everybody’s going nowhere slowly, they’re all fighting for the chance to be last

Holly over at Pervocracy (NSFW text but image free) wrote an interesting post a week ago about the one safety class that every woman ought to take, but nobody offers yet:

I’ve seen a couple dozen assaults in my day, and about two of them were between complete strangers. (Both of those, incidentally, weren’t in “fringe areas” but in convenience stores. Perhaps we should teach our daughters never to go to 7-11, it’s just not worth it.) The rest were committed by partners, siblings, friends, cousins, my boyfriend’s weird friends he invites over, this john my pimp said was cool, and of course Sumdood. It’s sort of comforting in a way to think that threats come from “outside,” but it doesn’t reflect reality. You can creep through the parking lot with a can of mace and total situational awareness and then go home and get raped by your husband.

There’s a class I’d like to teach young women, actually. (Young people. I’ve seen a man streaming blood after his wife broke a heavy ceramic mug over his head.) Identifying and getting the fuck out of destructive intimate relationships. Not a brief sideline to Stranger Danger self-defense but a whole class on the real threat. Best for kids young enough to not be in serious relationships yet, but open to any age. It would save ten times as many lives as this “young ladies are fragile flowers that mustn’t go into the big bad world alone” bullshit.

Hell yes.

Picture a four hour seminar. The first two hour block would cover Signs of Abusive Behavior. Not just physically abusive stuff, but the psychological trauma as well. Does he act like a radically different person in private with you than he does in company? Does he make you feel dumb, weak or vulnerable? Does he threaten you? There should be lots of discussion on this, as a lot of people make excuses for this behavior (“but he takes care of me”; “but he says he loves me”; etc).

I’m not an expert on that part, so I’ll let someone else write that curriculum.

That’s the first two hours. Everyone gets a break to cool down. When they come back, all the chairs are pushed out of the way. The second two hour block is nothing but self defense.

You cannot teach a new student everything there is to know about self defense in two hours. You couldn’t teach it in twenty hours, and you’d have a well-meaning amateur after two hundred. But there are three reasons to include this part anyway:

  • Two hours of self defense, taught well, are better than zero hours.
  • It demonstrates to a willing audience that self defense is accessible – that it’s not the province of ninjas and commandos, but something anyone can learn.
  • If one technique sticks in someone’s mind and saves their life a month, a year or a decade down the line, it was worth it.
The first hour of this two hour block: learning how to strike. How to throw proper boxing strikes (throw from the shoulders, square the hips, turn off the rear foot). How to throw elbows and knees. How to use the base of the palm, the edge of the hand and the heel of the foot. Where to strike. Which targets will stun someone (sternum, throat, groin), which will break something (elbow joints, knee joints) and which will kill (back of the neck).

The second hour of this two hour block: responses to four common attacks. Why four? Because that’s pushing the limit of what a brand new student will retain. I’d feel better if we only did three, but we’ve got the full hour; why not use it? Maybe someone’s videotaping this.

Each response will have two variations: a submission response (control the attacker through pain) and a striking response. I include two different levels because of the potential variety of attackers. People talk about how “there are no rules in a fight.” While this is true, that doesn’t mean we completely ignore context. If your husband of ten years tries to sexually assault you because he got drunk and isn’t taking your “No” seriously, you don’t want to gouge his eyes out. But you want something that will get him off you immediately.

I pick these attacks based on some fairly common male-on-female assault scenarios (if anyone has some better suggestions, let me know):

  • Two-handed choke (attacker has both hands around the victim’s throat).
  • Lapel grab (attacker grabs the lapels of the victim’s shirt or jacket. This response can also be used for an attacker grabbing at the victim’s chest).
  • Pinning on the ground (attacker pins the victim’s wrists and kneels between her legs. Grapplers will recognize this as being “in the guard” and can guess at some responses).
  • Hammerlock (attacker grabs victim’s wrist and pulls it up her back)
We’ll spend fifty minutes working those. In the last ten minutes, everyone gets up in front of class and fights off one attacker, who uses any of those four at random. No model mugging suits, either. I’m not qualified to say if those full padded suits work or not.

Teach that two hour seminar at one major university in each of the fifty states and male-on-female assaults, murders and rapes would go down by a third in five years. The first two hours would teach prevention – helping women identify bad situations and get out of them. The second two hours would teach the cure.

As always, constructive feedback is appreciated.


I heard there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the lord

This past Saturday ended NBC’s noble experiment, Kings, the modern day, alternate universe retelling of the Biblical story of King David. My amazement that such a wild concept could ever get aired, NBC soon shared with me – the show barely got 4 episodes out before losing its original timeslot, then going on hiatus, then getting canceled.

What made Kings so daring? Again, the concept, while ridiculous on its face, gives rise to such entertaining opportunities. The internecine power struggles of a royal family, living in a one-off Manhattan, with all the intrigues that modern technology and economics can bring to bear? How could that not be awesome? Add in the tangible presence of God – a real God, a jealous Old Testament God, a God men worship not because he’s the source of good but because he’s the source of power. The possibilities intoxicate.

king_silas On top of that, the casting was nearly perfect. Christopher Egon, the unknown Australian who played David Shepherd, blended the seriousness of patriotism and the naivete of youth: at times stern, at times confused. Allison Miller brought fire to one of the weaker roles on the show – Princess Michelle – by plunging into whatever conflict was in front of her with an equal and believable passion. But the prize goes to Deadwood‘s Ian McShane as the eloquent, untouchable King Silas Benjamin. He delivers kingly speeches in iambic pentameter with such casual gravitas that you don’t even notice their artificiality.

And that highlights the greatest of Kings‘ strengths: the ability to make you believe in a fantastic premise. A king, his family, his rivals and a God visible through signs and omens: that’s a premise better suited to a Lois Bujold novel than a primetime broadcast TV series. But the show makes it work. You believe that these people are kings and queens, even though (in the show’s own history) the monarchy of Gilboa is barely twenty years old, because they carry themselves with royal dignity. You believe that God exists not just because Rev. Samuels can black out an entire building by striking it with an open hand, but because Silas reacts to the stunt with such disdain (“Changing from arcana to tricks?”).

People talk as if they believe what they’re saying and they know what it means. That’s what made Kings work.

So why didn’t it last?

I had no trouble with the dialogue, but I recognize that it grew elusive at times. Highly poetic, even in casual conversation, it ran on into rambling sentences that referred back to earlier images. On top of the words, the show itself relied on conveying meaning through imagery: smokestacks and flags blowing in opposite directions, butterflies, sunlight and birds, etc. Like The Wire, Kings was less of a series than a novel put to video – and like The Wire, that complexity might have cost it an audience.

On top of that, shooting all those locations and exteriors in New York City gets really expensive.

The producers knew the show was doomed by the midway point of the season. The last five episodes – from “Pilgrimage” to the climactic two-parter, “The New King” – take on a very rushed feel as a result. Each episode carries the weight of three, introducing and burying multiple threads at a time. It made for very exciting television, even though some of the more interesting minor characters – Katrina Ghent, the palace guards Boyden and Klotz – got run over in the crush.

Does Kings have any hope? I’d like to see HBO or Showtime pick it up, though they likely couldn’t match NBC’s budget and the resulting series would feel claustrophobic. So I’m not sure we’re going to see the evolving war between Silas and David. Kings has no future; it remains in the mythic past that it borrowed from.


highway run, into the midnight sun

This media blow covers the face of the Earth in record time.

Earth Abides: one of Stephen King’s inspirations for The Stand, George R. Stewart’s thin novel of post-apocalyptic America runs to overflowing with deep ideas. The characterization could use some work: aside from the protagonist, curious introvert Isherwood Williams, none of the other characters ever seem real. They all exist as very broad types: the nurturing mother Emma, the simple carpenter George, etc. So King trumps Stewart at portraying human beings in odd situations.

But Stewart trumps King in exploring deep ideas. He devotes much more critical effort to how a small community of humans might rebuild civilization after a plague depopulates the planet. What will children born after the plague think of old America? Is it worth it to teach them how to farm or build shelter, with the limitless wealth of a consumer society around them? Is it worth following the old laws?

It ends on a somber but optimistic note, which is the best a novel of apocalypse can hope for. Men go and come, but earth abides.

17 Again: An agreeable but uninspiring comedy. When Matthew Perry laments having thrown away his youth by marrying his pregnant high school girlfriend, a magic janitor (bear with me) turns him back into his 17-year-old self, played by Zac Efron. Already estranged from his wife (Leslie Mann) and two children (Sterling Knight and Michelle Trachtenberg), he has little difficulty convincing his friend Ned to pose as his dad and enroll him in school. Hijinks ensue.

The dialogue rings a little stiff in the ear at times, and the plot’s as suspenseful as a game of Horse, but it’s fun. Efron has some decent comic timing, or was at least edited to appear so, and The State‘s Tom Lennon (as uber-geek Ned) steals his share of scenes. Sadly, all the female roles are pretty weak, existing solely as satellites to Zac Efron’s radiant grin. Not a bad airplane flick (which was how I saw it).

Road Fever: I have been slowly expanding my world travel horizons, to the point that I now have detailed plans to see the world:

  • London in 2010
  • Hong Kong in 2011
  • Tierra del Fuego in 2012
Reading about Tierra del Fuego clued me into the Pan-American Highway, a network of roads that connect Ushuaia, Argentina to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Inspired by my plans for travel, I wondered if I could take this route to Tierra del Fuego.

As it turns out: that would be a terrible idea.

Road Fever is the story of Tim Cahill and Garry Sowerby’s 1987 record-setting drive from Ushuaia to Prudhoe Bay – a drive accomplished in twenty-three days, twenty-two hours and forty-three minutes. This route crosses through Argentina, Peru, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama and Mexico. In the late 80s. The path also winds up hills so narrow that buses frequently plunge off them, speeds past bandit roadblocks and crosses the palms of several border police with silver.

The book’s all right – Cahill reads like a terser Dave Barry and there’s only a tenuous throughline to the narrative. But given that it convinced me to reach Ushuaia by airplane from Buenos Aires, this book has probably saved my life. Thank you, Tim Cahill.

eight miles high and falling fast

Continental Airlines Flight #482 was scheduled to depart Houston Airport at 1:45 (Central) and arrive in Boston at 6:45 (Eastern). These facts inform the rest of the following narrative.

(1) My own damn fault – I thought the plane was taking off at 1:00, not 1:45. So when my ride dropped me at Houston at 11:15, I had two boatloads of time to kill. I got a beer and a chicken caesar salad at the Fox Sports Network Skybox in Terminal E, reading a book and glancing at Tour de France coverage.

(2) The flight got pushed back to 2:00.

(3) I had the aisle seat nearest the bathroom. I have to imagine this was the airline fucking with me, because I would not choose the aisle seat nearest the bathroom if any other seat were available. But I booked it long enough ago that I can’t recall.

(4) Houston’s a busy airport, so we sat on the runway for a while before taking off around 2:30ish.

(5) About two hours into the flight, the captain gets on the vox and tells us that we’re in a holding pattern over D.C. to avoid some inclement weather up into the Northeast. Huh. Inconvenient, but good to know. We probably wouldn’t notice these things if the pilot didn’t let us know – the beauty of air travel.

(6) Forty-five minutes later, the captain lets us know that air traffic has given us a new route: skirting western PA, cruising through upstate NY and coming into Boston from the west. Interesting!

(7) Forty-five minutes after that, the captain picks up the mic and says we’re running out of fuel.

Well, not in so many words. What he really says: due to the extended holding pattern and our new flight path, we no longer have enough fuel to make it to Boston. However, when you’re in a commercial jet, it means the same thing. You can’t just park on the side of the road and call AAA.

(8) So our plane makes an unscheduled stop at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, NY. We spend half an hour fueling up and half an hour waiting for our clearance to take off again. During that half hour, the entire plane got up to go to the bathroom.

(9) While we’re on the ground, a 17-month-old baby two rows ahead flirted with the girls in the row immediately in front of me. He would make a smacking motion, sweeping his hand from his lips, smile, and then bury his face in the blanket on his mother’s shoulder. He had big, dark blue eyes, like stones in rings. I hope nothing scars him too much in his next sixteen years; the world needs more ladykillers.

(10) Landed in Boston a mere three hours behind schedule. Not bad, considering the surprise stopover. But my need for an alcoholic beverage had rapidly exceeded my ability to obtain one. I settled for a meef quesarito at Anna’s and got home late.

to everything, turn turn turn

Houston Airport: every sign repeats its message in Spanish. Even in the Northeast this is common, but never as omnipresent as on a border state. The men’s room I ducked into reeked of something Cartier and the baggage claim was under construction, but that could happen at any airport.

I showed up late, but still welcome, to the informal party on Friday evening. The last unofficial family reunion on my mother’s side had been at my cousin Jessica’s wedding about two years ago. Not all of the cousins had been there, meaning the last time I saw some of these people they’d been squabbling over Game Gears and those fabric Frisbees people play with on the beach. Now I was drinking local Texas beer with them and debating the best team in the ACC.

Of course, youth continues to march on: this was the first family reunion with great-grandchildren: Lily and Grace, the daughters of my two older cousins Lindsay and Ginger. That brings the Kelley clan totals to seven children (including my mother, the oldest daughter but the second oldest sibling), twenty grandchildren (including my brother and I) and those two. And for this weekend – my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary – we all turned out.

# # #

I wish I had a day job as easy as entertaining my five-year-old cousins.

For one thing, the weather was perfect – a hot, dry ninety-eight degrees at noon. That may strike some of you as brutal, but we had an uncontested run of the community pool nearest my grandparents’ house. And I’d just come from sixty degrees and showers in Boston on Friday, so I welcomed the change.

Second, five-year-olds play along with whatever you tell them if you phrase it right. “Stick your arms and legs out,” I instructed Matthew. “You’re a torpedo!” He snapped into form, whereupon I glided him across the surface of the water and into his dad. Or I’d curl him under my arm like a duffel bag: “You’re a jet engine! Kick kick kick!”

Of course, life with five-year-olds isn’t perfect (shocking, I know), and soon the time came for them to go. “Matthew, get your shoes on. Matthew. Matthew, time to put your shoes on. Matthew, you have to get out of the pool. We’re not playing now, all right? Matthew, if you don’t take a nap now, you can’t hang out with the grownups later. Matthew. Matthew, get out of the pool. Thank you.” That last to me, as I hoisted him over my shoulder and dragged him, giggling, out of the water. Being a cousin’s easier than being a dad.

I got burned on my shoulders pretty bad: despite a thorough application of SPF 30, I probably lost all coverage by hoisting Matthew’s brother Chris onto my back like a camel and letting him spray his watergun at assailants. Time will tell if it was worth it.

I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons

I decided a little while back to swear off talking politics in this weblog. So far I have yet to regret it.

Even as the economy and health care continue to dominate the news, even as nationally televised race incidents transpire two miles from my front door – I’m not tempted. My blood pressure’s lower. I sleep easier. I smile more often. My posture’s improved.

Of course, I still follow all my favorite political sites – IOZ, Popehat, The Agitator – and comment on major stories. So it’s not perfect. But refusing to talk about politics here gets me one step closer to refusing to care about politics. That’ll get me one card-punch closer to enlightenment. Soon I can cash that in for a hot chocolate and a small muffin.

But a friend asked me last night what I thought of some current political news item. So it couldn’t hurt to make a brief but clear restatement of principles.

I crib my inspiration from noted science-fiction author John Scalzi:

I support the right of same-sex married couples to carry concealed weapons. I hope this explains everything.

In Scalzi’s case it might, but in my case I don’t think it does. Not to detract from Scalzi’s pithy excellence, of course.

So, to the above, add for me the following:

I support the right of released Guantanamo Bay detainees to drive unlicensed taxicabs.

I support the right of uninsured immigrants to pay out of pocket for silicone breast implants.

I support the right of women who’ve had partial-birth abortions to buy Hummvees.

I support the right of global bank executives to smoke pot.

I support the right of animal rights organizations to pay their staff below the minimum wage.

I support the right of Baptist preachers to park their scooters on the sidewalk.

I support the right of Wiccans to spank their children.

I support you. In something, I’m sure.

I think that about covers it.

the love is the liveliest, the life the loveliest

Three pieces of Overthink:

(1) I have a post up on the Fallout 3 soundtrack and its existentialist implications. It’s long but should be accessible even to people who haven’t played the game. Have fun.

(2) I’m sure you’ve all listened to this week’s Overthinking It podcast. If not, you can hear me stand my ground on the insipidity of the “celebrity death trifecta” against all comers. We also talk about Emmy nominations and the passing of Frank McCourt.

(3) So every now and then someone lands on our site (apparently) without reading the URL. Their comments on our posts invariably entertain. “hur hur u guys r so retarded its just a [movie / song / video game / comic book featuring Barack Obama] just hav fun wit it.” There’s no engaging these people, of course; explaining the schtick never makes it funnier.

I got one yesterday on my very first post for the site – in which I accuse Rick Springfield of advancing the mind/body dichotomy in “Jessie’s Girl”. Our dilettante wrote:

Actually I think I will say something as I am a loyal long term fan of Mr. Springfield’s and don’t appreciate his work or him being slammed like this. I think some of you need to listen to some of his later works rather than judge him harshly on only one song.

He has evolved considerably in his lyrics since 1981. On his latest CD, Venus In Overdrive, there is a song called “What’s Victoria’s Secret?” and no it’s not about the underwear. It’s basically the flip side of Jesses Girl and tells us men should look for what’s inside of a woman and not objectify their bodies.

There is another song on that CD, “Mr. PC” that has lyrics that sum up perfectly what I think of this specific article some of the negative opinions given:

On and on and on and on you go tell me Mister PC
Round and round and round and round you go preach it PC
You got a brilliant way of saying nothing at all

Given this anonymous poster’s instant lyrical recall of Rick Springfield songs that nobody knew existed, I can only draw one conclusion: Rick Springfield just trolled our blog. High-five, guys.