Archive for the ‘Excuses’ Category

Is Pre-trial Labor Slavery?

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Lawsuit over solitary vs. work detail stirs a 13th Amendment debate

Hard day at the office_WHere Excuses Go to DieIs pre-trial labor slavery?

Not every detention facility relies on the same frontline custody policies, but the fact is, most pre-trial prisoners are allowed to choose between a daily work assignment and remaining confined to their dorm units or cells.

Before we dive in, let’s take a look at what, for some, is merely semantics. For others, though, the distinction couldn’t be more important. See, you’re a “prisoner” until you’ve been sent to a genuine penal facility, at which point you’re given an “inmate” number. Once you’re on a full blown prison yard, you strive to graduate to “convict” and leave the inmate label behind.

Likewise, “jail” and “prison” are not the same. Jail custody is similar to an airplane circling a runway ’til it’s permitted to land. Jail is where one goes to await trial, pause between court appearances, get convicted and sentenced in the first place, then finally transferred to state or federal custody — i.e., prison.

Jail life, though, is often more harsh, because prisoners are transitory and often mistake jail for the big house themselves. Prisoners fear that not making a name for themselves right away is a dangerous mistake, so guys get beaten up a lot in jail. What many prisoners don’t realize is that they’ll have to reestablish their reputations as soon as a new busload replaces those they “taught” to respect them.

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Morality in the Morning

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Are we more dependable and trustworthy at breakfast than at dinner?

The Morning Morality Effect_Psychological Science January 2014Are you tired of your account managers giving you the runaround about their weekly TPS reports? Try moving your meetings with them to the a.m.! According to a just-released study from the Association for Psychological Science (APS), straight answers are more likely in the morning than in the afternoon.

The APS study proposes that the rigors of everyday living erode our capacity to resist lying and cheating, using four experiments to substantiate what researchers call the “morning morality effect.” The morning morality effect basically means that, by the end of the day, our ability to process moral decisions and maintain self-control is about as effective as an empty can of air freshener.

The study also found that people with a greater innate propensity for theft, murder, and bullshit are influenced by the morning morality effect to a greater degree than those with a naturally heightened sense of moral awareness. In other words, unless you’re a codependent fixer, the colleagues you likely already avoid will get even worse toward quittin’ time, while the steadfast goody-goodies will be more likely to resist the temptation to act on their amoral thoughts.

(Still, ever notice how impatient the sanctimonious types can become by the end of the day? Sounds to me like the APS is sayin’ that, come four o’clock, even the cloyingly self-righteous can’t help plotting to kill their rich uncles.)

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Why I Hate the Word “Nigger”

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

THE N-WORD_Where Excuses Go to DieI hate the word “nigger” because of what it reveals about its user.

Blue, Black, White, or Brown – you’re lazy.

How’s that, you ask?

Well for one, what have you, the N-word user, attempted to learn about the volatile word? ‘Cause it’s a shape-shifter: one that can be used rightly and wrongly, ironically and seriously, congenially and maliciously, of necessity for the sake of realism and impishly for the sake of comedy.* Do you know its etymology? Have you taken the time to read any Richard Wright or August Wilson? Who were the Little Rock Nine? Do you know why Malcolm X and Richard Pryor swore off using it?

It doesn’t matter. And regardless of who you are, you weren’t born with the right to use the word, so don’t even go there. You have a choice. If you want to debate whether or not cultural perspective should govern its meaning, you’d better find out more than what you heard someone say, sing, shout, or slur.

I hate the word because it whispers its right to be among us, forcing users to make excuses for it. It’s a chunk of broken cement that has, for too many people, disguised itself as a Fabergé egg. Which people, you ask? As Clarence Major wrote in his Dictionary of Afro-American Slang (1970), “persons insufficiently attuned to the volatility of this singularly complex and dangerous word.”

Having been to prison and, therefore, temporarily disqualified from societal participation, you might think my learning was limited to how to survive and/or how to become a better criminal, not unlike the claim that college merely teaches one to be a better student. While there may be a basis in reality for both assertions, prison wasn’t a School of Crimethink for me: it was an ungodly wake-up call. And since the phrase “wake-up call” is grossly overused, I’ll go a little deeper.

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FILE UNDER: Cosmetic Surgery Martyrdom

Friday, February 28th, 2014

The Narcissist Richter Scale doesn’t measure this far off the chart

Blondie Bennet Pic via TwitterBlondie Bennett, a long-obsessed Barbie weirdo from California, is using online hypnotherapy lessons to reduce what she’s being told is her IQ level in hopes of becoming less human, more doll-like, and –if it’s an option– “completely plastic.” She reports she’s “super happy” and that the sessions must be working since she’s becoming “forgetful and brainless.”

These sessions follow body alterations, facial do-overs, and breast enlargement surgeries that rival Lexus dealership up-sells. Bennett wears footwear made for a mule deer and her applied tan looks just like the one Mattel sprays on its signature toy.

She says she’s pleased to be achieving her goal (never mind that doing so may pose future challenges, like forgetting not to brush her teeth with gasoline; her online sugar daddies look out for her). The unemployed Bennett’s many procedures are funded in exchange for one-on-one time (yeesh), webcam antics, surgery footage, and pictures of Bennett wearing Barbie-inspired garments.

But don’t worry, Blondie doesn’t feel exploited. She told an interviewer, “When people ask why I want to be Barbie, I think, ‘Who wouldn’t want to be?’ She has the best life. All she does is shop and make herself look pretty. She doesn’t worry about anything.”

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Wherein I Attack the Word “Blessed”

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Excessive use has reduced the word to a good-for-nothing air kiss.

CHIMP BLESSED WITH HUMAN BRAIN_Where Excuses Go to DieI’m blessed, you’re blessed, she’s blessed, those kids are blessed, the Seattle Seahawks are blessed, blessed-blessed-blessed!  Since when did so many people start benefitting from divine intervention? When did “luck” morph into into a Vatican Press Office buzzword? Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly fine to cram the annoyance of an entire Christmas letter into a single word, but could you do it with this one a little less often?

And while we’re at it, for the love of all things peaceful and plain, don’t ever throw it at me as a projection of good things to come. Don’t use “Blessings!” as a goodbye salutation. Nothing makes you sound less employable.

Yeah yeah, it’s just terrific as hell that gratitude has gotten fashionable, but isn’t gratitude supposed to be shown, rather than flaunted? We’re supposed to give thanks, not blab thanks.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present without giving it – yes, I have heard that one. But while some small dogs are cute, the ones that bark  in order to be paid attention to are more or less the worst creatures on earth. And way too many people use the word “blessed” as an excuse to announce bark their personal status. (more…)

Jail Was Easier than Feeding My Grandmother

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

At 94, growing her hair long is the extent of her personal choice.

Photo by Alexander KleppestoIt was just an ice cream sandwich, placed in a bowl and broken up after it had thawed some. My mom had handed it to me, saying as she picked up a magazine, “Here, give your grandmother her dessert. Help your grandmother.”

She deserved the five-minute break; she’d been sitting next to her mother for the past 37 hours. Neither of my parents has left her side in years, whereas my brothers and I have the luxury of going wherever life takes those who aren’t trapped.

When I arrived I found my grandmother and my mom in a very nice hospital room. The staff was largely Catholic-Hispanic, so I knew both felt comfortable and free to exaggerate to their heart’s content. The large window perfectly framed the setting sun, and you couldn’t ask for a better time to look out at it. Which was all I wanted to do.

But my mom had put me on the spot by handing me that bowl. I resented her for it because I’m a selfish person first and an empathetic one second, plus I’d become aware of dueling feelings that had arisen within me. I felt both unworthy of and above this task. I was afraid of an up close look at what age had done to my grandmother, and while I wanted to believe this was normal, my brain defended that fear with pride and conceit. (more…)

L.A. Sheriff Baca Steps Down

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

You can’t run for reelection when you’ve been indicted by the Feds.

He was the most powerful elected official in Southern California.
His jail was compared to Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq.
He was called “deliberately indifferent” to civil rights abuses and corruption among his deputies.
He saw controversy and criticism as opportunities.
He compared his job to missionary work.
What a surprise.

3000_Baca_Photo by Grant Slater–KPCCI once came across what I thought was a dead or dying 50-something Asian man in the 3000 block of the Men’s Central Jail. He was lying with his head between an open cell’s steel toilet bowl and the concrete wall. This last cell in the row had been left open for those of us housed on the tier because of overcrowding. The old man was there for two days; others used the bowl around him and on him. Someone should’ve been told, but not an eyebrow had been raised by the other inmates, so I was afraid to speak up.

These units at MCJ are referred to as modules, and their ground floor walkways –still very much in use– have been dubbed “The Freeway.” That was just about the worst place an arrogant fuck-up like me could imagine, and I was there to stay. One afternoon, from outside that open cell, I heard someone yelling angrily because the man was in their way, and I was torn up in ways I’ve never felt. So I walked up to the module’s sally port cage door, got the attention of a Sheriff’s deputy, and told him the old guy needed to be dragged out of there. I got waved off and told to get lost. (more…)

Dumping Toxic People vs. Loser Management

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Dumping all the so-called “toxic” people in your life is an excuse.

TOXIC PEOPLE_THE FINAL SOLUTION_Where Excuses Go to DieIn line for coffee the other day I overheard a woman urging her two companions to rid themselves of all the “toxic” people in their lives. It sounded like a New Year’s resolution conversation had collided with an annoying friend story, but who knows and who cares?

She was off and running, listing relatively intimate evidence that proved a certain friend was a “guilt trip assassin.” This person had to go, she reasoned. And the relief and freedom she’d soon be experiencing by taking action would no doubt be something her two companions would want to get in on. Of this she sounded sure, if vulnerably so.

Now, maybe it was the hand gestures, the loud-talking, or the sequined fedora, but this young lady sounded like a mosquito in my ear canal. Following a life-coach testimonial with gossip as your example of why Friend X should be dismissed only demonstrates your poor coping skills.

Get rid of the toxic people in your life? What, you have a list? And you’re gonna push the button on all of ’em? Have any idea how much demented resolve that takes? I’ve seen it done on prison yards, but never in coffee shops.

Besides, what monsters are we talking about? Psychic hostages? Emotional cripples? Abusers? Followers? Manipulators? Martyrs? Excluders? Stalkers? Downers? Demanders?

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Making Better Bad Decisions

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

There are many excuses for failed NYE resolutions. These are mine.

HEALTHY CHEAP FOAM WHOLESALE YOU BUY NOWResolution: Get more rest. I can’t afford a Tempur-Pedic® TEMPUR-Topper (but why so stupid a name?), which would make spending eight hours on my bed much easier, but in the face of a 2007 study by British psychologist Richard Wiseman, this excuse falls short. A tired brain is more susceptible to temptation, Wiseman found, making the value of a night’s rest a serious priority with regards to willpower. Problem is, willpower and one’s ability to control impulses are located in the prefrontal cortex, just behind the forehead, and I’ve bashed that in enough to qualify for some of that NFL money. The “better bad decision”? Hello! Discount foam!

1958 Borg Home Bathroom Scale.jpgResolution: Lose weight. I need to lose about 15 pounds, but with everything I’ve learned about myself and the (same) 15 pounds I needed to lose last year, hell, I’m going into this with such an advantage that I might not even have to modify my food choices. But just in case, I’ve got a fallback position. It’s a “better bad decision” to eat a few dozen less of the things I love, so I’ll just buy ’em every other time I’m at the grocery store. Lesson learned: self awareness isn’t enough. (more…)

How Head Lice Saved My Christmas

Friday, December 27th, 2013

When help arrived this far-gone family’s mental resources were DONE

HOLIDAYS ON LICE_Where Excuses Go to DieAnd when I say “done,” I mean that arguing and shrieking could be heard from the driveway. Anna, the specialist who’d soon be knocking on their front door, had been given detailed instructions and a description of the wits’ end she’d have to deal with. Slowing for the address, Anna pictured having to talk her way past a police perimeter or finding the family of seven tossing its furniture into a bonfire on the lawn. These were panicked people.

Not one of them knew which had been child zero, the one to bring the louse home. They only knew that dad couldn’t go to work; the kids had been removed from school; and no one had so much as put on a sock in four days. They all wore towels, the only cloth they believed wasn’t contaminated. Each was driving the others nuts with complaints and tantrums – let alone living the misconceptions of their predicament.

When the 14-year-old shaved parts of her head with the wailing martyrdom of St Ludmila of Bohemia, mom finally called a head lice removal service. Where she’d once been too proud to dial Hair Whisperers, Lice Lifters, The Lice Squad, and especially an outfit called Lice Schmice, at this point she’d been reduced to begging. (more…)