Monday, December 31, 2007

My big fat Brazilian resolution

I try every year to make meaningful New Year resolutions. Eat better. Exercise more. Be more pleasant. This year I decided to, in the soon-to-be-immortal words of Dr. Phil, get real. The truth is that none of those things matter that much. At least not if you possess a working... hmmm...which word to choose...there are so many...okay, I've decided. Snatch.

First a detour to explain the word choice. I think I gravitate to this particular word because of its versatility. It is, unlike most other terms for the female naughty bits, both a noun and a verb. We don't hear our children yell, "Mom! Sister beavered the remote right out of my hand!" or our friends say, "And that dang bear twatted our steaks right off the picnic table!" No, snatch has complexity and a variety of uses, just like its namesake.

Okay...back to the resolutions. I am sort of a pop culture fanatic. Especially when it comes to current fashion trends. Since I live in Colorado Springs, not known for its edgy style, I rely on the likes of Britney and Paris to inform me about bikini haute couture. Based on the limited exposure they kindly provided, I resolved that 2008 would be the year to go bare bare bare.

After several weeks of research, I took the necessary steps and attained quite a stellar result. But I discovered, with great dismay, that after a couple of days my prize-winning pet had developed what felt like a trucker's three-day stubble. Instead of languishing under my silky sheets as I'd been doing, I now lay awake at night anticipating with trepidation the moment my sweetheart, in a half-conscious state, reaches for me, startles awake and leaps from the bed in horror. Or worse, contentedly murmurs "Ohhhh, Uncle Eddddd."

My new resolutions for 2008 are to eat better, exercise more, and be more pleasant. But mostly I resolve to leave well enough alone.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wanderlust and Lipstick

Today I began to write for Wanderlust and Lipstick. It's a site geared toward solo female travelers, which I hope to be when I grow up. As long as Eric can come along.

My blog there is called Culture Chakra.

Check it out if you're so inclined!


Saturday, December 29, 2007

I had a blue Christmas without you

I felt more than a bit empty around Christmas this year. For the first time it seemed completely devoid of meaning. No one believes in God. No one believes in Santa. There's nothing particularly thrilling to give or get. There's just an obligation to pour money into the pockets of corporate pricks and fill our houses with crap none of us needs, or even really wants.

I remember Christmas as magical. But, as I reflect on my childhood, the magic of the holiday was closely tied to religious ritual. Coming into church on a Sunday soon after Thanksgiving, back when Christmas lights didn't begin showing up by Halloween and could still be cause for celebration, we'd find the Advent wreath suspended from the rafters. Oh, yes! Christmas is coming! The three purple candles, a pink one for the third Sunday of Advent, a white candle for Christmas Eve. Each candle with its own story and symbolic meaning.

The beautiful haunting Christmas carols. O Come O Come, Emmanuel was my favorite. It still gives me goosebumps. The nativity display. The Christmas story with its shepherds and wise men and camels and bright stars and inns and stables and mangers and gold, frankincense and myrrh. Oh my! I just loved it all.

My poor darling children have none of this, thanks to me. I, like many of my generation, have largely rejected organized religion. Unfortunately, I now understand hypocrisy and oppression and believe that the church is guilty of all the sins it forbids. But what do we do about our spiritual longings? How do we find meaning and impart that meaning to our children who are daily bombarded with despicable messages from our commercialized world? For meaning surely does exist.

I am at a loss when it comes to recreating Christmas magic without a little baby Jesus to help me. And I can't just pull him out of a box in the attic and blow the dust off of him so he can lay in his manger Christmas morning. My parents did this, and it was okay, because we knew all about him, every day of every year, so it didn't smack of phoniness like it does when I try to bring him into the Christmas mix.

I have no answers. My children sense my sadness around Christmas, and they know it has something to do with religion. But it doesn't really. It has to do with meaning, significance, all things lofty and sublime. It has to do with my remembered feelings of joy and sheer awe at the birth of the Savior. It's the Christmas spirit that, without a miracle, my children will never know.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Getting high with Darwin and Keynes

The war on drugs. Oh yes, it's a nasty endless little war, one that's filling our prisons with small-time users/entrepreneurs and costing the taxpayers billions. It's a war that hasn't helped our poor addicted countrymen one iota, and it's a war for which win-happy Bush has not yet declared victory. But neither has he hung his head in defeat, which he certainly should.

The DEA bigwigs ought to be lamenting the indisputable fact that its decades-long fight against drugs is not working. In fact, it's making things worse. After spending more than six billion dollars to cripple the Medellin and Cali cartels, the IBM and General Motors of the drug industry, cocaine production and trafficking in Colombia has actually increased. Hundreds of smaller and more efficient cartels have filled the void left by the blue chip cartels, kind of like the explosion, except the brilliant, creative, innovators happen to run drugs. And the DEA hasn't a clue who they are or how to stop them.

The war on drugs has penalized and incarcerated thousands of small-time drug dealers/users, the weak and dumb, the poor souls who would never be counted among the fittest in a Darwinian assessment. Years of artificial selection have given rise to the super drug-dealer, the one who, like the virulent bacteria that have arisen from overuse of antibiotics, is more efficient, more cunning, more innovative and much more difficult to eradicate. How can politicians hope to win a war with a strategy that ensures that only the most efficient and creative drug traffickers survive?

The relentless persecution of small-time drug dealers has decreased the supply of drugs on our streets. I suppose this can be seen as a good thing. However, the demand remains. Thus, according to accepted economic theory, interdiction has supported higher prices for the super dealers and provided incentive for more traffickers to enter the drug economy.

Alas, the war on drugs has been a complete waste of time and money. It's time for the DEA to huddle in the war room and come up with a new strategic plan. They should bring in some new generals, hopefully with public health backgrounds. They might even want to get off their moral steeds and decriminalize recreational drug use, thereby decreasing the demand for illegal drugs. They might decide to throw their allotted resources at dangerous criminals and our underlying social problems and let the small-time stoners be. That is if success is truly their goal.

After all, wouldn't it make sense to address the underlying demand for drugs? Shouldn't the DEA stop focusing on supply and address the unchanged demand for illicit drugs? Of course, this would mean funding public health initiatives and educational programs which are not nearly as fun as fighting a war against cagey dark-skinned enemies in exotic foreign locales. No, the men in suits aren't really interested in giving up their fat federal budgets in order to win the struggle against drug abuse. The war is too much fun.

So we will keep building expensive prisons and filling them disproportionately with people of color, too poor to make waves. We'll keep propping up the super-drug dealers we've created. We'll ask Congress for $1.4 billion to fight the drug-crazed Mexicans from Merida, the enemy du jour. And we'll rejoice that, as is true for all of our wars, there is no end in sight.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir's murder, a matter of when

It's tragic that Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today. There is rampant speculation about who did it and why. But largely missing from the analyses I've read is the possibility that the nation of Pakistan, the Islamic nation of Pakistan, a nation that recently gave Osama bin Laden a 46% approval rating, simply didn't want a high-born, Western-educated, secularist woman in a position of power in their country. A woman who has twice been removed from office on corruption charges and whose father was branded an enemy of Islam and executed in 1979.

We can pretend that it's an oppressive regime we oppose and that the Pakistani people are longing for freedom and equality as we've defined it. In actuality, our quarrel is with the Pakistanis themselves, at least half of whom would institutionalize Islamic fundamentalism and call it freedom. Pakistanis who would love to be free of Western influence, be it cultural or political. Pakistanis who want to practice their religion and define their values without interference from outsiders.

The world does not want our electronics, nor our cars, nor much of anything we have to offer. Why do we insist that the world want our democracy? Clearly it doesn't.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The war on war

This is your president.

This is your president on drugs.

Any questions?

Brought to you by the Partnership for a War-free America


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Make orgasm, not wargasm

Orgasm and the sense of well-being it brings - how would the planet be if it felt that good? Couldn't that be one definition of Peace? Practice visualizing the planet experiencing the afterglow of a rousing orgasm and taking a break from the violence and despair that infects our daily existence.

What if this group effort was timed perfectly with the solstice and the funky energy surge it brings? Could that help move humankind off its sure path to self-destruction?

According to researchers at Princeton University working on the Global Consciousness Project, nearly ten years of data collected from random event generators indicate that "when millions of us share intentions and emotions the network shows correlations." Recent studies have shown that there is indeed power in prayer. It would make sense that there would be similar power that could be released through collective orgasm.

I invite you to join me in a Global Orgasm for Peace. Hopefully worldwide orgiastic energy combined with a mindful intention for peace (no dreaming of scantily-clad nymphets or bruiser beefcake---peace, not piece, should be the focus) could reduce global levels of violence, hatred and fear. We, for a brief spell, could join in a vast post-orgasm group spoon and change the course of human history.

Saturday, December 22 at 06:08 GMT is the appointed time for the Global OooooAaahhhOh. That's FRIDAY the 21st at 11:08 p.m. for those of us in Colorado. Women, you may want to practice a little beforehand to get the timing down. Men, I'm sure you've got a handle on it already. And remember, the intention is peace. Think peace. Wish for peace. Come for peace.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Blog advertising

Recently I put an AdSense widget on my blog so that I could possibly hook into an audience of readers. Don't get me wrong. I love the dear-diary-for-my-eyes-only nature of this blog. I can write anything I want to without fear of offending anyone, which is nice.

I've had plenty of fun looking at the ads that appear after I make a new post. After posting The Tao of Marie, ads promoting cutting-edge nutrition appeared. I'm guessing that the word tryptophan put me into the "appeals to health nuts" category.

I noticed another change after posting I'll keep my Old Life, thanks, which was a scathing indictment of the rigid evangelical Christianity that would lead a young man to embark on a murderous spree. Suddenly I had ads promoting GodTube and beautiful young Christian singles networks.

Next I posted She's a real doll. Sure enough. Ads for mail order brides and sex toys appeared. After pulling the blog for some re-vamping, I am back to the Christian ads.

Gentle readers (hi mom! hi Sue! hi Martina!), if you see strange words that don't seem to fit in future posts, know that it's just me amusing myself at AdSense' expense.

varicose veins

Sunday, December 16, 2007

She's a real doll

Realdolls come ready to step out of their steamer trunk
Over the weekend I saw Lars and the Real Girl, a strange but funny movie about a mentally-ill introvert who, much to his concerned family's delight, finds a "girlfriend" on the internet . The girlfriend, Bianca, it turns out, is actually a Real Doll, a life-sized anatomically correct silicone woman, created by Abyss Creations in California and sold for upwards of $10,000. The entire community sweetly honors the "relationship" while Lars works through deep psychological issues resulting from his mother's death at his birth.

The brilliance of the movie is that it causes us to gain an uneasy acceptance of something that would otherwise seem perverse and completely laughable. Yet Lars is not, by any stretch, a normal guy, so our acceptance is tenuous. What type of real man is satisfied substituting a silicone representation of a woman for an actual relationship? Abyss Creations has sold thousands of Real Dolls and has an order backlog even as we speak. So who is purchasing these things? Maybe the same man who leaves his wife sleeping upstairs while spending hours looking at internet pornography? The guy who can't handle the complexities of a real relationship with a flesh and blood female?

At the core, Real Dolls and pornography appeal to the same man. Both give the illusion of love--a travesty of love--created for poorly mothered or often-rejected men. For once these men have control over the omnipotent feminine. The unattainable girl. The instrument of rejection. That intense and infantile vulnerability to the female is turned on its head. The female is now submissive, expendable, interchangeable. Performing for you! Wanting only you! Loving only you!

Ryan Gosling, Lars from the movie, is quite charitable in his assessment of the men who own Real Dolls. "There's a whole culture of guys out there who have these dolls, and they have very intimate relationships with them. Part of it is sexual, but a lot of it is emotional. One guy goes hang gliding, and he takes his doll to watch, so that he has someone to support him in the things that he likes to do. Some guys cook with them and have dinners; they're part of the fabric of their life. So, all of this is possible. … I think it's a romantic idea, that love's not a transaction. It's something you have to give, and you give it freely to whoever and whatever you want."

Okay, I can't disagree. It's plenty romantic. Objectification of women is the epitome of romance. In fact, it's the definition of artistic work that deals with sexual love, especially in an idealized idealized form like a silicone doll or a stylized airbrushed photograph.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Oh hell, now they want a picture of him

The family of Matthew Murray released this picture, taken in 1998, today.

It's about time really. Am I the only one who found it odd that after five days there was only one crappy photo of him circulating? And now the only picture the family can find is nearly ten years old?

Such a well-loved son.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Matthew Murray: ABOUT ME

Abused and tormented by christians for many years growing up in christianity.

Christians, if you want to preach/witness to me, please keep in mind: I know all the apologetics stuff, all the evangelism and pentecostal stuff. I was forced to memorize bible verses 5 days a week growing up 11 years in christian homeschool.

I was involved with and taught the ideas of C. Peter Wagner, Mike Bickle, Bill Gothard, and many others. I went to all kinds of fundamentalist/pentecostal/evangelical bible studies, conferences, prayer meetings, and even a missionary school/ministry called Youth With A Mission Denver. Of course, LOTS of hypocrisy and NO REAL love to be found at YWAM Denver.

I know the bible better than most christian pastors. Oh, and I've already been baptized, received "the baptism of the holy spirit," spoken in tongues and all those other games christians love to play. I've lived the christian life, did all the faith stuff, confessions of faith, the baptism stuff, the prayer stuff, and all the rule stuff. If I'm not changed, well, it ain't my fault. I did my part of the deal.

Christians thought they could get away with abusing me and others, they thought the Truth and Light would never be found out. They were wrong. Even though many christians have tried to oppress and control the lives of many, even though many christians serving darkness have tried to carry on their fascist agenda of bigotry, intolerance, tyranny, and hatred, the Light ever shines, even in the darkness though the darkness comprehendeth it not.

The Light is available for all who have eyes to see.

I'll keep my Old Life, thanks

Another tragedy has befallen New Life Church. This time the perpetrator is not a gay male prostitute. No, Matthew Murray is one of their own. The son of devout Christians and a former member of Youth with a Mission.

As is the norm for evangelicals, the story is being presented in the limited language of Christian-ese. "Ms. Assam, as you were advancing toward the gunman firing repeatedly, what was going through your mind?" "I was thinking how awesome and powerful God is, and how happy I am that I was his chosen instrument." Okaaay.

Let's try again. "Why would a young man raised by devoted Christian parents feel such hatred toward fellow believers?" Permit me to improvise here. Matthew Murray hated Christians because sin had gained a foothold in his life. Or because he didn't have Jesus in his heart. Maybe he didn't actually have a personal relationship with the Lord. Perhaps he was being assailed by Satan and his minions, caught in his own private Armageddon.

I have a thought. Maybe Matthew Murray despised Christians because he'd been isolated from his peers and home schooled (brainwashed) by them. Obviously he was experiencing some emotional turmoil, a common thing really, but instead of being heard, or being helped, he was expected to trust in the Lord because, after all, His ways are higher than our ways. As a young man, when his God-given inclination was to find his separate identity and partake in some earthly delights, he was expected to be a youth with a mission. Go to the ends of the earth and spread the good news of our Lord!

One spin I'm sure we won't hear coming out of Christian mouths in the coming days is the possibility that, like Hurricane Katrina and the AIDS epidemic, the shootings represented God's wrath being poured out on people who claim to know him, to speak for him; people who oppress and repress and judge in his name. There will be no one uttering what many of us in Colorado Springs are thinking. Perhaps Matthew Murray was God's chosen instrument.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday gift ideas for the Mango

I suppose this wouldn't
do much good
for a stomach
sleeper like me.

At least I wouldn't leave it on the airplane.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Adventure travel for the rational soul

Once my husband asked me, out of the wild blue, "You've never fallen have you?" I could honestly reply, "Not that I remember." He howled with laughter at this admission, and somehow I felt offended.

The implied message was that I was not adventurous. Not true! I crave adventure. Especially when it involves travel. I love to stray from the beaten path. A hike in the backcountry, a night under the vibrant desert sky, an unparalled vista from a craggy mountaintop. But, I will admit, I’d rather experience nature’s bounty without danger, or pain, or extreme discomfort. My conscious mind wants to push the limits, to know the unknowable, to live the life of a trailblazer. But at some limbic level I am deeply concerned with survival, and with the avoidance of abrasions, lacerations and fractures. And, yes, I fear falling.

Over the years I’ve accepted this inner paradox. I may not possess the athletic ability and irrational courage of a true adrenaline junkie, but I can certainly pretend that I do. I can go where the fearless go. I can dress as the fearless dress. I can be an adventure poseur!

My debut was in the jock nirvana that is Utah. First stop, Moab. My friends and I checked into the gecko-bedecked Gonzo Inn. While the clerk chirped happily about the wonders of the area, I managed to throw a weary "I can't wait to pop a cold one after that!" look at the sweaty spandex-clad cadre of males peppering the lobby. I basked in the sunshine of their rueful empathic grins.

After a quick glass of wine, the girls and I headed out to find dinner. We sat on the patio of a well-populated Italian restaurant outfitted, of course, in proper adventure girl attire. We wore headbands to indicate that some serious sweating may have recently taken place.

The next morning we made our way to Slickrock at high noon which, we later read in our guidebook, was ill-advised. I viewed this tactical error as impressive evidence that we, unlike the many who had already left the parking lot, were impervious to nature’s arrows.

I was prepared to tackle the twenty-mile practice loop. I had not anticipated, however, that one tire or another would be off the ground much of the time. Within a hundred yards of our starting point, I could feel tears threatening to spatter my new Oakleys. My already-perspiring chums noticed my angst, my crumbling countenance, and suggested that we bail. I may have heard something akin to relief in their voices, but I was still grateful for the rescue. After videotaping one another cycling over the hill on the final stretch, we headed unscathed on to Bryce.

I have played the adventure poseur many times since Moab. Havasu Falls, the Inca Trail, Waimea Canyon, Iguazu, Yosemite. Mules have come in handy more times than I care to admit. Helicopters only rarely. But after each heady experience, I am a little less an actress and a bit more an authentic adventurer.

Perhaps I am not the most intrepid soul. Still, I have seen the sights. I have taken the pictures. My memories are golden and precious. And I can proudly admit that no, I've never fallen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Affair

My lover is having an affair. In our own house. Night after night I am alone in bed, hugging a tear-stained pillow, wanting to talk, longing to be held. As I head upstairs I look over at him, hunched over his paramour, enraptured, and I say, "I'm going to bed now."
"Yuh," he grunts.
"I hope you'll join me soon," I beseech him, casting away any remaining pride.
"Yuh," he responds without looking up.

When it's nearly dawn I hear him slink into our bedroom, like a cur, head down, ears back, a little foam around the mouth. Of course he showers before getting into bed, erasing any lingering scent of Lulu. French whore! Does he think I don't know? What exactly is the lure? I don't get it.

We were at a mall recently and I noticed that he was shopping for her, right in front of me. "This red one would look beautiful on her, wouldn't it?" he asked me. He tenderly fingered the quilted material, wishing to dress, and then undress her. I recall the last article of clothing he bought her, a little black dress. He put it on her and the two of them existed only for one another, impervious even to the sun, cooing and touching and laughing.

I suppose I deserve this. I remember not long ago when I was the intruder, the muse. Day and night my lover and I sat together, holding hands, besotted. He listened to my every word, looked deeply into my eyes, hoping to win me, to possess me, to touch me. I remember Lulu sitting there on the desk. Dust-covered, pathetic, lonely. I think I even wrote my name across her screen in a brazen act of superiority. Maybe it was insecurity. Maybe I knew even then that it couldn't last.

How happy you must be, Lulu, to have him back. He never leaves home without taking you. His thoughts are never far from you. How adored you must feel. Oh, I am envious of your position.

I'll bet you're smarter now. Maybe even a little jaded. You'll never feel entirely secure again, will you, Lulu? You'll always hold back a little, protect yourself just a bit. You know how it feels to be cast aside, if only for a moment.

I think it's time for me to understand and accept my fate. I've lost my sweetheart to an enticing French pomme. But I shan't linger in my misery! I shall grieve my loss and look to the future. I will head to a nearby computer store and buy the biggest, blackest, most rigid tower I can find....I will install it in my bedroom and I will name it Pierre. He will have eyes for me alone.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Transformative Power of Gaming

It's a family tradition to find the best new board game each Christmas. I'm not talking about inexpensive games that can be found at Target. No, these games usually come from a specialty game store, the type of place that regular people either don't know about or don't make a priority to visit.

This tradition was not actually my idea. In keeping with my family's quiet nature, I grew up playing genteel games that required the quiet participation of only one or two others. Scrabble, checkers and chess, backgammon. Yahtzee was about as wild as my family got. Crossword puzzles are to this day my preferred method of keeping my neural pathways open.

No, the love of gaming came from Dave's side of the family. One cannot walk into Walden-ville without being invited to play at something. Bocce ball, croquet, volleyball, badminton, yard darts, and horseshoes are de rigueur every summer. One chilly day, itching to game but hindered by the inclement weather, the Walden men built a custom cornhole platform, while we girls spent the afternoon filling hand-sewn beanbags with corn kernels.

In winter months we play Monopoly, Skittles, Scattergories...board games too numerous to mention really. And cards. Oh do we play cards. Once I asked my kids if Grandpa had introduced them to poker yet. 5-year-old Devon said, in her delicate voice, "Only Seven Card Stud and Texas Hold 'em." You get the picture.

Every now and then we stumble upon a game that even I enjoy, like Guesstures. Guesstures is a timed charades game, and I like it because it leads usually dignified people to do things that you have never, no matter how long you have known them, my entire life in the case of my dad, seen them do before.

When Dave and I split up he took most of the games, without a peep of objection from me. He furnished his basement with only tables. Pool, ping pong, foosball, air hockey. He called this newly acquired freedom "the silver lining of divorce."

At least once a week Dave holds game night for the kids. Attendance is not optional. Initially I thought forced gaming to be a bit heavy handed. Recently, weary from battling daily pleas for video gaming, iPod listening, online chatting and other isolating electronic pursuits, I've revised my opinion. It is time for me to jump aboard the train. I've informed the kids that Santa will not be bringing anything electronic this year. And I've borrowed Guesstures from Dave's treasure trove of fun and frivolity.

Devon, Lara, Eric and I played last night, until the wee hours. And today we tired girls are smiling at the recently-created memory of Eric, 6'4" newbie gamer Eric, doing things we have NEVER seen, or even imagined, him doing.

Friday night we play for keeps.