Wednesday, November 26, 2008

That face up there? 56 percent man!

That's right, I have a feminine side - a 44 percent feminine side, to be exact, assuming there are no both/neither/other options (And this isn't even considering my too-neat handwriting). Go Genderanalyzer!

Monday, November 24, 2008

This week in irrelevant news...

--The Catholic Church has officially forgiven John Lennon for his 1966 remark that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. In response, Lennon put out the following statement...


...Because he's been dead since I turned six months old. The scandal's been dead much longer. Anyway, Lennon wasn't even gloating when he said it; he was, if anything, bewildered. Yes, he did call some Christians "thick" and suggested that the religion in its current judgmental form would eventually lose favor. And he followed up the furor with trademark defiance. But an attack on Jesus it wasn't.

I do find it funny that the Vatican instead calls him a "show-off." Yes, The Vatican.

Left: Show-off. Right: Not a show-off.

Instant karma's gonna get you.

--Michael Jackson converted to Islam and has renamed himself Mikaeel. What reports don't tell you is that he wanted to be Catholic, but the Catholics have no room for accused child molesters known for their elaborate showmanship. OK, that's harsh, I know. No need to continually bash the Catholic Church over the extremely ignorant things its bishops say. But I still can't get past the idea that the leadership of the Catholic Church thinks that it alone has the power of forgiveness over long-dead controversies, and that Barack Obama and the U.S. government owe it things. The church pays no taxes and, yet, have their hand out? By conservative logic, that makes them welfare cheats! I don't think that's what Jesus meant when he said to help the poor.

--Chris Brewer posted his usual recap of our weekly flag football blowout, except that he didn't think any of it was worth mentioning (because, he told me, this time it was three-on-three). Still, he audaciously declares the "only eventful thing" of the day to be his popped knee. Missing from his blog is that he popped his knee because he reached for an uncatchable pass - because I was just covering him that well. He also skinned a few layers off his forearm in a last-ditch attempt to keep me from scoring the walk-off winning touchdown. You gotta admire the devotion, though, even if he decided not to post the picture I took of his arm and pained face, and even if he is a complete scrub.

For the record, we played two games. The Pacific Coast StupidSonics (my name for the team with the Californians and Oregonian) whipped My Better Team (The Louisianian, Indianian and, uh, other Californian) handily in the first game, while My Better Team pulled off a surprise win in the second after a defensive stand for the ages. On the day, I scored three touchdowns, one PAT, two sacks, netted a couple of pass blocks and managed some decent quarterbacking. Yes, this was probably due to the three-on-three game caused by people just not being around this weekend, but this may be the only time in my life this ever happens and I want it preserved for all time. So thanks, Chris! But do visit his blog for the cool observation I made at the movies last night (hint: it involves white supremacy).

--There was something else I wanted to cover, I think, but it was apparently too irrelevant to remember. Oh well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

God + guns = somebody's guts

Right now, in Springfield, the city is considering ending the ban on concealed weapons in public parks. Good God.

As someone who frequents several of Springfield's parks, I am beyond astonished that anyone wants this so badly. What's next, guns at the Japanese Stroll Garden? Day care centers?

I've honestly never understood the mentality behind concealed weapons. The justification that's often used 100 percent of the time is, "I should be able to protect my family any way that I can." It's a testament to our times that this is seen as a solid defense; after all, is anyone really against personal and familial protection? And if they are, what kind of barbarians are they? I need to hide my piece in case one of these family haters gets in my face, yo!

But even beyond the idiotic semantics, how is a concealed weapon preferable to an exposed one? For one thing, it's harder to get to. Also, a concealed weapon gives the criminal no clue that you're armed, which invalidates the argument that hiding your piece makes you somehow more immune to crime.

On the other hand, people - even law-abiding family-type people - can get angry. And having a weapon in the heat of passion can, at best, complicate the situation. At worst, someone could get their eye shot out in a gruesome way.

Concealed weapons mainly fill two psychological urges:

1) "An armed society is a polite society." Another way to put this is, "An armed society is a fearful society." Essentially, we're supposed to assume everyone around us is packing heat in their jackets, and thus no one should try anything stupid. Of course, this fails to take into account that people often get angry for no reason, which all of the weapons training in the world won't stop from making the situation more dangerous once a gun is introduced.

Even if this picture weren't full of holes, a fear-based existence can only be maintained for long before society becomes a bleak shadow of itself. Personally, I'd fear the public a lot more if everyone carried rather than the odd nutball. I wrote last year about how easily a gunman's actions could devolve into a free-for-all firefight if an armed and panicking public were able to reply in kind.

Think of the people you know or have seen in schools, parks and malls. Every thug, Goth, punk, nerd, poseur, control freak, head case, Jesus freak, nervous wreck, teacher's pet, snob, spaz, hothead, hophead and armchair warrior. Now think of the police. Who would you rather trust with firearms?

Which brings us to the second psychological factor:

2) Dirty Harry/Death Wish fantasies. The Second Amendment protects a citizen's right to bear arms; it does not mean every person is a de facto police officer. The difference between a trained law-enforcement official and a concealed carrier is the difference between a state trooper and a teenage motorist. Sure, both can use the highways with impunity, but that doesn't give the 16-year-old the ability to pull over violators or engage in high-speed chases whenever he feels the need. And the state troopers aren't going to see that teenager as much of an asset as a vigilante. Cops generally don't.

Still, the vigilante scenario is alive and well among many law-abiding citizens, who are of course the ones who beg to pack hidden heat the most. Deep down (or perhaps not so deep down), they want to be the hero. They want to be able to say they kept the peace in the park. And to do that, they're eager to raise the potential danger factor in a policed area where firearms aren't currently allowed. And judging by the political leanings of much of the most vocal pro-gun crowd, they're the same ones who stump the most against protests, which often take place in parks or other public meeting grounds, because private property is off-limits to free speech due to the potential conflict and danger that such a risk poses. The law has decided that there are limits to freedom in that respect.

So if we can't exercise the First Amendment on private property, why should we allow unmitigated Second Amendment rights on public property?

In the gun nuts' zeal to protect their families, I suddenly feel a lot less safe in the park.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Go figure

Last night, I pulled beside an SUV at the red light of a major intersection. Written in white all across the right-side windows was, "I VOTE REPUBLICAN!" The other side sported a smaller, "McCAIN 08."

Ironically, it was in the left-turn lane. And when the light turned green, it made an illegal U-turn. Not so ironic.

I wasn't sure if the driver needed AAA or AA. Zing.

Go Saints!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My back thinks we're socialist!

If this country is so hot for the idea that hard work is the key to personal and financial success, shouldn't our health care system not completely undermine that the first time you need a test of some sort?

Just sayin'...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Making up for lost blog time

First off, I apologize for not posting much in the past few days. I guess you could say I was on a honeymoon, except that there was no exotic traveling or hot lovin' or gradual alienation of unmarried friends or anything like that.

And now, as MC Hammer says, "Pump it up. It's time for the news."

--A large group of Catholic bishops got together and gave Barack Obama an ultimatum over his stance on abortion, and demanded that he reverse it. They're also calling out Catholic politicians such as Joe Biden and demanding they not take communion or otherwise practice their faith within the church.

Or what? Am I missing something here? Does the United States government owe the Catholic Church, or any other religion, anything? Or is it just that time of the cycle again, when Catholics decide that our leaders aren't worthy to shine Benedict XVI's miter (as long as they're Democrats, that is)?

Strictly from a PR perspective, this isn't the best approach. In this age of hope and change and unity, why would such a massive organization try so hard to be divisive? "Agree with us 100 percent on every single issue, or we don't even want to see your heathen face in this house of Jesus. Actually, all you really have to do is agree with us on abortion and gays, because that's the only two things we ever talk about."

Joe Biden is a Catholic. You'd think the church would see this as an opportunity, but here's how I see that conversation going:

Bishop: "Psst, hey, Biden, we need you to help us out. Talk to the big O for us, will ya?"
Biden: "I'll see what I can do."
Bishop: "Thanks! Oh, and get the hell out of our church, heretic."

This isn't to knock Catholics in general; most of my family is Catholic, and I used to consider myself one as well. But crummy proclamations like the one emanating from these bishops ensure that I will never again align with the church. And they show exactly why Americans rejected such wannabe theocrats in this election.

--In St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, eight Ku Klux Klansmen are in custody for shooting a woman in the head during a botched initiation ritual. No one's really sure what happened, but it seems to me in this day and age the Klan would be rolling out the red carpet for the few yokels left who want to join, not rolling the red out of their heads. But I'm not in the KKK, so I shouldn't judge. Maybe it's a rite of passage. They all seem brainless anyway.

Thanks for representing, Louisiana. I've never been prouder to have a Missouri driver's license.

--Here in Springfield, a law is currently being bandied about regarding the downtown square. In short, they want to close the square at 11 p.m. on weekends, a full two and a half hours before the bars close (at 1:30 a.m., which is itself pathetic). Originally, the plan was to apparently allow for people to walk through, but not to loiter. But the latest version allows for anyone who even sets foot in the square after 11 p.m. to be arrested. Yes, arrested. Even if they're visitors who aren't aware of such a stupid law. Advocates say that visitors are being scared off by the "riffraff," which by my own account refers to the pasty, pierced goths and the homeless vets. What is their logic with the tourist trade here? "I got arrested where Wild Bill Hickok shot that guy and where they lynched those black dudes once and all I got was this lousy T-shirt?" As hard as the city's trying to sell downtown, they sure are trying to scare people away from it. But that would be logical.

They say that closing the square would allow police to focus on the streets as bars close. Because nothing says "secure" like a dark square at 1:30 in the morning that the cops aren't anywhere near. Believe me, I've trotted down that square at unsavory hours. It's not so much the homeless as the aggressive drunk club girls you have to worry about.

But maybe it is in the best interest of the city to close off the public areas and allow only those with money to spend to stick around. Let those who just want to hang out and be scary go do it some other the suburbs...where they'll marry my sister! OH NO!!

--I can't type "square" to save my life, apparently. I keep having to retype it, because my digits don't naturally go from "Q" to "U." Heh. Almost sounds like a pickup line, doesn't it?

--Obama and Nancy Pelosi are now calling for the Big Three U.S. automakers to be included in the bailout plan. One popular theory on the Intertubes is that the reason Ford, GM and Chrysler are being priced out of the market by Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and others is that we have to pay health care benefits. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't - but it could also be that Toyota, Honda and Hyundai make better and more efficient cars that are more conducive to the lifestyles and wallets of today's environmentally (and pocketbookily) aware motorist. Ford, for one, could sell that new 65-MPG Ford Festiva here as well as in England. Again, logic.

--George W. Bush admitted the "Mission Accomplished" banner was a mistake. Yes, and I'm sorry I harassed Julia Hiatt in third grade during recess that one time that got me sent to time-out. Too late now. Today, I'm waiting for Bush to say his second mistake was admitting to the first mistake.

--Man, I hope Obama makes blogging boring for the next few years.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sarah Palin's God

Conceived on a whim and rushed into, not that ticket, the cartoon...

Oh, and Happy Veterans Day!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day observations

--Ddddddddddddrrrrrroooooovvvveeee.....Sssoorry, tremblingggg....

-- Drove over to my precinct at about 6:25 a.m. Considering I spent most of the night wide awake and that I have to work from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. tonight, that was quite a sacrifice.

-- The polling place had moved into a mid-size church for the last election, the gubernatorial primary. I was unable to find the place last time (it was hidden in plain sight) and didn't vote. This time I made damn sure to locate it a few weeks early.

-- The parking lot was packed with cars, mostly neutral but about 50-50 among those with bumper stickers. A long line snaked outside, but I was told that those were the people with last names A-G. The H-O (yes, I know) and P-Z lines were oddly much shorter.

-- The church smelled like a flame-broiled Whopper. Quite nice. Saw a coworker exiting with his "I Voted" sticker. Nifty.

-- The woman in front of me - youthful-looking middle age - kept eying me. Maybe I give off Obama vibes. Those are aphrodisiacs, I've heard.

-- When I got my ballot sheet, I almost accidentally marked McCain-Palin. Seriously. I still get shivers thinking about it. I connected the Obama-Biden arrow with aplomb. Then I traced it over a few times just to be sure. Also voted for Nixon - Jay Nixon, that is - for Missouri governor. Also voted against a measure that would end public election of judges in favor of a "nonpartisan" commission's appointment with a public referendum after a few years. Oddly enough, fellow Greene County voter John Ashcroft also stumped against it, which makes me wonder.

--Even with a packed house and a busy ballot, I was in and out in about 25 minutes. I headed over to McDonald's for breakfast, where I wound up right behind the same woman who'd been in front of me at the polls. Destiny?

-- My journalism professor, who is serving in Iraq, sent out an e-mail saying this weekend's Texas Tech upset of Texas was an omen. He claims the military vote is 70 percent for McCain, and that it'll make a big difference. He's certainly a source for information you never hear anywhere else.

-- Later that afternoon, I got on the horn with my 18-year-old sister to make sure she and my family had voted. She's a political-science student, so I shouldn't have worried. She and my dad went this morning, and my mom went this afternoon. Didn't talk to my brother, but he's a reliable voter. My sis and I talked for about two hours about the election. Good times.

--On my way home this evening from my usual bike ride, I found myself stuck at a major intersection behind a van with an Obama bumper sticker. The driver opened the door and - after a few seconds - tossed her cookies all over the pavement! I thought maybe it was just a drink, but after she did it once again - visions of Mr. Creosote dancing in my head - and once we got moving I confirmed that it was, in fact, tossed cookies. "I know exactly how you feel," I said to myself. Later in the drive, it occurred to me that I'd been out of info reach for the past couple of hours, and maybe she knew something I didn't. And then, I suddenly felt the need to vomit myself. Fortunately, I managed to hold it down and eat something. Now I'm watching results trickle in. If only I could add my adrenaline to the power grid...

--That new CNN thing with Jessica Yellin being beamed into the Election Center as a 360-degree hologram from Chicago is awesome. Let's tap that technology for all of us who often need to be in two places at once.

--Just saw the Chicago celebration (so loud that CNN's Suzanne Malveaux had to get a special microphone after her first segment was completely drowned out), which was contrasted with the mood at the GOP's ballroom in Phoenix. Despite the excellent boys' choir, it still seemed like, er, reality.

-- [This space reserved for hope.]

Monday, November 03, 2008

The moment of truth

Yesterday afternoon, I got home after an exhilarating bike ride on a perfect southwest Missouri day. I had the day off to soak in some sunshine, hit the library and then the bike trail. Few things in life give me more peace. When I stepped in the door afterward, I flipped open the blinds and let the sunshine stream in. I plunked down and, as I often do, cracked open my bottle of water and sat down to check the latest goings-on online. This is when my mood changed.

It was then that I read that Barack Obama's beloved grandmother, Madelyn Payne "Toot" Dunham, had died Monday morning, just one day before the 2008 election. As we all know, Dunham had been like a second mom to Barack, raising him for a large portion of his childhood and was his rock in the years following his mother's early death. And despite the fact that she had been ill for some time, and that I didn't know her personally, I cried. First I cried because of the terrible loss that has befallen the Obama and Dunham families at such a pivotal moment. Then I cried some more after reading well-wishers online, who expressed the sort of spiritual sentiments for which I'm not known. The idea that Toot died assured of her grandson's victory and that she could be watching from heaven with Martin Luther King Jr. genuinely moved me (and anyone who knows me knows I'm generally not of that frame of mind). Someone made a comment online that Obama will never, ever regret having suspended his campaign to visit her in her final hours.

My grandfather, one of the biggest influences of my life and my lifelong next-door neighbor, died shortly before my 19th birthday. As much time as I spent with Pop all my life - at least as much as with my parents - he died while I was at the mall buying running shorts with my girlfriend. My cousin had made it from Hawaii to be at his bedside, but I wasn't there. That is the single thing I'd change in my life. Five months later, his wife of 53 years died as well. My last remaining grandparent, my dad's mom, died in 2006, and I spent my 26th birthday at her funeral. All three grandparents had been a huge influence in my life (my dad's dad had died in 1963). Losing them as an adult really gives you an appreciation for the fragility of life. In my relatively short adulthood, I've lost an unimaginable numbers of relatives, coaches, mentors and friends, to the point where I wondered if I could even shed a tear anymore. But something about Obama has sparked in myself an appreciation for the good in my own life and in those I know and love. He's reminded me of an optimism and decency that my 6th grade English teacher made me promise to never lose.

And this is why I cry for Barack Obama.

For me, support of Obama is so much more than the sum of his campaign and platform; he also brings a distinct humanity that many of us didn't know could exist in national politics. Obama isn't so much the man you want to have a beer with - well, that too - but he's also the man you'd trust with your children, or with your life on an operating table. Many make a big fuss over John McCain's patriotism or Sarah Palin's "realness," but in the end those qualities go only so far. Obama has both the cool intellect and the bedside manner that our country needs in its time of crisis. He isn't just the face of the U.S.; he will be its brain and heart as well.

And this is what perhaps has been the most remarkable aspect of Obama's campaign, no matter how it turns out. For too long, Americans have been more consumers than citizens, disheartened by a government they have always seen as too far gone. But Obama has given many of us not just change for its own sake, but a renewed faith in the idea that the people matter.

Obama's election would do so much more than install a Democratic president; it would validate a genuine movement toward civility and unity in politics. Obama is one of those rare candidates who makes politics feel less like a sport than a privileged civic duty. You don't want to work for him or vote for him as much as you want to do those things for the country. One of Obama's most common refrains is, "This election is not about me. It's about you." And it is, indeed, about all of us. After eight years of arrogance, fear, loss of rights and secrecy, U.S. citizens are hungrier than ever to be a part of their nation again.

Much of the credit for Obama's success goes to the incredible discipline and technology-driven nature of his campaign. While McCain freely admitted to not even checking his own e-mail without help, the Obama campaign made text messages, YouTube and other online works staples of their effort. They fought back quickly and decisively against any and all allegations, and even set up, a one-stop repository to counter all lies and innuendo.

It's sometimes said that someone can be measured by the quality of their critics. Obama's critics have taken desperation and prejudice to a whole new level. It started obviously enough, with fearful rhetoric about his race, childhood influences and that scary middle name of his. Then came the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose moment of incendiary speech electrified a nation of those who apparently didn't see the irony of criticizing a supposed Muslim for his Christian pastor, or the irony of letting McCain's courting of John Hagee slip by. As the public got to know Obama, and realize that the right-wing caricature hid a scholarly, upbeat, electric, all-American family man, the attacks predictably escalated. Suddenly, Obama's policies were deemed socialist and Marxist, and he became inextricably linked with the most extreme actions of anyone he'd so much as shared a table with in his life. But those mean attacks didn't catch on, because anyone who lived through the 1990s - such as every registered voter alive - could recall a time when Obama-esque economic policy did this country proud, just as it had in most of the pre-Reagan era. Nothing socialist or Marxist about that. Nothing reasonable about that perspective, either.

These attacks, assuming everyone goes to the polls today (and you'd better!!), will represent the death rattles of what will likely be seen as one of America's sorriest periods in history. It won't be easy to climb out of the canyon that was the Bush era, but the first rung has already come in the form of the Obama movement. Today is our chance to toss up a giant grappling hook in that climb by electing Barack Obama as President of the United States.

I look forward, as many do, to crying more tears tonight. Tears of joy. Let's get it started!