Monday, March 23, 2015

Rejecting the Dialogue on Race Relations - or - Taking Your Coffee Black

Redesigned logo used from 2011-present.
Redesigned logo used from 2011-present. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I hate being forced to defend Starbucks. I still remember when the overpriced coffee franchise first spread across the country like a fast-moving virus, quickly and efficiently forcing so many independent coffee shops out of business that the Starbucks logo soon became the textbook example of corporate infiltration and cultural destruction, so hating Starbucks and everything it seems to represent comes easy.

At least, it used to come easy. But then Starbucks had to go and support same-sex marriage, and offer tuition aid to employees, and other progressive acts (like supporting Planned Parenthood) that don't necessarily conform to the presumed image of an evil corporate empire. It's easy to hate somebody for charging you $8 for a cup of coffee, but even I have to stop and admit that even corporate entities are allowed to try and have a positive impact on society. After all, aren't corporations people too?

So once again I find myself defending a company I do not financially support (I don't boycott Starbucks, I just prefer cheaper coffee), and as seems to happen more often these days, from the very people that should be supporting them as well.

By now it is already cemented as a legend in PR Catastrophes alongside New Coke and Bill Cosby's "Meme Me" debacle. The company that loves to write stuff on the side of your coffee cup decided that it wanted to get involved in race relations in America by having baristas scrawl #RaceTogether on outgoing orders, and therefore inviting customers to engage in an open discussion about race. If you are a rational adult with any honest perception of how the world works, you are already headdesking in disbelief. Next to religion and politics, race relations in America is the topic most guaranteed to aggravate/offend/anger somebody when mentioned in mixed company. Race relations in America is an ongoing discussion that can devour hours of heated and passionate debate without forging an inch of new ground, and here we have a corporate policy openly encouraging employees to enter into conversations about this hot-button topic in the time it takes to fill a cup with hot liquid and write something on the side. I think the general rule of thumb is that no topic you would be hesitant to bring up at Thanksgiving is suitable for casual chatting for any occupation in the services industry.

Now, the initial problems with this PR brainstorm are obvious. Beyond Starbucks employees having no formal training on discussing sensitive issues with a wide variety of personalities, and no mandated historic or social education on race, the company has no way of preventing the possibility that either the employee or the customer will have views on the subject that aren't a) Too complex or underdeveloped to understand, b) Inherently racist, or c) Batshit crazy. And let's be honest, who has time for lengthy discussions on ANY topic while getting a coffee to go. So, yeah, bad idea all around.

However, the amount of blowback received by Starbucks from people on the left regarding the failed PR campaign feels extremely out of proportion to me, especially considering that what the company was trying to do is, for an corporation, commendable. Critics immediately flooded Twitter (heaven forbid) questioning the diversity of the company's shareholders, complaining about imaging blunders like the hands in all of the #RaceTogether promotional pictures presumably belonging to white people, and criticizing CEO Howard Schultz for closing down his own Twitter account once the barrage of angry responses hit him.

But can we take a step back and look at the "WHY" behind the anger over the Starbucks failed hashtag campaign? Was it poorly thought out and haphazardly executed? Oh my, yes. But apart from there being too many white hands holding coffee cups and collecting the profits (both of which I feel are debatable arguments themselves), what was the big crime perpetrated by Starbucks? Trying to instigate thoughtful dialogue? While I would argue that it isn't a good idea from a business standpoint, I can't think of anything overtly negative about asking people to talk about a subject, or implying that doing so might be a good thing in the long run. And while it's hard to profile an individual's ideology from a Twitter profile, the majority of people that expressed outrage with the campaign appeared to be mostly those in the anti-racism or pro-equality camp. Aren't these the very people who should be supporting an open dialogue about race relations in America?

There seems to be a growing disconnect between what we say we want and what we are prepared to accept. Can we logically claim that we want greater social awareness and understanding if the minute a company says, "Hey, let's talk," the immediate response is "How dare you!" Is the problem that Starbucks just attempted to encourage an open dialogue instead of promoting or supporting an established argument or slogan? If that's the case, then we aren't promoting understanding, we're assigning a specific dogmatic ideology, which doesn't really seem that progressive to me.

Then you have the complaints that Starbucks was trying to "lecture" customers or "solve" racism altogether, proof of which I could not find in any of the #RaceTogether marketing. In fact, Starbucks didn't appear to be pushing any specific agenda - oddly enough, even a more simplistic "Racism is Bad" stance, which might have gone over slightly better - and seems to be more of a knee-jerk reaction to having racism even mentioned in a commercial environment. These were the few reactions that seemed more conservative in nature - complaints about being served white privilege with their black coffee and other such clever bon mots - and come off more defensive than anything else. Which, of course, is what you should normally expect from people when suddenly plunging them into a discussion on race relations. Welcome to America, home of the sarcastic retort via social media.

The other arguments feel even less progressive or rational to me. If the complaint it really that the white hands holding cups in promotional images were somehow contradictory to the message, or that the executives aren't racially diverse enough to promote tolerance and acceptance, then the logical conclusion from that complaint is that discussions on race relations in America aren't valid if they involve white Americans. That's where you really lose me. Because in order for race relations to improve in this country - and I think we're all in agreement that they need improvement - white people are going to need to be a part of that equation. In fact, they're an essential part of any movement towards ending racial oppression and discrimination if the ultimate goal is to get all white people on the bandwagon, and shutting them out of the discussion based solely on the color of their skin isn't exactly the best wat to get that ball rolling.

So, just to recap: Should Starbucks have tried to engage it's customers in a discussion about race relations in America? Hell no. Was it a bad idea? Yes, but not for any reasons that we should feel good or comfortable about. Is this emblematic of how hard it is in this country to even discuss important social issues anymore, regardless of which side of the debate you stand on? Sadly, yes again.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Don't Get Me Started (A Much-Deserved Rant)

RANT, this way
RANT, this way (Photo credit: Nesster)
There's only so much of it you can choke down before the bile has to rise. There's only so much of it you can absorb without reaching a breaking point, especially in the age of Facebook and Google and Smartphones. And so you hit a point where you can't take any more. How can you? You've got kids being sent home from the prom for being too sexy and removed from the yearbook because girls shouldn't be wearing tuxedos while elected officials run around blaming women for rape and saying that women deserve to earn less than men because they don't work as hard and should be devoting themselves to home and family instead anyway, and access to birth control is suddenly an issue again as a large segment of the population is trying to wish this country's female population back into the nineteenth century. Slut shaming has ceased to be an adolescent bully tactic and has instead become an accepted life lesson by the same adults who defend bullying as a rite of passage and then defend their own kids when they cyber-bully a classmate into a suicide attempt or rape an underage drunk girl at a party by claiming she was asking for it anyway as towns rally behind jocks and run rape victims out of town because popular high school football players are more important than protecting young girls from date rape because our daughter doesn't behave like that so its really not our problem, is it? And the kids are fucked anyway because childhood obesity is becoming a massive epidemic and you've got people blaming the kids for for being lazy and eating too much while completely ignoring the fact that their diet consists of the poisonous crap being sold as food these days, with something like 80% of processed foods containing added sugar or even worse corn syrup because the food manufacturers just had to go out of their way to find a more harmful sweetener than cane sugar, since the pathetic state of the FDA where they can't even inspect a fraction of the food industry and level wrist-slap fines that don't even put a dent in the profit margin that the unsafe preparation of food offers still isn't killing people in this country fast enough, and they still haven't figured out how to turn mercury into a flavor-enhancing additive. Which shouldn't be so surprising since this country excels in intentionally poisoning itself with an unending supply of cigarettes and alcohol while the government hypocritically spends billions combating the recreational drugs that don't have corporate sponsorship, and so our government is still attempting to protect it's people from ingesting potentially harmful recreational drugs while eagerly allowing the food companies to shovel shit down their throats, and they care so much about American lives that we're the only industrialized nation left that still has the death penalty but is repelled by the idea of socialized medicine, because nothing says Freedom like being free to die a slow and painful death because you can't afford treatment for your illness in the richest fucking nation on the planet, so the lower class die in emergency rooms and the middle class lose their houses to pay for a week-long hospital stay after a necessary procedure while other people and politicians alike scream about the inequalities and dangers of providing healthcare to all Americans and talk shit about other countries with socialized medicine while the U S of A sports the highest mortality rates and is beat out by Cuba for quality of medical care provided, and this outcry against giving something to people for free, God forbid, doesn't even include the constant attacks against programs designed to assist poor families with shelter and heating and helping them feed their poor children, starving children for fuck's sake, because what kind of a moral Christian nation would we be if we allowed our hard-earned tax dollars to go towards feeding starving innocent children because what kind of commie pinko nation is this that we're so afraid of letting the poor and inform die in the streets and clog up the gutters which are clogging up on their own anyway since the richest country in the fucking world can't be bothered to even maintain its own infrastructure, so at least the US government isn't that hypocritical since it doesn't even believe in maintain its own health, let alone the health of the people the government is supposed to be serving, not exploiting and ignoring. But why bitch about the government when you can just wait a few minutes and listen to the caterwauling insanity of the growing portion of the population dead-set against any kind of humanistic or empathetic world view, the mewling asshats who live in constant fear of anything happening that they don't personally approve of, shouting out against gay couples being allowed to marry as if it was an affront to anything more than their own myopic world views, arguing against shit that doesn't affect them on any level except what could only be referred to jokingly as an intellectual level, these soulless motherfuckers that compare immigrants and poor people to animals then look around for a high-five as if they'd just said something urbanely wise and clever, like they're some kind of modern day Jonathan Swift instead of just another unsympathetic asshole more concerned about somebody else getting something they didn't than any heartfelt consideration for other human beings, rallying against lowering costs or interest rates or god forbid offering free higher education because they want to make sure we have enough stupid people to flip their burgers and dig the ditch they want to shit in because by their reasoning if everyone has access to affordable education then nobody will drive a garbage truck, and they don't like their tax money going to education anyway because they're constantly bitching that the public school systems are a joke and don't teach anything, which is usually an awkward argument because most of the time the people saying this are products of public schools anyway so by their own argument they just might be too fucking stupid to be listened to if they were products of the public school system, but of course they were probably just so smart to begin with or they don't mean their schools but "other" schools which means schools in poor and urban areas which should be gradually shut down by implementing voucher systems so we can revert to the good old days when only the children of wealthy families got any schooling so these greedy bastards can be sure that there is enough of an uneducated workforce to keep the cost of their Egg McFucking Muffin down, and of course this goes right into their reasoning against raising the minimum wage, because not only will their plastic cheap-ass Walmart patio decorations cost them fifty cents more if a multi-billion dollar corporation actually has to pay its workers a living wage, but because they claim you need to underpay laborers less than they can live on otherwise they won't have any incentive to work harder even though the working poor are working harder than these loudmouthed motherfuckers have ever worked in their miserable lives just so they can pay the skyrocketing rent on their shitty one-bedroom apartment and make sure their kids can eat corn-syrup-injected processed crap that keeps them simultaneously fed and malnourished because some fucknut managed to get the meal programs budget cut at the school they won't even be able to go to once the new voucher system allows them to go to a really good private school even though studies have shown that private schools aren't that much better just because they turn a profit and free-market economics doesn't work when you're not producing an actual product asshole, but in reality that voucher is not going to cover the entire cost so the father working three shit jobs and paying payroll taxes on all of them won't be able to pony up the cash for the voucher difference and will the dickhead greedy taxpayer want to spring the bill for shipping kids two hours each way to the nearest public school crappy enough for an equal voucher exchange, why of course not what are we commies or something? And these assholes are everywhere, and they are loud and obnoxious and the symptom of a larger disease, the growing Apathy of the American public, not a physical apathy or even mental apathy but an emotional apathy that is increasingly removing any desire of people that are otherwise active in getting involved in ideas and philosophies and debates and arguments but cannot be bothered to actually attempt to feel anything for anybody but themselves and their ideological viewpoints that are the new religion of a country supposedly founded on Christian morality but is actually serving the deities of money and vanity and won't even consider any kind of concept that doesn't involve an increased profit margin or confirmation that they are everything that is right with the world, this shallow unsympathetic fucks who bitch about tax dollars funding art students or poor children but couldn't give a rat's ass how many innocents are killed by the flying killer robots their tax dollars bought or anything else except how much they have to pay the pool guy or tip the waitress or pay for anything because what the hell are we except cash receptacles and if you don't have enough to make you count as a real person than its your fault for not being smart enough or lucky enough because we don't want public schools teaching evolution while we force survival-of-the-fittest economics theory into common practice instead of using the collective wealth of a nation to benefit all of its citizens, and not just the ones that can afford to live the American Dream, what a fucking joke, the American Dream has become the world's largest Ponzi Scheme that will bankrupt the ones defending it as well as the unappreciated masses they dismiss with contempt, and I can't debate fuckwits like this anymore and pretend that their arguments are valid and treat them with even a fraction of the respect they refuse to show the people they dismiss and denigrate and even blame for everything wrong with this vast social experiment gone vastly awry, and I can't go on playing nice with these vile fucks, they need to be shouted down and cursed out and treated like the soulless bastards they are, because there is only so many times I can be fed "let's agree to disagree" before I have to refuse to pretend their inhumane and narrow-sighted ideas are relevant in any rational sense of the word, and maybe if we stopped playing this he-said-she-said let them think what they want and we don't want to sink to their level game and lashed out against the idiots screaming offensive ideologies into the wind as if greed and arrogance were noble traits, perhaps the sooner we just call out these people for being the scumbags that they are, then maybe we can all vent this growing frustration that results from dealing with this level of ignorance on a daily basis.

Fuck it. I need a nap.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Minimum Moral Wage

Minimal Minimum Wage
Minimal Minimum Wage (Photo credit: PropagandaTimes)
I've found myself avoiding online debates over the recent drive to increase the minimum wage. Not due to any decrease in my beliefs or convictions, but because it's just so exhausting.

Then again, debating anything that has become divided opinion-wise along ideological lines is an uphill climb lately. Thanks to the advances of internet search engines and social media sharing, we've all becoming experts in selective research. Our access to information has grown exponentially over the past couple of decades, and so has our ability to cherry-pick the facts that best support our beliefs. We're not more informed, we're just better armed to rationalize our beliefs.

This isn't a new complaint, of course. The more access to alternate news sources there are, the more there are people whining about there being too many alternate news sources. The noise about information technologies catering to the individual is probably just as loud as the noise over saving Net Neutrality, so I really don't have anything new to bring to the table in that regard. You find your statistics to back your side of the argument, and I'll find those that buttress mine.

It's an especially frustrating forfeit with this particular topic, as those arguing against raising the minimum wage tend to rely on erroneous or outright contradictory "facts." My favorites are the ones who will claim that raising the minimum wage is unnecessary because only a small percentage of the workforce actually earns minimum wage, then turn around and declare that increasing the minimum wage will destroys small businesses and cause retail and service prices to skyrocket. So it's an issue that is both small enough to be ignored, yet massive enough to destroy the very fabric of our economy.

Of course, the scare tactic that claims raising the minimum wage will make your Walmart shopping trip twice as expensive is not only inherently greedy, but patently false. More intellectually dishonest is the claim regarding the small minority of minimum wage workers, which feeds off of select data included in recent government studies that shows the minimum wage workforce at around 6%. These claims are technically true, but completely ignore employees earning only a fraction more than the minimum wage. If you look at labor studies for the number of full-time wage earners working for under $10 an hour (the proposed federal minimum wage, which comes to roughly $20,000 a year), that number of undervalued employees skyrockets to 26% of the workforce. The Small Business and Higher Price-tag arguments, on the other hand, intentionally ignore that the biggest minimum wage (and just above minimum wage) employers are the major retail and fast food chains that constantly record profits in the billions - billions earned with the sweat of the low-wage laborer. The fact that most of these same corporate empires have seen increased profits due to more of the working poor being forced to buy their cheap shit, and that more and more of their minimum wage employees are also forced to enroll in government aid programs, is an additional irony that they tend to overlook as well. And we haven't even gotten into stagnant wages against CEO bonuses and the rate of inflation.

But again, it's pointless submitting any of this as evidence, because if you just don't like the idea of the minimum wage being increased to $10, you can easily find some think tank study that predicts Armageddon if low-wage workers are paid "more than they're worth," and if you're really unlucky, they might start throwing Ayn Rand quotes at you.

Quick tip: If someone ever confronts you with a quote from Atlas Shrugged, feign interest and ask to borrow their copy of the book, then beat them over the head with it until they cry and run away (does not work with eBook versions).

So what do you do? Abandon your ideals? I am a firm believer in raising the minimum wage. I have worked as middle management in both corporate retail and small business service industry, and in both instances I have seen abuse and dismissal of a workforce that is vital to the very existence of these successful businesses. I have seen hours intentionally kept below full-time to avoid employee benefits, I have seen intentional under-staffing followed by increased workloads without additional compensation, and I have even seen flagrant violations of federal labor laws regarding the tracking of payroll hours and compensation for overtime work. I have worked alongside the people affected by these inhumane practices, and I am morally opposed to how these people are being treated by their employers.

Maybe morality is how this battle needs to be waged (pun intended). Perhaps if we stop drying to dig up reports that attempt to statistically prove our point, maybe we just need to start point out that paying a living wage to employees responsible for the company's profit is just "the right thing to do." Do we seriously want our country, which some would (falsely) argue was founded on Christian principles, to allow business owners to exploit the working poor? If hard work is to be glorified as a national principle, isn't it fair that we reward that hard work as well?

I don't know. Maybe you just can't debate somebody who is dead-set against anything that would enable somebody to benefit from something they can't get themselves. What can you say to the guy making enough to support his own family when the only reason he's against somebody else being paid enough to feed their own children is because he doesn't want to feel any less special. How do you expand the world view of people struggling to maintain their myopic outlook? If somebody is willing to suppress the earning power of retail workers just so they can save twenty-five cents on a lawn chair, is the moral argument actually going to sway them?

It's all very frustrating. If it wasn't for the fact that morality has been slowly winning out over the years when it comes to civil rights, marriage equality, and maybe even immigration, I'd probably be completely despondent. But progress is evident, even when your cousin on Facebook is willing to make political campaign contributions in order to ensure that the person serving him his food can't afford to purchase a healthy meal of their own. There's still hope. Sometimes, occasionally, real morality wins.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

10/8/13: Baby Heads, Children, and Punctuation

Illustrate my dreams, Part 1

Last night, I had a dream that I was in this big baby making factory, and the babies were these little premature things lined up in shallow plastic trays like hatching beds. They even acted like newly hatched baby chicks, craning their necks and crying at the sky. I began amusing myself by leaning over these baby trays and laughing at the rows of baby heads, some more deformed than others, which would result in them laughing in return, and so I found myself going up and down these rows of trays, creating a sea of laughing, smiling baby heads. Then, out of nowhere appears a large baby factory mascot, this large evil-looking clown, and on the end of his left arm instead of a hand is a giant deformed baby head. It's big and round, like a large flesh-colored balloon, and in the center of it is this scrunched, pinched-faced, snaggletoothed baby face, its face contorting and twisting as the mouth opens and shuts like it is trying to scream, only no sound is coming out. Needless to say, I immediately have somebody take my picture with the baby factory mascot.

Anybody want to draw that picture for me?

Other People's Children, Part 1

There is something about raising children that seems to damage specific portions of the brain in a majority of parents. I am convinced any detailed clinical study would show the perception areas of the brain to be those portions most severely impacted.

McDonalds Happy Meal
McDonalds Happy Meal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I'm in line for breakfast during my on-campus residency this morning, and I slide my tray down the wooden cafeteria shelf until I come to a woman getting breakfast for her and her daughter. She has her daughter standing next to her, and she has two take-out trays opened and lined up next to one another while the cafeteria patron grabs food for them, so they are taking up a good four or five feet of counter space.

Now, this is not a rant against the woman taking up the space in the first place, or about having to wait for her to have her meal hand-picked by the kitchen staff. It's her cafeteria just as much as it is mine, and I'm not in any kind of mad rush to get breakfast. I can wait, and I do so quietly and patiently. When the mother notices me there, she looks up and acknowledges my presence like I would hope she would, but then instead of apologizing by saying something simple like "Sorry, I'll just be a minute," she comes out with "Oh, it's okay, you can go around us."

Oh, may I? That's great, thank you ever so much. I was just wondering what to do when I came upon you and your spawn effectively blocking a third of the buffet line, thank heaven you helped clarify my options. My standing there was obviously just a result of confusion or overly polite manners, and not directly related to you being camped out in front of the five different varieties of eggs currently available this morning. Now that you've given me permission to simply go around you, I'll just be on my way to enjoy a breakfast of bacon and vegan sausage patties.

There is something misfiring in those regions of the brain dedicated to perceiving and understanding their surroundings. They and their children are simply "there," and it is merely up to the rest of the world to "go around them" and go about its business. But they and their children are not just "There." They are in the fucking way. They are blocking, impeding, obstructing, or otherwise preventing the rest of us from doing what we want or need to do. And on the surface there is nothing wrong with that. But when these parents fail to see or understand that they are in the way, that is when the system begins to crumble. That's when they start taking two-year-olds to the movies, or take their twin strollers and cargo bags full of wet naps and cheerios into the narrow aisles of shops because they want to browse the knickknacks with Cornelius and Escobar in tow, or spend fifteen minutes in front of you in the fast-food lane trying to convince little Janice to order something to eating instead of just ordering the kid a goddamn hamburger and making her eat it. Here's a tip, Mothers: if you still need to lock up cleaning supplies to prevent your child from poisoning itself, then they are too young to be making their own nutritional choices. Order the kid a happy meal and tell them to shut the fuck up and eat it. You and your children are not simply a part of the landscape, you are an obstacle, and the sooner you can least acknowledge that, the emotionally healthier we will all be.

Comma Chameleon

My new adviser just informed me that I use too many commas. Well, shit.
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Monday, September 9, 2013

9/9/13 - 101 Uses for a Living Severed Head

Aguste Rodin. The Severed Head of Saint John t...
Aguste Rodin. The Severed Head of Saint John the Baptist, ca 1887 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
With the beginning of the 21st Century nearly upon us, technological advancements in the medical field are rapidly reaching heights never before imagined. Previously ridiculed pulp science fiction novel impossibilities such as cloning and bionic limbs are now becoming modern-day reality.

One such advancement (although not one readily admitted to by the medical society) is the patented invention of a machine that now makes it possible to keep a human severed head alive indefinitely. The existence of this specific technology has been deemed both cruel and immoral by many groups, most of them arguing that not only is it a practically blasphemous application of medical life support, but that such a device would have no practical use.

To those that have scoffed at this idea, the members of The Mongoloid Moose Think Tank say FOOEY!!! There are numerous uses for such a medical advancement, and we will stop at no end to prove it!

So, in an attempt to squelch the complaints and protests put forth by these Frankenstein Destroyers, we submit this list of one hundred and one useful applications for a living severed head.

Note: Most of the following suggestions have been made under the assumption that the technology will become advanced enough so that the life support equipment will be eventually condensed into a 7" wide metal disk attached to the neck of the severed head.

1. Nifty Ashtray
2. Cool Fish Tank Decoration
3. Conversation Piece - Place it on your coffee table. Loads of fun!
4. Anti-Burglar Device
5. Christmas Tree Decoration
6. Jack-O-Lantern
7. Pooper Scooper
8. TV Antenna
9. Bedpost
10. Shoe Shiner - Polish not included.
11. Emergency Replacement For Broken Busts
12. Tie Rack
13. Dust Rag
14. Hand Puppet
15. Banister Knob
16. Q-Tip Dispenser
17. Candlestick
18. Sheet Music Holder
19. Post-Modern Drink Coaster - Not just a regular coaster!
20. Pencil Sharpener
21. Paperweight
22. Economy Night Light - Some assembly required.
23. Police Siren
24. Hood Ornament
25. Lawn Mower
26. Marital Aid - You figure it out.
27. Dust Rag
28. Pez Dispenser
29. Battering Ram - Actually, it would be more of an attachment.
30. Crib Mobile
31. Bicycle Horn
32. Ventriloquist Dummy
33. Hole Puncher
34. Bottle Opener
35. Attach to pole to unscrew out of reach light bulbs - I'm sure there's a name for it, but I don't know it.
36. Ice Cube Tray Monitor – Put back an empty tray, get bitten.
37. Stamp Moistener
38. Device for conducting controlled tests to see how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Lollie-Pop
39. Rape Whistle - Rape not included.
40. Pin Cushion
41. Cookie Cutter - Makes bite-size cookies.
42. Doctor's Specimen Container - They can't all be cute and pretty, now can they?
43. Blow Dryer - It takes a while.
44. Lawn Ornament
45. Door Stop
46. Primitive Blunt Weapon
47. Parking Meter
48. Wood Chipper
49. Oven Mitt
50. Bicycle Seat
51. Writer for Image Comics - 'Nuff Said!
52. Roach Motel
53. Mouse Trap
54. Book End
55. Jewelry Display
56. Soap Dish
57. Cheap alternative to Pet Parrot
58. Extra in Bluebeard Documentary
59. Pencil Holder
60. Paint Pallet
61. Horror Movie Prop
62. Co-Star on Baywatch
63. Eavesdropping Device
64. Chastity Belt - Back by popular demand!
65. Tooth Brush Holder
66. Poor Man's Mirror
67. Pool Toy
68. Drain Plug
69. Toilet Bowl Cleaner
70. Hat
71. Poor Man's Disguise Kit
72. Weather Vane - See also: Windsock.
73. Lightening Rod
74. Methane Gas Detector for sewer workers
75. Vice Grip Pliers
76. Baptism Practice Model
77. CPR Dummy
78. 9 Day Deodorant Pad
79. Change Purse
80. Q-Tip
81. Ice Cream Cone
82. Rear View Mirror Decoration
83. Vacuum Cleaner
84. Bathroom Attendant - You give him a quarter, take a mint... Come on, work with me!
85. Spare Horse Shoe
86. Lord Of The Flies - If you don't get it, you didn't finish High School
87. Desk Lamp
88. Poor Man's Mr. Potato Head
89. Maraca
90. Megaphone
91. Science Fair Project
92. Golf Tee
93. Lamp Post
94. Cannon Ball
95. Cool Medallion
96. Prop for St. John The Baptist play
97. Lassie stand-in
98. Spitball Sparring Partner
99. Third Base
100. Creepy Piñata
101. Hat Rack
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

8/20/13 - Exclamation Point!

Warning sign.
Warning sign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I really hate people who feel the need to mark their emails as High Importance. Not once have I ever received a High Importance email that was any more important than the countless other emails filling my inbox. That little red exclamation point sticking out like a sore thumb on my Outlook screen doesn't scream "Hurry, this is important!" Instead, it just sticks out like a big red middle finger and says to me, "Oh look, another self-important asshole who thinks their email holds greater precedence over anything else you might be receiving this morning. Also, they apparently don't trust you to read and respond to their email on your own, so have provided a handy visual aide to assist you in prioritizing your electronic correspondence. Best skip this one for now." Unless you're warning me of an impending meteor strike or have some lab results that are going to rock my world (in which case I would assume a phone call would be more direct and productive), just leave your little "Look at Me!" alert in your bag of email tricks. Dick.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

You Need to Shut Up. Now.

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris
The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
People irritate me.

I'm not proud of this. I don't wear it as a badge of honor in the way that others seem to with their religious beliefs or political convictions. But it can't be denied. People just have a tendency to annoy me.

It's not because they don't think like me. I know plenty of people who hold opposing viewpoints on a variety of subjects, and only a small percentage of them ever truly get on my nerves. They can think whatever they want. At least they're thinking.

Maybe that's what it is. These people, the ones who aggravate me on an almost primeval level, are the ones who just don't appear to be thinking. They'll argue to the contrary; they'll swear that they have thought things through, thought them out long and hard, before coming to think what they think.

They're lying.

They aren't think. They're mimicking. They're parroting. They're pretending to think by saying things they've heard other people say. Odds are, the people they are copying weren't thinking either. They just heard it from somewhere else. They might have added something there, but what they thought was a clever little twist on it. But they didn't think of it, either.

People don't think anymore. They join. They agree. They choose up sides and shout what sounds like thoughts and ideas that they know their side will agree with, because there is comfort, safety, security in numbers. So the scream and the shout, they snicker and they jibe, they cajole and they retort with smug, smarmy, sarcastic grins displaying their joy in feeling that they've imparted some great wisdom or knowledge that they have earned through some sort of mental process that they would like to believe is thinking. But they haven't earned anything. They haven't deduced or discovered an great truth, have not realized or understood something on an intrinsic level. There is no revelation, no epiphany, no grand illumination.

They're faking it.

They're pretending because it feels good to know something, but can be so hard to gain that knowledge through thinking. And it feels so good, and they fake it so well, that they begin to think that they actually know. They don't know. They just think they know.

And so they regurgitate platitudes and sayings and slogans and catch phrases, they cough them up and spit them in our faces because they think they sound clever, they think they sound smart, they feel, for once, that the know what they are talking about.

These people need to stop talking.

They need to stop posting, and commenting, and sharing. They need to stop cut-and-pasting their personalities and process the information that goes barreling through their heads for once. They need to stop chugging ideas and information like energy drinks and cheap beer, like dollar menu burgers and candy bars. They need to chew their information slowly, roll it around, experience the flavor, sample it slowly, and then, god willing, ingest it, absorb it, and convert it into a useful energy instead of vomiting it back up and attempting to feed it others like they were hungry birds seeking nourishment from their blackened, partially digested bile.

They are not feeding the masses with their precious wisdom. They are spewing reprocessed swill in an attempt to be noticed and acknowledged despite having nothing worth being recognized for.

They poison my air with every belch of false knowledge, sting my eyes and burn my throat with every rancid expulsion of what they attempt to pass off as their thoughts. They have no thoughts. The are empty vessels spilling waste, chattering bedpans unwilling to Try, yet desperate to Do.

Stop talking. Start thinking. Before it's too late for all of us.
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gay Boy Scout Quiz

Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scouts of America (Photo credit: FeeBeeDee)

Recently, the Boy Scouts of America has come under fire by pro-gay activist groups for not allowing openly gay individuals to participate in all of their Boy Scout fun and games. Their reaction to this growing pressure has been the gradual contemplation of removing these restrictions. This, of course, has caused them to come under fire by anti-gay activists for even thinking of letting gay people near weenie-roasts and tent-pitching. Because, you know, that shit's for straight people.

In an attempt to weakly rationalize any decision that they might make down the line, the BSA recently sent out a questionnaire asking Pack Leaders and Parents of Boy Scouts their feelings about how "acceptable" or "unacceptable" outdated bigotry is when it comes to club membership restrictions. Not willing to be left out of the conversation, I decided to way in on the survey myself, although with written answers in lieu of their Acceptability Range, which actually includes the choice "Neither Acceptable Nor Unacceptable." Nice choice, guys.

Anyway, here are "The Questions" as provided by Towleroad, along with answers as provided by yours truly.

1.       Bob is 15 years old, and the only openly gay Scout in a Boy Scout troop. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the troop leader to allow Bob to tent with a heterosexual boy on an overnight camping trip?

The answer to this questions depends on whether Bob is aggressively homosexual or merely passively gay, if the boy he is teamed up with is actually a closeted homosexual, and whether Bob reacted to the sleeping arrangements by repeatedly winking while making references to "Pitching a tent together."

2.       Tom started in the program as a Tiger Cub, and finished every requirement for the Eagle Scout Award at 16 years of age. At his board of review Tom reveals that he is gay. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the review board to deny his Eagle Scout award based on that admission?

Denying Tom his Eagle Scout award is only acceptable if his secret homosexuality somehow gave him an unfair advantage over other straight members of the Tiger Club (which, incidentally, sounds like a gay bar)when it came to completing his expected tasks. I've never been a member of the Boy Scouts, so for all I know, homosexuality could very well be a Performance Enhancing trait.

3.       Johnny, a first grade boy, has joined Tiger Cubs with his friends. Johnny’s friends and their parents unanimously nominate Johnny’s mom, who is known by them to be lesbian, to be the den leader. Johnny’s pack is chartered to a church where the doctrine of that faith does not teach that homosexuality is wrong. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for his mother to serve as a den leader for his Cub Scout den?

If Johnny's friends and their parents have no problem with a Lesbian Den Leader, but the church chartering their pack considers her a soulless deviant unworthy of such a position, maybe the better question should be why these people are members of that church in the first place. Also, are "pack" and "den" interchangeable? If not, how many packs can be in a den, or is it multiple dens per pack?

4.       A troop is chartered by an organization that does not believe homosexuality is wrong and allows gays to be ministers. The youth minister traditionally serves as the Scoutmaster for the troop. The congregation hires a youth minister who is gay. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for this youth minister to serve as the Scoutmaster?

Why is there a question in here with no conflict? The organization is gay-friendly, the congregation is gay-friendly, and the youth minister is gay, is it okay that the Scoutmaster is gay? What sense does this question make? Everybody likes ice cream. Is it okay that people eat ice cream?

5.       David, a Boy Scout, believes that homosexuality is wrong. His troop is chartered to a church where the doctrine of that faith also teaches that homosexuality is wrong. Steve, an openly gay youth, applies to be a member in the troop and is denied membership. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for this troop to deny Steve membership in their troop?

I think a more important question is why Steve would want to belong to a group funded by and populated with people who are predisposed to hate him, and what the hell does David have to do with anything in this question?

6.       A gay male troop leader, along with another adult leader, is taking a group of boys on a camping trip following the youth protection guidelines of two-deep leadership. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the gay adult leader to take adolescent boys on an overnight camping trip?

It should be fine as long as the gay male troop leader doesn't confuse "two-deep" leadership with "too-deep" leadership. Get it? That's an anal sex joke. Or an oral sex joke, depending which way you swing. Besides that, however, if "two-deep leadership" is meant to protect the youth, then wouldn't having the supposedly heterosexual adult leader (the question never specifies whether the other leader is straight or not) in tow prevent any gay shenanigans, or is it okay for the gay troop leader to sodomize the attending youth as long as the other troop leader is there to watch and make sure that he doesn't go "too-deep." Heh, I did it again.

7.       The current Boy Scouts of America requirements, stated above, prohibit open homosexuals from being Scouts or adult Scout leaders. To what extent do you support or oppose this requirement?

Can we just shorten this question to "Gays: Yea or Nay?"

8.       Different organizations that charter Boy Scout troops have different positions on the morality of homosexuality. Do you support or oppose allowing charter organizations to follow their own beliefs when selecting Boy Scout members and adult leaders, if that means there will be different standards from one organization to the next?

This raises an even better question: Is it wise for an organization, such as the BSA, to allow organizations without diametrically opposing moral standards to charter groups within the organization? For an organization so high and might about moral values, they sure do seem willing to whore themselves out to anybody willing to "charter" a group.

9.       What is your greatest concern if the policy remains in place and openly gay youth and adults are prohibited from joining Scouting?

Personally, none. I am neither gay nor a Boy Scout ( a fact for which both groups are most likely thankful), and am therefore not directly affected one way or the other, other than the fostering of the righteous indignation that I naturally feel against any organization that attempts to rationalize otherwise bigoted or socially ignorant restrictive policies.

10.   What is your greatest concern if the policy is changed to allow charter organizations to make their own decisions to admit openly gay Scouts and leaders?

That there will be one less thing to make fun of the Boy Scouts about.

11.   Do you believe the current policy prohibiting open homosexuals from being Scouts or adult Scout leaders is a core value of Scouting found in the Scout Oath and Law?

A better question might be, whether or not the policy is upheld by Scout Oath and Law, if that policy is right or wrong regardless. Again, for a group so big on morality, they do manage to avoid Right and Wrong altogether with their concerns over the "acceptable" and "unacceptable" nature of their policies. Are we concerned about morality here, or finding loopholes in club regulations?

12.   If the Boy Scouts of America makes a decision on this policy that disagrees with your own view, will you continue to participate in the Boy Scouts, or will you leave the organization?

In as much as I have up until now? Most definitely.

13.   How likely is it that you would recommend volunteering in the Scouting program to other friends or acquaintances?

Not very likely. But that's just me.

After having gone through the questionnaire, I felt that the scenarios and decisions offered by the BSA fell short in truly addressing the issue at hand. Therefore, I have taken the liberty of suggesting a few Additional Questions of my own:

1.       Raymond is openly homosexual, but a celibate pastor at the local Unitarian church. Archibald, on the other hand, is a vocally heterosexual father of three, but was recently caught masturbating to a Justin Bieber video. Both are applying for Troop Leader. Which one is better qualified to teach your children how to tie knots?

2.       Do you feel that allowing homosexuals into the Boy Scouts of America with positively or negatively impact the organization's goofy-ass uniforms?

3.       Rate the following items as either Not Gay, Kinda Gay, Definitely Gay, Very Gay, or Way Gay:
a.       Camping
b.      Nature
c.       Paisley
d.      Neckerchiefs
e.      Knee-High Shorts
f.        Accessorizing
g.       Badges
h.      Pitching Tents
i.         Stacking Wood
j.        Webelos
k.       Anal sex

4.       How Gay is Too Gay? Provide examples.

5.       Matthew is attracted to young boys because their lack of secondary sex characteristics makes them look more feminine. Does this make Matthew too gay to be a scout leader, or not gay enough to shun?

No need to thank me. Seriously, it's the least I could do.

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