Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Parents

The year was 1968...

North Vietnam launches the Tet offensive, the beginning of the end for the US in Vietnam. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy are assassinated. Apollo 8 becomes the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon.

And possibly the most important event of all: the union of Ken Elterich and Marie Farr. 




Although this event went largely unnoticed by the general public, it set off a chain of events that would change world history, most notably, 12 years later when their youngest son was born.


Hello.

I grew up extremely privileged. I don’t necessarily mean economically, although my family was firmly in the middle class and I never really wanted for anything. The biggest privilege in my life, beyond a financial safety net that I can still rely on if necessary, is that I never had to look far for role models. I didn’t have to figure out how to treat others or respect myself, I didn’t have to be told by frustrated employers how to work hard, and I didn’t have to learn how to take pleasure in the joys of life; I was shown all of that from day one. Even before I knew what a role model was, I was provided with two incredible models of virtue.

Growing up I always considered my mom and dad as one unit: “The Parents.” That was the entirety of their identity to me. That is probably typical for kids, but it also reflected their relationship. They had their own interests and participated in separate activities (golf for my dad, ceramics for my mom, etc.) yet they acted as one when it came to everything else. They were a unified force, which didn’t exactly help me whenever I messed up. I knew I was dealing with the tag team. There was no playing one against the other. My only hope was to try to put some of the blame on my brother.

As I got older, I appreciated them more as individuals. My mom the teacher, my dad the…well, whatever he did for work (Joking. Kinda.) Beyond being a good employee/boss, he was also a coach and a good friend. Both of my parents were good friends, not just to each other, but to many people. That is one of the things I’m most grateful for: learning how to treat people.

When I was a senior in high school, I agreed to go to my friend’s prom with his girlfriend’s best friend. A week later, I started dating someone. I wanted out of my friend’s prom. My mom, without forcing a decision on me, told me that it would not be right to back out of a promise I made just because “something better came along.” She didn’t lecture me, she just said how it would make the other girl feel (I knew she was onto something when my girlfriend actually understood as I explained why I was going to prom with someone else). My mom was good at instilling guilt. In fact, both of my parents were. When I got in trouble, they always said they weren't mad, just disappointed. Ugh. How could I express righteous indignation at their treatment of me if they didn’t get mad? If they yelled and screamed, I could’ve just raged against them and felt better about myself because obviously I didn’t deserve their anger. But disappointment? There’s no response to that, except to do better.

Obviously, as a teen, there were times when I wasn’t too fond of my parent’s decisions, like moving to West Hartford, but ultimately I recognized that every decision was made in the best interest of me, my brother, and/or the whole family. I clearly got a better education in West Hartford than I would have in Hartford.

Besides the typical teen angst, though, I always saw my parents as infallible. I may have acted as if I didn't want to hear what they had to say, but that's because I knew they were right about whatever they were telling me and I would have to change my behavior.

They always did the right thing. They always seemed to be on the right side of any social issues. They traveled and worked and spent quality time with family and friends. They lived life, and continue to live it, how it is supposed to be lived.

When my mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I couldn’t accept that my mom was going to be affected by this horrible disease. Not her. Not the woman who spent her life teaching special education in the inner city in the 90s. She didn't deserve this, and she was too strong for this. My grandmother had a friend who had Parkinson’s and I just couldn’t imagine her as frail as he was. I was scared, and I think I’ve been scared ever since.

But not her. At least, not on the surface. It's like nothing changed. She’s been on more vacations this year than I’ve been on this decade. She is too strong for this.

And my dad has been right there with her. I don’t know how he does it. I don’t think I could do it. I can barely handle it as is. I am overwhelmed by their strength.

49 years later, they are stronger than ever, as a couple and as individuals.



It's inspiring. And a little upsetting, too, because seriously? How can I live up to that? Come on.

My mom just got surgery on her spine. For the first time possibly ever, she admitted to being in a lot of pain. And for the first time definitely ever, she seemed scared. Maybe I’m projecting. Probably.

Despite any reservations, she went ahead with the surgery. A friend told her she was courageous, and she just replied, “It’s not courage, I just want the pain to go away.” She’d never acknowledge that she is extraordinary, because to her, her actions are ordinary. There’s a problem, it needs to be solved. That’s how she, and my father, have always been. There’s nothing else to do but deal with it.

What's the other option? Be crippled by pain? Curl up and die? No. Handle it. Get the surgery to fix the back. Take the experimental Parkinson's medicine that may not even help you but might make a breakthrough that could help thousands of others. Fear is just another emotion like happiness. It’s okay to be afraid, just don't let it stop you from moving forward.

I write this knowing full well that I’m afraid and not dealing with it very well. But sometimes faking it till you make it is the best thing you can do. Worrying doesn't accomplish anything. Things will happen or they won't. Move forward.

49 years together. More than a decade longer than I've been alive. The Parents. Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, except their only superpower is love. 


UPDATE 6/27/17, 5:55pm: My mom is in Recovery and doing well.

I Love You All, Especially "The Parents"...Class Dismissed.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sands of Hope

My former boss just passed away, and although we hadn't been close for the past few years, I'm very grateful to her for hiring me and for all that she taught me.

At her bereavement services, her daughter said that her last 4 years were spent with family and she was very happy. That was good to hear. She deserved that. After building the program from the ground up and running it for 20 years, and decades of service before that, she deserved to do whatever she wanted in her golden years. I wish her time at the program ended a little differently, but it worked out for her and for us, so it's all good. She did so much for the program and for me personally; her death, although very sad considering her relatively young age, allowed me to fully appreciate her impact.

RoseAnne taught me a lot about working in the field of social work and non-profits. She also taught me a lot about working with and advocating for poverty-stricken kids. She didn't lecture, and she certainly didn't preach, she just gave many great lessons through conversation and actions.

The most amazing, and brilliant, thing she ever taught me was the audacity of hope. The phrasing is Obama's, but she exemplified the notion through her actions and philosophy. She used hope as a tool for individual and societal improvement. One of her quotes that defines the philosophy behind the program is, "hope is a powerful motivating force."

Our program teaches comprehensive sex education, and we put a heavy focus on academics and career readiness, but without giving our kids hope, none of that would matter. If a child believes they will be stuck in the same low-paying job in the same poverty-ridden area as most of their family and friends, sex education and academic assistance probably won't change their circumstances. But combine that with hope for a better future, plus a vision to achieve that future, and any child can accomplish incredible things.

RoseAnne helped manifest hope in many ways, but one way in particular will always stay with me for its strength through subtlety.

Just telling kids "you can do anything!" is fine and all, but its too vague and their vision of "anything" is very limited. They have to be shown real yet hopeful alternatives to the lives they see around them.

On her desk in her office, she kept little containers of sand from beaches around the world. Some of the sand was from places she had visited, others were from her friends and family. She had sand from Hawaii, Bequia, South Africa and an assortment of other places. She kept them at the front of her desk, and they sparked a lot of conversation.

Students would often visit her in her office. She always offered a place to vent or just sit in peace. The students who were having the most difficult time at school or at home were the ones who visited her office most. Inside, there was no judgment or punishment or demands. There was just the opportunity to talk to a grandmotherly presence.

One of the first things most kids saw when they talked to her was the sand. Inevitably, they would reach for a container or ask what it was. She would tell them where she got each one and reminisce about her trips. After a while, some kids would come in just to look at or play with the sand.

Eventually, they would talk about wanting to go to the places RoseAnne described, places they had never even heard of. She'd assure them they could get there some day. That they would get there. Why shouldn't a young boy from New Britain visit Egypt when he got older? Why shouldn't a young girl who had never been outside of her neighborhood visit Spain? Or Hawaii?

A mustard seed can move mountains, a grain of sand can instill hope. Knowing this was her genius. So many kids don't reach their full potential because they have no idea what their potential is. They literally can not conceive of a life outside of their own immediate circumstances. They don't know anything outside of the city (oftentimes just the neighborhood) in which they were born.

But that sand, and those conversations, illuminated a whole new world for them. That simple gesture was life-changing.

Students come into our program in middle school and are soon thinking about which college they'll attend. In the neighborhoods we serve, that was not the mentality that existed when RoseAnne started the program 25 years ago. Today, 80% of our students go to college.

Recently, one of our program graduates received her Master's Degree. From the University of Hawaii.

It started with hope and a grain of sand.

Rest In Peace RoseAnne.


I Love You All...Class Dismissed.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

An apology from the CIA regarding fidget spinners

Dear American citizen,


You or your child recently purchased a "fidget spinner."



Yes you did. 


You must dispose of this item in a hazardous waste facility immediately. CIA agents will contact you to escort you and/or your family to the designated containment unit.

You may have heard about recent reports of small children choking on these spinners, and although that is certainly a concern, that is not the focus of this Public Service Announcement. It was never our intention to harm or kill anyone, not Americans anyways, as that would damper our abilities to carry out our mission.


So, it is with great remorse and regret, along with great pressure from the US Department of Justice and the International Court of Justice, that we acknowledge some errors with a recently terminated intelligence gathering operation named Project: Spin the Globe. As a public service, we will be offering a comprehensive containment and removal session free of charge.

Do not be alarmed. But also, do not touch anyone or leave your house until the agents arrive. Definitely do not scratch your groin area or your eyes.


What began as a simple data collection mission turned into a viral craze. Viral in every sense of the word, unfortunately.

Quite honestly, our project was too successful. We did not expect the populace to be so easily preoccupied with these items and our data collection centers were overwhelmed with all of the raw data being mined. The sensors we installed in the center of each spinning mechanism captured so much information from our subject's retinal scans that we reached our goals months earlier than anticipated. It's as if people were begging to be brainwashed! It's really partly your fault. Maybe even mostly your fault. But our lawyers and the 9th District Court, the DOJ, and the UN insist that we apologize and explain the entire situation, so here we are.

We are sorry that the spinners collected your personal data and thoughts, monitored your movements, melted your fingertips, caused lesions to develop on your liver, or maybe just got you fired from your job because you couldn't stop playing with them. Those things are fun right?!

It seems that we hacked into some evolutionary gene that predisposes humans to be fixated on things spinning in a circular motion. We know that humans are easily distracted, and we realize that circles are the foundation of the universe, and we love Sir Elton John's the Circle of Life as much as the next warm blooded American, but we didn't expect so many people to be hooked spontaneously. 
The spinners reached peak consumer velocity much quicker than we anticipated and then continued to surge past our wildest predictions.

The truth is, we learned about the human mind's natural preoccupation with spinning things a long time ago when we unleashed hula hoops on to the American public. Yes, that was us. We were able to do so much while everyone was distracted with hula hoops in the 1950s. Ahh good times. But now we seem to have perfected the targeting of the zone in your prefrontal cortex that is naturally stimulated by the spinning motion. 75% of our subjects continued to use and purchase spinners after we told them they were being monitored and their thoughts were being collected. 40% continued to use them after being warned of the high levels of toxicity. Who could have predicted that?

The Chinese knew about the brain's disposition towards circular movement back in 400 BC when they invented the yo-yo and the whirligig, but we were the first to use it for mind control!

And for that we are deeply sorry. Mind you, we still have all the data gathered and will never delete it, and we will continue to collect the data from those still using the spinners, as allowed by the ruling in Central Intelligence Agency vs. The United States. But we realize now that we should have sought legal precedent before embarking on our mission. Sorry about that.

We also have to apologize (legally) for exposing you and your loved ones to a highly toxic chemical. We tested our product before releasing them to the public, but apparently the symptoms don't show for weeks after initial exposure. The fact is, many of the test subjects were harmed, too. They were technically our employees so it is important to keep in mind that we were harmed by this as well.

We can never replace your liver or the skin that melted off your fingertips and other parts of your body. We will never replace your clothes, furniture, pets and other items that were negatively affected by the substance. Seriously, we legally do not have to replace any of it since it can not be proven that we were aware of the dangerous nature of the substance before we released the items. But we are very sympathetic to your loss. Losses.

That's why we are offering you an exclusive deal on the brand new fidget spinners! They come in all new colors! 
And the new skin sensors mine your personal data and thoughts much more effectively than the retinal scans. You can purchase them at any gas station, bodega or store around the country. The new line of spinners have been tested diligently and show none to very low levels of toxicity. They are totally cool. 

Buy some for your family today!


Sincerely,


Agent G. Spookerson



-

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Sham of Political Correctness

Image result for pc principal

This past semester, a student of mine wanted to write a research paper about the negative influence of political correctness on discourse. When he announced his intention, I was excited because I think it is an interesting topic.

The fact of the matter is, I can't STAND political correctness. The PC police have gotten OUT of CONTROL. Nobody wants to deal with harsh TRUTHS these days. A guy can't even say what he wants anymore. Equality is important, but so is FREE speech! Everyone has a RIGHT to voice their opinions and be heard. If people can't say what they want, NOBODY is free, and that's not a country I want to live in.

Freedom of speech is the foundation this country is BUILT on. We can't afford to lose that.

So when neo-nazis are given speaking engagements and security detail to spout off their beliefs, it's important that rational Americans can protest and speak out against those engagements. That is vital to the essence of being American. Yet when I call people nazis for supporting neo-nazi views, they cry like little babies! Politicians and pundits (even some who fancy themselves "politically incorrect") tell me how I need to stop calling them names and protesting their events and just listen to them. No need to get upset; nazis and white supremacists and bigots just have ideas that need to be heard, then we all can have a civil, polite discussion.

Sorry, but the first amendment doesn't require speech to be nice, or for me to listen to everybody's opinion. I'm gonna tell neo-nazis to shut up and call them assholes. What happened to MY freedom of speech? They don't care about that. These politically correct jerkoffs want nazis and white supremacists to simply flaunt their horrible views unchecked.

It's hypocritical and obnoxious. The people who complain most about "political correctness ruining free speech!" really just want the freedom to be assholes in public. When I call racists racist, they whine and say things like, "you can't call me that, my best friend's girlfriend is black!" Really? Ok, Officer Censorship. I thought freedom of speech was important to you, but I guess you just want to say hateful things without getting called out for them. I can't count how many times I've called someone a racist and been told "Not everything is about race, shut your mouth!" Political correctness is so bad you can't even call an obvious racist a racist anymore!

Bigots used to own their bigotry. Now they want to have bigoted views without getting labeled a bigot. They want to discriminate against gay people but god forbid you call them a homophobe, the exact word for their actions. They mask their bigotry in euphemisms; they'll claim they are not white supremacists, they are just, "Eurocentric." They don't hate immigrants, especially brown immigrants; they're just "putting America first." They don't hate gays, its just that they "don't approve of that lifestyle." And if you question that faulty logic, somehow you are discriminating against them! Apparently, to a lot of these people, religious freedom means freedom to discriminate against people you don't like.

These people want to shut down and shut up all opposition to their hateful views, labeling anyone who voices their regressive opinions a snowflake. They whine about safe spaces, yet they cancel events when students protest, scared to face the opposition. Or they go in the opposite direction; some PC Crybaby Warriors will attack reporters for doing their job! Instead of respecting freedom of the press, they want to shut down the press. Well, the press that they disagree with at least. They can't stand being questioned. They claim to like people and politicians who "speak their mind," but they don't like the ones who speak their mind and disagree with them. Usually, saying that someone "speaks their mind" just means that person says racist shit. People have every right to say racist shit, but it's not really a reason to vote for them.

In Iowa and North Carolina, legislators  proposed bills to require universities to hire an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. These are the same people against Affirmative Action. Yet they literally want to dictate whose voice is heard in higher education. What happened to "pulling yourself up by the bootstraps?" What happened to "the best person for the job should get it"? I'm all for quotas for certain ethnicities and genders at higher universities and jobs because of historic and systemic racism and sexism, but now we're basing hiring practices on how someone thinks politically? These PC Mercenaries are so scared of the proliferation of opposing voices that they want to dictate who is hired to teach at Universities!

This political correctness has ruined our ability to think critically. Someone wants to be called Caitlyn instead of Bruce and people lose their minds! They cry, "I've been calling him Bruce for years, why should I have to change now!" You don't have to! That's the beauty of free speech, you get to say what you want! And then I get to say what I want, namely that you are a bigot! That's not being politically correct, that's being factually accurate!

When these bigoted PC Police hear new terms for old gender identities, they complain, loudly, to anyone who has the misfortune of being in their vicinity. "Why do I have to learn these new words!" they cry out from under their mama's tit through curdled breastmilk covered lips. These PC freaks don't want to broaden their horizons, they want to limit knowledge and acceptance. They want everyone to stick to old terms created by oppressors. "What the hell is genderqueer?" they scream, unable to comprehend any type of sexuality outside of vigorously jerking off into a sock. They want to sustain the same old power structures. "There's no real men anymore!" they shout, not realizing how right they are if applying their words to themselves and their own circle of acquaintances. Real men aren't threatened by someone else's sexual preferences or gender identity. These cowards, scared of any change or progress whatsoever, want to suppress creativity and the evolution of language and sexuality. Everything has to reflect Hetero-Christian values or they cry about persecution. Oh, someone from one of the largest, oldest religions on the planet wants to wear a customary head wrap? Let's lose our minds and chastise them and try to ban head scarves! Or is it burqas, because these idiots literally don't know the difference.

So anyways, all of this was on my mind after my student told me about the idea for his paper. The following week, we had a class discussion on students' progress with their papers. When we got to the student writing about political correctness, I was eager to hear how he was doing. I was going to offer up some of the examples I shared here.

Then he started out talking about how nobody can take a joke anymore. He recited an anecdote: recently he was out with a group of friends. He was wearing a t-shirt with a logo of some company that is typically worn by posh white people. This young man was half white, half Puerto Rican, but he didn't speak Spanish and he was very light skinned. When a friend asked him about his shirt, he said something to the effect of, "Yeah, I'm wearing my white privilege." Apparently, a stranger overheard the comment, took offense, and voiced their disagreement. This student of mine was outraged that he had to listen to this stranger's complaints. He was making a joke! Why was everyone so sensitive!

Then, another student, a white woman in her 30s, said, "I hate that! You can't say anything anymore. And you're a white male, you get it the worst!"

At this point, I realized that I had misjudged the intent of my student's paper. The fact of the matter is, he wasn't standing up against political correctness, he was standing up for his right to tell shitty jokes! I should have known, since that is the commonly held perception of "political correctness." It centers white comfort. I wanted to start calling him Bill Maher, instead I commented on the irony in what he said.

In defending his right to freely speak, he dismissed this stranger's right to call him out. He was in fact forcing political correctness on her: don't say anything negative to me about my shitty jokes or views. We didn't have much time left in class, or else I would have also pointed out how the real sensitive person in his story was, in fact, him. He was writing an entire paper because he was so incensed at this woman's comment from months earlier. Talk about a sensitive snowflake!

Strangely, this beleaguered white man was still allowed to express his thoughts freely in my class without getting arrested or harassed. Weird, since apparently white guys can't do that anymore. (The paper he eventually handed in was 2 pages short of the minimum, poorly sourced and full of typical "political correctness is harmful, nobody can joke around anymore" platitudes.)

The scary part is how common this mindset is. Straight white Christian men are under persecution! They can't say what they want! Extra weird, because we have a straight white "Christian" president that literally says whatever the fuck he wants and never faces any repercussions. The reality is that freedom of speech is just as strong as ever. It's just that all types of people have a voice now, and a lot of white people (and people in power) aren't too happy about that. Even though giving everyone a voice lifts us all up, many white people (and the punditry who make a living reinforcing the status quo) take it as an attack on their standing. The real attack on free speech is coming from the people quick to disparage "political correctness," and that's the scary part. When those in power shut down speech, we should all be worried, not when the gay woman at work asks you to stop making dyke jokes.

The typical rant against political correctness generally follows the same route as my student's. The talking heads at Fox and Jeffrey Shitlord at CNN want everyone to believe that calling out racists is political correctness run amok, but the truth is, they are forcing their own form of political correctness on everyone else. "Don't complain when I say racist vile shit! All opinions are equal!"

Well, no. But it's your right to have an opinion and voice it, and it's my Founding Father-given right to tell you that it sucks.

These sensitive bigots pass themselves off as Defenders of Free Speech yet they obscure their real thoughts with coded language because they're too scared to defend their own views. Then they chastise student protesters; they ridicule people who want to create their own labels for themselves or avoid labels all together; they shut down any substantial discourse on race or poverty with banal quips about black on black crime and bootstraps.

They think freedom of speech means freedom from criticism of their speech, but criticism of their speech is in fact free speech itself. Duh.

Let's drop the political correctness already. Call bigots bigots, and if you are a bigot, accept it. Then do better. And wipe the breastmilk off your chin. It's the CORRECT thing to do.


I Love You All...Class Dismissed

Friday, May 19, 2017

6 Activities That Shouldn't Still Exist in 2017

I recently talked about the inherent absurdity (and danger) in eating competitions, and since then, I learned about another person who died trying to shove as much food in his face as quickly as possible for a meager award. A 42 year old man in Colorado choked to death when he tried to eat a half pound donut in less than 80 seconds during a bakery's eating challenge. The ridiculous yet harmful nature of these contests led me to ponder on some other types of activities that have remained in existence long past the time they should have been extinguished for the greater good or out of sheer common sense.

It's 2017. We all should know better than to let these activities continue....


Child Beauty Pageants

Seriously? We're still doing these? Yeah.

The worst thing about child beauty pageants is...well, everything. The best thing I can say about child beauty pageants is that at least their list of attendees provides the FBI with the names of all the leading suspects in any area child abduction cases.

Honestly, how do these things persist? It's not even just the creepy factor, although that alone should have left these things in 1920s Atlantic City where they originated. The modern day incarnation started in the 60s, and granted, the world needed a distraction at that time, but the same could be said for any decade (or right now?!?) so that's no excuse. You'd think maybe a child getting murdered would have lessened their popularity instead of increasing it. You'd think that a major expose on HBO might negatively affect the billion dollar industry. You'd hope for the sake of humanity that seeing the absolute disaster that is a family who participates in beauty pageants would make people realize the true horror of this event, but as always, humanity proves worse than possibly imagined.

If we don't stop these for the sake of good taste, we should stop them in the name of the child's future mental health.

But America doesn't care about children, or mental health, so I don't see anything changing any time soon.

Many countries have child pageants, but most other countries don't focus so much on the child's appearance, which perversely sexualizes them. For example, in Australia, their pageants are based on skills like singing and dancing, instead of looks. In fact, the American pageants are so different and so much more perverse, many Australian pageant parents have boycotted Universal Royalty, the main US pageant company.

Not that it has affected the business in the US. Over 250,000 children participate in child beauty pageants per year. Shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and the aforementioned catastrophe Honey Boo Boo, have helped the industry take in over 5 billion dollars a year. That's cocaine money. And the product is even more harmful for kids. At least cocaine makes you feel good about yourself; kids in pageants consistently show increased body dissatisfaction over time, among other issues.

These pageants teach kids that appearances are more important than anything else. People who don't look good don't deserve to win. And you should do whatever it takes to look good. I don't know the appropriate age for a child to wear makeup, but I'm pretty sure 6 years old is too young to be wearing fake teeth and getting botox injections.

Why are we sexualizing young children? For a little bit of money? A small amount of fame?

Yes. Yes, that's exactly why we are doing it. And it's fucking gross. Although it did make for a great movie and a hilarious episode of It's Always Sunny, so I guess we owe these pageants some gratitude.

"Do not diddle kids, it's no good diddling kids!"


The Circus

Abused animals! Poorly paid acrobats! Overpriced soda (and beer, if you're lucky)! Disgusting cotton candy and dry popcorn! The permeating aroma of warm horseshit! Fucking clowns! Welcome to...the circus!

We may not have to wait too long for the demise of this relic of the 19th century. Earlier this year, Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the largest circus in town and the Greatest Show on Earth, announced it will be closing. In 2011, Feld Entertainment (owners of Ringling Bros) had to pay over a quarter of a million dollars in fines for violating the Animal Welfare Act, an incident that undoubtedly led to their eventual decision to shut down.


It's ok, we have Gucci to take its place.


No more animal abuse. No more stupid clowns. Good riddance.

The biggest attraction of many traveling circuses were their elephants, and once public opinion turned against the use of elephants, the end of the circus was inevitable. When Ringling Bros phased out the use of elephants in 2015, many circuses followed suit, and they all saw a drastic reduction in sales. And that's ok. It's a remnant of a different era that just doesn't make much sense anymore. Take the best elements of it, the acrobats for instance, and adapt to the times. Cirque du Soleil, for example, is great, and it only rarely smells like horse dung.

Due to natural selection, and large fines, circuses seem to be slowly dying out, but there are many around the US and the globe that still use (and inevitably abuse) animals. The performers aren't exactly living the life of luxury, either, but at least they have some choice in the matter. Some circuses in Great Britain still tour with camels and reindeer. These animals face cramped, temporary housing, dangerous transport, forced performances, and loud obnoxious crowds. Think living in a college dorm room, but without the perks of keggers and Playstation tournaments.

No living creature deserves that.


Bullfighting

I learned about bullfighting as a naive young kid in middle school Spanish class. I thought the running of the bulls was insane but also awesome. Bullfighting looked cool as hell. Then I learned the ugly truth behind it all. Those bulls aren't enjoying the spectacle nearly as much as the other participants.

While bullfighting has fallen out of favor in many countries, it is deeply ingrained in Spanish culture and therefore difficult to let go for a good portion of their population. Many places have continued the practice with less lethality, allowing the bulls to live. In 2011, the region of Catalonia, where bullfighting essentially began, lawmakers banned the practice of bullfighting altogether. However, earlier this year, the courts in Spain overturned the ban.

Much like guns in America, bullfighting is considered integral to Spanish culture and any moves to ban it are severely divisive. Whenever momentum swings against it, it eventually swings back the other way. Bulls just don't have good lobbyists.

Image result for bull goring fighter
Their former lobbyist didn't last too long.


Most bullfighters don't mind the inherent danger, and most of the fans crave it, so bullfighting is probably here to stay. This year, a rookie bullfighter was gored twice in the neck and twice in the jaw. This happened in front of 10,000 people. And it's not an uncommon sight to see. In fact, a fighter was gored in the ass just days before that event. In 2013 alone, 31 fighters were gored, and 16 of their assistants were injured; many had life-threatening injuries. And yes, some do get killed, like this young man in 2016.

Yet, Instead of calls to end the practice, much like other dumb sports (see next entry) where catastrophes are the real underlying reason people watch these events, the inevitable death and destruction only encourages more spectators. Bullfighting in Spain is a roughly $2.5 billion industry; it's not going anywhere soon.

Unfortunately, the same can be said of...


Nascar/racing

I may be (definitely) biased, but Nascar is dumb. Really dumb. "Turning left for 500 miles" yada yada, but see also: wasting precious natural resources, adding to pollution, causing injuries and death. Even if it was enjoyable, at what cost? I can make the assumption most Nascar fans don't believe in global warming, but do they really like being advertised to that much? There's no where else they can go to drink and hear loud noises? I mean, a Toby Keith concert has to be going on somewhere nearby. That is way better for the environment, not counting the discarded condoms and empty beer cans in the back of pickup trucks.

Maybe "wasting natural resources" is a bit overstated, considering the amount of fuel and rubber used for one race compared to the resources used for travel in most sports. But it does add up, and I still think it's a valid complaint.

However, let's take a look at some figures we can more easily verify and compare to other sports. Side note: it pains me to call Nascar a "sport," but that's what society has determined, and I'm nothing if not aware of socially accepted terms and definitions.

Did you know that more than 520 people have died in 25 years of U.S. auto racing? That's wayyy more than I thought. It's like history has already made my point for me!

We all probably heard of Tony Stewart killing Kevin Ward on a racetrack. But apparently, most deaths are not intentionally caused by absolute shitheads: most are just accidents. Accidents that could probably be avoided, but still, most drivers aren't steering towards unprotected people in an effort to kill them.

Most die like Dale Earnhardt; victims of a system that prioritizes speed and danger over driver safety.
To be fair, after Earnhardt's very public death, Nascar mandated some more safety features. However, that does not apply to most "short-track" races, where the majority of Nascar races take place. It's no coincidence that most deaths occur at these short-tracks. And they don't want proper safety. The former president of Charlotte Motor Speedway explains: "Short track racing is usually mayhem, hopefully controlled. That's what people want. It's like ice hockey with cars."

Image result for ice hockey with cars
To be honest...I would watch that. 


Far be it from me to defend ice hockey, but I don't think more than 500 people have died playing hockey since Mario Lemieux won back to back titles in Pittsburgh. I could be wrong, though, I haven't really followed the sport since then.


Airshows/Flyovers

Airshows are similar to Nascar, except instead of racing around a circle wasting natural resources, this is just some guys doing loop de loops and avoiding death (or not) while wasting natural resources. Accidents are rare (so, not too similar to Nascar after all) but they do occur and they're often tragic for the participants and spectators. In Reno, 11 people were killed and dozens injured when a stunt plane crashed into a grandstand.

Tell 'em, Bob.

There are only about 300 airshows in the US per year, though, so the damage is minimal.

However, military flyovers are the real financial and moral Hindenburg. These idiotic, overly macho, and incredibly short events are most popular at NFL games, but the five major sports leagues in the US all have utilized them. Teams have taken in more than $10 million in marketing deals with the military since 2012 alone; except, this is the US military, so the Department of Defense can't actually account for all of the money. In fact, they can't even account for all the contracts. Oh, and the $10 million estimate doesn't even include Nascar, which may take in as much as $100 million from military contracts.

So, US taxpayers are paying literally millions of dollars for military propaganda in the form of 4 second flyovers. Beyond the moral and financial questions that brings up, who even cares about these things? Fans hardly care, especially when they can't even see the damn thing happening. One time, the US Navy's Blue Angels did a flyover at a stadium WHEN THE ROOF WAS UP! It was so loud inside no one could even hear the jet engines.

Maybe it's more for the viewers at home? Sure, if seeing planes for 4 seconds is worth the approximately $36,000 in taxpayer money that it cost to fly the planes from their base to the stadium and back.

Defenders of this absurd practice, when completely out of other excuses, will proclaim: "Well it provides training for the pilots at the very least! Are you against the troops bro?!"

To that, I simply reply, "Baloney."

Ok, that wasn't my reply. I stole it from an analyst with the Center for Defense Information. He claims that it's "atrocious" training, and the pilots themselves call it, "converting gas to noise." That's not exactly turning pilots into the Red Baron.

There is literally no good reason for these things. I'm sure sports teams will stop taking free money from the military after reading my hard-hitting expose.


Golf

Hey did you know that water is rather important for the continued existence of life? You probably did. My readers are a smart bunch. Well, water is also rather important to keep greens and fairways green. And fair, I suppose.

Well, those two facts are crashing towards either at the speed of Tiger Woods' SUV heading towards a tree.

Yet with severe droughts across much of the country occurring for longer periods of time and with more frequency than ever, golf courses are hogging water like Immortan Joe at the Citadel.

Image result for immortan joe water
Never before seen pic of the PGA's Board of Directors. 


While watering your own lawn is bad enough (seriously, if nature wants your yard to be yellow or brown, let it be) watering golf courses to please old rich white men in ridiculous outfits should be considered an environmental crime.

On average, an American family of four uses about 400 gallons of water per day. That's a lot, and we should all do what we can to lessen that amount. Then again, it won't matter much if golf courses stay on their course (ha!) of H20 decimation: the average golf course wastes 312,000 gallons of water per day. In places next to literal deserts, like Palm Springs, golf courses use about a million gallons a day.

Meanwhile, families in Flint still can't get clean water to drink. In fact, 5,300 water systems in the US exceed acceptable levels of lead. Not sure why any level of lead is "acceptable," but that's a whole other article. In the midst of their drought, many Californians had to take showers every other day, unless you're name is Tom Selleck of course (he has to keep that mustache glistening somehow). Even in places like Connecticut, residents have been asked to limit their water intake.

But not golf courses. They don't have to play by residential rules. They can bulldoze forests and natural environments and re-route waterways and use up millions of gallons of water daily with no problem because...I'm not really sure. People with money like to golf? Yeah, that's pretty much it. People with money like to golf and as long as that remains true, the rest of us will have to get used to brushing our teeth with dry toothbrushes and bathing once a week so that shitty people can continue to cheat at a so-called sport they claim to love but really only enjoy because it gives them an excuse to get away from their wives and jobs they don't like.

So let's ban this silly hobby. At the very least it might encourage our president to get to work. Although, that might not be such a good thing either considering his policies.

Ok, nevermind. I guess golf is good for something after all. Let's keep those greens green and that Orange buffoon occupied with correcting his slice rather than completely dismantling our democracy.

I Love You All...Class Dismissed. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Nuggets and Negativity: Internetting in 2017

Did you hear about the Wendy's Nugget Guy? If you're on Twitter, or a fan of Ellen, I'm sure you have, but if not, here's the backstory.


Image result for wendys nugget retweet

A young man asked the Wendy's corporate Twitter account how many retweets it would take for him to get free chicken nuggets for a year. The corporate account responded, "18 million." A clearly impossible, absurd number he had no chance of reaching.

However, he did break the retweet record with over 3.5 million retweets in about a month. That means 3.5 million individuals pressed the retweet button when they saw his post asking for free nuggets.

Wendy's, realizing the boon of good will and free marketing they were receiving, decided to reward this young man despite him not technically reaching the needed amount of retweets. To their credit, they did more than just give him nuggets, they donated $100,000 to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Besides being a cool story of a man shooting for the stars and actually catching one, it's a fascinating look at social media interaction, marketing, and our current zeitgeist.

With a simple tweet, you can capture the hearts of millions, the attention of major corporations and celebrities, and free chicken nuggets! Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad showed his support, Ellen Degeneres showed her support and even had him on her show. It was a moment, an idea, that completely united people around a random, silly quest. This kid probably didn't think much of his tweet as he sent it out, and less than a month later, he's appearing on one of the most popular shows in the country. And he got free chicken nuggets! For a year! That's truly amazing.

It reminds me of the Ice Bucket Challenge. A rather silly video/challenge catches on for whatever reason, blows up to the point where everyone knows about it even if they're not on social media, and we as a society end up doing something truly positive. These moments and events show the best side of humanity. We can accomplish anything we want when we come together! And it doesn't take much to bring us together!

However, being humanity, there will always be haters and naysayers. When the Ice Bucket Challenge blew up, there were certain people who just couldn't wait to bash it and the people participating. They found every excuse in the book to degrade the challenge, using relatively decent points (it wasted water) to completely absurd points (this is taking money and attention away from other diseases). Some people even got mad because, according to them, most of the participants didn't even know what ALS was. Even if that were true, it was raising money and at least some awareness for a good cause, so what's the problem? You don't need to know the biological make-up of ALS or HIV or breast cancer to know that it's bad and that we should try to cure it. But some people have to find the negative in everything. Whether it's to feel better about themselves because they take pride in going against the grain, or they are anti-social, or maybe they are just negative overall, they have to find a way to limit people's joy and excitement.

And to be honest, I get that urge. I'm quick to point out ugliness behind a false veneer of beauty. I'm the guy talking about the NFL's problem with domestic violence and CTE during the Super Bowl party, without a doubt. But there are some things that can and should be accepted as positive. There was literally no drawback to the Ice Bucket Challenge; even the wasted water complaint is a little ridiculous considering the actual amount of water. If you're that concerned, yell at people who water their lawns or take half hour showers.

Similarly, there was literally no drawback to retweeting or supporting this kid's quest for free nuggets.

And yet....







Now I "get" internet humor and a lot of this is meant to be funny by way of exaggeration, but.....why? Is it something about human nature that when someone gets too popular, they are an acceptable target for hate? When a celebrity is hated on, Leslie Jones for example, many people will respond, "well, it's part of being a public figure." Receiving hate and even death threats are a part of being a public figure? I agree: that is the reality of the situation. But when you think about it, isn't that a little odd? We encourage civility across the board and we teach kids to respect others, but if your face is on tv every now and then, you deserve whatever awful comments are thrown at you?

Part of it is criticism of whatever they are famous for, and I think that is certainly acceptable. I understand hating on actors and sports stars and musicians. You don’t like their movies or music. You like their rival team. They are Jason Fricking Sudeikis. Whatever. I get it. It may not be right, but I get it.

Image result for jason sudeikis
I. Get. It.

But hating on their work is different than hating on them as a person. Unless it's Jason Sudeikis, there's no reason to attack a person's humanity just because you think their movies suck or their music is derivative or because they play for the Yankees and you like the Red Sox.

And there's definitely no reason to hate on somebody for getting free nuggets. His good luck doesn’t take nuggets out of your mouth. Are people hating simply because he got a lot of retweets and he now has some vague semblance of "fame"? It's such a simple, random thing that anyone COULD have done, so to some people it doesn't seem fair that he gets such a great reward...maybe people are mad because they didn’t think of it first? Maybe they feel that if they can't have free nuggets, nobody should? That’s a 5 year old’s mentality, and its scary how many people possess that mentality.

Even Chrissy Teigen, a model/actress/wife to John Legend/celebrity I generally like, said on Twitter that she blocks anyone who retweets the "Wendy's kid." She has a somewhat irreverent sense of humor, and it was part of a conversation with another funny Twitter celebrity so it's not that serious, but it struck me as a bit off-putting. This is a person who gained a massive internet following because of the silly things she does on Twitter and Instagram. She's hating on someone else doing something silly on Twitter? Not to mention, this is a very financially secure woman. Wendy's boy is just a regular kid. Why is a rich celebrity denigrating a random young kid trying to get free nuggets? How is that funny? That's some "let them eat cake" levels of being out of touch with the proletariat. 

Again, it's Twitter. It's jokes. Har har. But why are so many of our jokes based on wishing for the downfall of others? What does that say about us as a species?

I'm not entirely sure. But I could go for some nuggets. Did you know their 4 piece nuggets is now 99 cents and their 6 piece is $1.29? For decades it cost 99 cents for 5 nuggets. What the hell Wendy's?

You know what? Fuck that kid and his free nuggets.


I Love You All (Even you, Wendy's Boy. But not you, Jason Sudeikis)...Class Dismissed. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Arnold Palmer Part 6



Read the previous chapters here: 

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5


-Begin Part 6

The crumpled hood stared at him as he sped down the block. It seemed to be asking him, "Was that really a better idea than calling a cab?"


"Shut up," Steve said, and stepped harder on the gas. 

Within a few minutes, he saw the on-ramp for the highway. 

"Finally." 

Once he got on the highway, it would be smooth sailing for about half an hour. Then he could finally get that Arnold Palmer. And a painkiller. His toe was pounding. Any time he moved his foot, it got worse, so he was doing his best to avoid braking. He'd really have to see a doctor tomorrow. He had a serious headache from the whiplash, too.

As he flipped his blinker to turn on to the highway, he saw a glimmer of red and blue lights in his rear-view. Usually he would get a slight feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach whenever he saw those lights, even if he hadn't done anything wrong. This time, he assured himself that the lights weren't for him. His luck couldn't possibly be that bad.

Unfortunately, no matter how bad things are, they can always get worse. 

The lights rapidly got closer and he soon heard the "whoop" of the police cruiser as it pulled up behind him.

He almost cried as he slowly pulled his car to the side of the road, mere yards away from the on-ramp.

"I just want to get home," he groaned as he put the car in park. "Why can't I get home?"

After a few grueling minutes waiting for the police officer, a young, clean-shaven man in a crisp blue uniform came to his window and asked for the usual paperwork.

For an instant, Steve knew deep in his heart that he didn't have his registration or insurance or license on him. He was absolutely sure that something would be missing and the cop would give him a huge fine or even take him in to the station. That's clearly where this day was headed.

But his fears were allayed when he found the documents he needed. He even double checked everything to make sure it wasn't expired. He breathed a deep sigh of relief, and with a beaming smile on his face, handed the paperwork to the officer.

"What's so funny?" the cop asked.

"Sorry?"

"You got a big shit-eating grin on your face. Wanna tell me what's so funny?"

"No...it's just...I had a really long day."

"I can tell," the officer said as he pointed to the crumpled hood. "What happened there?"

"Long story."

"You sure you should be driving this thing?"

"Oh yeah. It drives fine, it's just cosmetic damage."

"Well it looks like it could use some serious cosmetic surgery."

In the silence that followed, Steve could tell the cop wanted some recognition of his joke, but he just didn't have it in him to respond with even the slightest indication that he recognized the cop's "wit." In fact, the only energy he had left was currently being used to prevent himself from slapping the look of self-satisfaction off the cop's perfectly shaven face.

After a seemingly endless awkward silence, the officer said, "I'll be right back." He then slowly walked to his vehicle and got in. 

"Well it looks like it could use cosmetic surgery," Steve mumbled to himself in a high-pitched tone. "Hilarious. Jackass."


After more agonizing moments of waiting, Steve's mind began to wander. What was the officer looking up on his computer anyway? He had no arrests, no outstanding tickets or warrants. Maybe he was going a little fast? Maybe he didn't use his blinker? Or maybe he heard about a car destroying a gate at the Lassiter building, saw the hood of Steve's Toyota, and was currently putting 2 and 2 together?

After about five minutes, another cop car arrived. The driver, an older man with a luxurious mustache got out and walked to the first car. The young officer got out and they began talking.

Steve was sure he was going to be arrested. There was no other reason for them to take this long. This was the last thing he needed right now. Thrown in a cell, most assuredly fired, car a wreck, toe broken, whiplash, and still no Arnold Palmer.

Goddammit!

This was it. This was the moment that was going to break him. All he wanted was a cool refreshing drink to take some of the stress of the week off, and it seemed like ever since 4:48pm, the moment he started thinking about that drink, his entire day went haywire.

Maybe it was a sign. Or maybe it was a coincidence. Or maybe he was just having the worst day of his life since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cancelled minutes before his 7th birthday party started.

As he pictured himself on that dreadful day, an orange bandana around his head and a broken pair of plastic nunchuks on the ground next to him, tears began to take form. He tried to stop them, but he felt all the shame and disappointment and helplessness that he felt that day rushing back, and the tears came rushing out.

He let out a wailing sob and slammed his head on the steering wheel, accidentally honking the horn.

"Ow! Shit!" While rubbing the fresh bump on his head, he looked for a tissue. As he opened the glove box, the officer appeared at his window.

"Did you honk at me?" the cop asked sternly.

"N-n-no, sir," he managed through sobs. "It was an accident."

"Are you all right?" the cop was now shining his flashlight onto Steve's wet, red face.

 "Yes, I...well, no," he stuttered.

"Is there something you'd like to tell me?" the officer asked, keeping the light firmly on Steve's face and moving his free hand towards his holster. Steve didn't notice that, or the other cop on the passenger side creeping closer.

"It's...it's just that..."

"Go on son. You'll feel better when you tell me," the cop stated, now in a concerned fatherly tone.

"I-I-I just wanted to see Michaelangelo and Donatello! I didn't even care if all four of them came! I told everyone they'd be there and then Tommy Beringer made fun of me the rest of the year!"

"Sir, you're going to have to be more--"

"How could they do that to me?" Steve screamed through an ever increasing amount of tears.

"Sir, I don't think--"

"I couldn't even enjoy the cartoons or my toys anymore after that! They ruined my childhood! And not just in the internet ironic way, they really did! And I loved them so much! Why did they do that to me?"

"Sir, I'm not...I don't." The cop looked at the grown man sobbing with a bright red bump on his forehead and a crumpled hood on his car yelling about Renaissance artists and cartoons and decided he didn't want to deal with this paperwork.

"Sir, you failed to make a complete stop at the sign back there. And you need to get that hood fixed. Gather yourself and get home safely." He handed the license and insurance card back through the window.

"I couldn't even eat any cake," Steve sobbed as he took his cards back.

"Well, you can buy some cake and have it now, ok?"

"You think so?" Steve looked at him, the flashlight still lighting up his red face.

"Oh definitely. Just, just stop crying ok?"

"O-ok."

"Drive safely."

"Thank you, sir." Steve watched as the officer quickly walked back to his cruiser, joined by the older cop.

That was...strange. He didn't mean to lose it like that, but...it worked. He'd always heard that women got out of tickets by crying but he never thought guys could do it too. Cheers to equality!

Ignoring what the cop's unwillingness to engage with a clearly unhinged person behind the wheel said about mental health treatment and officer protocol in this country, or what the encounter could have been like if his skin was a little darker, Steve wiped his face with his shirt sleeve and started up his car. For a second, he was worried it wouldn't start, but the ignition switched right over and the engine began to purr. Things were starting to look up.

He turned on his blinker and continued on the exit ramp. The Arnold Palmer was now minutes away. His mouth started to water and a line of drool slowly dripped from the corner of his mouth.

"Jesus, get it together, Steve," he said as he wiped the drool with his already wet sleeve.

-end Pt. 6

I love You All...Class Dismissed.