The Oklahoma Legislature Blues, in the Key of D Minus

I am from Oklahoma. I love being from Oklahoma. I love its people. I love its grand land. I love its Oklahoman-ness.

But boy howdy, the state doesn’t make it easy on me.

Now, I normally don’t comment on the comings and goings of the worst thing about the state of Oklahoma, its Legislature, because it’s an exercise in futility. The state Capitol is a psycho ward whose only redeeming quality is its ability to self-sabotage, thwarting its own ambitions with astounding pettiness, hubris and disregard for, well, laws. What more is there to possibly say?

Well not this time. This time they’ve gone and cooked up a flamebroiled triple-patty dungburger smothered in awful sauce. This time they’ve messed with the nerds. This week, a legislative committee, comprised of honest-to-god elected officials, decided that those darned intellectuals were at it again. The House Common Education Committee, presumably chaired by one of the Smothers Brothers, voted to ban Advanced Placement U.S. history classes because, and I’m paraphrasing here, it’s of the devil and President Barack Obama, who to most of the Legislature are the same entity.

Their stated reasons for doing this offer insight into a worldview so dystopic and warped it would make M.C. Escher toss his cookies. First, and this should be no surprise for a conversation that included the esteemed Rep. Sally Kern, these fine servants of the state have conflated Common Core with AP curriculum, which I guess is as easy to do as confusing a democratically elected head of state with the overlord of eternal torment. (My favorite part of this is where Sally Kern says nonrequired, privately created AP curriculum is “similar” to mandatory educational framework Common Core, and thus null and void in a state that repealed the latter. Similar! They are alike! They involve books!)

(By the way, Oklahoma legislators hate Common Core not because of any of its actual failings, but because it is a standardized national curriculum. We do not want our pure heartland spawn learning the same thing as yankees.)

(I apologize for the excessive parenthetical thoughts.)

The other objection offered to allowing our students access to rigorous courses that prepare them and advance them on the path to secondary education? It makes America look bad. Criminitly, Trigger! You people aren’t going to be happy until you’ve got a flag lapel pin the size of a silver-dollar pancake, are you?

Quick fact check: The lib’ral academics behind AP curriculum (from free-wheeling, hippy-dippy institutions like Florida State University) didn’t make America look bad. America has been more than capable of doing that on its own through the years. Just like every other country on this planet. It’s history. If it were all sunshine and kitten kisses, we wouldn’t be teaching it. We’d all be frolicking naked in fields of tulips celebrating another consecutive year without the CNN breaking news ticker.

It’s probably important to note here that the patriot who deployed this “emergency” bill to cut off the head of the essay-test Hydra, Rep. Dan Fisher, is a member of an organization called the Black Robe Regiment, which has the distinguished honor of holding the website that disturbs me the most of all the things that are things. And which I won’t link to here because it scares me, but Google and you will find nuggets like this:

“The time has come that we must now arise and awaken to the danger of this hyper-progressive agenda that so permeates every aspect of our political, legal, and educational systems.”

Look, I went to one of the pretty good school systems in Oklahoma and still wound up with an uninterested assistant football coach teaching high-school AP government (U.S. and world). So let’s stop pretending the College Board has infiltrated America’s education system and installed pagan foreign Communist jihadi wood elves in positions of power. Not even rebel forces want to work for the pittance Oklahoma legislators deem appropriate pay for teachers.

I managed to have to read Hatchet three times in the course of three grades because of the stellar system we’ve concocted. And if I hadn’t switched to AP English in eighth grade? Who knows, maybe I could have slogged through Robinson Crusoe Lite once more. If a rebel alliance has assumed the role of propagandists for Oklahoma’s youth, good for them. I bet their system’s more efficient and less repetitive. They’d probably only make you do one project on their anti-America flag-burning manual.

But, of course, I did switch to AP English, and then managed to partake in a veritable buffet of AP courses, collecting them like badges on a Girl Scout vest. Because I was fortunate. I was fortunate to attend large schools with ample opportunities to earn college credit, the idea being I could then increase my efficiency at the university level, and maybe — just maybe — expedite the journey to a nice, fat taxable income.

I’m told efficiency and profit are big among the conservative community in my cherry-red home state. Isn’t it amazing that it took a bunch of pinko educational oligarchs to make it happen?

I never thought I’d pine the for those halcyon days of last week when everyone was talking about Jack White’s guacamole.


Sexy Halloween Costumes for the Modern Woman

It’s almost time for pagan-palooza 2013! It’s the most wonderful time of the year when every night is Hocus Pocus night. Perhaps you’ve got your Halloween costume planned, your mischief managed. If not, this great nation’s retailers have stepped up to peddle their lewd and lascivious wares to you.

Sexy Zombie Barmaid from the above link may be one of the most niche costumes this side of Sexy Furloughed National Parks Employee, but really, Sexy Pink Ranger? The Power Ranger costume is already skin-tight spandex; it is inherently sexy. But high heels? Cleavage baring? Let me tell you something about Kimberly Hart. Kimberly Hart was smart and capable, with a body so nubile and limber she could pick your pockets with her feet. Kimberly Hart would not be caught dead in such an impractical, useless costume, and the whole thing deserves a ninjetti corkscrew kick to the solar plexus.

Granted, old-timey Halloween costumes were the stuff of actual night terrors, but we’ve got to stop this. This obsession with “sexy” or “sassy” — which is now apparently code for “lots of flesh” deployed only when “sexy” would make a particular outfit incredibly uncomfortable (e.g., Sexy Christopher Robin) — costumes would make sense as a feminist rebellion if every other day of the year women were forced to wear sweaters buttoned to their lymph nodes and Reeboks. The yearly inundation of tawdry outfits would be more equitable if men also had to be Sexy Iron Man or Sassy Calvin and Hobbes. The whole Hallow’s Eve kit and kaboodle would resolve itself if sex didn’t scandalize us, in the same way that we’ve compartmentalized (and put in an unopenable lock-box) violence in popular culture.

But none of that is the case, and what we’re left with is a women’s Twin Peaks Tigger ensemble.

I don’t consider myself a Puritan. Upon the shutdown of the U.S. government, I immediately fled to the Internet, waiting for this.


I do not sit at home in my dressing gown, sewing lace collars onto my T-shirts before pulling a veil of modesty around my bed and tucking in. I am relatively normal.


I am also not a women’s studies scholar. I don’t honestly know why Miley Cyrus was on the wrecking ball in the newd. But if I were her, I’d roll around nekkid in my piles and piles of money. (Side note: SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT BANGERZ MEANS.And I do not believe it’s taboo for the fairer sex to celebrate their hot bods and show them off. But turning a men’s costume into a women’s costume shouldn’t require the tailor’s snips to trim sleeves, pants and chest fabric automatically.

No one’s forced to buy Naughty Costumes, of course, and I don’t because dignity?

Photo, left: my own tragic life, 2011. Photo, right: Sears, for God's sake.
Well, maybe not. Photo, left: my own tragic life, 2011. Photo, right: Sears, for God’s sake.

The free market seems content to proffer this cheap, plastic trash till kingdom come, however. Ladies, we’re going to have reclaim what it means to be sexy and costumed for ourselves. Here are a few ideas for modern, sexy females.

  • Sexy Fed Chairwoman Who Doesn’t Think Your Interest Rates Especially High on Her Priorities
  • Sexy Ronald Reagan Ordering You to Tear Down This Wall of Patriarchy
  • Sexy Lady Gaga Realizing that Mimi Bobeck Wore It Better and that She Doesn’t Always Have to Shock You

Screen shot 2013-10-10 at 8.25.31 PM

  • #Sexy “Blurred Lines” Extra Who’s Just Shooting This Video to Blow Off Steam From Her Biomedical Engineering Exam
  • Sexy Super Appealing Debt Ceiling Raise

O, iRobot, where art thou?

Well, this is the future.

Your government has access to your digital lode, with the compliance of the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-advertising startup-cum-conglomerates that have provided you with so much information about the people you know that you no longer like anyone. Whatever your opinion of it is, the practice can be deemed “new” only in relation to the Eisenhower administration or New Coke.

We know that because a frustrated technogeek — be he hero or knave — had access to all the right doo-dads.

By the end of the year, you’re going to be able — if you’re splendidly wealthy — to take photos of unsuspecting passersby by winking at them. They, in turn, are going to hope for a device that will send you plummeting down the nearest flaming manhole. (Note: not a euphemism.)

Also in the pipeline, Microsoft’s Internet-required, no-disc Xbox One and scrambly-code-y technology that could kind of, sort of prevent hard-core gamers and hax0rz from reselling their run-of-the-mill, old-fashioned disc games. They are not amused.

It’s enough to make anyone so worried about being so full of doubt about everything anyway.

This leads to a question (or eight): Why have we opted to pursue the creepiest paths toward the future? Why did we skip over hoverboards and shoes that also make ice cream? I really could have jumped off the trend train with the meme where we stuck Surprised Patrick in everything.

No, no, we’ve just got to keep going, don’t we? Always pushing the transparent, WiFi-connected envelope. But not in the Rosie the household robot direction. We seem to have stalled out with the Roomba there — probably because cats started riding them and everyone decided that was good enough. Instead, we just keep funneling more and more information to THIS GUY, whom we wouldn’t even ask to prom let alone into our homes.

Can it be that we have so soon forgotten the parable of Smart House: Give away too much autonomy and you’ll end up with Katey Sagal in your living room and a fruit machine that’s trying to kill you? Did not Zenon teach us that with great technology comes great responsibility?

Let’s face it. We don’t even know how to put the technology we have to good use. We’re not ready for the future. Before we barrel down the path to Orwell Land, could we for a moment decide on some ground rules for today’s creepy technologies?

Thou shalt not check in at weddings, thine own or otherwise.

If you must Instagram the sonogram, do not make it your profile picture. It is weird and uncomfortable. Not to mention, we are now denying our children privacy even before they are expelled from the womb.

On that note, you would not name your child Klaus Poopvonpants, so please refrain from sharing anything about his or her bowel movements with your hundreds of followers. These kids don’t stand a chance.

To thine own selfie remain true and sparing. The fundamentals of your face have not changed since the last selfie 18 hours ago. It doesn’t matter how many different filters or angles you throw it at it. We get it, Blue Steel, you are incredibly surprised your phone is taking photos of you.

"Ugh. What is this camera doing in here? #paparazzi"
“Ugh. What is this camera doing in here? #paparazzi”

Ellipses have three periods, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shall count, and the number of the counting shall be three. All others are right out.

If you have nothing clever to say, may I suggest a poignant animal GIF?

Finally, if you plan on leaking immense troves of government documents before making public your identity, please provide a press kit. The world’s media outlets seem to have one photo of Edward Snowden, and they’re going to great pains to dress it up.

Donate, cry, pray, then read

Do you know what it takes to be an Oklahoman? You probably don’t because to be an Oklahoman is to be nuts, balls-to-the-wall crazy, off-the-charts insane. You have to be.

In Oklahoma, when you pop out of your mama, the doctors give you the once over. They check your eyes, because they know you’re going to have to stare down EF4 tornadoes and not flinch. They check the gravel in your guts, because true grit’s making a living from hard, dry land — molding a life from red clay. And they check your heart, because to be an Oklahoman is to be the smack-dab center of the Heartland.

Then you grow up in Oklahoma with your “Yes, ma’ams” and “No, sirs” and “Ranch, pleases,” and you learn how to drive in a place where you reserve one hand for waving to the neighbors you know and the neighbors you don’t know just quite yet. Your sentences are peppered with words like “hook echo,” “vortex,” “Pushmataha,” “biscuitsngravy” and “might could.”

You go to school and you learn the history of your state, from the Trail of Tears to the land run to the Dust Bowl to the Tulsa Race Riot to April 19, 1995 to May 3, 1999. You understand that you come from misfits and mistakes and pain. A lot of pain. You realize you come from underdog stock. You listen to a lot of Woody Guthrie, and you really get what it means.

At some point, life punches you in the gut for the first time. You watch the hand of God come down, and an entire town disappears off the map.

You fall to your knees and you cry and you spit and you cuss the day and night. And then you get up.

You don’t waste your time asking the heavens why. There’s work to be done.

You see someone else shaking their fists at the sky, so you reach your hand down. And then they get up.

That’s what being an Oklahoman is. Being so goddamned resilient and perseverant that ain’t nothing or nobody can keep you down. I’ve been a lot of places, lived in a few of them, and met many great people. Without minimizing anyone else, Oklahomans are a different breed. When you’re a little guy used to getting kicked, you not only learn to pop back up but you become the first one to reach out to others.

Oklahoma isn’t a place. It’s something in your blood. It’s something that you do. It’s the shirt off your back and a tear in your eye and the giddyup in your soul.

As we watched the wreckage from this latest prizefight with nature, several people asked me if I had people there — in Moore, in Shawnee. The answer is unequivocally yes. Every ever-loving, bless-your-heart mumbler in that grand land is My People. And God help us, My People don’t give up and don’t give in.

I love you, Oklahoma, and I thank my lucky stars that I’m one of yours. And if you don’t start installing storm shelters in every public building, I’m fixin’ to raise some hell.