Saturday, June 28, 2008
The past couple weeks, there’s been all sorts of news about the legalization of gay marriages in California. I can’t even keep track anymore of what states allow it and what states don’t. Some states said okay and then overturned it later on referendum votes. Some states allowed it and then a judge overthrew it and others said no and were overturned by other judges. Here in South Carolina, there was a referendum vote last year on the state defining marriage as one man/one woman, which we both voted against, and the measure passed anyways.
You want my opinion? Let them get married. Why should all of you get your knickers in a twist over whether gay couples want to get married? In a world where over 50% of all hetero marriages end in divorce, are hetero couples any better at being married? Maybe we should make it harder for hetero couples to get married? We might not botch it up so badly if we have to work a little harder at it.
Right now, all we have to do is pay for the license and find an official. Hell, any idiot can do that. There’s no test, no class, no real requirements to get this license. To get a hunting license you have to take a class. To get a driver’s license you have to take tests both written and practical. To get married? Fog a mirror. And to get divorced? Apply for legal separation, wait a YEAR, and pay an ass of court fees and associated rigmarole, and then get set free. It’s harder to end it than it is to start it, by far.
But really, why not let gay couples marry? It’s hard enough to find someone you can say you want to spend the rest of your life with, so why deny that to people who just don’t do it they way you see fit? I knew these two guys in Maine, Scott and Paul, and they were a great couple. They’d been together 25 years when I met them. Twenty five years. I didn’t even make it past 5 years with my first marriage. Those guys had a 25-year commitment to each other, and were never allowed to formalize it. That’s a damned shame. Let gay couples have the same tax breaks and tax penalties that straight couples have, and the same pains in the ass for divorces too. Fair is fair after all.
If you’ll let gay couples adopt, and gay couples to have kids via artificial insemination, doesn’t it make sense to allow those same couples to marry and share insurance benefits and survivor benefits and social security benefits? Stop imposing your own morality on the situation for a minute and let people be happy and be married.
So many people start waving their bibles at this question and try to quote scriptures and what not. Well, here, let me quote some right back at you. Judge not, lest ye be judged. If indeed gay couples, and homosexuals in general, are supposedly something against the will of your God, then they can work that out with God when they die, right? Who appointed you the arbiter of God’s will?
And quit trying to tell me they have a choice, because I think that’s crap too. People can’t help who they are hard-wired to be attracted to, no matter how much you try to say they can. I am not hard-wired to be attracted to long-haired women who are a size zero; Daddy likes a lil’ meat with his taters, and I really prefer short hair on women. By and large, the majority of women I have dated have been between a size 12 and 16, buxom, and had short hair. That’s how I’m wired. So, to tell me I should just all of a sudden abandon my genetic predisposition is absurd. The same holds true for my gay friends. They like who they like, and I’m cool with that. You can’t help who you fall in love with.
So if you’re gay, and you live somewhere where they allow marriages, I’m happy for you. If you live somewhere a bit less, shall we say, progressive, I feel for you.
All things considered, shouldn’t some animals just go extinct on their own? I’m not talking about certain species of whales or the buffalo, animals that man hunted to the brink through sheer selfish greed, or the passenger pigeon, which we did hunt to extinction through our own selfishness.
The dodo bird was killed off on their island of Mauritius after the Portuguese and Dutch showed up with dogs and pigs and monkeys to destroy the nests and eat the eggs, and then they stole away all the nesting land to build on.
No, I’m talking about animals that, without our help, would just go away like they did for millions of years before Man sauntered into the picture.
Just think, if we’d been around a few million years earlier, we would have set up giant tracts of land that no one could use, just to keep the last two remaining T-rex specimens alive. Oh wait, we did that already & called it Montana, where the T-Rex lived…and they died anyways.
Save the Wooly Mammoth! They can go back to roaming the wastes of Greenland, about the only place left on earth where they won’t die of heat-stroke.
In 2006, there was this huge buzz about zoo keepers in Thailand and China using films of panda bears mating to get their own zoo pandas to become more willing to copulate. Panda porn, boys and girls, I kid you not. When your species has declined to the point where they will no longer willingly mate, isn’t that a serious sign that the species is circling the drain? Panda porn is not going to save a species that is already mostly dependent upon man’s artificial insemination, artificial child rearing, and captive environments to stay alive. They only eat one thing, bamboo, which has almost no nutritional value so they move slowly and have like no metabolism They breed slowly, if at all, and live where nothing else grows. They pretty much are an evolutionary dead-end; not quite a bear, not quite a raccoon, with no complete ancestry ever found. A mutation, I guess you’d call it.
Sure, we can blame China’s crowded, polluted, destructive way of conducting itself, but maybe we can also say that maybe they’ve run their course as a species and it’s time to say goodbye. Many myacid species that were similar to giant pandas did the same thing.
Maybe 10,000 years ago, had we stepped out of our caves and saved the graceful Baluchatherium, we could have had herds of giant hybrid rhino/tapir beasts three times larger than elephants running amok in Baluchistan today. At least, until they stepped on all the land mines or were loaded down with explosives by Muslim insurgents. See, Baluchistan is an ancient realm that was sorta part of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. Hey, Achmed, let’s see you ride a Baluchatherium loaded with explosives into a crowded market…
On the beaches of America you can no longer have your lights on after dark, because sea turtles get all stupefied and confused, and then get lost and can’t find the beaches they lay their eggs on. And after hatching the baby turtles get disoriented and head inland instead of to the sea. I don’t know if it’s the lights so much as the loud drunken parties and crappy music. I know that I’m less inclined to gravitate towards screaming people swilling Corona Light and trying to harmonize to “Margaritaville”. Being eaten by crabs and shorebirds is almost preferable.
Right now, the honey bee is fighting for species survival from some unknown parasite or disease that is killing off entire hives and entire beekeeping colonies. Bees are important, not only for the honey, but because there are like 22 different food crops in America that depend on bees as their sole source of pollination. We could lose the bees, and lose several important food crops. But something tells me that this has happened before, every few thousand years, and Nature adapted and found new ways to pollinate different crops and create different sweet gooey substances.
Yes, Man encroaches on the living space of lots of species, and we’ve done a lot of damage. I personally would hate to lose the whales, the buffalo, the bald eagle, the honey bee, the peregrine falcon, and the sea turtles. Every time we find a trendy new fish to eat, we overfish it till we have to find another. A few years ago, all you saw in the stores and restaurants was orange roughy. Not anymore. Where the hell did they all go? We ate them all. Now it’s tilapia. In a couple years, after we eat all of the tilapia, we’ll go on to eat some other fish we’d never heard of, at least not until someone on FoodTV slathered it in a chipotle gorgonzola chutney and some Italian flat-leaf parsley. I suggest we all start eating mullet, since the name recognition in the South alone is priceless. Or, if you have to have something with an exotic name, start eating barramundi. That sounds cool, and it’s a plentiful farm-raised fish.
But really, something like 90% of all the animals that have ever lived on Earth are already extinct, without our help and without our hindrance. We didn’t kill them all. They lived, they died, and Nature moved on. You want to save an endangered species? Look in the mirror. Man is a lot closer to extinction than anything else…and if you didn’t see the special on History Channel called “Life After People”, I urge you to do so. It was very eye-opening, how fast the planet will recover after we disappear, and utterly fascinating and humbling. Here’s a link:
I leave you with some words of wisdom from the late George Carlin.
"We're so self-important; so self-important. Everybody's going to save something now. "Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails." And the greatest arrogance of all: save the planet. What? Are these fucking people kidding me? Save the planet, we don't even know how to take care of ourselves yet! We haven't learned how to care for one another; we're gonna save the fucking planet?
I'm getting tired of that shit, tired of that shit. I'm tired of fucking Earth Day, I'm tired of these self-righteous environmentalists, these white, bourgeois Liberals who think the only thing wrong with this country is there aren't enough bicycle paths. People trying to make the world safe for their Volvos. Besides, environmentalists don't give a shit about the planet. They don't care about the planet, not in the abstracts they don't. Not in the abstract they don't. You know what they're interested in? A clean place to live. Their own habitat. They're worried that some day in the future, they might be personally inconvenienced. Narrow, unenlightened self-interest doesn't impress me.
Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet, nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The PEOPLE are fucked. Difference. Difference. The planet is fine. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great; been here four and a half billion years. Did you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We've been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we've only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years, versus four and a half billion. And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we're a threat? That somehow we're gonna put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue-green ball that's just a-floatin' around the sun?
The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through all kinds of things worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles...hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages...And we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet...the planet...the planet isn't going anywhere. WE ARE!
We're going away. Pack your shit, folks. We're going away. And we won't leave much of a trace, either. Thank God for that. Maybe a little styrofoam. Maybe, a little styrofoam. The planet'll be here and we'll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet'll shake us off like a bad case of fleas; a surface nuisance.
You wanna know how the planet's doing? Ask those people at Pompeii, who are frozen into position from volcanic ash, how the planet's doing. You wanna know if the planet's all right, ask those people in Mexico City or Armenia or a hundred other places buried under thousands of tons of earthquake rubble, if they feel like a threat to the planet this week. Or how about those people in Kilauea, Hawaii, who built their homes right next to an active volcano, and then wonder why they have lava in the living room.
The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we're gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, 'cause that's what it does. It's a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it's true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the Earth Plus Plastic. The earth doesn't share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn't know how to make it, needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, "Why are we here?" Plastic...assholes.
So, the plastic is here, our job is done; we can be phased out now. And I think that's really started already, don’t you? Don't you think that's already started? I think, to be fair, the planet sees us as a mild threat, something to be dealt with. And the planet can defend itself in an organized, collective way, the way a beehive or an ant colony can. A collective defense mechanism. The planet will think of something. What would you do if you were the planet? How would you defend yourself against this troublesome, pesky species? Let's see... Viruses? Viruses might be good. They seem vulnerable to viruses. And, uh...viruses are tricky, always mutating and forming new strains whenever a vaccine is developed. Perhaps, this first virus could be one that compromises the immune system of these creatures. Perhaps a human immunodeficiency virus, making them vulnerable to all sorts of other diseases and infections that might come along. And maybe it could be spread sexually, making them a little reluctant to engage in the act of reproduction.
Well, that's a poetic note. And it's a start. And I can dream, can't I? See I don't worry about the little things: bees, trees, whales, snails. I think we're part of a greater wisdom than we will ever understand. A higher order. Call it what you want. Know what I call it? The Big Electron. The Big Electron...whoooa. Whoooa. Whoooa. It doesn't punish, it doesn't reward, it doesn't judge at all. It just is. And so are we. For a little while."
Friday, June 27, 2008
With the passing of George Carlin last weekend, I started thinking of all the people who influenced my writing style and my humor over the years. I look at my sense of humor and my writing style as a symbiotic relationship. I like to make people laugh and I like to make people think. Humor is an easy way to put facts out to people in a mostly disarming way that gets them to think about what’s wrong with the world and keep them thinking about it by presenting it in a manner that’s less dry but still in-your-face. I love to make people laugh; it’s one of my own greatest personal satisfactions. I lack the wherewithal and temerity to be a standup comic, though, and instead focus my efforts to entertain through the written word. I envy comics for their ability to get on stage and do what they do while I peck away on a keyboard.
One of my school mates, a year behind me at dear old Robert W. Traip Academy in Kittery, Maine was Juston McKinney. Juston was a quiet dude in school, unlike me, and it kinda surprised me that he ended up in stand up. I never suspected that he had the talent hidden away. However, the man is hilarious, and it’s always a treat to catch him on TV. It’s ironic that while we both went into law enforcement after school, he went on to be a comic and I went on to write an obscure blog with a smaller audience than the Versus cable channel. Juston inspires me by showing me that a guy from a small Maine high school can make it with a little luck and a little perseverance. Please, I beg of you, go look him up and support his material.
But who were my inspirations to write, and write with such a skewed bent?
I already mentioned George Carlin, whose ability to call it as he saw it was amazing, as well as his vast command of the English language.
Hunter S. Thompson’s book “Generation of Swine” and his essay “Fear and Loathing on the Kindergarten Trail” were hugely impactful on me. Sarcastic and totally irreverent, always questioning authority and pointing out the absurdity of life, Thompson’s “gonzo journalism” showed me that you could be a writer, with a real job, and still be yourself. (UPDATE 2015: Turns out the essay was a parody of his style, done by The National Lampoon Magazine, entitled Fear and Loathing on the Nursery School Trail.)
Dennis Miller, of all the people on Saturday Night Live who did the weekly news send-ups, did it the best. I never cared much for Chevy Chase, Kevin Nealon was just okay, and Colin Quinn’s gravel voice grated my nerves. Norm MacDonald did a decent job, and the duo of Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon was as close to the classic sarcasm and parody of Miller as SNL could ever hope for. For a news-junkie like me, to be able to mock the news is great fun.
Denis Leary is a master of the rant. I love a good rant. Ranting is an under-appreciated art. He’s also from the Boston area, and a lot of his references strike home with me. He loves hockey, the Red Sox, and coffee-flavored coffee.
Kevin Smith, director of some of the funniest movies I have ever seen. He understands the absurd, and perfects it. It’s hard to watch a Smith flick and not find a character in it that doesn’t remind you of someone you know. I love how he pays homage to his own heroes in his films, like Carlin and Stan Lee, and he’s also a hockey fan to boot.
The late Sam Kinison taught me that if the squeaky wheel gets the grease, then the screaming wheel gets the attention. His whole style was delivered with the fire of a holy roller revival meeting and it was so in-your-face that it simply blew me away.
And, oddly enough, I owe some measure of my writing influence to Kurt Vonnegut. In high school I read a couple of his novels, and you had to struggle to keep up with the timeline shifts, the characters, and even what the hell the story was even about…and anyone who has ever heard me try to tell a story in person knows that I’m the same way. Some of my blogs seem to amble on that way too...
So, who influenced you?
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I lost one of my childhood heroes this weekend. I’m not sure if it’s fully sunk in yet that he’s gone, but in my humble opinion the world will now be a slightly emptier place with his passing. He may have been a rather odd choice of heroes, but then again I’m a bit of an odd duck myself.
George Carlin had a huge impact on me, and on both my sense of humor and my writing style. I always loved that his biting sarcasm was riddled with truth, since the best comedy has the truth as its base. That’s what makes it funny. Carlin wasn’t just about his “Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television” bit that made him a household name. He had an expansive vocabulary and often interjected “big words” into his bits. In fact, language was a frequent focus of Carlin's work. Euphemisms and popular catch-phrases that in his view sought to distort and lie, and the use of language he felt was pompous, presumptuous or silly, were often the target of Carlin's routines.
Carlin also gave special attention to prominent topics in American culture such as our obsession with fame and celebrities, consumerism, religion, corporate control and Big Brother-ism, hypocrisy, child raising, fast food , news stations, self-help publications, patriotism, sexual taboos, certain uses of technology and surveillance, and the pro-life position, among many others.
Carlin openly communicated in his shows and in his interviews that his purpose for existence was entertainment, that he was "here for the show". He professed a great sense of schadenfreude in watching humanity slowly self-destruct of its own design; saying, "When you're born, you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front-row seat."
A few people have remarked to me over the years that some of my humor and my writing was Carlin-esque, and I took it as a great compliment. In college, I took on as my case study in Constitutional Law, the case of FCC v. Pacifica Corporation, by where the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision on “indecent” material as it applied to broadcasting. In 1973, a father complained to the FCC that his son had heard the “Seven Dirty Words” routine broadcast one afternoon over WBAI, a Pacifica Foundation FM radio station in New York City. Pacifica received a sanction from the FCC, in the form of a letter of reprimand, for allegedly violating FCC regulations which prohibited broadcasting "indecent" material. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the FCC action in 1978, by a vote of 5 to 4, ruling that the routine was "indecent but not obscene". The Court accepted as compelling the government's interests in 1) shielding children from patently offensive material, and 2) ensuring that unwanted speech does not enter one's home. The Court stated that the FCC had the authority to prohibit such broadcasts during hours when children were likely to be among the audience, and gave the FCC broad leeway to determine what constituted indecency in different contexts.
I look at it this way: the radio has two knobs; one turns the station and the other turns it off. Be a proactive parent and keep your kid from listening, instead of letting the government babysit your kid. The original complainant, John Douglas, was driving in the car with his son and heard the broadcast and complained to the FCC because he was unhappy his son had heard it. If you found it offensive, dummy, why’d you keep listening? That’s like keeping your hand in boiling water after you feel pain, and then calling the government to say the water was hot instead of removing your hand. However, my feelings about the FCC and censorship are for another day. Back to Carlin.
George Carlin wrote five books, had 14 specials on HBO, did 16 movies, released 23 albums, and won four Grammy Awards. He was the first-ever host of Saturday Night Live, appeared on The Tonight Show 130 times. He even played Mr. Conductor and narrated for several years on the American version of the children’s TV show “Shining Time Station”, and the companion show Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends”. A few days before his death, it was announced that he was to be this year’s recipient of the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Goodbye, George. You’ll be missed dearly.
Monday, June 23, 2008
In a couple weeks, I get to take the first of my two weeks vacation for this year. For a week, I won’t have to get up at 2:30AM, I won’t have to swelter in a 100-degree dungeon surrounded by screaming machinery and the foul stench of hydraulic fluid, rotten milk, and diesel fumes, I won’t have to shout to be heard, and I won’t have to spend 8 hours a day wanting to beat a co-worker to death with a milk crate.
Where will I go on my vacation?
Will I go to the tourist Mecca of Orlando to follow the herds through the Disney and Universal Studios attractions? Will I go to Scotland and hike the Highlands like I’ve always dreamed? Will I bask in the sun on the white sands of a beach on Maui? Will I wrestle a kangaroo in the Australian Outback? Will I go back up to Maine and nibble on lobster as I watch the moose trample by?
Nope. I’m going on Staycation.
A staycation, according to several definition sources, is where one stays in the immediate vicinity of one’s home on holidays, ostensibly to just relax at home or to enjoy the sights and scenes in the local area that one may overlook during the year. I hasten to add to that & expand it to mean that the economy is so screwed that people just can’t afford to go anywhere or do much of anything that isn’t pretty cheap.
If I were to fly to Maine for a week in August, the flight (according to a quick check of Travelocity and the Roaming Gnome) could be done two ways. If we went from Charleston, SC to Bangor, ME it’s $729.00 per person, but if we went out of Atlanta (a six-hour drive) and flew into Boston (4 ½ hours from Bangor) it’s only $256.00 per person. By the same token, I checked directly with Delta’s website and it’s $757.00 per person to go Charleston to Bangor, and $228.00 from Atlanta to Boston. Now factor in a thousand dollars for the local-owned hotel (not even a name-brand hotel…those were $1400.00), and we’d need a car rental too. Call that $270.00 at Budget for the smallest thing on wheels.
Now, you have to show up 3 or 4 hours early for the strip search and shoe exam and retina scan and ID check for 5 forms of ID, and then you still get jacked extra money on top of your tickets for surcharges like aisle seat, window seat, or for having checked baggage. And you can only carry an eye-dropper full of any liquids in your carry-on bag. Forget about getting a snack or anything for free, either. Peanuts were outlawed in the Great Nut Allergy Crisis of the 1990’s, and possession of a nut or nut by-product is tantamount to smuggling a WMD onto the plane to murder all 300 passengers who may be allergic to nuts.
Conversely, the 1100 or so miles to Bangor from my place in Walterboro would take about 3 tanks of gas in our Saturn ION, with 13 gallons at $4.00 a gallon being $52.00 a tank for $156.00 in gas to drive the 18 hours up there, and about $40.00 in road & bridge tolls. Looks like it’d be cheaper to drive to Maine and spend 36 hours in the car.
And y’know, a week toodling around the coast of Maine (another tank or two) is still cheaper by far than dropping $71.00 a person for a single day pass to Disney (and another $71.00 to do Epcot), and $68.00 for Sea World, although Sea World has a special Flex Plan that allows you admission to six parks, including Busch Gardens and Universal Studios in addition to Sea World, for $280.00. Parking will cost another twenty or so bucks at each park. By comparison, Carowinds is a steal at 36 bucks a pop and 10 bucks to park if you buy the tickets online.
Oh, crap….you still have to EAT too. If you don’t mind bagels and fruit, you can scavenge at the hotel lobby before 9:00 to take care of breakfast, but call it three squares a day out on the town. Cha-CHING!
So, I’m staying home. Target shooting in the back yard is $13.00 for a box of 50 rounds of .45 caliber ammunition. A drive to the beach and back will cost me lunch and maybe ¼ tank of gas. A matinee at a movie isn’t so much providing you don’t partake of the $10.00 Jujube’s, $20.00 Coke, and $30.00 popcorn. I’ll sleep in. Sleeping in, well, that’s utterly priceless in and of itself, that rare commodity that I shall indulge in most decadently.
Actually, I oversimplify things. My stepson will be visiting from Arizona for the week, and we’ll be doing all sorts of things with him, including a day at the beach, a day at the movies, and possibly a trip to the zoo. But there’s always that other week I have stored up…
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Sad to say, America has now devolved into a quasi-twilight zone where travel will soon be controlled by TSA Gestapo agents. It seems that now you will no longer be allowed to fly on internal flights within the continental United States without surrendering a picture ID. Up until today, those who objected to having to show a picture ID to travel within their own country were still allowed to fly after going through a secondary security check and quick questioning by a TSA officer. After today though, it’s no ID/no fly.
Look, I understand the need to keep air travel safe & secure and to catch terrorists and ne’r-do-wells by any & all means, but we’re becoming a police state because of it. You are now no longer free to travel within your own country on an airplane without surrendering your papers, something that used to only happen on international flights. Before long, there will be armed agents of the Feral Gummint™ at bus stations and train stations, asking for your identification. Eventually they’ll be randomly checking you at highway waypoints. And then we’ll be having to get travel permission to cross state borders on vacation, and wandering jackbooted thugs will accost you on your walk to the store, demanding your papers….don’t laugh; in 1930 people never thought it could happen in Germany, either.
You used to not need a passport to hop across the border to Mexico or Canada. Not anymore. Being one of those without a passport, because when I did all my overseas travel in my youth, I was under military orders, I am saddened to think that if I happen to find myself in Maine, my former home state, and decided on a whim to hop over to New Brunswick, I’d be screwed. I know a lot of guys who would drive to Tijuana from their military bases just to get authentic Mexican food and a wild night on the town. Without investing in a passport, that plan is crapped out too. It’s not that you can’t enter Canada or Mexico without a passport; the US just won’t let you come home.
Again, I’m all in favor of immigration control and a tight, well-defended border. I have no problem with a border fence to keep illegals out. Hell, sow a minefield if you have to. But now I gotta drop a hundred bucks & wait a few weeks for a passport (unless I drop another 60 clams to expedite it….money talks when you need a bureaucrat to move faster than the speed of snail) if I want to drive across the border for a few hours. The last time I border-hopped was in 1998, I believe, and that was a simple 6 hour drive to Montreal for a concert, and all I really had to do was show my license and state my reasons, both coming and going. Sure, that was still 3 years before 9/11 and it was a kinder, gentler time.
I guess what I want to say is just be watchful about how many freedoms we allow to be taken from us in the name of so-called security. Before long, if unchecked, we’ll be surrendering papers to secret police on every corner, since they can already tap your phone and read your email. Don’t try to tell me they can’t; there’s a huge office complex next to Fort Meade where the NSA (No Such Agency™) has filters attached to the junctions of the info superhighway and wee bugs that pick up when key words are uttered into cells or sent via emails. Your cell has a GPS transmitter in it to track you down, under the guise of finding you if you call 911 and can’t speak. The Patriot Act allows the Gummint™ to do pretty much whatever it wants all in the name of combating terrorism, and if you resist then you’re obviously not a patriot. You’re an anti-American scumbag aiding the forces of Evil. Just be a docile sheep and believe them when they say they’re protecting you.
Ten years from now, I hope I’m wrong. I’m really not some sort of conspiracy-theorist worried about black helicopters and wearing a tinfoil hat to keep “them” from finding me. I’m just a realist who is very concerned about an erosion of the freedoms I swore an oath to protect when I enlisted in 1987.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
A year ago today, nine brave Charleston firefighters made the ultimate sacrifice, losing their lives while fighting a massive fire at the Sofa Superstore in West Ashley. A year later, the community is still stunned by what happened. A year later, families still grieve for their loved ones. A year later, friends still mourn the loss and cherish the memories of the fallen.
A year later, I salute The Charleston Nine.
Additionally, I also need to take a minute to salute some other people too. I have four friends who are firefighters as well, and while all the attention is turned towards those who were lost, and justifiably so, I want to tip my hat to my friends.
Volunteer Firefighter Rodney Murdaugh of the Islandton, SC Fire Department
Volunteer Firefighter Joey Ferneza of Colleton County, SC Fire Rescue
Volunteer Firefighter Gerald Brown of the St. Paul’s, SC Fire District
Fire Lieutenant Tommy McQuade of the Newington, NH Fire Department
You guys are our hometown heroes. When normal people run out of burning buildings, you guys run in. You don’t do it for the money. You don’t do it for recognition. You do it because it’s who you are and what you do, and I for one am glad that you do it.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Two hundred and thirty-three years ago, the United States Army was established to defend our fledgling nation. Today, the Army still performs that mission all over the world. I am proud to be a part of the Army’s legacy and its history, and today I salute my fellow soldiers, my fellow Army veterans, and the families who support them.
THE SOLDIER’S CREED
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States,
and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and
proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the
United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.
Today is also Flag Day. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened this day by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; in August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.
Friday, June 13, 2008
I’m not sure whether I should be proud or ashamed of living in South Carolina today.
I suppose I should feel pride that all crime has been eradicated in the state. All the killers, rapists, child abusers, wife beaters, and drug dealers have been rounded up off the streets, all the burglars and thieves have been locked away, any stray illegals have been deported, and even jaywalkers are using crosswalks.
How do I know this? Because there was nothing else constructive for police to do than arrest seven people at two different high school graduation ceremonies this past weekend because they cheered for the graduate they came to support.
Six people attending the graduation of Fort Mill High School were charged with disorderly conduct; the seventh riotous anarchist was arrested at the ceremony for York Comprehensive School. Police said the seven yelled after students' names were called.
Rock Hill police began patrolling graduations several years ago at the request of school districts who complained of increasing disruption. Those attending graduations are told they can be prosecuted for bad behavior and letters are sent home with students, said Rock Hill police spokesman Lt. Jerry Waldrop.
All the cases, except for one that includes a resisting arrest charge, will be handled in city court and are punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $1,000fine.
I can just see that scene now at the lockup:
“Hey man, what are you in for?”
“Second-degree murder. What about you?”
“I cheered at my brother’s high school graduation.”
“Whoah! Hard core, dude.”
One of the applause-terrorists, 19-year old William Massey, says he simply "clapped and gave a little whoop" when his fiancee's name was called. A graduate last year of the same school, he was arrested but said he plans to fight the charge. He said not everyone who cheered was arrested, and that there were warnings before the ceremony but none that said he could be arrested.
"There's a lot more people that did it than six or seven," said Massey.
Fort Mill Principal Dee Christopher says school officials don't ask that offenders be arrested but that he plans to keep a police presence at future graduation ceremonies.
"We think it's important for every graduate's name to be heard and for every person in the arena to be able to see that student cross the stage. ... That's why we have disruptive guests removed," he said.
You have got to be freakin’ kidding me.
All these people keep defending the actions of the school systems by stating that a graduation needs to be dignified and grown up and solemn. I call CRAPOLA on that. At 18, you have the next 60 to 80 years to be all dignified and solemn and grown up, because that’s all anyone expects of us as adults. Graduating high school is closing the door on childhood and stepping into adulthood. Go out with a bang. Have fun. Be applauded and enjoy your eleven seconds of striding across the stage in the limelight and be a happy kid for one last time before the crushing weight of adult responsibility lands on your throat.
Just last week a study was released by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center that stated fewer than six in 10 South Carolina students graduate in four years. Almost 56 percent of South Carolina students graduate in four years, which is far lower than the national average of nearly 71 percent but better than the state rate of almost 54 percent the previous year. The Palmetto State's ranking for its on-time graduation rate improved from the worst in the country to the fourth-lowest, according the national publication Education Week, which published the report. Oh boy! We’re no longer dead last! We’re number 46! (Though I do applaud the effort teachers are making and the improvements that were made.)
Caitlin Upton, Lexington High , Class of 2007, Miss Teen South Carolina
A shining example of our state's fine educational system
So barely half the kids in this state graduate on time, if at all, and kids and families aren’t allowed to get just a little happy about it? My God, some of these kids are the first in their families to graduate. Many of them unfortunately won’t, or can’t, go on to college, so this will likely be their sole opportunity to walk across a stage and be handed a symbol of accomplishment. Don't kill the joy.
I graduated from a very small school in coastal Maine, with about 75 other kids, and it felt damned good when I heard my mom yell from the stands. And after that, I was an adult, set loose upon the world. Even recruits at Parris Island get cheered by family members. And if the Marine Corps will allow cheering, then I think a high school graduation should too.
Last year in Galesburg, Illinois, five students were denied diplomas from the city's lone public high school after enthusiastic friends or family members cheered for them during commencement. Students could get their diplomas after completing eight hours of public service for the school district.
That’s absolute crap. That‘s tantamount to obligating a student to complete another requirement to receive that to which they were already entitled and had already fulfilled the pre-set requirements. It’s hardly fair to arbitrarily change the requirements and force a student into unpaid indentured servitude to receive their diploma. In essence, a student who is NO LONGER A STUDENT, having finished the required curriculum, was being given a detention of sorts to release a diploma being held hostage. So I wonder: if the kid refused to enter into these eight hours of slavery, would they have their status as a graduate revoked? I mean, it’s the piece of paper itself being held hostage, the diploma, not the actual status of Graduate. If it were me, I’d tell ‘em to shove their diploma up their fourth point of contact rather than take community service because someone was happy to see me graduate. Can that be qualified as being wrongfully detained against your will since this sentence was from a school district and not a judge? Frikkin’ tyrants.
And over across the pond, further dumbness abounds. At England’s Anglia Ruskin University, officials have warned graduates not to hurl their mortar boards into the air because of health and safety fears. The crackdown follows a student needing stitches to close a head wound after he was hit by one of the flying hats several years ago. Chiefs at Britain’s 13th largest university, with campuses at Cambridge and Chelmsford, say stopping the celebration will also protect the mortar boards.
Again, more crap. One isolated incident where someone got hurt in a completely freak accident, and now a decades-long tradition is being suppressed. And this trend is unfortunately catching fire here in America too. An awful lot of schools here are going the same route, scared as hell that someone might get a boo-boo and sue the school district. My class threw our mortar boards, and no one was decapitated or skewered through the cornea. How many more must die before mortar boards are outlawed? I propose a background check and 10-day waiting period for the purchase of mortar boards. How many must be maimed before we outlaw the barbaric practice of graduations? It’s fabric-covered cardboard, people, not the knife-edged derby hat worn by Oddjob in the James Bond films.
Hey look...it's Oddjob!
The tradition began at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1912. Before then, Naval Academy graduates had to serve two years in the fleet as Naval Cadets or Midshipmen before being commissioned as officers in the Navy or Marine Corps, and they needed to retain their Midshipman’s hats for their sea tour. Beginning with the Class of 1912, graduates were commissioned ensigns or second lieutenants, following the reception of their diplomas and hence no longer needed their Midshipman’s hats. In a spontaneous gesture, the new officers tossed their old hats into the air. This "hat toss" became the symbolic and visual end to the four-year program at the Naval Academy. It's a tradition carried out at all the service academies now.
Graduation ceremonies at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, and The Citadel
Again, if it’s okay for those guys & gals to whoop and cheer after four years in such a Spartan lifestyle, despite being dignified officers of the United States Navy, then I see no reason other than the Sissyfication™ of America as to why our overly-litigious, sue-happy, and lawsuit-scared society should take all the fun out of graduation. Even President Bush has goofed around on stage with graduates.
Lighten up, people. These kids will eventually be choosing your nursing home.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
As I’ve said before in the past, I really don’t listen to much pop radio anymore. See, 99% of my listening time is on my commute to & from work, and in the car I’d really much rather listen to news or talk radio to stay awake. Unlike most people, who lapse into a coma about ten minutes into talk radio, I’m the opposite. I find myself staying awake to pay attention to the show, so long as the host is engaging and the subject matter isn’t dry as a crouton. I find most pop music so banal and trite that I can tune it out into white noise that lulls me to a stupor and puts me under.
Sometimes, however, I’m forced to scan the dials and frequencies and am given constant reminders as to why I hate Top 40 radio and instead rely on my old music collection as I search for new tunes that don’t make my colon twitch. Half of these new “artists” out there are simply sampling what I grew up on anyways and acting like it’s fresh.
So without further delay, here’s some of the findings from my latest foray into terrestrial radio. (I really need to renew my XM subscription…)
1. 4 Minutes To Save The World — Madonna (with Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, 50 dancers, the entire state of Israel, and a motley passel of children purchased at a Branjelina yard sale)— Oh, Madge, what happened? Last I knew, you told us all you were going to give up the skimpy clothes and act like a proper mommy who writes children’s books, but all I ever see you in is bondage gear. And I won’t even go into the whole rigamarole of thinking you’re British and a Jewish mystic. I was willing to overlook all of that when last year you had two of the most brilliant songs of your career back to back with “Hung Up” and “Sorry”. Those were perhaps the best songs you’d done in years. And now we partner up with Tim & Tim, a black dude on steroids and his skinny white shadow. While Timbaland may be an absolute genius on the mixing board his vocals leave a bit to be desired, and someone needs to tell him that the whole concept of setting a high school marching band to a backbeat was done already, a couple years ago, by Gwen Stefani and Pharell. And that (bleep) was bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s!!!!
2. Bleeding Love — Leona Lewis —Recent winner of a British version of “Idol”, this girl possesses a great voice, great looks, and is singing a rather well-crafted pop power ballad. However, by the time you’ve heard it 50-60 times, you really never want to hear it again. A few too many Mariah Carey-like warbles and runs at the end for my tastes. As an aside, if you can find it, she does a really nice cover of the song “Run” by Snow Patrol. The original is heart-shredding and hers really does it justice.
3. Damaged — Danity Kane —Okayyyyyy… it’s a sugar-coated Pussycat Dolls without a stripper pole. A catchy dance beat, and interchangeable vocalists who all sound alike (not to be confused with actual harmony), but pretty much a throwaway dance track that’ll be forgotten by the end of summer.
4. Mercy — Duffy —I’d heard of Duffy for awhile but never heard her music till this week. It’s very very similar to Amy Winehouse, but a little more nasal and without the dirty beehive, bad tattoos, and heroin problem. Still, it’s a Motown throwback retro thing.
5. Love In This Club — Usher —The only listenable bit is the catchy synthesizer line that starts the song and repeats as the chorus goes “I wanna make love in this club...”. After that, all I can think of is sex in the men’s room of a dance club, and remembering what dance club bathrooms are like at 2AM, you really don’t want to have sex in one. If you do, you really need counseling, and lots of it.
6. Shake It — Metro Station —Cashing in on looking Emo, these guys look like they just stepped off of Good Charlotte’s tour bus…oh, wait…they’re on tour with Good Charlotte. No wonder they look like Emo clones. The song is catchy as hell though, a cute dancey pop track that I find it hard to dislike. So I'll just dislike it on the principle that they look Emo. Emo is the Devil.
7. I Kissed a Girl — Katy Perry —This chick has it all. She’s hot. She’s clever. She’s got a great voice. She’s got a great sense of humor. Following the cult buzz of her track “Ur So Gay”, a kiss off to an Emo ex-boyfriend, this track sounds like Pink discovered a lost Depeche Mode demo track and went wild. The song is about a bit of experimentation on the dance floor, so to speak. You can NOT sit still while listening to it. Not to be confused with an equally clever track of the same name and same basic theme by Jill Sobule. Finally, a winner on pop radio.
8. Realize — Colby Caillat— Hmmmm, seems I reviewed one of her songs the last time I did this type of blog. (Check my archives). Same syrupy sweet delivery, same harmless lyrics, and equally as forgettable.
9. Stop and Stare — One Republic— A perfect followup to their big hit “Apologize”, because it’s just as sweet, just as safe, just as predictable, and just as overplayed, as I heard it 3 times in the same hour.
10. All Summer Long — Kid Rock— Deep Down, I really want to like Bob Ritchie, who goes by Kid Rock. He’s at his cleverest when he’s doing this over the top thrash-rap hybrid thing that made him famous. Bob…this ain’t it, man. Most of the hokey lyrics are delivered over a sampled piano bit stolen from Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”, and then you segue it into half of “Sweet Home Alabama”, while reminiscing about summertime in northern Michigan. All I can think of is Joe Dirt. Oh wait…you were IN that film…
So…as always, pop radio is a pretty bleak landscape. As a service to you guys, however, I’ll suggest some decent recent music from the realms of “alternative” music:
1. Violet Hill/Viva La Vida — Coldplay —The first single off the new Coldplay disc is a little bit different than what I was expecting. I guess I was waiting for another melodic ballad and instead this churning, almost grungy anthem rolls out. After about three listens, it grew on me and now I really like it. And Viva La Vida, the album’s title track, is my new favorite Coldplay song. It’s being used in the new iTunes commercials, and the full track is this gorgeous sweeping powerful track that sucks you in and leaves you breathless. The CD comes out next week, on the 17th.
2. All You Need Is Me — Morrissey —It seems odd to call Morrissey “the former Smiths frontman”, since Moz was the band’s singer for about 5 years, with 5 studio albums, a couple compilations, and a live album. His solo career, however, has lasted over 20 years, 8 studio albums, umpteen compilations and live albums, and he has an upcoming studio album to be released in September. This track is brand new, just released a couple weeks ago, and is classic Morrissey, all angst and rockabilly and debonair flair.
3. Supernatural Superserious — REM —The past few REM cd’s have been kinda hit or miss experiments with a couple great songs, and they pretty much fizzled out after a couple weeks of buzz. It’s a shame though; the track “Leaving New York” from their last album, “Around the Sun”, was brilliantly beautiful, and spawned the line "It's easier to leave than to be left behind." That's deep. This new song, the first release from the new CD “Accelerate” is a fine return to form for the boys from Athens, GA. Jangly guitars, and words that you can pretty much completely understand. Overall, a winner.
4. Handlebars — Flobots —I want to hate this song for reasons of, well, lots of reasons. It’s like Cake meets Eminem in a back alley and comes up with the bastard stepbrother of the Bloodhound Gang. However, the song is reallllly catchy whether you want it to be or not, and it really makes you concentrate on the clever lyrics and think about them a bit. Unfortunately these guys are a also a bit of a one-trick-pony deal, where all the songs I’ve heard from them are about the same. Should white kids from the suburbs rap?
5. The Only One — The Cure —Yes, The Cure are still alive and still making music. In fact, they’re on tour right now and their new CD, their 13th studio release in a career that’s almost 30 years old at this point, comes out on September 13th. You either love The Cure or hate The Cure. There are very few casual fans of Robert Smith and company. They’re releasing a single a month on the 13th of each month leading up to the album release. The next song comes out this weekend, and will be called “Freakshow”. And for the record, I love The Cure.
How in the bloody blue Hell did I miss this?
Granted, I don't follow baseball nearly as much as I follow hockey. Sure, I've been a Red Sox fan for about 23 years or so, but I don't religiously follow every game or every transaction. In fact, after the Sox won the World Series this last season, I completely forgot baseball since hockey was gearing up.
That said, I'm still not sure how I missed the fact that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays changed their name to simply the Tampa Bay Rays. Perhaps the perenially last-place team figured the November name change and uniform replacement would help. It must have worked, because the Rays are neck and neck in a battle for first place in the AL East with the Red Sox. Perhaps the devil himself was the reason for the team's crapfest performances?
Exorcising the Devil from the Devil Rays seemed to have done something. Don't let the radical Christian reactionaries hear that, or they'll campaign to have the majestic devil rays eradicated from the world's oceans. I'd heard several rumors this week that it was pressure from the church to change the name that finally caused the ownership to cave....
C'mon, it's a fish. It's not like they were the Tampa Bay Satan Rays. If that's the case, then we also need to protest and boycott Duke University, home of the Blue Satans (I mean, Blue Devils). Hockey's New Jersey Devils organization replicates its name in their minor league affiliates, so we have the New Jersey Satans, Lowell Satans, and Trenton Satans. The Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils and the Northwestern State University Devils must be stopped! And Texas A&M International has to change from the DustDevils, because they could all too easily be confused as the Dust Satans.
I guess the church is okay with teams like Cardinals, Preachers, Battlin' Bishops, Monks, Angels, Deacons (except for Wake Forest's Demon Deacons. They're verily the Devil Incarnate), Saints, Friars, Crusaders, and Paladins. And lest we forget the Chosen Players of the Yeshiva University Maccabees.
Now that this argument has less meat on its bones than the proverbial dead horse, can we get back to complaining about team names with references to Native Americans? There may yet be meat left on those bones to flay.
And before you say I'm just indiferent to the plight of indigenous peoples, shut up. Maybe I'm just jealous that no one wants to name a team after my particular group? Who'd root for a team called the Avereage Middle Aged Anglo-Slavic White Guys?
Just as a reminder, dear readers, that tonight on Lifetime is the season premiere of the second season of Army Wives. Yeah, you read that right. Steve watches a girly show.
Please don't try to say I'm emasculated or that I need to turn in my Man Card. It's a good show with good characters, and most importantly, it has good intentions. As a veteran, I'm all about highlighting the hardships and sacrifices of our troops. However, being a military spouse is a tremendously demanding and difficult thing to be. It's good to see a show that brings positive attention to the difficulties and strains faced by military families during wartime. Loneliness, depression, worry, and fear are sometimes harder on the families than on the soldiers.
The show isn't perfect, though, and for me that's half the fun. I watch in part to look for mistakes like uniform errors, sketchy dialogue, hokey situations, and the like. I find them, whether intended by the producers or not. I find a lot of uniform errors and the way the actors wear their berets is atrocious in most cases. You'd think that their budget would allow for a better technical advisor on dialogue and uniforms, especially with so many military people right here in the Charleston area where they film the show. Hell, I'd do it if they asked.
Before any of you try to give me the crap old line about Hollywood being forced to have a mistake in every uniform because it's illegal to wear an accurate uniform, that's pure crap. Here's the proof:
United States Code Title 10 , Subtitle A , Part II , Chapter 45
§ 772. When wearing by persons not on active duty authorized
(f) While portraying a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps, an actor in a theatrical or motion-picture production may wear the uniform of that armed force if the portrayal does not tend to discredit that armed force.
Thusly, so long as the portrayal does not intentionally discredit the service being portrayed, you can make the uniform accurate. Save the hate mail saying I'm wrong.
I also watch the show to see the locations, since it's filmed all around the Charleston area. I'm constantly seeing places I recognize, from on-base locations to the Hump Bar, which is Big Deck Daddy's, the now-closed biker bar on Rivers Avenue. There's a guy my wife went to high school with who works as an extra on many episodes, and in one episode he was the first person to be seen on-camera, so that's kinda neat too.
So, tune in and watch. You may find it hokey or melodramatic, or you may just find that it's a very engaging show well worth watching.
Carry on. MojoSteve out.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Lots of dumb crap in the news the past couple weeks, kids. I’ve just been too busy to poke it with a stick & see what sort of ichor oozed out. Each story is dumber than the one before it, and you’re left not quite knowing whether to laugh, cry, or climb a bell tower with a burp gun.
First there’s the supposed controversy surrounding an ad that FoodTV/talk show host Rachael Ray did for Dunkin Donuts. The Powers That Be at Dunkinz pulled the ad over fears that they’d be boycotted after columnist Michelle Malkin and other conservative observers thought the scarf looked too much like a kaffiyeh, what Malkin describes as "the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad." I’ve seen the ad, and it looks like Ray is wearing….GASP!!!! A scarf. I’ve seen kaffiyehs and this, friends, is not a kaffiyeh. You might be able to confuse Ray with The Joker, but not an operative for Hezbollah. I think I saw Ellen Degeneres wearing a red & white scarf on her show today so is she a jihadist too? (Please…she’s a lesbo, not a Hezbo.)
Then you have the polygamist cult disguised as Mormons at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, or as I call it, the Texas Harem For Teen Mothers. After authorities stepped in and took 400-odd kids (with about only 5 sets of DNA branchings) from their parents as part of an investigation into underaged brides being used as concubines for cult leaders, the news feeds were full of freakishly plain zombie women in pastel gunnysacks taken from the set of Little House on the Prairie. They make the Amish look positively chic. Each woman would dodge questions in a Stepford-like monotone with a pre-scripted speech and say they just wanted their babies back. They make regular Mormons look bad. I've never seen anything even remotely like this in any of the Mormon friends I've had over the years.
Somehow I thought judges in Texas were smarter than this, but after a few weeks in foster care their Supreme Court ordered the kids returned to their families, just in time for the traditional June wedding season. The lesson in this is that it’s cool to force 13-year olds to marry 50-year olds, so long as you disguise it as “religion”. Cult leaders have said they’ll stop marrying underaged girls, but said nothing about pumping them full of babies out of wedlock.
And over across the pond in Myanmar, or what everyone except Myanmar calls Burma, a huge hurricane tore through the nation and killed tens of thousands. The world rushed to offer aid, and the military government, perhaps the most corrupt in the world, pretty much said no. They felt that they could handle the situation themselves, and handled it by stealing the few supplies that they allowed in for themselves while thousands more died.
Well, today we finally pulled anchor on the ships that we had offshore waiting to airlift relief supplies to the countryside after the country’s “leaders” claimed that they feared we were going to invade Myanmar to steal their oil deposits. C’mon, guys. Be for real. If we were gonna invade your back-assward Fourth World Cesspit, we’d send in wave after wave of stealth aircraft to bomb you to powder first. We wouldn’t send in a destroyer, an oiler, and a couple of “gator freighters” with 23 helicopters and 4 landing craft.
And finally, today the world celebrated the 19th anniversary of the uprising in China’s Tiananmen Square by continuing to reward China’s abysmal human rights record by getting ready for the Olympics. I mean, hell, China has enough to worry about with the earthquakes & stuff to give them any crap over it now, right? And that dude had it coming anyways. He shouldn’t have climbed on that tank with that big bad briefcase.