Triumph of the human spirit

All of those of you who have role models like Kobe Bryant or Brett Favre, Edward Van Halen or Axl Rose, or even Donald Trump: we’ve (and I totally include myself in this) forgotten what’s important.  Yeah, developing your gifts as an athlete or artist or finacial king are to be admired and rewarded, to a point.

But what about those who overcome obstacles that most of us will never imagine, much less face?  What about the Stephen Hawkings and the Jason Beckers of the world, who survive well past the 3-5 year average survival rate of a disease like ALS, and continue to create and challenge in their fields?  Sean Swarner, who beat cancer — fucking twice, as a firm finger in the face of the universe! — and went on to climb the world’s “Seven Summits” (with only one lung!).

I guess it’s not glamorous enough.  But the sports stars and musicians and writers and movie stars — they’re all flawed, just like you and me (usually more so).  I guess it’s the money, the jet-setting lifestyles, the pretty girls and boys and the constant attention that draw us to wish we could be them.

These others, though — the unsung heroes, they’re the ones worth looking up to.  They’re the ones who refuse to give up, who stare an angry, brutal, uncaring god in the face and smile just before they keep walking forward. They’re the ones who we can look at, no matter how hard our lives seem, no matter how bad we feel, and still realize that there’s so much more waiting, if we just want it badly enough, if we’re willing to push forward and work and sweat and earn whatever it is we desire.

Imagine losing your sight and hearing at 19 months old.  You’d have very little reference point to learn how to communicate, and rather quickly would probably descend into a feral state, incapable of ever accomplishing much.  And then take a look at Helen Keller (and also her teacher, Anne Sullivan, who had the patience and the kindness to stick with Helen through the worst):


There’s a great interview with Bobcat Goldthwait over at the A.V. Club website, and he says:

…my speech was telling the kids just to always be willing to quit, and that they need to quit a lot in their lives, and keep on quitting, because all the happiness I’ve ever got was when I turned my back on things that everybody else thought would make you happy. I can smell parents’ stomach acid right now, but they know that whole “You gotta get a job and you gotta settle for what people perceive as success” thing is really absurd.

I haven’t quite put my finger on it, but that ties in to all this, somehow.  And I think it bears repeating, as often as necessary.

On give and take. Not so much take.

You can very easily be a willing victim of a vampire.  Only, in this world, unlike Anne Rice’s, you don’t allow yourself to be a meal in order to get eternal life, or whatever all those goth kids think they crave.

It’s a situation I’ve been in before: one in which you give and give and give, but receive far less.  An assymmetric, inherently unequal trade.

Look around you, and you’ll see these situations and relationships all around you.  Hopefully, you’re smart enough to avoid being in them yourself, but they’re there.  Workers that don’t get compensated enough; friendships that aren’t fair and balanced (hi, Fox News!).

The questions come: do those in those situations — on either side, be it taker or giver — recognize the inequity for what it is?  Why do they stay?  Did they know beforehand what was coming? And if so, why did they proceed?  Why are they still there?

These are the questions I have to ask of myself.  It’s not just one situation, but many. And as I determine to extricate myself from some and to demand more for myself in others, I have to determine why I continue finding myself here, and (more importantly) validating and excusing the behavior of others at my expense.

It’s also occuring to me that I’m never gonna get everything that I deserve in life if I keep letting others take it away from me.

Bleh.  It leaves you tired, this whole life thing…

It’s not the substance, it’s the utter lack of style

I won’t go so far as to say that I’m in favor of the heathcare reform bills that are out there, primarily because I don’t know what is in each one.  I’ve tried reading one or two of the versions, but was no more successful than when I tried reading Dickens in high school.  Frankly, I’ve got better things to do with my life.  So I’ve done what I can to educate myself, listening to and reading various media interpretations, listening to the debates and town hall footage…

Oh, I see: you already caught me in my web of lies.  Because there are no debates going on in the Town Hall meetings — just a lot of screaming and hysterical accusations of Constitutional trampling and cries of how “their America” has been lost. And it occurred to me today that all of you that are screaming down the lawmakers that are trying to hold these Town Halls are no better than the moron jocks in high school classrooms: you want to be the tough guy, insulting the teacher and making a scene, and concurrently preventing the rest of the students from learning.

Guess it never occurred to you that some of the students actually want to learn?  Or maybe it did, but the world revolves around you.

I’m neither conservative or liberal, but somewhere in-between. I see positives and negatives in what I’ve heard about the bills.  I’m all for helping out the self-employed and those that have fallen on hard times temporarily — I’ve been in both positions myself.  I’m a very big proponent of making sure that children, especially, have access to quality healthcare, no matter the socioeconomic position of their familes.  On the other hand, I’m tired of supporting freeloaders, the lazy and those that have figured out how to work the system.  I like the idea of regulating the healthcare and insurance industries, to some extent, but I’m also inherently suspicious of government intervention in anything other than highway maintenance and national defense.

For years, though, I’ve instinctively been — well, not so much a Democrat as an anti-Republican.  There are issues of money and class distinction that I’m sure work into that somehow, but I’m coming to realize that it has less to do with politics (I’m learning that I lean very socially liberal, economically conservative, and Libertarian in the amount of government I want in my life) and more to do with behavior.

Since I can remember, the Republican party is the one filled with the hypocritical and unethical behavior.  I know, I know — that’s politicians in general.  But maybe the Democrats are better at not getting caught, or their naughty behavior falls more in line with what’s acceptable in my belief system; either way, that’s my experience.

The Right-wing folks are the ones who scream about how horrible something is right before they get caught doing it.  They’re the ones who want to impose their thinking on the rest of the world — whether that’s a style of government (see: Iraq) or a religion or what you should be allowed to read or watch or listen to.  They criticize with no interest in educating or persuading, but rather with pummeling into your head that you should believe position X, and if you don’t you’re a moron or a pinhead or – gasp! – unpatriotic.

I don’t deal well with bullies.  I can’t watch Limbaugh or Hannity or O’Reilly without getting genuinely angry.  Rather than expound on why they believe what they do, or try to persuade you with logic and reason, they spread disinformation and lies.  It’s not just the media people — the ones that can maybe be excused, because their job is to get ratings, and their style certainly seems to work — but 95% of the conservatives that I run into on a daily basis.  And the sad thing is that most of these people to whom I refer are intelligent people; it leads me to wonder whether they are genuinely misinformed, or if they’re actively and consciously spreading lies, hoping they’ll stick.

Look at the current “death panel” part of the current healthcare reform debate.  What the right is spreading: the government will be determining your care based on your perceived value, that if you’re old, you’re gonna be forced to get counselling on ending your life sooner…

{Seniors and the disabled} “will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care.”

Sarah Palin on Friday, August 7th, 2009 in a message posted on Facebook

Sounds absolutely insane to me.  Seriously?  ANYONE believes this, outside of the anti-government folks that border on paranoid?  What sounds more rational to me — and I’m just a guy, so maybe I’m the crazy nutjob here — is the way that it was explained on NPR recently:

The claims have been highly upsetting to groups like the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which strongly support what the bill really does — pay health care providers to talk to Medicare patients about creating so-called advance directives, or ways to express their health care desires in writing before they become incapacitated.

Look, conservatives: I’d love to hear your viewpoints on some of the issues that we disagree on.  I’ve got a lot to learn about the world — I’ve told everyone repeatedly, the more I learn, the more I know I don’t know shit.  I’d like to discuss facts and even opinions that stem from educated research.  I really, really would.  But when you insist on repeating facts that have been disproven, making things up, or even promoting viewpoints that are just downright insnaely implausible, I’m not talking to you.  And it’s not that I think I’m better than you, but rather that I’ve got better things to do with my life than waste time listening to bullshit that does nothing but reinforce how much I don’t like you.

If you want me to listen to you — and I think ,truly, that many of you have a lot to say that is worth my time and energy — then start talking like a rational, educated, intelligent adult.  If you want to bring facts to the table, be prepared to show me your sources (and please don’t let your sources be as insane as some of your claims).  Be ready to listen to me, as well, and participate in some give and take. Question what you hear, whether it’s from a trusted source or not.  Read both sides of the argument, then check a non-partisan site like Politifact or The Center for Public Integrity.

If you believe that anyone that disagrees with you is wrong, then you’re just too smart for me to talk to.  Seriously.  Take it elsewhere.  Exposure to that level of brilliance will drive me instantly mad, like the heroes of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories.

It’s not high school anymore, and you can’t bully people into believing what you want them to believe.

Sadly, you might be driving more and more intelligent people away from very intelligent substance with a complete lack of style. I’m fairly sure that I could have been more active — and probably a much more reasoned and educated person, politically-speaking — had your presentation not completely blinded me to whatever it was you were trying to say, all these years past.

Yep, hindsight is 5150.

Here: boobs! (Special thanks to Phoebe Cates and the makers of Fast Times at Ridgemont High for providing me with a happy Zen place to which to retreat when I get too stressed…)

Phoebe Cates Nude Cut 1 - Fast Times At Ridgemont High

Deaf or Blind?

You ever played that game?  The stupid one where you have to pick what you think is the lesser of two evils?  “Which would you rather: drink spoiled milk, or eat a moldy loaf of bread?” “If you had to pick one, would you rather fuck Heidi or Spencer?”  “Would you rather relive your high school years or stab yourself in the common sense repeatedly?”

My least favorite — aside from being forced to fuck either Heidi or Spencer (can I choose “cheese grater infected with cancerAIDS” instead?) — was choosing deafness or blindness.  Losing either eyesight or hearing.  I know some people have no trouble making this call, but it’s a genuine near-impossible decision for me.

On the one hand, there’s so much visual beauty in this world.  I think losing out on that would be a daily heartbreak.  No more sunsets, or snowfalls, or brilliant starlit nights. And women! Yeah, I’m a shallow piggypiggyfuckpig, but I love to look at beautiful women.  So sue me. But if you lose, you have to show me your boobs.

But then, while going about my normal workday, I realized that you can take my eyes in a heartbeat (sunsets, I’ll remember you fondly; and I’ve still got my hands, right?). My iPod, shuffling merrily and randomly through its 16,000 + songs, settled on this old classic:


Yeah, classic.  Wow.  It’s like if Van Halen raped Loverboy and the abortion didn’t take all the way. But regardless of how I see it now, I loved this disc — actually, cassette — back in 1986.  I don’t even have to think carefully of when I bought the tape, because when I heard the song, memories of that summer — spent at Duke University, quite possibly the best three weeks of my teenaged years — came flooding back, in such vivid detail that I can feel the breeze on the campus as I took a morning jog to that song, smell the fresh cut grass.

This isn’t hyperbole.  I can recall all that, and more.  The first time I kissed Cynthia Harrington (I sometimes forget the names of my ex-wives, but right now I remember everything about Cynthia).  The Algebra II course I finish in one week (that should have taken three).  The in-jokes and stupid pranks that my dorm-mates and I shared.  The irritating roommate.

Music is tied to my memory more strongly than anything I can think of except maybe smell (and even that tends to be more abstract, pulling out emotions more than memory).  So, yeah — I’d rather fuck Heidi and Spencer than go deaf.

For the record, Ozzy Osbourne was a whore long before “The Osbournes”:


Word to the wise:

Excellent article on The Smoking Gun this week about a group of Internet pranksters is well worth the read.  If only to remind yourself that, in the circumstance that you are ever asked to do or reveal anything that seems illegal or dangerous or otherwise  odd, take a second and think before you act.

  • If someone has called you asking you to do something or reveal information, ask for their name and tell them you’ll call them back.  Do NOT use the number they provide; instead, call the number of the company from which they claim to represent.
  • Check credentials.
  • Never give out personal information without knowing exactly who you are giving it to.
  • When in doubt, call the police.  They’re usually a pretty good last resort, if nothing else.

Pranksters — young and old — and scammers rely on your gullibility and instinctive reactions more than anything else to succeed.  Take those away, and these sad little people will eventually with and die.

Extremes, again. Jeez.


Some things of note:

  1. The issue of Obama’s birthplace and his legitimacy as president has been clarified and dealt with ad nauseum. For instance, see
  2. Orly Taitz — the crazy lady in the above video, who is the driving voice behind the refusal to let this issue die — lists herself as a lawyer, dentist, and real estate agent. If that alone doesn’t immediately make you question her credibility, then… well, you belong on the fringes.


    All that said, whywhyWHY is it that the mainstream media — not only local news but all the major 24/7 channels, NEWSWEEK, TIME — give this woman any mouthpiece whatsoever? And the bits I’ve seen are not even the old debating heads segments, where the anchor served to moderate (objectively, as I recall, though was there really a time when journalists presented the news and let the viewer opinionate?  O RLY?) between two opposing voices.  These are segments that, in my head, amount to free advertising for extremely partisan psychosis.

    One of the MSNBC anchors mentions above that this is news, that it has to be reported, and I’m okay with that.  Let the anchor mention that crazy people are still talking debunked bullshit, point out the facts again, and move on. If the crazy people start screaming about the liberal Jew media conspiracies to keep them off the air — well, hell, the truth is finally out.  Move on.

    The problem is that — for the most part — both sides here are preaching to the choir. The sane people watching will realize that Taitz is about as stable as her argument; the people that want to believe in Obama’s continuing Kenyan citizenship are going to do so, no matter how convincing the counter-argument (or, as the rest of us say: REALITY) is. The only thing you’re doing — besides maybe getting a small ratings spike, and definitely irritating the shit out of me — is potentially luring a few more crazies to the Dark Side.

    These nutbags exist, unfortunately.  We’re not getting rid of them any quicker than we’re ditching the Coulters and Limbaughs and O’Reillys of the world. They’ve got their rights, their Free Speech (even though I’m fairly confident that, given the opportunity, most of them would take away that right from anyone who disagreed with them). I don’t have the right to not be offended by them or their idiocy — I have the right to ignore them, and I will.

    I will miss the days, though, when the television and radio media personalities were — at least, side-by-side with today’s — objective reporters, telling us the facts of what happened today.  I miss when the crazy people were not given airtime to rant.  And I miss Walter Cronkite, by god — can you imagine him, for one second, alleging and implying that the moon landing was a hoax, night after night?

    Stop giving a medium to the crazy, and maybe, just maybe, it’ll go away.  Or at least stop transmitting so far, so fast.