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Archive for August, 2010

Between the jerks who say that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to build an Islamic community center near Ground Zero and the new poll that found 1 in 8 Americans thinking the president is Muslim, there is an awful lot of anti-Muslim fervor flying around.

General consensus is that it’s not okay to hate people because they’re black anymore. Fortunately, it’s still perfectly fine to hate people if they’re Muslim! It’s as if the Republican political machine is saying, by god, if we can’t make an Other out of him because he’s black, then we’ll make an Other out of him by saying he’s a Muslim! Just biding his time until he sets off a car bomb at the White House! That’ll scare America good!

My recollection of the time immediately following President Obama’s election includes a lot of talking heads saying, “Now, when we tell our children that they can be anything they want when they grow up, we’re telling them the truth!” Except, that’s still a lie, depending on your kid.

There are still plenty of things you can’t be and become the president. I’m guessing that, in the near future, you won’t be able to be Muslim and be the president, or be openly atheist and be president, or be openly gay and be president, or be transgendered and be president. And, well, we’ve still never had a woman be president.

(Although, I will be delightfully surprised if a male-to-female transgendered Muslim whose non-English speaking wife is openly atheist is elected president any time soon! I mean, assuming I agree with her on the issues.)

We’ve knocked one big barrier somewhat kinda out of the way. Society says it’s probably maybe okay to be black now! At least when we’re not behind closed doors!

But there are still plenty of prejudices that blatantly exist in America, and to which society still gives tacit approval. If people want to claim that we’re post-racial (which I don’t believe), we sure as hell aren’t post-religion or post-sexuality or post-gender.

President Obama isn’t Muslim, and if he were, it shouldn’t matter. And every person that thinks it should matter needs to take another look at the Constitution, which they proclaim so righteously to defend:

“No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

I do not see anything about NO MUSLIMS ALLOWED anywhere in there.

It is more than legitimate to disagree with, or even hate, the president’s political agenda, legislation, and decisions. But when the right engages in a campaign based on, “OBAMA IS A MUSLIM LOVER (AND PROBABLY IS A MUSLIM TOO) AND BY THE WAY DOESN’T HIS NAME SOUND FUNNY? LIKE A MUSLIM NAME, MAYBE?” it really irritates me.

(And it bothers me, too, that the reason they wage this sort of campaign is because it’s terribly effective.)

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Not a Lifestyle Choice

I am a picky eater, and I am picky in the strangest of ways. I love kale, spinach, and brussels sprouts. I hate carrots, peas, and tomatoes. I love tofu, beans, and lentils. I rarely eat meat. I don’t like unmelted cheese. Or cream cheese. Or eggs. Or milk.

While I make concerted efforts to expand my diet, there is one major food group that I consistently can’t stand, no matter how often I try to make myself like it. I don’t like fruit.

There are only three exceptions to this rule: I can tolerate apples, though I don’t particularly enjoy them; I like pomegranates (though I prefer just drinking the juice); and I like some dried fruits and fruit leather. However, those are the only exceptions.

(And, I suppose this is another exception, but I like lemons and limes, but no one actually EATS lemons and limes, so I’m not sure that counts.)

Whenever I tell someone about my dislike of fruit for the first time, the reaction is always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS exactly the same. People invariably being listing off their favorite fruits and asking me if I like them. “What about grapes? Do you like grapes? What about bananas? You don’t like BANANAS? What about oranges? I can’t BELIEVE you don’t like oranges! Mango? Have you HAD mango?”

This happens every. single. time. And every. single. time. I say, “No, I don’t like oranges. No, even the smell of a banana disgusts me. No, watermelon tastes like sand to me.”

I find it so odd that people just can’t believe me when I say that I don’t like fruit. My friends, I really don’t like fruit.

And it’s not that I haven’t tried. I have tried strawberries. I have tried watermelon. I have tried many of the fruits that other people adore. And I don’t like them. I don’t enjoy eating them. I don’t like the taste, and I don’t like the texture. Please, just let me be alone with my leafy greens vegetables.

My experience has been that being a picky eater is often viewed as a significant personality flaw, even when other phobias are accepted. (Especially by those who pride themselves on their adventurous tastes.) Are you afraid of heights? Well, that’s perfectly normal! Who can fault you for that? Do you dislike certain foods to the point of extreme psychological revulsion? Well, that’s because you’re not trying hard enough.

I was recently at an event with some family members. At the event, one of the Hors d’œuvres was shrimp with dill in a filo cup with cream cheese. I love shrimp, but I hate cream cheese, so I left them alone. My family members were swooning over how delicious this was, and I could tell that they were growing frustrated with my refusal to eat one. After all, they were DELICIOUS. “Just TRY one, Melody.” So, I ate one. And after I did, I’m pretty sure they fully expected me to see the error of my ways and pronounce that it WAS in fact DELICIOUS and that I’m never going to be a picky eater again!

But I didn’t. I choked it down and when they prodded me for a response, I said that I didn’t care for it. Because, after all, I don’t like cream cheese. Eating it didn’t change my mind, it just reinforced the fact that I seriously don’t like it.

Similarly, no matter how many times people say, “But peaches! How can you not like PEACHES? They are sooooo delicious!!” my answer is not going to change. I am who I am, people! It’s not a lifestyle choice!

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My sister and I were talking about the most recent X-Files movie tonight, and how marvelous it was. We are both, frankly, still shocked that the movie even got made. Who would have THOUGHT in a million years that they would make another X-Files movie! But it brought us both (I think, putting words in my sister’s mouth) a lot of closure to see Mulder and Scully again, and to know that they are together and that they are doing okay.

I know they’re not going to make another X-Files movie, sadly. I am pretty sure that this most recent one brought in profits that roughly amount to what my sister and I paid for our tickets all three times that we went to go see it. It’s unfortunate, because there are still so many stories to be told! There is still so much that is unresolved for Mulder and Scully.

The biggest unresolved issue, of course, is their miracle baby, William, whom Scully put up for adoption when she realized that she couldn’t keep him safe from all the crazies out to get them both. (By this point I had stopped watching the show, because without Mulder, X-Files was dead to me, so I am a little fuzzy on the mythology. I mostly just know that William=adopted.)

So, not only do Mulder and Scully have a story there, but William has got this whole story that’s just waiting to be told! I seriously can see it all now.

(INTERIOR, darkened office! WALTER SKINNER sits at his desk, because he is a badass mofo and he doesn’t need to retire from the FBI! Retirement is for men with families to keep them company. Retirement is for men who have always wanted to take a cruise. Retirement is not for goddamn action heroes with hearts of gold like WALTER SKINNER. He looks with irritation and a hint of bemusement at the young agent in front of him.)

SKINNER: Do you have any idea how serious these offenses are, Special Agent Van De Kamp?

VAN DE KAMP: Yes, sir, I do. But what I feel you are neglecting to recognize is that, though my methods were unconventional, I solved the case. A guilty man has been locked up, and his potential victims are safe.

SKINNER: Listen to me. You are smart. You sailed through the Academy. You have the makings of a damn good agent. But all the talent in the world won’t get your ass anywhere in the Bureau if you don’t play by the book!

(As Skinner looked across the desk at the kid, he had the strongest sense that he had looked into those hazel eyes before. He has the strongest feeling of deja vu for calling this kid to his carpet. It was almost… spooky.)

So then Skinner has the revelation of just who this Agent Van De Kamp might be. And after he dismisses the kid from his office, he immediately picks up the phone. He has a terse phone conversation with Scully, telling him that he needs to talk with her and Mulder… now. When Scully presses him–Sir? What’s this about? There’s a long pause before Skinner says, “It’s about your son.” And hangs up the phone!

Defying protocol himself, Skinner takes the kid’s personnel file! And gives it to Mulder and Scully! And, instantly, they know! Mulder notes William’s reprimands and the memos about his occasionally “unusual” methods, smirks, and makes a comment about how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

ALL THIS TIME, Mulder and Scully have been longing to be reunited with William, but in the end he was closer than they ever could have imagined! Without knowing it, he was following in their footsteps!

Cue scare tactics and threats on William’s life if Mulder and Scully reveal to him what they know (what could possibly be more dangerous to the Syndicate, which has never been lulled into a false sense of security by Mulder’s retirement, but has remained watching and waiting and making plans for impending colonization) than a new generation ready to take up his long-lost father’s crusade? So, Mulder and Scully resist. They wait. They know they will be reunited with their son, but they refuse to do anything that could possibly endanger him. They’d give up anything for him, even the chance to be reunited.

But then… maybe William gets a case, maybe a case that Skinner cleverly gives to him, with evidence that seems to defy science and defy explanation. And maybe Skinner gives him a hint… that somehow leads him to stumble across the dusty old X-Files? There, he not only finds a case that resembles his own current case, but many more cases with evidence that seems to defy science and defy explanation. And becomes deeply curious about these cases, and about the two agents, this Agent Mulder and Agent Scully, who devoted years of their lives to unexplained phenomenon, but then seemed to disappear into thin air themselves.

And then William sets out to FIND them! Because he knows that if there’s anyone who can HELP HIM SOLVE THIS IMPOSSIBLE CASE, it is the mysterious Fox Mulder and Dana Scully!!!!!!

Chris Carter, can you please write this for me? Because if you don’t, I seriously am going to have to write it myself. Except I am not going to be satisfied with fanfiction; I want this sucker to get made. Like, with cameras and craft services and everything. I realize that we need to wait a little longer, because right now, William is like 10 years old. I am willing to wait. But I will also be prepared, if need be, to camp out in front of Fox with my spec script until I get my way.

(Yes, oh my god, I am still talking about The X-Files.)

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X-Files and Cancer

I would like to promise that this blog is not going to become nothing more than my delirious rantings about The X-Files, but I can’t make that promise. It’s kind of fun to pretend like I’m 15 again, and that The X-Files is The Most Important Thing In The World.

It’s also fun to watch The X-Files with adult eyes. Earlier in my re-watch, I had a somewhat shocking revelation that, at times in the early seasons, the show wasn’t always that good.

In examining how the show has changed in my eyes, I can’t help but see how I have changed as well. Now, I watch The X-Files with eyes that received a liberal arts education, which means that they are skilled at unnecessarily over-analyzing and spouting half-formed thoughts.

In season 4, Scully is diagnosed with cancer. In the show, there is a clear assumption that her cancer came as a result of what was done to her during her season 2 abduction.

As her cancer progresses and her prognosis worsens, the language in the show increasingly discusses cancer as something that was “done to” Scully or something that was “given to” Scully. It is not approached as an inevitable disease that can occur in anyone, but as a harmful and even violent act that was committed against a specific person.

This “giving” of cancer became literal in the episodes “Redux” and “Redux II” when Scully uncovers hard physical evidence that she was indeed intentionally infected by those who abducted her with a virus that caused her cancer. It was deliberately given to her by men of power, some of whom were high-ranking government and military officials.

It strikes me as interesting given what we learn in real life more and more about how people are “given” cancer, whether it’s cigarettes that people smoke or the cell phones we carry next to our heads or the bad foods that we eat or the toxic waste dumps we build our houses on.

And who gave us those things but powerful industries? Advertising. Military. Government. The dreaded SOCIETY AS A WHOLE. Just as X-Files approaches Scully’s as an item that can be given or taken away at will, we all have these things in our lives that we’re made to have.

Scully didn’t have control over whether or not she was abducted. It was a decision made by people who had their own best interests at heart, and not hers. What harmful things do we have in our own lives that come as a result of what is in the best interest of others, rather than ourselves, yet over which we feel we have no control and no recourse?

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There is a writing challenge taking place, which was proposed by author Laurie Halse Anderson. The challenge is to write for 15 minutes a day, every day, during the month of August. It seemed like a good opportunity for me to get back into the writing habit.

I like the challenge’s approach to write for just 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes isn’t very long. It’s not enough time to think about word choice or to spend much time debating about whether the subject matter is interesting. It’s a bit like National Blog Posting Month, which I did last November, except, to me, it feels like there is less pressure to write anything coherent. I think that, sometimes, lack of expectations to write something cohesive helps nurture a writing spirit more than anything. After all, what really can you come up with in just 15 minutes? It’s taken me two minutes to write what I have so far, which means I have THIRTEEN MINUTES REMAINING.

(Note: I don’t believe the writing challenge is encouraging people to ONLY write for 15 minutes, if they should want to write for longer. But it is late, and I need to go to bed soon.)

Ready… GO!

I have continued with my re-watch of The X-Files. It’s been an extremely interesting experience to watch episodes of a television show that I watched repeatedly and obsessively ten and twelve years ago. When I see certain images on the show, I sometimes say out loud, “I REMEMBER THAT.” But at the same time, I won’t have any memory of how the episode plays out. In the episode I just finished watching, “Redux II,” I was struck with how vividly I remembered the musical theme that accompanies Scully while she is in the hospital. I could hum it as soon as it started. At the same time, I couldn’t remember how the issue of Mulder having killed a man got resolved. (Which seems like a much bigger detail, as far as details of the show go.)

Memory is freaky like that. It’s odd how the brain holds on to some things, and lets go of others. It’s odd how the brain invents new layers to go on top of memories, and in doing so, buries what was true. Radiolab, one of my absolute favorite radio shows, did an entire episode on memory and how faulty it is.

Another example of my own faulty memory is relates to the movie Vertigo. I first watched Vertigo when I attended a day-long program as a prospective student for an MFA program. I had never seen the movie before, and I absolutely loved it. (In fact, I had always avoided Hitchcock, because I am very easily frightened by typical horror movies. The twistedness of Vertigo, however, was totally my style.) After the movie, the group had a discussion about different interpretations of the film and its ending.

Months later, I got my sister to watch Vertigo with me. I was very excited to watch it again, in part because I loved the big twist at the end of the movie. Without spoiling anyone who may not have seen Vertigo, I will simply say that when the movie was over when I watched it that second time, I turned to my sister in shock. I had had a very vivid memory of how the movie ended. And my memory of it was completely false. It was likely a confabulation that developed as I continued to process the movie and the discussion among the MFA students that followed it. It was unsettling, though, that my mind had developed a version of reality that it regarded wholly as the truth, when in fact, my memory was completely false.

This is also a theme that’s dealt with a lot on The X-Files. Mulder’s quest for the “truth” is really, at its heart, a quest to remember accurately what happened to him and his sister when he was 12 and she was 8. In order to regain those memories, he undergoes all manner of hypnotherapy and highly experimental procedures. But nothing is ever a faithful memory. No memory he is able to conjure up can be trusted as fact–in large part because depending on the circumstances, his memories conflict. When he questions people about what happened, they also give conflicting stories. Is it because they wish to deny him the truth, or is it because they simply can’t tell fact from fiction?

How reliable is any truth when by our very nature, we are so prone to invention? And when we are so ignorant of our own lies?

(And stop! That’s today’s 15 minutes, folks, and I need to get some sleep! I stayed up too late watching X-Files. Man, I love that show. Just like I remembered that I did.)

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