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March 2006


I’m from the mountains, so I am well-accustomed to the sort of things that happen deep in shadowed hollows where the same genes have mixed and mixed again for generations. But when MAC alerted me to this story, even I was surprised. From Haywood County News:

WAYNESVILLE – At least six men traveled from across the nation and South America to have their genitals mutilated in what Haywood County authorities described as a sadomasochistic dungeon.

Three Haywood County men are now in jail on felony charges of castration without malice and practicing medicine without a license.

OK, um, wow. I didn’t even know “castration without malice” was a crime. I mean, wow. Some legislator, somewhere, must have had a fun time hearing about it in the cafeteria after they proposed that one.

Also, you really must visit the link for the mug shots. Damnation. No one, and I mean no one, in their right minds would walk into that house, drop their pants and hope someone produces a knife. Additionally, you have to respect a media outlet that captions the photo with “CASTRATION HOUSE,” then helpfully provides a map to the place in the same story.

They asked a neighbor about the guys, and got this:

Kurtz said the men kept to themselves, rarely waved and never spoke.

I hate to say this, but in the mountains that is every bit as good as putting a sign at the end of the drive that reads WE ARE DOING SOMETHING FREAKY HERE. It shouldn’t be that way – people should have a right to ignore each other all they damn well want, and I remember well when a neighbor accused a gay couple in my neighborhood, back in the ’80s (no, really), of being “drug dealers, or something,” because they didn’t talk to others in the neighborhood and occasionally had out-of-town guests. Still, if the allegations are true, maybe it turns out that even a stopped social clock like that one can be right once in a while. And I find it somewhat heartening that her suspicions were not raised by more than one unmarried man living together, but about their lack of neighborly ways.

My favorite part of the whole article, though?

The victims met the men through a locally produced Web site that published photographs of men engaging in sadomasochistic behavior.

Of course there was a website.

Yahoo! shut down the site in December 2004. The castrations took place last year beginning in March and continued through November, according to police documents.

The case is the first involving willing castration in the county and could be the first in North Carolina.

“This right here beats everything I have ever seen,” the sheriff said.

That’s the mountains, for you.

OK. V for Vendetta. Let’s just crack that one open right from the get-go. Half of my friends seem to have hated it. Me? Loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Yeah, there are some differences from the book – a couple of characters compressed into one, some alterations to the precise mechanics of the ending, some things stated more overtly because a movie doesn’t have time for the subtlety of a trade paperback – but the fascist UK of the book is the fascist UK of the movie, the Evey of the book is the Evey of the movie and the V of the book is the V of the movie. I could find nothing to really complain about. Now, as I said, I can name at least two friends who just loathed it through-and-through. So, YMMV, as always. However, without saying anything more for fear of spoiling it, I think that if you liked the book you’ll like the movie. I think you’ll like the movie even if you’ve never read the book. And, having seen the movie, I have discovered over the course of conversations after that two friends had never read the book and have, as a result, gifted them with copies of it because, in all seriousness, everyone should read V for Vendetta. Then they should go see the movie.

The other big thing is season finale of Battlestar Galactica. Holy crap. More thoughts below the fold to prevent spoilers.

(more…)

Are you reading Achewood? If not, you totally should. It is a webcomic about the hard lives of animals who live in the secret underworld of a California suburb. It’s not like Gaiman, it’s not like Disney, it’s like if John Steinbeck and Joss Whedon had gotten together to write Six Degrees of Separation and it had starred cats and stuffed animals.

The current storyline is basically my favorite ever. Start here, and read forward. It is awesome.

At 2:22am, I stand on the front porch of my house having a smoke. My porch lights are off, as are the lights of most of the houses on my street. The huge pile of brush in the yard is gone, and my legs still ache from the work it took to deal with said brush. I am admiring the sight of my yard sans piles of tree limbs and tree tops. In the distance I hear a low rumble that at first I do not recognize. Then I hear the horn blow, and I realize it’s a train.

I love the sound of trains in the distance. I grew up a couple of miles from a train line, on one of the ridges that borders the otherwise nearly deserted valley through which that line runs in Horse Shoe. I used to go outside to listen for the train, just a ghost of a sound across the valley. Now the train tracks are more like half a mile away, but the sound is still distant. I’m surprised it’s not louder, but it’s still that same low rumble.

2:22. Two months ago, Bruce’s death was still a fresh stab wound in my chest. Two years ago, we were about to buy our first home and I was scared shitless. Two decades ago, I was standing in the driveway of my parents’ house, listening for that train in the distance. I’d just started to figure out a lot of things – that my creeping childhood suspicion against my parents’ faith wasn’t going away anytime soon, that I liked boys, that I wished I could get on that train and see the rest of the world. I didn’t hate Horse Shoe (yet), but I wanted to see more of the world. Given my inability to take the train, I took to the library instead. A branch had just opened up down the road in Etowah.

I go back inside and the two cats are rambunctious. The Boyf is watching the second episode of a new show about melodramatic Mormons. I climb into bed early and the cats are all over me for attention.  I spend a few minutes rubbing kitten bellies as they purr in rhythm.  I pick up the book I’m reading (second in a series) and promptly fall asleep on it. Life, I think in the morning, is pretty good.

OK, one of them was updated.  It’s progressing.  I’m rather pleased with “jellied beef loaf.”  I just made that phrase up and then Googled it and voila, it exists.  No idea if I described it correctly, but the point of that bit isn’t accuracy, it’s to have something gross on the table.  Even if JBL is unto the nectar of the gods, I wanted Franklin Not Frank’s version to be repulsive.

(This from a guy who loves haggis.  Go fig.)

Straight from Billy West himself: 26 new episodes of Futurama. The DVDs are on hold until after the episodes are done.

Gods yes. Gods. Yes.

The further adventures of Whitten continue to be chronicled at Pigs Are Good People.

Do you want to be overwhelmed with cuteness?  Do you?

PWN3D!!1!

So, the switch only took a few minutes. From here, everything looks A-OK. If you find a problem, please email me.

Fascinating quickie:  The Entertainment Software Association has launched the Video Game Voters Network to try to form a gamer bloc.

It sounds dumb, but I’ll tell you this:  one of the many reasons why I so loathe Lieberman, and will have real trouble voting for Hillary if she’s nominated in ’08, is their stand on videogames.  Anybody who tells me the Playstation controller in my hand is turning me into a killer is simply an idiot.

apostropher has tagged me with the Visited States Map & Confessional. As I am always one to hear myself yap, here you go!

Alabama: The first place I ever took mini-thins. That should be their new state motto.

Arizona: When I was a teenager my parents and I went to see the Grand Canyon and coincidentally stayed in a little town that, it turned out, might possibly (and equally possibly not) have been founded by a distant relative; everyone in town thought we were celebrities by the end of the week. So strange.

California: On the same trip, my mother insisted we drive into California, “so we can say we’ve been there.” We turned back around at the first exit past the state line.

Connecticut: I peed in the woods of a hoity-toity development right by the interstate while a fraternity sister explained to me the requirements for legitimately publishing something in a newspaper article.

DC: I love DC. I would live there in a heartbeat, as long as everyone else I know went with me. Walking from Capital City Brewery all the way to the Lincoln Memorial very late at night is the best thing in the world. However, there are statues there I can never look at again.

Delaware: I’ve driven to New England, so I assume I’ve been through Delaware. Oh yes, I remember now, they have their rest stops in the middle of the interstate rather than on the sides.

Florida: Horse-flies the size of silver dollars. Yeeks. I fucking hate Florida. NASA was wicked cool, though, as was Epcot.

Georgia: Absolutely nothing is known about the great-grandmother who died there, and I have spent more than one humid afternoon standing in graveyards, talking to old folks and asking them if they remembered her. I think I even figured out which one is her grave. It was marked by an unusually colored but otherwise unremarkable rock.

Louisiana: We tried to surprise KJ by showing up there in the middle of the night, but fiend called ahead of us to make sure she’d be in and let the secret slip out. Later that weekend we went to a roadhouse that offered a “dinner buffet” consisting of hot dogs in a crock pot, no buns, with a bottle of ketchup and a bottle of mustard next to the crock pot. Best hot dogs I’d had in years.

Kentucky: We went to a gay bar and watched three aging drag queens do an elaborate routine to the “Flipper” theme song. As they were rolling around on the auditorium stage – this was a huge venue for a drag show – miming the dolphin himself, one of them rolled off into the orchestra pit. She was fine, though.

Maine: A short but wonderful visit I’m not at liberty to further discuss.

Maryland: Easily the best car breakdown experience I’ve ever had.

Massachusetts: Boston’s streets, when viewed from the air, form an ancient sigil representing annoyance and frustration.

Mississippi: We found a 24 hour gas station and walked in looking like alien hippies, but the people were nice to us anyway.

Nevada: The third day in Vegas is the day you start to hate the place.

New Jersey: Princeton is a beautiful city and it is easy to fake your way into their graduate computer labs to check your email. At least, it was a decade ago.

New York: I enjoyed being on Long Island way more than I enjoyed being in NYC. This probably means I’m bad at being gay.

North Carolina: I’ve stood at the end of the Road to Nowhere in Swain County. It is so strange to stand on the border where double yellow lines surrender to lush greenery. The road really does just end.

Rhode Island: There was a wedding by the river in Providence, and when I pulled out my camera my friend Matt put his hand on mine to prevent me from using it. “It’s a mafia wedding,” he said. “Just don’t.”

South Carolina: SC 11 is one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken.

Tennessee: “See, first thing you do is, you make yourself a moonshine screwdriver, ‘n I don’t mean a weak one. Then, you get yourself about eight Xanax…” She met us at the door with moonshine screwdrivers. We skipped the Xanax. Three days later, we were back in NC with three gallons of white lightning.

Vermont: Tex-Mex? In Vermont? NO RLY.

Virginia: “Michael, while the cop is back there running my tags, do you think I should take down the Grateful Dead Bear air freshener?” “I’m pretty sure it’s too late for that.” Also, I would totally retire there, but only if I get to spend every day in this store (UPDATE: link fixed). I think I’d apply for a job there pretty much the second I unpacked.

West Virginia: We “camped,” by which I mean we parked the van in a campground space we rented for $7 for the night. The van had a clever bumper sticker that encouraged its readers to fuck a lot without actually having babies. I wrote a poem I rather liked about the matron of the family staying next to us. It was titled “Plastic Chair Buddha.”

So, whom do I next tag? Katastrophes, Mz. GoRightry and Bascha.

So, today Bush was out pushing that Iran is behind a lot of the violence in Iraq. You might not have heard this, what with the media being so occupied with examining what went wrong with Iraq, whether the President had preordained to invade and sought pat excuses, or the build-up to impeachment for having lied to the nation and broken the law multiple times – I know, I know, it’s hard to hear through the din of a working democracy – but there are apparently people in the Administration who think Iran might also be making nukes.

And so, here’s exactly why they will invade Iran:

  • Iran – they will say – is the whole reason why Iraq is so fucked up in the first place. Insurgents? Iranian agents seeding the land with chaos! They’ve already been testing this one with crowds, and they’re even willing to get out there and say it in front of reporters.
  • Iran is central to terror and its planning and funding, and so we have to do this because of 9/11, etc.
  • Iran may have nukes, and if imaginary WMDs produced by starving Iraqis using refined fairy dust and wishes made manifest are good enough to invade a place, nukes are like double-plus good-good. All they have to do is point at Iran and say, “Arabs With Nukes!” and everyone in Goat Herder, USA, will show up with a musket and their great-grandpappy’s gas mask from dubya-dubya-eye. They know good and damn well that if rigged voting machines didn’t hand them the ’04 election then fear sure as hell did, and they will play that song as loud as they can.
  • If we invade Iran, we get another few months of media “embeds” and exciting theme music on Fox News and all kinds of great flash and dazzle to take everyone’s minds off Iraq. This will be convenient because they second we’re off the streets of Baghdad the country is going to fucking melt. Oh wait, that’s already happening. That insurgency that Cheney said was in its last throes, like, a year ago? Two years ago? Yeah, I don’t think our departure from the country is exactly going to encourage those dudes to embrace the political process, so BushCo will be mighty glad to have something to distract us while that shit goes down – er, further down.
  • Some of these yahoos in the Bush Administration probably think that this invasion shit has worked out pretty well, all things considered, because they are being spoon-fed by vassals who dare not contradict them. They will assume that an invasion of Iran, using Iraq as a staging ground, is, like, totally even better than two-for-one Tuesdays down at the Dairy Queen.
  • The ones that know how fucked we are in Iraq can use an invasion of Iran as an excuse to withdraw the bulk of our troops from the failed state we’ve created next door.
  • War is a great way to drum up support for the home team during some awfully nervous mid-terms.
  • Some of the planners and “architects” (do you really keep calling someone that when the only thing they’ve built in their whole fucking lives is a single shack that spontaneously combusted?) will honestly believe that this time – no, really – the population will be so grateful that they’ll rise up and do the heavy lifting for us. Take a guess how many red X’s come up when Richard Dawson looks to the big board for that one?
  • They just don’t give a shit what happens to people who aren’t lily-white and weak-chinned from the inbreeding.
  • Toppling Iran would further isolate Russia, either leading them to get as chummy as possible out of desperation or igniting another, smaller Cold War. Win-win, in their book.

Seriously. All those things are true. They are going to invade Iran. They will do so before the year is out. They will do so right before mid-terms, or possibly right after, so that the Republicans who need to distance themselves can do so without yet actually having to vote yet or no on authorizing force. This assumes, however, that they don’t use the “inciting violence in Iraq, thus it’s a part of the already-approved Iraq invasion” justification. They will do so thinking that it will distract us from Iraq – perhaps genuinely believing, quite wrongly, that it will improve things in Iraq. They will think that we will win because we’re America and we can win against anybody, right? Then they will figure out that they were wrong, and they will blame insurgents and terrorists and talk about trying to expand the swamp (remember that “draining the swamp” shit they were shoveling at first, about Iraq?) and all that crap. We will fuck up yet another huge-ass country and we will leave it even worse than it was before and we will shit on what’s left of our own reputation and then, when anyone questions the people who had the bright idea in the first place, they will in turn question that person’s patriotism and when that doesn’t stick they will look somewhere – anywhere – else to lay the blame: they’ll claim it’s the UN’s fault, the IAEA’s fault, anyone they’d like to take a swing at on their way down. They will console themselves that at least in their failure they managed to damage an institution they despise with a white-hot passion.

But if it’s so blindingly obvious, why doesn’t anyone stop it? Because we have demonstrated as a nation, three times now, that we are totally OK with these chumps being in charge of the whole shebang: legislative, executive and judicial. As a country, assuming election results are accurate and thus that the majority really has spoken, we have officially approved all this bullshit, every last steaming dollop.

Bon appetit.

Well, it looks like Blizzard finally got their heads wrapped around how stupid their initial decision was and the CEO has responded to Lambda Legal, the group that responded to Blizzard’s initial warning against a World of Warcraft player that her guild could not advertise being ‘gay-friendly’ because it might incite hate-speech. From EDGE:

“It is expected and accepted that players will discuss a wide variety of topics, based on both the game world and the real world,” Sams says. “Players are free to discuss personal characteristics if they wish, to include their sexual orientations and gender identities.”

“Blizzard has provided additional training to its game masters,” the letter continues, “in order to give them a greater level of sensitivity when responding to similar situations in the future. Blizzard has specifically instructed its game masters that mentioning or discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in a non-insulting fashion is not a violation of the anti-harassment policy and does not constitute grounds for a warning or any other disciplinary action.”

In addition to the training, a separate guild recruitment chat channel went into effect in an early February patch, to both allow like-minded players to advertise for groups, and appease those players that might not wish to listen.

“It has always been and will remain Blizzard’s policy,” Sams concludes, “that LGBT-friendly guilds are allowed to announce their existence, and to recruit members in the same manner as any other guilds.”

So, yay! People are not idiots always, including Blizzard. Whee!

I sleep on my stomach. I awoke at one point very early this morning to find that Didi & Gogo were sitting on my butt – square in the middle – wrestling each other. I peeked over one shoulder and there they were. They noticed me looking at them, paused briefly to stare at me, then went back to wrestling.

Kittens are so weird.

Also, I am never reading Penny Arcade late at night again. Last night I dreamt that Patrick Swayze was conned into marrying a morbidly obese midget. The Boyf and I had to make the case to free him from this unwilling matrimony.

It’s so wrong, but so right: what if Jesus were an RPG? Sort of.

Man, you mix heresy with Final Fantasy and it comes out delicious.

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