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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The War at Home

I'd hate to blog about work. First of all, I could would most definitely lose my job because I work in research, and in research things like confidentiality and non-disclosure are imperative. Secondly, if there's one thing I've learned from my favoritest blogger of all time, it's that somehow your boss will find your blog and read about all the shit you talk behind her back. Then she will fire you. So instead I will start blogging about work and then I will shift to a political rhetoric that will probably inspire few and maybe upset others.

All that I can responsibly let out of my bloggy heart is that this previous work week has been the work week from hell. While I know that everyone has this thought at least several times a year (some of them have it every week), I'd like to think that i'm exceptional because my job puts me in some very exceptional situations, far beyond office banalities like the annoying eating habits of co-workers or the stapler that always seems to go missing from your desk.

Allow me to articulate. For the past three years, i've been working in the social service/research sector, travelling deep inside the roughest neighborhoods in Chicago and spending many hours every week in the very homes of not only the victims of some of the most heinous crimes ever imaginable, but also with the perpetrators of those crimes. I've done this because I think it is important to do.

So i've seen some shit, to put it colloquially. Shit that you don't really talk about at a cocktail party. Everything from heroin being injected into veins, to being accosted by prostitutes and drug dealers, and even to boobs popping out of tank tops (topic for a later blog). These are only some of my light-hearted experiences. Far worse are the things that no one wants to read, experiences composed of words that are too harsh too see even while shielded by the dull plasticity of a computer monitor.

While some war veterans and soldiers will speak of losing comrades in the course of war, dying and fighting for ideas like "freedom" and "justice" in the name of their country, I ask them to put down their arms and look no further than down a few blocks from their road - because there's a war much closer to home. You don't need to travel thousands of miles to find conflict. Not too far away from you there's an innocent woman being brutalized by an abusive husband, or a four year old discovering their mother dead on the couch, overdosed on heroin. It happens everyday. I know this because i've seen it with my own eyes.

I hope that this coming election brings about not only a change in leadership, but also a change in nationwide mentality. Our leadership needs to shift its thinking away from the "Overzealous World Police" ideology to a more "Gentle caretakers of our nation" approach. This is one of the discriminating qualities in the Republican/Democratic political dichotomy. In fact, I think this rotating power sharing is critical to the health of our nation. I won't deny the Republican war machine the progress they have made in Afghanistan, or even their success in toppling the Hussein regime, but now it's time for them to step-off.

Time for our leader Obama to take the reigns and bring it all closer to home. Time for us to refocus on the issues down the block. It's time to divert the money for the Republican War on Drug program away from the propaganda and increasingly large prison sentences to programs that actually work, like drug-treatment clinics and community health centers.

I've been fighting this societal war with a paltry few other brave souls, souls that don't receive nearly half the glorification or honor that they deserve. Fearless men that ruthlessly destroy other men have received some of the greatest honor in our country, and in many ways, this honor is justifiable. But what about our unarmed soldiers? What about our dedicated educators and responsible parents, what about anyone else that has tended to the actual well-being of the youth of our home country? It's time for their memorial, time for their purple hearts. It's time for us to focus on the war at home.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I was just at the drugstore standing in line behind a grown man who was buying the latest issue of Penthouse magazine. That's cool - who hasn't run to the corner in order to flip through a few pages of a soft-core porno mag on a late Tuesday afternoon?

What stood out to me about this whole situation was that his 3 to 4 year old daughter was bouncing around right next to him in line. "Daddy can you buy me that candy?" I mean, no big deal, right? He's an adult and has every right to buy that magazine. Where's the harm? His daughter would remain completely oblivious to the magazine and probably wouldn't even get curious considering it's plastic covering.

But DUDE, Penthouse?!

I remember first discovering Penthouse (along with other chestnuts like Hustler, Playboy, and Juggs) while exploring the area surrounding an abandoned factory near my neighborhood in the far south side of Chicago. This was about just under 20 summers ago and I was in the beginning of the peach fuzz and stifling B.O. era. Some neighborhood friends and I found what was literally a huge garbage bag filled with abandoned porno mags in the overgrown trees and bushes surrounding the factory. We proceeded to return to the secret spot almost daily with excuses for our parents involving something with baseball or lightning bugs. Upon each return, the pile-o-porn seemed to grow smaller and smaller.

The thing that struck me about Penthouse was its no-limit depiction of a wide assortment of sexual activities, especially when compared with other brands of adult magazines. In their 80s era, Penthouse really pushed the limits of obscenity. R. Kelly, if he really was in that video, probably drew some inspiration from a Penthouse mag. Flipping through Playboy was like seeing a quick boob shot in a PG-13 rated movie - mildly exciting yet too impermanent to be explicit. With Penthouse, though, I saw things that I probably should have waited years to see, things that continued to confuse me for much longer than that secret porn stash in the factory bushes lasted.

That's why I asked myself, "Why couldn't he wait to buy that Penthouse?" What is he potentially exposing his daughter to? I guess I take some solace in finding out that Penthouse has toned things down over the years, that now it's situated somewhere in between Playboy and Hustler in terms of explicitness. Anyways, that little girl was not my daughter and she didn't appear to be in any immediate risk of harm. In fact, she was completely oblivious to situation. Dad bought her a big, red, inflatable beach ball with pictures of princesses and unicorns on it, and she happily bounced her way out of the store.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Celine Dion vs. Tim Russert vs. Bo Diddley

This weekend I had dinner with a group to celebrate a friend's birthday. Most of the people there were unfamiliar with each other save for the birthday girl. For some ungodly reason, the topic of Celine Dion came up in conversation. Not knowing everyone's particular taste, I bit my tongue. I wanted to say something like, "Celine Dion has bigger testicles than a silverback gorilla" but no, I held back ... because sure enough, there was a person at our table who admitted to paying $300 to see her live in Vegas.

Aside from this shameful confession, I was more shocked to learn that one of the people at our table had no clue who she was. He said he honestly had no idea. I quickly Googled her image and showed it to him on my blackberry - nothing. For fuck's sake, a farmboy somewhere in the mountainous island of Phuket, Thailand knows who Celine Dion is. He's wearing a t-shirt of her right now as he returns from the ten-mile hike to the watering hole.

As incredulous as I was that night, I must have seemed the same way when I heard about this Tim Russert guy passing away. While his image is recognizable, I was unaware of who he was and neither did I realize the importance of his passing. Didn't he have something to do with potatoes, I thought? "No, he was more than potatoes," all the major national media outlets scolded me, "so much more than potatoes..."

Whatevs. While i'll take Bo Diddley back over you Timmy Boy, there's still something I want you to know. If it ever comes between me saving either you or Celine Dion from falling off of a deadly cliff, you can count on me. While my weight-lifting abilities (ie squats and dead-lifts and such) are probably more suitable for saving Celine, I'll just have to work out that much harder. I'll do it for you, Tim Russert. You can count on me.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

City Doldrums

I really need to get out of this city.

Living in the heart of Chicago for the past three years now, I've been reluctantly mastering the Art of Asshole. By Art of the Asshole I mean the ability to abandon almost any shred of human decency or respect for others.

Stolen car radios, regular graffiti clinics on your building, wallet-emptying parking tickets and vehicle stickers, crazy drivers, bicycle riders getting killed by motorists, and ridiculous murder rates are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the soul-sucking aspects of being in the middle of it all.

Whereas a few years ago in the halcyon days of my former college-town habitat I might kindly step aside and let an elderly person take the last spot on a crowded bus, now I find myself nearly shoving grandma aside and down into a bottomless sewer ditch in order to save that last inch of space for myself, being all like "This is MySpace, grandma!" as she goes hurtling down into the darkness below.

Thusly, it's time for a change of scenery.

In a few weeks my fiancee and I will be backcountry camping at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, Michigan. We will be boarding a ferry near the northernmost point of the Michigan peninsula and from there we'll sail to a nearby island that is completely void of all of the wonderfully dehumanizing trappings of the big city. While I am slightly concerned about my ability to go several days without updating my facebook status, I take comfort in knowing that we'll be away from all the drudgery. Far away to a place where things like tripping over a homeless person camouflaged into the sidewalk or street cleaning parking violations have no chance of ruining your day.

While we won't have a car, electricity, a cabin or bathroom facilities on our tiny island, we will have necessities like sleeping bags and a tent and a water boiler and some space food. We'll spend a pair of nights there before the six hour drive back to the city. Just enough time to begin to yearn again for the accoutrements of civilization, for the real necessities like DVR, wireless internet, drive-thru Starbucks, and facebook status updates.

posts from the past

Tonight i've posted about 50 more entries from my old online journals. This is part of my continuing effort to sweep up and organize the dusty pieces of my old blogs in order to retain some sense of cohesion to my identity, or who I understand myself to be. And this existential rambling that i'm doing right now is precisely the reason why i've been avoiding this task.

Looking back, I've learned that blogging while under the influence does absolutely nothing for my sentence completion abilities. Also re-lived one of several college bar fight stories. I don't think I know anyone that went to college and does not have one bar fight story.

Limited to 50 automated posts by blogger, it's going to take a while to upload the over 800 entries I have made while blogging throughout this decade. And considering all of editing that takes place (did I really need to write about that dream with James Brown and bag of potato chips?) this task is going to be spread out over the next few days, or weeks!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Looking back, but moving forward

Today I finished another marathon quarter-year of full-time jobbing while part-time Mastering. I feel relieved. Now that this school quarter is successfully completed, I can focus more of my time towards our upcoming wedding.

There's tons of stuff to do: from the mailing of the invitations, to the hiring of the limo, to the the finalizing of details for Vegas. I could go on and on, but I will save that for later blogs, don't worry.

On another note I've also found some time to upload most of my blog entries from late 2003 to early 2004. Nothing quite like looking back on an era filled with the struggles of a failing relationship. I think I knew then that there was something meaningful somewhere within the turbulence of that whole situation, and that's why I refused to stop blogging.

Of course part of this mission meant relentlessly writing about my dreams, which, I've learned by now, is interesting for no one else to read but the person who writes them. I've censored most of the entries involving dream space drivel, I included the one which had a description of a sandwich I had (in real life) after a workout at the gym. It was a:

Grilled salmon sandwhich topped with alfalfa sprouts and alio cucumber sauce and small heart shaped leaves of green romaine lettuce sprinkled with slivers of swiss cheese all over a warm, toasted buttery slice of sourdough bread.

Monday, June 2, 2008

erykah badu show

This past weekend my fiancee and I went to see Erykah Badu and the Roots perform at the legendary Chicago Theater. It was a great show. During the between song banter, Erykah explained that the theme of the tour was centered around the concept of vortex.

She said that there were natural vortices all over the planet, and that they were usually located directly underneath or above a black hole in space. She said that these natural vortices were evidenced by the strange magnetic forces around the area and also by the way the roots of trees and plants tended to spiral downward.

Always the skeptic, but also wondering if this concept was the center of the strange natural forces in the TV show Lost, I googled this idea. Wikipedia explains that hurricanes, torandoes, smoke rings, and sunspots were all instances of a vertex. The vortex concept was also offered as an explanation of why your shower-curtain gets blown inward with a running shower.

I found examples of natural creatures using vertices to their advantage. Hawks glide updwards on a doughnutile ring of upside down vortex created by the sun heating the ground below (explained more in the link). Spiders shoot a string of web into this upside-down vortex and go flying for miles. Charles Darwin noticed a large mass of them hovering down 60 miles off of the coast of South America.

I could find no examples of the twisting roots that Badu was talking about, although altogether I think the concept is very interesting.

Here is a video I recorded of Erykah singing "Green Eyes" from the 2000 release Mama's Gun:

Diary of an angry white woman

This is a video of a Long Island school teacher who was thrown out of a rules committee meeting for the Democratic primary. It's pretty obvious from this video that she is upset by the current political situation.

youtube user rochha responds:

Its bitches like her you just want to hit in the head with a sledgehammer and bludgeon her to death.