Tuesday, May 31, 2011

She Am America (And Soakin' You!)

Title immortalized by Stephen Colbert, with all irony removed? Check!

Pretty young white woman as arbiter of culture and truth? Check!

Setup that seems satirical but is played straight? Check!

Lyrics that are hyper-defensive from the get-go? Check!

And can’t decide if we’re one or fighting with each other? Check!

And think that “tolerant” people shold be tolerant of intolerance? Check!

And lecture unspecified people for abusing the system? Check!

A system that she decries in the first place? Check!

Kids holding up placards because they’re the future? Check!

Prominently displayed, and misspelled, tea party sign? Check!

Krista Branch, you are now cleared for liftoff.



My offer still stands.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Diarrhea

This might seem weird to those of you who frequent this blog, but I’ve never kept a sustained journal or diary.

The closest I’ve ever come to doing so was after I received a diary for Christmas when I was 10. For the next six months or so, on nights when I was so inclined, I would wait until my brother was in the bathtub, glance in all directions and break out the diary. I’m not sure why I did that, other than I figured that’s what you do with a book that locks.

On the other hand, sentiments such as, “Social studies fair project in the making” and, “Had fun this afternoon” deserve only the most discreet diary environment.

I have no idea where the diary is now. Who knows who’s reading it?

That time aside, along with a few freestanding emo moments in high school, I’ve never felt the need to chronicle my daily doings, or even my feelings. Probably because that would be crushingly boring.

Here’s how yesterday would look:

“Woke up at 11. Finished a blog at noon. Helped mom archive photos to scan later. Rode my bike to a local middle school to play flag football with some friends. Haven’t played in three months, so I was a little rusty. Made a strong initial impression on the guys, which helped me through my cold streak at the end. I’ve been sore ever since, but not too badly. Had hot chocolate with my friend Blaine, and then we watched Family Guy on Hulu before calling it a night.”

Yeah.

The opposite is also true; some things would sting too much to see on paper. The few times I’ve expressed my most secret desires and concerns on paper or document, the idea that anyone (or myself, later) would see them made me cringe. It’s true that writing is often therapeutic, but that plateaus after a point. And once that point has been reached, the only relief is to tear the paper to shreds. I’ve scrawled words on paper that, once destroyed and disposed, gave my place a feeling of exorcism.

As prolific a writer as I am, I don’t see myself ever getting too personal. At least, not in a banal sense. I do and will continue to share parts of my life that I feel are interesting and relevant to others or, at the very least, compelling to write. I’ve often been accused of not letting people in, but believe me, the public viewing area is usually far more interesting than the warehouse.

If, on the other hand, you really want to know how my afternoon’s going, just ask.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Generation Hex

I’ve decided to stop doing something.

It’s not something I do a whole lot of, but when you have a much-younger sibling and friends across a wide age range, you tend to do it at least once in a while.

It’s that “when I was your age” stuff. It’s wrong for a lot of reasons:

1) It means you’re old.
2) This is usually when you realize you’re old.
3) It is entirely possible to have this conversation with a legal adult who you are dating, at least up until this snuffs out the passion.
4) You’re likely to hear people far younger than you saying it to even younger people, which will make you feel even older. And you will want to tell that young person that they have no idea what maturity is, further reinforcing your oldness.
5) Kids these days. They’ll never understand.

Mainly, though, I want to quit these stories because I hate reading them in blogs, Facebook messages and emails. Sometimes I’ll run across a version of them in publications, where they take the tone of, “Today’s children don’t remember life before 9/11.” And those are interesting in a cultural sense. But most of the time, there’s this underlying one-upsmanship attitude, like the previous generation had it tougher and are thus better people.

I’m all for overcoming adversity, but that’s rarely the point of generational comparisons. Usually, it’s just to deride kids for not appreciating their situation. Or for being slackers or having other bad traits that didn’t exist before the Beatles. But most of all, such points are wrong. Always.

Here’s how these things often go:

“We didn’t have World of Warcraft. We had the Atari 2600! No fancy graphics, just squares. We had to use our imagination!”

Yes, because the Atari 2600 was in no way a time- and ambition-killer when it first came out. I’m sure that when it entered American living rooms, everyone saw it for how crude it was and in no way considered it a technological quantum leap. And I’m positive no parents at the time ever worried about the effect of this new craze on their kids’ precious imaginations.

If anything, video games don’t have the impact they once did, because we’re long since used to them as a pursuit and are used to technological upgrades.

“We didn’t have cell phones. Or caller ID. Or email. If the phone rang, we had to answer it blind! If we went somewhere, we were out of touch until we had access to another phone. We had to mail letters with a stamp! You kids these days, with your Internet, texting and constant communication!”

OK, I’ll grant that texting and cell phones are annoying in the respect that everyone has them and uses them far past the limit of what they have to say, and also that they’ve created a digital divide in society. But what is the point of saying this? That we were better back when communication was a hassle? At its best, portable communication is vital in emergencies and any other time when something needs to be cleared up fast. Like everything technological on this list, such things exist because someone saw the need for it. They didn’t invent it to disrupt societal fabric — they invented it because the past wasn’t as perfect as we imagine it to be.

“We didn’t have fancy baby seats back then! Or even seat belts! Our 1959 Behemalux had a rope on the back of the seat. We used to shut up and hold on!”

Ah, the good old days. Back when babies could fly around in a car and it was OK because LOVE and GUTS would keep them alive! Damn restraints took that all away.

“We never sassed our parents. If we did, we got a well-deserved tirade and pop in the chops with a bullwhip! Because back then, parents didn’t want to be friends. They wanted you to wet your pants with fear every time they walked in the room, then whip you for wetting your pants. And by God, it worked! I wouldn’t be who I am today without their tough love!”

Yes, you wouldn’t be a vengeful punishment fetishist who transfers everything you hated about your upbringing (and led to decades of rebellion and resentment) onto your own children, because that’s what you know. Even in this comment, though, you tacitly acknowledge that something is wrong with those days, because obviously you aren’t doing the same things. Is it possible to brag about something you lament?

“We weren’t politically correct! We said what we wanted to say, flew the flags we wanted to fly, wore what we wished to wear and to hell with anyone else if they were offended.”

Yes, you could be a bigot in public back then. I don’t see how that’s changed much.

(Tangent: In my experience, a lot of the same people who decry race mixing also want everyone to drop hyphenated ethnicities and just be “Americans.” Interesting dichotomy.)

“I worry about the young generation and who among them is going to lead one day.”

I don’t. I’m worrying enough about who the older generations continue to offer up. I reject the notion that elders automatically know better and that youth are stupid nose-pickers who can’t be trusted with themselves. Why? Because experience has taught me that we’re all human, and no humans are infallible.

Even when we live hardscrabble lives, we romanticize our youth and enshrine it forever as our frame of reference. So when we inevitably grow up and see life’s gritty realities, we think things have gotten worse. And as we age, we see the younger generation pick up on the life we’ve left behind. This makes us pine for the past, which was a better time because it was our time. We hadn’t yet dealt with sea changes and our generational loss of innocence. But we mistake that for concrete truth, and thus have disdain for “kids these days.” And we think kids are hopeless because we, as kids, couldn’t see ourselves through adult eyes. Bottom line, we see the same things from different perspectives in our lives, and it always leads to the same conclusion: that the past was better and the future is dim.

Guess what. It isn’t. As Billy Joel sang, “The good old days weren’t always good and tomorrow’s not as bad as it seems.”

“My ____ were better than your _____.”

No they weren’t. You were better back then. Now you’re set in your ways and it’s someone else’s turn to get set in their ways so that they can one day say that their blanks were better than their descendants’ blanks.

So from now on, I won’t insist that my upbringing/tastes/etc. are innately better than those of other generations. No one should. Because when it comes down to it, we’re all pretty much the same.

Friday, May 27, 2011

38 years ago this month...

I just found these photos of the 1973 Butte La Rose flood. The camp pictured is our Polka Dot Camp.

View from the street corner.
View of the camp across the street, catercorner.
My oddly chipper grandfather picks up greenery.
I'm guessing these are my relatives huddled around my grandmother.
L-R: Louis, Brian, Henry, Lala, Little Ham, Joey, Elaine
Elaine catches a ride on the tractor. I should go see her.
The men build up their immune systems.
"Man, I'm glad I bought that boat."
Charles Kuralt once said America isn't about roads, but about rivers. Sometimes the twain shall meet.


Note to future biographers

I'd prefer if you referred to these past few months not as a down-and-out period, but as the "waiting for a top-notch journalism slot to open" phase.

Thanks!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Less-interesting books

The Backup Catcher in the Rye
The Bearable Lightness of Being
A Tale of Two Citibanks
No Ado About Nothing
Not Kidnapped
Stuff White People Are OK With
Bartlett's Made-Up Quotations
Where the Mild Things Are
Chex by Madonna
Ball Three
White Men Who Aren't That Stupid, and Maybe Even Agreeable
To Let a Mockingbird Live
Archduke of the Flies
Eggs and Ham
Lady Chatterley's Husband
A Confederacy of States’ Rights Activists
Interview With A Vampire Enthusiast
Water for the Thirsty
The Five People You Meet in the Workplace
Little T Learns Nothing
Heather Has One Mommy
I Am America (And So Are You!)
Lianetics
‘For Dummies’ For Dummies
Sane Libs
The Origin of Feces
Machiavelli’s The Rinse
Hoarder of the Rings
The Morse Code
Where’s the Birth Certificate? Oh, There It Is.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Joplin, Missery

George Carlin once said of the Midwest, "I couldn't live anywhere where an open window can cause death." Before I lived there, I thought he was exaggerating. He wasn't.

During my four years in Springfield, Missouri, I witnessed some weather that convinced me that, far from being God's Country, it was a special branch of hell. We once had 15 tornadoes in a single night. In January. In Louisiana terms, that's like having several hurricanes hit on Christmas Day. Except at least with hurricanes, you can track them on a chart for days. With tornadoes, you're lucky if you manage to hear the city sirens a few minutes before the twisters hit.

I'll never forget lying in my bathtub on a blanket as my apartment shook during one tornado, while a local DJ implored "all residents of Lake Shore, take shelter ... all residents of Chesterfield Village should take cover..."

I loved the feel and smell of Springfield summers, but to hell with that.

(Side note: Even the floodwaters currently putting much of south Louisiana in peril originate from recent storms in Missouri and Illinois. Seems it's hard to escape.)

I managed to emerge unscathed from my Midwest stint, and I had the benefit of not having particularly deep roots there. But for those who call southwest Missouri home and who have been affected by the destruction in Joplin, words can't describe the tragedy. A friend of mine, who is a journalist and a Saints fan, lost his house. He no doubt has to pour himself into the aftermath at the worst possible time. Hundreds, if not thousands, fared far worse. You know the story by now.

More than once since this happened, someone has said to me, "You got out at a good time, huh?" But in spite of everything, that's not how I feel. I wish I could be there. The journalist in me wants to cover the stories. The aid volunteer in me wants to help with relief. The copy editor in me wants to back up my friends and colleagues who are currently 70 miles from Springfield, far outside their (and anyone's) comfort zones. The friend in me wants to track down the Joplin girl I met once in Springfield and see if she's still alive. The philanthropist in me wants to give, even though I have nothing to give but a blood type not currently in demand.

And it looks like it's not over yet. More terrible weather looms for Joplin and is making recovery all that much harder. Keep up with developments (and how to help) at the Springfield News-Leader and the Joplin Globe.

On the Globe’s website, there’s a story about high schoolers who graduated one hour before the storm hit. As if their future wasn’t uncertain enough before...

I don’t know if it’s because of my age, profession, the Internet era or what, but it seems like these past few years (and 2011 especially) have been nearly apocalyptic weatherwise. It’s like a literal kick in an ailing ass, an exclamation point on the notion that we’re living in hard times. Which brings me back to the graduates — imagine being 18 and this being your normal. I don’t know if I could take it. On the other hand, maybe they’re used to this. If so, more power to them. In any case, I think it’s intrinsic among Americans to stand their ground in the wake of disaster. We’ll need that kind of outlook to rebuild Joplin and every place like it.

I just wish we didn’t have to.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

When the world will really end (Exclusive!)

Like a lot of people, I’m disappointed that the rapture didn’t happen. The idea of ending the world at this point to be with Christ Jesus the Lord Thy God of Emmanuel and the Lamb, Esq. and never have any problems ever again is quite tempting (at the very least, heaven could have swallowed some of those fundie types so we could get on with science). On the other hand, I’m happy that I can do some more work here on Earth, and that my cousin’s child (about to be born any minute as I type this) can grow up to be president.

As a younger pup, I used to contemplate end-of-the-world scenarios. I was never much of a Bible-banger, so I grounded mine in the inevitability of time. I figured that the world would end on Dec. 31, 9999. Because who ever heard of a five-digit year?

I presumed that calendars from that year would have “New Year’s Eve/Judgment Day” printed in the square for Dec. 31. And on that day, everyone would pound the pavement, holding signs and chanting, “The world will end today! We’re all going to die!”

This being the future, of course, the signs would be different than the posterboard-on-wood-stick creations we know today. They’d have digital tickers so they could sync with what everyone was chanting. I pictured this happening on my street, which remained unchanged from its late-1980s look, save for more Lamborghini-like cars. As for the people themselves, well, let’s say I assumed that '80s super-perms and rat-tails would be back in style then. And that everybody would be wearing tacky, color-saturated clothes (in other words, that trend came back too).

As the day turned into evening, there would be festival-like parties in the cities, where I assumed bands would be playing and people would do your typical sinful things, but even more so. At the stroke of midnight, the world would then explode like planets sometimes did on Voltron.

Because a five-digit year would make anyone’s head explode.

That’s my belief and I’m sticking to it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

In honor of T2: Judgment Day

If this is my last blog ever...crap.

On the other hand, any rapture that takes people like me up would be an absolute PARTY. Drinks and manna on me!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Nothing personal?

If there's an expression I hate more than, "It's nothing personal," then it's on another unpublished piece full of expressions I hate and why I hate them.

(And yes, that exists.)

I'm notorious for taking things personally, probably too much so. I understand that many things truly aren't personal, such as business decisions or if someone lashes out at me because they're having a bad day. I try to keep those things in perspective and press on.

What bothers me, though, is when someone tries to say, "it's nothing personal" as a consolation. If something makes my life harder, I will have a hard time brushing that off, no matter how little it matters to the person offering the expression. As Americans, we're accustomed to being a number. We're told not to get too disappointed if things don't work out the way we want, because we're just one person-slash-cog in the grand scheme of things.

Some people can take this attitude and run with it. For some of us, though, it's a little harder to accept. When someone tells me that "it's nothing personal," I feel more insignificant for being told that. I realize that the world doesn't revolve around me (nor should it), but my world does revolve around me — my needs, my wants, my desire to reach out to others. I'm out to fulfill these desires on my own, but no man is an island. It's frustrating when factors outside your control affect your life, whether it's the economy, world events or just some snippy person who makes your day miserable. It may not be personal, but it sure affects how we feel (and, sometimes, eat).

Which is why I hate the expression so much. Just by virtue of saying it, the consoler (intentionally or not) both reminds you that you're a number and dismisses the idea that you should have feelings about it. "It's nothing personal" is one of those expressions better said by not being said.

(This blog was inspired by Seth Godin.) 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Putting welfare whizzing to the test

If you compiled a list of political issues that got Louisianians hot and bothered, drug testing for welfare recipients would set that list ablaze on contact.

It’s one of those issues that’s hard to argue even with a lucid counterpoint, because it’s difficult to state your case without coming off as some drug-enabling, welfare-coddling jerk. You have a much easier time pushing for it, because it’s got everything a good issue should have: government waste, the war on drugs, welfare leeches and an immediate and lingering outrage.

Welfare-bashing is popular in this country. We love to rag people for getting something for nothing. We love to pretend that these people are the No. 1 cause for our economic problems. We love to feel better and more hard-working than those people. And not to put too fine a point on it, but we love being able to refer to “those people” in terms other than the socially unacceptable ones we really want to say. Even if those stereotypes aren’t actually true.

This thinking is widespread in the United States, but it’s especially acute in south Louisiana. Drug testing for welfare recipients is practically a sacrament, a political issue that manages to transcend politics. I have friends who are virtually hippies who want this. Conversely, I almost never hear any opposition.

My stance can best be described thus:

• I am opposed to drug testing on principle, except when drugs would directly affect a person’s performance, such as with truck drivers and athletes. Even then, I would limit it to drugs that directly and adversely alter performance, and preferably with probable cause. Spirit of the law matters as much as the letter in this case — I’m all for testing athletes for banned substances, because such drugs hamper honest competition at best and pose physical dangers at worst; a desk worker being denied a job because they smoked marijuana 29 days ago is harder to get behind. (Full disclosure: I’ve never tried drugs in my life, and I’ve never refused a test.)

• Exacting punitive measures against positive-testing aid recipients could have potentially devastating consequences for children and families, and it seems wrong to punish them for the sins of others — especially given that the addiction could be undermining the family to begin with, and that we’re very selective about which addictions we treat as illnesses as opposed to crimes.

• What do we mean by “welfare” anyway? Since 1996, there isn’t a whole lot of it going around. Are we talking about AFDC? Subsidies? Corporate welfare? That’s kind of an important distinction.

• If we do enact drug testing, we should at least be consistent in our reasoning. The main refrain for drug testing welfare recipients — the polite one, anyway — is that we don’t want our tax money funding drug habits. OK. Fair enough. But don’t college students and corporate yuppies also do drugs from time to time? Why no clarion call for their testing, especially since they have quite the government gravy train going themselves? Shouldn’t we bring in (as some have) any government check, meaning student loans, Social Security, grants, public-sector salaries, tax refunds, tax cuts or any other taxpayer-generated dollars? After all, we don’t want any of that money going to drugs either. Assuming that is, in fact, actually the reason why we want this so badly. I’m not entirely convinced that it is.

(Shout-out to my friend Karl for inspiring this blog.)

How not to blog


• I don’t get people who announce a blog on social networking, say it’s on a controversial topic and then declare that no criticism/opposing stance will be tolerated. What’s the point of that, aside from imposing your stance? Debate is half the fun for me.

• Blogger has a cool site called “Blogs of Note,” which highlights ... you guessed it. One of the must-read blogs touted there is by invitation only. Poor call on Blogger’s part, but an even poorer call on the blogger’s part, because that person just lost a potentially sizable audience.

• There is literally no reason to have an invitation-only blog. Blogs exist as a way of conferring information. Most bloggers embrace a wide audience, or at the very least don’t mind if others discover their site. If privacy is your concern, then use e-mail or snail mail to send your thoughts and pics. Better yet, call or visit that person! Invited readership seems like you’re calling someone to tell them you’re having a party and they aren’t invited. You’re making a point of making the point, and that sucks. No one’s party, or writing, is that good.

• I may be doing it wrong too. In the past few months, I’ve had requests for advertising rates, and Mutual of Omaha wanted to put me in a commercial. I guess I’m just waiting for the perfect opportunity. Preferably one that involves writing. It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine. Hey, it worked for Wayne.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A disastrous steadfastness

Few things are as off-putting as someone who brags without merit.

Sure, I brag about being the best blogger ever, but it’s true.

Lately, I’ve stumbled upon a recurring meme in the wake of the flooding of the Morganza Spillway. Namely, that the people affected by the spillway floods are not going to take government aid because Cajuns are too proud and self-sufficient to do so.

This always crops up come disaster time. It reached an ugly peak after Hurricane Rita, when we saw comparisons between the proud, steadfast, bootstrap-yanking Cajuns and the looting, stubborn, lazy Ninth Ward residents of Hurricane Katrina. Even before Rita smacked the southwest Louisiana coast, I would hear people (and even some in the media) deride New Orleanians for not evacuating before Katrina, and in the next breath praise defiant residents of Calcasieu Parish for standing pat.

I guess storms spare you if you express your work ethic loud enough.

You heard back then, as you do now, that those people would not only rebuild, but would do so without government help. I won’t judge someone if they are able to do exactly that. But does anyone, really? Are there really people who, when confronted with a government agency leaving a pallet of cold drinks in their front yard, run up, smash every bottle and proclaim, “Don’t tread on me”? I don’t remember that happening in Butte La Rose when FEMA left drinks and some food supplies for residents ravaged by Hurricane Andrew. (Then again, I was 12. Maybe I just didn’t notice.) And even if they did refuse/destroy the aid, how is that a victory for the taxpayer? The stuff’s paid for. And given that many southern states receive more in federal aid than they pay in, chances are some other state’s taxpayers footed some of the bill. Is that the concern?

It’s a testament to these cracked times we live in that someone would even pretend to weigh this kind of decision. All of us here in Louisiana know at least a few people who will say without blinking that they’d refuse any government aid even in the midst of disaster. What’s especially funny is that your typical bootstrap conservative/libertarian will say that government’s sole purpose is to defend and protect the people. It seems to me that disaster relief would fall in that narrow category, and yet somehow gets demonized with the same fervor as the imagined welfare-queen state.

Whenever I ask someone about this stance, they respond with something to the effect of, “I work hard and don’t want any handouts.” Again, getting something for your tax dollars hardly seems like a handout. But I guess when you’ve been indoctrinated into the fallacy that all government is bad, you know no other way. Even when you’re in desperate need of help (via a man-made disaster, no less).

What I understand less is the pride behind it. Forget the hypocrisy that is sure to arise when these people accept the aid (which they will in true Jindal fashion) — why be proud of such a self-defeating quality? My heart sinks when a Cajun (or anyone else) pats themselves on the back for standing up for a ridiculous principle that they’ll wind up violating anyway, once they realize that their need to stay alive overrides their irrational politics. It’s even worse when those same people deride others for doing the same thing, usually out of unspoken racial tension.

And yes, I think racial tension drives most of this talk. Almost all of this “We do things right here” gloating comes from people who, in their minds, work harder, have better ethics and morals and feel in their hearts that they were raised better than anyone else. And thus they have a right to sneer at those who they feel don’t live up to those standards. People like those lazy New Orleanians from the Ninth Ward.

Pride in upbringing is a large swath of the southern fabric. But that pride so often seems based in not changing and other social mores to which I’ve never subscribed. I’ve had people in Lafayette say to my face that I’m not a true southerner. Which is funny, because I am. I was born and raised here. I went to all the same schools, attended the same festivals and share much of the same Cajun blood. But they are right in the sense that I’m not a cultural southerner — I don’t hunt, I don’t revere the rebel flag, don’t eat a lot of fried food, don’t care for rigid social customs and don’t embrace far-right politics. I have a lot of company here. And yet, we’re so often marginalized by the people who are most high on themselves but are most in need of introspection.

Can’t we all be Louisianians? None of us are perfect. It’s time for everyone to admit that. Ultimately, we’re all more alike than different, and our way of life is special. Becoming more tolerant and humble people shouldn’t diminish that. If it does, maybe it isn’t worth saving in the first place.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Keep this in mind about Butte La Rose

Recently, I've been involved in a lot of discussions about the opening of the Morganza Spillway. The consensus is generally, "This will keep Baton Rouge and New Orleans from flooding." Terrific. I love both cities and hope to live in one or both in the years ahead.

But that water has to go somewhere, and a large part of it is going to Butte La Rose. That's also a place very dear to me. If you've been there, you've probably seen this place:


My grandparents (and our extended family) built it in 1964. It belonged to my grandparents until they both died in 1999. The flood of 1973 barely reached the building, though Hurricane Andrew ripped off part of the roof. My parents owned it until a few years ago, when they sold it to my cousins, who refurbished it inside and out. What you see above is the current Google Street View image. A few weeks ago, I ran into my cousins and they invited me over to see it. I guess that's not happening anytime soon.

From birth through high school graduation, I came here nearly every other weekend. Sometimes more often. I visited sporadically after that; I last went inside the camp in 2004, though I visited Butte La Rose in 2009 for some biking and nostalgia. I had also planned to go sometime this year, but obviously that's in the air now. 

I could write a book based on memories and photos alone, and maybe an encyclopedia if I interviewed family members and friends (I heard some Saints stopped by in 1975; I met Ralph Begnaud there; my brother once talked to Mario Lopez in the yard).

Butte La Rose is in my blood, as it is with many who lived or had camps there. I hope that everyone expressing relief that it isn't them or chiding people for building there think about what it means for those who will be affected. It's a damn shame that we have to flood anywhere in the first place, but it's also shameful how territorial some Louisianians have become in the wake of this. Remember, everywhere means something to somebody.

Just something to think about.

Questions about 'Atlas Shrugged'

In the "Atlas Shrugged" universe, does "Atlas Shrugged" not exist? Or do the good/rich people in that world revere another book that spells out their philosophy? If they do, has Ayn Rand written it? Does everyone take it as gospel once they read it? And if that's true, would that mean the so-called parasites just never bothered to do so? Or, given that Objectivism is the light and way in this universe (unlike the real universe), would such a work even be necessary? If Rand's ideas are well-known facts of life in this universe, does this mean that the poor people and government bureaucrats chose to respectively be lazy and evil? And if so, why would anyone choose these options if it's so easy to be rich and respected?

Discuss.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Beck's bulimia complex

I almost feel stupid for writing about this. But I did, so there you go.

Last week, Glenn Beck derided Meghan McCain for doing a skin-cancer awareness ad where she appears to be nude — in the sense that high school girls are nude in their senior portraits, because the ad shows her only from the shoulders up. I’ll bet the porn they allegedly found in Osama bin Laden’s compound was more revealing. He expressed this by making vomiting noises.


This commentary affirms Beck’s occasional insistence that he is nothing more than a “rodeo clown.” We’re long used to conservative commentators puffing themselves up as God’s gift to God until they get busted for saying something horrible, upon which they flip into jes-kiddin’ entertainer mode.

Oh, Glenn, you kid...

• Expressing disgust at a cancer-awareness campaign...
• Because it shows skin to highlight skin cancer...
• Skin belonging to actresses and female celebrities of various body types...
• With all naughty bits well concealed...
• With Glenn Beck, noted beauty and fitness expert...
• Calling out one of the least-revealing women...
• For being fat and repulsive...
• When she’s not even fat...
• Or repulsive...
• And expressing that disgust with pretend vomiting...
• Which isn’t the classiest thing to do even if it was true...
• Which, again, it isn’t...
• And in any case is hardly befitting of someone who lays some claim to “enlightenment”...
• A claim that itself makes me want to vomit.

For the record, I like Meghan McCain. She’s high on the list of people I want to meet. She’s smart, witty and yes, attractive. I don’t agree with everything she says, or even a lot of it, but she is clearly not cast in the same mold as the wretched leadership of today’s Republican Party.

The fact that Glenn Beck is riding out his lame-duck status on dumb fluff like this gives me hope that the Meghan McCains are the future of U.S. conservatism.

In the meantime, ladies, remember that you’re beautiful just the way you are. And all of you look better than Beck. Inside and out.

Not a hit with me

So I just saw Kick-Ass for the first time. It didn’t.

Specifically, I loved the idea but hated the execution.

Before you many Kick-Ass fans reserve a slug with my name on it, understand that I realize that I’m not the target audience. I’m a 31-year-old man (?) who as a child watched a lot of superhero movies, consumed lots of comics and even created a few characters of my own (such as Camperman and Mr. Macho Man). Those remain grandfathered in to some degree. Over time, though, I’ve come to find the whole thing silly and too unrealistic even given suspension of disbelief. These days, the only superhero I truly like is Superman.

Superman is cool to me because he’s a good guy. And I don’t mean that in the sense that he’s a jingostic action hero living in a black-and-white world (though he’s certainly been that way at times). What I mean is, Superman is a regular guy with a good heart who happens to be living on a planet where he can harness superhuman powers. Hell, he even has a workaday life as a journalist. He’s what I suspect most of us would be if we found ourselves on a planet where native humans couldn’t walk or lift more than 15 pounds.

Unlike Batman and many other superheroes, Superman isn’t a vigilante traumatized by a past event. He uses his powers to help people and to prevent destruction, not to settle past scores. Also, insofar as a character in a fantastic universe can be relatable, Clark Kent is relatable. I wanted to be him when I grew up. I pretty much am, though I’m 5 percent less awkward and it isn’t (usually) on purpose. Millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne? Not so much.

This is probably why I don’t care for most superhero movies after Tim Burton left the Batman franchise (I’m not a huge Batman fan, but I thought Burton struck the balance between camp and dark perfectly). I don’t go for dark, gritty reboots. The neocon and Randian leanings of The Dark Knight and Iron Man 2, respectively, don’t draw me either. (I did like Megamind, though.)

So when I first heard about Kick-Ass, I thought the idea was pretty neat. It addresses a complaint I’ve had about the superhero universe for awhile — namely, that someone aiming to curb violent crimes in a silly costume isn’t likely to last in the real world. The titular character (a typical dork who arbitrarily decides one day to buy a suit and be a superhero) finds this out pretty fast, when he’s stabbed and beaten in his first fight. He’s so self-conscious about going to the ER in his costume that he begs the paramedic to tell everyone that he was nude at the time of the attack. I really liked the movie up to that point, because it seemed like it could exist in a real universe. I prefer that in any movie or work of fiction, because I like seeing how the story resolves fanciful conflicts within the real laws of the universe.

But if a movie decides to exist in its own universe, it should at least be consistent. Kick-Ass fluctuates between the real and the surreal whenever convenient, which is annoying. Either it’s a satirical movie about regular people being superheroes or it’s a fanciful flight in a world not bound by our laws. This tries to be both, to its detriment.

Hit Girl bugged me especially. Yeah, I know, she’s a comic book character and the reason everyone who loves Kick-Ass loves it. And that she’s a product of Nicolas Cage’s hyper-survivalist upbringing. And I’m not offended by foul-mouthed kids. I won’t be joining the chorus of family groups who claimed she was going to inspire a wave of profane tweenage Bill-killers, because that’s stupid.

But there was something I hated about her almost immediately. Viscerally, not intellectually. I think it may have to do with the brutal death and dismemberment that she dishes in her first action scene. Yes, she’s rescuing a typically inept Kick-Ass, but come on. She kills everyone in the apartment! Also, where no one else in the film thus far has done anything unrealistic, she suddenly defies physics and the one-sided fight is set to rah-rah music. What is this, Scott Pilgrim all of a sudden?

Few things in movies alienate me faster than some scene that everyone enjoys but I immediately think, “I hate this person. I know I’m not supposed to, but I do.” I imagine that Hit Girl is a riot in a comic book. But seeing her in a (relatively) real-world setting only makes me think, “Will they even let her out when she’s 18?” Because for all of her heroics, such as they are, and the beatings she takes from grown men (which also don’t work on screen), she still is responsible for the murder of several people, many of whom weren’t attacking her at the time.

I guess if you’re into that sort of thing, no one’s done it better. I’m not one of those people. For me, the excessive uses of “fuck” and blood aren’t substitutes for clever writing and action.

A lot of critics of Hit Girl have received lashings online, as you might expect. We’re accused of sexism because we’d have no problem with a little boy inflicting the same carnage. Because no one had any problem with Hob, the murderous 12-year-old drug boss in Robocop 2. I had the same reaction to him when I first saw that movie, and I was 10 years old then (and a huge Robocop fan).

The problem I have with Hit Girl has nothing to do with the second half of her name. It has to do with the nearly unexplored notion that she’s been raised to be a soulless killing machine. It takes her father dying at the hands of thugs for her to show any emotion for a couple of minutes.

And don’t even get me started on the idea that Hit Girl is a feminist icon. Gender equity isn’t about girls adopting the darkest revenge fantasies of fanboys. She’s a model of empowerment in the Sarah Palin mold — she’s there to scream, “Hey, look at me! A woman! Doing guy stuff!” To turn the tables on the fanboy argument, you wouldn’t be praising this if she were a guy.

Hit Girl’s character had a lot of potential, as did the rest of Kick-Ass. The acting is terrific overall, and Chloe Moretz gives Hit Girl her all. If I rewrote the movie, I wouldn’t have done much different. Actually, pretty much all I’d do is revise Hit Girl’s character a bit so that she lives up to her billing as the best thing in the film, and retains some human decency (and maybe even be a little rebellious toward her dad, which had all kinds of explosive potential). And she’d perhaps chop off fewer legs as a first resort.

But I guess then you’d have a movie I like, which would defeat the whole point. I’ll go back to being 31 now.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fun Knee

This was inspired by the Cafepress site for Right Wing Humor. Thought the juxtaposition of items was a tad ironic. Kind of like the platform itself.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Free dumb of speech

Hostility erupted at LSU yesterday after graduate student Benjamin Haas announced that he planned to burn an American flag on campus as a statement in the wake of U-S-A! U-S-A!! U-S-A!!!

My friend and I were in Baton Rouge yesterday and considered going to this event. We ultimately didn’t, but media reports suggest it panned out exactly as I thought it might. And as is often the case, I hate being right.

First things first — I’m not going to condone flag burning. As I’ve said many times, it’s an unimaginative form of protest, and one that rarely says anything. Those who seek to do it in America tend to do it for shock value, and even those who have a vague political point tend to lose it in the deafening furor that such an action brings. Nothing about a flag burning makes anyone seriously think, “Gee, maybe we should carefully reconsider the issue at hand.” It’s more like, “Go to hell, hippie, go to hell!

But this is where the true definition of patriotism rears its head. Flag burning is legal. It is protected as free speech under the U.S. Constitution. And while a lot of people would like to see that changed, its legality is the best proof that we truly have freedom of speech here. The United States of America, often touted as the most free nation in the world, does not inflict retribution on those who desecrate its symbols. Such desecration might be ugly, but true freedom is ugly.

Our free-speech rights — indeed, our rights as a whole — are only as strong as the expressions to which we apply them. If we’re only going to apply them to “pro-patriotic” speech or other pleasantries, then we’re in trouble. Free speech is not confined to what is inoffensive. If only positive speech were protected, we wouldn’t even need a First Amendment. The ugly truth about free speech is that you and I aren’t always going to like it. And we don’t have to. We can tune it out and move on to something else, or even raise verbal hell ourselves. That’s the beauty of freedom.

And that’s what everyone who decried the promised flag burning should have done — ignored it. After all, Haas wasn’t in anyone’s face and he wasn’t hurting anybody. We owed him his rights, but nobody owed him an audience. His message could have fallen on deaf ears like a tree in a deserted forest (or at the very least, been heard by a handful of interested people). Instead, overreaction by the angry crowd not only brought attention, but made a strong case for why such patriotic fervor is misguided.

In the end, Haas did not burn the flag. No doubt the mob will take credit for that, though it turns out he didn’t have the proper permit to do so (I wonder what the small-government types think about that). Haas had a short speech prepared as well, explaining his position and asserting his love for his country. Critics drowned it out with patriotic platitudes and projectiles. He eventually climbed into a police car and had to be escorted away.

Everyone cheering the outcome of yesterday’s event completely missed the point. Chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” while shouting down and chasing away a fellow American is not a win for American values, it’s a loss. Yeah, congratulations on using fear and hostility to suppress a fellow citizen’s rights. Way to go in venting your outrage toward some ineffective activist instead of toward our real problems. Kudos for taking a stand for American symbolism while trampling all over what that symbolism stands for.

Free speech also covers poignant irony, right?

Monday, May 09, 2011

It takes balls to have journalistic ethics

When I first saw the now-famous photo of top Obama administration officials conducting the Osama bin Laden kill mission, I figured the biggest row over it would be how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton covered her face with her hand. After all, hyper-analysis of her gesture is just ridiculous enough for public consumption. Turns out, though, that someone found a better way to hide Hillary’s mug.

Der Zeitung, a flexibly spelled publication for the Hasidic Jewish community based in Brooklyn, engaged in a bit of broadsheet bullshit by airbrushing Clinton and Counterterrorism Director Audrey Tomason out of the photo. This was in accordance with their strict policy against publishing photos of women.

OK.

Just a few things:

• It’s pretty insane to claim to be a newspaper of record and then revise the record.
• Doing it for religious reasons makes you an especially wretched propagandist.
• If your policy is to hide women, at least make it clear that you’re hiding the women. Wouldn’t a face blur or a painted-on paper bag do the trick? I didn’t think it was possible, but such a perfect photoshop job actually makes this worse.
• The editors could have skirted all of this controversy in the first place by, you know, not running the photo at all. Maybe Der Zeitung should eschew photos altogether and become a Gray Lady like the New York Times used to be. Except for the Lady part.
• Their Mother’s Day coverage must have sucked.

Oh, Der Zeitung did apologize. Let’s not leave that out. I’m sure this was all a misunderstanding and that the removal of women from photographs was a typo or something. Maybe they accidentally ran the first draft of the photo? Who am I to judge?

Oh, wait. I’m in the media. I can totally judge.

The newspaper for which I worked most recently has a strict anti-altering policy. I learned this on the fly one night, after the print paper had gone to press.

Before I get into the details, here’s a brief primer on our process: every night, at a predetermined deadline (usually 11:35 p.m.), we’d send the last of the digital pages to the press crew downstairs so they could plate them for printing. About 20 minutes later, we’d skim off the first few print copies and check for mistakes, a step we called “paging.” If we noted a mistake, we’d call up the press and tell them what we would fix, and tell them whether it was an “A-stop” or a “B-stop.” An “A-stop” was the literal “stop the presses” moment. A “B-stop” meant the mistake was only enough of a big deal to get on if the press stopped for any other reason.

We regularly ran a cute critter on the front-page rail as a promo for our online pet galleries. On the night in question, after paging, someone noticed that our latest featured dog brought a couple of his little friends to play:

Pictured L-R: Mojo, mojo.
Talk about an A-stop fable.

(That’s a copy editor joke. Rim shot. That makes two!)

After a laughing fit and a semi-serious discussion on the nature of dog testicles with my boss, I called one of the press girls and asked her if there was anything she could do about the giant scrotal bounty this dog was sporting. At least, I think I got those words out. A minute later, she called me back and said she’d digitally erased them. The new Puritanized portrait looked exactly the same, without the nuts. As far as quick photoshop jobs go, it was quite good. No one would notice a thing was amiss. Except poor castrated Mojo, who now answered to Nojo. (Ba-dum-BUM!)

My co-workers noticed too. You see, it was against newspaper policy to publish any photo that has been digitally altered. So we wound up not using the dog at all and found another one in time for the full press run. Being me, I cut out the version you saw for posterity and taped it to my cubicle wall. I’ve been using it for laughs and shock value ever since, not to mention as a cautionary tale on what happens when copy editors drop the — well, you know.

So anyway, back to Der Zeitung and press integrity. Yeah, it’s a terrible affront to pretty much everything there is to present such a drastically altered photo as accurate journalism. If I could be the paper’s managing editor for a day, I’d tell the newsroom to adjust its philosophy and apply the same standards of integrity to world-changing events that we did to dog balls.

I’d use those exact words, too.

The cruise ship Friendship

I don’t have any lifelong friends.

That thought occurred to me this morning as I responded to all of my birthday greetings on Facebook. The friends come from all walks of life, from childhood to today. And while many of them are close friends, none of them qualify in my book as lifelong friends. (This also applies to many relatives, who I’ve often gone years without seeing. But I do appreciate them more when we reunite.)

I can think of one guy who I attended school with continuously from kindergarten through 12th grade. But while he and I were close friends in our early years, we hardly ever crossed paths after 6th grade. He’s now married and living in another state. I haven’t seen him since high school graduation (assuming I saw him that day), and we’ve never talked online. But even if we stayed in touch the whole time, he technically wouldn’t be a lifelong friend, because I attended Head Start for a year and a half before starting kindergarten. And in those days, I thought those kids would be my forever pals. But no one has ever been.

It’s not as if this is an unexpected phenomenon. As a young child, doctors misdiagnosed me as a slow learner before I tested into gifted classes. Because of this wide curricular spectrum, I jumped from school to school more than average. From 3rd through 8th grades, I didn’t attend the same school as my brother (who is two years older). Later, the combination of college, online involvement and working in the transitory media field ensured that everyone I knew would never be in the same place. And that I wouldn’t always know the same people.

I first realized this in a big way in high school. My high school housed the parish gifted program, but was also in my home zone. This meant that I’d be going to school not only with my gifted classmates from the past three years, but also friends from a more distant past. About halfway through my freshman year, it occurred to me that I’d gone through maybe one group of friends from 6th grade to 8th, but about five groups in 9th grade alone. (Considering how many of my earliest high school friends later got arrested for drugs, robbery and rape, that was probably for the best.) I eventually adopted a tight group of friends for 9th, 10th and 11th grade, but that shifted radically in 12th grade. Looking back on high school, I can say that very few good friends went the distance. The ones I stay in touch with today I met mostly later, when I had a better sense of who I was as a person.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become far pickier about what makes a true friend. It’s not that I’m being discriminatory by any means; it’s more of a subconscious thing I think we all do. When you’re a kid, your best friend could be the boy who sits next to you in the lunch line. Because your friendship pool is so small and you tend to share the same experiences, it’s faster friendship. Middle and high school are more exotic because you meet peers from other neighborhoods. That’s laughable to me now, but it was a big deal then. For me, high school was the beginning of my really solid friendships.

(My experiences in preschool and in my neighborhood did shape me permanently in one respect: I had a lot of minority friends from the age of 4 onward. My first best friend, in preschool, was a black kid named Frederick. Affluent white suburbia was something that took me a while to comprehend. And longer to like.)

These days, I don’t care where someone is from or what they look like, so much as how good their heart is. Politics is important to me — not because I think they should agree with me, but because someone with mean politics tends also to be a mean person. The friend should be fun, inclusive and someone equally at home having fun and shooting a smart breeze. They should make me want to be a better person. These are the kinds of things that make adult friendships worthwhile.

Still, the friendship flux seems to happen even faster as an adult. In graduate school, I had a very tight group of friends with whom I’d study, play games or just lie out underneath the stars discussing the nature of life — everything I wanted in friends then and now. I knew that group wouldn’t last past the summer of 2005, because that’s academic life. Still, I was surprised at how it seemed to evaporate even before my graduation. I barely talked to any of them after that, and the few that I’m friends with on Facebook now only came aboard much later. I guess that was inevitable, but for a while it made me wonder how good of a friend I actually was.

With my move back to Louisiana from Missouri, it’s happened again. This time, it was a lot harder because I spent a much longer span of time with people to whom I was even closer. And unlike every other instance, there’s virtually no chance of me seeing them together ever again. Many moved away before I did, and others eventually will. Fortunately, social networking will help establish continual contact. This is the first chance I’ll have at trying that and, with it, the first chance in a very long time of enjoying continuous friendships with people.

Not that I feel like I missed much by not having lifelong friends. I know lots of people who have been close friends since they were practically babies, and I can never picture myself having that kind of bond. I don’t think I’d even want it. As much as this blog might seem like an overshare, I don’t feel like I could open up to one person for a particularly long time (though I’m getting better at it). That might also explain why I’m unmarried at 31.

In any case, I appreciate every one of my friends, acquaintances, etc., regardless of when you’ve come into my life. The nature of friendship is by far the most important metric. Everything else is just statistics.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mom sure timed this one right

In honor of today being both Mother’s Day and my 31st birthday, here’s a relevant slice of Bloom County:


My birthday falls on Mother’s Day every few years. In my lifetime, it’s happened in 1983, 1988, 1994, 2005 and 2011. In both 1988 (my golden birthday) and 1994, my family threw parties — but they were Mother’s Day parties where I got (and gave) presents, and the guests were family, not friends. Combine that with my brother getting presents on some of my earliest birthdays — and my never celebrating later birthdays on account of finals and/or conference track meets — and there’s hardly ever been a year when it was all about me. Thanks, Mom!

I kid, of course. I’m humble, not greedy. Without mom, I wouldn’t be here. Thanks, Mom! Love ya.


As a small child, I often envisioned what I would look like when I was older. Glasses were a must, because my grandfather wore them and I wanted to be him. I also figured I’d wear a suit and tie. Basically, I’d be Clark Kent in Superman III, played by Christopher Reeve, then 31.

And I'd be striking this pose a lot.
Well, at least I got the mild-mannered journalist part right. And the curl.


A few more random notes about my Pierson Prioleau birthday:

• Perk of being 31: No one cards you anymore, because that was three driver’s licenses ago. (Side note: All of my driver’s licenses have been horizontal. I was 22 when Louisiana unveiled the vertical one for minors. Yep, 9/11 changed everything. Poor kids.)

• Six years ago, I dated a 31-year-old woman. I used to brag about it. Next time it happens, I’ll be bragging for the opposite reason.

• College girls often tell me I look 25. Which means I’m still too old for them, but slightly less so.

• I am now the age my mom was on Nov. 6, 1984. I remember Nov. 6, 1984.

• I’m older than many of my sports heroes (but not Pierson Prioleau).

• My “baby” sister is 21. Old baby.

• People call me “young whippersnapper,” but ironically now.

Just as I began this blog with a timely image, I shall end it the same way:

MOOOOOMMM!!!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

More reasons to smile

• When you look in the mirror, you see someone other than Osama bin Laden.
• Something can always kill you faster and harder than the thing you’re worrying about.
• Spiders are not the same size as humans.
• It takes as much talent to get a million dislikes on YouTube as it does to get a million likes.
• Interstate highways make long-distance travel way easier than it could be.
• American law is not decided by the strictest community standards.
• No matter how rich or famous someone gets, they can still wet their pants.
• Hipsters hear it first, so you don’t have to.
• The right site won the Facebook/MySpace battle.
• Sex feels good and circumcision hurts, not vice versa.
• No matter how awesome it seems in theory, teleporting would just lead to WAY more crime.
• DNA is not the kind of acid that burns.
• The music on your iPod is not picked up by passing stereos.
• Wind. In small doses.
• One day, they might take the technology behind those self-destructing DVDs and apply it to our problems.
• Most of us can watch a list of the top 10 NFL draft busts and be grateful we aren’t those guys.
• All of us could be on some kind of top 10 list.
• Ice cream trucks aren’t literally made out of ice cream, thus ensuring their usefulness on hot summer days.
• No matter how old you get, lunch money never loses its luster.
• You can go into any supermarket in the United States and find out how much riboflavin you get in a serving of milk. Or save the trip and Google it.
• If you pay even moderate attention to highway signs, you almost never need your Mapquest instructions on a long road trip.
• Think of the worst quality of your meanest dead relative. They are not exhibiting that quality today.
• This summer will mark 20 years since Jeffrey Dahmer’s had any chance of touching your chocolate.
• A young child who will eventually grow up to be president is being encouraged right now to follow their dreams.
• An older child is being discouraged to follow the same dream for some very good reasons.
• Mathematics always has a definite answer, and sometimes it’s, “Get into English.”
• Chlorophyll is edible.
• Trampolines.
• Did I mention the mirror thing and Osama bin Laden?

Friday, May 06, 2011

A blogger's Frogger dream

I woke up this morning answering questions out loud that my dad was yelling from another room in my dream. In the dream, I realized after the first question that I was dreaming, and felt relieved that I didn't have to go find the answer. But he kept asking other questions, and his voice grew more and more realistic with each utterance. Finally, I said something apparently along the lines of, "Baltimore Ravens." And then I was awake. 

After falling back asleep, I dreamed that I was crossing a major boulevard in Lafayette on foot. It has a pedestrian tunnel, but for some reason I didn't take it. I managed to dodge unusually heavy traffic across the first three lanes and median, but then tripped and fell across the last lane. In the distance, a black car was bearing down on me. I had plenty of time to roll over onto the sidewalk, let alone regain my footing and run, but for some reason I couldn't do it. Or wouldn't. It was as if I was paralyzed. I managed to grasp the sidewalk with my hands, but the rest of my body was just too weak to get out of the way. I looked up and gasped as I saw my startled face in the reflection of the bumper. Just in time, I snapped awake again.

Once I was awake, my sister began yelling questions about grammar to me. And after leaving the house to meet a friend, I saw an SUV roll out of its parking space and smack another SUV.

This never happens when I dream about being famous.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Getting better

I love the "It Gets Better" and "Knock It Off" campaigns against gay prejudice. "It Gets Better," in particular, could apply to any kind of bullying inflicted on children who don't yet understand that their current situation will not define their entire lives. But it's especially relevant for young gays and lesbians in the age of cyberbullying.

The scope of homophobic-themed bullying in America is incredible. And it's way past time we did something about it. I like these and similar campaigns because they address the issue on two fronts: comforting the victims and confronting the aggressors. And they do it with authority and in a memorable way.

The spot below might yet be my favorite. It's an ad for Google Chrome, but only in a technical sense. I especially like the cartoon cameo.



To my young gay friends (and anyone else feeling torment), it gets better.

Let's all be better.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Snap Shot

So the Obama administration has announced that it will not be releasing photos of Osama bin Laden dead.

If I were to shoot a video of my response, it would take the form of a 1980s Frosted Mini-Wheats ad:

"The journalist in me believes that all non-classified photographs have a right to be seen so that the public can see the true cost of war and have incontrovertible proof that the world's most wanted man is, in fact, dead.

"But the political strategist in me understands that such a photograph could attain viral status and leave the world with the impression that American citizens are a morbid, bloodthirsty lot, further undermining our security and damaging our reputation worldwide."

I still lean toward releasing the photos, because I favor an open, accurate representation of events. But I can understand the thinking behind the decision.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Take that, dream!

Two years ago, I wrote about this recurring dream that I'm always having:

The nightmare involves my middle and high school English teachers and my gifted classmates. The premise: it's the present day, and even though we now live all over the country, we regularly come together in this sort of hybrid between a classroom, coffee shop, locker room and treehouse. It's pretty awesome.

The reason we're there is because - not to give any idiot politician any ideas - we have to keep renewing our high school diplomas. The way we do that is to undergo a semester of projects, which are outlined in a syllabus given to us at the beginning of the session in a manila folder. It's a laundry list of big assignments, including dioramas, presentations and lengthy papers on such illustrious topics as literature as a lethal weapon and blogging as a cure for world hunger and whatnot. We're then let loose for an extended period of time as we work to meet each deadline.

My course of action in each dream follows the same trajectory: I put the folder in my locker, hyped about making each presentation the best in the history of history, visit with some friends and go on my way. Life goes on.

Next thing I know, it's the end of the semester. And while I'm happy to be back again, I become enveloped in a cloak of dread as I realize I haven't done any of the work! "OK," I think in my typically delusional state, "I have a few minutes. I can wing it." But I can't even cram, because I can't remember the combination to my locker. So I run through every locker combination I know. 16-22-0. 26-12-22. 38-28-8. And so on. Fuck you, brain.

Well, last night, I had the dream again. And this time, I strode up to the locker, unlocked it on the first try, took the papers out, handed then in complete and got an A.

This is probably the byproduct of having spent the bulk of yesterday helping my sister complete one of her final term papers at crunch time. But I prefer to think of it as me finally conquering some subconscious obstacle in my head. Maybe it's both. 

I hope it pays off soon. I can dream.

Bartlett's Unfamiliar Quotations

In the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, a lot of eerily prescient quotes on the matter have been attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. and Mark Twain. Many of these have since been declared fabricated. What follows are some of the more egregious "quotes" from these and other historical figures.

"Osama bin Laden is a poor rafting companion." — Mark Twain

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their carry-on." — Martin Luther King Jr.

"I never met a man I didn't like, and I've never met Osama bin Laden." — Will Rogers

"Nine...eleven..." — Count von Count, Sesame Street

"The only thing worse than being talked about is being talked about because people are happy that you're dead." — Oscar Wilde

"Look, 9/11 was a terrible time for all of us. But if there's anything we've learned from it, it's that we have look forward as a nation." — Rudy Giuliani

"OK, now he's irrelevant." — George W. Bush

"I'd rather see a hundred guilty men go free than one innocent man executed. But one guilty man executed is the most fun." — William Blackstone

"BOO-YAH, bitches!!" — Barack Obama

"President Obama has balls. I like his style. We need a commander-in-chief who ain't afraid to stand up to our enemies and give them a butt-whoopin'." — Every redneck blowhard from 2001-2009 who said this about Bush

"For the last time, it starts with a U!!" — Usama Young, New Orleans Saints

"Just like we should weep whenever an unborn baby reaches a barbaric end, we should also weep for every person who reaches a violent end at the hands of another of God's children." — Pat Robertson

"Teacher says, whenever a bell rings, a terrorist gets dinged." — It's A Wonderful Life

"Good job, Obama." — Sarah Palin

"Wow! This is so much more important than that birth certificate crap. I am humbled." — Donald Trump

"In the fifth month of the year, on the first day, at 10 p.m. Central Daylight Time, a leader will come forth and declare an epic win." — Nostradamus

"What do you mean, they're sitting on raid footage? Americans deserve to see it unedited and uncensored!" — Andrew Breitbart

"Well, this changes everything!" — every libertarian, anarchist, contrarian liberal and tea party member