Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good Riddance to 2009

2009 hasn't been one of my better years. My finances have become increasingly tighter this year -- I'm nearly as broke now as I was in college -- and I remain underemployed in a state with a high unemployment rate. I've spent much of the year robbing Peter to pay Paul just to barely make minimum payments on my bills. My son also lost a good job this year, and he has yet to find permanent employment.

I ended an important relationship this year out of necessity, yet I still miss her to this day. Intellectually, I know it was for the best, but my body tells me differently.

I also lost one of my cats this year and I likewise mourn his loss.

On the plus side, I remain healthy, and no one has died in my family or among my friends this year. That's always something to celebrate.

I finally paid off my car loan, so that should help to ease my finances a bit in the new year.

Plus, my "social life" is still as active as ever which is, again, always a reason to celebrate.

But I can safely say I'll be glad to bid 2009 good riddance and I look forward to see what 2010 will have to offer. I offer no resolutions, as it's not in my nature to do so, except to say that I will be alert to whatever opportunities present themselves in the new year.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Annoyance of Ubiquity

While reading a message board the other day, I saw a thread about New Year's resolutions and rolled my eyes. My first thought was that nearly everyone would resolve to "lose weight" in 2010, as that particular resolution is typical and ubiquitous. There's absolutely no originality about it at all.

Sure enough, I was right. Every person who had posted on the thread put weight loss on their list. I seriously doubt that every person who posts on that large message board is in need of weight loss, hence my rolling of eyes. But no one ever wants to gain weight or just doesn't care one way (weigh?) or the other how much they weigh. No,everyone resolved to lose weight, even if they were underweight.

And what annoyed me most about this is not so much the desire to lose weight, but rather the ubiquity of this resolution and the total lack of originality in coming up with a list of resolutions, not to mention the ubiquity of New Years' resolutions themselves.

I got to thinking and I realized that it was ubiquity in general -- the ever-present, the predictable, and the typical -- that is at the heart of my annoyance. It connotes a lack of original or creative thinking and reeks of a lemming-like ordinariness. Thinking further, I thought of other examples of ubiquity that irritate me.

One example is the fact that nearly every rock band, without question, contains only two types of instruments: guitars and drums. Why do we not see wind instruments on a more regular basis? Why not pianos? There's nothing wrong with guitars and drums, per se, but the ubiquity of the guitar-and-drums-only bands annoys the crap out of me. I can't help but think of how much more opportunity for creative music is lost because most rock musicians just stick to the same ol' thing, instrument wise.

One petty example of ubiquity is that whenever you see a couple sharing a motorcycle, the woman is always the one on the back. What? Is this a freaking law or something? You think they'd want to switch up now and then for a little variety. A funny example of ubiquity is that whenever you are driving behind construction workers in a pickup, they always have a yellow plastic water dispenser with a red lid on top. Never any other colors.

Feel free to list other example of ubiquity in the comment box, particularly the kinds that irritate you..

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Conservatives and Anti-Intellectualism

This morning, I read an interesting blog post by Paula Reed. Her entry was based on a quote she'd received by email:

“The Left: People who demonize those with whom they disagree.”

My first thought was to think of how so many neocons today are masters at the art of projection: they take what is commonly done by neocons and turn it around saying it's really liberals doing it.

Personally attacking one's opponents, instead of coming up with reasoned rebuttals to their ideas is intellectually dishonest and is a symptom of the creeping anti-intellectualism in this country; an example of the dumbing-down of America. It's much easier to blame liberals for everything that's wrong in our world today, than to come up with ideas on how to fix these problems together.

Gone are the days of erudite conservatives, such as William Buckley. Also largely gone are those conservatives, such as Barry Goldwater, who was able to often put ideological differences aside and work in a bi-partisan manner with his Democratic colleagues (now, I bet that is a word you don't hear too much in Washington nowadays) for the good of the country.

Now, it's neocon pundits, such as Limbaugh, Savage, and Coulter, among many others, who have brought the black and white, simplistic tactic of using ad hominems against their opponents in from the far right fringes of the tinfoil hat brigade into mainstream conservative thought. Or what passes for thought. This is not to say that the left is entirely free of such nonsense -- there are liberals, such as Rosie O'Donnell, who could hardly be called intellectual. But those such as O'Donnell hardly have the reach or the influence tha those in the pantheon on the right wing do

I heard a prime example of this type of anti-intellectualism the other night while listening to the radio. A man called the Dennis Miller show to express why he rejected intelligent design. Miller didn't give him much of a chance to speak. Instead he cut him off to say that he couldn't get on board with Darwinism because he just couldn't get into the idea of "worshipping a pile of amino acids" and that he liked the idea of an intelligent being creating life on Earth.

My jaw dropped when I heard this nonsense. I could not believe that Miller, a former liberal and former cast member of Saturday Night Live -- in other words, someone who should know better -- was spouting off such simplistic ideas. There was once a time when being a conservative did not mean one also had to accept intellectually bankrupt, fundamentalist Christian beliefs as well.

Instead of the Buckley types being the mainstream of conservatism, we now have the Archie Bunkers of the world running the Republican party, which is a sad thing for old-school Republicans and the party in general.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Four Year Old Suspended For Long Hair

In recent news reports I read about a four year old pre-kindergarten Texas boy who has been suspended from school for having long hair. Say what? Is this 1959 or 2009? I thought that the right of male students to wear long hair had been settled years ago. Indeed, when I was in high school in the 70s, I wore long hair with nary a comment from the school, as did my son when he was in school in the late 80s into the 90s.

Boy With Long Hair

Taylor Pugh, who attends school in Mesquite, Texas, was given in-school suspension because school officials say that his hair, which long on the front and sides, covering his earlobes and shirt collar, violates the school district’s dress code policies. According to the district dress code, boys’ hair must be kept out of the eyes and cannot extend below the bottom of earlobes or over the collar of a dress shirt.

On the website of the Mesquite Independent School District, it makes reference to its dress code by saying:

“students who dress and groom themselves neatly, and in an acceptable and appropriate manner, are more likely to become constructive members of the society in which we live.”

Oh, really? The Mesquite school district apparently has no problem with female students who wear long hair and do not believe that long hair on girls is inherently messy or ungroomed, nor does it doom them to being future societal losers. But it would seem as if they believe that the same hair length on a male student automatically turn the same hair into a dirty mess, not to mention marking such boys as future bums or even criminals.

The school district’s rule about male hair length has nothing to do with hygiene or safety issues, as if it did, the same rules would apply to both boys and girls. Requiring neat and clean hair for all students is a reasonable rule — requiring short hair for one sex only is blatant sexism.

So far as hair length determining character and being a “constructive member of society” goes:

George Washington
You’ll note the ribbon behind his head for his ponytail!

Ben Franklin

Though a bit thin on top, it’s long in the back!

I don’t think anyone would deny that George Washington or Ben Franklin were contributing members of society, long hair and all.

Likewise, short hair is not an inherent indicator of good character or potential to contribute positively to society:

I’m sure this style would be acceptable to Mesquite schools!

The point is, that male hair length is no reliable indicator of character or potential to contribute to society in a positive manner. Hair length is simply a matter of personal preference, thus is an invalid thing to regulate when forming dress codes.

I’m not saying that dress codes in and of themselves are invalid, but they must be based on common-sense criteria that is applied equally to everyone and ideally be based on matters of safety and actual hygiene, rather than on matters of fashion.

In 1996, Bill Clinton made the following comment about school uniforms:

“I challenge all our schools to teach character education, to teach good values and good citizenship. And if it means that teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear school uniforms.”

While I don’t necessarily agree that clothing styles are necessarily linked to character, I do agree that rules pertaining to clothing are valid for employers especially and also for schools to a lesser degree. The reason I make the distinction between required/banned clothing and that of hair styles is that clothing is something that can be changed at the end of the day when the person is no longer at school/work. It’s not a permanent change, as people can wear what they prefer on their own time. And nowadays, rules about clothing are generally applied equally to both men and women, considering that women are now able to wear pants.

But hair length is a different matter. It’s a 24 hour a day thing. A male who prefers long hair can’t grow it back at the end of the day after school or work.

In conclusion, schools should have a single standard about students’ hair that applies to both boys and girls: that is be clean and neat, with no reference to length.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Thoughts on the Tiger Woods Brouhaha

I've not so far written about the Tiger Woods story because I viewed it as yet another story about a straying celebrity and that it would quickly become yesterday's news. Reports such as these are now rather commonplace and are hardly worth reporting on, let alone commenting on.

But this story outlived its fifteen minutes a long time ago and, personally, I'm getting tired of hearing about it. I don't see what all the shock and fascination is with this story. It's not as if he's the first, nor will he be the last celebrity (or non-celebrity, for that matter) to fall off the monogamy wagon.

I also don't see why Woods is off the golf tour. I don't see what one thing has to do with the other. The state of his marriage should be a private matter between him and his wife and it in no way impedes his ability to play golf. It's not as if being monogamous would make him a better golf player.

And it's not as if he beat his wife and had done something criminal. Indeed, if anything, the shoe is on the other foot in this instance. It seems the only reason he had an accident was because his wife bashed in the back window of his SUV, thus distracting him, as he tried to drive away.

I've read comments from people cheering her on for this; taking the opinion that he got what he deserved for his infidelity. The sexism of such statements boggles my mind, as I'm quite certain there would be no cheering if their roles were reversed in this drama. People would be calling to have him locked up and the key thrown away if it had been him bashing a window in with a golf club while she drove away. It seems when it comes to domestic violence and infidelity, the double standard is alive and well.

Other people are shocked, asking how could he do such a thing. Again, with the ubiquity of stories about celebrity infidelity and its corresponding prevalence in the lives of ordinary people as well, I think that people are asking the wrong questions. They take the view that people are failing marriage, but in reality, it would seem that our idea of what marriage should be is failing people.

Instead of asking why so many people are unfaithful, we need to be asking such questions as, why are all marriages expected to be monogamous, why was monogamy originally instituted in the first place, are the original reasons for monogamy still relevant in our society today, what is the exact nature of "fidelity" -- is it summed up by sexual exclusivity or can it refer to other aspects of a marriage and, if so, must sexual exclusivity always be a part of it. and so on.

Perhaps we need to be re-examining and re-evaluating the structure of marriage and the purpose it serves in our society and be willing to make some changes, instead of trying harder to cram people down into the same old, ill-fitting boxes.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Christmas Tornado!


While listening to the radio tonight, the disk jockey was talking about a funny website: Ugly Christmas I went over there and the above picture was the first thing I saw. It's supposed to be an upside down Christmas Tree, but my first thought was, "It's the Christmas Tornado!"

I'm sure this one will be popular in trailer parks everywhere...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Some Thoughts on Bigamy

Reading the webpage of one of my local TV stations, I came upon a story about a man who had been arrested for bigamy. He'd married his first wife in 2005, and had married a second woman this past October.

Neither wife had been the wiser until the first wife intercepted a text message for their husband from the second wife. After texting back to the second wife and determining who she was, the first wife called the police to report him for bigamy.

After an investigation, police arrested him and charged him with bigamy. The man is now out on bond awaiting trial.

Arresting someone for bigamy boggles my mind. First of all, I don't think the government has any business meddling in the private relationships of consenting adults, except for cases of domestic violence. If it were up to me, I'd abolish marriage as a legal category altogether.

Knowing that this isn't likely to happen any time soon, I think that as long as legal marriage exists, it should not be limited to monogamous couples.

That being said, with the law as it stands now, bigamy should not be a criminal offense. At the most, it should be a civil matter. In fact, I'd thought it was something that had been decriminalized -- that when discovered, the second marriage would merely be annulled and the offender given a fine.

The police have much more important things to do than being in the business of enforcing monogamy. They should not be involved in the personal relationships of private citizens if there is an absence of domestic violence. In my opinion, the first wife should have handled the situation herself, perhaps by contacting a divorce lawyer, rather than calling the police and keeping them from doing more important things. Sue the guy for breach of contract or some such thing, but don't put him in jail.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

More Thoughts on Religion

The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.
--Bertrand Russell

While trying to come up with something to write about today, I visited a quote site where I found the quote above. The first thing that popped into my mind was that of religion. Wars have been fought over differences of opinion about religion and evangelicals of different faiths, particularly Christianity, attempt to convert others to their faith, believing that uniformity of belief to be a worthy goal to strive for. Not merely content to share their beliefs with those who ask, some attempt to enforce their beliefs by changing laws to conform to such beliefs, while more extreme members of various religions will use literal force to impose their beliefs on others in what they believe is service to their faith.

In contrast, I read an entry on Wilford Tibbetts' blog today about the Amish. Unlike many religious people, whose faith is largely a matter of securing their ticket to heaven, for the Amish, their faith isn't merely a belief, it's a lifestyle. The Amish do not proselytize or spend a lot of time talking about their faith; they quietly live it, while content to allow their neighbors to live according to whatever beliefs they have. They are content to coexist peacefully with their neighbors with different beliefs and lifestyles and have no desire to impose their beliefs on others.

It's too bad that more religious people don't follow the example of the Amish.