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iApprove: “Judgment Day”.

June 13, 2009

Now lest you think I’m going to start yammering about some upcoming Armageddon or a fearmongering apocalyptic Christian film, let me clarify.

During the 1950’s, racism was still going strong.  Black people were considered, for reasons we now know to be completely bunk, to be inferior to white people; this was taken as an acceptable cultural and biological assumption.  Suggestions to the contrary were few, far between, and desperately needed.

Enter the comic industry, producing – among other comics with similar messages – Judgment Day.

The premise of the comic is as follows: On an alien planet ruled by robots, a human has just arrived.  His job is to tour the planet, check out its technology and social norms, and determine whether the robots’ society has advanced enough to join the United Federation of Planets Galactic Republic.

Initially, he is impressed – they have made great technological strides, and have very spiffy systems in place to allow new robots to be constructed and taught in a hurry.  They do appear to be ready.

But then the astronaut discovers something off: the robots are practicing segregation.  While the orange robots live in privilege in a clean and pleasant city, the blue robots are shuffled off, made to scrape out a meager living in a dingy, unpleasant area.

The astronaut is disenheartened by this discovery, and informs his orange-robot tour guide that until they abolish this practice, they will not be allowed to join the Galactic Republic.  He offers some advice to his guide on how he could begin to change things, then blasts away in his spaceship.

Safely in his ship, blasting back to Earth, the man finally removes his helmet.  It is revealed that he is black.

Almost as soon as it was written, the story began to make a stir.  The Comics Code Authority kicked things off, telling the writer that the hero could not be black – effectively proving that it needed to be published.  And published it was, in its original form, where it received a tremendously positive response from its readers.

“Congratulations to… the artist, and… the author, for the best story ever written by E.C.  We have never read a story in a comic with so much meaning and moral…”

“…The horribly accurate picture of the human race is drawn with bold, unmistakable strokes.”

“…Never have I seen the “race problem” handled so perfectly.”

You can read the comic – and the rave reviews, printed on a final page – at http://asylums.insanejournal.com/scans_daily/54803.html

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Expelled: No Vegetables Allowed

June 8, 2009

This is terrible… Vegan School 101 has uncovered the horrible, Nazi-like truth about the United States Department of Agriculture.

The USDA recently published an exhaustive list of the people they do not discriminate against.  Unfortunately, they failed to include vegans in that list.

This brings up the obvious question, which the site is not afraid to ask:

Does the USDA employ any vegans? Perhaps … if they keep their veganism under-wraps and don’t make any waves. I wonder how much chance this vegan has at landing a job at the USDA?

“Make any waves”?  If by “making waves” you mean “bitch about meat production while at work”, then no, they wouldn’t hire you.  Your job is a place to get work done, not to tout your dietary beliefs.

Frank Language continues the silliness:

I think “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a good policy when looking for a job; most people feel threatened when you tell them you’re a vegan, don’t you notice?

Apparently this guy is delusional enough to confuse my annoyance with intimidation.  That said,  he’s right: “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a good policy when looking for a job.  When people look to hire someone, they’re not looking for information about your personal beliefs.  They only want to know whether you are qualified for the job.

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The Skinny on Abstinence

May 31, 2009

I am a big fan of abstinence.  In fact, I am practicing it at the moment, and it’s working out excellently for me.  And I will happily advocate abstinence, especially to individuals under the age of sixteen.

But I am sick to death of pro-abstinence educational groups and the way they promote it on their websites.  They tout abstinence as “the only 100%-effective protection”, and further rave about its amazing abilities like it’s some kind of miracle drug, concluding that its effectiveness can only be flouted by peer/media pressure.

So I thought I’d take a few minutes and explain exactly what is wrong with many of their claims.

Myth #1: Abstinence is a form of protection.

Abstinence is a form of protection like bald is a hair color, atheism is a religion, and not getting in a car is a safe driving practice.

In other words, abstinence is not a form of sexual protection.  It is a form of sexual behavior, just like oral sex, anal sex, and masturbation.  (Though unlike the first two, masturbation can be used in conjunction with abstinence.)

Myth #2: Abstinence is 100% effective.

Against conception, yes.  But again, so are oral sex, anal sex, and masturbation (all of which are more entertaining than abstinence).  And abstinence is certainly not 100% effective against STIs.  Many diseases that can be contracted through intercourse can be contracted through other means – such as AIDS, which can be obtained through the use of a contaminated needle.

Also, no protection method or sexual practice can protect you from oral herpes.

Myth #3: The greatest causes of abstinence failure are peer pressure (your friends are doing it/everyone is doing it), partner pressure (you don’t want it, but your partner does) and media pressure (the guys on TV are doing it).

It is true that teenagers are impressionable people, and they are eager to please their peers.  It is likewise true that, due to this impressionability and enthusiasm, they are more likely to imitate their peers or do things that they think will garner them respect – sex included.

But this method of thinking – that abstinence only fails because someone or something was pressuring you to have sex – is inherently flawed.  Firstly, it insinuates that sex is just another “teenage problem”, like drugs or alcohol – and that it can only happen if your willpower to abstain fails.  Secondly, it fails to acknowledge that most normal teenagers have very strong sexual desires of their own, and do not require any pressure from anyone to decide to have sex.

Myth #4: Sex = bad, abstinence = good.

This last claim has, fortunately, been relegated to the back burner, even on most pro-abstinence sites.  However, the idea is still prevelant that sex is bad or abnormal, and that abstinence is the best or “default” position.

Let’s take this from the top.

Name four things that nearly all animal species need to survive.  Food, water, air… and sex.  Without sex to create new individuals, a species will die out.  Humans are no exception to this.

But sex’s benefits don’t end with the production of offspring.  Since sex is necessary for survival, it also happens to be intensely enjoyable for many species.  It triggers the releases feel-good hormones, lowering stress and causing general happiness.  Assuming that the act of having sex is not inducing more stress than is relieved by these hormones, sex can improve an individual’s general well-being – and, being an inherently intimate act, can help to forge close bonds between two individuals.

Humans are not the only species to take advantage of this fact.  Other animals, including apes and dolphins, have disexclusivized sex from its original reproductive capacity and now use it for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes for dominance, sometimes to promote good social interaction, and sometimes just for a bit of fun.

Yes, sex can be dangerous.  Unwanted pregnancy can lead to taxation of the mother’s resources and contribute to overpopulation.  STIs can also be contracted (they, like humans, require sex to survive – though for a different reason).

Like a long walk on the beach or an evening cuddling in front of  a movie, sex is good for people.  And, like the examples above, it is something special – something that most people would rather save for someone they care about.  And it is also dangerous.  Like driving or exercise, one should learn how to do it in well-informed and responsible manner before taking it up.  But I see no reason why an individual, taking conscientious steps to protect both themselves and their partner, should not partake in sex.

But only if they want to.

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Fun Facts About Bisexuality

May 30, 2009

There seem to be a lot of mistruths going around about bisexuals lately.  Stuff like “they’re just confused”, “they’re doing it for the attention”, “they’re so starved for sex that they’ll do it with anyone”.  Complete mistruths.  So I thought I’d take a few moments to clear up some of these myths.

Myth: There is no such thing as a bisexual; people are either gay or straight/Bisexuals are just gay or straight people who haven’t figured it out.

Or: Bisexuals are always equally attracted to both sexes.

Truth: Although it was once thought that a person’s sexual orientation could only be one thing (straight) or two (gay or straight), this has since been proven faulty.  In fact, sexual orientation is a relatively flexible thing, and can fall into any of the following five positions:

  1. Attracted only to opposite sex (straight).
  2. Attracted to both sexes, but more attracted to opposite sex (straight-inclined bisexual).
  3. Equally attracted to both sexes(bisexual.)
  4. Attracted to both sexes, but more attracted to same sex (gay-inclined bisexual).
  5. Attracted only to same sex (gay).

1 is believed to be the most prevalant position, but sexual orientation can – and does – range widely between individuals.

Myth: Bisexuals are sex maniacs.  They are so starved for intimacy that they will date/screw anyone.

Truth: Just like straight and gay people, bisexuals have standards, and they are not afraid to use them.  We will date/screw based on a wide range of factors, such as physical attractiveness, personality, and relationship status.  Some of us have even decided, all on our own, to remain virgins until we are married.

Myth: You have to be careful when dating a bisexual.  You never know when he/she will cheat on you with the other sex/Bisexuals require sexual stimulation from both sexes, simultaneously or in turn.

Truth: Bisexuals are no more likely to cheat on you than a gay or straight person.  Some of us are rampaging chauvanists, but many of us are not.  And while we may date people of both sexes, we are fully capable of committing to someone of either.

Myth: Bisexuals are trying to reduce your dating pool.

Truth: Bisexuals have just as much right to date members of your sexual orientation as you do, assuming that they choose to do so.  Not all of them will; some bisexuals are quite contented dating members of only one sex, and even if they aren’t, they are no likelier to rob you of your soul mate than your straight or gay competitors.  In fact, bisexuals actually serve to widen the dating pool – both straight and gay.

Myth: Bisexuality (or homosexuality) is only about sex – there is no emotional attraction.

Truth: Every human is capable of forming strong emotional bonds with either sex, regardless of orientation.  The only thing that determines who you learn to love is whether the two of you are emotionally compatible.  Aside from availability issues, it is no more difficult for a gay, lesbian, or bisexual to fall in love – with a person of either sex – than it is for a straight person.

Myth: Bisexuals are perverts/hedonistic/just plain loose.

Truth: Only in the movies.

Now for some Q&A.

Q: How do you know you’re bisexual?

A: I’ll admit, it isn’t quite as simple as knowing that you’re gay or straight.  Most people assume that they are one or another, but come to realize that they are attracted to people who fit outside their scope.  For me, it was when my list of “the only women I am attracted to” rose above three.

Q: Do you like the same things in men and women?

A: Not necessarily.  For instance, I like guys with beards, but I think they’d look silly on women.  Red hair, on the other hand, looks best on a female.  In general, men can be a lot more masculine before they cease to be attractive to me.

Q: What’s the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality?

A: Bisexuality is a term meaning that you are attracted to both sexes – meaning that you note a difference between them, but find them both stimulating.  Pansexuality is a state in which you are attracted to people in general, whether they be male, female, transgender, androgynous, or somewhere in between; you may or may not identify people as belonging certain genders.  Defined in such a manner, many people who identify themselves as bisexual would likely qualify as pansexual – going by this definition, I would end up calling myself straight-bisexual with pansexual leanings.  The lesson: Don’t get bogged down with terminology, just use whatever sounds right for you.

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Wisdom from the experienced…

May 30, 2009

Everyone should have their heart broken at least once.  Not in a minor, “when-I-was-three-my-mother-wouldn’t-let-me-have-my-favorite-toy” way (though that also makes a good life experience, but in a major “I-was-in-love-and-he-didn’t-reciprocate” kind of way.

And when I say in love, I mean IN LOVE.  I mean that you get to the stage in your feelings where just being around them makes you smile and you want nothing more than to make them like you… and then keep going. Get to the point where your heart aches for that person, even though you know beyond all reasonable doubt that he/she will never love you back.  Pine over him/her for several years, even when you’re fed up and wish you could just get over it already.  Realize that he/she is overweight and has an acne problem and you still want him/her more than your favorite celebrity, and not in that way.  Listen to people telling you “it’s just a crush” and demand to know: IF IT’S A CRUSH, WHY DO I STILL FEEL LIKE THIS FIVE YEARS LATER?!

I had the misfortune of falling in love when I was eleven years old.  I kid you not.  I’d had a crush on the guy since I was seven.  But, owing to several circumstances, he didn’t feel the same way – a fact which continued to cause me anguish for nearly ten years, long after I had resolved myself to give up and get over him.  He was fat, he had torticollis, and his beard was horrible.  He was also intelligent, funny, and intensely entertaining to be around.

I consider myself “over him”, but I am by no means over the hurt.  I loved him like nothing else on Earth.  I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him – for ten years straight.  He thought of me as a dweeby friend.

So why the crap would I want everyone else to go through this?

Because, despite the emotional turmoil (which gets better, trust me), I learned a lot from the experience.  I learned what true love (not the sparkly, sugary, Disney edition) feels like.  I figured out what I really find important in someone.  And I learned something that most YA romance novels and movies seem to miss – that the first person you happen to like is not necessarily the one you’ll end up with.

And if they don’t start making movies about it, the only way to find out is to do it yourself.  (Besides, since I’ve gotten it out of my system early, I can spend my young adulthood doing more constructive things than angsting.  Like learning how to form stable platonic relationships.)

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iApprove: The Dude.

May 25, 2009

All of my recent success, I credit to The Dude.

I will elaborate: I have never been a motivated person.  When it comes to between what I want to do and what I need to do, I almost always take the easy route and do what I want (unless it would get me into trouble).  Consequentially, I procrastinate.  Studies get postponed, sometimes for days.  Housework gets stalled.  Even personal projects get put off.  I end up wasting a lot of time.

For this reason, I created The Dude.

To be honest, The Dude (“Dude”) to his face isn’t really a dude at all.  In fact, he (she?) isn’t even a proper split personality.  Instead he/she is… well, I suppose you could refer to him/her as a homunculus – a piece of my personality taken human(ish) shape.  Completely imaginary, but nonetheless influential.

See, it was like this: I can prioritize.  I know I can.  I can even focus on my priorities, if properly motivated.  But thanks to an unfortunate mental trait of mine – the tendency to believe everything my mother tells me, enforced through years of religious upbringing – I didn’t think I could do it on my own.  So I never learned how.

Finally, though, I struck upon a possible solution.  Rather than try to completely rearrange my personality – quite a feat for anyone – I decided to compartmentalize it.  The dominant portion, the one that only did what I had to as a last resort, became the “female” personality.  The other portion, who knew what I had to do and was willing to do it, became the “male” personality, whom I christened The Dude.  Rather than making the female personality get motivated – which is something like pushing a wheelbarrow with a hippopotamus in it – when I needed to do something important, I would call on The Dude.  I’d get his advice – which was, to clarify, merely me thinking about what I needed to do and deciding to do it – and force the female personality to get off her lazy butt and actually do something.

This worked pretty well for the first few days.  Every time I wanted to go loaf around, I’d ask The Dude, and he’d tell me about something of greater priority that I hadn’t done yet.  (Once I’d filled my priority quotient, it was all right to goof off.)  I ended up getting stuff done – putting in the garden, studying for my GED, going outside and exercising.

After awhile, though, something bizarre happened.  It didn’t fail – I am still prioritizing with surprising ease.  But what I realized is that, after a few days, The Dude had just… disappeared.  I no longer needed him to coerce me into doing what I needed to do.  The female personality had sort of absorbed him, and was now capable of making decisions by herself.

WIN.

Now, the whole point of this lengthy, lengthy blog post is this: if you have problems bringing out certain aspects of your personality, you might consider The Dude method.  It doesn’t have to be a dude – you can choose any figure, real or imaginary, whom you respect but are not too intimidated by.

(The Dude was somewhere between me-as-a-guy and Zac Efron.  Your mileage may vary, but don’t use anyone you know.)

Whenever you enter a situation where you’d like to change your reaction, consult your personal Dude.  He/she will tell you what to need to do; do it.  Get into the habit of listening to him/her every time.  Don’t cut yourself any slack, but be realistic: don’t call on The Dude 24/7.  Give yourself plenty of times when you don’t need his/her help.

And finally, remember: The Dude is completely imaginary. He/she does not have his/her own personality (though it may feel like it at first).  Essentially, he/she is just a face that you are using to tell yourself what to do.  If you have a history of mental illness, particularly multiple-personality disorder or schizophrenia, it is not advised that you attempt The Dude technique.  If you choose to attempt The Dude, you will agree to hold gerimorgan innocent of any detrimental effects.

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iApprove: Wear the Lilac.

May 24, 2009

It’s May 24, which means that tomorrow is Wear the Lilac Day. Formerly a fictional holiday to remember the fallen soldiers of the Revolution in the book series Discworld, the diagnosis of the series’ author with Alzheimer’s disease has lent a new meaning to the holiday.  May 25 is now Wear the Lilac: Alzheimer’s Awareness.

What’s it about?  For the most part, the purpose of Wear the Lilac is to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s.  Many people know that the disease exists, but too few people understand it and recognize it as a problem that needs to be fought.

With that in mind, the folks at Gaia Online have set up a useful info thread to (1) raise general awareness of Alzheimer’s, (2) explain what Alzheimer’s is and why it is so problematic, and (3) provide support for friends, family, and sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease.  On May 25, members will dress their avatars in purple clothes and go about the forum with links to the thread in their signatures.  Those who can manage will also wear purple clothing in real life, and encourage their friends and family to do the same.

Alzheimer’s disease may not be the most horrifying condition out there – it is, after all, a malady of the elderly, who were probably on their way off the mortal coil already.  But its effects reach far beyond the elderly.  Spouses, siblings, and children can only look on as their loved ones degrade into a self-centered, childlike state.  The sufferers grow increasingly frustrated as they lose both fine abilities and their memories of the people around them.

It’s no cancer, but Alzheimer’s disease can be equally as devastating to a family.

Learn about Wear the Lilac Day – and help to spread its influence outside Gaia – at http://www.gaiaonline.com/forum/gaia-community-projects/t.48314191/