Archive for October, 2013

Life’s Simpler Things: Salvation or Swindle?

Monday, October 28th, 2013

We all have excuses for ignoring the simple things. Here are mine:

Simplicities_Salvation or Swindle__Where Excuses Go to Die

Here’s part one of an ongoing series in which our rationale for taking life’s simplicities for granted are admitted to – and mocked.

Sometimes, stopping to smell the roses is boring.

Let’s face it, some of life’s simpler things are real snooze-fests. Take nature watching, for example, or going for a walk. I’ve never been one to just up and stroll around aimlessly. I mean, I enjoy walking, but it makes a lot more sense to me when there’s a destination. Also, I like to look like I have a destination. It’s all good to get into your head, appreciate your surroundings, sit on a bench, or listen to birds, but I’d rather get something out of it, like the clarity needed to make hard decisions or work through tough problems. Call me tightly wound, but a mental payoff is required.

In the rare times I find myself walking on a beach, I always pick a point and head toward it. That way, on the return trip, I can at least relish a building sense of accomplishment and follow-through. I don’t need to stop and smell every rose or stand in awe beneath every majestic tree. I’m walkin’ here: they aren’t exactly whizzing by.


Breaking the Narcissist Richter Scale

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Goofing on cosmetic surgery martyrdom and Justin Bieber’s toolface

Narcissist-Richter-Scale_Where Excuses Go to DieIf I look like Justin Bieber, I’ll live like Justin Bieber, goes the thinking of a sick, dumb animal.

When humans are psychologically backed against a wall, they often do silly things reminiscent of the crazed stumble of mad cow disease. Narcissism is like mad cow, in that infected animals’ brains and spinal cords get wonky after eating too much of themselves. 

At 33 years-old, “songwriter” Toby Sheldon is one such sick, dumb animal, thanks to his diseased missteps in pursuing the surgeried  likeness of Justin Bieber’s pout. He may not have succeeded in turning his mug into a copy of The Bieber’s, but he has broken the Narcissist Richter Scale and become this month’s poster boy for GET CHARACTER OR BECOME ONE.

DUMBASS AND DUMBERASS_Where Excuses Go to DiePerhaps it’s unfair for me to pick on one of God’s mixed up creatures, one whose likely next move is stumbling in a circle until it dies. But God commanded me to write this blog, and I can’t be blamed for self-poisoning narcissists who shudder, shake, and stagger madly before my oncoming truck.

Maybe the rule of thumb should be that, if you’re such a delusional cosmetic surgery pigeon that becoming a laughing stock is a minor consequence, you should be entitled to special insurance coverage or perhaps your own island residency. I favor the island, a zero-liability  environment where you can immolate yourself with a can of gas, invent a chainsaw radio, or stagger delusionally off a cliff, all free from the legal or social judgments of others.


A False Image of Solid Parenting

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Taking responsibility for your children doesn’t work in silhouette

Notes from a Non-parent 8After 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick threw herself off an abandoned concrete silo tower last month, her friends and schoolmates came forward in droves to tell police she’d essentially been bullied to death. Guadalupe Shaw, 14, and another girl (aged 12) were charged with felony aggravated stalking after Shaw posted a new message stating in no uncertain terms that she couldn’t care less that her cruelty had resulted in the girl’s death. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd reacted to that arrogance swiftly. He has since been adamant in his intent to jail the two minors, and he’s not staying silent on the responsibility their parents should bear, either (“I’m aggravated that [they] aren’t doing what parents should…Responsible parents take disciplinary action”).

I won’t get into the particulars of the backstory since, for instance, the intimidating coercion by Shaw of one of Rebecca’s friends to join in the bullying is all over the Internet. But I will note that an examination of Rebecca’s computer revealed search queries for “What is overweight for a 13-year-old girl?” “How to get blades out of razors,” and “How many over-the-counter drugs do you take to die?” That’s a kicker that feels like it just hit your chest.


The Cellblock on Sesame Street

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Today, even Sesame Street intersects with Incarceration Boulevard.

New Character Alex on Sesame StreetThe most important thing you can learn from Alex, a new Sesame Street character with an incarcerated dad, is that he exists. While he’s not yet a regular on the show, Alex is out there on the Internet, interacting with your children via the “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration” initiative, an online tool kit designed to help kids aged 3-8 deal with having parents in custody.

To some, that might sound a little scary. But fear not, Helicopters, there’s safety in numbers. One of every 28 children in the United States has a parent in prison, so Alex has a lot of friends, some of whom are already interacting with your child in real life.

WheresMom_TulsaPeopleThis is what makes Sesame Street so special, because it traditionally tackles issues head-on, literally at the 3-foot level. Because parents can’t always be there.

The show’s producers and writers (and by extension, sponsors) often address the questions children ask about a variety of subjects that confuse, confound, and anger us grownups. This time, the topic at hand is incarceration – and the reality that 2.7 million U.S. children have a mom or a dad in prison. Alex is Sesame Street’s answer to the soaring numbers of kids in America who have questions about what it means to be quarantined from the rest of society. “Coming from a Muppet, it’s almost another child telling their story to the children,” Jeanette Betancourt, vice president of outreach and educational practices at the Sesame Workshop, told NBC’s Today.

Criminal detention and life behind bars is about as dark a subject as you could ever cover with a child. I’m not a parent, so I’ve never had that conversation, but I’ve witnessed and overheard hundreds.

In visiting rooms at the various prison facilities in which I was housed during my four-year tour, it was hard to pull my eyes from the interactions between incarcerated fathers and their children. (And to say it’s not polite to stare in prison is a deadly understatement, believe me.) I witnessed everything from familiar representations of guilt, phony-baloney contrition, overwhelming love, and genuine pride to awkward reverence and equal opportunity resentment.

Much of this extends well beyond the individual child-parent bond. There are caretakers, aunts and uncles, older and younger brothers, and so forth, all of whom have an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed, who have questions that need attention from the best person to answer them: the one who doesn’t get to leave.

So bravo! Sesame Street, for showing adults how urgently we need to start educating our children  –and ourselves–  about the effects of mass incarceration. It’s a problem that won’t likely be going away any time soon.




The Feast and the Furious

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Slower fast food drive-thru times may indicate less of a shit given

DRIVE-THRU_Where Excuses Go to DieWith the furious pace of America’s dumbing down, de-skilling, and low-waging, it’s no surprise that drive-thru speed of service is suffering. Yet after catching sight of a pedestrian nursing a chocolate shake, his facial expression as blank as a feeding infant’s, it suddenly becomes critical that I not have to wait too long for my own. The notion now planted, the countdown from image to intake shouldn’t be longer than six minutes, and two have been annoyingly consumed by the two block drive.

YOU SHUT YOUR FACE - WE PAY YOU IN PEANUTSWhen I finally reach the drive-thru, I’m certain that anything beyond four more minutes would be un-American. So the foreign-American up there pulling various levers and pushing little buttons is just going to have to snap it up. But wait! That’s not a compliant brown person at the window: it’s an uppity white kid! What’s he doing here? Oh, right, he’s one of those college grads pushing lower-skilled workers and immigrants even further down the occupational staircase.

No wonder my Jalapeno Chicken Squeezer isn’t already running down my neck-slide! The chow line is slow ’cause Hamilton just doesn’t care. And he’s not some trophy-collecting, millennial foot-dragger, either: he’s as boxed in as the fast food coworkers with whom he stood last month, demanding a bump in the $7.25 federal minimum wage. (more…)