Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hassle back

When you write as much as I do, it's inevitable that you're going to lose something sooner or later, no matter how many safeguards you take.

It's been happening to me since before I owned a computer. Once in sixth grade, I spent hours writing a homework assignment, only to have it (and all of my papers) blow out of my backpack from a freak gust of wind, through a fence, across the football field and into the back road behind it. 

The paper in question was a dialogue I wrote where I was extremely discouraged about something, and Michael Jordan explains to me how he never gave up despite being cut from his high school basketball team. Perhaps drawing upon that lesson, I frantically rewrote it during a class before the one in which it was due. It was rushed and diluted and nothing like the masterpiece I'd written the night before, but it did the trick.

A year later, I typed up a report for the social studies fair (topic: the Beatles) on my mom's office computer. We didn't have one at home, so I was awed by the marvel that was WordPerfect and the dot-matrix printer. Though she tutored me in the software and I was also taking a computer class at the time, I was unaware of one minor thing — the need to save. I spent three hours typing nearly the entire report before accidentally deleting the entire thing. Because I also didn't know how to recover, Mom had to take the wheel while I dictated the entire handwritten draft to her. 

It's happened many more times since then. Usually because of some random fluke or because I somehow forget to save. And every time, it feels exactly like getting kicked in the ribs — I just sit there waiting for the paralysis and fury to subside.

I hate to retype something from scratch, especially when I recall most of it. Because then my OCD kicks in and I want to remember all of it. Usually the end result turns out better, but still. STILL.

Point is, it happened tonight and I have to do it again. And there's nothing I can do about it. And sometimes when you're kicked, you want there to at least be a foot for you to kick back. Or something.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Address of the "all-weather" fans

So I wrote an open letter to Roger Goodell in Gambit's Super Bowl issue

We are Saints fans. Vibrant, irrational and unsinkable — much like New Orleans itself. All teams say their fan bases are the most rabid, but few are as organic as the one you'll find right here. The Saints have never belonged to anyone else, nor could they. And the feeling is mutual — many players settle in this crazy town for life after they've played their last, and they're family.   

Our fanhood often blurs the line between team and city — and beyond. When was the last time you saw a T-shirt with a spiked helmet that read, "Defend Cincinnati"? Would Dallas Cowboys fans ever call their quarterback Romosus? How many citizens, ravaged by one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, would promptly think, "Please don't let our team vacate to San Antonio"?

Monday, January 28, 2013

I'm Pro-Pro Bowl

I hope the NFL decides to keep the Pro Bowl.

I've gone back and forth on this. After last year's fiasco, I didn't think I'd miss it. But this year, they actually played the game. Yes, the NFC eventually put it away, but for the first half at least, it was appropriately competitive. (Not that blowouts by themselves should be grounds for ending the game — see also Super Bowl.)

What I like best about the Pro Bowl isn't so much its loyalty to the real game or even the outcome — but the little things that make it fun that can't exist elsewhere. It's the only chance many players have to commingle on the field. It's the game where offensive lines can clap in unison while lining up. It's the only place where the NFC's Jeff Saturday could switch sides for one play so he could enjoy one final snap with longtime collaborator Peyton Manning. It's the only place where a seasoned official can joke, "Yes, there are penalties in the Pro Bowl." It's a venue for the best players and coaches to show off their skills without the heavy implications both players and fans experience during serious games. Sideline interviews are plentiful and as good as those tend to get.

I even liked the live Twitter booth they had last year, because it was such an insane idea.

Most of all, though, the Pro Bowl reminds us that football can be enjoyable even when your favorite quarterback throws to your least-favorite receiver. It puts team loyalties in perspective, as well as the game itself. A crazed, intense fan like myself often needs that reminder.

So keep the Pro Bowl. In Hawaii.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A dream I had

(From Friday, not this morning)

I went to a camp where other people my age and with similar interests gathered for the weekend (if anyone knows of a real place like this, please send details). We all stayed in cabins, which were actually small, cabin-like houses. The cabins were laid out in a neighborhood-style grid on a parcel approximately the size of a high school campus. The leader of the camp was a charismatic man who resembled Leonard Maltin.

Of all the people there, I knew only one, a friend and former co-worker in Missouri. At some point I made a new group of friends — three guys and a girl. They weren't there for quite the same reason as I was — apparently we fell into unspecified micro-interest categories — but I really wanted to fit in, because I saw what I wanted to be in them.

So with my real-life friend elsewhere and some downtime, my group said that our leader had something cool in his cabin — what, I don't know. Knowing that he wouldn't be there, I decided that we should go see it. So we did.

After making our way through a thrilling obstacle course, we found the leader's cabin unlocked and walked inside. It's as if he was there, but he wasn't; the TV was blaring, the lights were on and food was out. We proceeded to run around the inside of the cabin, jumping over the bed and skimming the top of dressers, at times screaming, "HARDCORE PARKOUR!!" We did no damage and took nothing. Then we left.

As we walked out the door, the leader suddenly confronted us.

"What were you doing in there?" he asked angrily.

"Oh, sorry about that," I replied without skipping a beat. "We were waiting for [my friend] to come back and thought that was her cabin."

"Well, I saw video surveillance that shows you were doing parkour in there," he retorted. That's when we remembered that every cabin had a security cam. What was up with that, anyway?

"We realized right away that it was yours," I said. "But we felt like it would be suspicious if we just left right away. So we decided to pass some time in there until you came back." Nice save. There was some truth to it, in the sense that we were waiting for my friend to come back. I sold it.

He looked at me for a moment. "Uh-huh," he muttered before flashing his trademark Maltin smile and walking off.

Suddenly, we all realized that we weren't in a fun and refreshing camp — we were in a horrifying cult. As the realization came into focus, we saw a vision of Dear Leader's smile superimposed over an orange-and-yellow pamphlet — the recruiting brochure.

"I think we should get out of here," I said to my friends. They looked at me warily and walked away. I got a tremendously uneasy feeling.

Later, I dreamt that a recurring dream hangout from my days in Springfield — a sort of idea mall and workout center — was condemned and being torn down.

I should really stop sleeping.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Please stop shooting people at school

So there was a shooting at Lone Star College in Texas today. No one was killed, but three were injured.

According to initial reports, two guys got into a fight on campus and at some point both pulled out guns and shot at each other. No reports have surfaced of any brave, armed heroes stopping this.

Guns always escalate a confrontation. If knives or rocks had been involved, we would be hearing about bystanders possibly suffering scrapes or nothing at all — not that it would be worth a news story in the first place.

Of course, this will ultimately change no minds. "This happened because it was a gun-free zone!" "No one died, so it was OK!" "It was yet another conspiracy to disarm law-abiding Americans!"

Or, the richest one of all: "People who fight will find ways to fight!" Yes, people will always find ways to fight. But not every way escalates it to the point of endangering themselves or innocent people. 

Maybe we ought to look again at "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." When it comes to guns, the third one cancels out the other two. We deserve safe schools and other public places. The Lone Star College shooting shows the folly of allowing people to carry on campus. Pro-gun logic would seemingly dictate that two armed people would lead to a zero-bullet standoff; instead, it led to two shooters. Who's to say a third, or fourth, or fifth, weapon would be any safer?

None of the usual pro-gun arguments make this OK. And none of their solutions will make this go away.

The inauguration: a contrast, but no comparison

Yesterday's inauguration was something I didn't at all expect.

It had a lot of strikes going against it for me to watch it in the first place: 1) it's a re-election inauguration, and a ceremonial one at that; 2) there was no way it was going to top the 2009 event; 3) it was early in the morning on a day when I woke up furious over something and had to baby-sit my niece to boot (the two were not related); and 4) I was so tired that I could barely keep my eyes open.

But I'm glad I stuck through it. Because what I saw blew my mind.

Critics who have savaged the inauguration said crowds were smaller, the oratory less enthusiastic. They're right on both counts, but miss the point. The brand of enthusiasm and history-making that defined the 2009 convention, by definition, can't be replicated. Nor should it be. It's no longer unprecedented to elect a black president — which itself is a cause for joy, albeit a more subtle one.

No, what made this inauguration remarkable is how normal, almost pedestrian, it seemed. But it's a new normal. From Sonia Sotomayor administering the oath of office to Joe Biden, to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, to Beyoncé, to Medgar Evers' widow delivering the invocation and the presence of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Hawaiian presence in the parade and so much more, the festivities reflected the natural American diversity that has long not defined such events. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, no less. What could have come off as just another instance of forced diversity seemed as natural as it ever has.

Obama confirmed this by making a speech that, whatever soaring tones it lacked, may still rank among his best ever. This is a new, seasoned Obama, bringing four years of chief-executive experience to the stage. Yesterday, he presented his latest lesson learned — that reconciliation is only good insofar as it intersects with the truth. Whether or not that has to do with his being finished with elections, it was still a refreshing change of pace. Critics have long alleged that the president has been too conciliatory for his own good, too often trying to placate his opposition even before bargaining began. In an age where the tea party-led Republicans were openly stalling government just to spite Obama, it too often seemed like a pushover approach.

However, Obama also came off as a chess player, thinking 10 moves ahead and solidifying his gains when they eventually came to fruition. Yesterday's speech suggested that the chess approach has triumphed. To put it in the broadest sense, Obama has offered the GOP numerous olive branches throughout his presidency. When they refused to take them — and keep in mind, these branches often alienated Democrats and progressives — he was able to say that he tried. The increasing petulance of the conservatives exposed them as apologists for the super-rich, misogynists, racists and end-timers. And that intersects with a generational shift toward diversity and tolerance in general. 

This is why Obama could give a speech defending government; openly calling for full civil rights for gays and equal pay for women; calling for an end to partisan voter oppression; calling for an immigration policy steeped in basic human dignity; urging acceptance of and reversal of climate change; and standing up against moneyed misinformation in general — and it doesn't sound like something pipe-dreamt up by a blogger. It's the new normal. And it's about time. 

If there's any doubt that these ideals are here to stay, just look at the state of the opposition. 

Glenn Beck, one of the right's favorite pundits, held his own event concurrent to the inauguration, the Misfit Ball. Held in Dallas, the event featured roundtable discussions by fringe, yet beloved, GOP figures and pundits. The event was divided into such charming groups as "Hate Mongers," "Fat Cats," "Bible Thumpers," "Snake Oil Salesmen," "Shameless Self-Promoters" and "Earth Haters." Jokingly, of course. Its emcee welcomed participants to "where hate comes to celebrate." Satire!

Food included Chick-Fil-A and Hostess, apparently because of anti-gay remarks and supposed union role in destroying, respectively. Beck billed the event as a regular-guy alternative to the D.C. elitism of the inauguration, with an extra helping of apocalyptic persecution. In one discussion, Beck arrives at the conclusion that, despite everything, the right doesn't need to change, the GOP does — literally arrives with that conclusion, and also leaves with it.

Beck and his pals feel left out of America more than ever. And it's no wonder — hate, bigotry and ignorance have bleak prospects in the future of America. Indeed, they should never have had their time in the first place. Attitudes like Beck's are best quarantined in intimate echo chambers, where the sharply decaying population of subscribers can enjoy one final gasp of pseudo-relevance.

Yesterday, hate and regression reigned in a small, sequestered venue, while acceptance and progress paraded through the streets of Washington. Change has become the new normal. Go America.

Glenn Beck, trend better

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Still irrelevant after all these years

This article from last October talks about the evolution of the liberal blogosphere over the past decade, from its role as rising juggernaut of journalistic scrutiny in the Bush era to its fading relevance now. According to the article, changing administrations, splintering online social channels and general attrition have left the once-budding movement all but irrelevant.

Heh. I could have told you that.

It’s been nearly nine years now since I started this blog, and whatever relevance it ever held is long gone. But I don’t care. Hell, I’m glad.

When I started Not Right About Anything in 2004, I was the liberal columnist for the University of Louisiana Vermilion. Within that community, I was very well known. I even carried a little editorial weight outside of it, as well. I was also pissed — so, so pissed about the excesses of the Bush administration. Pissed about being a liberal in Louisiana, a place where it’s hard enough to be progressive on a good day, let alone in the 9/11 aftermath when seemingly everyone had lost their minds. Pissed about the economy tanking, wars brewing, elections based on bigotry or outright stolen, a powerless feeling in general. First through my newspaper columns, and then through this blog, I connected with hundreds of like-minded individuals. Not only did I feel like I wasn’t alone, but it also felt like something could conceivably be done about it.

In those days, politics preoccupied virtually every moment of my time. I was adamant about my beliefs, and never hesitated to jump into or start a political argument. Not only was I sure I’d win, but I had to win. Because most people who disagreed with me were ignorant or stupid.

But times change. My days as a columnist ended. I graduated, failed to find meaningful employment for more than a year and lost a girlfriend, my truck and even my bike. So much of my self-worth was invested in my work that I grew depressed when it felt like no one cared anymore. And the political climate of the time continued unabated, to the point where I all but stopped following it.

For a while, I considered my aspirations hopeless and took a job working in the warehouse of a department store — where every day I feared, as so often happened, that I’d run into a friend or college professor who’d see that I was failing in life. At least, that was my perception — I finally came to terms with the idea that no one judged me as harshly as I did.

So when I finally got a job in my field in 2007, and fulfilled a longtime goal by living out of state, I felt a lot better. It was as close to a clean break as I ever made, a feeling that eventually worked its way into this blog as well. Even that long ago, I felt like I was no longer an aspiring cog in the gears of change — I was just a guy who did his thing. That was incredibly liberating.

From then on, I simply wrote what was most meaningful to me at any given moment. That was often politics, sure, but it could also be sports or anything else. I also got away from cheap jokes and cheap shots, or letting others’ writings guide my statements as much. Sure, I still make cheap jokes and take shots, but I try to have some substance and sophistication behind them, just like with everything else I do. I’m beholden to no group or agenda besides the truth. I have a lot to say and this is where I say it. It’s audacious and sometimes embarrassing, but it’s honest. I don’t set out to change minds, but I do try to state my case and find common ground. At this point, it’s less of a promotion tool and more like a child — you’ve got to keep feeding and nurturing it, because it’s going to stick with you for years to come.

The biggest change for me personally over the past decade — over the past couple of years, even — is that I’m more humble about myself. I don’t think I was ever arrogant, but I’ve been pretentious. Many people have told me that, and I hate pretentious people, so I decided not to be one anymore. I still get into heated arguments, but I try to avoid some of the unproductive tactics of the past. I also define myself less by unrealistic standards in a world fractured by social media. I’m an imperfect person; I realize that, and am always taking steps toward being better. Now I have all-new ridiculous dreams.

That, more than anything else I set out to do when I started this blog, is what I’ve learned from writing all of these years. I may not have become a rich and world-famous blogger, but I’m still doing it because it’s still a labor of love. And that should always be the point of anything in the first place.

This one's for THE CHILDREN

It's amazing how much of what conservatives want in America is allegedly driven over concern for "the children."

Abortion should be illegal because it kills unborn children.

Janet Jackson's nipple and curse words make for indecent TV because of the children.

We should stop mortgaging the future of the country (at least as far as non-war, non-tax cut stuff) because we have to think about the children.

Teachers must shut up about their increasingly miserable lot because of the children.

We must return to alleged Christian roots because of THE CHILDREN.

When George W. Bush surrounded himself with black schoolchildren during the signing of No Child Left Behind, it was an inspiring step forward in American education.

And yet...

When Barack Obama surrounds himself with diverse schoolchildren to sign executive orders intended to ensure they're less likely to get blown away in school, HE'S JUST LIKE HITLER. What kind of vicious fiend would use children as a political prop?!!

Just to be clear, I'm not a fan of using children as a political prop. I was actively interested in politics from the age of 8, but I suspect most kids aren't. (I knew a guy in college who, as an 11 year old, was part of a crowd of hecklers at a Bill Clinton rally that I had attended as a supporter. He grew up to be a gay Democrat, and the memory was a source of deep shame for him.) However, to suggest that Obama is the first to do it, or the worst, is to look like a partisan fool.

But that's beside the point. What's more important is what this latest criticism confirms about many American conservatives — that even the children, their oft-stated most valued concern, matter less than guns. I figured if anything would cause Second Amendment fetishists to reconsider their hard-line stance on the right to bear arms, it would be the Sandy Hook shooting. 

Nope. Instead, worrying about the children is suddenly a political ploy, a ruse to garner emotional support for a political issue. And that's bad now, at least insofar as it applies to guns. Because guns are sacred. Even more sacred than THE CHILDREN.

Apparently, there's literally no principle the GOP won't abandon for a few more pats on the back from the NRA. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Polly want an original thought

I should liveblog the very loud conversation these people next to me at the coffeehouse are having. But it would be too overwhelming. Also, way too boilerplate, because they sound like they're reading Tea Party talking points.

It's interesting to listen in on a group of people so convinced that what they're saying is true. I'm not saying I'm immune to that, by the way. But I like to think that when I am (or anyone else is) among like-minded people, the choir-preaching is at least based on facts. Facts that we've thought about and about which we have original thoughts.

Whenever I hear people in my age group say, "Blah blah blah DEBT CLOCK blah blah blah PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY blah blah blah SOCIALISM blah blah blah YOU NEED TO SEE 2016 blah blah blah," I don't even feel like it's a real conversation. It sounds so phony and parroted. (Liberals are also not immune to this, but at least there's usually some heart behind it.)

Whatever political beliefs you have, I hope you speak from your mind or heart and not simply recite the outrage du jour.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Mitt Romney guide to economic class

A year and a half after graduating from college, I got a job that paid more than I had ever made in my life prior to that point. I had more money than I knew what to do with, even after renting my own apartment and buying a brand-new car. The benefits were also sweet.

On one of my first days at work, a co-worker in a different department (a guy about my age who had been there a year) was showing me some ropes. At some point he said offhandedly, "I'm glad to be here getting a decent paycheck. If I wanted to make only $30,000, I'd go back to delivering pizza."

I was making $26,000 at the time.

Everyone sees money differently. Many, probably more correctly than I do. But I've learned that people on the other side of the Reaganomics equation can be just as skewed as I am. 

They have a cartoon depicting how President Obama's tax changes will affect average folks. And by average they mean, your average single parent making $260,000. And the retired couple scraping by on $180,000. The married parents of four coping with $650,000. And, obviously, the single person on a Ramen noodle budget of $230,000. All with massive deductions and investments, because of course they do!

But the real punch line of this cartoon is the look on each person's face. My God! Brother Dickens, can you spare a dime? Baby's awfully mildly inconvenienced here!

Even the couple whose rate remains static looks forlorn. Man, that Obama is good.
I would seriously adopt any of these people's incomes and tax rates any day. Hell, just give me any of their investment income or deductions. I'll work for it, unlike them. And I promise not to make an indignant face, because I'll keep a healthy perspective about it.

Is the Wall Street Journal really this out of touch? Maybe. But the depiction of the people in the above cartoon makes it hard to believe the paper isn't to some degree deliberately carrying water for the wealthy.

The interactive timeline attached to the WSJ story confirms both of my suspicions. Out of touch, because its brackets are laughable — it begins at the unemployed, skips to college students and then to married working couples and high-income professionals. It reads like a born-rich person's impression of who exists in America. Single people making $20-30,000 aren't even on it, and neither are non-high-income professionals. I feel slighted twice over. Carrying water for the rich, because it both makes pity of what the rich must pay now and tries to spin the poor numbers as being worse (even though they clearly aren't). It also treats the lapse of the payroll tax as Travesty No. 1, when in my view it was a political sugar high to begin with.

It's articles like this that make the economy so difficult to discuss. How can we even begin to talk about the troubles the poor and middle class face when we have no perspective of what poor and middle class is anymore?

I think most of us, even richer people, get that the WSJ definitions are absurd. I just wish the WSJ got it as well. There's enough intentional comedy out there already.

Making no amends

I’m lucky.

As a writer and journalist, I hear that a lot. I’m lucky to live in these United States of America, where freedom of speech is enshrined right there in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

Also, I’ve been admonished, I’m even luckier for the Second Amendment. Because freedom of speech wouldn’t survive without the firepower to back it up. So I’d better back off with the anti-gun criticism, buddy, because I’m looking a gift horse in the barrel!

Sorry to break it to you.


Granted, the U.S. armed forces have defended the nation effectively for the past 200-plus years, and they’ve done so in no small part due to firearms. The military has done its job so well, in fact, that the idea of a domestic invasion — the greatest outside threat to our rights — is virtually nil. Wars fought these days involve oil, politics and policing the world; freedom and the flag are low on the list. Still, I’ll grant that military weapons play a part in protecting free speech in a broad and abstract sense.

But I don’t need a bevy of vigilantes surrounding my home on 24-hour watch to say something in America. Never in my life have I thought, “Thanks, Weird Weapons Guy down the street, for allowing me to spout my mouth off.” If anything, I worry about pissing off that guy. And getting shot over speech isn’t something we’re supposed to worry about here.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been bullied online and sometimes threatened in person. I’ve been the subject of harassment on several websites based on articles I’ve written. After writing a column about bigotry in college, I was called a “race traitor” and had a pile of white supremacist literature left on my vehicle.

Despite that, I’ve never owned, nor ever considered owning, a gun. Hell, I’ve only used a gun a few times in my life — fewer if you don’t count squirt guns and the Nintendo Zapper, and never if you also don’t count BBs and blanks. Furthermore, no newspaper or magazine where I’ve worked has posted sentries.

Your gun has nothing to do with my free speech.

I can think of several nations where such is the case, but none of those places could remotely be considered beacons of freedom. This is America, where the Constitution and Bill of Rights rule the day.

Even if you love guns, you should be on board with this. After all, one of the tenets of America is that we are a free people. Free people feel comfortable to live as they wish so long as they are not infringing upon anyone else. That goes as surely for a sportsman as for an opinion writer.

But freedom is under attack right now. Not from supposed gun-grabbers, or the “liberal” media, but from gun nuts themselves. You gun nuts so actively cloak your obsession in patriotism that you’re able to casually dismiss astonishing amounts of carnage. And you call for more guns! Many more guns. Because that is your answer to everything. You apparently truly envision yourselves as the marshals of our country, which is constantly a hairbreadth away from apocalyptic looting at any given moment, on any given street corner. Oh, how you underestimate your brethren in what you consider the greatest country in the world.

Your gun has nothing to do with my free speech.

The Second Amendment doesn’t guard the First Amendment. Each amendment is lateral, a course in a complete meal. That said, the First Amendment holds a particular importance because the Constitution itself is the ultimate act of free speech. It (along with its attendant Bill of Rights) is an audacious document written to combat tyranny and protect inherent rights, including the right of defense. I’m not up on the metric system, but I’m sure the Constitution is not a bullet. If weapons were all we needed to form and protect a nation, then pieces of paper would be moot. But the Founding Fathers were interested in establishing something far more solid than an armed anarchy.

If you need any proof that the Second Amendment wasn’t intended to be the end-all be-all of this nation, skip all the way to the Third Amendment. It disallows soldiers from forcibly quartering in American homes in peacetime. Apparently, the Founders thought that such a rule needed stronger backing than the metaphorical handshake that is an armed citizen.

If firearms equaled freedom, would we even need a Second Amendment? Indeed, a Constitution? Gun nuts often say you can’t rely on the police or other established institutions to save you. But they’re the first to duck behind a withered old piece of paper every time someone talks gun control. Because even they know that brute force isn’t enough.

Whether it’s the media, the government, the business world, public works or anything else in America, nothing gets done through guns. Things get done through laws, regulations, beneficial mutual agreements, legal channels, etc. Even the police conduct most of their duties without ever drawing from their holster. And even most American corruption goes through more binding, and clever, channels. The only place where guns rule is the criminal underworld — not exactly our most flattering side.

Attempting to institute democracy at the point of a gun failed in Iraq, and has always failed in Afghanistan. On the other hand, once the barrier of free speech breaches, such as in Egypt and Libya, not even the world’s deadliest artillery can stem the tide.

Your gun has nothing to do with my free speech. But free speech has everything to do with your ability to carry a gun. 

We’re both lucky. Let’s keep it that way.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Godwin forbid!

A retort to this

Conversation with a conspiracy theorist

"Hey, Ian, did you see this amazing video?"

"What video?"

"Oh man! It proves that the Sandy Hook shooting was a diversion by the Obama administration to get the public on the side of gun control."

"Aren't most Americans already in favor of at least some gun control?"

"See? It worked!"

"OK, hold on. Are you suggesting that the mass murder of children and teachers was a political maneuver by a sitting U.S. president?"

"I thought it was ridiculous too until I saw the video, man!"

"And you say this video completely changed your mind about Sandy Hook?"

"Well, not completely."

"What do you mean?"

"I always suspected something was amiss."

"Like what?"

"The timing. I mean, Obama! He wants to take our guns away."

"He barely addressed the gun issue until the recent spate of shootings."


"No, I don't see."

"Then watch the video. Look at the parents and the people who shielded the kids. Actors, man! Crisis actors."

"What makes you think they're actors?"

"There's some footage showing them not crying."

"People in mourning don't cry every second; it's too emotionally draining. Have you ever lost someone close to you? It's a wide range of emotions. Grief. Despair. Sadness. Memories. Laughter. Levity. Poise. Though I can think of one video where the people never stopped crying. Came out of North Korea."

"This video examines angles that the mainstream media won't."

"Because they're fringe views legitimized only by selective editing."

"Maybe. But hey, the video at least made you think."

"Think about what? How crank conspiracies have become mainstream in our attempt to deny that we have a problem with guns? Or a black president?"

"It led to some interesting discussion."

"No. It lent credence to ideas that don't deserve it."

"A professor is on board, so don't give me that."

"So let me get this straight — you're convinced that Newtown was a conspiracy because a college professor said so and because you saw a highly partisan video? And you're outraged because of what you see as the exploitation of small children to drive the point home?"


"Clearly, someone's out to make you look unhinged, hypocritical and fatally unable to question anything that claims what you so desperately want to be true."

"See? It's a conspiracy!"

Monday, January 14, 2013

The low-hanging fruit that keeps on giving

Ugh. I hesitate to even post this.

I know this disgusting image and others like them have been around for at least four years now, and I tend to pick low-hanging racist fruit even if it's been out for awhile. But this is different. These are new shirts spreading like wildfire at a South Carolina tea party convention. Like vile, racist wildfire.

By now, I get it. Humor attacking Obama for his blackness is a hit with terrible people, who happen to be a huge demographic in much of the U.S. If your brain is wired to find broad, century-old stereotypes amusing, then this will stimulate all the right neurons. Not my cup of tea, but hey.

As I always say, though, they should at least own up to why they find this funny. This rationale is especially pathetic:

Bob Cramer, a Myrtle Beach local, told Palmetto Public Record that his homemade airbrushed shirt is meant to be a comment about President Obama’s “takeover of medicine” through the Affordable Care Act. The shirt claims that Obama-the-medicine-man is “your new doctor, coming soon to a clinic near you!”

It seems like Obama dressed as a doctor, with a white coat, stethoscope and headband light thing, would make the same point. But that wouldn't be funny. Obama, after all, is a smart and competent guy with a million-dollar smile. He could be a doctor. Such an image isn't frightening enough, and it certainly isn't racist enough, to be sufficient tea party propaganda.

Cue the witch doctor. That effectively conjures images of, to paraphrase G. Gordon Liddy, unqualified black men operating on your kids. SCAR-REE! Repeal Obamacare now!

Except that under Obamacare, more people will have access to top-shelf health care — the kind administered by smart, competent professionals in white coats in stethoscopes and light-headband thingys who have offices and tongue depressors and everything. You know, the exact opposite of over-the-counter guesswork, witch doctors and other byproducts of not being able to afford real medicine.

If you're going to be racist, own it. If you're not willing to own it, at least don't make an excuse that is the most diametrically possible opposite of the truth. 

After all, you don't want to look ignorant.

My immediate, visceral reaction

OK, so start out with a lot of money and a thriving conglomerate, preferably from an inheritance; lobby my way into government officials' pockets to influence economic policy heavily in my favor; create and finance propaganda aimed at the poor and middle class so they vociferously fight against their best interests; lose a lot of other peoples' money in shady investment schemes; and/or get lucky by making money honestly and forget my roots so I can pull up the ladder and push the agenda of "I got mine" for the rest of my life?

Now I see why there's no middle class anymore from which to seek financial advice.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

How's this for a gun parallel?

The problem with drunk driving is that there aren't enough drunken drivers on the road. If every driver was impaired, then they'd drive better because they'd be too scared of all the other drunks.

Anyone who calls for any discussion on the dangers of drinking and driving hates the 21st Amendment and, by definition, America.

Louisiana blogger writes title for blog

So I saw this headline in the latest issue of The Times of Acadiana:

My immediate reaction was, "This headline wasn't written in Louisiana."

It's a bit of a cheat, because I already know that headlines and copyediting for all Gannett publications in Louisiana are now done at a central facility in Des Moines, Iowa. My job in Missouri went there. I have friends and former co-workers who work there (albeit for other newspapers). I applied myself a while back.

Inevitably, a regional copy configuration sometimes leads to headlines like these — titles that aren't necessarily wrong, but are overly generic. (I've noticed this on Times photo captions too, many of which begin, "In this publicity photo released by..." — I always made a point of rewriting this filler text during my copy desk days.) Anyone who lives in and/or knows Louisiana knows Edwin Edwards, and most are familiar with the ridiculous turn his often-ridiculous life is taking these days. He recently married a 34-year-old woman and has a 62-year-old daughter. He is the most colorful (and colorfully corrupt) governor of Louisiana's modern era. I know people who personally know and love the man.

And yet none of that is reflected in this headline. It could have said, "Gov. Edwards' third wife focus of reality show." Or, "Edwards' new odd family dynamic to hit airwaves." Something with Edwards front and center. The readership of The Times of Acadiana needs no introduction. 

I bring this up because as smaller newspapers and increased wire content become the norm, so does creeping generica. AP copy fills many a page with serviceable stories, but such close datelines remind me of a time when an in-house writer might have taken their own angle on it. Short of that, at least a copy editor would differentiate their presentation with a gripping headline soaked in local flavor.

I don't blame this on the person who wrote it. They probably aren't familiar with Louisiana audiences or politics, just as I often needed help in writing Missouri headlines. Also, I know such copy flow often gets Lucy-in-the-chocolate-factory heavy. Maybe I'm being overly critical. Still, this headline really stuck out at me yesterday afternoon and was still on my mind hours later, so it seemed amiss not to address it. There's simply no excuse for a Louisiana wire story in a Louisiana newspaper to look so obviously outsourced.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Bigot humor falls flat AGAIN? The devil, you say!

This is the official shirt a taco joint in South Carolina makes its employees wear. It's one of those jokes that's downright HA-LIRIOUS if you're incredibly racist. But of course, even racists know it's terrible to be openly racist, which always leads to admirably acrobatic backpedaling:

“Our t-shirts were created as a witty and comical statement regarding ILLEGAL immigrants. There are NO racial nor hate remarks towards any specific ethnic group. Taco Cid and its employees are not racists,” the statement continued. ”As most tax paying Americans, we do believe ILLEGAL immigrants are taxing the system we support and live under, thereby, causing us to work harder and pay more taxes in support of their illegal activities which our government has simply chosen to look the other way. Is it racist to disagree with those who are not supporting the American system?” (NBC Latino)

Well, duh! Of course it's all about illegal immigration! After all, note the lack of immigration documents and tax forms in the T-shirt graphic — that's about par for the course with illegals, isn't it? Perhaps the tacos represent the aging process, encapsulating how we all feel more like shredded beef and brittle corn with the passage of the many years required for naturalized U.S. citizenship. The stick holding up the box represents job creators promising cheap labor, with the box itself serving as a metaphor for the futile claustrophobia that is low-wage employment in the U.S. — or maybe it's a symbol of big-box stores. And that rope represents the border, which pulls tight once the Mexicans have nabbed the taco bait and — you know what? That's still racist as hell.

Then again, I'm one of those people who sees racism in everything racist. So what do I know?

I'm industrial-grade stupid

This one is just baffling. I wasn't aware that we were trying to arm children to prevent rape. Are we talking about letting the little tykes pack heat on their person, or merely limiting them to holsters on their beds and sandboxes?

Also, it seems pretty stupid to portray the choice as one between guns and murder. I guess that makes sense if you think the only reason you haven't been shot to death today is because someone is afraid of the thought of your gun. I like to think basic human decency comes into the equation at some point. Or, short of that, that anyone intent on killing someone else finds it hard to procure a weapon capable of rapid, mass death.

Any place where this graphic's notion is true is not any place I want to live.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

JC in the BCS? Such BS!

Yesterday during the BCS title game I avoided, by choice, an argument over the power of prayer in football. The person who began the discussion said she didn’t know why players felt the need to pray during games. Others began to pile on her, saying what business was it of hers and we have the right to pray and the usual point-missing rigamarole. My only contribution was that prayer obviously didn’t work for Tim Tebow and it certainly wasn’t working for Notre Dame.

People certainly have a right to pray to whom whoever they wish on their own terms. It is, and should be, a personal thing upon which no one can infringe. I happen to think public prayer is showy and reductive, but that’s one of those debates no one can really win, even if the Bible does back me up.

I also think people overuse and misunderstand the concept of prayer. I’ve always understood prayer to be a lifeline to one’s respective deity as a quiet, personal plea to be heard in a time of crisis and/or reflection. It could also be a regular, dutiful ritual of worship. And/or serve a lot of other purposes with which I, as a secular person, am less acquainted.

But in any case, it seems like a stretch to ask, to paraphrase Denis Leary, that God choose which spoiled pituitary freaks win the Super Bowl. Or to ask for prayers because you’re closing on a house. Does anyone actually do this?

O Heavenly Father, please bless those in your image who must struggle to get by. And please look out especially for Chad and Lisa Dawkins of Moonlight Oaks, who are about to close escrow on their McMansion. Amen!

Supply-side prayer must be vogue in America.

At the risk of sounding all humblebraggish, I’m broke. And I still feel like it would be rude to ask for prayers. Also, pointless, because prayers don’t pay bills. That’s a comforting thought for me, actually. Why? Because when you link prayer to success, you also link it to failure. You might start to feel that if you hit a rough patch or lose a big game, it’s because God doesn’t love you enough and/or is really into tough love. Is that really more comforting than random, dumb luck?

Notre Dame lost because the Fighting Irish were a complete mismatch against defending champions Alabama. The game said a lot about the BCS in general, but not so much about where Jesus’ loyalties lie. The best that can be said is that players and coaches used their judgment to execute the best gameplans they knew, and did all they could to avoid injuries. And then stuff happened, as it tends to do.


Monday, January 07, 2013

Don't read about this dream

I had a dream last night. I wonder what it means.

I was going back to college, but it was at my old high school. I was there with various friends and classmates from different points in my life. I got to my first class after a mad scramble, but the teacher wasn’t there yet. The classroom had the usual array of desks and, for some reason, a bed. I placed my laptop and backpack on the bed, declaring it mine. That was when I realized I had to use the bathroom badly. Number 2. Couldn’t wait. So I packed everything except for my laptop — presumably to keep my reservation on the bed — and headed toward the restroom.

The restroom was the one in the lobby at my high school. It always stank of cigarette smoke, but this being the beginning of the year, it had yet to be used. I took that moment to appreciate the clean scent I knew wouldn’t last long. As I sat on the toilet, I marveled at how plush the bathroom seemed. Suddenly, it became an office, with my toilet in the center, facing away from the principal’s desk. And the seat was no longer a toilet, and my pants were no longer down. But I’d still done the dirty deed. And not only had it gotten all over my underwear and jeans, but also my red UL T-shirt, which had impossibly gotten crinkled under my butt. Yeah.

The principal, a young black woman, asked me what I was doing. I told her something like, “Well, this was a toilet but I’m confused now. And I really need to change clothes.” She responded by nodding sympathetically, as if this sort of thing happened all the time. “Do you know where I can get a change of clothes?” She pointed me to a clothing store down the hall, which seemed perfect for me. But I couldn’t afford anything there, so that idea was out. Defeated, I decided I could just take my shirt off and wing that the rest of the day. But that didn’t solve my pants problem.

Fortunately, my backpack turned into my Sesame Street bag from preschool, which always had a spare set of bottom apparel. I went into another bathroom (one that stayed a bathroom) and cleaned myself up. As for the shirt situation, well, I was suddenly wearing a clean white T-shirt, so that took care of itself.

By then, I was in a rush to get back to class. But it was now 8:45, so class would be over in five minutes. It seemed pointless to head in so late in the session, but I still had to grab my laptop from the bed (assuming it hadn’t been stolen and all my unreleased work spread to the whole school). I looked at my class schedule ticket to remember where my class had been. “Biology — Anniston — 937.” By now I was well more than five minutes away from the classroom, so I took my time. And as is the case with so many of my dreams, I began the tedious and fully realized task of combing through room numbers to find 937. I went up in an elevator that was suddenly there, and on the fifth floor that was suddenly there was 937. At least, that’s what the guide sign said. But nearly all the door numbers were completely random.

It was at this point that one of the dogs who had jumped onto my bed nudged me slightly. I woke up just enough to say, “OK, this is a dream. I’m putting myself at room 937 now. To hell with looking.”

So I walked into Mrs. Anniston’s class, which by then was her next class. Everyone stared at me and the teacher stopped calling her roll. I went up and shook her hand. “Hi, remember that guy Ian on your first roll? That’s me. I wanted to be here and I was, but I had — uh — a personal accident.”

“Ah,” said Mrs. Anniston a bit impatiently.

“Anyway, sorry to bother you. I left my laptop on the bed.”

“Here it is,” she said, producing it from the desk. “Someone turned it in.”

“Thank you.”

By the time I changed and retrieved my laptop, my second class was nearly over. Seriously, this again?

The random howling of a dog on my bed rousted me awake. I muttered for her to stop before drifting off again.

Next thing I know, I was sitting on a couch in what must have been my apartment, in the middle of a Friday afternoon. I picked up my schedule from the table and said, “Oh, shoot, I haven’t been to class in four days. Wow! That’s never happened to me before. They’ll never notice. On the other hand, maybe I should just drop all my classes. Hell, I have a master’s degree anyway! Besides, it’s Jan. 7. Isn’t the semester over? OK, that works.” 

Howl. Awake for good. Freaking dogs.

This reminds me of another dream I had recently, where I was still playing for my high school football team, but decided to retire. A huge sense of relief washed over me. I had the same feeling after realizing in this dream that I was stressing out over nothing serious, because I’d already made my mark in school.

I should dream more. But less about poop.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Defensive Posturing

The pros and cons of packing

A lot of pro-gun people of late have shared stories of good guys with guns preventing armed madmen from engaging in murder sprees. They're also painting President Obama as a hypocrite because he has his own team of armed escorts.

Of course, virtually all of these stories involve intensely trained professionals — the man who stopped the San Antonio theater rampage was a police officer, and obviously the Secret Service is the epitome of expert security. Neither of these stories, and scarcely any others like them, serve as examples of Joe Q. NRA fulfilling his holy Second Amendment duties.

I ask everyone still high on the idea of armed citizens to consider who they'd rather have protecting the president — (remember, you like the president in this hypothetical, so think of George W. Bush or Reagan if Obama's not doing it for you) — the Secret Service, or concealed-carry civilian vigilantes?

Because there is a difference. Whether or not you'll admit it, you just noticed it. On some level, your brain decided the Secret Service was a better option because, hey, training. 

So maybe, just maybe, the distinction between pros and amateurs matters when talking about firearm defense in America. It's time for everyone to own up to that.

Friday, January 04, 2013

# Tea Party Comeback Movies

(To be released by 20th Century Fox News)

Facing the Science

Independence From Facts Day

Maximum Bachmann Turner Diaries Overdrive

Liar Learning

The Passion? Christ

Rat Racists

No Compromising Positions

Birth of an Abomination

Legends of the Paul

Terry Jones and the Kingdom of the Thick Skull

Gone With the Whine

War Trek

Not 2012

Friday After Next After Next After Next After Next, Probably Maybe?

Stand By Tea

Word Salad Days

Secondhand Lyin'

The Jeremiah Wright Stuff

Alex Jones and the Daft Crusade

Lynyrd Part 6


Throw Granny Under the Bus

We'll Always Have Pauls

Rise of the Planet of Hate

2010: The Year We Made Up Context

Meant It Black

The Loonies

Terms of Endearment (Honestly, They Say It Among Themselves!)

Children of a Glenn Beck God

I'm Gunna Git You Subsidies

Bridges of Nowhere County

Wes Craven's Nugent Nightmare

War of the Poseurs

No Shades of Grey

Sad Sax

White Men Get Jumped

John Q (Gets Tazed For Demanding Free Health Care)

Anger Unchained

National Lampoon's Fiscal Cliff

Apocalypse? How?!!

Up In (Tobacco Lobby) Smoke

Chick-Fil-A Delphia


Very Few Good Men

Guerrillas of the Euphemist

Being Wrong, Malcontent

Fiscal Cliffhanger

Illegal Alien: Resurrection

Birther Nation

The Remains of Your Pay

Debt Poets Society

I Know Who Shilled Me

The Best Little Kochhouse in Texas

Orly You

Ulp, Fiction

Birth of a Certificate

Forrest Trump

The Man Who Shot Liberty

Even Weirder Science

My Own Private Idaho (and South Carolina, and Texas, and ...)

What's Eating Gilbert Grape? It Better Not Be His Boyfriend

Life is Beautiful (Arm Everyone)


The Stupids 2

Debbie Drills in Dallas

This is 47%

Tremors (Because I Can't Afford Medication)

Brokeback Fountainhead

A Very Anti-Brady Sequel

Stop or My Mom Will Shoot Because That's the Point of America

The Nightmare Before the War on Christmas

Harold & Kumar Escape Guantanamo Bay Criticism

Boyz N the Hoods

Pretty Woman (Slut Had It Coming)

9 to 5 (But Paid Like 12 to 2)

O Brother, Cut Art Funding

Easy Chick-Fil A

Conspiracy Just A Theory

Weapons Aren't Lethal, People Are Lethal 4

Dumb Guns 2

Revisionist History of the World, Part I

Notting Hillbillies

Sweet Home Somalia

Favela Young

Live Free and Lie Hard

Jindal Fever

Saturday Night Filibuster

Jurassic Park (Goes Against the Bible)

The Last Temptation of Avarice

Final Think Tank Analysis

Julie and Julia (Both Make Less Than Frank)

Two hours of the Men in Black Neuralyzer set to 2008

Anything starring Victoria Jackson with soundtrack by Pat Boone

Weekend at Bernie Madoff's

FreedomWorking Girl

Citizens United 93 

9-9-9 1/2 Weeks

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to Wreck It

Goldline Member

Cry Persecution

Signs of a Lesser God

The Island of Dr. Paul

Home On Your Own

Jowls: The Revenge

Real Golden Rule stuff here

I just read something so jaw-dropping that I had to share it. This person is not my Facebook friend; I found her post in a Christian group. You know, the religion that teaches not to judge, cast the first stone or treat others differently than you want to be treated:

There's a lot wrong here. Let's tear through the low-hanging fruit real fast:

• No one HAS to get married.
• One does not have to be atheist to support gay rights.
• Marriage is not simply about procreation.
• Plenty of heterosexual marriages are all about lust.
• The planet isn't exactly hurting from lack of humans.
• No one's telling gay people they can't have kids except the homophobes.

Now that I've got those out of the way, I want to focus on what to me is the most offensive aspect of this diatribe:

That, in order to fulfill God's wishes, gays have to live a lie.

It's one thing to insist that homosexuality is a choice or the result of abuse. That lends some logic to the idea of transformation — stupid, incorrect logic, but still something. This woman apparently accepts that sexual inclination is natural, but thinks that gays should suck it up and submit to an unnatural way of life. You know, for the children.

One of the worst things about any religion is the way it attempts to subvert nature. And for what? To please those who lie awake at night worrying who others love? I'm sure this woman would happily change her entire life if someone else disapproved, because that's what godly people do, right? What a crock of arrogant crockery.

Like I often say, the people who claim to speak for God are usually the farthest away from God.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

And don't invite me over for dinner

Somebody said something on the Internet, and it went something like this:

If you had a sewage backup in your home, and the waste rushed to the ceiling, would you vote to raise the ceiling? Or would you rather pipe the shit out?


First off, if sewage can back up so badly in your house that it even comes close to reaching the ceiling, then you should strongly consider living in someplace with a government. Clearly, the do-it-yourself drainage ethos isn't working in Rand Land.

Second, taxes aren't liquid shit; they're more like rivers. Sure, you might find some turds here and there, and sometimes you have to divert or dam them, but mostly they allow life to happen. And you'd miss them tremendously if they just evaporated one day.

So much of the anti-tax zealotry in this country really does assume that taxes are sewage — as in, they serve no vital purpose and we should just wash them away. No wonder it's so hard to have an adult conversation about taxes.

To that I say, caca.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Something that I like

It's fun to watch people in their element.

I first realized this my first semester in college. I was taking an introductory geology class, the kind liberal arts majors take because they have to. It was an auditorium full of at-best mildly interested students — the kind who, today, have to be monitored constantly for Facebook usage during class. Compounding the apathy was the fact that it was a 2 p.m. class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which is the time everyone's ready to split for the nearest bar or bedroom. 

But one day after class dismissed, I walked by the front desk and witnessed something remarkable. That day, the professor had largely been going through the motions. But a student walked up to him and asked him a specific question about the lesson. Immediately, the professor lit up and spoke effortlessly on the topic. The student listened raptly, and a couple of other students joined in. 

I didn't really hear what they were talking about, but the way the professor engaged was riveting. He was known for being particularly enthusiastic about his field, and it showed in the doldrums of that afternoon. I thought that I would love to be like that in some respect. 

It was then that I realized the difference between a day job and a calling. A day job can be rewarding and enjoyable, but you need those things in your life that excite you outside of it. I love finding out that someone has a cool hobby on the side. I like seeing big movie stars do low-budget and/or intellectual films. I knew a sports writer who was also an underground rapper and a copy editor who played reggae music. People who thrive at incredible things for little more than love of the craft. People who keep you guessing. 

That's how I try to live my life. You should too. What do you do?

Extreme cliff couponing

So the social networks were abuzz this morning over the so-called fiscal cliff* deal — the most common refrain being, "OH NO! SOCIAL SECURITY JUST WENT UP FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS! THANKS, OBAMA!"

Well, I was ready to be as bummed out as anyone over that. I've long supported extending the income level for Social Security withholding, but apparently the agreed-upon increase is on the middle class.

But then I read the Associated Press article and figured it out.

WASHINGTON (AP)While the tax package that Congress passed New Year's Day will protect 99 percent of Americans from an income tax increase, most of them will still end up paying more federal taxes in 2013. That's because the legislation did nothing to prevent a temporary reduction in the Social Security payroll tax from expiring. In 2012, that 2-percentage-point cut in the payroll tax was worth about $1,000 to a worker making $50,000 a year.

In other words, a short-term political move that was always kind of a bad idea has expired. And because taxes have reverted to their previous, system-sustaining levels, it's tantamount to an increase.

I'm all in favor of restructuring payroll taxes, which hurt the poor and middle class far worse than the rich. But this is not an increase so much as a correction following a period of artificially low Social Security withholdings.

Tax cuts are political maneuvers. In recent years especially, they've been thrown about with more regard to grabbing votes than how they affect the national revenue stream. So it's all too easy to enact a ridiculous cut that lasts a few years, and then call it an increase when it inevitably expires. People then think, "The fiends added to my tax bill!" It's like saying a loaf of bread costs more because your coupon expired. No it hasn't — the regular price tag didn't rise. You were lucky to have the coupon, but gimmicks can't last forever.

It could have been worse. The deal saved the Bush-era income tax cuts for everyone making $400,000 or less. Losing that would have amounted to much higher bills for many more people.

The deal is not likely to make anyone joyously happy. Taxes are so highly politicized now that we can barely have an adult conversation about them. Which is why all anyone seems to see from this deal is OMG SOCIAL SECURITY HIKE!!! Chill out. Do some reading.

(* - I say "so-called fiscal cliff" because just like the debate over the debt ceiling and partial-birth abortion before it, fiscal cliff mania is largely a political fabrication.)

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

My resolutions for 2013

Happy New Year.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve written resolutions for 2013. I had a few hundred words typed out here prior to New Year’s Eve and I just deleted all of it. That draft was preceded by a much angrier draft I wrote while in a gloomy mood the other day. Neither one, I felt, really reflected what I wanted to say on record. This might not either, but I’m going with it because, eventually, you have to get it done.

And that’s been the common thread in every draft of my resolutions I’ve written for this new year — getting it done. This past year, as this blog will attest, was bizarre. It started off fiscally strong but personally miserable, and ended fiscally dire and a more tolerable strain of miserable. For all of its highs — and there were many — 2012 dug me into a personal and professional hole. So the theme in 2013 is to dig out of that hole. It might require drastic action, but I’m ready for it.

1) Make a change. My current situation is unsustainable and I’ve never been more ready to take on a new opportunity. Even if I have to move far away to do it. It worked the first time I did it; moving back, not so much. I’m never happier than when I’m independent, working in my field of expertise and making a difference. Sometimes that makes for very difficult choices, but anything worthwhile is like that. If I can do it here, I will. But I’m open to new possibilities.

2) Live my ideals again. In Missouri, I carved out a decently principled life. Money went farther, I recycled, ate healthier, went to the YMCA and rode lots of bike trails. I had a more diverse array of friends, the roads weren’t uniformly bumpy and the state actually sent me my income tax refund. I’m not saying it was perfect (especially as far as partying and culture were concerned), but I miss so many of the little things that made my life feel like mine. And I realized that I don’t have to be the freak. I hope to find someplace where I fit in better, or at least where my lack of interest in killing animals, binge drinking or tea-partying doesn’t immediately exclude me from half of all activities.

3) Shed excess weight. Not literally, because I’m not exactly hefty (though more toning is definitely in the cards), but metaphorically. It’s amazing how much useless excess you encounter every day; for me it’s unwanted mailing lists, a glut of phone numbers I’ll never need again, documents ripe for shredding, memory-hogging computer files, space-hogging physical files, old possessions I don’t need, etc. It’s long past time to pare it all down. What I’ve done to this end so far has proven to be therapeutic.

4) Be more assertive in attaining what I desire. I’ve often held back on being aggressive, lest I come off as a pushy, Type-A jerk. Sometimes that’s led people to see me as the exact opposite, a total pushover. Neither extreme is true, and I’m determined to find a better middle ground.

5) Continue to be more positive and grateful. Negativity is a bitch, and made me its bitch for a long time. I’ve made it a point in the past few years to be less like my more negative influences and adopt a happier outlook on life. It’s tough, but it’s helped tremendously. At worst, I better sense when I’m dragging down everyone around me. And that’s helped me reduce the frequency of that happening. Besides, it feels much better not to have an emotional mess to clean up later.

6) But not to a delusional degree. I have a hard-and-fast personal rule that all happiness must be based in reality. If I’m happy, it’s because I have a reason to be that way — not because I’ve resigned to mediocrity, plied myself with medication or surrendered to Jesus. If I’m not happy, I strive to find a reason to be happy. A real reason. I could have settled a million times, but I didn’t. Maybe that’s why I’m hardly ever satisfied, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

7) Be grateful about the resolutions I don’t have to make. I’m healthy. I’m on good terms with my entire family and most of my friends, even the ones with whom I’ve had friction on the past. My credit’s in good shape. I’ve never been in trouble with the law. I am, as always, completely clean and sober. I’ve been remarkably consistent in writing and creating. My current bumps in the road are relatively minor in the scales of life and the world. By and large, I don’t have it bad.

8) Finally finish the Best of 2004 and 2005 for this blog. They've both been almost finished for years. I need to clear that out of the brain cache. It's the least I can do.

Here’s to 2013! The best year ever? It can be.