The No Fly List


I was raised in a middle class family. Before he retired, my father was blue-collar. He was a union operator on the largest and highest quality lithographic printing presses in Detroit. He’d come home with ink all over his rough and calloused hands that never completely came off. I loved the smell. His job is probably a great deal of the reason I’m now a graphic designer.

When I was small, I remember visiting him at work and being mesmerized by the scale of the printing presses. “My dad knows how to make that thing work.” My father didn’t sit in an office all day pushing numbers around; he made things with his hands and had tangible results of his work.

I was never ashamed of my dad’s blue-collar job. Quite the contrary; it made me proud. I still have a bit of one of the lithographs my dad made framed on my wall, even though he’s been retired for some fifteen years now. Instead of framing the whole thing, in a fit of artistic folly, I cut out just part of the volcano. I used to have two volcano bits, but the other one was destroyed years ago.


My mom, on the other hand, went through a phase of wanting more. Our huge house in Detroit wasn’t in a good enough area to raise children. Our public education wasn’t good enough. All of her friends had husbands who wore suits to work. My dad had permanent ink stains on his fingers.

She enrolled us in private Catholic school even though we weren’t Catholic. When I was fourteen, she moved us to a custom-built house way in the suburbs on a golf course, even though none of us golfed ever, not even after we moved there. The house was so cheaply slapped together that you could hear a fart in the basement from the second floor. It was the type of subdivision that has a name and a gate house. The only differences between the houses were exterior color and which side the garage was on. We went from a block of houses with straight lines to curves and cul-de-sacs for no real reason. There were no fences. There was no privacy. They bulldozed all the big, old trees only to plant new ones.

I absolutely hated the suburbs and still do to this day. They give me the willies. My dad had to drive an extra hour to get to work, but it was a more prestigious address than Detroit. My mom sold it by saying that the schools were better, so they didn’t have to spend money to send me to Catholic school even though we weren’t Catholic.

Still, it was not good enough. All of our neighbors drove fancy cars. My dad drove an old pickup truck with an American flag sticker on the back. Always with the American flag sticker on the back, even now. Nothing was good enough. More more more.

She wasn’t always that way. When my sister and I were firmly ensconced in school, my mom got a job. She worked in the arts. At fifteen, when she forced me to start working, she got me a job in the arts through her contacts. She worked with liberals. She was a moderate.

Something happened when we moved to the suburbs. Something in her shifted. She went from moderate to conservative and stayed there. She found Jesus out there. I never had any use for him myself. The more conservative and greedy she got, the more liberal and humble I became. Though, I came by it honestly enough through the genetics of my father; he never cared about material possessions.

When I was in high school, and my mom and I were both working in the arts, there was a Republican gubernatorial candidate who pledged to cut funding for the arts if elected, as if that was some sort of selling point. My mom and I talked about it and how we both would likely lose our jobs if he was elected. I was too young to vote. She voted for him anyway. We both lost our jobs a few months later. Still, she was not dissuaded. She kept going down the Conservative Party line and our political paths parted ways forever before I could even vote.

Politics and religion are on the No Fly List, a list of topics I’ve created and honed over the years that I never discuss with my mom. As long as we don’t talk about the things on that list, we get along fine. Other topics include sex, tattoos, her mother being an awful human being, the child sexual abuse I endured and she denied, and most women’s rights issues, including, for some reason, pay disparity. As a woman in the workplace, she somehow seems to think it’s appropriate if she’s paid less for the same job as a man.

The other day, my sister and I were driving past a newly constructed Hobby Lobby. I have never and will never set foot inside a Hobby Lobby, because of their religiously-derived and now Supreme court-justified fervor to take reproductive rights away from their female employees and make them pay for birth control themselves.

As we drove, my sister related how Mom had told her that they were getting a new Hobby Lobby in their small conservative community in northern Michigan, whereupon my sister blurted out, “Don’t shop there! Hobby Lobby is EVIL!” but she couldn’t remember why. I said it’s probably for the best that she couldn’t remember the reason, because mom might be more inclined to shop there if she knew.

My sister said that I might be surprised. None of us would exist if it wasn’t for abortion.


When my sister was in nursing school, they made her do a study of her family medical history, and she discovered that our grandmother was pregnant before she had my uncle and mother. The pregnancy would have killed her had she carried it to term, so she had an second-trimester abortion. Had she not done that, my mom, uncle, sister, two generations of cousins and me wouldn’t exist.

“I think you’d be surprised about mom’s opinion of abortion.”

I suppose it proves that you never entirely know anyone, not even someone you’ve known and lived with for decades. Still, I think I’ll keep that topic on the No Fly List for now.

The Legacy Of Religion

Arlington National Cemetery (Photo by Tim1965 / Wikimedia Commons.)

I heard a story this morning about a woman on death row in Pakistan because she allegedly defamed the Prophet Muhammad. It is against Pakistan’s blasphemy law, a crime that doesn’t have a requisite death sentence, but almost always gets one.

In a legal, not very veiled way, the blasphemy law has fostered dispensation of personal vengeance since it requires no proof–just someone’s word–to arrest a person, and the whole affair will probably end in his or her death. The accused await trial in prison, which might come only after months of delays, destroying their businesses and the reputation of their families in the meantime. This ad hominem revenge is not just used against those of minority religions either. There are Muslims sitting on death row, because someone claimed that they criticized their own Prophet.

The people who are rightfully against this law, the ones who have publicly denounced it, have found themselves in prison or have disappeared in suspiciously Orwellian ways. It is 2014 and there is no such thing as freedom of speech, at least, not in Pakistan where the Prophet is concerned.

This is what religion has given us; a legacy of death, terror, tyranny, and sectarian vigilantism.

The vast majority of Muslims–in fact, all faiths–are peaceful, law-abiding citizens who want the right to practice their faith in peace and privacy. Most faiths don’t want adherents going around killing in their name. Most Muslims don’t want people killing in the name of the Prophet Muhammad, yet it happens all the same. It is not all, or even the many, but the few who are ruining it for everyone.

It is not just Muslims. It’s Jews in Israel lobbing bombs at Palestine. It’s Christians in the United States killing doctors because they don’t agree with the abortion services they provide. It’s Christians warring with Muslims, and sect against sect all over the world.

We have homosexuality punishable by death in Uganda. We have over fifty years of conflict between Israel and Palestine. We have the self-appointed Islamist State caliphate irrationally claiming religious authority over all Muslims across the world while butchering infidels, including Muslims. We have reproductive freedom stripped away from women in the United States. We have bombings and war and terrorist attacks around the world.

This is the legacy of religion.

And today, in America, we remember that, thirteen years ago, 19 people killed over 3,000 in New York City and Washington, D.C., including more than 400 police officers and firefighters in the most devastating attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor during World War II.

This is what religion has given us. There is no end to it. The list goes on and on and on. It’s got to stop.

There’s not one major religion in the modern world that strictly advocates murder. There just isn’t. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist… we are all people. We are all Homo sapiens derived from the same organic matter, sharing one tiny planet inside a universe that’s so big, we can’t even see the whole thing.

No matter what you believe, find a way to live together and leave each other alone to practice (or not practice) whatever religion you choose in peace and privacy. What your neighbor believes is none of your concern. On a biological level, he is no different from you. Find a way, because until you do, the human race will not evolve.

Homo sapiens–the species of every person on earth–literally means “wise man” in Latin. Let’s live up to the name. Stop the killing. Stop the hate.

In remembrance of the countless victims of sectarian violence, war and terrorist attacks around the world, regardless of race, gender or religion.

Arlington National Cemetery (Photo by Tim1965 / Wikimedia Commons.)
Arlington National Cemetery (Photo by Tim1965 / Wikimedia Commons.)


This Is Why I Have A Problem With Fundamentalists

Image from

This morning, I heard about Uganda. Have you heard about Uganda? Their Parliament just passed what could only be described as tyrannical anti-gay legislation.

Basically, the Ugandan government wants to make it completely illegal to be gay. Well, being gay is already illegal, but if this bill is signed into law, repeated homosexual acts between consenting adults in Uganda can get you a life sentence in prison.

When it was introduced in 2009, the bill was nicknamed the “Kill The Gays Bill” because it called for death sentences. In essence, Uganda wanted to legally kill gay people for being gay. The death sentence provision has since been removed. Instead, they’ll just lock them up and throw away the key. How generous.

Not only that, but if your friends, neighbors and coworkers don’t narc to the authorities that you are gay, they will also be prosecuted. “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, it’s actual name, makes it a crime to ‘promote’ homosexuality, which could mean simply offering HIV counseling”[1] and “prescribes a seven-year jail term for a person who ‘conducts a marriage ceremony’ for same-sex couples. [It also makes it a crime to rent] an apartment to an LGBT person, punishable by five years in prison.” [2]

Jessica Stern, executive director of the The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in New York, said “If you’re perceived to be LGBT, no one’s going to rent to you, for fear of their own criminal responsibility. So if this law is enacted in its current form, it’s basically a homelessness sentence for LGBT Ugandans.”[1]

It was passed unanimously by the parliament with no one voicing an objection. This awful piece of discriminatory, hateful legislation has yet to be signed into law by the Ugandan President. Yoweri Museveni was careful to neither publicly support nor condemn the bill. He has 30 days to sign it.

Wow, that’s absolutely monstrous, you might say, if your soul isn’t made of pure molten evil, but what does that have to do with the title of this post?

Allow me to explain. American evangelical bigots helped write The Kill Bill along with Ugandan bigots. Specifically, these evangelical bigots: “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s sponsor, is the secretary of the Ugandan branch of The Family, the secretive American evangelical organization whose members include Sens. James Inhofe, Jim DeMint, and Tom Coburn. Martin Sempa, a Pentecostal preacher who has championed the bill, was a protege of Rick Warren and, during the Bush administration, a recipient of at least $90,000 of American aid earmarked for abstinence promotion. Another major anti-gay activist, Stephen Langa, the head of Uganda’s Family Life Network, is an affiliate of the Phoenix-based group Disciple Nations Alliance.” [3]

“Uganda is a predominantly Christian country with a significant (about 12%) Muslim minority. According to the National Census of October 2002, Christians of all denominations made up 85.1% of Uganda’s population.”[4]

It wasn’t always that way. Let’s go back in time to figure out how all of that happened since it doesn’t make a lick of rational sense that American evangelicals would be writing odious anti-gay legislation in Uganda and get it passed through Parliament. We need a history lesson to see the big picture here.

Christian Fundamentalist missionaries first arrived in Uganda (then called Buganda–where did the B go?) in 1877, which was nearly a century later than the rest of the continent as far as busybody missionary tinkering in Africa goes. Yet, by the turn of the century, Uganda was one of the most successful conversion missions in all of Africa.

Islam already had a foothold in the region by the time Christian missionaries arrived. The ruler of Uganda was smitten with Islam. He learned some Arabic and led some prayers. This all changed when Egypt decided it wanted to consolidate parts of the Nile river, including Uganda, into an Egyptian Empire. The Ungandan ruler, Kabaka (king) Muteesa said nuh uh.

Kabaka Muteesa. When He says "nuh uh," you listen. Image from wiki.
Kabaka Muteesa. When he says “nuh uh,” you listen.
Image from wiki.

Instead of learning a valuable lesson on how religion and politics shouldn’t mingle, Muteesa greeted the first busybody Christian missionary, Mr. Henry Morton Stanley with open arms. This is totally the hat and mustache of someone you can trust, right?

Mr. Henry Morton Stanley, 1872/ Image from wiki.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Henry Morton Stanley. Never mind the fact that, in a few years, I’ll be openly advocating a British takeover of Uganda.”
Image from wiki.

Muteesa saw Christianity as a way to counter the Muslim threat from Egypt. Besides, the first-world Christians had some cool technology, or as we like to call it, magic.

Stanley sent a letter back to the church more or less saying, “Man, these Ugandans are swell on Christianity. We must convert them all post-haste.” That turned out to be a bit of an overstatement, but the white man came anyway, and we all know how well it goes when the white man brings the “right way” to the lowly heathens. See Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart or read what happened to the indigenous people of America.

Anyway, things fall apart. The problem was, at the same time Stanley’s Protestant missionaries came from England, some French Catholics arrived, too. The English were all, like, “Uganda is ours, chaps. Be good fellows and scurry off,” while the French were all, like, “No, zees ees ours. Le French az ad our eyes zet on zees plaze pour le while,” which was true. Meanwhile, the Ugandans were all, like, “WTF?”

Muteesa allowed both the French Catholics and the English Protestants to stay so that he could use both of them for whatever they were worth, which at that point, wasn’t much besides keeping Egypt off his back.

Then came a new king, Muteesa’s son, Mwanga II of Buganda in 1884, who happened to be gay. As we all know, things don’t go too well for homosexuals in either Christian faith. So, Mwanga killed some Christians. It turned out to be a political mistake, which led, of course, to killing more Christians.

King Mwanga II Buganda. Image from wiki.
King Mwanga II Buganda. Sup?
Image from wiki.

In 1886, Mwanga massacred a lot of Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. The real cause for the killings was the king’s anger that his Christian pages refused to get down with the gay way. The religious sects–Muslim, Protestant and Catholic–formed some armies like they’ve been known to do throughout all of recorded damn history. Before we invented fire, Muslims, Protestants and Catholics had armies.

At first, Mwanga rooted for these armies as a way to stick it to the man, i.e. the older generation of chiefs, forgetting that he was actually the man, metaphorically and literally. But, by 1888, he realized that maybe having three religious armies roaming around the countryside wasn’t the best idea. He tried to get rid of them, but getting rid of armies isn’t the easiest thing to do and they started a coup. The three armies joined forces to oust him.

Once Mwanga was out, the Muslims, Protestants and Catholics stopped mid-high five and said, “Wait a minute, dude, we’re enemies!” They turned their guns or swords or slingshots or whatever they used for warrin’ in 1888 on each other. The English Protestant missionaries came out top of the heap and that’s how Christianity got a stranglehold in Uganda. Then, years later, along came the American fundamentalists and anti-gay hate legislation. The end.[5]

Except, not the end at all. Several however many years after the gay king, Christianity still has a damned stranglehold on Uganda. Much like Bart Simpson accidentally loosing a frog in Australia and destroying an ecosystem, Christianity has completely uprooted the country. The indigenous belief system is all but gone. The government is ruled by religion. Stupid rules that are not inherent to the region are now in place, such as imprisoning people for life for being gay like Mwanga.

Now, if the current president of Uganda does, in fact, sign this heinous bill into law, countless people will suffer, because foreign aid will dwindle down to a trickle. The entire population of Uganda will suffer, not just the people who are accused of a crime–the same crime, by the way, committed by the very ruler who allowed Christianity to choke the life out of Uganda in the first place.

So, Mr. Yoweri Museveni, Ugandan President, tread lightly. You, sir, are in a bit of a pickle. If you pass the bill, Western countries have threatened to withhold financial aid.[2] If you don’t pass the bill, the Ugandan population will most likely oust you from office since “it is highly popular among Ugandans who say the country has the right to pass laws that protect its children.” (Don’t even get me started on the “think of the children” defense).[2] It’s an internal versus external battle and you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I sincerely hope you don’t.

What really infuriates me about this story, besides the gasp-worthy human rights violation, is that this hatred, segregation and discrimination all boils down to religion once again. And not just any religion, but old-fashioned American-style evangelical Christianity.

I am disgusted by Uganda’s politics. I am ashamed to be an American. I am sickened when I see news reports like this one or this one, dangling the term “American” in front of Uganda’s extreme homophobia, that the same word can be used to describe both the root of this vile hate and myself.

To the Fundamentalist Christians responsible for this abominable bill: Stop spreading hate around the world. It’s bad enough that you’ve been doing it in America. Christianity isn’t about hate. You’re doing it wrong and you totally suck at religion.

To the Ugandan government: Stop this nonsense now before anyone else[6] gets hurt. Do not pass this bill.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”


[1] Source: NPR: Uganda Passes Anti-Gay Bill That Includes Life In Prison
[2] Source: NPR: Uganda Passes Tough New Bill Against Homosexuality
[3] Source: “Globalizing the Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia” report by Political Research Associates
Source: Wikipedia: Religion in Uganda
[5] My history of religion in Uganda was severely paraphrased from and “A History of Christianity in Uganda” by Kevin Ward, Senior Lecturer in African Religious Studies, University of Leeds.
[6] Source: The Guardian: Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato found murdered

Continued in Part 2.

7 Things I Don’t Understand

Basil Rathbone.
Image from


There are a billion original stories out there, some of them even on this blog, so why do movie studios insist on giving us the same crap over and over?

How many Sherlock Holmes have their been throughout the life of the character? The answer is a lot. Do we need that many Sherlock Holmes? Personally, I think we should have stopped at Basil Rathbone.

Basil Rathbone. Image from
Basil Rathbone.
Image from

I’ve written about this one before in Things I Hate Part 1:

Hollywood has always remade movies.  This is nothing new. They’ve done it since time immemorial, but recently, there has been a glut of remade television shows, foreign films, books, comic books, other movies and little else. It seems that it’s all about the almighty dollar and creative thought is dead, or at least, it’s no longer being financed by the studios.

I think the crux of the issue, as I alluded to above, is financing. Why should Hollywood bother taking a risk on making something new and original, when they can just repackage the same crap over and over, and you people will pay to go see it? The box office numbers tell me that you do.

I, for one, vote with my wallet. Not that I see many movies in the theater, but the movies I pay to see are always original. I never pay to see remakes because I want them to stop. I want more originality and creativity in Hollywood. These days, I mostly watch foreign films to find that.


Suburbia as seen in Edward Scissorhands
Suburbia as seen in Edward Scissorhands

I’ve written about this one before in Things I Hate Part 3:

I hate suburbia… all of it… everywhere. The suburbs are supposed to be cleaner, safer, better. I call bullshit. If by better you mean devoid of any sort of culture whatsoever, universally painted in shades of beige, teeming with chain restaurants and chain stores, and full of asswipes whose idea of the high life is having their windows smashed because they ridiculously live on golf course, then, maybe. Personally, I’ll take the grime and noise of the city over your fake cul-de-sacs, your keeping up with the Jones-ism, and your homogenized uniformity any day. Just driving through the suburbs makes my skin crawl. I don’t know how people live there.

I admit that I’m biased on this one. When I was in high school, my parents decided that the neighborhood I lived in all my life wasn’t good enough and moved us out to the suburbs. I hated every second of it. Instead of being ranked by how cool you were in high school, this school was about how rich you were. I went to school with a kid who drove a Ferrari. He was sixteen years old and drove a car that cost about as much as the house I lived in. Do you think he bought that car with his own money at his part-time job? Not likely.

I was not rich. My family was not rich. I had been supporting myself since I was fifteen, so even if my family was rich, it wouldn’t have mattered. I parked my ancient Chevrolet Chevette amid Ferraris, Bentleys, Mercedes and Maseratis. When I was 18 and legally emancipated, I got the fuck out of suburbia and never looked back.

Gated Communities

In suburbia, which I hate, there is an even worse section of suburbia–that of the gated community. I have to drive a mile out of my way each way every day because of one. They’ve managed to somehow gate off a major city street so no one can get through except the rich fucks who live there.

In my mile out of the way drive, I pass many more gated communities. One of them, on a four lane street that everyone has to take because the other gated community has blocked off a major thoroughfare, has its own light. Fortunately, this light only goes red when someone needs to get in or out of the gated community, but every time I get stuck there, it pisses me off.

Countless people on their way to work have to stop for one asshole, and there is always only one asshole. I’ve never seen more than one car going in or out at the same time and I’ve passed this stupid light ten times a week for nearly three years. Four lanes of traffic come to a grinding halt so one rich bitch can go shopping in Beverly Hills.

It’s that sense of entitlement that really pisses me off about the rich. All of us poor people are obviously not as important as that one person going in and out of Richville or Urethra or Gates of the Elite (they always have stupid names).

Even if I was super rich, I can’t imagine living in a gated community. I don’t understand the point. It seems to me a bit like prison. You have your own little secure prison cells called home; common areas like golf courses, clubhouses and pools; and a secure gate around the whole thing so no one can get in or out except at the one bottleneck. It seems claustrophobic to me. The only gated community I would live in is a gate around my property.

How to make bread

The other morning, as I was getting ready for work, I went to make coffee as I have done every morning of my adult life. I put water in the coffeemaker, put coffee in the coffee grinder and hit the grind button. Nothing happened. There was no lovely noise of coffee beans being ground. There was nothing. Now, not having had any coffee yet, I had no real idea how to react to this crisis, and believe me, it was a crisis.

I stood there for more moments than I’d care to admit, pushing a useless button. I had all the necessary ingredients for coffee–coffee, water, heat and beans–except the beans were whole and not ground. I panicked and thought of all sorts of schemes to get the beans from a whole to a ground state including using the pepper mill, food processor and even a meat tenderizer, before I finally gave up and decided to get coffee at Starbucks on the way to work.

Not an appropriate instrument for grinding coffee.
Not an appropriate instrument for grinding coffee.

This got me thinking about all the things I don’t know how to do without electricity. I have an excellent bread recipe, but I don’t know how to make bread without a bag of store-bought flour. I drink coffee every day, but I haven’t a clue how to make it without an electric coffee grinder and coffee pot. I’m willing to bet that not many of you do either.

We have let the modern conveniences of life take away our knowledge of how to do things. Cars all have computers nowadays. Even my coffeepot has a computer chip in it. We have lost so much of our history to electricity. We have replaced knowledge with technology.

I bought a new electric coffee grinder, but now, I’m also keeping my eye out for an old school hand grind number and a coffee pot that brews on the stove. I will not be without coffee again because of a dumb thing like electricity.

Animal abuse

Anyone who says animals don’t have souls has no idea what a soul is or hasn’t spent any time around animals. I don’t necessarily believe in a soul as a discrete entity that lives within ourselves and turns into a ghost when our bodies decay. I do believe in personalities, and let me tell you, animals have them.

I do not understand how you could take an innocent puppy and turn him into a killer for the sake of entertainment and profits. I don’t understand bullfighting, cock fighting or dog fighting. I don’t understand how anyone could starve, neglect, beat or otherwise mistreat an animal. Anyone who could hurt an animal doesn’t have a soul. I’m perfectly alright with not understanding how to abuse an animal.

Violence in the name of religion

To be honest, I don’t understand religions, but most of them seem pretty peaceful to me. They’re about respecting a higher power than yourself. They foster a sense of community and good deeds. Even the most heinous of organized religions has a charitable arm.

So, why is it that so many people, now and for thousands of years, are killed in the name of religion? How can you take the word of Jesus, who by all accounts, was a rather likeable fellow, and turn that into protesting funerals holding signs that say GOD HATES FAGS?

How could a prophet whose name is always followed by “peace be upon him” be turned into a reason for so muck killing? What about peace upon the rest of us?

Most wars, skirmishes, military actions, rebellions, improvised explosive devices and hate crimes can be directly or indirectly traced back to the perpetrator’s religious beliefs. I don’t care what you believe, but please, stop killing each other in the name of religion.


I suppose, in some ways, bigotry goes hand in hand with religious violence. In other ways, it doesn’t. I will never understand hating someone because of their religion, sexual preference, skin color or other beliefs. I admit that I’m biased against some people for their beliefs. I wrote a letter to my neighbor in that vein not too long ago.

But, we’re not talking about bias here. We’re all biased for or against those who see the world the same or differently than we do. It’s an evolutionary trait. We all judge people on first impressions. It’s what humans do.

We are talking about hate. Hating someone you’ve never met because they are in a same-sex union, hating someone because they don’t worship the same god as you, hating someone because their skin color is different from yours… these are things I will never understand. Honestly, I hope I never do.

I would like to know how to make bread from absolute scratch though. I suppose I’ll need some chickens and a cow.