up to go to a drag show. Nope. One or the other, please. Pick now, all of you. NOW, dammit!

This is the thing that irritates me most about this sort of simplistic “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” gender analysis. It’s the ham-handed division of the human race into two easily distinguishable camps, with everyone in one camp having A, B, and C qualities in unadulterated proportions, and everyone in the other camp having X, Y, and Z qualities in an equally pure form.

The reality is that, whatever gender-differentiated behavior trait you can think of — aggressiveness, competitiveness, co-operation, empathy, whatever — we all of us have all of them to at least some degree, and there’s an enormous amount of overlap between the genders. Even in the areas where women’s and men’s behavior is pretty demonstrably different — the tendency to get into physical fights, for instance — it’s not as if all women are lumped from 1 to 5 and all men are lumped from 6 to 10. It’s more like we’re on overlapping bell curves — with women bell-curving from, say, 1 to 8, and men bell-curving from 3 to 10. (I’m literally and physically pulling those numbers out of my ass as we speak, by the way. But I’ll bet you that my science analysis is still better than Hitchens’s. A small Russet potato could analyze the science in this story better than Hitchens did.) And leaning towards the male end of one particular spectrum (spatial relations, say) is no guarantee that you’ll lean towards the male end of any other spectrum (like verbal ability).

And maybe more to the point: I’ve seen studies that show that people — both women and men — who aren’t rigidly gender-typed, people who have lots of typical characteristics of both genders, tend to be happier and better-adjusted and more satisfied with themselves and their lives than people who adhere to rigid gender roles and expect others to do the same.

And I bet we’re funnier, too.

So Christopher Hitchens Walks Into A Bar…