Saturday, November 21, 2009

You Do It.

According to this study, if we think someone else is an expert at something, our own brains shut down and let that person take care of it. If we trust the person making the decision, our own decision-making apparatus turns itself off. Duh, right? But it's interesting to see the phenomenon presented so graphically in a brain scan.

It's like in marriages, if one partner is (or just seems to be, or we think he is or, etc.) very effective in some area, the other partner lets him or her take care of it. You know about cars, so you keep track of when to change the oil. You're better at math, you pay the bills. You cook, I'll wash the dishes. If one partner is hyper-functional in an area, the other partner gets less and less effective in that area. It just makes sense; division of labor makes a house hum.

Is this any more complex than our brains just looking for a break where they can find one? I often get frustrated with myself because if someone else is driving, I don't pay attention to where I am. So if I have to get there by myself next time, even if I've been there dozens of times I have no idea where it is or how to get there. This even happens when I'm walking with someone. If I think my companion knows the way, I stop paying attention. Trouble is, often that person and I are both thinking the same thing and we get totally lost. And it feels involuntary, it's as if I can't even make myself pay attention if I try.

I kind of see this study as evidence of something very nice about how we work together as organisms. We don't all need to be taking care of everything, do we? The discouraging aspect is, like so many things, the biological mechanism doesn't seem to take into account our infinite ability and desire to deceive each other.

Friday, November 20, 2009

That Hipster Porn.

This is my favorite new blog. I guess you call it a blog. There's no writing, just still images and some video. There's no explanation, but the photos look like found stuff. Anyway, it's a real trove. Sexy, mysterious, sweet, hilarious, inspiring. It makes me feel good about the future.

(If for some reason you don't want to look at pictures of naked people, don't click the link. Eye-roll.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Play That Barbershop Chord.

I'm serious, I cannot stop myself. Does anyone else get as much pure pleasure from this stuff as me?

It Is Not Political Rhetoric To Call For An Assassination. It Is A Crime.

News like this makes me feel so angry and so, so sad. It seems to just get worse and worse and they have no boundaries. And the worst thing is that nobody but Rachel Maddow and a handful of bloggers are reporting this stuff.

These lunatics ... y'know it's easy to call them crazy and dismiss them, but these are people we move among every day, they are the relatives of friends, they are family and co-workers, they are teaching your children, they are local businesspeople, elected representatives, public servants. Maybe I feel it more here in Texas because they're a little more vocal here, but there are certainly lots of Republicans in the Midwest, Northeast, California. They may be a shrinking minority, but they are still a significant percentage of the population of every state in the union.

The only thing that keeps me from utter despair at the state of the world that I am leaving to my nephews, the children of my friends, the kids I want to teach -- the only thing that gives me any small bit of hope is the wish, please, that this homicidal insanity is the dying breath of these God-people, these Jesus freaks, these ugly ugly hate-filled stupid stupid people. Sarah Palin? Will you and your clan ever finally melt into a black puddle and leave us alone? Will it be in my lifetime?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I was feeling guilty about my little snotty remark about Emmylou Harris in my last post. If I make fun of Emmylou, it's only because sometimes I'm afraid of just how much I worship her. Here she is singing one of my favorite Dolly Parton songs on the Grand Ole Opry. Perfect example of how Dolly's songs can be so simple and sort of hackneyed and then take your breath away. Long live Dolly and Emmylou.

Rufus and Family.

I was listening to Rufus Wainwright on KUT this morning. He's playing two shows at the Paramount theater here in Austin, yesterday and today. The tickets were a little steep for my current state of brokeness, so I had to settle for a live set on the radio, which was short but intimate, and totally satisfying.

I've been a fan of Rufus's mother and aunt, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, for much longer than Rufus, since college I guess, and I was remembering Songs of the Civil War, an album somehow loosely associated with the Ken Burns Civil War series. I bought it on cassette because my turntable had stopped working and I didn't want to buy a new one because CDs were clearly on the ascendant, but I hadn't bought a CD player yet because I could play cassette tapes at home or on my Walkman. That would be like 1990, I guess?

Anyway, I wore that tape out, literally. As I remember, that and the Bristol Sessions reissue came out around the same time and were responsible for my big nosedive into country music in the early 90s.

And I didn't know it at the time, of course, but Rufus was singing on a couple of those songs with his family. I don't know what it is about these songs, this style of singing, these harmonies, that transport me more than any other music. I feel it deep in my bones.

(And, big surprise, there's Emmylou Harris. Back then, you could hardly buy a record that didn't have Emmylou on it, bless her heart.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My One-Year-Later Thoughts About Obama.

I stopped reading Americablog a while back because it was too shrill and marriagey and anti-Obama, so I missed the beginning of this boycott, but I have to say I support the sentiment. So many liberal or progressive-minded people assume the Democratic party represents their views, and it just ain't so.

And I stopped reading what used to be my favorite gay blog, JoeMyGod, because of an ongoing series of posts called This Week in Holy Crimes, in which he publicly shames any and every small-town clergyperson who is arrested for a sex crime, convicted or not. And just the general tone of the blog got so anti-everything, I couldn't stomach it any more.

But I need my fix of queer politics, so recently I started reading and enjoying this blog. As far as I can tell, its positions on issues are close to Americablog, but it's not quite as whiney:

For the record, the President’s position in same-sex marriage is this: "I'm a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

While that is a position, it is not an argument. Rather, it is indistinguishable from the positions (not arguments) adopted by the Vatican and NOM – which is to say, it is unchallengeable in any civic forum. And it is intended to be unchallengeable in any civic forum. References to tradition and particularly sanctification have little purpose other than to short circuit any opposition – certainly any secular opposition, which is what the President was being asked about.

Though I'm not a supporter of same-sex marriage, I feel this frustration, too. It's the same frustration I felt back when J and I brought R into our relationship and my mother so fiercely refused to acknowledge or discuss it. Being anti-religion, she wouldn't ascribe her opposition to the Bible or religious tradition, but somehow that made it even more infuriating to me. "This is a committed, supportive relationship. What is bad about that?" "That's just not how people are made," she said. In the end, her argument and Obama's is "I believe it because it's what I believe." It shuts down the conversation, and there's nothing more maddening than that.

It's not so much that I'm angry that Obama opposes gay marriage, it's that I thought he was smarter than this. One of the top reasons I supported Obama and was so thrilled to see him elected is that he is so intelligent. But his stance on this issue, like my mother's on my three-way relationship, is intellectually incoherent. In both cases, it is deeply disappointing.

When he talks about race, I'm dazzled and moved and edified. Racial politics in America is such an overwhelmingly complex issue to tackle -- history, urban policy, biology, sexuality, education, and on and on -- but he connects the dots in ways that let us begin to make sense of it and entertain some hope that things may get better if we try to listen and understand each other. I have never thought of any president as a teacher before Obama, and he makes it clear over and over how powerful that is. I still think we are incredibly privileged to have a president who can do that. I think the American population, if nothing else, will be smarter at the end of Obama's tenure.

So ... equally complex is the issue of the place or function or role of homosexuality in our society. What a trove of ideas to chew on. And all he has to say is, "I'm a Christian."

My Excuse Is I'm Not Fully Awake Yet.

A little Sunday morning wisdom from the Platters:

I posted the Platters version first, not just because I love it but because I know some people have a lower Judy Garland threshold than I -- I should say just about everyone has a lower Judy Garland threshold than I, because I don't have one at all. I could watch Presenting Lily Mars all day long and still want more. It's a sickness, I know.

Well, I looked all over youtube and can't find the Judy Garland version. I know it's there somewhere because I posted it here a while back. But I found this! How could you not love this? (Shut up, it's a rhetorical question.)