Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ahem. Changes ahead

I'm probably going to delete everythin on this site and leave a few very nice sounding political-ish essays. do facebook me.

Friday, June 26, 2009

No more ads :o

I wasn't making much money on them anyway. I made about 11 bucks, but google won't send them until it's reached $100.

No more ads :o

I wasn't making much money on them anyway. I made about 11 bucks, but google won't send them until it's reached $100.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hey that's one year. gotta pay for the domain again. ten bucks down the drain :o

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What is my talent? Do I have one? What rule demands that I do? If I have no talent, what do I have left? If I can generate no appreciable creative works for the world, what reason should I live for? People? People are transient. No one lasts forever. Myself? My self is a shell wracked by base needs and desires, prejudices and superstitions, contradictions and confusion. The higher pursuit of logic? What use is a study that doesn’t answer my own questions, only those of others who refuse to listen?

Is my talent really writing? Can I truly enthrall people as a raconteur? Am I really contributing anything new, or just adding to the endless cacophony of regurgitated tales? What is poetry? Is it really art? Or simply an excess of imagination trapped in a wooden shackle of words?

What else can I do? Reading is an act of consumption, so no amount of talent in it is appreciable to the world at large. I write songs generated loosely from other songs, sans the soul. I attempt to use the world’s trappings to define myself. Is this the Way? Should I define myself by the definitions of others? Am I meant to fit in a hole in society shaped like me?

Why this, either? Is society the same society that makes me feel in my gut that my words are worthless and contemptible, and no amount of pithy attempts to seem “deep” will ever properly express me? Or is that another society, another place? Why, then, do I surround myself with the apathetic and attempt to shield myself with a false sort of cynicism? Is this really the place I belong? Who am I?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Demanding precision in spoken language is possibly one of the most off-putting and unsociable things one can do. I cringe every time I hear someone correct someone else for any reason other than complete misunderstanding. If one understands the message being conveyed, why does it matter how the message is conveyed? This sort of attitude is the antithesis of good communication.

On the other hand, most written forms of language should be held to a fairly high standard; if only because presumably the author had both the time and interest available to proofread the work they write.

Requiring this of spoken language is tantamount to requiring that all shirts you see be tucked in and all shoes shined. It's not going to happen, and it makes the requirer seem petty and pedantic at best, stricken with a mental illness at worst.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


I started writing a long dry post and then I got a message from someone I like very much and now I can't focus on being boring and straightforward.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kinda Late

Sorry, finals and the incessant noise of my neighbors moving in is delaying my ability to think about anything other than finals and my headache.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


For some time now, I've had a feeling that life is leading somewhere (besides my inevitable death), something major is soon to happen. Given the poor choices I've made recently, I'm not sure if this is a good event or a bad one, but it is an event regardless. Embracing determinism as a lifestyle doesn't confer you with any sort of prescience, nor grants any particular boon of hope. Knowing that what will happen is bound to happen doesn't make the future any less uncertain or scary. Possibly the only comforting thing about determinism is that you know there will be a future, whether it exists or you simply perceive one.

Some people question determinism, and rightly so. If everything were truly going to happen regardless of personal opinion or choice, why do anything? The answer to that is simply, if you did nothing, that too would be your fate. Another valid criticism: if everyone's actions are predetermined, how can we incarcerate criminals? They have no complicity in their own acts. For what reason can we justify punishing them for things they have no control over? For that is another very good answer: false perceptions of free will generated by inability to perceive past or future beyond certain point. This false belief in free will is a necessary belief, one that keeps society functioning. Demolishing the common perception of free will would only lead to mass apathy and suicides. It is for this reason also that religion was created. Not for a sinister purpose, to subvert the minds of the masses, but to keep communities together and working. Without a reason to continue the daily struggle for life, many people will invariably come to the conclusion that life isn't worth living; it being simply nasty, brutish, and short. If the common folk believe that there is a mysterious and benevolent (sometimes) force testing them for a reward in a future life, the common folk will have incentive to live.

As I've always said, religion is the cornerstone of society itself. It gives direction to those who would otherwise disperse in disgust for fellow man, or pursue ends antithetical to others. By pointing this passion towards constructive goals, religion ensures the continued survival of the human race. Modern religion, however, has fallen some distance. The "moral majority" and fundamentalist Christians have totally forgotten what the bible, what religion itself is about. But I digress. Determinism is not an idle thing, to be toyed with in the mind as a possibility, it is a genuine worldview. It's also black and white. Either you believe in free will, or you believe in determinism, because the nature of the two preclude one another.

"What?" you ask, "How do they preclude each other? God has a plan, but also people have free will because God said so."

This is precisely the problem. If one can use free will, then God has no control over the actual thoughts or choices of that person. That person then becomes more powerful than God, as he is able to deny God his plans. Say, for example, one Samuel Davis was born in the late 1700s. God intended for him to join the revolutionary army and slay a particular British army captain that would ultimately demoralize the British army and help the revolutionaries win. If Samuel truly has free will, he can simply decide never to join the army, or become a Quaker or some such. This would throw God's plan out the window, leading to a situation which God hadn't intended and therefore not also foreseen. As you can see, free will negates both of God's major powers; omnipotence, as he can't change Samuel's mind, and omniscience, he wasn't aware of smauel's future treachery. This idea transforms God from a truly all knowing, all powerful being, to a demi-god, just as trapped by existence as the rest of us. Without free will, the plan would have gone off without a hitch, though it brings about another host of issues concerning Gods omnipotence.

At any rate, the Judeo-Christian concept of God is riddled with errors, inconsistencies and inaccuracies, a fact which churches have known and been waffling around for hundreds of years. The major reason I follow Taoism instead is because Tao seems like a much more logically complete concept (or really, lack of concept) of God.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Quotes that I don't know the source of, so it might be paraphrasing other quotes. Or maybe I made them. It would sound better if I did. Quotes by me.

This could be an ongoing post, I should think. As a matter of fact, I do think. Therefore I am.

Life is a series of arguments for its existence.

He who works hardest, works most.

The fruits of one's labor are never eaten by the laborer.

All you really need to succeed in life is a high charisma score.

Teacher objectivity is an oxymoron.

hell, human objectivity is an oxymoron.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Gravitas of Life

Life isn't serious. I feel bad for people who take it so.

"Ha Ha," you may think.

"What a jokester, but really life is a very important thing."

No, it isn't. Sure, life may apparently be all you have, but that doesn't mean it's all there is. You eventually lose it anyway. Why frantically worry about what you're inevitably going to lose? Life is a game, except there are no winners or losers and everyone quits after 40-70 years. Like any game, life involves a great deal of luck. Where you're born, who you're born to, what lucky events happen are all completely random, or at least unknowable. and yet these things drastically affect your life. When vast swathes of your life are completely uncontrollable, why panic over the few things in life that are controllable? even these things will eventually fall out of control.

For example: You can't make people like you. Research shows that the decision happens well before you even begin to consider it. You may have the illusion of controlling others emotions or reactions, but first impressions really are the most lasting. So if you have little control, why fret about the small attempts to change things?

Of course the real problem here lies in determinism. Free will doesn't actually exist. The idea of universal causality precludes it. If you attempt to disprove universal causality, you find yourself with the conundrum of a completely random world, wherein impossible things might happen all the time. If the universe is as structured as science would have you believe, then complete randomness is an impossibility. Anyway, I feel too lazy to delve further into the proofs for determinism.

And it leads to another conundrum: why do I bother attempting to change people's minds about the seriousness of life? If free will doesn't exist, they would believe or disbelieve regardless of my exhortations. Well, the easy answer to that is because whether I like it or not, I would be exhorting.

Anyway, since you don't have any free will anyway, do what you want. Or, more specifically do what you were going to do anyway.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Self Doubt

Self doubt is like a poison. It usually starts with someone else. They pierce your ego with a barb that introduces the possibility that you may be wrong. From there it can slowly work its way around until at last it has consumed your very worldview. No action you make is free from analysis by your own conscious. Like a cytokine storm, your body works against you. Purging self doubt is a long and laborious process, with varying degrees of difficulty depending on the source of your doubt. The more respected the source, the harder the purge. Complete sublimation of insecurity often requires that the initial source acknowledge their own mistake in doubting you.

What can you do?

Two things: surround yourself with vapid yesmen and support your ego through the lack of complaint from those around you. This is an easy but dangerous method, as it lacks any doubt whatsoever. This may lead to unrealistic worldviews and harmful decisions as a result.

The second method is much harder, but much more healthy. Learn to accept criticism without internalizing it. Discover the truth of the statement: if someone says something about you, no matter how much you respect their opinion, it isn't always true.

Both are a sort of armor against the poisonus effects of doubt. Like all things, however, doubt has a place in the psyche too. Learn to understand your failings, to accept them, to be aware of when your failings are affecting your judgment. Every human has flaws; that is why we are human, however, flaws don't entail correction in every situation. To attempt to perfect yourself, you merely deny your nature and create a perverse mockery of your self. You must embrace your flaws, live with them. Self awareness is truly the path to enlightenment.

However, remember this: self awareness and self conciousness are not the same. The importance of embracing your flaws is not that you attempt to fix them, but that you understand them and know them well, so the next time someone attempts to poison you with self doubt through one of these flaws you can dismiss it as irrelevant, since you're already aware of this part of yourself.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Swine Flu is not a threat

Swine flu panic. Isn't it great? too bad it's completely unfounded. There are so many more ways you can die from simply walking outside than catching a readily curable disease.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This is the picture that should have gone with that other post. It's things like this that make me think "Civil War." The rhetoric is simply getting far out of hand. Far, far out of hand. I mean, I laugh at this sign, but the man holding clearly believes this is true.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oh, Shit, Today Is Tuesday.

Oh, man, now I kinda regret this idea. Maybe I'll just discuss my creative writing process. I write sporadically, but when I do, I end up writing a whole bunch. As an attempt to get myself to write more, I decided to write a thousand word story once a week. Natch, it didn't pan out. I end up with tons of starts for a story and several longish stories. I've posted some portions of those longer stories here. Anyway, I write a lot of things not a lot of which I'm particularly happy about. I like writing dialogue best and descriptions least.

Unfortunately, I'm not in a writing mood right now. I did just stumble upon a great idea (Japan becomes a communist country in the 50's), but I have no passion for the actual labor of putting words to paper. This has also ended up reflecting on the essays I've done lately. I dunno, it's just part of the cyclical nature of my hobbies. If I had to guess, I'd say I'm into videogames again right now. Hopefully next will be music or something.

This post needs more pizazz. So, Georgia threatens to leave the union (link full of boring legalese, just trust me here) right on top of Texas governor Rick Perry threatening the same at the laughable Chicago Tea Parties, basically an excuse for right wingers to go outside and get mad at the president under pretenses that they don't like taxes more than they don't like the idea that a black man is president. Even better, the site that "spontaneously" popped up to support this was actually purchased in August of 2008. It still worries me, though. Especially all the rhetoric surrounding this sort of nonsense. Articles about Rick Santelli's rant titled, "The Shout Heard Round the World," and the very idea of a tea party theme all suggest the American revolution, as if somehow the current democratic administration is comparable to George the Third's reign. All of this spells upcoming war to me. Maybe that'll get us out of this recession.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Just hosting this image, nothing to see here. If you click on it, you'll notice the high resolution. At some point when I remember, I'm getting this turned into a poster.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bioshock As a Reflection on Modern Global Politics, Or Why Underwater Genetic Zombies Matter

So, for those of you unaware, Bioshock is a recent, critically acclaimed interactive fiction for several platforms. I finally had a chance to play it a few weeks ago. It was very enjoyable, if not so much for the somewhat generic gameplay, but for the brilliant atmosphere. The game takes place in the year 1960, in an underwater Utopian community called "Rapture," established by a wealthy businessman known as Andrew Ryan to support his Lassez faire ideals, most closely related to Ayn Rand's philosophy of objectivism

Okay, Revamp Time

I read a thing somewhere about blogs and I decided to take its advice, which I'm not sure I remember. Anyway, this blog will now be updated weekly; on Tuesdays and any other day when I think of something. I also changed the layout to move the text an eight of an inch to the right and changed the background color by a shade, to reflect these troubled economic times, when people cannot afford to spend the extra electricity to keep this screen as bright a grey as it is. Hopefully you'll save approximately ten percent of your electric bill, which for me comes out to about $1.50. That dollar fifty can go towards other, more useful applications, like donating it to me.

Anyway. Expect new content from me rather more often. Instead of spending my time trying to be objective and talk as little about myself as possible, I will launch into full on opinion mode. Be prepared, ladies and gentlemen, for THE SPIN ZONE.

I am so totally clever and witty. People should pay me to mumble deprecating things about them.
Blog revamp time, details forthcoming. You may have already noticed the change in layout.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Oh God

I finally reread that essay i posted. Ugh. That has to be the worst work I've done yet far in college. uuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mixed Blessing

Turns out I got an 87% on that last essay. That's no good. It will only encourage me to write unserious things for this serious class.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Music Dump

I feel too lazy to edit out the ads these things add to the html embed code today. Sorry!

Celtic Ver0.45897364578936b - Thejakeman

Seriously, you should see the size of the code.

Kiss Me, Mr. Roboto ver 0.84823427346c - Thejakeman

Actually, It looks like they worked the code into the embedded player. Smart move.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


But sometimes when I go back, I find myself unable to really expound on a topic. So then this happens:

Spurgeon’s Tower of Isolation and Intentionally Long Essay Titles

The Ant of the Self is one of a new breed of “high” literature concerning the typical minority experience, written, ironically enough, by a very atypical minority. Fortunately, the story lacks the usual pretention towards “understanding” the average minority and instead acknowledges the unusual experience of the author, ZZ Packer. Yes, why is it that modern authors feel the need to squeeze meaning into every line? But it is the status quo. Apparently, writing throwaway fiction is no longer considered an art. I mourn the dozens (Thousands? Millions?) of unpublished authors who go about peddling their trashy romances, predictable mysteries, boring Sci-Fi’s but cannot find a home for these rough, uncut literary gems. Why, oh society? Why do you ignore those in need of a voice? Instead you invite pretention and desecration as a viable alternative to the true works of fiction. But I digress. The story is written with the purpose of demonstrating the isolation that one (likely her, from a biographical standpoint) feels when you don’t quite fit in to any particular portion of society. The author does this through the character of Spurgeon in his approaches to the situations with his father, the Million Man March and the small child he sees at the end of the novel are written.
Without fail, Spurgeon assumes the worst of his father, from his assumption that his father would never pay him back to the assumption that he had mugged someone for money at the end of the novel. Though these assumptions are rarely contradicted, they serve to provide a window into Spurgeon’s perspective of his father. He is perpetually at odds with his dad, constantly correcting him, as in “You mean stockbroker. A stockbroker advises about stocks. Not an accountant,” (77) or insulting him, as in “He’s so stupid, he’s brilliant; so outside of the realm of any rationality…” (82) It’s through this sort of verbal conflict, as well as the ubiquitous analysis of his father’s every movement that Packer creates to the world of isolation that Spurgeon inhabits. Indeed, Spurgeon feels just as isolated from his mother, as it was “…clear that the only man of this house was Jesus.” (85) Spurgeon also subconsciously judges his father’s actions, adding connotations and seeing emotions or intentions that may or may not be real from beginning: “…as if trying to get them [words] through my thick skull,” to end “…as if he’s congratulating me.”He spends a great deal of time focusing on the differences between himself and his father, looking to distance himself intentionally from the undesirable aspects of his father. Just as publishers intentionally distance themselves from authors they don’t approve of. If your name isn’t bigger than the title on a book, they don’t care. Look what happened to Kafka! He died before he was really published! If only they had cared, he might still be alive even today!
Later at the Million Man March, Spurgeon typifies the black men at the march as somewhat menacing as in “…wearing stern looks and prison muscles.”(91) He is constantly worried that one member or another of the crowd would hurt him exemplified by “One man looks like he wants to beat the crap out of me.” (90). He designates the whites outside the picket as simply being aloof, or interestingly enough, also scared of the blacks as shown by “Quite a few whites also stop to look as if to see what this thing is all about, and their nervous, hard smiles fit into two categories: the ‘Don’t mug me!’ smile, or the ‘Gee, aren’t black folks something!’ smile.” (88-89) This emphasizes the disconnect Spurgeon feels with his own race as well as the races of others. As he so dramatically explained to members of the march, he’s not interested in the black nation or other issues beyond “debate purposes.” Just as major publishers aren’t interested in the short fiction works of names they haven’t heard of. They spend their days counting all the money they’ve made of the latest James Patterson novel, or counting revenues from the latest Evanovich tripe, but do they think of the little guy? No. Not once. After all, the little guy isn’t making them money. But fiction is about so much more than that. It’s art! Printed art, word for word!
At the end of the story, Spurgeon is dead tired, beat from his father and the trek to the train station. He witnesses a boy with his father at five in the morning, and immediately begins to construct a negative, depressing story about the boy and his father: “…kid in the hot sun for hours…cold night for longer.” (102) When he’s proven wrong at the end, he realizes his folly and how disconnected he really is. His isolation comes crashing down on him like a tidal wave when he realizes how unhappy he is, contrasted by the kid’s happiness, stating that the kid was “the happiest I’ve seen anyone, ever.” (103) Despite this, he simply sits through the pain of his realization and lets it pass. Just as society has let so many great works of fiction pass, simply slip through their fingers like so many diamonds hidden within snow.
Packer worked hard to create a feeling of isolation. As the book jacket states, her characters are on the periphery of society, unable to move to the center for one reason or another. Spurgeon is clearly unable or unwilling to accept a place in one or another society that he belongs to. He refuses to be black, he refuses to be white, he refuses to be his father, and he refuses to bend; choosing instead to remain in his tower of moral rectitude rather than meet the world at a level plain. Even at the end, after his life changing fight, he continues to think badly of the station attendant, the man with the child, and the little old white lady talking to herself. The way he approaches the world around him makes this evident. But weep not for Spurgeon, for he shall not weep for himself. Weep not for the unpublished novelists of this world, for they shall not weep for themselves. John Kennedy Toole might still be alive today, if publishers cared. They said his novel “isn’t really about anything.” How wrong they were.

This is why I get 'c's.


See, I'm down with writing essays. I can totally do structure and stuff and whomp out a good page in like fifteen minutes. But sometimes that's all I can write without feeling like I'm repeating myself. Here is a prewrite (errors included) of a recent essay. Before quotes and whatnot are applied.

Packer’s intentions in The Ant Of The Self is to emphasize the isolation Spurgeon feels from the world around him. She does this through the character of Spurgeon in the way he approaches the situations with his father, the million man march and the small child he sees at the end of the novel.
Without fail, Spurgeon assumes the worst of his father, from his assumption that his father would never pay him back, to the assumption that he had mugged someone for money at the end of the novel. Though these assumptions are rarely contradicted, they serve to provide a picture of the way Spurgeon views his father. Indeed, he felt just as isolated from his mother, as it was “clear to him that the only man of this house was Jesus.” He spent a great deal of time focusing on the differences between himself and his father, looking to distance himself intentionally from the undesirable aspects of his father.
Later at the million man march Spurgeon typifies the black men at the march as somewhat menacing, constantly worried that one member of the crowd would hurt him or another. He again designates the whites outside the picket as simply being aloof, or interestingly enough, also scared of the blacks. This emphasizes the disconnect Spurgeon feels with his own race. As he so dramatically explained to members of the march, he’s not interested in the black nation or other issues beyond “debate purposes.”
At the end of the story, Spurgeon is dead tired, beat from his father and the trek to the train station. He witnesses a boy with his father at five in the morning, and immediately begins to construct a negative, depressing story about the boy and his father. When he’s proven wrong, finally, at the end he realizes his folly and how disconnected he really is. His isolation comes crashing down on him like a tidal wave. Despite this, he simply sits through the pain and lets it pass.
Packer worked hard to create a feeling of isolation. As the book jacket states, her characters are on the periphery of society, unable to move to the center for one reason or another. Spurgeon is clearly unable or unwilling to accept a place in one or another society that he belongs to. He refuses to be black, he refuses to be white, he refuses to be his father, he refuses to bend; choosing instead to remain in his tower of moral rectitude rather than meet the world at a level plain. The way he approaches the world around him makes this evident. But weep not for Spurgeon, for he shall not weep for himself.

Monday, March 9, 2009

New music!

Yay for creativity sparked by limited tools! One day, I'll have internet again and I'll go back to making super obvious songs out of samples. For now, I must dig into my own musical collection to snip bits out of and otherwise desecrate the original artist's work.

Incidentally, I found out I was wrong. Hip-Hop is not my most listened to music. Which means I'll have to go back to answering that question with "yeah, I like instrumental Hip-Hop, Eighties synthpop, and vulgar Post-Disco/White Rock-Rap fusion."

Do I sound pretentious?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It's official

I finally queryed my music collection, and I can now say that my favorite music is Hip-Hop. Which says nothing of what variety I actually listen to, but is interesting nonetheless. I'm happy to have an answer. Peace out, homie G's.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Finally, something I'm happy about. I was bored. And I made this! Yay!

Why Do I Have A Blog Anyways?

People (Who I assume are trendy) frequently ask me "Oh, do you have a myspace/facebook/xanga(seriously)/whatever?" So I'm forced to deny ownership of any of these means of personal expression. I say, no, but I have a website! And their faces droop, saddened by the realization that they won't have the opportunity to pry into my personal life, or whatever it is that motivates people to spend hours on myspace/facebook/xanga/whatever filling out little quizzes and messaging long chains of personal tell-alls to one another. I tell them of my website, I give them the address, and then they don't bother visiting, because a blog is somehow inferior or at least less entertaining than a social networking page.

On the one hand, it makes me a bit sad to see a personal connection swing and miss, but on the other, I honestly have no interest in most of the things that people who frequent myspace/facebook/xanga/whatever do. I actually do have a myspace, though I razed it when I realized I wasn't interested in vainly attempting to keep lines of communication open with people from my past. it's under "thejakeman16." I also started a facebook page, mostly so I could see all these relatives my dad keeps meeting over it. It's under my name, which you should know if you've been paying attention. Back to the point of this post, I have a blog simply because it seems like the best way to organize myself. And I hate things that aren't blogs. I even hate most blogs, especially when they get flashy, or preachy, or all personal.

I hate most things. :/

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Political Beliefs

Like all opinions, this is subject to change. And hope. Yes, I can.

I am a fiscal conservative and social liberal.

Fitting a vast breadth of opinion and thought into one phrase always leads to some oversimplefication. I believe the only thing that government should be supplying are things that the people cannot or can't be trusted to provide. These things are pretty much limited to Laws and Police, Fire services, Access to medical assistance, Transportation (especially to government mandated activities, like school), Water, and Defense. Anything beyond that is frivolous, as far as I'm concerned. Socially, however, I honestly don't care what people do, as long as it doesn't interfere with other people's capacity to live.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Some Terrible Music

Just to prove that I have been making some, though not necessarily the best. My internet has again been down for some time, so I'm more or less using the same samples. On the bright side, I'm finally getting some sort of hang of using a synthesizer, as you can hear at the end of Amped. Bad habits to work on: Making a song that's really a couple of songs squished together. The style ends up being jarring. Also, don't change the tempo mid song. It just doesn't seem to work.

This song is probably the most presentable. I just put a bunch of piano together with synth and hoped for the best. On an unrelated note, isn't it interesting how the word hope and pray are more or less synonyms?

This one I'm most grouchy about. It started out as a "alright, let's make a metal song, and turned into a string of unrelated, but nice sounding, guitar bits. It's a slur on the Ulroch name. All the more reason to post it then. :p

Now, this one..... it started as some sort of slow Hip-Hopish beat, but then I was like, whoa, this sucks and I turned up the tempo and threw in a half speed music bed and some square lead. The result is kinda weird, but I like the synth. First time I feel like I really nailed a self made synth section without it sounding forced.

A House Divided

This segment is a bit more negative. Here, the camera focuses squarely on Halliwell and his insecurities. More to come, natch.

A Coffee shop:

“Where’s that guy? That Kevin fellow?”

“Dunno. Is that his name?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Well, anyway, so I had a great Idea. Every state should be its own state.”

“The country is way ahead of ya.”

“No, I mean state in the nation sense. The entire country should divide into 50 separate countries. Each could collect its own taxes and make its own legislative decisions.”

“But they already can.”

“No, not at all, states aren’t allowed to do a whole mess of things that the federal government can. Like make treaties with other countries. Like California. They couldn’t sign the Kyoto treaty, though they governor really wanted. It was a news thing awhile ago. I think around the same time the governator’s presidential aspirations were crushed based on his Austrian heritage.”

“You know, Hitler was an Austrian.”

“And a vegetarian, but how is that in any way relevant to my fantastic Idea?”

“Absurd idea, you mean.”

“And how so, mister big shot?”

“Well, for one, having states that size would never work. It would lead to disparities in less populous states, like Montana. Or New Mexico.”

“But that already exists!”

“Not to the extent it would, the government helps make up for lack of income and support. Beyond that, there’s the problem of defense. How would a collection of tiny nations defend itself?”

“The same way the colonies did. Through a collective army.”

“But it would be a nightmare to co-ordinate. And speak nothing of potential conflicts between states. What if Texas decided it didn’t feel like supporting Florida in the defense of the gulf? We would have a disaster.”

“What kind of line of thought is that? When was the last time a foreign nation attacked mainland U.S. unprovoked? Hawaii doesn’t count, as it wasn’t even a state during Pearl Harbor.”

“We have to think towards the potential future. What if there was another Cuban missile crisis? What would the collective nations of America do then?”

“Beyond the ridiculousness of that idea, the opposing power wouldn’t necessarily be at war with all of America. Remember, we’d have the nations of Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and so forth. I doubt that the entirety of the continent would ever be at war with anyone else.”

“Now that’s just crazy talk. You know, after World War One, people said that would be no more war ever again. It was to be the ‘war to end all wars.’ It didn’t last long, now did it?”

“But nearly every conflict since world war one have been American provoked. Even the entry into both of those wars was somewhat contentious.”

“Bah, conspiracy nonsense”

“Even discounting the two world wars, we still have the Korean war, Vietnam, the gulf war—“

“Which was initiated by Iraq

“When a figurehead we installed to ensure constant supplies of oil got somewhat uppity. It was still none of our business, and clearly an attempt to justify flexing our military muscle just after the cold war. Anyway, the current Iraq conflict, where we basically solidified our position of declaring that it’s perfectly okay for a bunch of crazy Zionist Jews to have nukes, but god forbid any Muslims even cough the word ‘nuclear.’”

“Now you’re just getting silly. Iraq was a potential threat. As is any nation with nukes. They all make me uncomfortable. I hear France has nukes. It keeps me awake at night to think that those cheese eating surrender monkeys have their finger on the button.”

“Ridiculous. No one has the guts to use a nuke in this day and age. The global sanctions and political climate would decimate whatever part of the nation left after the retaliatory strikes. Quit interrupting me, though. Before the world wars, we had the Indian “wars” where we slaughtered a continent of people for having an incompatible way of life. After that we have a number of smaller wars, mostly with Spain over various countries that the Monroe doctrine and Roosevelt corollary insisted that we should control. Really, the vast majority of military conflicts in this country are for fairly petty reasons. The reason we focus so much as a society on both world war two and the holocaust is because frankly, that was the only really justifiable war we’ve been in in the history of our nation. Even that we didn’t enter until millions had already died. And yet, for showing up late and letting things go as far as we did, we still earned the admiration and respect of the world, which we proceeded to ruin with a pithy war with Russia over a different political system. Honestly, Americans are some of the worst people in the world. We’ve been holding it hostage and propping up our economy against that of others for years. You know we use a quarter of the world’s resources, while having some five percent the world’s population? It’s a ridiculous empire we’ve set up here.”

“Wow. You really are insane. Weren’t the other day you complaining about the ‘hippie group think’ that I was espousing? And now you’re spouting a long line of vitriol against your home country. Don’t you appreciate it living here? Most anywhere else you’d be condemned for saying that.”

“In this country I’m condemned for saying it. Just because it’s a social condemnation as opposed to a legal one makes little difference to me. GOD! Why is this country so fucked up?”

“In the vein of JFK, why are you so fucked up?”

“A man, living in adverse conditions can do little to stop himself from becoming adverse.”

“Where’s that from?”

“Dunno, just made it up.”

“Ah, it must be bullshit then.”

“Oh, absolutely. Because only people who are dead and buried or famous can say profound things.”

“Now you’re catching on!”

“Obscure quotes and snappy comebacks are the realm of comedy writers, and the only thing funny about you is your face. Good day, sir.”

“Doth mine ears deceive me? Hath the great Halliwell J, esquire, made a comeback? This is rarer than the rose picked at midnight!”

“That’s not a real quote.”

“See, I can do it too.”

“Kevin’s still not here, what happened?”

“Why do you assume I know? I never work wherever it is he lives. I only see him here and not that often, at that. Why do you care, anyhow? He’s just some weirdo who sits by us for some reason. “

“You know, it’s nice to care about other people. It helps win you friends. Perhaps if you had some, you wouldn’t be so negative about this country. Sure, things aren’t as good as they were in Roosevelt’s time, but they certainly aren’t as bad as you go on about. Think of all the great social programs and freedoms that the people enjoy!”

“Un example, por favor.”

“Americorps! Bill Clinton’s legacy of a volunteer program that helps people and communities nationwide.”

“Temporarily. No lasting impact. Some future administration will write it off, citing budget inefficiency or some such.”

“I doubt even a republican would commit political suicide by refusing to help people.”

“You’re talking about a party that recently railed against a “stimulus” package because it included a portion supporting birth control. Earmarks and condoms, they said. They should have said apportions and abortions. It would have rhymed better.”

“I’m perfectly aware of the general heinousness of the republican party. Back to my point, Social security has saved hundreds of thousands of retirees from complete poverty or death.”

“With whatever money they have left after all the borrowing against it the government does. The recent crisis has nothing to do with baby boomers. It has to do with a bunch of ill advised reallocations of funds from the social security pool to cover the ridiculously massive budget we’ve been wrestling with since the Reagan administration.”

“Can anything break through your bitter shell of cynicism?”

“Puppies, kittens, warm woolen mittens. That’s about it.”

“What of the education system? Millions of kids are educated for free, every year.”

“Go on.”

“I was waiting for another biting response. “

“I’m interested in what you have to say about yet another corrupt aging institution in society.”

“Oh, there it is. In other countries, kids aren’t educated nearly as much as ours. In most countries, people have to pay to get their kids educated past primary school. Here in America we teach every kid, regardless of income or race or any other consideration, all the way up to college preparation level. No other nation before us has instituted such a widespread effort to disseminate knowledge.”

“That’s a very positive view of it.”

“Well, let’s hear your contradiction. By all means, let your ridiculous American antipathy free.”

“I’d rather not. I’m not a show dog, to be herded about and mocked. ‘Oooh, look at the adorable unpatriotic sentiment.’ I’ll have none of that, mind you. I’ll not be used to engage in others self reflection for them.”

“Self reflection? Is that what you call it? I think you’re simply trying to eke out an edgy space for yourself by fostering a pointless stance of purest cynicism. It’s more like ‘Oooh, I’m so impressed, he doesn’t follow social norms!’ It’s okay! You can let down your guard with me! You can be sentimental without trading in your balls! Manhood’s definition is no longer measured by the level of apathy you can display!”

“You presume to understand me? You, who hardly knows me? What about your silly crusades? You want people to support you in a grand unification of the human spirit, and join together in harmony and peace and understanding. Don’t you get it, Mike? That’s not what people are! People are many things, but kind and amiable aren’t on that list! There will always be hatred, always be segregation!”

“It’s you who doesn’t get it! These things are part of our base natures, sure, but with a conscious effort, we can overcome our brutal animalistic desires to surpass ourselves! Sure, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not in my lifetime, but it’s a process! People can overcome! Can’t you see our progress? Can’t you see how far we’ve come! We have a black president! No more than fifty years ago the very Idea was unmentionable! The people in this country have achieved so much, and you would dash it all to the floor by simply saying ‘it’s not enough.’ When will it be enough, Hal, when?”

“Why do you persist in such unrealistic dreams? You’re just creating illusions for yourself to stem the acknowledgement of reality. Life isn’t sunshine and roses. All of these things you mention are just examples of the popular climate moving away from legal enforcement of social rules. Blacks are still treated like ghetto trash because they literally are ghetto trash. They’re being confined to the ghettos by social stratification. The real estate companies, god bless their souls, are simply supporting the views of the public. The only reason a black man became president is through a bunch of political maneuvering by the democrats. They needed an ace in the hole to guarantee their win, so they put forth both a woman and a black to see which the public would bite. They picked a black guy, and all of a sudden, racism is gone. That line of thinking is just so shallow, I can’t even begin to describe… When people begin to believe the rhetoric they hear, nothing good ever comes of it. Look at the McCarthy period! Look at the Comstockian laws! You really want people to think the problem is solved just by putting a band-aid over it! Schools are no better! Institutions of western propaganda! Even what is taught in schools ends up under controversy! And why shouldn’t it? Schools were designed to instill good catholic morals in the children of the working class years ago! Rather than encouraging free thought, it simply emphasizes a certain way of thinking! Why do you think colleges spend so much time deconstructing assumptions in freshmen? Because the public school system spent so much time building up a set of prejudices! Why are you so blind to this?”

“Blind? Blind? I can’t believe I’m hearing this! Why can’t you take any joy in life? Why are you so obsessed with motivations and judgments? Can’t you relax? Are the means really that bad? With the ridiculously high standard of living in this country, why does it matter so much how we got here or what we’re doing to support it? People are people, no matter where you go, sure they’re fallible, but there are wonderful things about them! Not everything in life is bad! Every day, people make miracles happen for other people! Huge amounts of money are donated to charity each year! Bill Gates, one of the richest men in America Has donated massive portions of his wealth, and plans to donate almost all of it to helping kids everywhere! Never before in history has the whole of humanity cared so much about each other! We make and buy free trade coffees to help the poor of other nations lift themselves out of poverty, we have massive organizations that move food and supplies to the needy all around the world! Millions of people volunteer around the world, using their time to help those less fortunate! There are so many good things in the world, and you only want to see the bad! With this horrible view of the world, why haven’t you killed yourself yet? If things are so bad and never going to get better, why are you still bothering to be alive?”



“So, how bout that weather?”

“Better than last week’s, I suppose.”

“Yeah, it’s nice.”

“Listen, I’ve got to get going.”

“Yeah, same here. See you later, I suppose.”

“See ya.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How to Be Smart

When I was little, around 3 or 4 or so, I was read to. Quite a bit. Lots of cool picture books and the like. I’m not sure if that’s what did it, but I certainly developed a fondness for reading only matched by my fondness for electronic games. At some point I figured out that the entire world was out there, in books, magazines, newspapers and the like. My first major literary love was the Animorphs series. In second grade, I read as many of those as I could get. I was also quite fond of the Goosebumps series of stories, though they started to wear thin, as every single book included a “surprise” twist ending. After that, in third grade, I was turned on to the harry potter series. I received the 3rd book from the mother of a girl I had been friends with since swim lessons when we were five. I read the third book and absolutely loved it, leading to my rapid consumption of the other two. After that, I can’t say there were any particular trends in the realm of fiction. At some point in 7th or 8th grade, I discovered the brilliant wit and magic of Diana Wynn Jones. I read a great deal of her books in another short span. Ah, I read Enders shadow when I was in 6th grade and absolutely loved it. So I read Enders Game, but not the later novels, at least not until I was fourteen or so. In 8th grade I read all of Dan Brown’s terrible, terrible novels after reading The Da Vinci Code. Also in 8th, I finally read the His Dark Materials trilogy, though having heard about it several times before. It ranks up there as my most re-read novel, with only the Harry Potter series approaching. And that’s only because I would re-read the entire series of Harry Potter just before a new book came out, so I could remember what happened. My heaviest literary period was in my teens, as I went through a vast number of Crichton, King, and Card novels. I also fell in love with the wheel of time series, and finished that over the course of about half a year. Pepper and salt as you please with all sorts of smaller, unrelated books that aren’t particularly memorable. I did read the first few Series of Unfortunate Events but I wasn’t a big fan of those. I have a tendency of only reading books that are particularly critically acclaimed. I read several books in grade school based on that criterion alone. The most recent trilogy of novels I read solely for pleasure was the Soldier’s Son trilogy, by Robin Hobb last year. I thought it was pretty dang good.

That’s just the novels. Magazines I’ve subscribed to over the years (or have been subscribed for me, in the first two examples) were: 3-2-1 Contact, the children’s version of Discover. My favorite part of that magazine was a monthly story featuring some time traveling kids. Cool stuff. Zillions, the consumer reports magazine for kids. Neat reviews of toys and various doodads, with some cool parody comics aimed at corporations. Skip some time, and Electronic Gaming Monthly was the only magazine I read for awhile. Later I read a lot of the regular Discover magazine. Most recently, I read nothing but Newsweek.

Other literary things I’ve read or otherwise done mostly fall under the heading of comics (the strips, mostly). I’ve read the entirety of the following strips: Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes, Dilbert, and Peanuts. Read massive portions of Doonesbury as a kid, and re read them getting older (something to be said for the joy of re-discovering exactly what makes the comic funny, or relevant, or biting, or whatever.) I would literally go to the library (up till around sixteen or so) and check out like twelve of their collections of comic strips. And maybe one novel. As I got older, this would translate into manga or graphic novels. The entirety of my comic book based knowledge is formed from these graphic novels. I was never dumb enough to pay two bucks for a booklet full of thirty trite dialogue pages and one page of action. The entirety of my trivial knowledge (which is far vaster than I’d like to admit) is based on the discovery of the magic of Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, though it was later built upon through hours and hours of Wikipedia benders.

Though, as my ideological opponents will gladly (and vociferously) tell you, This only leads to book smarts. Valid intelligence, certainly, and a healthy love of books is good for anyone, but it lacks a necessary component to make one truly intelligent: social intelligence. This I may not have in spades, as my life has somewhat interrupted social development. I was a bit violent as a kid, but fairly gregarious. I found that a good deal of kids didn’t like me based on my intelligence or odd habits or whatever else. So I forced kids to like me, either through force or through coercion. Whether or nt this worked is something to leave to philosophers, as frankly I wasn’t all that interested in hanging out with other kids for much of my youth. I typically had one or two really decent friends that I’d actually talk to or hang out with and tons of acquaintances that I don’t really recall. In grade school it didn’t matter much, since you basically just played with whoever or whatever at recess. I was never the last kid called on or the only one shunned, nor was I the first. My life took a turn for the strange around sixth grade, shortly after my parents divorced. I had already been sent off to my aunt about a year previously as a solution to my “out of control behavior” wherein I’d refuse to do homework or much of anything besides play video games. Since my mother suddenly (well, the divorce was her idea, so, premeditatedly?) found herself a single mom, it put a bit of strain on her to have a relatively non functioning kid. Anyway, I returned and started sixth grade where things were a bit different. Previously, I went to the elementary school which was literally up the street from my house. For Middle school, I was expected to get up much earlier to catch a bus . Naturally, I didn’t take to well to this change, causing my mother to become rather more upset by my behavior. Middle school didn’t treat me well. I didn’t get along with anyone at the school, and I had been properly brow beaten out of fighting as a method to cope (or whatever it was) . it was then I become the losery kid who slept through morning math and was failing every class except English (I had an exceptionally stern teacher, Mrs. Beadle, who managed to frighten me into doing my work). Details here are a bit fuzzy, but at some point in this period of time I did something that seemed especially heinous to my mother, and she submitted me to a psychologist to figure out what was presumably wrong with me. The test came back more or less negative, and my mom was very annoyed at this. We left the psychologists office, and returned to the parking lot to make a phone call to her boyfriend (and later husband) Jim. At some point during this, she remarked to me “You’re not coming home with me,” which drove me into a fit of depression, fiercely enough that I hit myself several times on the head on a pillar thing that was nearby several times, until my forehead became bloody and scratched.

My mother, upon seeing this, took me back upstairs to the office and to emphasize her point, she thrust me forward in the office and shouted something along the lines of “there is something wrong with this child!” at the presumably bewildered patients and doctors. Later that day, she admitted me for the first time to (Vernon?, Divinity?, Dominion? I can’t recall. It was next to a freeway and right at the beginning of Virginia, I think) Mental Hospital. It was an interesting place, and incidentally where I read Enders Shadow. I was more or less myself, as I got over the ordeal rather quickly. During the group meetings, when we introduced ourselves, I would jokingly point at my somewhat scabbed forehead and say “I’m here because of this.” My best friend in that place was a pyromaniac. I remember once sneaking really late at night (I was a chronic insomniac back then) into another kids room to try that “put a hand in a cup of water at night to make them pee” thing. I can’t recall if it worked. Anyway, not to dwell on that too much, I was released with a diagnosis of minor depression. Details are again fuzzy here, but that certainly wasn’t the end of it. I was admitted one more time to Dominion (I’m pretty sure this is it) later, and released again with the same diagnosis (I later learned that it’s the most minimal diagnosis that can be justified having my stay there). At some point after that I was placed in a group home. The group home had been intended for teenagers, but they put me in because I was 12 and the justification was that I was close enough. The group home was another interesting experience. Naturally, I didn’t along well with the teenagers, who thought (probably rightly) that I was a pest and would gladly torment me, just for kicks. Anyway, they had a computer at the group home, though no video game consoles. I was very adamant about acquiring an internet connection for said computer (so I could play more games, natch) to the point that when I found a key ring in an old desk, I tried them all out until I found the key to the little psychologists office there and I unplugged the phone cord so as to use for an internet connection. I was never particularly good at concealing my misdeeds (I once stole a Troll branded package of gummies from a super market when I was 4. Instead of properly eating my stolen item, I went and showed it off to my mom like a week later) and I was quickly caught when the line of questioning turned towards “where did you get that?”

Of course I got in huge trouble, my mom was called, and so on. This lead my mom to taking me out of the home. Before I left, one of the counselor guys insisted on playing chess with me. He went on about how I divided and conquered people, and that was how I worked (I doubt it had anything to do with the chess game, I was terrible at chess). So this lead my mom to once again drive to a different hospital and demand (at some 10 at night) that they evaluate me. By the time someone came out, it was around two, and he said that there was nothing wrong with me. When we got home that night, my mom made me sleep on the kitchen floor and insisted on staying until I was asleep, to make sure I wouldn’t touch the gas burners (something that I had never done). Shortly afterward, I was shipped off to go live with my grandmother. There is a bit more stuff in this period, such as a house fire that led to me and mom living with Jim for awhile, and me having to take the metro and walk to school each morning (it wasn’t that bad, like four blocks away).

Well, I went to live with grandma, another interesting experience. If you may have noticed, I really don’t mention a lot of people outside myself here. I didn’t have really very many friends in this period. There was Ben and his brother Matt in the after school care, as well as my mortal nemesis, Tony, (the kid was a total dick. He once stole an awesome K’nex motorcycle thing I had made and claimed he built it. Later, while we were playing football [tackle, touch is for pussys] he ran into the brick wall we were using as a goal and had to be carted off by some medical people.) but outside of that there were few people in my life beyond me and mom. At grandmas, I didn’t do much. I didn’t go to school for the rest of sixth grade, and only had a tutor in the summer to keep me grade level or whatever was the excuse. I spent a lot of time on my grandma’s computer, playing around on the internet, downloading games, filling the thing with viruses. I played a lot of video games. I would rent an N64 game almost weekly and more or less played through every game that EGM deemed worthy that was on the n64. I discovered the magic of card games, after having dabbled in Pokemon cards in grade school. I rode the initial yu-gi-oh wave, but stuck with magic: the gathering, since the cards were cheaper. I went to a special school in seventh grade. It was pretty weird. The teacher was some sort of self healed manic depressive (or something) who often went on about how she hoped the kids would learn to get past the problems before they turned forty like she did. You were allowed, and encouraged to take your shoes off in class and stuff like that. There was also a twice a week class in Su bok to, a south Korean martial art taught by another one of the teachers at that school. I made one friend, who I think was named Eric. Very similar to me. That all more or less ended when my mom came back up to Montana to more or less reclaim me. I didn’t want to go, I was perfectly happy with my life of decadence, but she insisted to the point of calling up CPS to remove me from my grandmother’s home. That was the end of my twelth year.

So, I came back to Maryland. My mom, on the first day, impressed on me that she was very serious about things, going so far as to tie my hands together to demonstrate what would happen to me if I dared lift a finger against her (something I had never done). Properly intimidated, I went about life as best I could. I was enrolled in the local middle school (mom had moved out with and married Jim while I was in Montana), where my previous woes more or less continued. Other kids thought I was weird because I’d take off my shoes in class and wouldn’t do much work. I was also kinda chubby at this point. Too much general lethargy in Montana. So, after I got into a scuffle during P.E. (it was wrestling, and some kid had punched me after I was down. No lie, he punched me in my open mouth. The ol’ Ow! he bit me, bit. More scuffling after) I was sent of to a special school for the emotionally disturbed. I want to say it was called “Discovery” or some such. There, I was treated to some of the easiest classes I’d ever attended, where participation counted more towards a grade than actual correct answers. Also had a weekly therapy session, where I did very little beyond play fetch with a dog and answer the occasional question. At home things weren’t all that great. A few weeks after I arrived, my mom quit her job (Because, you know, she now had a rich engineer hubby to take care of her), and devoted her life to watching me, not cleaning (seriously) and spending her time on craigslist or freecycle picking up various doodads to fill our garage with. On the Jake front, I was quickly banned from eating in the living room, one of the least enforced rules I’ve seen in my life, because I had spilled some soup on the carpet. Things are going a bit out of chronological order here, as they all happened in another place and time and mindset, so bear with me if I stop making sense. At this point in time I was denied my main source of fun, namely videogames, all my consoles and stuff were still in Montana. All I had, for some reason, was a computer in my room with internet access. This was enough for me, more or less, except that access was extremely curtailed, and was on a permission basis only. I would have to nag my mom or Jim to let me on, and there were other various strange stipulations. Jim is a somewhat temperamental man, and he would sometimes refuse me access if I was too pushy. I believe I had computer privileges taken away for some amount of time for turning on the computer prematurely.

Well, I’m not sure why I wrote this. It feels good and right and all to get it out, but I’m not sure If I’m just expressing myself, or digging for sympathy. Like a lot of things, it’s probably a little of both. I don’t really tell this to many people I know, with maybe three people having some of the general idea of it. It’s true, what they say, each time you tell it, the easier it gets. Anyway, if you feel (probably rightly) that I’m just inviting you to a pity party, I hope you can forgive my vanity of holding one.

Obviously, there's more to the story, but neither my mind nor my heart is into writing the rest of it. I still feel terrible posting this, so ingrained is my self hatred for "attention seeking" or whatever. I dunno. It's complicated. Actually, I'm on the verge of deleting it again.

Why Doesn't It Matter?

“Ah, Hi, I’ll just get a cup of ice water, please. “
Keith retrieved his liquid luxury and returned to the small table where he and his two friends – no, acquaintances—sat.
“So, I was thinking, the stars must not really exist. Sure, we can see them, but we can also see hallucinations. Those don’t exist either. I mean, has anyone ever actually been to a star? Not a one. They say the nearest one is four light years away. The fastest stuff on earth takes years to get there. It must not be real. Nothing real could be that far away.”
“Hal, you’re just spouting that bullshit again. People far smarter than you or I know stars exist.”
“Certainly, my dear Mikhail, and yet, people far smarter than you or I believe in god too. Intelligence only goes so far.”
Keith piped up: “I don’t think money really exists. Nobody ever sees it going anywhere. These days we hardly even see cash. All we do is slide our cards and sign our names, invoking some semblance of responsibility and security over a payment and thus are you guaranteed not to be chased out the door when you leave. Nobody even looks at those signatures. I went for years doodling a smiley face instead of signing and no one accosted me.”
“That’s nice, but we were discussing the ethereal nature of stars”
“You mean their supposed nonexistence.”
“Yes, that.”
“Ah, well, that’s clearly bullshit,” said Keith.
“You know, you people just don’t understand my genius. I’m surrounded by charlatans.”
“And, yet, day after day, here you are.”
“Humph, I was on my way out.”
“What in the world d’you have to do besides this?”
“Very important things. Very. Important.”
That night, Keith stood outside for a short time and contemplated the stars.
“Just a cup of water, if you don’t mind”
Aqueous amenity acquired, Keith absconded to his seat, where Halliwell was detailing his plan to provide unlimited cheap energy through liposuction.
“See here, there’s almost a billion fat people—“
“Overweight, you mean. Slightly chubby, even.”
“And each one is a walking gold mine in energy. The fat from the state of Texas alone could provide enough energy for the entire country for weeks! It could be government subsidized! It would come as a part of Medicare packages! The poor are naturally fatter than the rich, so providing free liposuction would be a win-win situation!”
“You are quite insane, you know that”
Keith chimed in, “you know, after liposuction, you lose those fat cells forever. The fat cells you have left just get larger as a response. Unless you change your diet, it doesn’t matter how much fat you suck out.”
“Yeah, exactly. He’s got it. What will you do when no one has any fat cells left?”
“Nonsense, then they will be permanently skinny. The body has amazing adaptive faculties, don’t you know. People make up for deficiencies all the time. Not a word of protest comes out of them. Like vegetarians. They miss out on an entire food group, and you don’t hear them whining about their ‘condition,’ now do you?”
“Vegetarianism is a choice isn’t it?”
“Not always! It might be a fatal stomach accident that prevents the consumption of meat! Perhaps it’s conformist attitudes of peer pressure being born into some crazy hippy commune, perhaps they have no meat where they come from. Like Somalia. I hear there’s no meat in Somalia.”
“I’ll bet that’s the only thing you’ve heard about Somalia”
“So? What more do I need to know about a tiny country half the world away filled with people of inferior intelligence?
“What do you need to know about this country, which is also filled with people humbled by your intellect?”
“Nothing, except that I live in it, and thus I need to know about it.”
“Well, does a man live in a house without exploring it’s every cranny?”
“Yes, quite often, actually”
“Ah, um, does a man live in a city without exploring its every district?”
“Without a doubt”
“Well… Then I don’t know”
“Lords above be praised for this boon you have granted me. The great and magnanimous Halliwell Percival Jones is stymied at last.”
“Well, you don’t need to be snippy about it.”
Keith momentarily removed his lips from his straw to speak “Well, that’s what’s nice about you. You care.”
“Hardly. I have no concern for this nation of fools and morons. From New York to L.A, nary an intelligent soul in sight.”
“Nonsense, you just haven’t looked. “
“I’ve looked, and I’ve recoiled at the sight.”
“You mean you saw your mother.”
“I’ve had enough of your childish banter, Mikhail. I’m leaving before your lack of maturity drives me to commit actions I’ll regret.”
“You’d regret them, alright. Regret them all the way to your hospital bed.”
That afternoon, Keith watched a group of kids playing outside. He counted three fat ones and nine reasonably fit ones.
“Can I just get some ice water, please?”
Dihydrogen Monoxide drink divested, Keith returned to his throne.
“The solution to the economic crisis is clear: cancel all loans. Just absolve everyone completely of debt. No one would be able to default if there were no loans to default on.”
“But you can’t do that! Then the banks would run out of money! They’d collapse and everyone would be broke!”
“Bullshit! All that money went somewhere! It must still be wherever it went. I imagine all the real estate companies have it.”
“Nope, they spent it all on new construction and wages.”
“Well, then construction companies must have it.”
“Nope, union dues and materials. And wages.”
“Well, the unions must have it.”
“Nope, they spent it all on healthcare companies”
“Nope, the sent it to the pharmaceuticals. And on wages, and the like. The pharmaceuticals spent it all on cancer research and advertising. The researchers squandered it on coffee, note pads, and bags of pens, the advertisers on sponsorships. “
“Well, where the hell is it?”
Keith sparked up, “it doesn’t exist.”
“It’s in the hands of a couple of rich people.”
“What? Where? We should go take it back!”
“You can’t. Rich people have all sorts of protections.”
“Like what?”
“Well, the government, for starters.”
“But I am the government!”
“Nope, the people with money are the government.”
“What can we do?”
“Nothing, really. Until the people realize what I’ve just told you and revolt en masse, it will continue.”
“Oh, I see what this now. Some sort of crazed hippie thing. Well, count me out.”
Keith interjected, “It doesn’t matter, since money doesn’t exist anyway. It’s just a social stratification tool.”
“It’s not about crazed hippies, It’s about using the power each of us has to make a change for good!’
“I’m not staying here to listen to crazy new age crap. Next you’ll tell me crystals can cure this scar on my face.”
“You just don’t get it, do you? You’re too blinded by yourself to see past you!”
“Good day, sir.”
Before he could leave, an employee stopped Keith.
“Hey, you come here every morning, but the only thing you ever get is a cup of ice water. I was wondering why.”
Keith replied, “I never buy anything here because I hate it as a corporation. I’m hoping by not purchasing anything, I’m slowly becoming a liability in the cost of straws and cups.”
“That’s not very good of you to take advantage of a free service like that.”
“Well, will you deny me the service?”
“I… guess not, have a nice day, you weirdo.”
“You too, reprobate”
That evening Keith stood outside. He thought for a bit and screamed at the top of his lungs, “WHY DOES IT MATTER?” Some itinerant contrarian responded with “WHY DOESN’T IT MATTER?”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The New Left

Congratulations! You have finally won both congress and the presidency, with the supreme court on the way. And what a win it was! You picked a charismatic black man to run, effectively trumping just about anything the republicans could have thrown your way. Despite Obama being the first black man in the senate for over a hundred years, you decided that he should run for presidency. Not a whit of political maneuvering there. Certainly not. He was chosen on his own merits. At any rate, you now control the government, more or less. Don’t screw it up. The Democrats of the Bush era were pansies, unwilling to do anything to help their cause, cowed by the negative power of the republican party in such momentous races as the Norm Coleman debacle and the Swift Boat techniques used against John Kerry. Your goal now is to shift this country as permanently left as possible. Before that, though, you need party solidarity. Threaten censure against traitorous Dems, no matter what the cost. Even if they do defect, it matters little, since they were voting against you anyhow. The Republican party’s recent solidarity should be a guide to way democrats need to behave.

You also need to speak up. For too long, democrats have been represented mostly by meek, mousey little men (who vaguely look like Keebler elves, for some reason) like Dennis Kucinich or Alan Colmes. You need to give a platform to people like Howard Dean, who could, would, and should’ve “Byah!”-ed his way into the presidency in ought four, or the new vice prez, Joseph Biden. Your party members are fired up and stoking that fire is the only way to properly utilize their newfound loyalty to the Dems. Promote such liberal newscasters as Keith Olbermann and Rachael Maddow. Don’t let the right shout them into obscurity, as recently happened with MSNBC. When you hear the right shouting about liberal media bias, shout just as loud about conservative media bias! The entire party has to back this, it can’t just be the smart people or the moderates who truly desire equality in media, it has to be the ENTIRE DEMOCRATIC PARTY responding to such ridiculous and fallacious accusations. By remaining aloof of these concerns, you’ve allowed the right to ingrain themselves into every major media establishment with nary a response to this threat. You cannot win elections when everyone on TV is telling everyone else about what a “threat” liberalism is and ranting onwards about “far-left loonies” regardless of the target.

What you must not do is rest on your laurels. In no way does your victory mean that the right is gone, in no way does it mean racism is gone, and in no way does it mean that a liberal ideology will be successfully enfranchised into the laws of this nation. 2012 will be an uphill battle for you, no matter the circumstances. Godspeed, gentlemen.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The New Right

The Republican Party has never been in more dire straits. After a great deal of mismanagement during the recent administration, instead of being synonymous with traditional values or fiscal conservation, it has become synonymous with war, irresponsible money management, and outdated modes of thinking. If the party is to have any chance this upcoming election, it needs to move past its current state and find a new message to present. No longer can the republicans simply be the party of opposition to the democrats. Contrarian politics are what cause things like the Civil War and the current budget circus in Sacramento.

By opposing scientifically proven things like climate change as vociferously as it has, the republicans have demonstrated not a savvy skepticism, but stubborn pigheadedness. By opposing things like gay marriage, the party has shown a willingness to invade into the people’s personal lives and deny rights frivolously. By opposing things like welfare in any circumstances, the GOP appears to be callous and uncaring.

What the party needs to work for now is an image of pragmatism. Rather than simply focusing on far-right stances, the party needs to emphasize its moderation over more extremist liberal ideals. Instead of supporting cuts of benefits across the board, regardless of economic situation, emphasize the need for programs during lean times, but chide the democrats for wasting money in good times on increasing said programs. Work with the cycle, rather than against it. Emphasize smart policy decisions, rather than traditionalist pandering. Bring the intelligence back to the Party.

This may be a stretch, but ask for reduction of vitriol in such popular Right wing pundits as Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh. As fun and politically motivating these rabble-rousers may be, for too long all that has come out of their mouths (or pens) is negativity and hatred. This again, creates a rather hostile image of the Republican Party. The voice of the Republicans should be a reasonable, clear headed person, like George Will, rather than a pompous, hypocritical braggart, like Rush Limbaugh. Though Rovesian work redefining the moderate into moderate right was admirable, it only creates the problem of culpability whenever the country goes in the wrong direction, as it has several times in the last eight years.

"Since the Right leaning environment led us into this situation," people are reasoning, "a left leaning one should get us out." The key to fighting this is to exaggerate how far left the country is really moving. Work on the Obama campaign, comparing him to a socialist was actually very effective. The campaign, however, was lost simply on the Palin gambit. Like Kerry in ’04, the party picked possibly the worst choice for a political candidate as was possible. Republicans probably would have garnered more votes by choosing Ron Paul as a running mate than Sarah Palin. At any rate, you need to move responsibility from the right to the left in order to gain the sympathy the Dems have had for the last four or so years.

Emphasize the effect of the newly democratic congress (in ’06) on the economy. Point out the multitudinous ways that the Right could have done better than them. Try to avoid berating the people for voting Democratic, as the Dems did after the Gore-Bush fiasco. Treat the voters as wayward sons, and accept them back into the fold. The message here should be “Yes, we know you made the mistake of voting Democratic, but that’s okay. We still love and accept you.” See if you don’t see a Right congress in ’10 and Mitt Romney as prez in ‘12

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Public Comment in Response to Proposed Transit Cuts

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen of the board,

My name is Jacob Germain. I am a citizen of Livermore and a patron of the Wheels bus service. I am here to respond to some drastic changes proposed for the bus system. Now, I understand that there as significant and relevant circumstances surrounding these changes, such as the economic situation in the U.S, and the budget crisis in Sacramento.

However, these circumstances are not immediately obvious to those who ride the system every day, Such as the elementary, middle, and high school children who ride the bus to and from school every day. They'll see fares rise without any explanation as to its source.

Such as the Senior citizens, who will now find themselves stretching an already meager budget to pay for transportation expenses among everything else.

Such as the physically or mentally challenged, who will find their mobility, and thus opportunities, curtailed by these proposals.

Most importantly, it is the Employees, who'll find their paychecks shrink, or even disappear, as less staffing is required to maintain service.

I suggest that you postpone decision on these proposals for at least six months, until the funding picture is clear. Though Schwarzenegger has proposed a cut of transportation funds, it has yet to happen, and may never come to pass. The economic crisis is largely psychological. By reacting to it and making cuts, you only sustain the crisis further. Don't let the foibles of wall street or Sacramento frivolously affect our way of life.

I find it ludicrous that three of the richest cities in America, with 100 thousand dollars a year median income, can't even fund one bus system.

Thank you for your time.

Authors notes: This is more or less the speech I gave at the hearing for the proposed changes to the local bus system. There was a bit of ex tempore, but I really don't recall what it was. I also have misplaced the original draft.

It was the strangest thing. I delivered the speech pretty well, only stumbled once, but the entire time, my legs were inexplicably shaking.

Incidentally, I was quoted in the local newspaper here (it's a pdf, page 4). Of course the board went through with it, as John Ramirez (also quoted, but not what I'm referring to) said, they already made their mind up about these cuts. I found the behavior of the Livermore mayor, Marshall Kamena, to be extremely rude. He showed up about ten minutes late and proceeded to pull out his macbook and spend much of the time fiddling with it, rather than listening to the concerns of the people at the meeting. The rest of the board members were otherwise attentive.