Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Social Psychology of Facebook, or, Why Social Networking Makes You Feel Like Sh*t

Everybody is happier than you, you loser.  That's what a Stanford study, published in this month's Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, reports.  

As most people (and certainly those like me with social psych degrees) know, people always tend to think that others are happier than they are.  "The grass is always greener…." and all that.  

But the Stanford study seems to indicate that Facebook only heightens that sense.  By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people's lives, and inviting constant comparisons, Facebook appears to exploit that part of human nature in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers.  So says the study.

Slate picks up the story:

The notion that feeling alone in your day-to-day suffering might increase that suffering certainly makes intuitive sense.

As does the idea that Facebook might aggravate this tendency. Facebook is, after all, characterized by the very public curation of one's assets in the form of friends, photos, biographical data, accomplishments, pithy observations, even the books we say we like. Look, we have baked beautiful cookies. We are playing with a new puppy. We are smiling in pictures (or, if we are moody, we are artfully moody.) Blandness will not do, and with some exceptions, sad stuff doesn't make the cut, either. The site's very design—the presence of a "Like" button, without a corresponding "Hate" button—reinforces a kind of upbeat spin doctoring. (No one will "Like" your update that the new puppy died, but they may "Like" your report that the little guy was brave up until the end.)

Any parent who has posted photos and videos of her child on Facebook is keenly aware of the resulting disconnect from reality, the way chronicling parenthood this way creates a story line of delightfully misspoken words, adorably worn hats, dancing, blown kisses. Tearful falls and tantrums are rarely recorded, nor are the stretches of pure, mind-blowing tedium. We protect ourselves, and our kids, this way; happiness is impersonal in a way that pain is not. But in the process, we wind up contributing to the illusion that kids are all joy, no effort.

Facebook is "like being in a play. You make a character," one teenager tells MIT professor Sherry Turkle in her new book on technology, Alone Together. Turkle writes about the exhaustion felt by teenagers as they constantly tweak their Facebook profiles for maximum cool. She calls this "presentation anxiety," and suggests that the site's element of constant performance makes people feel alienated from themselves. (The book's broader theory is that technology, despite its promises of social connectivity, actually makes us lonelier by preventing true intimacy.)

Facebook oneupsmanship may have particular implications for women. As Meghan O'Rourke has noted here in Slate, women's happiness has been at an all-time low in recent years. O'Rourke and two University of Pennsylvania economists who have studied the male-female happiness gap argue that women's collective discontent may be due to too much choice and second-guessing–unforeseen fallout, they speculate, of the way our roles have evolved over the last half-century. As the economists put it, "The increased opportunity to succeed in many dimensions may have led to an increased likelihood in believing that one's life is not measuring up."

If you're already inclined to compare your own decisions to those of other women and to find yours wanting, believing that others are happier with their choices than they actually are is likely to increase your own sense of inadequacy. And women may be particularly susceptible to the Facebook illusion. For one thing, the site is inhabited by more women than men, and women users tend to be more active on the site, as Forbes has reported. According to a recent study out of the University of Texas at Austin, while men are more likely to use the site to share items related to the news or current events, women tend to use it to engage in personal communication (posting photos, sharing content "related to friends and family"). This may make it especially hard for women to avoid comparisons that make them miserable. (Last fall, for example, the Washington Post ran a piece about the difficulties of infertile women in shielding themselves from the Facebook crowings of pregnant friends.)

Read the whole thing.

Site Notes

Yes, I know my blogging is sporadic.

Yes, I know I missed writing about the State of the Union, this blog's seventh anniversary, and the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster.

Lot of things going on right now, and free time is at a premium.

Hope to get back to a "normal" blogging routine soon.

The GOP Attempt To Redefine Rape

After a meaningless attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans set their sites on something else: passing a law which makes sure that no federal money goes to funding abortions.  It was cleverly called the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act."

Why do this? After all, existing law already restricts public funds for abortions.  Weren't they voting on something that already exists in laws?

Nope.  You see, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite those exceptions.

Specifically, the bill attempted to limit rape to "forcible rape" only.  That's the only way you can get some financial assistance from the government for an abortion — if you were forcibly raped.

And the incest exception?  The Republicans would have that apply only if the "woman" is under 18.

So, let's recap….

The woman who got pregnant after she was slipped a roofie in her Diet Coke would not have her abortion covered.

The woman with a medical condition who fell unconscious in a bad neighborhood and was raped, she would not be covered.

The 17 year old girl who drank too much at a party her parents didn't know about, and was raped while passed out, would not be covered.

The 12 year old raped by her stepfather, or by her sister's boyfriend in her room, or by her tennis coach at practice, would not be covered.

The developmentally disabled girl gang raped and impregnated by boys who told her it was a "game" would not be covered.

The comatose patient in a hospital raped by staff would not have her abortion covered.

Because, apparently, these aren't "real" rape.

Ladies and gents, your new Congress.

UPDATE:  

Tea party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has unveiled a plan for cutting $400 billion in federal spending that includes freezing Veterans Affairs Department health care spending and cutting veterans’ disability benefits. 

Her proposed VA budget cuts would account for $4.5 billion of the savings included in the plan, posted on her official House of Representatives website.

So rape victims and vets – the GOP just gave you a middle finger. [UPDATE:  Vets are pissed.]

Balloon Juice quips:

I’m waiting for the “Kick an Orphan and Beat a Puppy Act of 2011,” which no doubt is in the works.

Texting In The Mall Update

Several days ago, I posted a Youtube video showing a girl who was texting while in a mall, thus toppling into a fountain.

She's now suing the mall:

The video has received more than 1.5 million views since it went viral on YouTube last week. The woman in the video, Cathy Cruz Marrero, doesn't think the video is very funny. She claims she could have gotten seriously hurt and that the security guards should have helped instead of laugh.

"I'm just like dumbfounded. And all I kept saying was, 'I fell. I fell. I fell in the fountain. I fell in the fountain.'"

First of all, the security guards were laughing after the fact.  They were watching a replay.

And more importantly, honey, you got out of the fountain fine… on your own.  Within seconds.  How, exactly, could the security guards have helped you (assuming that they saw you plunge in real time as it happened)?

 

And Now Back To Health Care…

Well, some shooting aside, the new Congress is back in session and rarin' to go.  First on the agenda, repealing all the progress mad in health care.

Now, of course, the ability of the Republicans to do this is limited.  After all, Obama isn't going to sign a bill (even assuming a bill passes both houses) that guts his health care initiative of last year.

But we're still going to go through this charade anyway.  And what is the first stop?  The individual mandate.

Republicans argue that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, i.e., that the federal government cannot compel you to buy insurance.  The federal government can only prevent you from doing things.

It's a rather specious argument.  After all, what's the difference between a government preventing you from driving over 65 mph and a government compelling you to drive under 65 mph?  Same coin.

But this is different, they argue.  The individual mandate is novel because it forces you to do something when you might have preferred to do nothing. Put differently, it regulates "inactivity," and that's unprecedented, conservatives say.

You'll hear that a lot in the coming weeks/months.  And here is the response.  It's NOT unprecedented.  Want some examples?

Guns: President George Washington signed a law that required much of the country to purchase a firearm, ammunition and other equipment in case they needed to be called up for militia service. Many of the members of Congress who voted for this mandate were members of the Philadelphia Convention that wrote the Constitution.

Civil rights: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 compelled business owners to engage in transactions they considered undesirable — hiring and otherwise doing business with African Americans.

Insurance mandates: The Affordable Care Act is not even the only federal law requiring someone to carry insurance. The Price-Anderson Act of 1957 requires nuclear power plants to purchase liability insurance and the Flood Disaster Protection Act requires many homeowners to carry flood insurance.

Other mandates: Other laws require individuals to perform jury service, file tax returns and register for selective service.

So the next time you hear some conservative spouting off that it is unconstitutional for the government to "force" someone to buy or do something they would rather not do, you know they don't know what they're talking about.

RELATED:  As for constitution worship, there's a very good article in The New Yorker about that.  It's amusing to think that the Constitution itself has not been historically a big huge deal:

Three delegates refused to sign, but at the bottom of the fourth page appear the signatures of the rest. What was written on parchment was then made public, printed in newspapers and broadsheets, often with “We the People” set off in extra-large type. Meanwhile, the secretary of the convention carried the original to New York to present it to Congress, which met, at the time, at City Hall. Without either endorsing or opposing it, Congress agreed to forward the Constitution to the states, for ratification. The original Constitution was simply filed away and, later, shuffled from one place to another. When City Hall underwent renovations, the Constitution was transferred to the Department of State. The following year, it moved with Congress to Philadelphia and, in 1800, to Washington, where it was stored at the Treasury Department until it was shifted to the War Office. In 1814, three clerks stuffed it into a linen sack and carried it to a gristmill in Virginia, which was fortunate, because the British burned Washington down. In the eighteen-twenties, when someone asked James Madison where it was, he had no idea.

In 1875, the Constitution found a home in a tin box in the bottom of a closet in a new building that housed the Departments of State, War, and Navy. In 1894, it was sealed between glass plates and locked in a safe in the basement. In 1921, Herbert Putnam, a librarian, drove it across town in his Model T. In 1924, it was put on display in the Library of Congress, for the first time ever. Before then, no one had thought of that.

Joe Scarborough Has Some Words For Palin and Beck

We get it, Sarah Palin. You’re not morally culpable for the tragic shooting in Tucson, Ariz. All of us around the “Morning Joe” table agree, even if we were stunned that you would whine about yourself on Facebook as a shattered family prepared to bury their 9-year-old girl.

The same goes for you, Glenn Beck. You’ve attacked your political opponents with words designed to inspire hatred and mind-bending conspiracy theories from fans. Calling the president a racist, Marxist and fascist may be reprehensible, but it did not lead a mentally disturbed man to take a Glock to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s “Congress on Your Corner” event.

Good on ya, buddy. You weren’t personally responsible for the slaughter at the Safeway. Maybe you can put it on a poster at the next “Talkers” convention.

But before you and the pack of right-wing polemicists who make big bucks spewing rage on a daily basis congratulate yourselves for not being responsible for Jared Lee Loughner’s rampage, I recommend taking a deep breath. Just because the dots between violent rhetoric and violent actions don’t connect in this case doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore the possibility — or, as many fear, the inevitability — that someone else will soon draw the line between them.

Actually, someone already has. When you get a minute, Google “Byron Williams” and “Tides Foundation” to see just how thin a layer of ice Beck skates on every day.

Read the whole thing.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele Drops Out

So who will be the RNC chairman?

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – Michael Steele dropped out of the race to run the RNC after a series of closed door meetings with every candidate except, as far as I could tell, Reince Priebus.

"It's time for me to step aside, and give others the chance to lead," said Steele. "Despite the noise — and Lord knows, there was a lot of noise — we won."

Steele released his supporters — 28 in the last ballot — and asked them to "stand with me in supporting Maria Cino."

"And now, said Steele, I exit stage right."

He exited stage left. (That's where his supporters where.)

If every Steele supporter goes to Cino, she'll have 57 votes in the fifth round; Priebus ended the fourth round with 58 votes.

 

I’m A Virgo Now?

The New Dates:

Capricorn: Jan. 20 – Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16 – March 11
Pisces: March 11- April 18
Aries: April 18 – May 13
Taurus: May 13 – June 21
Gemini: June 21 – July 20
Cancer: July 20 – Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10 – Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16 – Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30 – Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23 – Nov. 29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29 – Dec. 17
Sagittarius: Dec. 17 – Jan. 20

[Source]

By the way, it's STILL all bosh!

Ambulance-Chasing On Broadway

Apparently, people want to see "Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark" for the same reason people want to see Formula One Racing — to see human crashing and tragedy.  So discovers the New Yorker:

At a preview last Tuesday, members of the audience seemed conflicted. Outside the theatre, Alaina Schwartz, aged twelve, who had come from Long Island with her family, was asked if she hoped to see someone fall. “Yes! Yes!” she said. “I’m weird about that stuff. Like, there was a roller coaster and it kind of fell backwards, and I was kind of wishing that I was on that roller coaster at the time that it fell.” Her father, Steven, looked concerned.

“I hope somebody falls but they’re O.K.,” her sister Alexa, fourteen, said.

A third sister, Stephanie, nine, objected: “If something goes wrong, that’s bad luck for us!”

In the lobby, Allie Bauer, a Yale junior, said, “There’s a certain allure to this being a very dangerous performance.”

“You’re more evil than I am,” her classmate Will Moritz said, eating a Twizzler. After thinking it over, he added, “If I could see someone fall from the rafters but not go to the hospital—just magically get up—then I’d be down.” (He’s majoring in psychology.)

Matt Clements, a cameraman from midtown, had come to the show with his girlfriend. “She wants to see blood,” he explained.

The girlfriend, a lawyer named Carol Barbeiro, didn’t deny it. “It’s like Formula One,” she reasoned. “You want to see the car crash.” She added, “We like to go to Rockefeller Center to watch the ice-skaters fall.”

Possibly to Barbeiro’s dismay, the show went off that night without a hitch. (To say nothing of its dramaturgical flaws: in an early review, a Bloomberg critic called it “an unfocused hodge-podge of storytelling, myth-making and spectacle that comes up short in every department.”) During the flying sequences, the occupant of seat E114 wasn’t even tempted to put on the hard hat he had packed in case of emergency. But he was nevertheless troubled.

Read the whole thing.

Injured-spiderman-new-yorker-cover-27508-1294770499-17
 

Is There Violent Rhetoric On Both Sides?

Look, let's get something clear.  This Jared creep didn't shoot Rep. Giffords and dozens of others because of something that Sarah Palin said, or because of some literature which placed a gun target over Gifford's district.  He did it because he was a nut job.  

I don't think any serious critic on the left is making that assertion that Palin is responsible for the shootings. Of course she's not.  But she is part of a larger trend where violent, if eliminationist rhetoric, is becoming exceptable in our daily political discourse.  And I think the left is perfectly reasonable in raising the subject, even if it may not explain the Tucson shootings.

The right's response is that "both sides do it", and they point to effigy burnings of Sarah Palin, etc.

Wrong, guys.  Here's the difference, as nailed by George Packer at the New Yorker:

[I]t won’t do to dig up stray comments by Obama, Allen Grayson, or any other Democrat who used metaphors of combat over the past few years, and then try to claim some balance of responsibility in the implied violence of current American politics. (Most of the Obama quotes that appear in the comments were lame attempts to reassure his base that he can get mad and fight back, i.e., signs that he’s practically incapable of personal aggression in politics.) In fact, there is no balance—none whatsoever. Only one side has made the rhetoric of armed revolt against an oppressive tyranny the guiding spirit of its grassroots movement and its midterm campaign. Only one side routinely invokes the Second Amendment as a form of swagger and intimidation, not-so-coyly conflating rights with threats. Only one side’s activists bring guns to democratic political gatherings. Only one side has a popular national TV host who uses his platform to indoctrinate viewers in the conviction that the President is an alien, totalitarian menace to the country. Only one side fills the AM waves with rage and incendiary falsehoods. Only one side has an iconic leader, with a devoted grassroots following, who can’t stop using violent imagery and dividing her countrymen into us and them, real and fake. Any sentient American knows which side that is; to argue otherwise is disingenuous.

Emphasis mine.  Now, is anybody suggesting that the rhetoric from the right, and the unique nature of it, caused Loughner to open fire in Tucson?  I repeat, no.

But violent rhetoric is the atmosphere in which the shootings took place, and, to paraphrase David Corn, "Republicans have institutionalized their side's craziness." This is the big difference between the two sides, and the right could really stand to engage in a wee bit of soul searching over this.  

Especially since it really IS the "right side" that seems to be engaging in the political violence.  Here's the tally from the last two-and-a-half years alone, curtesy of Dave Neiwert:

– July 2008A gunman named Jim David Adkisson, agitated at how "liberals" are "destroying America," walks into a Unitarian Church and opens fire, killing two churchgoers and wounding four others.

– October 2008Two neo-Nazis are arrested in Tennessee in a plot to murder dozens of African-Americans, culminating in the assassination of President Obama.

– December 2008: A pair of "Patriot" movement radicals — the father-son team of Bruce and Joshua Turnidge, who wanted "to attack the political infrastructure" – threaten a bank in Woodburn, Oregon, with a bomb in the hopes of extorting money that would end their financial difficulties, for which they blamed the government. Instead, the bomb goes off and kills two police officers. The men eventually are convicted and sentenced to death for the crime.

– December 2008In Belfast, Maine, police discover the makings of a nuclear "dirty bomb" in the basement of a white supremacist shot dead by his wife. The man, who was independently wealthy, reportedly was agitated about the election of President Obama and was crafting a plan to set off the bomb.

– January 2009A white supremacist named Keith Luke embarks on a killing rampage in Brockton, Mass., raping and wounding a black woman and killing her sister, then killing a homeless man before being captured by police as he is en route to a Jewish community center.

– February 2009: A Marine named Kody Brittingham is arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate President Obama. Brittingham also collected white-supremacist material.

– April 2009A white supremacist named Richard Poplawski opens fire on three Pittsburgh police officers who come to his house on a domestic-violence call and kills all three, because he believed President Obama intended to take away the guns of white citizens like himself. Poplawski is currently awaiting trial.

– April 2009Another gunman in Okaloosa County, Florida, similarly fearful of Obama's purported gun-grabbing plans, kills two deputies when they come to arrest him in a domestic-violence matter, then is killed himself in a shootout with police.

– May 2009A "sovereign citizen" named Scott Roeder walks into a church in Wichita, Kansas, and assassinates abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.

– June 2009: A Holocaust denier and right-wing tax protester named James Von Brunn opens fire at the Holocaust Museum, killing a security guard.

– February 2010An angry tax protester named Joseph Ray Stack flies an airplane into the building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas. (Media are reluctant to label this one "domestic terrorism" too.)

– March 2010Seven militiamen from the Hutaree Militia in Michigan and Ohio are arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate local police officers with the intent of sparking a new civil war.

– March 2010An anti-government extremist named John Patrick Bedell walks into the Pentagon and opens fire, wounding two officers before he is himself shot dead.

– May 2010A "sovereign citizen" from Georgia is arrested in Tennessee and charged with plotting the violent takeover of a local county courthouse.

– May 2010A still-unidentified white man walks into a Jacksonville, Fla., mosque and sets it afire, simultaneously setting off a pipe bomb.

– May 2010Two "sovereign citizens" named Jerry and Joe Kane gun down two police officers who pull them over for a traffic violation, and then wound two more officers in a shootout in which both of them are eventually killed.

– July 2010An agitated right-winger and convict named Byron Williams loads up on weapons and drives to the Bay Area intent on attacking the offices of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, but is intercepted by state patrolmen and engages them in a shootout and armed standoff in which two officers and Williams are wounded.

– September 2010: A Concord, N.C., man is arrested and charged with plotting to blow up a North Carolina abortion clinic. The man, 26-year–old Justin Carl Moose, referred to himself as the "Christian counterpart to (Osama) bin Laden” in a taped undercover meeting with a federal informant.

What to make of this?  Are these people liberals, responding to liberal rhetoric?

Making People Paranoid

This guy follows people around in Target, describes their actions over his cellphone and creeps them out.  If I had nothing better to do, I would do this for a living.  If it paid.

 

Eliminationist Rhetoric

The right wing is very upset that the left is "using" the Tucson shootings to point out the violent rhetoric of the right, and how it leads deranged people to do just what Jared Lee Loughner did. "It's not fair" cries the right.

And I say "rubbish".  What we have here is an attempted assassination of a politician by an insane crank at a political event, in a state where the political discourse has been an unrelenting howl of eliminationist rhetoric and characterization of anyone to the left of Genghis Khan as a traitor and enemy of the state…and now, when six (including a nine year old girl) lie dead and another fourteen are wounded, now suddenly we're concerned that it is rude and politicizing a tragedy to point out that the right wing has produced a toxic atmosphere that pollutes our politics with hatred and the rhetoric of violence? 

It was a political shooting. And here are some more political thoughts:

If a Detroit Muslim put a map on the web with crosshairs on 20 pols, then 1 of them got shot, where would he be sitting right now? Just asking. – Michael Moore

A physician cannot treat an illness s/he willfully refuses to diagnose. Violent political rhetoric is not fault of "both sides." – Tom Tomorrow

Inspiring that our media pundits are so quick to reach for "everyone's to blame" when no conservative events have been terrorized by gunmen. – Jeffrey Feldman

Weird: rightwingers say movies, video games affect behavior — but real world violent rhetoric from leaders & radio talkers have NO impact! – Tom Tomorrow

Jared Lougnner: drug arrests, too crazy for Army or for college or anything else, but getting a legal gun? No problem. – Tom Tomorrow

I find it abhorrent that Sarah Palin would stoke the coals of extremism with dangerous messaging, then delete it when something bad happens. – Jason Pollock

Sure, Sarah Palin didn't pull the trigger. But then, neither did Charles Manson. – auntbeast

Christina Taylor Green was Born on September 11, 2001, and killed today by terrorist fuckheads in Arizona. Irony much? – geeksofdoom

Sarah Palin rummages online frantically erasing her rabble-rousing Tweets like a Stalinist trimming non-persons out of photos. – Roger Ebert

I'll say this, if your first instinct after hearing about a tragedy is to scrub yr websites, you have a problem as a political movement. – digby56

CNN's Dana Bash says "this could be a wake-up call." THIS … ? The whole Tea Party, carrying guns to rallies WASN'T?? – hololio2

Teaparty asses have been asking for this to happen, and how they're pissed off that we're calling them out on it. – TLW3

And Krugman is very good on this:

It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.

The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

Yes

Strange Palin Editing

Palin is in the spotlight, and on the hot seat, because of her violent rhetoric a few months ago in which she targeted Representative Gifford, who remains in critical condition following an assassination attempt.

So naturally, Palin's Facebook page is filling up with comments attacking Palin.  And Palin's staff is quick to edit them out.

Although, it is strange what they DON'T edit out.  Read on.

The Reviews Are In

Can't complain at all:

Play is about love, marriage and gender change

By LYNN FELDER
Published: January 08, 2011

Ideas about love, marriage and gender mutability combusted on the Theatre Alliance stage Friday night in the hands of an outstanding cast and capable directing by Artistic Director Jamie Lawson.

"Looking for Normal" by Jane Anderson tells the story of Roy, played by Ken Ashford, his family and friends as they navigate the uncharted terrain of his decision to have transgender surgery in order to become the woman that he believes he has always been. In the process, conventional ideas about the meaning of love and marriage are exploded in provocative scenes, and economical — often humorous — dialogue.

The play opens as Roy and his wife, Irma (Gesh Metz), are seeking pastoral counseling. But Roy simply cannot get to the point, so Irma volunteers to wait outside. After much dithering and hand-fiddling, Roy tells the Rev. Muncie (Neil Shepherd) that he has been seeing a psychiatrist and has made a decision to change his body. In a moment of perfect balance between pathos and humor, Roy bursts into tears, and Muncie rolls his eyes.

The preacher desperately tries to frame Roy's experience in a context that he can work with and correct, but Roy's description of a spiritual experience in which God has blessed his desire to correct nature's mistake flummoxes Muncie.

The two agree to tell Irma together, and they do in a priceless moment of subtle scripting.

The entire cast is terrific, and the standouts are Ashford with his burly-man body and sweet face, and Shannon Haas as Patty Ann, the pre-teen daughter who is having her own gender concerns.

Ashford is completely believable in both male and female aspects, and neither is ever a burlesque — except when it is intended to be.

Haas plays Patty Ann with maddening, eye-rolling accuracy. Patty Ann asks her dad all the great, obvious questions: Will he shave his legs? Will he wear dress? (She hates wearing dresses.)

Grandmother Ruth (April Linscott) — Roy's grandmother who abandoned Roy's father when he was just a baby — sums up the gist of what the play is against: "People would rather be shocked than enlightened."

But what the play is "for" is love.

That Was God, My Ass

As a concept, I'm having a lot of problems with the website That Was God.

The point of the website is for people to enter their "moments when it was CLEAR: that was God".  So you get entries like this one from "Dee":

Today I was driving to the store and a rabbit ran out in front of me. I swerved and almost hit the oncoming traffic head on resulting in an horrific accident. But because we live in Cleveland, we all had good breaks and tires and were able to miraculously stop. twG.

Well, no, Dee.  I don't think that was God at all.  You were lucky.  Luck happens.  And if not lucky, then you were all good drivers who maintained your cars and brakes (which even you seem to acknowledge, Dee).

The whole site is full of things like that.  Coincidence gets passed off as God.  Like this:

It’s been cold lately, really really cold. My stove died over the weekend and I had nothing to eat so I had to venture out into the cold to find some dinner. The closest restaurant to my home is the Sizzler, which isn’t all bad. Lots of food, lots of variety. There are worst things to be sure.

So there I was, freezing in my car, driving down the street when my cell phone rings. It was my mama, calling to tell me how much I’m loved. While fumbling around on the seat looking for my phone, I decided to pull over to answer the phone. Moments later, a car ran a red light in the intersection just ahead of me at exactly the moment I would have been driving through if mama had not called me.

Make what you want of it, but as far as I’m concerned twG.

Right.

Or ignorance gets passed off as "clear" proof of God.  Here's this one from april y-h:

We have two homes… Not by choice but rather by bad luck (moved and other one was suppose to be rented then bought but wasn’t)…. Anyway, the power was shut off in old home bc tenant didn’t pay electric bill (or rent) and we can’t afford to have it cut back on. It JUST dawned on us that family could go burn wood in the wood burning fireplace at night to keep pipes from bursting.

When my MIL went to house…. The power was on! I don’t know how or why the power was turned back on it our empty house… But this “beautiful mistake” had to be the work of God…. God kept our pipes from freezing! Praises! twG.

Hmmmm.  Because she didn't know how or why the power was turned back on, it MUST be the CLEAR work of God.  What ELSE could it be?!?  A mistake by the power company?  Maybe someone paid the bill?  No, it's God.

Here's my personal favorite, although I think it might be a practical joke:

in my youth group at church we were going to act out this amazing skit that we had planned out a few months ago. we never did practice that much therefore we got tired and held it off. just today we practiced after church and have only two practices left but we are actually very ahead of schuedule so far… twG.

Right.  There's war, starvation, global warming, pain, hunger, disease, suffering, but what is God doing?  Making sure youth group skits are ahead of schedule.

Man With The Golden Voice

Yeah, yeah.  Homeless man has a good radio voice, and in a matter of days, becomes celebrity.  Blah blah blah.  Warm feel good story.

Oh, here are his mug shots, America.  They're from his many arrests and convictions for theft, robbery, escape, forgery, and drug possession. 

Tedwilliamssmallmugs

No, but seriously.  I hope he can keep it on the straight and low this time.

More Animal Carnage

Two million fish in Chesapeake Bay.  The somewhat unconvincing reason for their death, we're told, is "cold weather stress", because (I suppose) the Chesapeake never ever gets cold or something.

Let's add this to the recent of spate of silly animal deaths:

…hundreds of thousands of fish dying in the Arkansas River near Ozark (experts suspect some type of infection), thousands of birds littering the ground in Beebe, Ark., (fireworks may have literally scared them to death) and hundreds of birds dead along Louisiana's Route 1 (perhaps because of a "controlled kill" by authorities or an encounter with power lines).

The only thing needed now to propel this into a new lvel of ridiculousness is an interview with Kirk Cameron…. and even he can't believe he's being asked questions about it.

 

Bachmann To Run in 2012?

Sarah Palin, I've decided, isn't a dummy.  She's making a pretty penny by keeping her name in the news… without actually doing anything newsworthy.  But if she woke up tomorrow and was completely honest, saying "Of course I'm not going to run for President in 2012", her star would decline rapidly.  In other words, the only thing that makes Sarah Palin relevant today is the prospect that she might be some political force in the future.  And she knows that.

But like I say, she's not going to run.  She's just riding the gravy train.

But fear not.  We still may get some of that crazy factor into the running, according to ABC News:

ABC News has learned that Bachmann, R-Minn., also is seriously weighing whether to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

A source close to the three-term congresswoman said Bachmann will travel to Iowa this month for multiple meetings to seek advice from political forces there and party elders close to the caucus process before coming to a final decision regarding a potential presidential run. Bachmann, a native of Waterloo, Iowa, also is set to deliver a keynote speech at an Iowans for Tax Relief PAC fundraiser Jan. 21 in Des Moines, Iowa.

I don't have a joke here.  I'm too busy salivating….