Saturday, May 21, 2005

I'm incredibly agitated about a story I've just read in the New Yorker.

As you may remember, one of George Bush's lines, particularly when he was discussing education was the concept of "the soft bigotry of low expectations." To paraphrase: rather than assume that a (black, latino, female, minority) student can accomplish, I will assume, at the start, that you lack the right stuff to compete. I will assume that you can never achieve as much, to be so smart as to do well on this here standardized test.

Bush, of course, was referring to testing and suggesting that it was wrong to suggest that, say, someone who grew up poor and raised by his grandmother might perform differently on a standardized test than a kid born to affluence who never had to worry if there was enough milk in the fridge. It's wrong to change the standard because someone, due to his circumstances, might perhaps have difficulty meeting the standard.

I'm twisting this example, for my own purposes. Although Bush used the concept of the soft bigotry of low expectations as a trojan horse to do all sorts of nasty behavior, I am using it to talk about gay men.

David Feinberg wrote a couple of great comic novels before he died of AIDS and, in one of them, he suggested that the travesty wrought by HIV infections was so great that gay men would get the hint and never, ever let it happen again.

Well, as this New Yorker article indicates, this is completely not the case. As soon as the drug cocktails went on the market, gay men went right back to their 1970's ways, screwing as much as possible, taking drugs to enhance their libidos (the article references crystal meth and viagra) and the explanation for it all is that we ("we" means "gay men") have lots of unresolved sadness and it is understandable that we would try to address it by having lots of unsafe sex.


Gay men, of which I am one, embarrass me all the damn time. Some of the time this is because I am a little bit too highly strung. Some of the time, however, it is because political correctness can, in fact, go too far.

To wit:

The New Yorker articles references the idea that it has become a bad idea to emhpasize the fact that you should, you know, stay HIV negative. Because this emphasis might make those who are positive feel bad about themselves.


You mean it's wrong to counsel teen-age girls not to get pregnant because it would make the teens who WERE teen moms feel bad? It's wrong to ask people not to smoke in a public place because it might make those who are addicted to nicotine feel bad?

It's a cute trick to suggest that the only reason all of us don't fuck as much and as often as we care to is that societal norms prohibit it. Or that women (obsessed with that whole womb-thing) stand in the way of men (eager to spread that seed.) Or that disease and preganacy, easily curtailed by antibiotics and contraceptives, are the only barriers to fucking as much as we want, whenever we want.

Fucking a lot of strangers seems to be a bad idea, biologically speaking. It's possible that cultural taboos have risen up against this practice, in the same way that a cultural taboo might develop against shellfish or pork in a culture with little hygeine and no refrigeration. But you really do need that hygeine and refrigeration. If it's that important to have sex with a lot of strangers, it's not possible to put on a condom?!? It's not just a prissy, sex-negative society that rules against sticking your un-shielded dick inside lots of folks.

I appreciate that people who have been told for so long that their desires are wrong would resent anyone suggesting that their desires may be problematic. However, gay men really need to get a grip. Straight men do not assume that they are entiteled to bed every woman who expresses interest. Gay men should not assume that they are somehow entitled to something more. Gay men get to struggle to find a mate, there ya go. Not to endlessly dick around with a bazillion partners, how ever willing those partners might be and however enticing that might sound.

And if these men are refusing to curb their behavior; to not even adopt the norms of safe sex but to abandon them entirely--if we give these men a pass, if we say that they are unable to curb their desires because of the failures of society...well isnt' that just the soft bigotry of low expectations?

Friday, May 20, 2005

If I don't stop looking at then I'm going to be late for work.

It's a database of crimes in Chicago. You can sort it geographically, here's my neighborhood, you can sort it by crime, here's all the embezzlement, and also by date and police district.

And as if this wasn't enough for me to geek out regarding my kind of town, The Encyclopedia of Chicago is now online. The ordinary, published-book version came out last fall and I haven't bought it yet but the online version is awful nice.

For purposes of comparison, here's what the encyclopedia has to say about my neighborhood. Sadly, there is no embezzlement-specific entry but here's a nice little entry that addresses our reputation.

As one journalist put it in 1930, “In all the seven seas and the lands bordering thereon there is probably no name which more quickly calls up thoughts of crime, violence and wickedness than does that of Chicago.”

My heart swells with pride. Okay, gotta get going.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Turned in the fucking toupee story yesterday so I'm winding down this term.

Tonight I went with my friend Rosemary to see David Rakoff read from his upcoming book titled "Don't Get Too Comfortable." He was great, one of those writers like Sarah Vowell who I would rather listen to than read. Anyway during the Q&A someone asked him about writing this, his second book. His answer won't be as good on the page as it was on the stage since you won't have the benefit of timing.

"Writing is like pulling teeth. Out of your dick."

Yes, that seems about right.

Monday, May 02, 2005

It's the beginning of May, the time when Chicago residents wonder to themselves where they put their winter gloves. We are supposed to get some snow flurries today.


Feeling a little sad this morning over the death of Wanky the elephant. Wanky was living in Lincoln Park Zoo but her companions have passed away and, being social, it wasn't good for her to be alone. Animal rights protesters have argued that, being the kind of place that snows in May, Lincoln Park Zoo isn't good for ANY elephants (apart from the general, grim feeling of giant animals confined to very small albeit "natural looking" settings.")

Anyway, Wanky was loaded into a truck bound for a secret location (they didn't want protesters to show up THERE which could, I suppose, result in an elephant circling the nation's highways like a cargo load of toxic waste, unable to find a place to stop), the secret location turned out to be Salt Lake City (today's high 63 degrees so at least that's something).

On the way there Wanky lay down and began exhibiting difficulty breathing. Upon arrival the decision was made to euthanize her and that, it seems, is that.

I've gone so long without blogging that I wasn't able to talk about the giant mob round-up last week or my trip to Seattle or any of that; I have to return with a dead elephant. Ugh.

In happier ailing elephant news, the Washington Post is headlining Doubts About Mandate for Bush, GOP By John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei

As the president passed the 100-day mark of his second term over the weekend, the main question facing Bush and his party is whether they misread the November elections. With the president's poll numbers down, and the Republican majority ensnared in ethical controversy, things look much less like a once-a-generation realignment.

Instead, some political analysts say it is just as likely that Washington is witnessing a happens-all-the-time phenomenon -- the mistaken assumption by politicians that an election won on narrow grounds is a mandate for something broad.

Six months ago it seemed like we were all totally doomed. Now I'm feeling only partially doomed. Hey, every bit counts.