Thursday, May 31, 2007

"To say you support the troops and not the war is crap"

The print version of the May 23 Community Free Press has an interesting editorial by Vincent David Jericho, who hosts the local radio commentary show, "Standing Up for What's Right." The issue's Memorial Day theme continues with Jericho's "A Love for the Military":

I have always been a sucker for a man in uniform. I'm not sure when or how it started.

I know I watched a lot of war movies with Audie Murphy and the like when I was younger, and my favorite TV show was The Rat Patrol. Maybe it was the unexplainable understanding of Country, Duty, Honor, and Sacrifice these movie and TV soldiers exemplified. Whatever it was I have, and continue to be, in love with our military.

No word on whether or not those movie and TV soldiers ever compelled Jericho to serve himself. But I'm sure plenty of American troops found themselves on the battlefield after such romantic screen portrayals. Their reactions would make interesting editorials, I imagine.

Throughout the national discourse on war, much criticism from the right has centered on liberals' use of tragedies as political pulpits. However, the right certainly has its own moments of this nature, as Jericho proves after ruminating a bit on the virtues of the American soldier:

In turn they ask for little, just the opportunity to finish the mission and when the politicians have left them alone, the American Soldier has always finished the mission. Be it on Bataan, Omaha Beach, Bastion, Midway, Grenada, or Kuwait, the American Soldier has ALWAYS accomplished the mission.

Grenada? Is he serious? Aside from the obvious fact that politics has started or clouded every war ever known, Grenada is probably the worst possible example of a politics-free war...except maybe for Vietnam and Iraq, both of which are conspicuously absent here.

But, in a sense, I agree with Jericho on this point. If Bush, Cheney, Rice and Co. kept their slimy politician hands out of war, the world would be a much better place. Short of that ideal, our troops may actually accomplish the worthwhile mission they initially set off to do before being diverted into the Iraq mess.

Then again, Jericho says I'm wrong about that.

I apologize for the language, but to say you support troops and not the war is crap.

For you see, you're behind the troops only if you want to keep them in Iraq for endless deployments in an unstable wasteland with no clear mission and woefully inadequate supplies. Wanting them to come home alive is a sign of cowardly weakness. After all, what is the point of having a military if we can't flex its muscle for no clear purpose?

We as a nation decided to go to war.

Really? I don't remember being consulted. I do, however, recall writing numerous editorials in my college newspaper in early 2003 saying what a mistake this was going to be. But Bush didn't listen to anyone but his own yes-circle. And Congress, once they fell for his WMD BS.

Some did not agree, although most did. Either way you cannot back out of that decision.

This is a deadly statement, the very kind of rigid attitude that will be the death of the neocon philosophy - if not much more beloved things as, say, the world. As wretched as a vote for the war was in 2003, some forgiveness is allowable for those who regret said vote (as is the case with most politicians these days...Hillary, are you listening?). We as a nation have to be able to admit mistakes and address weaknesses, no matter how much the Bush administration insists that such admissions are out of style.

What would have happened if, when things went bad in Europe, we bailed on the Second World War?

Nice try. There's as much parallel between World War II and Iraq as there is between perpendicular lines. WWII was not a war of American aggression, based on faulty evidence and one man's obsession with a leader "who tried to kill my dad." The threat was terrifyingly real on both fronts, but even then the U.S. entered only as a last resort. Nothing in Iraq even remotely compares.

This is a war that DOES impact everyone.

No argument there.

Osama Bin Laden [sic] has said in no uncertain terms "convert to Islam or we will kill you." Unless you are prepared to convert to Islam get on board, support our troops and our country, or learn to say Allah Akbar!

Because the best way to fight religious bigotry is with a little religious bigotry of your own.

In a time so jaded and with a generation so embittered we still need our knights in shining armor to remind us what we once were and what we might still be. Yes, I am in love with our men in uniform, what they stand for, and the country they protect, and I hope you are too.

Personally, I think our national obsession with heroes and villains is a weak premise for continuing the tragedy in Iraq. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who puts their life on the life for their country is a hero on principle. I would certainly never ask someone to earn their heroism over and over, especially for an unclear cause. Anyone who does ask that of our fighters is watching too much Fox News. And, perhaps, too many quaint war serials.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fan Art

My dad made this for me. He always said I was a little tramp.


Like father, like malcontent.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Top 10 trends that deserve assisted suicide

1) Comically oversized sunglasses that anorexic-looking celebrities wear - think Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan, Victoria Beckham, Britney Spears, etc. (OK, maybe Britney is a bad example). It's not that I care that these overexposed women look like emaciated insects; but their perverse status as role models to American girls means that we may see a ton of this on our own streets for the next few years. And what guy wants to walk a college campus, worried that any of the girls standing next to him are going to bite him and cause him to itch? Well, probably a lot of guys, actually. Never mind.

2) Hipsters in bands who wear 400 tiny pins on their guitar strap or shoulder bag - I don't really get this one, not being a hipster who owns 400 pins, a guitar strap or a shoulder bag. But I saw it everywhere in Lafayette, and it always hit suddenly. Shouldn't it take time for someone to amass such a pin collection? Or do they all come bundled in the "Look at me! I'm Emo!" starter kit?

3) Elisabeth Hasselbeck - She makes Rosie O'Donnell look good. Not literally, obviously, but rhetorically. And that's hard to do. It's a testament to O'Donnell's obnoxiousness that Americans are sympathetic to Hasselbeck, despite Hasselbeck's repellent right-wing venom. Those two deserve each other. Not that I watch The View or anything. Honestly.

(And no, I'm not saying Elisabeth deserves anything bad to happen to her. I'm speaking strictly metaphorically to what she represents, i.e., the pampered princess who thinks it's just dandy that our president says "Jesus" a lot and starts wars so men can be men and liberals can be terrorists. That sort of thing.)

4) Bob Barker's retirement - I eventually accepted the passing of Peter Jennings, the retirements of Ted Koppel and Tom Brokaw and the coup against Dan Rather. But dammit, I may never get over Bob Barker quitting The Price is Right! He is one of the most watchable TV people of all time and, by my co-worker's personal account, every bit the cool, nice man everyone says he is. No one is going to replace him. But maybe he could replace Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News. Yeah!

5) "McDreamy" - All I know about this idiotic reference is that it applies to Patrick Dempsey's character in Grey's Anatomy for some reason. And why do I even know that much?

6) Women my age who act twice as old - not to be confused with women twice as old who act my age. They're awesome.

7) Over-corporatized policies - in Lafayette, there's a string of local coffee shops that do not allow photography inside. If you are caught taking pictures, even with a cell phone, a barista approaches you and tells you in no uncertain terms that you are a lousy person. And why is this, you ask? Because the walls are adorned with priceless art that would decay upon exposure to bright light, a la the Louvre? Because it disturbs other patrons? Because the flash would distract the actors on stage? No, no and no. The real reason - and this was told to me directly by a friend who worked there - was that the company did not want their logo to appear in any unauthorized pictures. In other words, they consider their sign appearing in a blurry shot of your friend to be an infringement of copyright or something. Or perhaps they're worried that, by being in the background, the company appears to endorse such unauthorized things as your smile.

The punch line to this story? The picture we were taking at the time was against a blank green wall! When I pointed this obvious fact out to the barista, she said it didn't matter. After all, rules was rules. Which is exactly what's wrong with America today: too many rules, too few licks of common sense.

8) The Roger Goodell-ization of the NFL - Paul Tagliabue he ain't. Discipline-happy copyright Nazi? Indeed. By the time Goodell's done, players won't be allowed to grin as they hold up the Lombardi Trophy. And all fans will be neuralized as they leave the stadium, lest they violate NFL copyright by talking about the game afterwards.

9) People who get engaged/married and vaporize off Planet Earth - I recently met a visiting friend of a friend who I found very interesting. She and I talked for quite a while. A few days later, our mutual friend and I were talking about her and I learned that she was engaged:

"Really?" I said.
"Yeah. Are you surprised?"
"Yeah, because she did not immediately bring it up and steer the entire conversation toward her fiance at every single opportunity. In fact, she never even hinted at it. It was like talking to a normal person!"

Actually, I was only thinking that. It's hard to talk when your jaw is on the floor.

10) Cutting others down for their tastes in music - For some reason, people really get on each other's nerves about different music tastes: "Ewww! I HATE that! How the hell can you listen to that crap?!!" This kind of disdain is typically reserved for shouting matches between Rosie O'Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. I say, who cares? As long as you aren't drowning out my car stereo with your bass, I don't give a damn what gives you an energy boost. In fact, let's make a deal: don't ridicule me for my preference of '80s New Wave, and I won't judge your taste for schmaltzy, repetitive, Bush-worshipping, mass-market "country." Cool? Cool.

All right, that's all for now. I could do this for years.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Getty Images must pay well

This picture says more than I ever could about George W. Bush:


It accompanied this BBC brief about how pleased he was with the Iraq compromise bill - the one in which Congress does all the compromising and Bush does none. Big shock.

You'd think that getting everything he wants, every time he wants it, despite all logic and karma suggesting that things turn out otherwise, would cause Bush to look less stern. You'd think that the incredible run of luck he has had in not being impeached or otherwise seriously challenged despite his unpopularity with the people (and the world) would erase at least one of those extra decades off his face. And you'd think that someone who has spent six years in the White House would start to look presidential after awhile, instead of looking like a right-wing blowhard making an unscheduled speech at the Gordon Gekko Fan Club convention.

Pundits ask why the 2008 presidential race is in full swing at such an early stage. Is it because the field is more open than it's been in three generations? Is it an indicator that the political process is an ever-expanding theater of cruelty? Or is it the laughable premise that voters are taking the time to ponder their options as they undertake their civil responsibilities?

The real answer to that question lies simply in the picture above. We're all tired of seeing it. And him.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Jimmy Carter should run for president

Jimmy Carter, the man who presided over such momentous events as the Camp David Accords and my birth, has called the Bush Administration "the worst in history" regarding international relations:

"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in the newspaper's Saturday editions. "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me." [...]

"We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered," he said.

Carter also offered a harsh assessment for the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which helped religious charities receive $2.15 billion in federal grants in fiscal year 2005 alone.

"As a traditional Baptist, I've always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one," Carter said.

It's the same thing that I and innumerable bloggers have been saying for years, except that it's Jimmy Carter! The Habitat for Humanity guy! The guy with two iPods! Sounding exactly like all of our politicians should in times of trial! Refreshing, like a peanut butter sandwich at a picnic.

But that isn't even the best thing about this article. That honor goes to the reasoned reaction from the Republican machine:

"Apparently, Sunday mornings in Plains for former President Carter includes hurling reckless accusations at your fellow man," said Amber Wilkerson, Republican National Committee spokeswoman. She said it was hard to take Carter seriously because he also "challenged Ronald Reagan's strategy for the Cold War."

Wow! Bitter much? Remember when the GOP actually engaged the issues instead of resorting to the sort of attacks that would get any third-grader flunked in basic human interaction?

BBC quotes the White House as saying, "I think he is proving to be increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments." Which is, of course, exactly the sort of thing you waste time saying at a press conference. Hell, I'm surprised they didn't toss off these nuggets:

"What does Jimmy Carter know about Middle East diplomacy?"

"At least we aren't having any trouble with Iran!"

"Carter was a dumb southern hick who presided over high gas prices, a resurgence in redneck pop culture and a depressing 'malaise' of the American people. How does any of that translate into today's issues?"

"Those solar panels he put in the White House haven't done a thing since Reagan took them down!"

"He hasn't won the Nobel Peace Prize in five years!"

After all, that's how they operate.

This comment reminds me of one from a couple of years ago when Ted Turner accused Fox News of Hitler-esque popularity. What was the network's response then? "We're fair and balanced." Oh wait, that wasn't it. I believe it was something like, "Ted is understandably bitter having lost his ratings, his network, and now his mind. We wish him well." I remember my local radio station at the time talking about this story, and how I thought they were going to showcase Fox's reply as the idiotic bile that it was. Instead, they ran their trademark crowd-cheering sound and pumped their fists in support. After two decades of loyalty to that station, I stopped listening that day. I wonder if they're bitter about that.

The Bush administration has long been defined by its degrees of smugness and bitterness in everything that it says and does. And while that's unprofessional in any context, there was a time when the White House could justifiably pull this off in most peoples' eyes. But what's their excuse now?

And, even more importantly, why is Carter distancing himself from the remarks today? He certainly shouldn't apologize for saying what's on the majority of Americans' minds at the moment. I think we're long past the point where the Bush administration deserves any deference as far as policy conduct is concerned. After all, it's not as if they have any equivalent respect for opposing views. Carter shouldn't worry about violating the tradition of ex-presidents being forgiving of successors' policy differences. In this case, he did the right thing. He does the right thing a lot, you know, even if the GOP often makes it seem otherwise. Can we have more of this, please?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Old people are awesome

I've been working on a song for a while now, a pretty funny one called "Old People." It's one of those songs where the delivery is half of it, but it stands sort of all right on paper. One of my favorite verses is this one:

Old People don't carry iPods
They don't drive Scions and they don't maintain blogs
They don't know what a BlackBerry is
But they love it when you ask them about their grandkids
Old People

Much to my chagrin, however, I may have to change that first line. Because, as it turns out, old people do carry iPods, according to Rolling Stone's Fortieth Anniversary Issue:

RS: You have an iPod?

Jimmy Carter: I have two of them. One is large and holds about 3,000 songs. The other is a tiny one that doesn't have a screen on it.

Man, Jimmy Carter has two iPods?!! That's even cooler than hearing Bob Barker talk about mp3 players on his special the other night. It always kicks ass to see icons of an older generation stay with the times and remain relevant. This makes me really miss my grandparents, because they probably would have been all over that stuff too.

Guess it's time I finally got one, huh?

Small aside: I purchased said copy of Rolling Stone in the Springfield airport. When the clerk saw me with it she said, "We don't get many kids your age buying Rolling Stone." Which I agreed was sad, even though she probably wasn't lumping me in with the generation to which I actually belong. (Which is also a smart thing to reciprocate: "You don't look a day over 30!") The twinkle in their eyes when they see a younger person who clearly shares their ideals is very satisfying.

My favorite example of this was in the Lafayette (LA) Public Library a few years ago. My selection that day consisted of Al Franken, Michael Moore, Bill Maher, Chris Rock and a few '60s CDs. The librarian checking them out, who must have been in her 50s, winked at me and said, "A man after my own heart!" Which made it all that hard to go back to campus, where beautiful 20-something girls lurked, hard-wired with their suburban parents' far-right beliefs. Really makes you think about the definition of beauty.

In any case, I enjoy talking to older progressives because, in a way, I've always identified with them. They're fleshed out more and they've seen what the future could still become. And I'm grateful for every one of them.

And I really hope they like my little song, once it reaches the top of the charts.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Now that Jerry Falwell is dead...

Will someone please kill his ideas?

Seriously...no single person has probably done more to ruin politics and society in the United States than this man. He is the reason why a human breast sparks endless outcry while endless war barely elicits a shrug among supposed "Christians."

He is the reason why being religious is now synonymous with hatred, prudishness and self-righteousness. His Moral Majority set the stage for groups such as the Army of God and Westboro Baptist Church to launch endless and violent crusades against doctors and homosexuals. He made bigotry hip again at a time when we should have been rid of it for good. You have him to thank for every election being about evolution, abortion and gay rights, three issues that shouldn't be in any sane nation's top 10 concerns.

In short, Jerry Falwell is largely responsible for the religious right and the neocon poison that infects our government today. He does not deserve a word of praise for this.

Furthermore, the worst thing about Falwell dying is that we had to see his smug face and hear his sour ideals all day and night on TV. Actually, it was even worse to hear and read our leaders (and wannabe leaders) lionizing this man! Why? Out of respect for the dead? Pure pavement toward the road to hell.

Let's remember Jerry Falwell for who he was: a polarizing figure who represented all of the worst excesses of an era best left in the past. That is, as soon as we get out of it.

I can only pray that we will.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Things to consider when boycotting gas

I have no plans to buy gas today. Because my car gets excellent gas mileage and I filled up a few days ago, though, not because of the boycott. Unfortunately, today's gas strike is going to have all the efficacy of Hadacol - it might give you a buzz, but ultimately it's just a placebo. And you'll still be coughing the next day.

--The worldwide oil network is too complex for most sustained boycotts to make a difference, much less a single-day boycott initiated by customers at the lowest level. Which is why there has yet to be a successful effort of any kind by consumers to drastically influence fuel prices.

--Every consumer is likely to make up for the non-purchase within a few days, if they haven't stocked up beforehand. You wouldn't consider a day between grocery trips a boycott of the grocer, would you? Nope, and neither would your grocer. They know you're coming back.

--What losses do occur hit independent station owners, not the petroleum giants.

--There will no doubt be equally misguided activists on the right who will go out of their way to buy gas today, even if they don't need it (though they will because they're the same people who drive SUVs just to piss off tree-huggers).

Real change must be a sustained group effort among consumers, automakers and the government to ensure smart transportation, fuel-efficient vehicles and stringent measures to end reliance on foreign oil. We all have to work as a team, on a long-term basis.

Oh, well. Perhaps in 2009.

Monday, May 14, 2007

How not to write an editorial...again

On Saturday night, one of my co-workers and I shot the breeze about our college newspapers. I mentioned to him that our staff editorials, as well as pretty much all other columns, were prone to one of journalism's most cardinal sins. Something more forgivable than, say, murder, but less forgivable than plagiarism. In other words, the ultimate pain-in-the-ass scourge that, as I now know, is as epidemic in Ohio as it is in Louisiana. Fortunately, I didn't have to look too far for an example, because two years after I last set foot in the pages of The Vermilion, that scourge is still alive and sinning!

So, here it is, the Monday afternoon before the paper goes to press, and I’ve just remembered that I have to write the staff editorial for this week. Honestly, I don’t understand how I have become so forgetful in my not-so-old age, but I don’t think that’s really the issue at hand.

The problem I have before me right now is that I really have absolutely no idea what to write about—Go figure. On a day-to-day basis, I usually have thousands of thoughts come to mind about lots of different topics, but because my story is due today, I have the mind of an autistic 12-year-old whose mom used drugs while he/she was in the womb.

Let’s see, I guess I could go the easy route and write a few hundred words about the Virginia Tech shootings from last week. That wouldn’t be cliche at all, and God knows there wasn’t nearly enough news coverage. In all seriousness, I thought it was a tragic incident and definitely something to pay attention to, but even my expert opinion can’t offer up any angle that hasn’t already been covered, so I’ve decided against it. I wouldn’t want to bore the faithful readers of The Vermilion (all 15 of us, including the staff).

AAAAH! Make it stop!!! Why, God, why must this tradition as old as The Verm itself keep festering like a recurring rash? And for half of the editorial, no less!

Note to budding editorial writers: nobody cares about your thought process. And even if they do, you've got to have a thought first. If you find some interesting angle to it, go for it. I've done at least one column this way, I'll admit, but at least I was trying to satirize what it's like to put off final projects. This kid...is just bored.

I can't imagine why, considering what she says once a topic registers with her:

So, what else can I talk about that will fill up this space with meaningful words? Hmmm, I do have some feelings about the colossal changes that are about to take place in the communication department. As some have heard, Robert Buckman, Ph.D., the principal journalism professor, and Michael Maher, Ph.D., the dean of the communication department, are both going to be gone for the next two semesters.

These are two tremendous developments for the university, each of which deserves its own full editorial: 1) Dr. Maher is one of the most competent - and witty - professors ever to walk the UL campus, as he has for decades, and will now do for a year in Germany; 2) oh, and our 59-year-old journalism professor with two artificial hips has been called into active duty with the Army for a tour in Afghanistan.

Those are some of the biggest stories UL has had in years! And that's not even counting the imminent retirement of President Ray Authement, who's helmed the school since 1974. Not to mention that a Canadian doctoral student (and good friend of mine) was recently killed after some idiot with a suspended license rear-ended her off the highway. Add to that the coming renovation of the communications building that's been needed since 1981(!!) and the demolition of a 100-year-old campus icon just because, and there's not a single excuse for anyone - much less the editor-in-chief of a university newspaper - to waste newsprint space on why you have nothing to write about.

A keen writer can crank 600 words about absolutely nothing and leave the reader wanting more. Others are given 10,000 words' worth of material and come up with absolutely nothing.

Heather Miller, I've read a lot of your editorial work, both in The Vermilion and in our communications magazine, and - I say this as a concerned colleague - you seem to have a metaphysical obsession with looking inward.

Time to get keen.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Seen today

A license plate that read, "USA-AOK." On an SUV.

And yes, there was a Bush-Cheney sticker right above it. And some vague Christian-soldier reference.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Flawless reasoning (Bob Barker edition)

1) Bob Barker, who grew up in Springfield and graduated from Drury University, spoke at Drury's commencement yesterday.

2) He also walked around downtown with old friends, telling stories and granting an interview to our newspaper.

3) I wrote the headline, subhead and picture captions for the resulting front-page article.

4) Therefore: Bob Barker might receive a copy of the story and say, "What a great job Ian did on the headline! Come on down!"

Yeah...what's not likely about that?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Why do I continue to listen to this station?

Heard on the radio: "Now it's time to end your lunch period and go back to work. But don't worry; the weekend is just around the corner!"

Why are DJs still allowed to say this? You wouldn't hear them say, "Housewives! This ends our noon block of Pat Boone songs. But don't worry, you have only a few hours left of scrubbing dishes and vacuuming the carpet before your husband brings home the bacon for you to cook!" And yet, the 9-to-5 myth is still an acceptable stereotype. In reality, one person's Friday night is another's Monday morning. When will this dastardly prejudice against this nation's indispensable night and weekend workers end?

No matter how cool he is, a Friday-night party DJ is doing anything but partying on Friday night. He's isolated in an enclosed booth, working. Think about it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sarkasm

Remember when conservatives used to hate France? Remember freedom fries? Remember how the rogue nation was supposed to French kiss our asses when the war on Iraq turned out to be the enormous accomplished mission cakewalk that it is?

Well, conservatives don't. At least, not since the most French-speaking nation in Europe turned out in droves to elect Nicolas Sarkozy as their new president. I've been sitting on this blog for days, because it's taken that long for this to sink in with me. So many things about this make so little sense:

Despite the historical non-affinity that French people have for the United States, they 1) generated an 85 percent turnout to 2) elect a far-right candidate who 3) expressed preference for outdated American pop culture such as Madonna, Miami Vice and 4) the piss-poor policies currently labeled as "American foreign policy" and 5) ran against Segolene Royal, who was not only an illustrious candidate but also much less, um, hard on the eyes. I mean, that Sarkozy guy looks so French!

This election is a sign that the French people are warming up to American ideals. One of the central issues in this cycle was the nation's famous 35-hour work week, which Sarkozy thinks is insufficient. And if anything represents America, it's our passion for working longer and longer hours with no equivalent increase in compensation. The domino theory at work! Next up: getting les francaise to chain-smoke Marlboros instead of cloves.

On this side of the pond, Sarkozy has received passionate kudos from Americans, pledging unconditional support for the very projects that 70 percent of Americans currently think we should not be doing. Figures. Since when does supporting Bush administration policy make anyone remotely American?

Sarkozy said that he plans on being the president for all of France, and that he will direct his focus within. Well, yeah, that's what his job is as president of France; it's the prime minister who handles foreign policy. Bet you didn't know that! He probably doesn't, either. Unless, of course, he's simply trying to say: "I'm a uniter, not a divider." Except, you know, in French. Mine's a bit shaky since I took my last French course in Fall of 2000, back when we didn't have an excuse to hate them yet.

Most puzzling of all is how this election happened right in the midst of a backlash against right-wing leaders who toss off vacuous platitudes and pledge undying support for tragically misguided causes. Ah, France...a rebel until the very end!

Maybe it's time to reconsider that whole "freedom fries" thing.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

An age that makes me glad I'm not a rock star after all

About three years ago, I set a symbolic goal for myself that centered around my driver's license. My plan was to never renew it for another one exactly like it, whether that meant living in another state or simply having a different local address. It wasn't necessarily that I didn't want to be in Louisiana anymore, but I'd felt like I hit a dead end regarding where I wanted to be creatively and professionally. Though I've traveled more or less constantly my entire life, I spent all those years living in one of two places, both in the same city. And by 2004, I was feeling a natural urge to carve my own path and see what might lay ahead for someone who has never fully fit in anywhere. I gave myself until the expiration of that license to figure something out. May 8, 2007. My 27th birthday.

Came in just under the wire. On February 3, 2007, I caught the flight I'd dreamed about for years. Okay, so that dream was generally in the form of a car traveling a much farther distance. But I'm still young, and it wasn't as if I was bringing along tiny bottles of shampoo anyway.

I've been at my current job for exactly 90 days, and it has renewed my vigor in ways that I'm still trying to translate to this blog. Don't let anyone ever tell you it's easy to move 600 miles away and spend most of your free time talking to yourself. But also don't let anyone tell you that you should never at least consider giving it a shot. Making your own way in life, whether it's moving far away or simply finding what you're looking for in your own hometown, is the purest form of happiness you can ever hope to achieve. It also gives you an opportunity to appreciate the little things in life that you took for granted before. Friends. Family. Fewer tornadoes. Evangeline Maid bread. Zapp's chips. Public drunkenness. New Orleans Saints fans. Oh, my sweet Saints!


"Soooo, Jim....how 'bout those property taxes?"

Okay, forget what I said. Stay in Louisiana.

Just kidding. Always do what's best for you, whatever that may be. My new license expires on May 8, 2013. Plenty of time to forge my next path. I hope to enjoy the ride.

Enjoy yours too.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Double the standard, double the fun!

The College Republicans hereby invites you to to our annual Cinco de Mayo blowout!

As men (and ladies) of the future, we are ever-mindful of history. And what better reason to party than to celebrate the liberation of Mexico from those filthy French? Every tequila shot and Corona we will down tonight will be done in honor of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin, whose decisive victory in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, set the future for Mexican history for the next two centuries.

And what a glorious history it's been, right, future leaders of America? Can you imagine how much worse Mexicans would be now if they had turned French too? Forget freedom fries - we'd have had to rename the restaurant Freedom Bell! Tex-Mex would have been Tex-Free! Carlos Mencia would have been Pepe Le Pew! It would have been such a tragedy. Not that it isn't now, you understand, because the United States is currently flooded with immigrants who defy our extremely fair system of legal entry.

Panel discussion: "Should Mexicans be shot at the border or merely hanged?"

Also: "Pin the Tail on the South-Heading Burro," Felipe Calderon pinata and strippers provided by the Minutemen. Fritos, Doritos, taquitos and bean dip will be served.

So come celebrate Cinco de Mayo with style and class with the Young Republicans, and preserve our Mexican-hating heritage at the same time!

College Republicans: Work with us now, or for us later...at $2 an hour weeding our gardens and cleaning our toilets. We're the best party on campus!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"A little off the top and sides, and stab me in the back"

I have some advice for those small businesses who may be suffering from the current tax climate. It's something far simpler and cheaper than lobbying Congress and state legislatures, and it yields more immediate results than advertising. Here it is: actually serve customers who walk into your place of business.

Yes, the old "ignore Ian" revenue plan happened again. This time at a barbershop. And unlike the previous incident, which at least had some semblance of a possible explanation, this one had zero excuse. Because I was the only person in the establishment, and the barber was three feet away.

First, a bit of backstory: Springfield has what appear to be entire shopping centers devoted exclusively to hair care. My coif, such as it is, is so pedestrian that I simply did it myself for years. Still, after having my hair last done at Supercuts (and having a hairdresser I met nearly spit-take on me when I told him that), I wanted to try one of these other places for my latest chop. While driving through town, I ran upon an old-fashioned place with a barber pole and everything. Its name was so quaintly generic that I wish I could tell you what it was, but I won't because that would shine undue attention upon them. My penchant for supporting small businesses sufficiently kicked in, I pulled into the parking lot. While turning in, I nearly clipped a yuppie in an errant roadster. An omen, as I would find out.

"Just walk on in!" the window screamed. So I did. The place looked like every barber shop you've ever seen in any movie. It felt like one, too. Busy walls? Check. Three chairs, two of them empty? Check. Old man with bushy mustache cutting equally old man's hair? Check. Person in chair who isn't actually waiting but likes the conversation? Check. American flags? Check. Obnoxious country music? Check. I didn't see what was in the back, but I suspect Norman Rockwell's corpse was posed there with a perpetual thumbs-up. All that was missing was the game of checkers and perhaps a baritone to round out the quartet. Total Americana.

And that's when I began to worry.

First there was the reservation that this guy might not cut my hair the way I want. I like to trim the back and sides, and trim the top with just enough to spike up front. It looks great on my driver's license, which I planned to flash for reference. Unfortunately, it's also the type of "mod" hairdo that old-fashioned barbers often won't touch with 10-foot clippers, as if they only know how to make you look like Ronald Reagan. Then there was the payment concern. I saw absolutely no evidence that this guy took plastic (or even knew what it was). Quaint, indeed, but no help for my cash-strapped self.

Despite these concerns, however, I pressed forward and sat down. This made me what is known in the biz as "next." As I sat down, I made eye contact with the barber and smiled. He gave me a look as if to say, "What the hell do you want, hippie?" Which was especially weird because I was dressed in a pullover and jeans that fit, my overgrown hair looking even a little like Reagan's. As I waited, the trio continued to banter. I've since forgotten the subject, but it sounded like it would have made a great nursery rhyme on "Blue Collar TV." Soon after, the client walked out and the barber walked away for a moment. Throughout all this, I'm reading an old issue of ESPN the Magazine, waiting patiently. Soon enough, the barber walks back to his chair. I begin to stand up, only to have another man walk through the door and beeline for the barber! Even better, the two begin an intense conversation on whatever the new guy had in his cigar box. In a way, I admire these men, for they have certainly not let their livelihoods override their social lives.

As the barber began shooting occasional annoyed glances at me, I realized that the magazine was shaking in my hands; I was visibly trembling from the discomfort I felt in this place! By the time three more of his friends walked in, my instincts were literally grabbing my calf muscles and shoving me out the door. Have you ever been trapped somewhere and jumped for joy when you escaped? That's exactly how I felt leaving this joint, never to return. And no, no one attempted to stop me.

And thus, the lesson: whether the venue is the White House or the corner barbershop, the Boys' Club mentality will cost you substantially in business and in respect.

Postscript: a few minutes later, I found a training barbershop where an advanced-level student with a dyed-red soul patch took care of me. He nailed the look. And thus another lesson: people with artificially red soul patches do great work.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The 'on' is definitely being brung

BBC: Terrorism way, way up, especially in Iraq

The number of people killed around the world in terror attacks rose by 40% last year to more than 20,000, the US State Department has said. [...]

The number of attacks in Iraq nearly doubled to 6,630, accounting for 45% of the global total.

Iraq alone accounts for nearly two-thirds of all terrorism-related deaths last year.

Sort of undermines the argument that we're making the world safe from terrorism and are protecting Iraq from al-Qaida, huh? In fact, the State Department's (!!) report is saying not only the exact opposite, but that EVERY MOVE WE MAKE SEEMS TO HAVE THE PERFECTLY POLAR OPPOSITE REACTION THAT COULDN'T POSSIBLY BE ANY MORE ANTITHETICAL TO OUR PERCEIVED AIMS IF THE LAWS OF PHYSICS WERE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

It's like if we tried to protect an infant from burning herself on a hot pan by burying her three feet deep in a block of permafrost. Or set our money ablaze in a giant bonfire in the front yard to ensure that no one will ever steal it. Or destroyed our own freedoms before any foe could have a crack at them. And yet, we're still at this fiasco, with our esteemed commander trying to dig an even deeper foxhole! Or, at least, sending someone else's kid to dig it.

I miss the days when logic hadn't yet gone the way of Z-Cavariccis.