Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Nuances of Hominid Grunts

A whole new lexicon has arisen over the past few years that has poached words that have, traditionally, been used as nouns.  Magically, and without consulting my high school English teacher, they've been made into "action" words: verbs.

A noun, "text," that describes an electronic message, has been morphed into a word to describe the creation and sending of that electronic text message. Lo and behold, it's become the grammatically-incorrect verb "texting."

I'm somewhat of a grammar hound even though I know I make mistakes from time to time.  If a grammar nazi, or my high school English teacher, read this blog they'd probably tear me apart for butchering my mother tongue on several occcasions.  Come to think of it, that last sentence was a little redundant.  One of my highly-esteemed high school teachers was the Joseph Goebbels of proper grammar, she was militant about similes, metaphors, and even the overwrought usage of hyperbole in many of the works we read in the 10th grade.  In her mind that damn Shakespeare was a little too flowery with his allusions about love and, I guess, Juliet's private parts.

But, this is my little electronic piece of real estate so I can bitch about what drives me nuts.  If you disagree, feel free to start your own blog.  Anyway, one of my biggest beefs with people who routinely slaughter our language is the misappropriation of "your" for "you're."

I cringe when I see friends on the internet who routinely use this aberration of a simple contraction.  It's not that difficult; if one wants to describe ownership of something, a simple y-o-u-r will suffice.  If you are talking about the collusion of two words into one--a contraction--you would get "you're." 

See?

Simple, right?  I could have even used two separate contractions in the above paragraph to illustrate my point.

My holy grail of grammatical abortions, however, is the fingernails-on-a-chalkboard, grating use of "seen" in a sentence.  I attended the same public schools as many of the people that use that hillbilly phrase in conversation and, even worse, in print.

"I seen that movie."

My teeth grind.

Really?  You'd think it would just look funny when it's written down. Right in front of you, plain as day and surrounded by neon arrows exclaiming how fucked up that misplaced word looks and sounds.

Whoa.  I'm getting way off track.  So, texting has become a big part of our lives, and I'm afraid that the word is here to stay.

Oh well.

The bigger one, the word that affects many of our lives, has become a passive-aggressive slap in the face.  In Tennessee, it was even responsible for the deaths of two innocent people, who dared to eliminate a woman on Facebook who was harassing this young couple, parents of an infant.

They dared to "defriend" a woman on Facebook who repeatedly posted offensive messages on their Facebook wall.  They removed and blocked the offending young lady from any further FB communications.

In a rage, her father and an accomplice came to their home and killed them both.

Talk about overreacting...

It seems that Facebook has offered passive-aggressive personalities an ultimate fuck-you in our social media age. 

Back in the old days, like 1998, if you had a problem with someone, it was customary to sit down with them and explain that they pissed you off for some reason or another.

Two rational people would talk things out, the egregious error that annoyed the offended party would be discussed, rationally, then a hug might follow and a promise to curb the offensive behavior would be given.

Both parties might leave the meeting smiling, happy that a resolution was worked out and the friendship could continue with a new level of understanding.

Today?

Not a freaking chance.

Click.

Delete.

An angry smile grows on the offended person's face; they found a way to tell you what an asshole you are without, really, having to actually tell you, ya know, face to face.  Or actually talk to you.

And two weeks later, as you troll around Facebook asking why you haven't seen any posts from Kelly or Joe, you realize that you've been a victim of a sideways fuck you.  Kind of like Julius Caesar wanting to stay in bed on March 15th, but realizing he had a lunch appointment with Brutus that he really wanted to cancel, but didn't want to disappoint his buddy.

You pull up the list of your Facebook friends and, much to your astonishment, a friend since the third grade is gone.  Unceremoniously.  Quietly.  With total abandon.

Et Tu, Brute?

And then you sit in a daze, wondering WTF you did to annoy the person with whom you thought you had a solid friendship?

But I guess defriending fits into this whole idea of "social" media.  I mean, really, aren't we becoming a society of stalkers and miscreants?  Text messaging, e-mails, and sites like Facebook and Twitter give us the ability to communicate in a whole new way, but most of it doesn't really require the actual experience of communicating, at least not in the classic way that most of us have been indoctrinated into since the first time we uttered a word or two in the general direction of our giddy parents. 

I had a buddy who, years ago, met a girl online in Kiev.  As in Eastern Europe. The Ukraine. They would communicate via instant messaging and e-mails, and he told me that they were "talking."  Hmmm.  Talking?  In my world "talking" is reserved for a face-to-face meeting or, at the very least, a telephone call.

He hopped on a plane and made the half-a-world-away journey to experience some Ex-Eastern Bloc hoohaw.  He sat in her Soviet-era apartment, watching bad European TV and desperately tried to "talk" to her.  Face to face.  The one little impediment in their attempt to make East meet West?  She spoke very little English.  He spoke zero Ukranian.  He thought their internet love affair could sustain a real-life meeting.  He came home a week later, pissed, horny, and miffed that he didn't sample any of that blond Russian caviar.

Anyway, we've shortened our language into a semaphore-based chit chat, abbreviating the contextual beauty of our language to a series of letters meant to parlay the gist of what we mean to the untethered party.  OMG and LOL pepper our thoughts and words(?) to the point where any meaningful communication is gone.  It's taken thousands of years to develop the nuances of hominid grunts, finally transforming them to a set of romance languages and less than a generation to reduce it all to a jumble of letters that resemble the shell of its former self.

It's the seminal march of progress, set to a tune of bits and bytes and sung by a hurried populace afraid to miss out on sixteen different conversations with sixteen different "friends" on three or four separate devices.  Yes, we're communicating more, but we're out of touch even more.  We "talk" from a relative perch of safety:  A basement man cave, a warm bed or the back seat of a taxi cab, all the while staring at a glowing screen while the rest of the world whizzes by us.

I don't know about you, but being told via a text that my friend is laughing out loud doesn't have the same impact as actually hearing a deep, hearty belly laugh, shared by two friends in deep conversation or at a comedy club, experiencing something worth seeing.

And not tweeted about an hour later.

It's okay to use sites like Facebook.  But never forget that they're meant to be a bead on our society, not to replace the "friends" that we have in our daily lives; the ones that want to laugh along with us or really see how our day is progressing.

And that seems to be the direction that our society is going: faceless, nameless, and, most especially, gutless.

But please don't defriend me if you disagree with me; I'm not too sure my avatar could put up with that type of rejection.

Virtually speaking, of course.



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Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Little Rainstorm

I've been called all kinds of things lately by people who, I guess, have a much greater bead on the pulse of America and how things really are in this topsy-turvy world.

My current monikers?

Godless.

Liberal.

Socialist.

Asshole.

Ignorant.

To a few of those assertions I'll cop, proudly. The rest? I'll just shake off without much thought and a recognition of where they're coming from.

Yep, I'm an atheist.  You may shudder at that proclamation but I believe it gives me a much more objective view of the world around me.  My perception isn't clouded by fairy tales, omnipotence, invisible beings, or magic underwear.  When faced with a situation I look for the rational answer and, for instance, a big boat filled with all kinds of animals (except for dinosaurs and unicorns, cuz they apparently missed the gangplank that day) is just fucking retarded.  It's a great story, all right.  I love it.

But I also love "Star Wars."

There are so many holes in Noah's story that it, um, holds no water.

If it rained for forty days and nights and the entire world was engulfed in a deluge, to where did all this water finally recede?  Scientists have looked at the issue with the water itself; they've calculated that it would take seven times more water than our entire planet contains to cover the Earth as it did in the Noah fable.  If you took every drop of water: both icy poles, every ocean, river, stream, creek, wrung them dry and then took every H2O molecule tied up in every animal, plant and iceberg you'd still need seven times more.

Using computer models, they "built" an ark based on the dimensions found in the Bible and, under several computer tests, found that serious stress fractures would have rendered a boat that big unusable.  Upon each computer model, the digital ark snapped in two.  I guess the men that edited the Bible didn't consider that people would someday be able to test the whole cubit thing.

From a practical perspective, think of the smell of thousands of animals defecating in a relatively enclosed shoebox-shaped boat.  The smell would be overpowering.  My two cats stank up their litterbox after a few days; sometimes the ammonia smell is enough to choke an army.  Noah's kids, the zookeepers, would have undoubtedly suffocated from the ongoing stench of ammonia and piss after forty or so days locked up in a watertight cage with precious few little windows to aerate all that elephant, camel and dormouse poo.

So, besides being a great story it's also 100% utter bullshit. Or maybe elephant shit.

If you can't see that, then...well. 

Sorry for you.

Until the early 1920s, most Americans realized both testaments were fables, allegories meant to impart some lesson to the reader and inspire a fear of God and religion into the average six year-old.

Since the 1980s a fundamentalism has arisen that is now ready to overtake not just our political system, but the future of this country itself.

So call me godless, ignorant, and, especially, a liberal.  I thank you for that.

How are my views so radical?  How are they deserving of such scorn from so many people who have a bit more than just a moderate intelligence, are college-educated, and have seen parts of this world bigger than their hometown?

I believe in certain truths that, once again, are backed by logic, rational thought and, funny enough, a bit of Old Testament wisdom.

Unlike many of the current GOP presidential hopefuls, I pretty much believe in the words that Moses supposedly brought down from Sinai. 

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery

Gingrich has had a hard time with the whole adultery thing, yet he wants to show voters how pious he is.  His relatively-recent conversion to Catholicism is, apparently, pennance enough for him.  Many Catholics that I know feel as if he'd make a very moral president.  He, who, publically admitted that he told his first wife she wasn't young or pretty enough to be a First Lady. 

So he divorced her. 

Sounds kinda Muslim-of-old, doesn't it?  I wonder if he said "I Divorce You" three times and then gave her father a payment of thirty sheep as a means of squaring his matrimonial debt.

The current crop of GOP politicians are tripping over each other to try and show off their conservative street cred; their sexual counter-revolution is picking up steam and is attempting to roll back Roe-v-Wade, among other important hot button social issues.  Both Oklahoma and Virginia's recently-passed legislation regarding abortion have become the nation's most restrictive abortion laws. 

Why?

What is "personhood?"  Does life begin at conception?  I suppose that's up to an individual to decide but these Machiavellian attempts to legislate morality is scary, to say the least.

I love how the GOP is backing several "personhood" amendments across the country.  They are adamant that these fetuses make it full-term yet are doing their damnedest to cut funding to daycare, education and welfare programs.

Oh, they sure as hell want your "baby" to be born but don't give a damn what happens to it once it pops out of that womb.

Their religion-fueled ideology makes no sense; they embrace life, but only at its inception.

George Carlin said it best a few years before his death:

"Pre-born?  You're okay.  Pre-school?  You're fucked."

Perfect summary of that whole debate, wouldn't you say?

I've been called a commie and, even worse by today's dialogue, a socialist.

I've ranted against these wars that have nearly bankrupted this country.  The senseless deaths of young servicepeople in a fight that makes little sense to me.

They call themselves "Christians," followers of Christ.  What part of Jesus' teachings, which they profess to represent, have they misinterpreted?  Even their beloved Ten Commandments begs them to not kill.  Unless, of course, it's in service of their god: Big Oil.

Thou Shalt Not Kill

Why did we go to Iraq?  What purpose did it serve?  Other than an Old-Testament-style, fire-and-brimstone ass whooping it didn't make sense.  Don't spout back the GOP rhetoric that we were there to bring freedom to the Iraqi people from a horrible dictator.  It was all bullshit; the drums of war beat incessantly until Bush's cronies got the war they wanted:  against the Constitution of this great country.  And I fear that we'll never recover from that.

God bless Halliburton.

Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me.

Unless, of course, it's profit.

Actions like "Citizens United" and other Supreme Court decisions have also violated a large part of what the Ten Commandments preached squarely against. 

Our rights are being systematically stripped away while corporations are being given the rights of a dubiously-named entitlement: personhood. 

It's kind of interesting that the title, "personhood" is being bestowed upon both an unborn, semi-living fetus and a faceless, non-living entity like Wal-Mart.  While they both now are considered "people," they also rely upon something else for their "life."  If the mother dies prior to a baby being born, then the fetus dies as well. 

If a company, like Borders Books or Circuit City, doesn't make any money than they too will die.

While these wars have stripped the very moral fiber from our 200+ year national mission statement, we rally for the ongoing investment in bombs and tanks and guns to kill the infidels.

Conversely, our president wants to invest in our failing infrastructure, in bridges, roads, and environmental projects, and is roundly called a socialist.  He wants to provide affordable medical care not to Iraqis or Afghans, but to fellow Americans, and he's been called, well, everything but what he should be called: a caring humanitarian. 

Isn't it a president's job to take care of his people?

How can affordable health care for all be a bad thing?

When contraception is made an issue in front of congress and a debate is called with witnesses to testify about the contraceptive needs of women--the birth control pill--how can every witness, over 300 of them, be men and men only?  Where is the women's view in this debate?  Besides being a means to control pregnancy, the "pill" also provides medical relief to women who have such a need.

When banks, deregulated under the aegis of the GOP, have caused the biggest economic meltdown since 1929 how come not one Wall Street executive has had to answer for their actions?

When unemployment has reached record numbers how come a Republican-controlled House has stymied every attempt for the president to get something done about it?

I'll tell you why:

Because they believe that you, the uninformed voter, is stupid enough to pay attention to their little bait-and-switch games; they're well aware that their policies have brought this country to the edge of ruin.

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor

They know that unemployment is out of control.

Do you remember their promise prior to the 2010 mid-terms?

Thou Shalt Not Lie

If elected, they promised to create jobs, curb unemployment and get America back to work.

Have they?

Of course not and, funny enough, many of the banks are still gouging homeowners and giving out billions of dollars of bonuses to their upper management.  Did you know that these banks gave out $144 billion in bonuses in 2011?  That's the second-highest figure for bonuses since 2000; the highest was in 2007.  And they told the government that the federally-stipulated punitive fine of $20-25 billion was too steep of a penalty, they wouldn't be able to weather the near future with a compensatory figure that high.

More than likely it would have put too big of a dent in next year's bonuses.

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Unless, of course, it's been a practice that banks have perfected while the Secretary of the Treasury and Congress look, all-too knowingly, the other way.

So while the GOP, on both a state and national level, rant about the unborn, a woman's right to use safe contraception, and the so-called "Attack on Christianity," they've been quietly dodging the real issues such as joblessness and their cronies' mortgage fiasco.

And most people have bought it.

Let's, for one moment, give them some credibility.

I think we should allow prayer in schools.  Really, you might say?  You, a devout atheist?

I would say as long as it's a policy of inclusion, sure, why not?

Let little Caleb and Morgan stop and say a daily prayer.  Let Samuel say his prayers in Hebrew as he rolls the Torah out on his desk. Let Rain go outside and burn incense to Mother Earth in a Wicca ritual.

But let's also let Mohammed roll out his little mat, three times a day, kneel eastward towards Mecca, and pray to Allah.

It's only fair, right?

Yet, Santorum, Perry, Gingrich, and every other GOP pundit would have a stroke over the attack on Christianity, disallowing the beliefs of anyone who isn't in favor of worshiping Jehovah.

They all claim to love this country; they tout the Constitution yet ignore most of it in their crusade against anyone of whom they don't approve.  They praise the Founding Fathers and Ayn Rand, without fully understanding most of their ideology.  However, they know that you and I don't really know much about Jefferson's feelings on religion.  Or Rand's view of marriage.


They rail against the tyranny of an oppressive Muslim regime.  Of Sharia Law.  Yet their contract with America is to impose their version of Sharia on a pluralistic society, composed of millions of people with differing and equal (in the eyes of our law) beliefs.

Gays, women, abortionists, women who have had or contemplated an abortion, men that have masturbated and wasted a baby; these are the targets of the GOP.  Their hate and scorn for what they don't like, and that's pretty much everyone who isn't them, has become part of their everyday dogma.

And each day it gets worse.  They attempt to show their flock who is the "true" conservative by saying more and more outlandish things.

Hateful things.

For if they were true Christians they wouldn't break the most sacred commandment to any Christian who truly believes in the Old Testament faith.

Thou Shalt Not Take The Name Of The Lord Thy God In Vain; For The Lord Will Not Hold Him Guiltless That Taketh His Name in Vain

And each of these candidates, attempting to make a name for themselves, invoke the Christian God's name in vain, daily.  They slander minorities, homosexuals, and women.  If God created every living thing on this planet, then isn't it wrong to persecute gays?  Aren't they God's creatures as well?  Don't they deserve to be loved, embraced, and respected as part of His plan?

For a political party that sure as hell wants the government to be a smaller, less intrusive, laissez-faire entity, they want to instruct every little bit of your personal life. With their narrow beliefs. 

Stay away from our money.  Stop taxing me.  We want small government, tiny enough to drown it in a bathtub.  But gay people can't be happy because they're defective, one of God's fuck-ups, like a platypus. 

Women? Hey, if you get raped the baby is both your assailant and God's gift to you; don't even think about an abortion. Oh, and if you somehow don't take that baby full-term due to some biological complication, we're thinking we want some proof that your miscarriage was "natural," because if it wasn't, you Godless whore, we may decide to bring you up on charges of murder.

I see through their thinly-disguised contempt.  I see how they're attempting to use your faith against you.  I see how they bring up hot-button social issues to disguise their crimes.

And, for that, I truly despise them.

They aren't patriotic, God-loving Americans.  They're liars and charlatans.  And, in an attempt to bring about their sort of fire-and-brimstone theocracy, will do and say anything to make it a reality.

They hate me.  I am a godless, liberal, socialist, ignorant asshole. 

Yep.

And I'm proud of that.

Because being a Christian Republican in this country, at this time in our history, is probably the worst thing that I can think of.

Much like the Noah's Ark fable, anyone who believes the GOP rhetoric as a viable alternative to progressive values is just as foolish a belief that twenty-nine thousand foot Mount Everest can be swallowed by a little rainstorm.

So you choose.

Are you one of their Chosen or someone who still has a grasp on the things that matter, like women's rights, gay rights, and the ability to decipher a path for this country that doesn't involve a wholesale disenfranchisement from reality?  We have real, pressing issues that need to be discussed in a meaningful, progressive bipartisan committee.  We need real (and reality-based) solutions to today's problems.  For example, global warming is a reality whether you want to accept it or not. 


The science backs up the conclusions, again and again.

Hundred thousand year-old ice is melting very rapidly.  A large part of the Larsen-B ice shelf in Antarctica, as big as Rhode Island, broke away from the continent a few years ago.   Greenland, covered in a gigantic sheet of ice, is becoming, finally, green as the ice melts away in a fashion never before experienced by humans in the history of our species.  Glacier National Park, in Montana, will need to be renamed in the next fifty years or so as the majority of its glaciers have disappeared over the last half century.

Yet, most GOP politicians ignore the facts.  They call it "garbage science" and refuse to believe the videos that show calving icebergs and rapidly-melting glaciers as utter nonsense, a figment of crazy climatologists' imaginations.  While most scientists around the world have signed off on this crisis as a reality, a ticking timebomb that will have grave consequences for the human race if allowed to continue without further regulation to curb our impact on the planet, the GOP has ignored the data in favor of something else that is significantly more real to them:  a series of routinely-edited two-to-three thousand year-old fables that may or may not have actually happened.

If we keep ignoring the facts that have been presented to us we may become keenly aware of an Old Testament reality within a hundred years..

It may not be enough of a deluge to cover Mount Everest, but I'll bet that Congress, like most of Washington and the rest of the world's low-lying areas, will be underwater.

And then perhaps, finally, Republicans will rejoice as they will have experienced a religious epiphany, right out of Genesis itself.

Isn't that what their final goal is anyway?




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