Tag Archives: The Crimson White

The Tuscaloosa Tornado – A Year’s Perspective

Wednesday, April 27, 2011.

I can’t really remember what I was doing throughout the day. I probably had classes or something that I went to… Maybe I had Stage Movement that day. It’s possible I went to my journalism class. At this point, it’s all inconsequential.

I was the Research Editor for the Corolla that year. The school’s yearbook was kind of the awkward child with special needs that no one really knew exactly what to do with or how to handle, save for the very occasional editor who nursed it and treated it with kindness and respect. Working under Kathleen Buccleugh, I was given pretty much free reign on my scheduling. I just had to get all my work done. Often times, though, I’d find myself up in the attic of that rickety, crappy old former frat house trying not to die of heat and simply using the free computer lab my key granted me access to. Sometimes, I’d do school work if my Corolla duties were done/at a standstill. Sometimes, I’d just goof off and play games, maybe listen to some music.

I was up in the attic of that dilapidated building in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium when the siren went off. It was maybe the third or fourth time the sirens had gone off in the past couple of weeks. One time, I was standing right next to it. Another, I was trapped in the bus hub for probably a couple of hours, with one kind soul to talk to, my friend and bus riding partner Sydney Rowles. This time, I was alone in the attic while the building warned me to move downstairs. I scoffed and ignored it. I mean, I’ve lived through tons of tornadoes. I’m from Huntsville. Not only are these alarms usually just small warnings, but tornadoes rarely ever do anything extreme and supremely damaging on a massive scale in Alabama. There was nothing to worry about.

But, eventually, Terry Siggers, one of the staff in the Office of Student Media, came up stairs to make sure everyone was moving to the basement. I sighed, rolled my eyes and went down there. Fortunately, I had my crappy laptop with me so I could continue doing whatever it was I had been up to at the time.

Already downstairs were most of the staff of The Crimson White and several of the OSM staff, including Paul Wright and Mark Mayfield. While we were down there, in the safest place this kindling death trap of a building could offer, there was talk of some tornado stuff. People had tuned in on their computers to listen to local weatherman James Spann, and I decided to follow suit on my laptop. Which ended up being an okay idea since, not too long after, the power went out and my laptop was the only thing left running. …for about six more minutes. But in that six minutes, we saw the tornado on the news feed. It seemed pretty big, and based on what Spann was saying, it sounded like the tornado was headed straight at us. I was still joking a bit, not really worried. I didn’t duck under any tables, there was nothing to really fear.

Mark opened the basement door, curious to see what was going on. Yes, the basement had a wall adjacent to the outside. Very safe. When he opened the door, we could see the tornado looming behind the stadium. Massive. It didn’t even really seem like a tornado, just a gray sky. Mark quickly shut the door and told people to get under tables. I still didn’t. I may have ducked my head a bit, I guess, but still. Nothing to worry about. It was all okay.

Someone showed me the picture SGA president James Fowler took of the tornado, right across the street from us. I couldn’t even tell it was a tornado. There was only a small corner of sky peeking through at the very bottom to tell the difference between monster and normalcy.

Eventually, the sirens ended. Nothing happened to us. Reports flooded in about dorms being hit, car dealerships being destroyed, 15th being severely damaged. But clearly this wasn’t all true. Twitter would have exploded if a dorm was hit, right? You take these things with a grain of salt. So I shrugged it off and left the building.

I ran into Keegan Butler on my way out, one of my theatre friends. I was figuring on doing my usual and walking the mile or two home, but after chatting with him, we decided to head to Rowand-Johnson and see what was going on. So many of my theatre friends were there, hiding in the comfort of camaraderie and a building that doubles as a bomb shelter. And, for a while, it was nice. But I started to feel claustrophobic. There was too much happening, too much going on. Some people were heading out, and I asked Glenn Halcomb if he could give me a ride back to my place at The Bluffs off of Jack Warner. He did.

At the time, I was living alone in a two bedroom apartment. My roommate had graduated in December and left, leaving me free to do what I want. But when I got there this time, there was no power. I couldn’t boot up my PC and listen to music, goof off on the internet. I couldn’t adjust the A/C or turn on a fan. I just sat there in the screaming, choking silence.

It was still a little light outside. I think it was about 4 or 5 p.m. So, for the first time in ages, I grabbed a book to read for pleasure, sat on the living room couch and read by the dying light of day. And die it eventually did.

When it did, I was left alone in the dark. No light. No sound. No company.

Have you ever been somewhere where there is literally no sound? Where all you can hear is the sound you make? Where the stillness is a living thing, crawling around you, choking you? Where it’s so quiet, it won’t ever stay quiet?

I slept. It wasn’t a good sleep. It took far too long to battle my surroundings and become comfortable. I had to sleep on the living room couch because my room was literally pitch black. I was afraid to go in there. It felt wrong.

After a couple of hours, I woke up. I couldn’t stand being in that apartment any longer. I had to leave. I had to get out of there.

I decided to walk back to RoJo to see if anyone was still there. Rain decided to pour down on me viciously from the moment I stepped onto the side of Jack Warner until the moment I stepped onto campus. The front of my body was soaked. My back remained bone dry.

I received texts sometime around this time about rehearsal for my a capella group, Subject to Change. We were going to try to rehearse. But as the fullness of what was going on started to sink in, rehearsal was canceled.

When I returned, Glenn thought I was silly to have walked back after having asked to leave… but I couldn’t explain it. I just had to go back. Eventually, I dried out. I found Michael Luwoye, who, as always, had his guitar with him. He was supposed to play for my Senior Guerrilla act. I asked him if we could practice. As he played, I sang my songs for the act, “Hallelujah” as covered by Rufus Wainwright and “Boat Song” by Ludo. It helped me feel better. I quietly, strongly hoped it helped other people feel better, too.

Eventually, everyone started to go home, hours later. I would again be alone. I decided to be alone somewhere I had pillows and walked back to my apartment. I braved the pitch blackness of my room and fell asleep quickly, I think mostly so I could avoid the darkness.

When I woke up the next morning, sometime early, I realized I didn’t have any food I could eat. My food was all in the refrigerator and freezer, and I wasn’t going to open either of those and let what little cool air I had in there escape. I sat there, unable to think of what I should do. My phone had no service, I had no one I knew near me, no car to get food… So, I decided to walk to campus and find friends.

Walking down Jack Warner with no traffic and a frightening continuance of silence was jarring. It made it very hard to think. So I decided not to.

I went to Lauren Liebe and Tiara Dees’ apartment at Bryce Lawn simply because I couldn’t think of anywhere else or anyone else to go to. We hooked up with Stephen Swain and his roommate, I believe, and maybe one or two others and decided to go out to Northport and see what we could work out. Cars needed gas, we needed food and recharged batteries.

We managed to fight through the crowds of people and National Guard vehicles that were swarming Northport and get gas at a station near the intersection with McFarland and Lurleen Wallace. We went across to Publix and got food. I bought lots of bagels, peanuts and rice cakes. Water and the like were pretty much all gone, but I had a lot of sodas back at my apartment. Bought a few more anyway. Lauren and I ate from the Publix deli while everyone else headed to McDonalds. After we were done, we went there, too. The McDonalds was crowded. Stephen was smart and thought to bring a surge protector. Soon, tens of people were asking to use a slot to charge their phone and call/text their loved ones.

While we were there, my texts and phone messages began to flood in. Parents, siblings worried, wondering if I was okay. I couldn’t get a call to them, though. Their service was dead, or their cell phones were out of batteries. Fortunately, I could update Facebook from Tiara’s computer, and my sisters had taken their laptops to Hooters in Huntsville to leech the free WiFi and get some food. Contact was made.

I think we may have eaten dinner on campus at Lakeside Dining Hall. Maybe. We were at that McDonalds for hours.

That night, my power came back on. I was lucky. So very lucky. Even campus took several days to get power back.

Finals were canceled. I took my Philosophy final, the only one I decided to take, sitting in Little Italy on the Strip.

I avoided going out to see the damage. I avoided it like crazy. I couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t until almost a full month after the tornado that I went to visit a friend in Birmingham and saw first hand what had happened.

I just couldn’t think about any of it. I was scared. I still am.

I tried to give to the community in ways I knew I could. In ways I knew I could handle. While the tornado ruined schedules, ruined plans… ruined lives and businesses and homes… Our a capella group still managed to perform our concert. But now, it wasn’t about us. It was about the tornado, the community. Money we raised went straight to the relief efforts. We still managed to perform the APO production of “blackout.” I was Assistant Stage Manager at the time. We used the play to gather supplies for the relief effort.

It wasn’t much. I felt pathetic. I feel pathetic. Pathetic and small and worthless and like a wimp. And maybe I was. But for me, it was the best I could do. Seeing my home of the past five years ravaged wasn’t something I thought I could handle. I had never had something like that happen to me before. I just did what I knew I could handle and tried to ignore all the bad I knew had occurred.

Friday, April 27, 2012.

I didn’t know anyone that died in the tornado. I knew many who lost their homes, but I was fortunate enough to avoid loss of life or property.

I feel guilty sometimes with that knowledge. Why didn’t I give all of my possessions? Why didn’t I give all of my money? Why didn’t I do more to help those affected?

I just try to live with it. To ignore the hurt and pain of my city.

Yes, I lived in Huntsville for most of my life… but Tuscaloosa still feels like my city. It’s where I really grew attached to.

…every day, I drive past the remnants of the scar carved into the landscape. Heading to work, I take Kicker Road and drive right past devastation. Trees and houses and churches and landscape altered.

Sometimes I feel our pace for healing our city is too slow. But I think that’s because, as much as I continue to try and push it out of my mind, I am still hurt and bothered by what happened.

There was so much beauty I missed out on. So many experiences I can’t ever have. There were so many people who lost lives, loved ones, friends, family, jobs, income, health, wealth…

At times, it’s too much to handle.

But what encourages me, when it gets to that point, is just looking around. Seeing Tuscaloosa refuse to be beaten by the greatest tragedy the city has likely faced since the Civil War.

We thrive. We go to work, we go to school, we rebuild. We live.

I’m currently in rehearsals for a theatrical show called “Inside the Tornado.” It’s a reflection on everything that was and that happened. Ten original short plays, written by students at The University of Alabama. Performed at Shelton State Community College. Acted by members of the community all over, of all ages.

I still feel, many times, guilty that I did not give more possessions. But I’ve never been terribly good at that. So, I’m giving what I have: my art. The arts, I wrote a couple months after the tornado for a column in The Crimson White, are as much a necessity in tragedy as resources.

The show will be performed May 3-5. Thursday and Friday will be at 7:30 p.m., Saturday will be at 2 p.m. You can see the poster here at Improbable Fictions. You can also join the Facebook event here.

Come check the show out. It’s a good cause… and it’s worth a visit. Some of us give time, money, work… I give what I know I can.

I guess I can take some solace in that.

T-Town. Never Down.

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No Shame In Student Loan Debt

Recently, Republican North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx made a statement about student loan debt.

She said, “I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that. We live in an opportunity society and people are forgetting that. I remind folks all the time that the Declaration of Independence says ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ You don’t sit on your butt and have it dumped in your lap.”

This comes around the same time that President Barack Obama has been going around pushing for student debt relief, particularly in light of a potential doubling of the interest rate for many students come this summer. Obama’s response to Foxx was, well, less than favorable.

Now, I don’t know when exactly Foxx went to college or what her scholarship situation was or how monied her family was or where she went to school… But let me tell you, no matter what her situation was, she’s kind of full of it.

It kind of reminds me of the casual arrogance of the kid boasting how he would be graduating free of debt, as though anyone and everyone could pull off the same feat. Well, as a student in debt, let me tell my story.

In high school, I went to a boarding school for two years, my sophomore and junior years. We weren’t able to have jobs at the time, and my parents were paying some couple of thousands of dollars every year to send me there, only two years after the three my sister attended the same school. All for the sake of a better education. My senior year, I had no car to take me to a job, though I did apply the summer after. My parents couldn’t afford a car. See, as the middle sibling of three siblings all born four years apart, my parents were also having to support my older sister going to Penn State during my high school years. She had scholarships, but they weren’t full rides. When her academics slipped, she came back home, which cut costs, but money was still being paid. Meanwhile, I was unable to get a job, and my family wasn’t able to afford to lend me a car.

Then it’s my turn for college. For some reason, despite my ACT and SAT scores (31 and 22something after they became out of 2400, I believe) and my decent GPA (3.something…), I received no scholarships. I went to The University of Alabama, an in-state college for me, where the cost each year was around $8000 or $9000 dollars. It took me five years to finish college, including classes during summer and interim periods (one time for each). All during those five years, I still had no car. I don’t know how many of you have gone carless in a non-walking city, but it can be a struggle. If you’re in New York, there’s no problem. In Tuscaloosa? Getting a job without having a car is extremely difficult.

Eventually, I landed a few jobs… but they didn’t exactly pay prime money. I managed, after my freshman year, to get a summer job at Walmart, paying $7.10 an hour. That lasted less than 45 days, because I had to go back to school. Every summer after that, I could never manage a job, just like my older sister, who didn’t get her first legit job after college until the same time I got my first Walmart gig. In college proper, my first paying gig with The Crimson White was at $150 a month as a copy editor. Then, as a student TA with the Philosophy Department, I got $500 for the semester. I also signed up to referee intramural sports, getting paid $6.75 an hour. I continued work the next year, getting $700 for the entire year as Chief Copy Editor of the Corolla. I also refereed soccer for college club teams, which earned me a good amount of spending money. Then, my fifth year, I TA’d another semester of Philosophy 101/103 for $500, landed a job at The Crimson White for $275 a month May through January, and one at the Corolla for $175 a month through April, plus another $500 for May and June together.

I worked a lot. I took the jobs I could get. But I didn’t ever manage to save up much money. And at this point, my parents, on a secretary and part-time community college math teacher/retired Army vet’s pay, were ALSO paying for my little sister’s college.

By the end of everything, I owe something along the lines of $25k. Excluding how much I owe my older sister, who paid for my fifth year and summer semester almost by herself (I owe her $11k).

But we, as kids, are told that college is a necessity to survive and get jobs in the real world. Jobs that may or may not be there. Immediately after college, I landed a job at Walmart. Again. Two degrees and a hefty resume of varied experience, and I got Walmart. Now, the job I’m currently at could only have come through my experiences at college, and I hope to grow it from there. But I’m not wallowing in money. I use a borrowed car and earn $250 a week pre-taxes. I can pay rent, buy groceries and save up a little bit every once in a while, but part of that is due to my loan deferment. Otherwise, I’d be financially swamped.

I know I’m not alone in these types of situations. There is no formula for success, no solidly guaranteed way to graduate without debt. Getting a higher education is a good idea. Don’t let idiots like Foxx tell you that if you can’t do it without owing people money, you’re lazy and entitled. You’re just doing the best you can.

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Random Thoughts On Some Random Thoughts, From Left To Right

In The Huntsville Times, the paper of my current city of residence/my hometown (Though not my birthplace. Why people want to equate those two confuses me at times.), the opinions page during the week is a little… less involved when it comes to the community than I’d like. Only consisting of one page, there is an Our View from the paper’s editorial board about some issue, usually community oriented. Under the Our View comes the small section for “Your Views,” which hosts this paper’s version of Letters to the Editor. Some of them are merely a few sentences in length, some almost 300 words or so. …It’s a really small section. So, as someone that really wanted to be the Opinions Editor of his school paper, I’m slightly saddened by the lack of conversation that is possible in the paper (though some newspaper “conversations” get ridiculous).

Also on the page, instead of any spots for guest columns, are two syndicated columns from different syndicated columnists every day. The columns, typically political in nature, are labelled “On the left” and “On the right.” While I’m disappointed by the lack of room for the random Huntsvillian to write a random column during the weekday (Sunday has a bit more space), I’ve actually always been fond of the opposing view points style.

At any rate, being the pinko-commie, anti-American, Jesus-hating liberal that I am, I often find myself disagreeing with columns in the category “On the right.” Wednesday, when I purchased the paper due to leaving my lunch hour book at home, the column was written by Thomas Sowell, who seems a bit more hardcore than some of the other columnists in that section, like George Will. At least, based on what I’ve read in passing. The column Sowell wrote that was included in the Wednesday paper was titled “Some random thoughts on the passing scene.”

Well, I read the column and, apart from the fact that the column takes up the disjointed “every paragraph is about a random subject” format that The Crimson White columnist Debra Flax perfected to its most revolting effect, I found that I was pretty much muttering responses under my breath to most of the random thoughts. So, I’d like to write those mutters down.

“Talk show host Dennis Miller said, ‘I don’t dig polo. It’s like miniature golf meets the Kentucky Derby.'”

Opening with a joke is a good idea. …And I actually like this one. Points.

“Nothing illustrates the superficiality of our times better than the enthusiasm for electric cars, because they are supposed to greatly reduce air pollution. But the electricity that ultimately powers these cars has to be generated somewhere — and nearly half the electricity generated in this country is generated by burning coal.”

Two random thoughts in a row I need to give props for. Granted, at least electric cars aren’t throwing pollution into the air and the electricity could come from some other source, but the fact that a lot of electricity comes from burning coal is a good point to make. Electric cars ain’t gonna be enough, eco-friends.

“The 2012 Republican primaries may be a rerun of the 2008 primaries, where the various conservative candidates split the conservative vote so many ways that the candidate of the mushy middle got the nomination — and then lost the election.”

I feel like the end result will be the same, a lost election… but I don’t think these are a repeat. Not from what I remember. Mostly because I don’t seem to recall the process being so excruciating and revealing of exactly how wishy-washy the entire GOP voting base is.

“Because morality does not always prevail, by any means, too many of the intelligentsia act as if it has no effect. But, even in Nazi Germany, thousands of Germans hid Jews during the war, at the risk of their own lives, because it was the right thing to do.”

I hate it when people use words like “intelligentsia.” It’s a pretentious word to negatively describe people that are pretentious. The irony is overwhelming. Also… I’m not 100% certain what this thought is trying to actually say. That some people are stupid? Well, that’s certainly true.

“In recent times, Christmas has brought not only holiday cheer but also attacks on the very word ‘Christmas,’ chasing it from the vocabulary of institutions and even from most ‘holiday cards.’ Like many other social crusades, this one is based on a lie — namely that the Constitution puts a wall of separation between church and state. It also shows how easily intimidated we are by strident zealots.”

I seriously don’t understand why everyone on the right seems to be completely up in arms about not everyone saying “Merry Christmas.” Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Get over it. And whether or not the Constitution puts a wall between church and state (which it does, to an extent) doesn’t actually matter. It’s normal people not saying “Merry Christmas,” not the government. I swear… if people stop saying “God bless you!” en mass in response to sneezing, will there be an eruption of speeches about the decaying morality of America?

“If you don’t like growing older, don’t worry about it. You may not be growing older much longer.”

Holy crap. This is ridiculously grim. Most people don’t like growing older in part because it tends to mean they’re closer to death. Saying, “Don’t worry, you’ll die soon!” is the opposite of comfort. It’s more like com-“We have no defenses invade us now.”

“What do you call it when someone steals someone else’s money secretly? Theft. What do you call it when someone takes someone else’s money openly by force? Robbery. What do you call it when a politician takes someone else’s money in taxes and gives it to someone who is more likely to vote for him? Social Justice.”

I call it a need to make politicians work for free for a while. All of them. Which, speaking of, wasn’t Alabama Governor Robert Bentley the one during the campaign that swore he wouldn’t take money for being governor until Alabama’s unemployment rate was fixed? Anyone know if he actually is doing that?

“When an organization has more of its decisions made by committees, that gives more influence to those who have more time available to attend committee meetings and to drag out each meeting longer. In other words, it reduces the influence of those who have work to do, and are doing it, while making those who are less productive more influential.”

An interesting thought, actually. Doesn’t explain what the heck is wrong with Congress, but it is an interesting spin on things. However, “have work to do” is rather vague. The absent people could be just slacking off while the present people are filling their day with work and obligations, trying to squeeze in time for that one committee meeting they’re supposed to be at. So, really, it gives power to the people able to fulfill the duties they took up.

“Anyone who studies the history of ideas should notice how much more often people on the political left, more so than others, denigrate and demonize those who disagree with them — instead of answering their arguments.”

This one is the one that annoyed me the most. How many times in history have people been killed or beaten for shouting “Keep things the same!” If the political right is conservatism, the idea that we should stick with what we have, and the political left is liberalism, the idea that we should change what we have, then it seems to me that I am far less able to count off all the people killed for their views on the right than on the left. Further, people on BOTH sides of the political spectrum can be giant jerks. Demonization of opposing view points happens because people are people, not because people have a certain viewpoint. Seriously, watch some FOX News talking heads and tell me how people with view points Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity disagree with fare on being allowed to talk.

People that wanted change and attempted to enact it that were killed that I can name off the top of my head: Jesus Christ, Paul, Peter, St. Stephen, Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., JFK, Socrates.

“The wisest and most knowledgeable human being on the planet is utterly incompetent to make even 10 percent of the consequential decisions that have to be made in a modern nation. Yet all sorts of people want to decide how much money other people can make or keep, and to micro-manage how other people live their lives.”

Again, not really sure what this bit is about. Exactly who or what are you trying to say is the problem here? And do you have a solution to offer? Someone has to set salaries and pay rates. Should it be one wise man or multiple people?

“The real egalitarians are not the people who want to redistribute wealth to the poor, but those who want to extend to the poor the ability to create their own wealth, to lift themselves up, instead of trying to tear others down. Earning respect, including self-respect, is better than being a parasite.”

You know one thing that is very often needed to create wealth? Money. Something hard to come by if a small few hoards it all.

“Of all the arguments for giving amnesty to illegal immigrants, the most foolish is the argument that we can’t find and expel all of them. There is not a law on the books that someone has not violated, including laws against murder, and we certainly have not found and prosecuted all the violators — whether murderers or traffic law violators. But do we then legalize all the illegalities we haven’t been able to detect and prosecute?”

Look, just because this guy is not on my side of the political spectrum doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the occasional point. “We can’t get them all” is a HILARIOUSLY weak argument for amnesty to illegal immigrants. Sowell pretty much sums it up rather well here.

“In the 1920s, Congressman Thomas S. Adams referred to ‘the ease with which the income tax may be legally avoided’ but also said some Congressmen ‘so fervently believe that the rich ought to pay 40 or 50 per cent of their incomes’ in taxes that they would rather make this a law, even if the government would get more revenue from a lower tax rate that people actually pay. Some also prefer class warfare politics that brings in votes, if not revenue.”

Well, now, many Congressmen ARE those rich people. But, again, point for pointing out that many politicians simply get behind causes for votes, a.k.a. all the wrong reasons.

“Can you imagine a man who had never run any kind of organization, large or small, taking it upon himself to fundamentally change all kinds of organizations in a huge and complex economy? Yet that is what Barack Obama did when he said, ‘We are going to change the United States of America!’ This was not ‘The Audacity of Hope.’ It was the audacity of hype.”

I can imagine a man who has great skills as a leader and a thinker doing that, sure. Leaders need a first chance at some point. Has Obama stumbled? Yep. Have people on both sides of the political spectrum, both parties, and his own advisers jumped on and taken advantage of his freshness? Yeah. Will he do better if reelected? I like to think so. Doesn’t really matter, though, because I’m pretty sure he can’t do worse than any of the people running against him.

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Too Much Focus On Football?

So, okay. In case you were completely unaware (a.k.a. probably don’t give a flying flip), this season of college football has been… dramatic. It’s something I’ve touched on before when last I talked about the BCS and how it’s kind of a dumb system.

Well, today, it got crazier, with No. 1 LSU getting to play a rematch with No. 2 Alabama for the BCS National Championship, Alabama just squeezing past Oklahoma State.

You know, since the BCS’s creation in 1998, and including this year, the SEC has been the conference with the National Champions 8 times? Tennessee in 1998/99, LSU in 2003/04, and LSU, Auburn, Alabama and Florida have all grabbed it at least once in the past 6 years (this year included). And the SEC is the conference that was suggesting a sort of playoff system?

Ah, well. Interesting stuff.

But, as interesting as all that is, that’s not really my point. (Though I’m contractually obligated to say Roll Tide and trash talk LSU now. Um, our state’s tiger could beat up your state’s tiger. Yeah. Betcha feel that burn.)

With all this football hubbub, and with Alabama having a mighty strong beginning in basketball this year (a 7-1 record and a standing at No. 12), I’ve been hearing a whole heck of a lot of sports talk. Heck, as my previously linked post and at least one other (which apparently made a rather erroneous presumption) have maybe keyed you in on, I’ve even joined in on the sports talk. I usually reserve it for my chats about my predictions for the World Cup, but hey. Going to UA can kind of get to you.

In fact, I was attempting earlier tonight to explain to my mother exactly why the BCS is a faulty, rather moronic system, designed to create pools of money out of smaller pools of money and not really bothering to represent any sort of accuracy of competition. At which point my mother got kind of annoyed, said she really didn’t care about football in the slightest, and then proceeded to mumble in a loud, not really mumbling voice about how schools focus way too much on football and other sports.

But, we’re in the South, so, football.

Now, back when I worked for The Crimson White, I remember the discussion of money made off of sports programs coming up. Apparently, as I recall, the University of Alabama is one of the few schools that actually earns money from its athletic department. The money UA makes off of football pays off the huge amount of money UA spends on football, covers all the other money pit sports like women’s basketball, and then has some left over, likely for Nick Saban to swim in.

Or something.

But when I say a few… I think the number was something like 14 or 16. 14 or 16 schools in the nation that are members of the NCAA do not lost money from their athletics departments and actually gain some money.

If that’s accurate, that’s a little shocking.

And so, as always, I wonder if the anti-sports lobby (my mother) has a point. Do schools pour too much money into athletics and sacrifice too much from other areas the school needs to focus on? Like… education?

But, really, we can ignore the schools that lose money for this argument. It’s actually better to point at the schools that make the money. If it is in fact true that the University of Alabama earns more money from the athletics department than it spends… where exactly is that extra money going?

It’s something I’ve wanted to know for years but never heard an answer for. Meanwhile, the price of going to school climbed higher and higher each year, the school got more and more crowded, the food options became more and more limited (and ridiculous), and many educational departments (such as the ever disdained liberal arts) simply twisted in the economic wind.

Of course, the greek system got more land and houses and the athletic department never wanted for anything. Likely, all of this is still quite true.

…anyway.

Alabama continues to grow as a school. And there are some amazing educational opportunities to be found there. Our MBA program, our law school, our astrophysics program… really, a large chunk of our graduate programs host a bevy of praise. The school has many high-ranking, highly awarded scholars and scholarship recipients. It also hosts a program with Cuba that created the first major arts endeavor by a group of Cubans since, like, 2001 or something (back in 2009, I believe, with the production of “Un sueño de una noche de verano”).

Lots of opportunities. The fact that it was in state wasn’t the ONLY reason I went there.

But, still… it has its problems, too. Openness from the administration is certainly one of them. A greek-run political machine that has waaaay too much real world power is another. But a nearly fanatical focus on the Crimson Tide athletics (especially football) that may come at the sacrifice of a more well-rounded education in every department? That may be the biggest problem of all.

And it isn’t just UA with this problem, I’m certain. Maybe schools are focused far too much on trying to garner money and fame through athletics and are not focusing enough attention on what they should be doing: educating students.

The fact that a college student who is good at football can make it through to his junior year and be illiterate (which a professor friend of mine told me happened to her when she was teaching in Louisiana) is a sign of misplaced priorities.

Maybe a playoff system isn’t the only thing we should lobby when it comes to sports. Maybe we should also lobby for a more balanced application of funds to favor all students int their educational endeavors.

Or maybe I’m just a crazy lib arts double major that hated being stuck in buildings constantly on the verge of collapse. You pick.

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Joe Paterno: The Sin Of Apathy

As many people should know by now, college football’s winningest coach, Penn State’s Joe Paterno, has been fired.

After coaching for 61 years, and just last week finally getting the last win he needed to have the most wins in college football, even more than football legend Paul “Bear” Bryant, JoePa has been fired for a singular, heinous sin: Apathy.

See, for a period of about 15 years, one of JoePa’s former assistants Jerry Sandusky was apparently engaging in sexual activities of various levels with no less than eight boys, some of whom were rather young, and sometimes performing these acts on the campus. In 2002, then-graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary came to JoePa, reporting that he had seen Sandusky engaged in sex with a young boy in the showering area. JoePa then reported the incident to Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz.

“FOX News”‘s Shepard Smith sums up the general dismay about JoePa’s actions when he says Paterno did nothing illegal, but was morally at fault for not doing more, such as getting the police involved in the case immediately. Even JoePa has said “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

So, what was JoePa’s crime? As Smith said, he did everything he was legally required to do. Where Paterno fell short, however, was in his inaction. So many people feel he should have done something more. He should have confronted Sandusky, he should have started a police investigation, something.

And they’d probably be right. As fond of JoePa as I am (my sister attended Penn State and has nothing but good things to say about him), he perhaps should have done something more. But in these situations, people are so very capable of talking themselves out of stuff, especially if they’ve never run into it before. They say to themselves, “No way. That can’t be right, can it?” Heck, some people may not have even reported it to their superiors out of disbelief.

Apathy and inaction are cruel, unfortunate sins that grip everyone. And in this case, we cannot solely blame Paterno for inaction.

Why did McQueary not stop Sandusky when he saw the act taking place? Call for help? Where is the call for his resignation? He SAW the act taking place and waited until the next DAY to report it. Yes, he was likely shocked, but if we’re sacking JoePa for his lack of moral action, McQueary should fall under the same stroke. Others have suggested similar things. (You can read the Grand Jury presentment here, should you be curious about all the details of what happened.)

The Penn State president has also been ousted, and Curley and Schultz are being charged with failure to report the incident to authorities… so I can’t help but wonder why everyone is so upset at Paterno alone. There was failure from people all along the entirety of the ladder. In my mind, Paterno is actually the least morally culpable of any of them. Not that he shouldn’t or couldn’t have done something… but so many others should have taken actions before Paterno.

It’s unfortunate. A great man, a great asset to Penn State, is to be tainted in his memory by one simple crime almost all people are guilty of: apathy.

Apathy is a sin that grips so many people in so many ways, and it is even encouraged by many. Take, for instance, the Occupy Wall Street movements. So many people laugh such movements off, saying that nothing will change, such actions are pointless. You can read some of those sentiments in this opinion printed in The Crimson White. So many are content to keep plugging away and silently complain to themselves and people close to them that things suck and something should change, but so often when change is offered, they stay out of it.

Another instance would be the American Revolution. Our American history books make it sound like our entire nation rose up together in righteous anger and moral fury, and that we grabbed the shackles of oppression and threw them into the face of our British oppressors.

But in reality, it’s more like maybe 1/3 of the nation did anything to make a change. Another third actually supported the crown outright. And then the final third did what seems to be getting more and more popular these days: Stayed the hell out of it.

Inaction and apathy can lead to so many problems. Injustice thrives in apathy. I could bring up so many other examples. The case of Kitty Genovese is popularly used, though the specifics people like to talk of have been generally disproved: A woman stabbed and raped to death while neighbors took little or no action. Every day, domestic abuse can be heard by neighbors who just plug up their ears and stay out of it. Child rapists can even continue their actions while others simply pass the buck to people that are more in charge than they.

All that is required for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing. I’m going off of memory on the specific words of that quote, but I believe I’ve got the basic meaning down. Inaction and apathy are the silent velvet glove evil and injustice wears. It isn’t an iron fist we need to worry about. It is that small voice in the corner of our mind saying, “Let someone else worry about it” that we need to be vigilant to watch against.

Do I think JoePa should have been fired? …I don’t know. I know that he was a source of good for that community in many ways beyond football, and that he shouldn’t be hung by a rope made of one terrible mistake. I know that his absence from the school will be missed. I can’t say whether or not I think he should’ve been fired, because I’m not sure. But if you’re going to fire him, McQueary all the way to the top should be fired, too. The great thing about inaction is that so many people can do it. And all of those people should be held responsible when a reckoning comes.

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Is Government Latin For Useless?

It’s rather interesting exactly how little Congress has been doing the past couple of years other than trying to give the middle finger to President Obama. They have constantly blocked any and every attempt at progress, the best two examples being the near default on our debt due to inaction and the refusal to accept any part of Obama’s jobs bill, something that the country could use.

But, surely, they do other things, right? They have to get SOMETHING done, right?

Yes, they do get stuff done. Like when they vote on whether or not our motto is still “In God We Trust.”

Y’know, in case someone forgot. Or there was a huge outcry from their constituents about it.

It’s immensely laughable how very inactive and moronic our Congress seems to be these days. How often do you hear from the office of your Congressman, asking what your thoughts on an issue are? How often are your voices heard in the Capitol?

I used to think that The University of Alabama Student Government Association was an exceptionally worthless, useless legislative body, what with their voting on resolutions about which resolutions they’re going to vote on being resolute about.

That happened. I am not joking.

But, you know what, at least they weren’t voting on whether or not they still all went to UA or were called the SGA or something. And some of them actually read the student newspaper, The Crimson White, and respond to the things written in the Opinions section. I should know, since I’ve had SGA senators and vice presidents contact me about my own writings.

But where is the response from Congress to the massive movement that is Occupy Wall Street/Portland/Oakland/Boston/Fill-in-the-blank? Where is the polling amongst their constituency? Where is the actual representation?

The funny thing is, all of this is starting to come around and bite the Republican party in the butt. They stated that their number one goal was to oust Obama. You know what would have done that? Getting things done. If the Republican run Congress had actually gotten legislation that their constituency liked/wanted passed, they wouldn’t seem so worthless and petty. And now, their stubborn nature and refusal to do get anything passed is actually helping Obama as he goes about the country saying, “Look. I offered a solution, they turned it down. And instead of an alternative, they’re given you assurances that our motto is still, in fact, ‘In God We Trust.’ How dumb is that?”

As useless as polls are, the newest ones still show Obama leading against every GOP candidate. And, you know what? I think Obama has had some major stumbles. He has disappointed me, he has fallen behind on his promises, he has changed his mind on some things he said he’d do, and at times he has bitten off more than he can chew.

But there are few politicians that can say otherwise. And right now, Obama seems to really finally be hitting his stride in competency and offering of real solutions. He seems to be serious about trying to fix things and demanding Congress get serious about it, too.

Bring on your Herman Cains and your Mitt Romneys. I’d rather a guy that made a lot of mistakes but is at least trying to do right be the guy that is in charge than a bunch of people who can only say they’ll do everything to undo what the guy before did and offering crap solutions, if any, to replace it with.

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In Defense Of The SGA

As a reminder to people that read my post last night, and informing those that didn’t, this is meant to be a satire about the recent events involving the University of Alabama’s SGA. I’ve gone ahead and sent the column to The Crimson White in hopes that it gets printed, but even if it doesn’t, it’ll be here for your viewing pleasure. Please enjoy.

When I awoke this Monday morning, I found my Twitter all atwitter with talk of the Student Government Association voting down Resolution 33-11, which would have shown that the SGA resolved to ask the University of Alabama administration to release documents related to the resignation of former SGA President Grant Cochran.

I was (not entirely) shocked to discover that the liberal rag known as The Crimson White, led on Twitter by their Chief Copy Editor John “Stalin is my homeboy” Davis, was calling foul in their Our View column, claiming that the SGA needs transparency.

How dare you, Crimson White editorial staff, consider so harmful a solution to the apparent problems in your student government like asking to know what the hell is going on? It is the job of the SGA to govern, not to inform, and it is the job of the student body to ignore most everything the SGA does, never vote and complain when things get hinky. You may claim that your government is corrupt and working in its own interests, and you would of course be right. That’s what government does! To ask them to stop would be to disband the thing entirely, and the UA student body could not survive without a Student Government, especially not if the year were somewhere between 1992 and 1996.

Fortunately, there were some 26 brave young men and women who stood up against the tyranny of attempting to stop corruption. I applaud you, senators, on behalf of the right-thinking, government loving students and alumni everywhere for your bravery in the face of adversity. These people, clamoring for clarity and a working knowledge of the wheelings and dealings of the SGA, are completely unaware of the harm they are asking you to bring to poor, innocent people that may have broken the rules.

Sen. Austin Barranco certainly knows the truth behind what pains the truth can bring. “Essentially what we’re all voting on right here is a slap in the face to someone and in this situation it would be our former president,” Barranco said, according to The CW. “It’s a serious situation that was already handled and we don’t need to make it worse by slapping him in the face and letting the whole student body see what actually happened. There’s no reason to sit here and harp on this mistake and make it public knowledge to everyone else.”

Too true, Barranco, too true. It would be a slap in the face for corrupt politicians to have their corruptions brought to light. I know that former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich would agree with you and say that corrupt actions taken by government officials should be kept a secret for no one to know, the same way no one knows how the SGA is actually being useful. And poor President Richard M. Nixon was face-slapped so many times after Watergate, he was never able to smile again, a fate no politician should have to face.

And what benefit would there be to the student body being informed exactly how their government is corrupt? Barranco, again being the sane voice in a troubled time of logical concern from the voting populace, brings up the point of how the knowledge of the corruption would affect new and prospective students. “They definitely won’t benefit from this,” he said. “All they’ll see is that we have a corrupt government system.”

And what better way is there to hide the fact that you have a corrupt government system than to admit it’s corrupt and then hide the details in a shadowy, no concern for the desires of the voters fashion? After all, governments should not be afraid of the people. The people should be afraid of the governments. Keeping secrets about what goes on and what corrupt dealings occur is exactly how the governments achieve that paradigm.

On that point, bravo, too, to the University of Alabama administration, for wisely battening down the hatches and keeping tightly sealed lips when it comes to informing the students about any actions taken to stop corruption and punish rule breaking. The student body should trust the administration implicitly and be grateful that they’re even recognizing anything happened at all. There is no purpose in complaining about wanting to know what, if any, punishments were given to any greek organizations that broke the anti-hazing policy or to members of the SGA, like former President Steven Oliver, that clearly broke voting policy and SGA ethics codes.

The SGA is intended to be a training ground for students to become better potential politicians, and as the UA administration deftly shows, tight lips and secrecy are practically required for anyone in a position of governing power. To burden the common voter with knowledge would be like handing a kid a loaded gun, by which I mean it would be like arming a soldier in a war and giving him a chance to fight back against people trying to shoot him.

So, again, thank you SGA and UA administration for being the stalwart defenders of the government’s power to do whatever the heck it wants without fear of reproach from the voters. Keep functioning like the machine you are: Well-oiled, with several wrenches thrown in to make access to tools easier when it all falls apart.

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Government Transparency Is Bad?

So, this morning, I was a bit busy watching “The Great Muppet Caper” for my next installment in that other blog I’ve mentioned a few times before. Cross-promotional? I’ve no clue what you mean.

Anyway, thanks to that, combined with a peachy-keen 1-10 work schedule today (And tomorrow! Fun!), I wasn’t really able to sit down and write out what I wanted to. But I have been thinking on it most of the day.

See, back at my good ol’ alma mater, The University of Alabama, the Student Government Association has been undergoing some changes. And by changes, I mean that the president randomly resigned in the middle of a small, apparently pretty meaningless scandal. And no one is really sure why. And, just recently, the SGA voted against the release of documents that would give the student body at large a clue as to what the heck was going on.

You should read it. You’ll get gold quotes like this: “Essentially what we’re all voting on right here is a slap in the face to someone and in this situation it would be our former president,” Sen. Austin Barranco said. “It’s a serious situation that was already handled and we don’t need to make it worse by slapping him in the face and letting the whole student body see what actually happened.”

Nixon would have LOVED this guy.

To get a better idea of what the heck happened to the UA SGA, you can read this The Crimson White Editorial Board opinion.

One reason I bring this all up is to point out how disturbing and sad it is that kids essentially playing at politics are playing at it so well that they’ve got the cover-ups down to a T. Of course, this is a University with one of the better known, more heinous secret societies that often leaks into Alabama’s actual politics.

The other reason I bring this up (beyond the fact that I didn’t write anything else) is that tomorrow, you’ll get to read my third attempt ever (and second posted here) at pointed, hilarious, Colbert-esque satire.

Get ready, folks. It’s coming. As is my contract with Comedy Central, I’m sure. Any day now.

In other, unrelated, random news, Pat Robertson thinks the GOP base is getting too extreme.

Meaning Pat Robertson and I agree on something.

This is like Dick Cheney saying you give off too strong an evil, dickish vibe. In other words, I do believe there is a sale on parkas somewhere in hell, and they’re selling fast.

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In Defense Of The Christian Way

Sorry. Tonight is another cop-out. My life isn’t exactly the peachiest of keens at the moment, and I didn’t manage to write a post before it ended up that way. Not that I was really having much in the way of ideas on what to write about. But, don’t worry. I won’t go emo on you or anything. I’ll just leave you with a bit of satire I wrote a couple years ago that seems to be returning in its relevancy. See, this year, as happened two years ago, the Alabama Atheists and Agnostics at UA have been seeing their chalkings washed away, despite the chalking being perfectly legal in every way. Two years ago when it happened and there was a slight explosion of media in the Op/Ed pages of The Crimson White, I wrote the following Stephen Colbert-esque satire, which of course never saw print.

Here it is:

When I read Opinions section of the Sept. 30 edition of The Crimson White, I can honestly say that I was not at all surprised. When the talk of the town is a group of atheists are butting heads with a group of Christians, there’s no question about whom the people and the liberal media of this Christian nation will side with: the atheists, of course. For those unaware, apparently a group of atheists and agnostics, also known as people too afraid to flat out say they hate God, went around Sunday, Sept. 27, and wrote some hateful, slanderous phrases and slogans with chalk all around the Ferguson Center, clearly trying to wile the weaker and more naïve Christians and spiritually confused students of this campus into falling into their trap and take the unsuspecting victims with them on their train ride to hell.

I mean, come on. “You can be good without God”? Please. Everyone knows that God created morals, which means all atheists have no morals. These non-believers are clearly just trying to cover up all the good, Christian facts about the world.

The controversy really exploded when a group of loving, caring and clearly God-fearing Christians discovered the travesty and tried to save souls. They immediately went forth to protect their brothers and sisters and stop this hate from being disseminated fully into the student body. They took water, Holy in its use and purpose, and washed clean the sinful chalky sayings.

The Opinions page on that Wednesday following the Holy Crusade those martyr-like Christians took was filled with nothing but condemnations and anger against those Good Samaritans, except for the stuff that wasn’t about them. I was totally lacking in shock and actually came to expect this. Clearly, this is just another case of the 76-plus percent of Christians in America being oppressed by the non-believers and the liberal (Latin for “scourge of God”) media. It is just a sad sign of the times, and a clear continuation of the blatant, egregious attacks on God and His people that have been going on this past decade.

Consider the attack on the Pledge of Allegiance taken by now infamous atheist Michael Newdow. When our late-coming Founding Father, Dwight D. Eisenhower, added “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance, it was because God told him to do it since Ben Franklin in his old age clearly just forgot. Just because an atheist refuses to believe God exists doesn’t mean they shouldn’t obey Him. You won’t like God when He’s angry. And the War On Christmas? Everyone knows that Santa Claus and gift giving commercialism are as Christian as it gets. To get rid of Christ would eliminate the holiday all together!

So I’m glad to hear some Christians are fighting back. Not just with the chalking, either. The other day, Dr. Kukla of the department of philosophy gave a lecture titled “The Logical Impossibility of God,” in which he took the Fine Tuning argument for the existence of God and showed that it was fallacious, though not showing God does not exist. The fliers announcing his lecture were apparently ripped down en masse. Yet another home run for the Christian way!

The people of this Christian nation have oppressed Christians long enough. We are merely doing our God-mandated duty when we cover up uncomfortable facts, like atheists exist on campus. It’s what we’ve always done. Imagine what the world would be like if the Catholic Church had agreed with Galileo’s suggestion of a heliocentric system of planets. We’d probably be trying to live on Mars, and I’ve been told it’s very difficult to breathe there. So, I accept your thanks on behalf of all Christians for saving humanity the trouble of trying to find ways to breathe on other planets.

Christians of this campus, keep on doing the good work. Tear down any signs you see promoting a different view point and deface any proclamation you see announcing that people of a different religious belief exist. After all, Jesus set the example by kicking anyone that disagreed with him in the face, as lovingly as possible. The only way to get the Christian message of love across to people is to keep blocking their view of facts and other points of view. Eventually, they’ll forget that any other religions exist and be Christians by default.

I really need to start reading these things in full before posting them. Cut off the last sentence. My bad.

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Another Segment, Another Copout

So, I’ve realized that, as of late, I’ve been doing a lot of political posts, many of which may make it seem like I hate Republicans. That’s simply untrue. I thought Plato was an okay guy. (Philosophy humor for the win!) But seriously, not only do I not want to seem like someone that eats the children of conservatives world over, I also don’t want to rant politic all the time. …but politics is such an overflowing fount of inspiration, and sometimes real life is boring/exhausting. So, I turned to a friend for a suggestion.

She said I should review a movie. Well, I don’t get to see movies often, though I did enjoy writing the two film reviews I wrote for The Crimson White. So, she suggested reviewing an old one. Okay, sure… but which one?

Then she got a guacamole craving and things derailed from there.

Anyway, I went to work today and was reminded by the sight of the Electronics department manager clad in Jedi robes that today was the release of the Star Wars Blu-ray disc set. In talking with my department manager about this, she made mention that she’s never seen the Star Wars series. Not a single movie from it.

I still find it odd when people say they’ve not seen these classic, hugely popular films. But, then again, I suppose it’s not that different from someone not having seen “Casablanca” (I haven’t) or “Citizen Kane,” even though the Star Wars series has stretched into our generation pretty heftily.

I of course told her to watch the original Episodes IV, V and VI, and to just ignore the existence of I, II and III, as any good sci-fi/Star Wars fan should. But I got to thinking…

…what would it be like to start at Episode I having never seen Star Wars before?

Well, I can’t quite figure out what that’d be like… but I can certainly try.

So, I’m going to announce two new segments to the blog (since I can’t do what I wanted to do tonight).

First, Big Screen Ballyhoo will be a segment in which I review a new film. …it may be a bit before that segment comes out, but I’m sure I’ll get paid eventually.

Second, Second First Time Viewer will be where I watch a movie that I, and likely most everyone else, has seen many times over and try to review it while I watch it as though it were my first time. …I’m certain I’ll have some out of character segments that I can’t resist, but I’ll try to stick to the plan as best as possible.

Isn’t this exciting? Me adding two new segments to my blog? Because that’s the sort of thing that can excite you, dear reader. Me talking about how I’ll be talking about stuff later.

…Yeah, today’s a slow day.

But wait, there’s more! As I was talking before, I was wondering what it’d be like to start Star Wars at Episode I having never seen them before. So, my next 6 blog posts will be dedicated to that experiment. And may God have mercy on my soul, because, while it’s been a while since I’ve seen Star Wars, I can’t remember being too fond of the prequels.

But it should be a fun experiment. And perhaps even a funny one. Or it could be a total train wreck. Who knows? Starting tomorrow, I reckon we’ll see. Maybe it’ll be good to not know how terrible an addition midi-chlorians were!

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