Yes, it’s true. The semester is finally coming to a close. All of our projects are turned in (I hope), our minds are highly caffeinated as we cram as much 18th century lit theory into our heads as is possible for the final, our stockins are hung by the chimney with care. All we are left to do is reflect. And at the risk of sounding sappy and sentimental, I have some wonderful things to look back upon.

I dare say I stirred up a bit of controversey, though not nearly as much as Rookie did with his Saudi-federally-sanctioned-rapist story. I like controversey. It’s a lot of fun to debate ideas with people, especially when either you or they are steadfastly stuck in one position and refuse to move on it. As it happens, during my first round at college, I spent a lot of time in shouting matches with streetcorner evangelists handing out tracts that said that Muslims were doomed to the fires of hell, and that 9/11 was punishment for America’s moral deviance. (Why God would choose such heathens to act out His vengeance is beyond me; they must work cheap or something.)

And for all the controversey I did cause, there’s a lot more that I could have caused. For example, I might have written an entry about Mexican criminaliens which I’m sure would have drawn fire from a handful of you more liberal types. I could have written about the definition of liberty and how every president since… oh… FDR has violated your personal liberty. Hell, I could have written about how Jay Severin’s indefinite suspension is another skirt-hiking, knee-jerk reaction from PC pansies at the FCC who are bowing to the will of people who are, as we speak, breaking the law and raising our taxes. But I didn’t do any of those things.

Not to say that I won’t, of course, it just won’t be on this forum. This opportunity has provided me with a revelation: there are a lot of stupid people out there (and I don’t mean any of you, of course; I’m talking about the people who we blog about, like Saudi rapists, mothers who jab their dead sons in the balls with sharp things, whoever the jackass was that called Lenny ignorant, etc.) who need to be called out on their stupidity. Many of these people occupy public office. These people need to be rounded up and dealt with.

And by “dealt with,” I don’t mean forced to believe as I do. It would be arrogant of me to think that everyone should believe the same way I do, and I’m anything but arrogant (ahem). No, by “dealt with,” I mean that people must be made accountable, that they need to see the implication of their actions and beliefs before they go about doing or preaching anything. I believe that the fear of public ridicule is enough for people to want to think things through a little better, and I am ready to be that engine of ridicule.

Yes, I had a lot of fun this year. Lenny told me she’d love me if she didn’t hate me so much. Rookie pointed right at me and said, “You’re a jackass.” Even our usually even-keeled professor had to bite her lip a couple of times when she referred to my bashing of academic writing (apparently that’s her life’s work or something… pssht). So all in all it wasn’t much different from my interactions with my closest and dearest friends. (Quick anecdote: I was listening to the radio this morning, and the DJ was talking about Severin’s suspension. Fifteen minutes later, my daughter interjected: “Daddy, why do you yell so much?” And for once in my life, I didn’t really have an answer.)

Keep an eye peeled for the next neo-con blog to grace the interwebs. If you’d like a link to it, respond to this post and we’ll figure out a way for me to let you have it. (What awful sentence construction… damned bourbon.)

Oh, and hopefully sometime in the near future Notelrac, Palm Tree, Lenny, Rookie and I can all sit down and discuss politics over a good brewski. Or get arrested for fighting in public. Whatever we’re in the mood for.

Until then, friends, as the thugs say, “peace.”

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A Fitting End

May 2, 2009

So I’ve been pulling out my hair trying to figure out what I should do for my last post on this little blog here. I just don’t know what else to do. I’ve already put up some things about issues that I care about, I’ve already insulted a bunch a bunch of people, I’ve already insulted even more people, I’ve already experimented with some things and then used my experiment to insult a bunch of people, and then one night I was too tired and put something up that I regret. So now what? It’s the end of the semester and my brain has been taxed to its limit. I feel like I’ve got nothing else to say.

And then, serendipity. While trying to think of something to write, I went a-surfing the web like I usually do when I’m delaying the inevitable, and look what I stumbled across. Remember that little 8-year-old Saudi girl who’s father married her off to a man almost six times her age? The one who was twice denied a divorce? Well, third time’s a charm.

Apparently, the rest of the world were not the only people up in arms over this case, as it was quite a point of contention in Saudi Arabia as well. King Abdullah has apparently been living up to his reformist billing, and women have more rights in Saudi Arabia than ever before. In fact, one of his advisors has gone public with his demands that the legal age for marriage be raised to 18, and the justice ministry has gone public with their desire to take control of marriage away from girls’ fathers.

So then I’ll take this one last opportunity to post here to do what I do best: gloat. So was I right about this one, or is the reformist Saudi government closed minded in their pursuit to give more rights to women?

And I’ll leave it at that.

I made mention of it earlier in one of my responses (to Lenny, I believe), but I’ve just gotten back into bourbon. For those not in the know, bourbon is American whiskey. Real bourbon comes from a little place called Bourbon County, Kentucky, but the term “bourbon” (some designate it with a little b, others just don’t care) refers to just about any whiskey made in America. Jack Daniel’s, for example, is distilled in Tennessee and is still called bourbon whiskey. (And not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s whiskey with an e. Whisky is something else entirely, either Irish like Jameson or Scotch like Johnnie Walker.)

I won’t go into all the details of bourbon production, but I will tell you that there are a lot of great bourbons out there beyond the crud that you can get in vats at any liquor store in the country. (I reflexively cringed, Rookie, when you made mention of SoCo.) I have several stellar examples in my liquor cabinet now: Pappy Van Winkle 25-year old is otherworldly, Eagle Rare Single Barrel is divine, Buffalo Trace is complex and thought-provoking, and so on. But the one I want to talk to you about today is Bulleit Bourbon.

Bulleit comes in a glass jar without much in the way of a label. Everything you need to know is raised in the glass — not etched, mind you, but literally cast as part of the bottle, the old-fashioned way. The bottle itself is unremarkable. It’s got a plastic-topped replaceable cork, is shallow and broad-shouldered like a gigantic flask, and does nothing to draw the eye. You can pick one up for the modest price of $25 or $30 per 750 mL bottle. Not that you would — chances are you’d never even see it on the shelf next to all of the more recognizable and attractive bottles out there.

But I did buy that bottle. As a self-described booze connoisseur, I figured it would be good to get back to basics. That said, I had really never tasted a no-frills bourbon before. “No frills” generally means “cheap” and “almost undrinkable,” if not “classless” or “intended for mass consumption.” That is the way of things now: can you name for me a no-frills kind of alcoholic beverage that is both cheap and pleasing to the connoisseur? Forget alcohol; can you say that about any product these days?

Bulleit manages to be bourbon without being fancy, and simple without being of poor quality. It’s just damn good. Not the smoothest, not the tastiest, not in any respect the best bourbon that I’ve ever had (Pappy 25 gets that honor). No; it’s just damned good. And there are so few things that are damned good in any price range that I was absolutely stunned the first time Bulleit touched my lips.

So I’ll put the question out there to the rest of you: when was the last time you paid short money for something mind-bendingly good? Do such things even exist anymore? Aside from Bulleit, I mean.

Peace

May 1, 2009

peace4

This is the peace sign, the most widely known symbol in the world; it was originally called the “Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament” symbol. It was designed by Gerald Holtom as a badge against nuclear war. The symbol was adopted by the United States when Martin Luther King Jr. had a friend that used it during civil rights marches. By the late 1960’s, the peace sign became a prominent symbol for the anti-war protesters of the Baby Boomer generation. Far-right fundamentalist groups and the South African Apartheid regime attempted to ban it, but the symbol remained unbanned.

If you look at the symbol very carefully, you will see an “N” and a “D”, which stand for Nuclear Disarmament. In semaphore, the letter “N” can be formed by having a person hold two flags upside down to form the upside-down letter “V”; the letter “D” is formed by having a person hold one flag straight up with one hand and then the other flag straight down. These two pictures can then fuse together to form the peace symbol.

This sign may mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but the one thing that remains is that peace can be equivalent to love. Love for the earth we live on, love for the people around us, and love for the life that has been bestowed upon us. We are only on earth for a little while (comparatively speaking, over the course of evolution). Why would we spend our time fighting or being unhappy? This is not to say that unhappiness is an unhealthy emotion, because everyone can feel this way from time to time, but for the most part, it is a non-productive and useless emotion.

There is no fancy way to end this blog entry – it’s just like this.

Links:
http://www.designboom.com/contemporary/peace.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_symbol#The_peace_sign

Concerning Grammar

May 1, 2009

Our Civic Writing class had a long discussion about grammar, especially that found in blogs, such as this one. Many people felt that to point out the poor grammar of an individual’s post was in bad taste; that it was nothing more than an attack on the writer, and not a key issue of the subject matter at all. And there are times when I do agree with this; don’t troll someone’s post just to be an ass. If you really want to hurt someone, then attack their position, not their grammar.

But it doesn’t always have to be considered nit-picking. In fact, if I screw up grammatically anywhere in this post, then please, feel free to correct me. I want to know, in an attempt to learn, improve, and never make that mistake again, (hopefully).

I like grammar. I don’t know why. I always had fun diagramming sentences, and locating dependant clauses, and correcting noun-verb number. I like studying grammar the same way some people like solving algebraic equations, (which, admittedly, I have fun doing as well).

I think people are far too proud. Don’t you want to be corrected? Obviously, the person pointing out your mistakes should do so in a nice, constructive way, but I always aim for improvement. Swallow your pride, and say “thank you”. Sometimes, people aren’t looking to “get you”; sometimes, they’re just looking to help you out.

I get it; sometimes it seems pretentious of a stranger to correct your flaws. But if people were to accept help more often, then perhaps we’d all grow just a little more on a daily basis. This is what we as a community should strive for; constant improvement. Then again, it was Don Marquis who said “The chief obstacle to the progress of the human race is the human race.”

Queen’s song “You’re My Best Friend”.

I was talking to my best friend on AIM a couple of weeks ago, and he told me that this song reminded him of us. Now, when he first said this to me, my immediate response was “you are such a sap, dude”. Then, because I hadn’t heard it in quite some time, and felt the need for a refresher, I perused my iTunes, and found the sucker.

I hate it when he’s right.

I’d never really given the song consideration any consideration before that point. It was always this cute little ditty by a fairly cool band playing in the background as dad would drive me and my siblings to get ice cream on a sweltering summer afternoon. But the moment after my best friend pin-pointed the “You’re My Best Friend” for me, I melted. It’s true, everything the song says is how I feel about him. Sure, it’s corny, it’s sappy, but it’s tried and true. He’s the best friend that I’ve ever had.

I have always been rather reserved in designating the term “best friend” to anyone. Actually, according to my own interpretation of what a best friend should be, I’ve never had one before sophomore year of college, i.e., last year. I’ve always had really, really good friends, but never a “best” friend. I’ve always been a bit weirded out by the fact that most people have no hesitation in calling people they’ve just met their “best friends”, or in today’s youth jargon, “besties” (ew).

A best friend should be like a comrade; you should be able to rely on that person for anything. A best friend should be like a sibling; you should feel as close a bond as possible. A best friend should be like a mentor; you should learn from this person.

You should feel love for this person, indefinitely. You should want this person, and even need this person.

Of course, this means that you should be all of these things to your best friend, too.

My definition of a best friend makes me, (and him, actually), laugh. This is how I define a best friend: it’s someone with whom you’ll feel comfortable enough to go out and buy a two-way walky-talky. Yup. This is how I honestly define what a best friend is.

I invite you to come up with your own definition of what a best friend should be. It’s fun.

I remember my first time at a college orientation. We had just entered a new millennium, and I was a shy young lad of eighteen years wearing pants that had leg openings as wide as my waist. I smoked a pack of Camels a day and I thought Southern Comfort was the greatest drink you could have. I was going to be an elementary school teacher, and my life was going to be rich and fulfilling.

I don’t think I need to explain why all of those things didn’t work out together.

It didn’t mean so much to me then, though. I was young and invincible, I’d have time to get my life together later. It was true, I did. I do. I’m doing it now, and even though I’m closer to 30 than I am to 20, I don’t feel like I’m all that behind. In a lot of ways, I still feel the same way I did when I was 18, like I have all the time in the world and that there’s no need to rush anything. I’m certainly older, thankfully wiser, and more responsible by necessity, and it all feels natural. Some people get out of high school and get it done, and that’s great for those people. I’m not one of those people; I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t mature enough, I was prepared enough, I wasn’t confident enough.

I would give anything now to change all that. Why? Because I am TIRED.

Seriously, I am exhausted in ways that I never imagined possible. I didn’t even really do anything today. I slept a full eight hours last night, even. I DIDN’T EVEN DO ANYTHING YESTERDAY. It’s after midnight, though, and that means I’m tired. I quit smoking years ago, and even though I keep a nice bottle of bourbon on the dresser, it hasn’t been opened in weeks. I downed a few pints over the weekend, sure, but I didn’t even feel that next morning. The fact of the matter is that between my age and the fact that, between work and school, I have two full-time jobs, I’m starting to fall apart.

I’ve got to be honest, it doesn’t feel all that fair. I mean, I’m only 27. That’s not old. Hell, if I were a professional athlete, statistics would tell me that I was about to have my breakout season. I am not an athlete, though, and 27 is not 18. Back then, I would be throwing myself into the pit at hardcore shows, then sit at booth in Denny’s until dawn slipping vanilla schnapps into my coffee. Now, I’m listening to public radio and wondering what the hell I’m still doing up. My mind is even slipping. I’ve been so busy writing this entry trying to work in a line about my hair turning gray (my hair is turning gray) that I’ve forgotten where I was going with this.

I wish I’d realized then what going to college really means to me. Not because I wish I was doing something else, but because it’s such a difficult thing to balance as life becomes more complicated. I was overwhelmed by the freedom I felt when I graduated high school, and my early college career suffered as a result. Now I’m tired, and I never used to be tired before. I know now that when I had all that freedom and when I had all that energy was absolutely the best time to make a spectacular commitment like going to college and applying myself to the best of my ability.

Oops.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

This quotation comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Self Reliance”. I first read this essay about a year ago, and it has had me thinking ever since.

I think my mindset has always been one where, if you change your mind on any given topic at all, then you’re a fool and a coward and a hypocrite. I always try not to say my opinions out loud unless I’m sure I truly believe in what I say, because there’s always the possibility (and in my case, certainty) that there’s an angle that I have not given consideration. And for me, I’m never sure of what I truly believe.

You see, I had a teacher in my freshman year of high school who told us, last day of classes, “Don’t be wishy-washy”. He wanted us to take a stand in the prominent issues of the day. He didn’t want us feigning knowledge by praising the good points of both sides of an argument, because he said that was too safe, and that we would never get anywhere staying on the sidelines. “Progress comes from courage,” he told us, “so don’t be wishy-washy.”

Well, I think that I perhaps took his advice a little too far. I’m so afraid to lend my voice to others, because I might not have found all the points relevant to any given issue. What if I’ve missed something so big, so obvious? And I never feel as though I completely knowledgeable, or at least knowledgeable enough. Am I even allowed to share my opinion? After all, who am I?

But let’s get back to Emerson. This first quote I’ve provided; before reading it, it never occurred to me that yes, it’s okay to change your grounding. You won’t look “wishy-washy” if you’re suddenly swayed by someone else’s argument. It doesn’t make you look weak; in fact, if you have the courage enough to admit that maybe you were wrong, or maybe this person’s got a good point, than you end up being the wiser. (And if it’s the wiser fool, than so be it.)

Secret Poor Tax

April 29, 2009

Universal health care sounds like a positive, socially beneficial policy.  Our politicians reinforce this by claiming it can fix many problems in our health system and that because we don’t have ‘universal health care’ our system is weaker or incomplete.  The fact that many other social-democracies offer health care to all their citizens is frequently used in health care conversations.  In fact, some nations that we would consider inferior in governmental structure are considered superior to us in their health care coverage.  Our system of health care tries to remain capitalistic while providing services which produces the profit-concerned, financially motivated health insurance system in existence now.

So why not go socialist?  Why not offer health care service to everyone and just tax more?  Can’t the government do the same job as the insurance companies?  These are important question that our politicians will face.  Currently, however, the question is not over social medicine or state-run-insurance-for-all.  The current issue that our politicians face is whether or not to require health insurance.  It was a defining question in the last Presidential campaigns.  In many State legislatures it has been hotly contested.  In fact, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires health insurance for all its citizens already.  Requiring everyone to pay for health insurance is called “universal health care” by our politicians.

What ‘universal health care’ means is that people must pay a private third party insurance company.  In other words, the government requires its citizens to pay into the health insurance company’s profits.  The same insurance companies that are at the root of many problems in our health service providing system are getting bank roll from a legislative measure designed to make citizens think their quality of health care has somehow improved.  It really only means that they are now required to buy health insurance.  Of course, if someone does not want a private insurance company they can buy into the government run insurance.

Lets look deeper at this mandatory insurance.  Prior to this measure, people who work good paying jobs and people who are in unionized professions received health insurance as part of their benefits package.  Therefore, for those employed with solid incomes, mostly, nothing will change from the new requirement.  Again, prior to this measure, people in low-income or non-unionized professions or unemployed and not costing the government extra by using welfare or unemployment were uninsured.  The reason many that fall into this category of uninsured persons were uninsured isn’t because their jobs didn’t offer a package, which they did not, the reason these people were uninsured is because they could not afford insurance.

Those who were or are to poor to afford health insurance are required to purchase it!  The legislature is forcing people with limited means to spend money in non-optional health insurance.  Since ‘universal health care’ clearly means that those without health insurance must purchase it and since the poor are mostly the ones uninsured, why not just call it what it really is – a secret poor tax.

‘Universal Health Care’ will undoubtedly appeal to voters more, it sound so benevolent that even I have a hard time writing negatively about it.  The truth of what this law does and would do, however, is far from benevolent, far from beneficial, far from positive, far from productive, far from helpful, and far from healthy.  This law charges poor people money.  This law encourages increasing private company profits.  This law is named to mislead, make false implications, and pacify the public.  The next time ‘universal health care’ is mentioned, think of it as a secret poor tax.  When the vote is called federally, or locally for those outside of Massachusetts, remember not the larger implications or the well-meaning intentions of our lawmakers but the true nature of this secret poor tax.  If our lawmakers would never dream of taxing the poor openly, why are we supportive when it is done secretly?

Wall to Wall Maddness

April 29, 2009

In 2005, I had never even heard of Facebook. A few of my friends had a MySpace account, but I didn’t really get what that was all about. Today, I probably checked my Facebook at least ten times. I can’t help it, it’s just a habit that I’m in. Whenever I sit down at my computer, I check my Facebook, my e-mail and Redsox.com. Even when I sit down at my computer with some specific purpose, like looking up a movie time or Googling a fact, I often find myself going through my routine first.

So believe me when I say, I am NOT against Facebook. I love the damn thing. I think it’s a great way to share things like pictures and get word out about events in and around your community or school. However, I often find myself question this whole wall to wall thing. Why are these things so public? Why does my homepage inform me every time two people talk to each other? Yes, Facebook is a great and easy way to stay in touch with friends all over the place, but couldn’t the Wall be more of a private inbox kind of thing? If you changed nothing else, but simply made it so only the account holder could view the wall, I think Facebook would be absolutely ideal.

I just don’t see the reasoning behind having the wall be public. What’s the point? Why should other people care what others are writing on any one person’s wall? I just find the whole idea a little sketchy. I personally would rather send a friend a private message than have a wall to wall chat. I think its almost rude to be having a public conversation like that. When one talks privately on AIM, the conversation isn’t plastered all over a thousand people’s homepages. It doesn’t make sense for these messages between friends to be so very, very public. Not only are these messages easily accessible on your homepage, but they are also randomly posted on your friends homepages. Why is this? If I wanted someone else to know what I wrote to so and so, I would have sent it to them as well!