where there’s a will…

10 August 2006 at 11:12 (Christianity, death, religion)

Since I don’t have the money to hire a lawyer, notary, witness, whoever it is you need to hire in order to have an official will, I am publishing my will here. I hope that, should I die before I have a chance to make this will a legal document, whoever takes the reins on my post-life actions will follow these instructions.



1. I think this part is called a “living will.” They have been all the rage since the Schiavo affair.If I’m ever in what is called a “persistent vegetative state,” please allow me to die. If I am being kept alive only by machines or other artificial means, turn off those machines as soon as it becomes clear that I can’t live without them, unless I tell you otherwise at the time. This request does not apply if, at some future date, I become a cyborg or an autonomous brain living in a jar, with the ability to speak and control a spider-like locomotive device. In either of these cases, leave me be or beware my wrath.

Do not, under any circumstances, allow Dr. Bill Frist to diagnose my condition. He is a hack.

Do not put me on the news or any other television show, or in any way make a spectacle of my condition/eventual death. If I was fortunate enough to be on TV or in a movie during my life (prior to my falling into a persistent vegetative state), please do what you can to get a clip show made of my best moments, backed with sappy, sentimental music. If you are short on material, I have a CD with some of my greatest hits on it, and my parents probably have old home videos. I just hope people in the future can still play these media.

2. This is about my wishes for my body after I die.

My remains will be cremated and composted, and eventually returned to the earth as soil. I don’t really know much about composting, so if cremation makes it impossible to compost my body, forget the cremation part. The main thing is that I don’t want my body preserved or coated in lacquer or anything like that. I think it is natural and logical for a body to decompose and return to the earth. However this is most easily accomplished, I would like that done.

Prior to this, however, I would like every part of my body that can be donated and used by some still-living person to be so donated and used. This includes skin, eyes, and anus. I don’t know if anyone has ever needed an anus transplant, but I seriously will not need it anymore, and I see no reason to deny anyone else the ability to live so that I can have an open-casket funeral. On that front…

3. Hereintofore, my plans for my funeral.

First of all, at my funeral there will be no mention of Christ, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesús Cristo, or any similar, analogous person, at my funeral. I’m sure he was a great guy and all, but I never knew him personally, and I see no reason why he should be speaking on my behalf or offering advice/condolences.

No one will verbally speculate about whether I am with God, or in Heaven, or saved, or walking through the valley of the shadow of death. In fact, no mention of any organized religion of any kind will be made, if you please. I had no use for them in life, and I doubt I’ll have much use for them in death.

There will be no scripture readings from The Bible, or any other religious text, and no religious rituals will be practiced. No one will pray for me, over me, because of me, next to me, or anywhere near me out loud during the services or anytime afterward. If it makes you feel better to pray, by all means do so, but remember that you’re doing it for your own benefit, not mine, nor anyone else’s, so please keep it to yourself.

My funeral will not take place in a Church of any kind. In fact, I don’t want my funeral to be like a typical funeral at all. I think it would be cool if people told stories about me and reminisced about all the cool things I will have done with my life, and reminded each other about all the fun they and I will have had.

My funeral will be part Alex retrospective, part dance party. I have an extensive list of acceptable dance songs in my iTunes library, but I invite you to also take requests. Dancing is very primal, and also very fun, and I think it is also quite spiritual. As Ellen DeGeneres once wrote, “Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, but Dancing is next to Cleanliness.” Dancing cleanses the body of frustration, sadness, weakness, and inhibition, plus you look funny doing it, and on the off chance that I’ll be hanging around my funeral in spirit form, it will be amusing to see everyone dancing like idiots.

I think that’s it for now. I may update this at some point, however. I hope these requirements are not too difficult to carry out, and I also hope the internet is still around in 3006, which is when I plan to die.


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it just doesn’t end, does it?

10 August 2006 at 1:11 (ethics, homosexuality, science)

So I realize I’m a little late on this, but I was reading Savage Love this morning, and I once again came accross this phrase “all too often casual or temporary,” which seems to be popping up a lot lately. For those who are as poorly informed as I was, this phrase is from a New York Court of Appeals decision (download here in pdf format) ruling against gay marriage. To quote the courts:

“Despite the advances of science, it remains true that the vast majority of children are born as a result of a sexual relationship between a man and a woman, and the Legislature could find that this will continue to be true. The Legislature could also find that such relationships are all too often casual or temporary. It could find that an important function of marriage is to create more stability and permanence in the relationships that cause children to be born. It thus could choose to offer an inducement–in the form of marriage and its attendant benefits–to opposite-sex couples who make a solemn, long-term commitment to each other.”

Now, obviously, the phrase in question is causing a lot of controversy among supporters of gay marriage, and for good reason. For the longest time, we’ve been told that gay parents are irresponsible and could not be trusted to take care of children, which is why they haven’t been allowed to marry. Now, apparently, they are too responsible to have children. Allow me to debunk this ridiculous statement with three simple points:

1) Allowing gay marriage does not disallow straight marriage, nor any of its attendant benefits.

2) Thus, casual heterosexual relationships that resulted in children would still be able to be lured into marriage by the offer of its many benefits.

3) Children are not a necessary outcome of marriage. If the discussion were on adoption, this reasoning may have been appropriate. As we are dealing with marriage only, children are an ancillary concern and can not, logically, be the basis for the decision.

I am, frankly, amazed that a group of intelligent adults could come up with such a logically flawed argument. Obviously, I don’t think there are any good arguments against gay marriage, but this one is so weak, I truly am aghast that it has come from the highest court in New York.

On the other hand, I suppose this could be a good sign. If this is the only argument left in the opposition’s arsenal that has any credibility, it can’t be long before this barely coherent, poorly realized opinion is thrown out, as well. While the decision does mention the so-called “traditional” definition of marriage, that is not part of the two-pronged reasoning it gives for denying homosexual people the right to marry.

If this truly indicates that the whole “traditional definition of marriage” argument is finally and rightfully considered complete bunk, then I think this decision could indicate an incremental step forward. It will only take about 10,000 more steps like this one before everyone is finally treated equally.

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mocking women is funny. wait, no it isn’t.

4 August 2006 at 13:39 (Christianity, ethics, Feminism & Sexism, homosexuality, religion)

I happened upon this article about women who are ordaining themselves as Catholic priests, completely by accident. I was researching Jean-Baptiste Dumas, who was a famous Catholic and scientist, and there was a link to this article from one of the sources I was using. The link also included this parody of the event, which is so bizarrely specific that many of the references are lost on those who aren’t completely engrossed in this controversy. I got the basic gist of it, but it frankly isn’t a very effective metaphor.

I’m always surprised that Catholic dogma really still thinks that women are men’s property, and subordinate in every sense. But what surprises me even more is the fact that women still choose to be Catholic in spite of this. But the problem with dogma is that you have to either accept it or reject it, or else it loses all of its power. These women are trying to reject a major part of Catholic dogma while still operating within the framework of that dogma. They are not basing their arguments on Catholic values, but on secular ones.

If you are going to commit yourself to every word of the Bible, you really can’t ignore the misogyny. To try to make Catholicism fit a secularly-derived conception of what is right completely misses the point; by accepting that secular morality is the more just of the two, you must necessarily reject Catholic morality, and you can’t really do that if you’re going to be a priest.

I agree that women shouldn’t be priests, and neither should gay men, and not because I think they have done something wrong by being women or being gay. But the Church is so fundamentally prejudiced against women and gay people, that having either one in a position of power is obviously contrary to both the aims of the person and those of the organization.

If a woman managed to rise to power in a club called “Women are Evil and Should Be Controlled,” she isn’t advancing the cause of her fellow women. Quite the opposite, in fact: she is becoming a tool of that same unjust organization, an enemy to herself as much as to her fellow women.

It seems obvious to me that if you think a group you belong to discriminates against your kind, you leave the group, rather than take a role that allows you to continue passing that message of discrimination to others. But tradition, especially personal or familial tradition, is a difficult foe.

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science triumphs again! almost.

3 August 2006 at 14:15 (abortion, Christianity, ethics, Feminism & Sexism, religion, science)

Today’s op-ed piece in the New York Times makes a good point about the whole stem cell debate, namely that is no different from the many, many times that scientific breakthroughs have challenged church teachings in the past. As Ms. Blum points out, science eventually won out in these debates as the more rational decision. What she fails to mention, however, is whether the Church had the power to actually stop what it saw as immoral scientific experiments. Based on the example of Edward Jenner, it sounds as though their only weapon was censure.

Eventually, of course, even the Church came to accept innoculations as useful and necessary. But we aren’t dealing with the Church in this instance, at least not directly. Though his decision is backed by Christian leaders, President Bush is the one blocking the path for advances in stem cell research. And unfortunately, he does have power.

As I have said before, the danger of religion comes not from the beliefs themselves, but from the actions predicated on those beliefs. George Bush claims that he answers to a higher power. The truth of the matter is that, by deferring to the Bible, he is answering to no one at all.

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¿como se dice “awkward”?

2 August 2006 at 18:36 (café, ethics, language)

I’ve been a “manager” at a café near my house for a little under a month now. After my extensive managerial training, which concluded with the advice, “don’t try too hard,” I still felt a little overwhelmed at the idea of actually being in charge of something. This is a part-time job, after all. The whole idea of it is to not try too hard, to not let it infringe on the rest of my life too much. Did I really want more responsibility there? But everyone involved assured me that it was a lot more money ($3 more per hour) for a little bit more responsibility, so I took the job.Until last week, it delivered on its promise of “not much more responsibility.” Then, all of a sudden, we needed sprouts.

I should also mention that the guys who work in the kitchen are all Latino and speak little to no English, and I speak little to no Spanish. So I get in one day last week, and Frederico, the guy who makes the sandwiches, tells me that apparently we’re low on sprouts for the sandwich station. This scenario was not covered in my extensive management training, and I tell him this in broken Spanglish, which seems to bother him. I mention it to my co-manager, Carl (who was working that night, but was not the manager), and he’s not sure what to do, either.

But I decide it’s time to make a decision, so I open the cash register, take out some money, go to the corner store, and buy some sprouts. Mission Accomplished, right? Except Frederico is apparently still mad at me about it, because he won’t talk to me or even acknowledge me for the rest of the night, even when I inquire “¿Qual es tú problema?” which I’m told is the polite way to ask what someone’s problem is.

Prior to the sprout incident, Frederico and I were as close as two people who can only barely communicate can be. I used to make him juice, and he used to make me sandwiches. It was nice. But who knows what’s going on in his head? Maybe he just resents that he’s been working here for ten years, while I’ve been there less than six months, and somehow, I’m his boss. Maybe sprouts have some kind of symbolic value to him. But even if I knew how to ask him, in his own language, why he’s so angry, I probably wouldn’t understand his reply. He doesn’t talk to me at all for the next week.

I try to make nice, offering him juice or coffee when there’s some extra. I ask him “¿Como estas?” when I get to work every day. But I get nothing in response, until the other night, when I notice him pouring himself a clandestine beer at work. I jokingly chastise him for this, because, I mean, what’s one beer? It’s not like he’s a surgeon or something. The guy’s just making sandwiches. So when he asks me if I saw anything, I play along and say that it’s fine. This seems to make him happy, and that makes me happy, and I think that maybe all that sprout ugliness is behind us.

It’s only when he starts dropping knives and plates that I start to think he might have been drinking before I got there, and that maybe this newfound gregariousness is a result of that, rather than his actually forgiving me. José, who also works in the kitchen, and speaks even less English, is also there, and keeps producing Corona bottles from out of nowhere, which I keep seeing, in various states of fullness, throughout the store. At first, they’re actually kind of discreet about it. But as the (thankfully, not very busy) night wears on, the bottles become start popping up everywhere.

Carl and I are starting to feel very weird about the situation, because neither of us really feels endowed with the authority to make them stop. These guys kind of have a will of their own; the delivery guy will often refuse to take a delivery just because he feels like it, which usually puts me in a difficult situation. I know that they don’t respect my “authority,” and I also know that I sacrificed what little authority I had when I gave them the go ahead to drink that first (or possibly third, based on what they told us later) beer.

Then it gets personal. Frederico starts telling Carl that when he, Carl, is the boss, he’s the boss. But when I’m the boss, there is no boss. Carl and I both laugh nervously. It’s just the beer talking. Heh. But he isn’t finished. Frederico goes on to explain why he feels this way.

“I respect you,” he says to Carl. “You’re a nice person. You aren’t mean. Him?”—he indicates me—“I have no respect.”

“Why don’t you respect him?” Carl asks, nervously eyeing me. I’m doing my best to let his drunk-talk roll off my back.

“Because last week, I tell him to get me sprouts, and he don’t do it.” In vino veritas So, because I didn’t hop to it when he told me to get sprouts, suddenly he has no respect for me. My respectability must have been pretty shaky to begin with. I don’t know why, but hearing him admit this just makes me angry. I guess I sort of believed I had done something else much worse and hadn’t realized it. But he really had stopped talking to me because of sprouts.

“You don’t tell me what to do, Frederico,” I shout, which I think surprises everyone, including me. “I tell you what to do. And I don’t care if you like me, but you better do what I say, because I am the boss!” I don’t even know if he understands most of this; I’m pretty sure he gets the gist.

Carl, who seems a little freaked out, goes outside for a cigarette, and while he’s out there, I see Frederico pouring himself another beer.

“No más cervesa,” I say, as he takes another sip. “No más.” I walk over and take the cup from his hand, and pour it into the sink. “No más,” I reiterate. Suddenly, his mood isn’t so jolly. I guess drunkenness, stage two, has arrived: full-on belligerence.

“You pay for my beer,” says Frederico.

“No,” I tell him flatly. “Take it up with the owner.” I’m pretty belligerent myself by this point. I turn around to answer the phone, and when I look back, he’s taken off his apron.

“Bye,” he says, and walks out. I check the clock in the now-empty café. We still have 45 minutes left before we close, not to mention a sink-full of dishes, which Frederico usually does at the end of the night. Shit.

I call the owner and tell him the story. He’s out to dinner with his wife, but shows up a few minutes later to make the rest of the sandwiches for the night. He doesn’t seem nearly as pissed as I expect him to be. I guess that’s part of running a business.

He tells me Frederico is not welcome back, which I guess makes sense. It’s just too bad that he’s losing his job over sprouts. The owner keeps reminding me that this was Frederico’s decision, that he was the one who walked out, but I know that I’m at least partly responsible. Even if Frederico didn’t feel that I was in charge, I was in charge.

I find out later that José is also going to be fired. According to Carl, he’s been in the country for about a year, on his own, and has been sending all his money back to his wife and two kids in Mexico. And even though he probably should have been taking his job a bit more seriously, especially since his family’s livelihood was riding on it, I can’t help feeling like all of this could have been avoided if any one of us could speak the other’s language.

(All names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

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