Friday, February 27, 2009

Inappropriate Adjectives - Andrew Bird is Retarded

Marty: Whoa, wait a minute. Doc, are you telling me that my mother has got the hots for me?
Doc: Precisely.
Marty: Whoa, this is heavy.
Doc: There's that word again - heavy. Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth's gravitational pull?

Have you ever wondered how certain, often inappropriate, adjectives found their way into colloquial English? For example “bad”, as in “dude, that is one bad lookin’ sofa.” English would suggest that the sofa is ugly. Or uncomfortable. Or even malevolent. But we know that term actually means the sofa is good. Bad = good. Or how about “cool?” At what point did something of a lower temperature become good? Have you ever eaten cool meat loaf? It’s anything but good. And how can “cool” and “hot” be interchangeable? “Have you seen Mike’s new Ferrari? That car is hot.” Or is it cool? Logic suggests that it can’t be both. And you can’t physically measure something’s coldness anyhow since temperature is calculated by heat, implying that a state of “coolness” is simply a partial absence of heat.

Nowadays the Ferrari would be “sick.” But sick isn’t interchangeable with “gross.” Apparently the hot/cool rule doesn’t apply to nausea. Skilled athletes can be “filthy” or “nasty.” So, to be clear, I’m to understand that poor hygiene is considered good in sports? I played ball with Italians that smelled like week-old onions and carcass farms, definitely putting them in the filthy/nasty categories, but they sucked monkey butt at basketball. Maybe the filthy/nasty rule only works in America. Lame Europeans.

Speaking of lame, when did the word “gay” all of a sudden mean “lame” and when did “lame” score pariah status? Stephen Hawking can’t walk, but I’m pretty sure he’d work me at a spelling contest. And I have some alternate-lifestyle friends that likely take offense to “gay” meaning something negative, especially after the word used to mean HAPPY.

And how about “sweet?” How do you know your gorgeous new LCD television is sweet? Did you freaking lick it? Oh, maybe you mean the OTHER kind of sweet…like it massaged your shoulders and gave you a hug after remembering your birthday.

As odd as these words are, I use them often and heavily. Gnarly, rad, sweet, hot, smokin’, rockin’, wicked, hard, badass, insane, filthy, uber, and wild are all WIN.

The mother of all inappropriate adjectives, likely the most offensive, and naturally my personal favorite is “retarded.” Meaning so good that it’s beyond insane. It’s beyond filthy nastiness and wicked uber gnarlihood. It’s so awesome that it’s RETARDED. Example? Sure. “Wednesday night’s Andrew Bird concert was off the charts. I mean, the way he uses digital loops and sonic layering is utterly retarded.” See following video…

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ostensible Parenting

Parents are failing their children on an epic scale. A guitar hero buddy of mine in Cincinnati wrote a stellar blog piece about a year ago that detailed how “helicopter parents” are sheltering their kids from rejection and disappointment. Clearly that’s setting the stage for monumental disaster later in that child’s life when he realizes that the world is not made of sunshine and dancing unicorn dust. Girl Scout cookies don’t magically sell themselves and you actually have to try out for basketball teams. I’m no expert on parenting, but I’m a decent observer. And what I observe is ugly.

Many parents expect the public school system to raise their children. My brother in law is a counselor at a middle school in southern Utah. He has shared numerous stories of how parents refuse to take accountability for their misbehaving children and expect the school to handle the discipline and reform…as long as it doesn’t hurt little Timmy’s feelings. Parents also expect the school system to create intelligent, witty, creative, courteous kids that naturally turn into successful and motivated adults. News flash…the public school system is in place to ASSIST in the education of children. It is YOUR responsibility to actually teach and raise your kids. The system is there to provide proven and effective methods to present information to young people by adults that are knowledgeable and skilled communicators. Parents are there to make damn sure their kids understand the information given or, better yet, instill a hunger to MASTER the subject matter and have fun doing it. Schools don’t create scholars. Schools don’t make CEOs, professors, and presidents. Parents do.

I was sickened when I read this article today about New Mexico parents failing to pay their school lunch tab. Children whose parents are behind are being given a plain cheese sandwich, some fruit, and some milk instead of being given normal lunch like the kids whose parents are current. I need to bullet my points here, otherwise I’ll ramble:

1) I understand that times are hard. The recession blows.

2) It’s gut-wrenching for me to envision a sweet, timid 1st grader, like my son, being physically pulled from the lunch line and handed a white sack with a stale cheese sandwich and a mushy apple inside while his peers point and laugh. White sack = poor kid. That is the kind of public ridicule that will instantly and forever damage that kid’s self image. His peers will always remember him as one of the “white-baggers” from 1st grade, just like Chas remembers me for my crappy shoes that slid all over the basketball court…25 years ago.

3) It is pathetic that parents don’t have to share in their children’s shame. Shielding yourselves with your own kids is disgusting, intended or not.

4) It is commendable that the school district is trying to make sure that each child has something to eat for lunch. The system might be flawed and not well planned, but the effort is there. Hunger is a verb that most all of us will never fully know. Being hungry is one thing…hunger is quite another. It motivates people to steal and kill. Hunger sucks, and I applaud the district for fighting it.

5) It is commendable that the school system is holding parents accountable and not allowing them to get everything for nothing.

6) It is sad that this ^^ comes at the expense of children.

The school system is on track to lose $300,000 this year on unpaid student lunch bills alone. That is six times the amount in 2006. In order to cover the debt, the schools will have to pull from other departments in the budget since not even the federal lunch program money given, from OUR tax dollars, can cover. So all students will suffer from the inability and ineptitude of bad parents.

I fully understand that there is poverty in the world and that parents are struggling to feed their kids. My “bad parents” claim might seem harsh. I counter that with the following question. If your child were NOT in school and were home for the summer, would you expect him to starve or would you find a way, no matter how creative, to feed him? Easy. You’d feed the kid. Now, take that same creativity, throw it in a lunch box and send it to school with the boy.

In my opinion the solution is simple. Completely do away with school lunch programs. I sell cookies to school districts and buying groups all over the country. It is astounding how much time, effort, and MONEY is put into child nutrition. That shouldn’t be their job! You don’t need a cookie that has no fat or sugar and tastes like cardboard. What you need is to tell Timmy to turn off the Playstation, get off his lardass, and mix in some kickball.

It is not the school’s responsibility to teach, raise, discipline, AND feed our children. By doing away with the program you put all children on a level playing field. If all the kids are bringing white sacks to school, no one will care if one houses a cheese sandwich or a cheesesteak. The sack itself is the equalizer. When kids “forget” their lunch, call the parents. If it persists, call in the cavalry. Get DCFS involved. For the truly willing and CARING, there are programs out there to make sure your kids don’t go hungry. The public school system, however, is NOT one of those programs.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Disgusted With the Media

I first caught glimpse of the power and influence of the media during the Columbine shootings. I was home on the couch watching the news when the switch to live coverage happened. I was floored at how quickly and deftly the media could maneuver coverage and gather information. It all was unfolding real time right in front of my eyes. What really struck me during the aftermath was how some information was accurate and some was not. Some reports were dreadfully wrong. Regardless of accuracy, I learned that what I am told on the news I believe whole-heartedly. I learned that my assumption was that the news was objective and the media reported proven facts only, stripped of bias and haze. Since then I have gradually learned and adapted my understanding to what it is today: The media is a circus that is interested in one thing and one thing only. Viewership. Right and wrong mean nothing. The story is everything. Below are three recent monumental media failures:

1) Nadya Suleman. This woman should be arrested and tried for neglect rather than paraded all over the media. She is unemployed. She has been living on now-exhausted student loans allegedly totaled at $50,000. She is in school pursuing a career in social work. And she unethically had SIX embryos transplanted instead of the typical maximum of 2-3. She now has 14 children to raise by herself in a two-bedroom apartment with no income, no husband/partner, and $459 per month for food stamps. Her infinite medical bills will inevitably be taken care of through taxpayer funds, not to mention her cost of living.

The sickening thing is that the media blitz is likely falling in line with her diabolical plan. She wants attention. She wants money. And the media will lap it up and shell out the dough. Ann Curry’s interview made me sick, overstressing the point that NBC was NOT paying Suleman for the interview. Memo to Ann: She doesn’t care. Your show/network/interview was nothing more than a launching pad to put Suleman in the crosshairs of countless programs and periodicals that WILL pay top dollar for her story and photos. You have enabled and promoted her scheme of profiting from her neglected children. This is no “John and Kate Plus Eight” or “18 Kids and Counting.” Those kids were born into legitimate families that love and support them without taxpayer funds. They were responsible and ethical decisions. Without the media attention, Nadya Suleman would be forced to do the right thing…place those children in the care of families that have the ABILITY to love and care for them. Shameful.

2) Pregnant man. How ridiculous. My beef with this deal has nothing to do with moral and ethical dilemmas surrounding sexual orientation, civil unions, or gay marriage. My personal opinions on those subjects are just that…personal. And they probably aren’t popular with either side of the issue. My problem with this story is from a medical or physiological viewpoint. THIS IS NOT A MAN. It is a woman in a wicked-clever and highly expensive man suit. Gender is not a state of mind. Gender is not misplaced or improperly assigned. You are born with the equipment that you have and that characterizes you as male or female. Penis=male. Vagina=female. You can have parts lopped off or surgically attached, but you are still the woman or man you were before the alteration. If you are a man attracted to other men, that’s fine. If you are a woman attracted to other women, that’s great. But you can’t whack off your wiener, take some estrogen, and magically become a woman. It is a costume. That is all. So, memo to “Pregnant (wo)Man”:

womb + ovaries + vajaja = WOMAN

The media has made this far more interesting than it really is. This is a lesbian woman in a man costume that had a baby. Pretty bland really. I'm also pissed that her beard is better than mine.

3) Michael Phelps. This dude is a stud. He is a national hero (if you subscribe to Olympic athletes as heroes.) He eats 12,000 calories a day and has an upper body that has to be greased down with Crisco to get him through doorways. And guess what world…HE’S A KID. It is unfair that we force young national figures to live by pristine adult standards. I can think of very few examples of young people that miss their childhood/teenage/young adult years that end up ok. Just look at teen actors.

Michael Phelps hit the bong. Who the hell cares? Punishing a kid for something he did at a party five months prior to the 4x6 photo that some jealous tool posted and leaked to the media is a waste of time and taxpayer money. I’m pretty sure that if I posted a picture of myself hoisting an apple bong over my head to Flickr, Facebook, and this blog, I would get ZERO legal heat. It’s unfair that Michael Phelps is being focused so hard. The young man already did the right thing by sacking up and publicly apologizing for poor judgment and irresponsible behavior. Let the kid go. He's actually losing sponsors over this. He deserves better treatment after having brought so much pride to an entire nation. Is Phelps a role model? Yes. Do kids look to him as an example? Yes. Is marijuana illegal? Yes. Should it be punishable by law? Yes. Should Phelps receive excess heat because of his public status and role model position? Absolutely not. The law should apply to all people equally, with equal ferocity and callousness. And Phelps is receiving undue ferocity and callousness from the law, pushed relentlessly by the media.

The media has no moral compass. There is no right or wrong to them. Only stories. They do not report fact. They do not pursue truth. They sell information, often swayed and always spun. There is no social responsibility with the media anymore. It is corporate-sponsored propaganda. The unfortunate reality is that we, the intelligent audience, have to exercise our best judgment when being fed information, wading through the spam to get to the guts of the message, because the media is certainly not going to course correct and actually report with a conscience.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Life Lessons, Courtesy of Deseret Industries

I saw “Yes Man” a couple weeks ago. It was a pretty funny movie with flashes of brilliance; the “Dead Carl” scene where the fly lands on Carl’s opened eye was gut busting. But most important was the message behind the movie. Saying “yes” to random opportunities, when presented, can open doors to neat experiences. I had one such experience the day after seeing the film.

I typically avoid service assignments. My excuses for not being available to help at the pasta factory, dairy plant, cannery, or DI are as numerous as the sands of the sea. But for some reason, when I got the call Saturday morning to help at Deseret Industries, I said, “Sure. I’ll be there.” I spent two and a half hours wearing the fashionable blue volunteer apron at the West Jordan DI and learned some interesting things, some of which were life-changing epiphanies. Instead of working out on the docks as presumed, I was inside the facility moving newly priced items to staging areas where they were sorted and moved to the sales floor.

1) The DI smells like the DI simply because it’s the DI. That combination of decaying flesh, dirt, and 1960s upholstery cannot be pinned on any one cause. It is the Alpha and the Omega of odors. There is no beginning and there is no end. It just “IS.” It always has been and always will be.

2) There is no Geppetto. There is no cobbler with tiny spectacles and a leather apron in a cedar-lined corner workshop that builds ornate wooden clocks and fixes broken furniture on the side. Don’t make the same mistake I’ve historically made when considering things to donate. If it is missing hardware or is “only slightly broken”, don’t freaking take it in. There is no Geppetto there that will just “throw a few nails in it” and have it magically ready for sale. If it is garbage to you then it is likely garbage to them. I was dumbfounded at how much money, equipment, time, and energy was wasted on throwing out lazy peoples’ trash. Deseret Industries =/= LANDFILL.

3) The complex process for evaluating items and assigning prices is a dude with a ponytail named Channon and a pricing gun. Random item 1A is dropped off at the dock. 1A is brought in by dock personnel to a spacious area inside the bay doors. Channon inspects 1A to see if it is sellable or trash. If trash, he takes it to one of the several highly expensive compactors. If sellable, Channon mulls it over in his head and says, “hmmm, skis…pretty good shape, bindings are there, $15 should do it.” Then he slaps on a tag and loads it onto a cart. That’s the entire process.

4) Deseret Industries employees are really nice, normal people. They are not Children of the Corn, recovering drug addicts, or circus folk. There are a few special needs people and they do fabulously. It was a pleasure to work among them. I learned things from Channon that I’ll never forget.

5) I need to put down the XBOX controller and get my ass on the treadmill…maybe mix in some free weights. Those 2.5 hours pwnt my soul.

My final lesson came courtesy of Channon himself. At one point I asked him if he’s seen some pretty awesome stuff come in through his staging area. He said there have been dressers with drawers full of jewelry, either forgotten or intentionally left. When antiques or heirlooms or electronics or oddball items that may be collectable or of high value come in, the DI employee is to take the item to a special area and a manager for closer inspection. Channon sees this as a true test of a person’s character. How easy would it be to slip that cameo broach into your pocket? Or the diamond tennis bracelet into your sock? Then Channon said, “It didn’t take me long to realize that everything in the world is junk. All this around me is old junk. Stuff you buy in stores is new junk. And the instant you buy new junk it becomes old junk. And eventually I’ll see it here.”

I think that is an awesome, character-building lesson. We work so hard and stress so much about acquiring stuff. Toys, clothes, jewelry, music, electronics, and furniture. But when it’s all said and done, it’s all just junk. None of it can come with us when we bite our respective bullets. What I CAN take with me is my knowledge, my memories, and my intelligence. I’m going to try and focus more on developing those things, instead of scoring the junk. After I get my home theater system, new pimp van, and Vespa of course.