Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why I Won't Be Attending WesterCon After All

I had intended to go to this year's WesterCon until I learned something unpleasant about the state of California, the city of Pasadena, and the management of the convention's hotel -- the Pasadena Hilton.

First, the idiot government of California, which has managed to run broke the richest state in the country, thinks it has the intelligence to tell What's Best For Everybody -- whether the people want it or not. It's banned tobacco smoking (without legalizing marijuana!) from any building that's open to the public, and a lot of outdoor spots as well. Second, the equally-brilliant government of Pasadena chose to prove its Righteousness by going the state one better, and banned smoking from even more outdoor locations than the state did.

But the bigot's crown goes to the management of the Hilton, who banned smoking not only from all their rooms, not only outdoors within 20 feet of any door, but from their entire property -- even the parking lot. This means you have to go clean out to the public street, or at least sidewalk, to light up.

Now, even if you believe that all the stories about The Evils Of Smoking are true -- and in my next post I'll show good evidence that they aren't -- you have to admit that this goes far beyond science or common sense. Outdoors, a 20-foot distance is quite enough to dissipate smoke from any cigarette, or even cigar, and keep the smell from offending even the most sensitive aristocratic nose. (Yes, I've seen people -- no names! -- who claim to be terribly-terribly Sensitive and allergic to smoke, who go into pretty-good-imitation fits of anaphylactic shock if they see someone holding even an unlit cigarette 40 feet in front of them; I've also seen those same people somehow unable to smell a lighted cigarette 10 feet behind them.) 20 feet is enough. If Second Hand Smoke were as lethal as bigots (and their lawyers) like to claim, nobody would have survived the first colony at Jamestown.

So this lofty policy of We Don't Want That Sort Of People On Our Property is not based on health or science. It's based on something else, something I won't support or condone. I will, however, post a song about it.

SINCE THE CIVIL WAR (c) Leslie Fish, 2000

Where shall you walk tonight my love, to cause nobody pain?
Under the dripping trees, my love, or under the open rain?
You cannot step beneath a roof; the law has made that plain.
'Cause you're a smoker:
That makes you our Nigger now.
You're a toker:
We can use you anyhow.
We can't abuse Blacks or Jews
Or Spanish anymore,
But we can do things to you
The law has said we couldn't do
To anybody since the Civil War.

Don't try to give a cure, my love. Don't say what might be done
With filter-fans or ionizers; all such talk is done.
The point is not sweet logic, dear; the point is dirty fun.
We want victims.
This is our excuse today.
Legal victims.
Don't take our excuse away!
We want free cruelty.
Compassion's such a chore.
Bigotry can be free!
Hard for you, but fun for me.
It isn't just for White folks anymore!

Praise the air, so free of smoke --
While pollution makes us choke.
"Scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh --
And the sudden smell of burning flesh."
Soon enough. (Burn the witch!)
Hang tough. (Kill the bitch!)

We weary of compassion, love. We tire of being good.
We're tired of toleration, and of doing as we should.
We want to go and raid again in any neighborhood.
Give us bloodlust!
Oooh, we've missed it for so long!
Legal bloodlust!
Now the taste is sharp and strong.
Just say yes to Righteousness,
And join the cause today!
Love so sweet can't compete
With hunting victims down the street.
Love, I think it's time you ran away.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Talking To Each Other, At Long Last

Long ago when I was back in college, a bunch of us anti-war types realized that the then-dawning Libertarian movement had enough features in common with us that we really could sit down and talk about our similarities and hammer out our differences. We held what we called a "Left-Right Conference" at the University of Michigan, and invited everyone we knew in a student-political context. Well, only half a dozen people showed up -- which was a pity, because we found that yes, we really did have a lot in common.

Well, all these years later, we finally are seeing the dialog start. I happened on a political site called AlterNet, where there was an article posted called "Why Being Liberal Really Is Better Than Being Conservative"; it pulled out the usual cliches about how Liberals really are concerned for their fellow humans while Conservatives are passionately bound to "authority, loyalty and purity" -- and, being raised in old-fashioned Family Values, they were all victims of abusive parents. *Sigh*

Well, I was among the first half-dozen people to respond to the article, but I wasn't the first to bring up the word "Libertarian". The whole discussion -- over 100 posts now -- has gotten into a discussion of what Libertarian ideas are, and how they could be realistic in our modern "corporation-run" world. The posters are clearly coming from both ends of the political spectrum, and there are a lot of them. The ranting name-callers have given up, and the serious dialog has started. I've put in at least three posts explaining how a Libertarian (or even Anarchist) society would deal with social welfare ("Who'll take care of the sick and injured?" "YOU will -- you and everyone who thinks like you.") and corporate greed ("Organize!"). The discussion has gotten detailed and lively.

But the big point is, these left-wing Radicals and right-wing Libertarians are *talking* to each other, talking intelligently, noting similarities and hammering out differences -- finally, after all these years.

If only this tendency will spread! I expect I'll spend my spare time for the next week hunting up political blogs and forums to see how many of them really are conducting on ongoing, online, Left/Right Conference. I think this is what will bring on the real change in American politics -- after all these years.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Rolling Whorehouse

Okay, I promised I'd tell this story, and I will. 'Twas February of '09, when I still lived in the old house up on the northwest side of Phoenix, where I usually did my shopping at the plaza on Thomas Road and 59th Avenue. The major industry there is a big grocery store which had changed hands several times before becoming a Ranch Market.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ranch Market, it's a supermarket-chain that makes a point of appealing to the local "ethnic" market, no matter what that "eth" may be. I saw one in northern California that would have been at home in Tokyo, and another whose goods were all labeled in Korean script with English for subtitles.

This one on the corner of 59th and Thomas blatantly appealed to Mexicans. The goods were all labeled in Spanish, a good quarter of them were plainly imported from Mexico (at exorbitant prices), the loudspeakers played Mexican pop music, the decor practically screamed "The Lonesome Wetback's Home Away From Home", and of course the stockboys and cash-register girls were all young Mexicans -- though I noticed that the management was all Anglo. Outside were racks of Mexican CDs for sale, and the newspaper boxes were filled with free papers entirely in Spanish. One of them was the La Raza paper, with the word "Reconquista" prominent in the headlines. I and my tenants had taken to calling the store "the Mexploitation Mart".

Since I'd been shopping at that store for years, under its various changes of ownership, I knew where to find the bargains. I'd filled up my cart, managed to purchase everything easily despite a cash-register girl who spoke no English, and went rolling my cart out the door into the parking-lot. I was wearing a denim jacket, though I hadn't fastened it, and had my hair piled up under a watch-cap.

As I pushed my cart down the parking-aisle, I approached a black windowless van whose rear door was open. Just outside that door stood a middle-aged Mexican woman stuffed into a too-tight shiny-nylon sheath dress, wearing entirely too much makeup, teetering on spindly high heels. As I rolled past her she called out: "Hey, you want some tamales? Nice red-hot tamales?"

Startled, I turned to face her -- and simultaneously, two things happened.

One: I saw that inside that windowless van was a mattress covered by a sheet, and on it sat a young Mexican girl in a halter-top, denim short-shorts, shiny high-heeled shoes and too much makeup. Right there, I realized what that van was, and what those women were doing.

Two: As I turned toward them, my jacket swung open -- revealing my unmistakable breasts. Right there, the middle-aged woman shut her mouth and grimaced in the embarrassed fashion of a whore's shill who realizes that she's just been propositioning another woman.

She turned away quickly, and I shrugged and rolled on to my car. All the time I was loading the groceries in the trunk, I cast glances at the mini-whorehouse to see if it got any customers.

Yes, it did. A couple of lanky Mexican boys strolled up and stopped to dicker with the shill. At the next glance, I saw one of them climb into the van and the shill close the door behind him. By the time I'd loaded the last of my groceries, rolled the cart to the cart-rack, gotten in the car and started the engine, they were finished. As I backed my car out into the aisle, I saw the van's rear door open, the first boy climb out and the second one scramble in. I shrugged and drove away.

I don't know if the managers of the Ranch Market knew what form of small business was going on in their parking-lot, but I'm fairly sure that they weren't getting a commission, because the next time I went shopping there I didn't see that van anywhere in that lot.

I did, however, see it a week later in the parking-lot of the local Home Depot. It was after dark, but there were plenty of Mexican men hanging around in the lot -- and the back door of the van was closed.

I've heard jokes about "curb service", but this was the first time I'd seen it done.

--Leslie <;)))><)