Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Awful piece on marriage, gay and otherwise

With a hat tip to Isaac Chotiner at The New Republic, whose post alerted me to this editorial, I'd like in turn to draw your attention to a terrible piece of writing on marriage. It's by one Sam Schulman at the conservative website/magazine The Weekly Standard, and is full to brimming with head-slappingly ridiculous claims about marriage between people of different sexes and the same sex. If you don't read all of Schulman's work, read Chotiner's post to get the flavor.

To be honest, I have a tough time with my feelings about the piece. On the one hand, my reaction is so strongly and immediately negative, and almost everything Schulman writes seems wrong in such a glaring, obvious way that it could be dismissed as a self-made straw man of sorts, an extreme outlier. At the same time, however, he lays bare a major undercurrent I've always noted in the arguments against marriage equality: the desire of social conservatives to preserve "traditional" gender roles in heterosexual relationships. How can you keep the work/homemaking spheres separated, after all, if the married couple in question is two ladies or -- added ickyness! -- two dudes?

The answer to those like me who believe in making your home life in the way that you and your loved ones see fit* is that you don't, or need not, keep the spheres separate unless you choose to do so for yourselves. And so, I look at a paragraph like this one Schulman cobbled together from the bones of the past, and after every sentence, I find myself flatly negating the statement he just made:
Even in modern romantic marriages, a groom becomes the hunting or business partner of his father-in-law and a member of his clubs; a bride becomes an ally of her mother-in-law in controlling her husband. There can, of course, be warm relations between families and their children's same-sex partners, but these come about because of liking, sympathy, and the inherent kindness of many people. A wedding between same-sex lovers does not create the fact (or even the feeling) of kinship between a man and his husband's family; a woman and her wife's kin. It will be nothing like the new kinship structure that a marriage imposes willy-nilly on two families who would otherwise loathe each other.
The assumtion of universality, the "one-size-fits-all" of his model of marriage is staggering. It's not that a groom might partner with his father in law, it's that he does. No he doesn't, Mr. Schulman. It's like he got his idea of family and marriage from all the old comic strips that newspapers only keep to avoid receiving nasty letters from septugenarians.

I feel that mentioning, as Schulman does, that he's been married thrice, is scoring easy points. Honestly, if I didn't think someone would read his piece and bring this fact up in a comment, I'd leave it out.

Anyway, I feel like today is a good day to celebrate marriages of all kinds, as it is Melissa's and my second anniversary. The first two years have been wonderful, and I'm looking forward to many pairs of years more!

* (So long as nobody is being harmed! Gay and non-traditional straight marriages are not a slippery slope to legal incest, bestiality, and polygamy.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Calling Out, Around The World

Summer's here, and the time is right to see The Robinson Caruso Organization! Old school R&B & soul! Live music!

I was recruited a couple months ago into the horn section of the Organization, and it has been a hell of a good time. We're playing a mix of new & old: original songs written by front man Robinson Caruso himself (James Rone), and hits from the likes of Al Green, The Temptations, Martha & the Vandellas, Jamie Lidell, Otis Redding, Bill Withers & Stevie Wonder. Our first show was last month at Bunker's, and if you go to the RCO Facebook page, you can see photos and videos from that event.

Show #2 is next Tuesday, June 2nd, at the Fine Line Music Cafe in Downtown Minneapolis. There's no cover, and you can go here to print some complimentary tickets in advance. Because you need comps for a no cover show? Here's the word from the Fine Line about the evening:
Darrell Julian 8-9:00
Robinson Caruso 9:15-10:15
Sexy Delicious 10:30-11:30
On Tuesday nights the Fine Line 2 for 1 on all drinks
AND our new kitchen will be open until 10pm serving appetizers, sandwiches, etc!!
So bring your appetite in addition to your dancing shoes...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Do Not Separate

This weekend The Current (the local, hipstery non-classical, non-news NPR music affiliate, for those who are unfamiliar) is doing a "block party weekend." They're taking requests for artists, and playing three songs at a time for each. Last night as I was driving around, I called in to request some Bowie, unawares that they had played a Bowie set immediately before the Beastie Boys set that had just ended. Thankfully, they threw in "Under Pressure" at the end of a subsequent Queen set, so I at least got a little shot of the White Duke.

Later, I caught the tail end of a Led Zeppelin set, hearing the second half of "Black Dog." Afterward, the DJ listed the songs from the set, and said that we'd heard "Heartbreaker." Without "Living Loving Maid," I thought? What a letdown! Those songs go together. It's a direct segue. Had I been listening, I would have sung right along, expecting to go from "Heartbreaker! Heartbreaker! Heart!" to "With a purple umb-a-rella and a fifty-cent hat!"

(Incidentally, according to Wikipedia, the songs were never played together in concert, because Jimmy Page didn't really like the latter. Also incidentally, unless the song is in someway inspired by the writing of Tolkien, Zeppelin lyrics are properly quoted with exclamation points.)

Anyway, this got me thinking of other song combinations that are properly played together:

There are other combos that I prefer, but aren't what I'd call necessary. For instance, the end of "Buddy Holly" feels like it should lead into the beginning of "The Sweater Song." And in the alternate universe where They Might Be Giants are a Top 40 hit machine, a DJ would never play "If I Wasn't Shy" off of Apollo 18, without immediately following up with "Turn Around."

Anyone else got examples of necessary or preferred song combinations?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Coffee is for Closers: a terrible board game, reviewed

The following is a review I posted to of a game Melissa and I bought super-cheap back in January.

"To make a million dollars it takes more than skill and strategy," claims the cover of The Million Dollar Sales Game by Jim Madonna Marketing. Point of fact, if the game play is to be believed, neither of these things have anything to do with making a million, and pure, stupid luck is all you need.

My wife and I discovered this on the 75%-Off clearance games table at Barnes & Noble in January. This need not have been a sign of the lack of quality: they also had Acquire on this table, and we picked up an Onyx edition of Monopoly for $12.50. That night, over pizza, we tried out Million Dollar Sales.

We expected a variant on Monopoly, wherein we would have to use sales skills somehow to sell properties or goods, or deal with clients, distributors, customers, and competitors of some sort. What we got was Candy Land for salespeople.

You roll the dice, move your car, and do whatever your new space tells you, which may be a good or bad thing (either gaining or losing money, prospective customers, spaces on the board, or a turn), or a Stuff Happens card (which is a bad thing after drawing a card) or an Opportunity Knocks card (good thing). When you have five prospective customers, they may be traded for Actual Customers. When you pass the starting point on the circuit, you get rewarded based on how many customers you have.

The game involves remarkably little decision making. Really the only decision you make is whether or not to leave the main track for one of six Regional Customer tracks. These tracks slow your path to pay day, but each gets you a Regional Customer card, which counts as a customer on payday, and if you have all six customer cards, you get a bonus at that time.

The fact that the mechanics are so simplistic means that if the game is to be any fun, the fun has to come from the theme. And the theme is ham-handed. We quickly realized that this game is designed as a training tool for salespeople. The in-game text uses lots of sales jargon about listening and following up and creating a work plan and closing. All of this is presented in a lifeless and matter-of-fact way that generates exactly zero interest. It also doesn't attach any meaning to the actions described. You may be told that up-selling is a good thing, but you aren't told how you might do this as a real-life salesperson. So the game amounts to $40 flash cards without anything written on their backs [again, we got this on the bargain table; I'd be much angrier at the game if we'd paid $40 instead of $7]. I cannot imagine how this would be useful even if you were learning to sell.

The components in the box are very nice. Everything is glossy, printed in color on magazine-cover-like paper. The board is in full color and well-printed, and the cars are not cheap plastic. The dice are needlessly large. The box is well-arranged, with separate trays for everything and a clear plastic lid that holds everything in place to prevent contents from shifting.

The game was not without its cheesy entertainment value, mostly for meta-game reasons. The sheer ridiculousness of the presentation and the jargon made us laugh on several occasions, especially when a Stuff Happens card penalized me eight grand "just for being stupid." The salesspeak reminded me repeatedly of the play and film Glengarry Glen Ross and made me wish there was a vulgar, David Mamet-themed version of the game ("Mitch & Murray send Alec Baldwin to call you a c********r. Go back ten spaces." [link NSFW and family-unfriendly] Second place in this version would, of course, be a set of steak knives.).

So unless a phrase like "The Power of Listening Avenue" sends you into paroxysms of laughter, this game is eminently skippable. Even if you are trying to learn to sell, this game probably won't teach you anything of value. Go rent the movie and pick up some choice swears from Al Pacino and Jack Lemmon instead.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Poverty is expensive

If you ever find yourself complaining about the "lucky duckies" at the bottom of the income scale who don't pay income tax, or feel that the poor just need to get their acts together to bootstrap themselves out of a bad situation, I urge you to read this article from the Washington Post.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jeopardy: sense of scale

The 2009 Jeopardy College Tournament is this week, and whoever wins it is guaranteed a spot in the 2010 Tournament of Champions along with previous College winner Joey Beachum (prevented by the Air Force from competing in the 2009 ToC), Liz Murphy, maybe Kevin Joyce, and maybe maybe me.

The official site now has a set of photos of the College players going through the process, and it shows a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff I was yammering about for weeks. Check it out.

Monday, May 4, 2009

So it's come to this: a LOLCat

I promise not to make a habit of posting LOLCats, but this one is a classic, and one of my favorites ever. This rheumy- and cock-eyed, and seemingly insane Persian is infinitely amusing to me. I would be fascinated to see other pictures of this particular cat.

Humorous Pictures