Thursday, June 17, 2010

Alvin Greene

It should be no surprise to anyone here that I can't stand the South. I really, really, really can't stand the South. I don't know what it is about fat, bigoted, hateful, ignorant, Bible-thumping Republicans that irks me, but something just really doesn't work out. It seems like every year they show us some new way to be horrible. Well, this year has been especially fruitful. Today's story comes from, you guessed, good old South Carolina. Alright, Palmettos, break this one down for me.

On Tuesday, South Carolina held primary elections for the November mid-terms. Sitting for re-election this year in the state will be Jim DeMint, the same man that sponsored a bill to strip the City of Berkeley of $2.1 million of federal earmarks and give them to the Marine over the recruiting row. Obviously, a stalwart individual that would suck Ronald Reagan's neoconservative cock so hard the Alzheimer's would come out, given the chance. As a result of his horrible ideas, South Carolina loves him, so the re-election is really just a forgone conclusion. Hell, I even heard he'll have some time to go "hike the Appalachian Trail" to get his mind off of things. South Carolina's Democrats, apparently affected by a frightful case of electoral malaise, seem to have forgotten that they should still choose an actual viable candidate to oppose him, and instead just got drunk, watched NASCAR for hours, covered themselves in pork rind dust and mayonnaise, and nominated Alvin Greene.

"Who is Alvin Greene?", you might ask yourself. That would be the correct question. Alvin Greene is an unemployed veteran living with his father and currently facing felony obscenity charges over alleged showing porn to a girl at a library. Awesome. He was able to beat 4 time state Representative and current Charleston County council member Vic Rawl. By 18 fucking points. Without spending any money campaigning. By his own admission, he had no campaign rallies, buttons, lawn signs, staff, or website, his campaign instead moving forward through "informal meetings" and "word of mouth." More awesome.

To the electorate of South Carolina: go away. If you're not going to be an educated voter, don't be a voter. Please just go back to the Wal-Mart, buy some toys covered in lead paint, then haul your disgusting ass over to the Sonic, shove 3 gallons of milkshake down your multi-chinned gullet, go harass homosexuals who are doing absolutely nothing wrong to you, and then call it a day by fucking your equal horrible mate, continuing this cycle of pain for the rest of us. Please don't vote. If you can't realize how lucky you are to have that right and to take it seriously, you have absolutely no business exercising it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

4 8 15 16 23 42

I am now completely absorbed in the epic mindfuck that is J.J. Abrams' Lost. I don't really want to give much out right now, because my theories are so young, but suffice it to say that it is a great show and I highly recommend you watch it.

I know a lot of people like to clown on it. They are wrong. Don't listen to what they say; listen to what I say. If for nothing else, check it out for the fucking clinic Michael Emerson puts on every time he opens his mouth. Whenever the camera is on him you will be transfixed. Seriously, every bit of that Emmy was deserved. If you like TV that will really deal with big themes about the human condition and make you think, Lost is your animal. Don't be like me and say no to it just because you've seen people get too wrapped up in it. That only happens because it is so good. I know it's on ABC, but this is definite Must See TV.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I lost a friend this month. I wish I meant that we had a fight over a girl we both liked, or I stole his guitar, or crapped on his car, or something like that, but no such luck. No, my buddy Paul is never coming back, because there's nowhere that he's gone.

I met Paul in second grade. We were both in the GATE program and Phoebe Hearst. At Phoebe, GATE was a separate class, and there was only per grade, the result of this being that you essentially had the same class from second through sixth grade. Luckily, I had good friends for those years: Brian, Chris, David, and Paul, with later additions of Johnny and Stephen. Now, when I say we were good friends I really mean that we were around each other all the time. Every recess and at lunch. We put our desks together whenever we could. Every birthday party, we were all there. Sleepovers, the whole gang came along. We learned about girls together. We taught each other how to curse. Hell, Paul even said "Fuck this shit!" right to our sixth grade teacher and walked out. He was a pretty boss fellow.

After Phoebe, we all went to Sutter. Well, everybody except David. We all still hung out and stuff, but not as much. The vibe definitely wasn't the same. I had a few classes with Paul here and there, and I'd go over to his house occasionally, but there was definitely a change that happened in the relationship of the seven of us. After that, we mostly split up to go to different high schools. A bunch went to McClatchy, Paul to West, and I to Sac. And from there we really didn't see each other that much. We'd go to the river every now and then to drink some beers, but we all had our new friends that we were making at secondary. But even through all that, there was still Paul.

Paul has always been a musician. He was the first one of us that started playing guitar, and he went the furthest with it. The guy's been worshiping at the altar of Billy Corgan since before he even knew what a power chord was. That was one thing that always kept the two of us together. Every now and then I'd bring over a guitar and a bass and we'd jam it out. He'd play me the stuff he was working on, and I'd show him what I was putting together. Even through the college years, we'd still jam over summer break; he'd e-mail his demos he was putting together. The music helped keep us close. I think that was the key; we had something to bond over, something we could use to try and push the other.

I could tell you stories until I'm blue in the face, but I don't know if I could ever convey to you the kind of guy Paul really was. He always had your back. He was a very chill, soft-spoken fellow, but you always knew where he stood. He had an irreverent sense of humor that could put some people off, but really it just served to separate the wheat from the chaff. We were once talking about religion, and he expressed to me how he didn't like that he had an apostolic name, given how he felt it was all bullocks. He ended up deciding it was okay because "Paul changed everything and deluded everybody. I'm okay with being that guy." Paul was never one to put on airs of superiority or omniscience. He much more preferred to deal in the nitty-gritty of things. He wanted to get his hands dirty. He wanted to talk about the most human things about us, not how we should cite references or hold teacups or say prayers. Paul was the most human in us.

For the last year and a half or so, he would have random seizures that they didn't really know what to do about. They would ebb and flow, and he said he just realized there wasn't much he could do about it. It was ultimately one of these seizures that took my beautiful friend, but I can smile because I know that he didn't lose any time in the years he was with us. He laughed about the seizures, about death, and about the afterlife. He wasn't afraid of death. Not that he wanted to die, but he knew this is the only time we have and you can't let anything take it away from you. Not fear, not faith, not pain. In my head, he's still laughing at death, though I know that's the only place he can be now. In my heart, and in the hearts of all us who loved him.

The pain of the cut has now subsided, but the hole will remain. I know that it will get easier to deal with, but he's never coming back. The times it will really hurt will be when I think of going to hang out with him, and then remember I can't and that he's gone. Gone. I still have his number saved in my phone because I can't believe it's real. I keep waiting for him to come out from where he's hiding to laugh at the joke he's pulled on all of us. Facebook suggests that I post on his wall because he hasn't heard from me in a while and I can't grip that he'll never hear from me again. I listen to Pumpkins and tell him we need to put together a rendition of this song of that one, but know I'm really just talking to myself. Perhaps it will feel final at the funeral, but now it's just like he's in the Peace Corps and I won't see him for a while. We were supposed to go crap on each other when we were old and fat, not be cut down two weeks before graduating college.

I'm a complete atheist, but there are times when I really wish I were wrong. This is one of those times. Paul, I love you. I'm so happy that the last time I saw you we were both smiling and laughing. That's how you'll forever be for me. I miss you, buddy. Have fun at that great gig in the sky. And save me a seat.

Paul Eugene Smith
12/24/87 - 5/3/10

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Breathing while Brown

I'd like to take a minute to speak on the immigration bill recently signed in Arizona. For those unaware, the basic idea is that legal immigrants would have to keep documentation showing their right to live in the country on them at all times, and law enforcement must demand the presentation of said documentation if they have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is here illegally.

Are you fucking kidding me with this shit?

How can we even be discussing this right now? And this is apparently super popular in the state with Gov. Jan Brewer's approval ratings soaring and national numbers indicating similarly uncomfortably high levels of support for the Arizona law and similar measures. Common issues voters cite when expressing their support tend to be along the lines of "they take American jobs, they bring a criminal element, put an undue drain on hospitals, etc.". I'd like to take a minute to address each of these, to highlight what meaningful immigration reform could do.

1. 'They take American jobs'

This is true, but by no fault of the immigrants. The problem lies with Americans' addiction to cheap labor to go along with the cheap goods we're used to produced by Chinese factories, with the workers toiling for practically nothing. We don't want to pay for anything, least of which a living wage for those that produce the things that we use every day. Knowing this, American businesses have constantly sourced out and underpaid undocumented workers to do things like work our crops and clean our hotel rooms.

Without actual options and any recourse to demand a living wage or fair working conditions, illegal immigrants have little choice but to take these jobs. Knowing immigrants' situations, companies give them a job Americans would never take; it wouldn't make sense compared to what they could make on unemployment or welfare.

A similar issue exists with the hiring of undocumented day laborers by ordinary consumers. Often this happens outside of a home improvement store or similar facility, where immigrants are often sought out for landscaping, light construction, and similar jobs. While these are jobs that could easily be handled by a licensed contractor or similar reputable source, Americans don't want to pay the costs associated with them.

If you want to fix the jobs problem, you need to aggressively go after those that employ illegal immigrants. If there weren't a market for work, they wouldn't be crossing the border; it's that simple. If you can remove the promise of employment for the undocumented, you severely diminish the reasons for coming here in the first place. Enforcement should be focused on employers, not the employees. Single employees are merely symptoms of the disease - is a business that will re-offend.

2. 'They bring a criminal element'

I get this argument. As a Californian, I have no love lost for the Mexican drug cartels that have made their way into our fair state and are trafficking hard drugs and cultivating marijuana in our state and national parks and bringing turf wars and power killings with them. I'm no big fan of this development, and I want those assholes out as much as the next guy. Probably more; they grow shitty pot.

The thing is, most illegal immigrants are only committing one crime: their existence. For the most part they want to be good neighbors, engage in their communities, send their kids to school, and maybe listen to some Ranchero music. They usually don't come to America thinking that the American Dream involves a balloon up their ass or a knife in Paco's chest.

The new Arizona law, however, would give greater license to criminal activities. The law isn't limited to infractions as when reasonable suspicion can occur. You don't have to be doing anything wrong to be suspect. From the bill itself:

For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town, or other political subdivision of this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be mad, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person. The person's immigration status shall be verified with the federal government pursuant to 8 United States Code Section 1373(c).
Any agency making any lawful contact. This could be acting as a witness, showing up to school board meetings, etc., which the Tuscon police chief confirmed to NPR:
This law is talking about in the course of any legal contact, as well as when we talk to a witness of a crime or when we talk to a victim of a crime. Those are legal contacts of law enforcement. Now we look at it in the context of those legal contacts.

If in the course of them, we develop reasonable suspicion that the individual we're talking with is illegally in the country, we are mandated to take enforcement action. That's where the questions are coming up is how do you develop that reasonable suspicion that they're in the country illegally if they're there talking to you just about being a victim of a crime.
Of special significance here is the fact that law enforcement can use race and ethnicity to make that determination, so long as they have some other piece of information to corroborate that suspicion.
3. 'They take up public sector funds in schools and hospitals and don't help pay for them.'

First of all, the majority of students are committing no crime because their American birth grants them citizenship and with it a right and duty to attend school. They're not using anything they're not entitled to.

As to hospitals. Yes, illegal immigrants do bring a lot of expense down upon the public in the emergency room. So do fat white people. American personal healthcare has devolved into put it off, watch it break, have it dealt with in the emergency room, be unable to pay for it. Illegal aliens didn't create this system, it's just extremely well-suited to dick them. If a path for citizenship were offered, they could be helped by new healthcare provisions and would be able to proactively address their health and well-being. As it is, they cannot be part of such a plan, probably because it would make too much sense.

And for taxes: they want to pay, they're just terrified to attempt to do so because putting their name out there would open them up to harassment from the government if dots were ever put together.

To sum up, we need immigration reform. Badly. If this is a sign of things to come whenever Republicans need to shore up their base, the Constitution could be in for a full year. We need to secure the border, actively seek out and prosecute those that employ undocumented workers, and provide a path to citizenship for those that are already here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And now for something completely different

In other news, I woke up with a nightmare at 4 in the morning. David Bowie had stabbed me in the gut with a switchblade and watched me bleed to death on the floor. He was not there for me as the world fell down.

Rhyme and Reason, hold the Religion and Retribution

So, I used to be a Mormon.

An odd way to start, I realize, but it's a detail that is very important. At some level, it will always be a part of who I am, at least in my manner of socialization, awkward vestigial habits, interesting food choices, etc. It'd be folly to think spending my first seventeen year in an ideology and culture so invasive and inward as Mormonism wouldn't leave it's telling signs on me, for better or for worse. Granted, my parents' interpretations of doctrine as applicable to childrearing and their own personal thoughts on the matter still grossly outweigh that, Utah's sway over the trajectory of my previous life cannot be overstated. It is the deviation from said trajectory that we will tonight celebrate.

I used to be a Mormon.

The real inspiration for tonight's post came about, as an alarming number of things in our life these days, from Facebook. An old Mormon friend had come up in my suggestions. Names are here unimportant, but suffice it to say that I knew him from Boy Scouts, Young Men, etc., and the fellow is six months my senior. Intrigued, I click, wondering what's going on in his life. The answer: everything a good Mormon boy should have done/ be doing, none of which he really has any choice over. Submitted for your approval, the list.

I'm a 22-23 year old LDS male. I have done or am doing the following:

1. Beginning at age 19, serve a two year mission in the service of Jesus Christ, to spread his word and administer to his sheep. Also, to be away from my family for an unnecessary amount of time, only able to call twice a year have another man in the same room with me literally all the time, save for lavatory visits.

2. Marry a nice LDS girl. This should be done before any sexual activity or cohabitation.

3. Have a child, maybe 2. Both my wife and I should be in school whilst attempting to raise said child, and I should also be working.

4. Have a leadership position in Boy Scouts or Young Men's.

5. Help somebody move every other fucking weekend.

That's just the short list, but it should give you a good idea.

Now, given the matter-of-fact, nigh on totalitarian manner in which I've presented these, one might be inclined to think I'm overstating as a result of my bitterness. Resist this urge. I honestly wish I were overstating and oversimplifying, but this is the unfortunate reality. These are not choices, these are flowcharts. You hear a lesson one day in Primary and you know how your life is going to go. You may not know the details, but you know how it all goes down. You know that there's a little sub-chart on the Plan of Happiness timeline that involves you going on a mission, coming home, having crappy sex for three years, popping out babies, and eventually just going along with it, waiting until you die and become perfect. Joy.

Fuck that.

I love my freedom. I love the experience that I can learn from fucking up. I embrace the mortality of my existence, and the value it imparts to every experience with the knowledge that they are finite and must be treasured. I steel myself to the fact that in romance, I will hurt a lot of people and will be hurt right back, only to learn from both and make the next better. I don't want to just end up with someone and then start that long, slow march to death hoping like Hell that you don't fart all night long in your sleep. I sure as fuck don't want to raise a child when I still feel like one.

Mormons preach to endure; I preach to live.

Here's to my life:
  • To secularism, and its promise of equality and sanity that I cling to daily.
  • To science, and its call and standard of the stewardship of knowledge and the eradication of ignorance.
  • To atheism, and the richness of a mortal life, loosed of the bands of mysticism and fear.
  • To art, and the idea that we can share the human experience one with another, building together our consciousness.
  • To food, and being able to nourish our minds as well as our navels.
  • To sex, and the incredibly human connection, both phenomenological and numinous, that it gives us with our partners.
  • To drugs, and the knowledge that my mind is a tool and I can shape it in myriad ways.
  • To thought, and the world that we can create with it.
  • To breath, and the way we cherish this one, lest we lose it and it be our last.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I started a blog

But I know not why.

Blogs are old. They're not even supposed to be cool anymore. I heard that if the ramblings of one's brain can't fit into a Twitter post, one should just give up and not even try anymore. I offer this up not so much as a repudiation, but rather a conciliatory acquiescence. I'm sure nothing of consequence will be proffered, so I expect your unwavering support and attention. Just pretend Kim Kardashian is telling you about puppies and her favorite pair of stretch pants and artificial self respect.

Interested? I knew you would be.