Friday, December 26, 2008

F.F.F. - Midget Wrestling Part 2

I feel compelled to say, the only thing I wanted more than anything for Christmas I got. Lakers over Celtics on Christmas day couldn't be any sweeter. Oh, and the only thing I have to add to Encina's tribute to Phil is, "Phil, wherever you are, I hope you enjoyed last night's game."

I didn't know Phil at all other than as the guy who watched over LG like one of his children. But as a loyalist to the best Lakers site on the net, I appreciate all he did for the sake of us silly fans.

Now for the second half of my short fiction piece (I'm sure you've all been counting the days since I left off with last weeks cliff-hanger).

Midget Wrestling Part 2

In my new job, I’m required to travel. Not that travel is the main focus, I’m actually nothing more than a glorified messenger boy, but it’s something they mentioned when they hired me, and desperate for whatever kind of decent work I could find, I didn’t think twice about it. Part of me has reservations about this, but another part of me is totally looking forward to the time I get to spend on the road. It’s a pretty sweet set-up actually; company car, company credit card, a few specific tasks to accomplish, which at first glance don’t seem too terribly challenging.

I search my inner feelings, something I’ve been working on lately, to see if I can figure out where any hesitations I might have regarding this are coming from. It doesn’t take long before I follow the trail, which, of course, leads back to Jade.

The big question, though, is what part of my relationship would make me feel this way?

I start to answer with the obvious. I worry that something will happen to her while I’m gone, or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe she’ll worry about something happening to me while I’m on the road. Maybe she’ll get upset that I’m off having a good time without her, despite the fact that making the trip is my job, and nothing more.

I really should know better. There’s nothing obvious about our relationship.

The old man and I — now there was an obvious relationship. It was obvious I hated him and just as obvious he wished I were someone different.

When we hit the road back in 1965 and headed to Georgia, the chill developing inside the ’62 Ford wagon had nothing to do with it being winter. In fact, I’m sure I remember the weather being unseasonably warm, although after so many years, I couldn’t swear to it. The old man, however, was swearing up a storm.

“That fucking bitch of a mother of yours is giving me so much shit I can’t hardly fucking believe it,” he said, quite pleased with his ability to alienate his wife and force me into one of his crazy ventures all in one single act of madness.

Six hours into the trip I decided I could stand it no more. Collecting my pee in an old orange juice bottle and eating sunflower seeds to stave off starvation wasn’t much my idea of an adventure. The scenery from the highway was nondescript and uninteresting, and the occasional radio stations we could pick up were dominated by the old man’s affection for bad country music.

“There’s a Waffle House, Dad. Can’t we stop and get something decent to eat?”

I have to add here, that back then I had no hesitations eating at an establishment willing to name itself after a popular breakfast food.

“Think I’m fucking made out of money? Look, I got just enough to pay for motel rooms and gas. We eat what I brought in that bag back there.”

I looked in the paper grocery bag and saw a case of PBR.

“Not that one, the duffel on the seat behind you. Climb on back and grab me a Hershey’s, will you?”

Like he needed more caffeine and sugar in his system. The old man already looked like he was about to explode. Where would that leave me, I wondered, if he dropped dead from a stroke or a heart attack.

Jade’s packing up stuff for me to take on the trip I’m making for work. My assignment is to pick up a package in Tempe, then stop overnight in Santa Fe to meet with someone named James. With the major credit card my new boss handed me, I can pretty much stay at any hotel I want, so I choose The Hacienda at Hotel Santa Fe, where I used to work. I’ve had dreams about this — being a guest at the very place I once played host. Now I can be the one that’s waited on, although I swore to myself that if ever the opportunity arose, I wouldn’t be one of those pain in the ass types who seemed to thrill at the idea of having someone fall all over themselves just for the prospect of a lousy tip.

At the motels the old man and I stayed at on our trip back in ’65, tipping or not tipping the hired help didn’t come into play as an option. Apparently desk clerks at these establishments, the ones that aren’t listed in the AAA tourbooks, were less inclined to provide customer service than they were to afford the underage locals a place to party. Not that the old man minded any. His idea of luxury accommodations went about as far as a magic fingers box on the bed that actually didn’t steal your quarters.

As for inappropriate noises coming from the other rooms, that was pretty much taken care of in the same way as anything else that might have cast a cloud over his parade — beer.

I tried it. I didn’t like it. But I did find its effects worth suffering through the bitter aftertaste and a brief bout of puking. It gave me courage. It gave me inhibition. I saw God.

It also gave me the ability to tell my father, the man instrumental in giving me life, the man who might have loved me despite his actions to the contrary, the man who had just spent the better part of a day trapped in a car with a 12-year-old driving across three states all in the name of midget wrestling, to fuck off.

He just sat there, on the bed with the magic fingers, and stared at me.

I would have rather he hit me, or yelled at me, or packed up the car and just left me there to fend off the drug dealers and prostitutes on my own. Instead he sat and stared. Then he laughed. Then he threw me another beer.
I’d never hated him more.

Finally he spoke. “You know, son, I’ve never loved you more. Tomorrow I’m going to get to see one of the greatest spectacles in professional sports, and when that moment comes, there’s no one I’d rather have with me than you.”

Jade told me once, as we were getting ready to go out drinking with some of her artist friends, how happy she was that I was with her. That was before the fight we had later that night, probably the result of too many drinks and an encounter with her pompous ass of an ex-boyfriend.

I decide that I don’t want to leave her, even if it’s just for a weekend. “Why don’t you come with me?” I ask her.

“Are you sure?” she replied. “Nothing personal, but I was sort of looking forward to getting some things done I never seem to have time for.”

I’m speechless. How is it my fault she can’t get anything done while I’m around? “That’s fine,” I finally say, not finding the same type of bravado I had shown the old man all those years ago.

I wonder where the midgets are going to be this weekend.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

From Far Away

I share a common bond with the other contributors of this site: I am a Lakers' junkie. I am such a fan that I frequent a site that caters to people like me, people with a healthy obsession of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers. I am not from Los Angeles, I have never been to California. But for whatever reason I have always been an LA Lakers' fan, and damn proud of it.

Over time, my obsession grew, and I had to find new sources for feeding my addiction. I would go to the LA Times' Web site for any Lakers' news. I'd go on to ESPN to hear any Lakers' rumors. I began looking at NBA-only sites that had even more information. I even wanted to know what other Lakers' fans were thinking, so I found a message board designed by and for Lakers' fans. Like many people there, I read over for a while the messages and news that they were privy to. I hid in the shadows wondering who these people were that they knew so much. Eventually, I joined and began posting on my own, responses to other people, starting my own threads, getting to know some of the other posters. There were some posters I really liked, others I avoided, many others I never knew existed.

Over time, even on an impersonal foundation such as the Internet, it is possible to build relationships with people you have never met or may never ever meet. Such is the life of a 21st Century denizen. Getting to know someone else's words and feelings, you get to feel as though you know that person. But with so many hundreds or thousands of people on any particular site, is it possible to really know anyone? What would you call it, e-meet someone? Can they be called 'friends'? 'Acquaintances'? What would we call them? Should we even refer to them at all?

I did begin liking certain people on the site. Maybe I became a fan of theirs. Their humor, their intellect, their vast knowledge of many topics drew me to them. If we met in real life, I am certain I might call some of them 'friend.'

In the time I was at this site, changes took place in the management. A regular poster I had seen occasionally bought the site and implemented changes. He was a driving force for making the site more stable, faster, more enjoyable. He and I even worked some to start an offshoot site. Through it all, he was always the nicest gentleman I could ever "meet." He was kind, always saying words that made a person feel good about themselves. We would send messages to each other, and he'd always say how much he thought of me as a regular contributor to the sites we both frequented. His words were genuine, as was the man.

In the past year, the man I knew as 'Phil' spent less time on the site and would need to take a leave because of prior engagements. As a result of his coming schedule, he sold the site to someone who could oversee it day-to-day, more than he could. However, the changes he made remained, and made the site the best for any Lakers' fan.

The past few days have been hectic for me. With the coming Christmas season, preparing to celebrate with family, traveling, end of year organizing at work, I had less time to visit the Lakers' site. It had been several days since last I checked the site, but today I decided to hop on and see how my Internet pals were doing.

That is when I saw a thread that caught my eye, an announcement of sad news. The site had lost one of its members, but who? I clicked to see who it was, and then my heart dropped. Some unseen force managed to find me at work and punch me in the stomach. Phil Allen, the man I knew as 'Phil,' had been in a car accident in the days I was away, and soon after lost his life. Comments poured in from members who paid their condolences and said some words about the man.

It's bizarre that this man whom I didn't know at all, I began to learn about in death. His name, for example, his occupation, his interests. The time he left was due to his involvement in national politics and his work on behalf of president-elect Obama. He was very knowledgeable about Joshua Tree National Park. He was as nice to others as he was to me, showing what a tremendous man he really was.

No, what a tremendous man he really is. His actions and words still carry weight, still affect those who remain. You cannot take that away from any person, and thus, you can never kill them off.

Phil, though we only e-met each other, I consider you a friend. I will not e-miss you, I will miss you truly. I asked earlier what we would call someone you only knew online? I'd call them a friend.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Flash fiction Friday - Midget Wrestling - Part One

First off, thanks guys for indulging me by allowing me to post my rambling works of fiction here.

Secondly, this piece sort of took off on me and, while I'm not much of a short story writer, it has already grown out of the flash fiction genre. So much so that I'm going to post this in two parts. Oh, and any similarities between the characters here and real life are, as they say, purely coincidental. I'd also like to add, that this is pretty rough still.

Stayed tuned. Hope you enjoy it.

Midget Wrestling

When it comes to professional wrestling, for my money it’s midget or nothing. At least that’s what my old man always used to say. Probably one of the only things in life we ever agreed on.

Jade, my “life mate” is home now, working on her art, and not talking. Not that she’s intentionally not talking. For everything that’s not said between us many more things are. But there’s something hanging in the air one can feel. We haven’t been communicating much lately--days now--mostly because I had this premonition that I would be doing something stupid in the near future to trash our relationship. Since then it’s been nothing but pleasantries between us. You know, “What do you want for dinner?” or “Is it okay with you if I play the piano?” That kind of stuff.

Then in the midst of all this silence, right out of the blue, I start thinking about the old man. We haven’t talked for months, since his birthday, when I called, not to wish him well, but because I had just gotten a new job I wanted to tell him about. Of course, when Mom picked up the phone and said they were going to Red Lobster I had to improvise and sing that little song to him—the same one they sing to you in the restaurant when they bring out your dessert.

But today, while Jade is doing some sort of sculpture thingie with globs of glue and acrylics, piling them into mountainous landscapes onto a big piece of plywood, I stop with the bicycle repairs I’m doing and start thinking about January, 1965.

At 12 years-old, I had only a slight growing knowledge of the midget wrestling circuit, mostly acquired from listening to Dad drivel on with his buddies over their weekly card game about how Lord Littlebrook was a far superior wrestler than Pee Wee James or Frenchie Lamont. I found it hard to believe that anyone other than the old man actually cared as much about the sport as he did, but between the men seated around the lopsided folding card table, all using various sorts of tobacco and drinking the cheapest beer they could lay their hands on, the discussions would get quite heated.

Jade’s taken a break from her art and is talking on the phone now, probably to one of her pals from before we met. For whatever deep seeded reasons, this makes me more than a little uncomfortable. Even though I’ve pretty much assimilated into her group of bohemian artist types and have no worries about her affections going elsewhere, I become painfully aware of how much I have to learn when it comes to relationships. Not being so controlling is probably tops on the list. I try to listen in on the conversation while pretending to be busy with something else. Eavesdropping is rude and not conducive to the picture I hold onto as being the perfect boyfriend. Still, I can’t help but let it bother me when I see her laughing that happy laugh, the one that makes her so beautiful, the one I try to pull out of her but never seem to be able to.

Christmas is right around the corner. I have decided this year to give nothing but crappy gifts, sort of as a joke, but more like a protest against the big retail chains, who try to convince everyone that in order to be a good person you should buy the most expensive items in their store to prove to the people you love how much you care about them.

By the time Christmas rolled around in 1964, my knowledge of midget wrestling had grown to the point where I could use it as a tool to get the old man to agree to letting me do stuff he normally wouldn’t. Not like he was so easily fooled. About a week before the big day, I was angling for the ultimate present--a new 10-speed, milking what I’d picked up about the sport for all it was worth. I decided to start up with him about his favorite wrestler, telling him how much I’d like to see a match in person and all that crap and how Lord Littlebrook deserved the title because Beau Brummell obviously violated the rules when he introduced a foreign object, namely thumbtacks, into the match.

“Why you always have to use such big words, you little smartass,” was the old man’s reply.

I didn’t get the bike. What I did get was, in the old man’s eyes, much better.

“You want to see a live match?”

Here it comes, I thought.

“How about three?”

Most people have no understanding of the sport. There is, in fact, a world of difference between the midget circuit and that nonsense they show on cable TV featuring the behemoths with their silly made-up back stories all pumped up full of hormones and steroids. The only way to get a feel for the subtleties of the little guys other than following the circuit in person, as my dad and I did in January of 1965, is to mail order some DVDs and spend an afternoon or several absorbing them.

Jade and I were getting high one evening, flipping through the channels, when she stopped on one of those scripted WWE shows, because she thought Chris Jericho was “all right looking.” She then sat, mesmerized by the campiness, while I broke up another bud and stuffed it into the bowl of the bong, trying to ignore my feelings of disgust. An enlightened boyfriend understands the differences between himself and his woman and learns to accept them. I mean, it wasn’t like she was asking to go to MacDonald’s for dinner or anything. I have to add that, to the best of my knowledge, she doesn’t watch any of that crap on a regular basis and probably couldn’t tell you a thing about the history between Triple H and Shawn Michaels, or even that the Hart family spans generations in the industry despite young Owen Hart's tragic demise.

Neither was she all that impressed when I received my DVD from the HPB (Half Pint Brawlers), which featured, among other things, naked midget hitchhiking, midgets in dryers, and staple gun death matches.

In 1965, the circuit was more serious. Lord Littlebrook and Pee Wee James were true artists, masters of their craft, and terrific entertainers. They’d have to be to keep the old man’s interest, as he was as discriminating a fan as ever walked the planet. When we headed off from our home just outside of Lexington and headed to Georgia for a week long adventure, I had no idea what to expect. I have to admit to a fair amount of anticipation at having the opportunity to view in person something I had only experienced vicariously through the eyes of a man I despised along with his loathsome friends. The whole idea of little people fine-tuned and using their bodies in a way most big people can’t even imagine, putting their physical well-being on the line all in the name of entertainment for big folks, for some reason was a concept I couldn’t help but admire. The twist of it all, of course, was that we were the suckers, paying out good money to see something most people wouldn’t admit to caring much about.

Aside from the matches we watched, January 6th in Columbus, January 8th in Atlanta, and January 9th in Marietta, there are three instances on that trip that I will never forget: my first beer, my first cigarette, and the first time I ever told my father to fuck off to his face.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Like Music

Rodrigo & Gabriela doing an acoustic rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven."


Just because.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Brennan Blogs: How I Passed the California Bar Exam

I was recently asked if I could write up a little blurb for the San Diego County Bar Association's weekly publication. I was asked to respond to the following question - Now that you have passed the bar, what advice do you have for current students preparing for the exam?

I have decided to share it here just in case any other future applicants venture their way onto this blog. Well, here was what I wrote up...

The State Bar of California requires that all prospective attorneys spend six hours a day for three days taking the California Bar Examination. In preparation, I spent about ten hours a day for three months studying. Essentially, given my intense studying habits, the bar exam itself was just another day.

Make the bar exam just another day.

When the results came out, I didn’t want to look back with my name left off the pass list wondering if I could have done more. Accordingly, I decided to leave no stone unturned. I took both Kaplan’s full MBE course and Barbri’s comprehensive bar course. I went to every class. I made an outline for every subject, sometimes two where I needed to know both California and Federal law. I completed all of Barbri’s near 100 practice essays. I finished five Barbri practice performance tests. I answered over 3,000 practice MBE questions provided by both Barbri and Kaplan (on a side note, Kaplan’s practice MBE questions were undoubtedly superior). Lastly, I made a flashcard for almost every practice MBE question I missed.

I did all that, I made the bar exam just another day, and I passed. I hope whoever reads this does the same, especially the passing part.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Flash fiction Friday - Piece by Piece

I'll be the first to admit that I use writing as an escape. As in this piece, sometimes all it takes is a first line then I sit back and watch as a story unfolds.

Every morning the first thing I do when I wake up is check to make sure none of my parts are missing. This all started I think at around eight years of age when one night I became aware of a presence hovering over me. I was certain that this gangling creature was determined to take me away, bits and pieces at a time, until there was nothing left. Shortly after that it happened--I found a place just above my right thigh where a piece of me was gone. Not a very large piece, mind you, hardly bigger than a dime. But when something of you is taken, no matter how significant, you notice. I tried to show my mom, who looked at the spot and, although sympathetic to my feelings, disregarded my claim as "just my imagination." Sure, the spot resembled nothing in the way of a flesh wound. No bleeding. No open sores. No noticeable hole. Still, I knew something was missing.

A few years later I had almost forgotten about the incident. Many nights had passed and I had slept solidly through most of them, the only exceptions being Christmas Eves and that night I went to the carnival and ate too many corn dogs. As one grows older other worries far more pressing than shadows seen in the dark of a lonely bedroom take over the mind: school work, making the soccer team, the bully who stalks you in the hallways after your lunch money, girls. As a youth you are taught to trust adults, especially your mother, and so I did. Maybe the whole thing was just my imagination, I thought. So at the age of twelve, when least expected, the morning came when I discovered I had been robbed of another piece, this time a portion the size of Chinese Yen, just below my navel. All the fear from the years past came back to me in a wave of panic. The thing was back in my room again last night and had done its dirty deed.

After several near sleepless nights I was in desperate need of a plan. There must be some way to protect myself from being removed over time from existence. I asked my mom for a dog, one that could sleep in bed with me. I don't think I need to tell you how she responded. So I came up with an alternative. I convinced my little sister to move into my room with me, talking my parents into turning her room into a game room the whole family could use. Not the best thought out plane to be sure, but desperation leads to extreme tactics. My hope was that if the shadow creature did come again, it would take parts from my sister who was younger and, as I would reluctantly admit, fairer than I, especially as my body had just begun crossing the threshold into puberty. In hindsight I realize I never fully dealt with the guilt.

For a time it seemed to work. Nights passed and after each morning's examination I was proud to proclaim myself the same as I had been the night before. That was until the morning I awoke and found my sister's bed empty. At first I thought maybe she had just gotten up before me, a rare occurrence but certainly not out of the question. Tiptoeing into the kitchen I found no trace of her. I asked my mom, who was cooking breakfast if Ashley had been up. Her reply sent chills down my back. "What do you mean, 'who's Ashley'?" I cried. "You know, your daughter, my sister." She thought I was kidding. I pleaded with my father, who was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee and reading the paper. "Tell her to stop kidding around." He put down his paper and looked me in the eye. "Did you have some sort of bad dream, son?"

That's when I knew. Not only had my sister been erased from existence, but my parents, my real parents, had been replaced by remarkably clever duplicates. How did I know this? Well, for one thing, my mother never cooked breakfast. Most of the time I was lucky if I got a bowl of cold cereal. And my father...well...for him the only section of the paper that existed was the sports section, and here he was reading the Lifestyle pages.

I tried calling the police from a phone booth that afternoon on my way home from school. Of course they didn't believe me and told me that if I called again they would have me arrested. I took stock of my options and came to the conclusion that they were dwindling down to next to nothing. As near as I could figure, there was only one thing left to do. Run. So I did, and I didn't stop for the next 12 years.

It was during that span of time that I began my morning ritual. Every day for the next 12 years, no matter where I slept I checked myself, and every day was the same. I finally assumed that because I never stayed in one spot, under the same bridge, down the same alley, in the same condemned building, for more than a week or two, the creature never had a chance to hone in on my exact location.

Eventually I grew tired of the hobo lifestyle and settled down. With any luck the creature had forgotten about me, or perhaps now that I was a grown adult it had lost interest. I got my own place. Not like the place I chose was all that nice, a single room with a bath and kitchen in a less than desirable neighborhood, but after all that time I was happy to have anyplace I could call home. Still I continued my ritual, not so much out of fear, but out of habit, like an addict's need to stick a needle in his arm. Each morning was the same, and each morning I breathed a quiet sigh of relief.

Until three mornings ago, when I found it. This time it was a Mexican Peso. I haven't slept since.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Fox and the Henhouse

Now comes news that Bill Gates is open to a role in Obama's administration, ostensibly as an economic advisor. Three words for Barack: Don't do it.

Before I go any further, I would like to acknowledge my respect for Mr. Gates' charity work. Nothing can change the inherent good he is doing with his fortune, but at the same time, there are several issues I have with how he got it.

First, the origins of the technology itself are shrouded in credible clouds of theft.

Second, Microsoft apparently continued (continues?) to steal from other companies, even after its success. There are literally dozens of settlements related to patent infringement, where Microsoft allegedly stole from fledgling startups, and later paid out reduced sums (in relation to initially buying what those companies had), complete with gag orders. Essentially, Microsoft stole these companies' ideas, and was able to use its incredible cash and muscle to buy them after the fact for less than market value.

Third, Microsoft deliberately worked to establish a monopoly, much the same way Wal Mart does, but in reverse. By not allowing, or at least inhibiting their OEM buyers from bundling other, competing software with their operating system, and by deliberately making it difficult for some competitors' software to function within Windows, they eliminated competitive innovation, at the expense of both their competitors and the consumer as a whole.

The Clinton administration went after them on this, but fortunately for Microsoft, the Bush administration quickly quashed that notion. It makes sense that Microsoft was also one of the companies invited to secret meetings with the Bush team to discuss ways US companies could profit from... oops, I mean assist... the Iraq occupation.

Fourth, Microsoft has been at the forefront of the corporate lobby to obtain more visas for high level employees. Despite their claims to the contrary, there is a surplus of available high tech workers in the US. The simple fact is that they wish to import cheaper labor. The days of partnering with their employees (remember those legendary stock options in lieu of competitive pay) are apparently over at Microsoft.

Last, Microsoft is a decaying empire, a victim in many ways of its own meteoric success. The idea (theirs or not), timing, and predatory tactics built an empire, but the long term ability to sustain with innovation, growth (and with it the allure of stock options) is largely in the past. 

Microsoft is now trailing-edge technology, held in place by not much more than ubiquity, and even that is crumbling. They have for the last years been struggling to implement a way to rent their software rather than sell it (a huge debacle for the public, who would be forced to accept every chronically late-yet-premature upgrade, unable to stick with older, more stable versions), in an era where saturation, competitive products, and resistance to new upgrade purchases (98, Millenium, Vista) is depleting revenue. Vista resistance, for good reason, is so legendary that Microsoft has had to resort to ads touting the fact that it's not as bad as word of mouth says. This is never a good thing. 

Sure, they are far from dead, but much like the Roman Empire, they are past their zenith, and it isn't coming back. The Vandals (Apple) and the Visigoths (linux), among others, are at the outer frontiers. The Zune is underwelming, and the XBox platform is trailing Wii, essentially in a battle with Sony's Playstion3 for second place (with Sony gaining ground after a disastrous dearth of quality games impeded its roleout). Windows Mobile still has little traction. Internet Explorer (despite being the intended beneficiary of much of MS's allegedly illegal monopolistic attempts) is no longer the de facto browser, with hordes of customers choosing Firefox and Safari, among others.  MSN lags terminally behind Google and Yahoo, and Microsoft was forced to give up on buying second-place Yahoo.

The fact is, Microsoft hasn't had any good ideas in years, relying instead on ways to coerce their customer base, and is starting to resemble the big 3 automakers in terms of slow evolution and adaption. You see where they have ended up. Just my opinion, but Bill Gates is not the guy Obama needs helping him fix the economy. Run your charity Bill. You're good at it, and that's where you can do the most to help.

My Least Favorite Conservative

OK, at least for today, that honor goes to writer Bob Novak, he of outing Valerie Plame Fame. Novak was recently asked if he had to do it all over, would he still out Plame.

NOVAK: I’d go full speed ahead because of the hateful and beastly way in which my left-wing critics in the press and Congress tried to make a political affair out of it and tried to ruin me. My response now is this: The hell with you. They didn’t ruin me. I have my faith, my family, and a good life. A lot of people love me — or like me. So they failed. I would do the same thing over again because I don’t think I hurt Valerie Plame whatsoever.

Novak justifies outing Plame on the basis of the criticism he took for... outing Plame. Sort of like saying you'd murder an innocent bystander again because of the indignity and injustice of being prosecuted for it the first time. Novak's lucky he's not in jail, but his only remorse for a, by definition, treasonous act, one that the CIA says had significant negative ramifications on their work preventing a nuclear Iran (what Plame was working on), is to say he'd do it again because he caught negative flack over it.

So I'd like to out Bob Novak as a traitorous political ideologue who places partisan support over national security and patriotism, a hypocrite who espouses moral conservatism out of one side of his mouth while justifying his own moral turpitude in grossly illogical and juvenile rants out of the other, as a major-league asshole with remorse only for the paltry penalties for his malfeasance, and, by the bye, as a hack of a writer.

If I had it to do over again, I'd say the same things about you Bob, but not because of the repercussions for saying it, but rather because unlike you, I actually have principles.

And justice for all...

What are we to make of the following report?

SAN FRANCISCO – Voters' economic status and religious convictions played a greater role than race and age in determining whether they supported the Nov. 4 ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage in California, a new poll shows

Age and race, meanwhile, were not as strong factors as assumed. According to the poll, 56 percent of voters over age 55 and 57 percent of nonwhite voters cast a yes ballot for the gay marriage ban.

The poll also showed that the measure got strong backing from voters who did not attend college (69 percent), voters who earned less than $40,000 a year (63 percent) and Latinos (61 percent).

Yahoo: Poll: California gay marriage ban driven by religion, uneducated

This, to me, is not shocking. Maybe it is because I do not subscribe to any religious following and because I actually took the time to educate myself (maybe
that has to do with my non-religious morals) that this poll does not surprise me.

I don't want to start making any large and inaccurate generalizations here, as that would do no one any service. That is not the point of this post.

What is the point? I don't really know. The results of the poll, as I said, are not shocking. What is shocking is that there are so many people in this world, in the United States, and in this case, California, who would cry incessantly that their television and shopping rights were taken away, but couldn't, wouldn't bat an eyelash that two people, people they don't know, will never know, and will never come across, cannot get married. And they will vote to take away this option even if it means more funds for the state, for cities, for municipalities.

And why? Because they believe in a different god? Because they are murderers and thieves? Because they want to overthrow the government and rape the children? No, it is because gays do not fall into this nice, comfortable, false sense of the world religions have concocted for their followers. The world can be relegated to certain, unchanging categories; things that do not fall into those categories are dangerous, evil, and should be feared. There is no possible alteration of those categories.

What is it these people, these gays, want? Is it really any different from the rest of society, the rest of us "normal" people, get on a daily basis? Are they asking for anything beyond what we take for granted?

"Take for granted?" you may ask. I have seen reports showing that among married couples, Christians are more likely to divorce than non-Christians. How could that be so, if it is Christians who hold marriage so highly? Yet their marriage would somehow be threatened or lessened because two men want to have legal rights to visit each other in the hospital, inherit estates, and so on.

So why not give them these rights, but just not call it 'marriage'? Because that still sets them up as lesser citizens. Separate but equal would not fly for any other ethnic or religious group, yet we are supposed to believe it would be fine for gays?

And if it is just a matter of a word, 'marriage,' why the big fuss? If it is just a word, as it is, why not share it with everyone who marries?

If gays are considered a separate class of citizens, why should they be bound by the same requirements? Why should they continue to pay taxes if they are not allowed the same rights and privileges as the rest of California tax payers, or any US tax payers? Why should they, or anyone, continue to support a government that does not allow them the same personal choices and defense as others?

What is even more atrocious is that the matter of civil liberties, fundamental rights, are taken away from other human beings. That such matters would be put up to a vote is horrendous and appalling. Why should people be allowed to vote whether other people have basic rights? How do I convince myself that I can make that decision for another human being?

Normally, I would roll my eyes at the mention of rights, as if they are somehow bestowed upon us by an omnipotent being with a kind and righteous heart, but in this case we are acknowledging that there are rights, and somehow only a select few are special enough to receive them.

In the end, all people want the same rights that are shared throughout the society. If one group does not enjoy those freedoms, then all groups should not enjoy those freedoms. The only reason it is being pushed in people's faces is because it is being denied to them. Worse, it was granted to them, and then taken away again.

Are gays different? If granted this right, will they try to change society? Will they try to take over the world? Or will they, like so many before them, just assimilate into society, pay those taxes, invigorate neighborhoods, go to church, buy televisions and fast food? You know, the same as the rest of us evildoers.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How Cool is Obama?

This little snippet comes from Bill Richardson, recalling how at one of the Democratic Primary debates, he got caught up in chatting with Obama, missed the question, and how Obama bailed him out:

As I’m chatting with Obama, the moderator says, “Governor Richardson, what do you think of that?” And I look at him like a deer in the headlights. I was about to say that I hadn’t heard, when Obama puts his hand over his mouth and says, “Katrina.” So I gave my four-point plan on Katrina. When I was done and the debate moved on, I looked over and said, “Thanks, you’re okay.” He said, “Nothing to it, brother.”

Now that's pretty cool, and pretty self-confident to boot...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Brennan Blogs: 9 Year Olds Giving Love Advice?

Today I was on yahoo's front page and saw an article about how some 9 year old named Alec Greven wrote a nationally published book called "How to Talk to Girls." Suffice to say, I've got a trip to Barnes & Noble scheduled for tomorrow. Actually, this revelation got me thinking - are children the wisest of us all? I think this requires discussion.

Many psychologists and therapists believe that most of human behavior, what many call "character," is ingrained in us by the time we reach five years old. Yes, this means that when you just discovered you had a pee-pee or a pink taco, while the opposite sex did not, you likely had already settled in to who you would always be. If that was a personal revelation for you (the pee-pee/pink taco thing)... you're five years old, WHY are you reading this blog? Go find a Pokemon stat!

So why does the world of psychology theorize this? It is simply because of neuropsychology and some basic common sense.

From a neuropsychological standpoint, the brain is much like building a city, a city which continues to be built into your late teens and early 20's. You start with a flat piece of land and then you start to create buildings and infrastructure. Before you know it, the highways/roads are set (neuropathways), the homes/building are all there (synapses), and you no longer have room to build, because it (one's brain structure) is all set and the only remaining task is to "maintain." The growing population (new information) of urban sprawl continues, but many (much of that new information) are lost among the shuffle as you continue to "maintain." Excuse the complicated metaphor, let me back track and make it really simple. Basically, you are born with a blank piece of mush called your brain and as time goes on, you fill it up with stuff. As more stuff gets in, your brain has to form some structure in order to organize all the information. Once the brain has found the structure that allows you to most effectively function, it becomes set as it relies on this reliable structure for your continued functionality. For the remainder of your life, after this structure is set, your brain uses all its resources to take in the new information and put it on the shelf like a librarian would with a returned book. One's basic processing resources are used up putting away new pieces of information while also maintaining the information that is already there. Because almost all of your "CPU" resources are used up in this manner, it makes it increasingly more difficult to take in more new information and make such new information readily accessible (or influential on your thought process). What this means is that, from a neurological standpoint, the information you get in the beginning of your life is much more fluid and accessible. However, as your brain fills up, it has to organize itself which means that any new information has to conform to that basic imprinted structure. Accordingly, new information has a difficult task of overwhelming ingrained old information, thus why much of who you are is neurologically determined at such a young age. Essentially, your thought processes become much more rigid and stubborn.

Although this might be redundant given the whole monologue above, from a common sense and more "pure" psychological standpoint, just think of your brain as a sponge - a sponge which does most of its "soaking up" within the first 5 years of life. A dry sponge will soak up moisture with extreme efficiency. Why? Because there is nothing there and moisture fills the space. However, a wet sponge will only soak up moisture very slowly. Why? Because most of the space is taken, so the moisture must search out the small gaps of space to fill... a more complex and elongated process. This is the very reason why all you parents out there should try to teach your children how to play a musical instrument or how to speak foreign languages as soon as possible - children are more amiable at those ages. It becomes increasingly more difficult to learn such things later in life as the sponge fills up. Yes, often it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

So how does all this neuropsychological mumbo-jumbo relate to my original point that children, as the open sponges they are, might be the wisest of us all? Because just that, they are open sponges, meaning open minded and capable of approaching life without the same ingrained biases that comes with years of built up cynicism born as a consequence of life's ups and downs. Children are pure and that purity can provide an enlightened or surprisingly "clean" perspective.

Babies and dogs always like me. I have a theory as to why. I believe that babies and dogs are so uncomplicated that they don't over-think things, so they see me for who I really am (and yes, I'm not so subtly implying I am a freaking great human being). Children see the world without a filter (for good or bad) because they have not lived long enough to gain one. A 5 year old can enjoy just about any movie because s/he has yet to have seen the dozens of copycats already out on the market, so any movie is likely still novel to them. A 7 year old can demand macaroni and cheese for every meal, because s/he can appreciate its simplicity being that they haven't experienced even better food or just haven't lived long enough to get tired of it and need some variety. Finally, a 9 year old, such as Alec Greven, can shrug off girls and see them girls for what they are because he has yet to experience the heartache and disappointment which comes as a consequence from the process of finding companionship.

Children have no cynical-colored glasses, so they can see things for what they are. That doesn't always make them the most wise, but it sure does often make them among the most insightful. Of course, this unfortunately comes with the price of not understanding the consequences for their actions, but that's what parents are for, right? Up until the point children gain that inevitable cynicism and internalize their parents, maybe they are the ones we should look to for for a reality check. Maybe we should not be so dismissive of the young as inexperienced and naive, but rather seek them out for the unfiltered, innocent, and transparent perspectives they may offer. At least, that's what I'll be doing tomorrow when I hit the local Barnes & Noble.

Take Advice From This Guy

Music to share

Rather than posting a typical blog, I decided I just wanted to share music with the masses. I have nothing original to say, except "enjoy."

Below are 5 music videos for some songs I am enjoying at the moment. Some of them are not new, while some are newish. I hope to share more of these in the future as time allows. If I can't find a good video for a song that strikes my fancy at the time, I will just post the song itself.

And for some of these, the songs are better than the videos, but let's just give them a chance to become better directors and videographers.

Great Lake Swimmers with "Your Rocky Spine"

Mountain Goats with "Sax Rohmer #1

Architecture in Helsinki, "Heart It Races"

"Bag of Hammers" by Thao

Liam Finn, "Second Chance"