Friday, April 10, 2009

A View of Some Holy Bad Ideas

I don't worship. I've written about that fact many times before. Still, that doesn't mean I don't shake my head and wonder what's wrong with people when I come across something that's disrespectful of religion.
For example, some people here in Detroit are upset because today is Opening Day for the Tigers. Some of the Motor City faithful had to choose between religious obligation or a Ball Park Frank. I didn't see this as particularly disrespectful. (Scroll down to #7 for the reference if you click on the preceeding link.) Opening Days come and go and a baseball season has, like, a gazilliondy games in a season. If you are truly faithful, then you go to church. If you aren't or are willing to ask for absolution, then you go to the game and attend an all night Easter Vigil or something. Pretty easy choice to me, right?
Some are still trying to find, shall I say, a blessed medium between the world ways and the Word. And it's not pretty. I mean, who thought turning the Passion of Christ into Twitter tweets was a good idea? Trinity Church, an Episcopal parish on Wall Street in lower Manhattan is offering this and a web version of the Stations of the Cross. Yet another reason to hate those folks on Wall Street, don't you think? This story outlines all sorts of ways churches are exploring creative Good Friday worship options. Not only are there Holy Twitterers out there, there's an interactive Stations of the Cross in downtown Santa Cruz, for those who may not be online.
If you are online, however, and too busy to go to church today, Easter Sunday, or any other Sunday, you can now rest easy. Discover Magazine's Discoblog (the name is kind of a sin in itself) discusses a monthly prayer subscription service available from Information Age Prayer. For a mere $4.95 a month, much less than your average collection plate donation or tithe, you can have your computer pray for you. The program offers four denominations - Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, or Muslim - and uses text-to-speech technology to say prayers in roughly the "same volume and speed as the average praying person." They also offer a variety of subscriptions covering the gamut from daily prayers to prayers for economic stability. No word on whether you have to make sure your Blackberry faces east or what happens to one's mortal soul if you lapse in subscription payments and get cut off from automated salvation.
Kind of makes a baseball game on Good Friday look harmless, doesn't it?
More later, after I quote what my Dad would've probably said about all of this: "Jesus wept."
UPDATE: One of my fondest memories as a child was going to see a musical called, "Your Arms Too Short To Box With God" with my family. The play, which came to town annually, was very entertaining. It told the story of Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection based on the book of Matthew. This was back in the days when African-American musical theater meant shows like "Timbuktu!," "Purlie," or "For Colored Girls...," not "Beauty Shop," "Madea Goes to Jail." Anyway, the part of "Arms" that stood out the most for me was when Jesus rose from the dead, and the resurrection portrayed with a joyous song called "Didn't I Tell You?" One year, we went with a neighbor who - upon seeing Jesus (who was played by a very attractive and well built dancer) come out on stage dancing regally - she exclaimed, "Oh my goodness! Jesus got muscles everywhere!" "Arms" is sadly no longer being produced, but Greater Grace Temple, a local megachurch is trying to fill the void left behind with its own passion play. "The Whip, Hammer, and Cross" has music, elaborate costumes, live animals, and an unfortunate title. I wonder if its Jesus has muscles everywhere, too?


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A View of the TEM Knocked Up

Hilary Price has a way with words and pictures - check out her strip, "Rhymes With Orange"
Where there's sex, there's bound to be pregnancy. The two are inextricably linked -the way nature intended.
I've talked about my decision not to have children here on VFTT before. I'm still happily childless - much to my mother's chagrin. I'm still defending my choice to those who either don't know me or are convinced that I'd change my mind once I birthed a mini-me. I take it in stride now, but I've often wondered how other women who have chosen to remain childless cope. Recently, I came across an article about a woman and her husband who have chosen not to have children. It struck a chord with me, and I found the comments quite fascinating. Check it out for yourself, whether or not you have kids. It's thought provoking.
Still, the need to procreate is strong. Mankind wouldn't exist if that need wasn't hardwired into us, and I admire most of those who want to be parents. Some, however, might take that need too far. Take, for example, Marissa Evans. Her son Nikolas died this weekend from injuries sustained in a fall outside of an Austin bar after being punched duing a bar fight late last month, but she didn't want to lose his potential grandchildren. She requested an emergency hearing in Travis County Probate Court to harvest her dead son's sperm in the hopes of creating the three boys he someday hoped to have. Judge Guy Herman ruled in her favor, ordering his body to be kept at the proper temperature to support harvesting of sperm within 24 hours of his removal from life support. Other organs and tissues will also be harvested for donation. There was no mention of a potential mother for these children in the article, nor have there been any arrests made in his assault. A bioethicist also noted that Texas state law is "unclear" as it relates to sperm donations. Despite these concerns and possible ethical issues, my heart breaks for his mother. "I want him to live on," she was quoted as saying. "I want to keep a piece of him."
The possibility of outliving a child I helped create is a horror I can't begin to imagine. It's still difficult for my mom to talk about my sister who died when she was a baby. Just as the need to procreate is hardwired into us, so is the need for the parent to nurture their children and protect them from harm. Julie Halpert wrote about the conflict between wanting to protect a child from hurt and the need to allow a child to grow into a thriving, independent adult in a recent Newsweek article. She chronicled her daughter Alyson's search for a college where she could be herself - and she learned to accept that her daughter was a lesbian at the same time. The entire process helped them both grow and become better people in the process.
"I think I'm going to end up being happy," Alyson says at the end of the article. Her mother agreed. They were happy with her choice of school. Mom was happy with her choice to accept her daughter as she was, not as she wanted her to be. Daughter was happy to find a place where she could thrive and that she still had her mother's love. That's how it should be. Love and and parenthood should be inextricably linked. Just like peace of mind and one's life choices - like the choice to have or not have children.
More later, because it's all about being happy.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

A View of the TEM with Sex on the Brain

Carol Lay is one of the wittiest comic artists around. Check her out at Salon or at her site, Way Lay.

One of the drawbacks to not being in a relationship is that needs just don't get met. This means I've been thinking about sex a lot. No matter who I try to get away from it, sex is there. It's like the horny elephant in the room that I can't ignore no matter how much I try. I'd like to think I can distract myself with something - anything - and the urge will go away.

I'd like to think that, but I also know that's a crock. Like poor Andy Stitzer, the more I try not to think about it, the more I'm unable to avoid it. Just try not thinking about sex when you're on the Internet. Don't get me wrong - I'm not a porn surfing nerdling at my desk. Just go to any news site, any entertainment page, or check out any blog and sex is all in your face.

I can take comfort in knowing that I'm not as desperate as Jason Leroy Savage. He let his needs overwhelm his common sense and it ended with him getting caught by Saginaw Police as he got all romantic at a car wash. With a vacuum cleaner. How sad is it when you have to pay for sex, and the only outlet that will take your money is a Max-Vac? He's now serving a 90-day jail sentence and will have to submit to drug testing. No word on if the Max-Vac is seeing anyone else.

I thought about going to a movie, but that's like going on a diet then living in a Dairy Queen for a week. Besides, the MPAA is a bit skittish about what you can and can't see on the big screen lately. Suppose, for example, I wanted to explore an alternative lifestyle and be first in line to see "Bruno," the new film Sasha Baron Cohen is planning to release in July. If that were my plan, I'd be just as frustrated and unfulfilled as I am right now because it's been slapped with an NC-17 rating. A similar scene in an Austin Powers movie is cool because it's in silhouette and with Heather Graham. A male nude wrestling scene in Mr. Cohen's previous smash, "Borat," is cool. But simulation out in the open is damaging - more damaging than any of the "Saw" films or Vin Diesel being allowed in a movie without the words "Iron" or "Giant" in the title.

Vin Diesel sucking helium? That's kind of hot. Damn, I need some release or some sort of distraction. I've got some friends I can text message. Maybe, if I play my cards right, I could get into some down & dirty sexting. It's okay for me to do it because I'm over 18. If I were a teenage girl, I'd be in danger of being slapped with a sexual abuse of a minor charge. Prosecutors across the country are going after teenage girls for sending naughty texts and pictures to their boyfriends. Because nothing says "sexual predator" like a 16-year old with a Sidekick or an iPhone you know. Three girls in northeastern Pennsylvania stood up to one overzealous agent of the courts who charged the girls with sexual abuse of a minor - even though they posed for pictures at a slumber party from the waist up wearing bras - and sued the prosecutor's office. The prosecutor stands by his decision to charge the girls, labeling the pictures "provocative."

I wonder what that prosecutor, who sounds like he's more sexually frustrated than I am, would've done had he been under the employ of the Oakland County Courts when angry parents demanded the closure of "Primal the Club," a teen dance club in South Lyon for hosting a bikini contest on March 28th. Girls as young as 16 could compete for $500 in prizes. No one under the age of 14 and over the age of 19 is allowed admission, but the club is like a mini Spring Break in training - offering non-alcoholic Jell-O shots and energy drinks to the partying teens until 1:00 a.m. Police informed parents that the club didn't break any laws, but that didn't calm down the outrage. Here's the funny part: The day I found this story, the banners on the website advertised a "Rock Girl" contest for a local radio station - complete with girls in bikinis posing provocatively with guitars. The teen club is in on the joke too - their website had a posting for a "Foam Party." I bet those parents are worked up into a lather over that one.

How many of those outraged adults go to the mall? Or to the beach in the summer? Or check their children's My Space or Facebook pages? The things they're liable to see in their kid's browsing history will make them as hot as their teenager - but their heat will be from anger or righteous indignation. Or maybe embarrassment over what their children are doing online - like the parents of a 14-year-old girl in New Jersey who posted over 30 nude pictures of herself on her MySpace page. She could be forced to register as a sex offender if she's convicted. I'm not saying that this girl should not be punished for posting the pictures, but I think a criminal record and a life sentence - which is what the sex offender registry amounts to - is the right approach here. That girl needs to learn about controlling her urges. How to respect her body. How what gets posted on the Internet never goes away. That family needs to address the climate in their dynamics that led to this young woman to believe it was appropriate - cool even - to post what the prosecutor described as "very explicit" photos of herself online. This child, this family and others like them need counseling - not a Scarlet Letter and a criminal history.

Let's just hope that the help doesn't go off the deep end - like the current "purity" movement that's starting to gain popularity. In case you haven't heard of it, the "purity" movement involves children, usually daughters, making a pledge to their parents, usually fathers, to preserve their virginity and abstain from any sexual contact until marriage. Jane Treays has explored the movement in a documentary called "The Virgin Daughters." The film, which aired in the U.K. last fall, follwed a group of fathers and daughters in Colorado Springs as they prepared to attend a purity ball. Here's the interesting part - one in six American girls makes a pledge to her father to remain a virgin until marriage, but there are no plans to air this documentary on this side of the pond in the near future.

A young girl in U.S. can go to a club and pose in a bikini contest - seeing the advertisement for that party on a site that promotes an adult bikini contest. A young girl can spend years of her life in beauty pageants made up to look like a mature woman at the behest of her mother. A young woman can pledge purity to her father in a ceremony that is this side of exploitation. A young woman be charged as a sexual predator for posing in a bra. That same young girl can go see Saw - if she hasn't seen it or something like it on cable or the Internet - and nobody is concerned about the impact.

Am I the only one who thinks this is screwed up?

I had to go and say screwed. Now I'm thinking about sex again. See what I mean? No matter where you turn, sex is all in your face.

More later, when I'm not so hot and bothered.

UPDATE: Looks like I'm not the only one with sex on the brain and screwed up thought processes. Read this posting from the Frisky about how thinking with the wrong head just leads to trouble.

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