Tag Archives: Trayvon Martin

The Good, the Bad, the Ferguson

America’s pretty messed up right now.

We’ve got vitriolic divisions on racial lines, political lines, ideological lines, religious/non-religious lines… We’re divided on so many fronts, I still find myself unable to pledge allegiance to the flag. Why should I? It’s not true. One nation? Sure, even if a lot of people want to secede. Under God? Well, that’s definitely questionable. Indivisible? The only way we as a country could be indivisible right now is if we’ve already divided ourselves so much that we can no longer be divided. And we seem to be nearly there. With liberty and justice for all? That statement seems almost as laughable as “indivisible,” especially in the light of the events of Ferguson, Mo.

If you have no idea what events I’m talking about, go ye forth and seek ye a friggin’ newspaper and a house that isn’t under 6 miles of rock. The problems in Ferguson are so layered and numerous and ridiculous that one would THINK, as a nation, we could finally see eye-to-eye on something with only a few freak outliers in the data. I mean, we’ve got excessive, militarized police blowing responses out of proportion. We’ve got an unarmed, non-violent (at LEAST in that moment) person WHOSE SKIN COLOR OR CRIMINAL RECORD SHOULDN’T MATTER dead without a good explanation. If he was a criminal, he was executed without due process, a Constitutional right. We’ve got the freedom of assembly and the freedom of the press getting hampered by cops, not to mention the violations of the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments. And you’d better believe that 2nd amendment wouldn’t get upheld if a Ferguson protestor legally had a gun. We’ve got proof of this sort of activity happening all over the country for YEARS without appropriate punishments. We’ve got scientific data showing a decrease in police brutality and harassment claims anywhere cameras are required to be in cop cars or on their person. We KNOW, without a doubt, that there needs to be change. Race shouldn’t even be an issue.

But, no. Nothing’s ever that simple. See, too much has happened. There have been riots and looting. Those are bad, so Michael Brown deserved it. He may or may not have stolen cigars. Therefore, he deserved it. Oh, and he’s black. Which makes a difference. Because when you’re black, if you’re not an honors student planning to attend Harvard with a spotless record, a 4.0+ GPA and have never smoked, drank, had sex, owned a gun or hung out with another person of color who is less “perfect” than you, then you’re going to be demonized. This guy says all of this much more poignantly than I can, so I suggest you read it.

I was born extremely lucky. I reached into the lotto bowls of race and gender and got white male. As a man, I will tend to get preferential treatment over women when it comes to being hired and paid. I have a far lesser fear of sexual assault and rape. As a white person, I don’t have to worry about being treated as a stereotype. I don’t worry about being frisked. If I were to commit a crime, I’m likely to spend far less time in jail than a non-white person. And if I get randomly killed by police, at least I won’t get my name dragged through the dirt postmortem.

But do you know what the worst part of this all is? Nothing will really change. People will pretend it’s an isolated incident, like Eric Garner choked to death in New York, like Rodney King in California, like Trayvon Martin in Florida, like Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, like Michael Bell in Wisconsin. It was a fluke. It wasn’t a symbol of larger problems. They weren’t perfect people, so they deserved it. They goaded the cops. For goodness sake, we’ve got a crowdfunding campaign in support of Officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot Brown, and you can see how many people are apparently GLAD the boy got shot. Because blacks kill blacks and no one complains? Because he was a thug anyway? Excuse after excuse after excuse.

Nothing will change because we allow it to stay the same. Because we choose to see people as different and lesser than the rest of us.

America is going to be one of the most disastrously failed experiments if we let this keep happening, but there’s too much pride, ego and ignorance blinding people to that fact. Hopefully, I’m wrong. Hopefully, Brown’s death will ignite a spark of change for the better. Because we desperately need it before we burn.

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The Problem With Movements

I was pondering the other day on the nature of sociopolitical movements.

They’re really weird, don’t you think? But amazingly so. They happen typically from some sort of organic collective of shared emotions, often caused by some inciting incident, and they can wreak all sorts of havoc on the status quo.

Movements today seem to lack that a bit.

Based on cursory knowledge of some of the more successful movements of modern history (the Civil Rights movement, Gandhi’s drive to free India, ending apartheid), here’s what I observed (and I’ll define successful during this):

1) There is a problem some person or group of people wish to fix.

2) They stir up fervor amongst the apathetic, ignorant and disorganized.

3) A leader grows out of the movement.

4) They hammer their disdain for the problem over and over again.

5) There is a martyr of the movement, usually being the leader.

6) They succeed in fixing the initial problem.

Now, I wish I could honestly say that No. 5 was optional, but when I thought about it… Martin Luther King Jr., killed. Gandhi, killed. Nelson Mandela, imprisoned. (Not all martyrs need be killed, after all… right? …Merriam-Webster’s second definition gives me wiggle room. I’ll take it.)

As for success, that’s No. 6. They resolve the problem they set out to resolve. For example, the Civil Rights movement had an extremely specific goal within their general manifesto of “Hey, can we please be treated like equals?”: Desegregate the nation. Now, other sects within the movement had some different goals added to that, but generally, that was the movement’s main goal. Gandhi got India free from the U.K.’s rule. Apartheid ended. These are successes.

So, let’s think of the movements we’ve seen in today’s day and age. The Tea Party movement. Feminism (third wave, I suppose). The gay rights movement.

While some have been working for years (gay rights) and some for, well, a couple of years (Tea Party), none have been extremely successful. Here’s a breakdown.

The Tea Party movement had the organic growth movements need. They’ve gotten number 2 solved (depending on your definition of ignorant). We’ll pretend they’ve even had number 3 nailed. And they’re certainly hammering their disdain for their interpretations of problems over and again. But they fail in a few places. First, they don’t really have any specific problems they want to hit. They do have several they’re upset about, though, so that’s not a huge issue. They certainly have no martyrs, though, no one willing to fully give themselves to the movement and lose everything. And, quite simply, they had too many people they considered leaders, like Rand Paul and Michele Bachmann. But more on that in a bit.

Third wave feminism (I specify third wave because first wave, based on my understanding of it, was a successful movement that afforded women the right to vote.) has yet to succeed because it currently holds too general a manifesto, firstly. Instead of systematically taking out issues one by one, the modern feminist movement rails against all the issues simultaneously. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s noble, and it’s right. But it’s inefficient and ultimately accomplishes little, unfortunately. Or not much very quickly, at least. And due to the lack of specification of goals, infighting has cropped up all over the place, people dictating who is and isn’t a “true feminist,” something I attempted to talk about before and failed miserably at. Fighting from within while trying to target every injustice simultaneously makes it difficult for a movement to truly grow. It stagnates before it can really achieve the third step of gaining a visible leader.

The gay rights movement definitely has the first part: Legalize same-sex marriage. Legalize same-sex adoption. Let gays donate blood. Criminalize harassment via sexuality. A few others, I’m sure, but those are the first few specific examples I can think of. The gay rights movement even had an inciting incident: The Stonewall Riots. Not every movement gets one of those. But the gay rights movement finds itself faltering with no leader and no highly visible martyr. In actuality, Matthew Shepard is that martyr, but with a lack of organization and leadership, that martyrdom has become something only the truly passionate in the movement remember with sadness. Some people that are pro-gay rights don’t even know who Shepard is. And as for leadership, perhaps the most visible leader of the movement is Dan Savage, who is too divisive and confrontational to be a truly effective leader of a movement. As opposed to supporting the movement, he often satisfies himself with lambasting the people in opposition of it, which isn’t how the successful movements found success.

Really, though, I think the Internet might be to blame, partially. When it comes to movements, it’s both a blessing and a curse. On the internet, there is a moment, a brief momentary spark, where your movement can catch fire. For many internet-driven movements, the damage doesn’t have to be massive. A few tens or hundreds of thousands of signatures, a mere drop in the bucket of human existence, on someone’s Change.org petition can get the job done. For movements that need a bigger support system, like the ones I’ve mentioned, the internet can be a bit more of a problem. See, thanks to the internet, things can move quickly. That’s how SOPA got stopped, after all. Things are also mercilessly recorded, allowing for more pointed pettiness and vicious tearing apart. And what’s worse: Everyone can be a leader on their own.

Hell, look at me on this blog. I’m constantly talking about things that I wish would change, things that need to be fixed. And I know there are others that agree with me. But I’m not the leader of any movements. I’m barely even an active member of any. At best, I’m often and intellectual supporter. And why is that? Because on the internet, it seems like that’s all you need. You can get so many like-minded people to swarm upon your opinion and lift you up that you feel like a leader. For years, I was generally considered to be one of the leaders of the gay rights movement… on the Gaia Online forum. And by years, I think I mean two, maybe three or four. The internet moves quickly and unsustained dialogues can be forgotten. For that period of time, my posts, my literature was reposted and debated all over the internet. I had several hundred vocal supporters, and more silent ones. People asked if they could print my posts off and hand them out in real life.

And while I’m not saying that didn’t necessarily help… It’s simply not enough. With the internet, too many people can be too vocal simultaneously. Before that, though, a single person’s voice could shine above the rest of the maddening crowd with clarity and charisma.

For making Progressive or Todd Akin look terrible, or spreading the word about Kony or Trayvon Martin, or getting people to love or hate Chick-fil-A… the internet is great. It’s fabulous for all that. The problems are somewhat general and don’t require much action to fix. Just a tweet, email or share. Some would call it armchair activism, or slacktivism. It can get results, even if the result is eliminating some ignorance, but it simply doesn’t require much.

Other movements need more support, more power behind them. To see women and the GLBT community treated as equals, it takes more than a tweet, email or share. It takes feet on the streets. It takes organization. It takes leadership. It takes vigilance, seeking to destroy the problems facing them one at a time.

…Tweet, email or share if you agree, I suppose.

EDIT: To add to this, someone pointed out that Gandhi and MLK died after the main crux of their movement’s goals were met. They were both still martyrs for their movement, MLK being jailed unjustly and Gandhi going on hunger strike. What their deaths accomplished, however, was permanency of acknowledgement. Now, any movements spawning from the original, or any goals the movements want to revisit, have a permanent figurehead and reminder, a permanent leader to refer back to. Not every movement needs their leader to die, of course. But consider how much stronger and longer lasting those movements have been over the years. Movements like… Well, Christianity.

Just some additional clarification and food for thought.

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The Misogyny Of Life, The Misogyny Of Art

Lately, I’ve been noticing this trend that has targeted many a person. It’s a trend to start pinning people down with terms like “racist” and “misogynist.” Rush Limbaugh, Sandra Fluke, Trayvon Martin… all of these people and the events associated with them got those terms thrown around a lot. You’re racist if you support George Zimmerman, and racist if you support Martin. And if the term “misogynist” didn’t get thrown around a lot when Limbaugh called Fluke a slut, then it must be true that (insert hyperbolic falsehood here).

But “misogynist” has been getting thrown around more and more these days. Sure, “racist” is a classic that pops up often, what with our having a black president. But the movement of feminism has had a strange renaissance as of late… I don’t say strange as though it shouldn’t have happened or something… but I’ve seen a lot of new terminology and repetition of the themes and rallying cries in recent months. For example, the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test was actually created by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985, so it’s not new. Yet I’ve only within the past year been hearing about it. A lot.

To pass the Bechdel test, a movie must have two or more named female characters. Two of those females must converse with one another, and it can’t just be about boys/men. Now, this isn’t necessarily a gauge of how “feminist” a movie is. While there are some movies that pass the test with strong female leads a girl could potentially look up to, or female leads that dare to break gender stereotypes and conventions, such as, perhaps, “The Iron Lady,” movies like “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” also pass the test. The test doesn’t judge quality or feminist potential, just whether or not it breaks the male-driven norm the years have seemingly imposed on entertainment.

Now, it’s true that women haven’t exactly had the most glamorous history in entertainment. They’ve often been portrayed as simple sex symbols, objects, et cetera. And while we are more aware of that nowadays and attempting to break out of such trends, the more some things stay the same. For example, look at most every movie Megan Fox is in and tell me what her purpose in the movie is. If it’s not to stand there and look pretty to draw in the men of the crowd for most of the movies, I’ll be surprised. (The one exception that I’ve seen is, sort of, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People,” where she plays the super hottie and the lead male character plays as the dumbstruck male.)

But, still, even with this trend, many people that label themselves “feminists” have taken up their own personal crusades against a lot of different media, railing against them if they ever portray a woman in any fashion that isn’t what they deem as having feminist equality, so to speak. For example, some people give Joss Whedon a lot of praise for creating somewhat strong female roles and for not caring about conventions. In “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Buffy Summers was one of the first females on TV to be seen having multiple sexual partners and not be judged for it. She is also decently independent throughout much of the series. Then, in “Firefly,” you have Zoe Washburne, the strong, no nonsense female enforcer.

Of course, others will point at Whedon’s work and call foul, saying Buffy was emotionally fragile and practically catatonic at times over her connection with a man, such as during the time Angel, her former boyfriend, went evil. And Zoe goes from enforcer to little housewife around her husband Wash several times. And don’t get them started on River Tam.

Not just with Whedon, but there have been many times where I’ve seen “feminist” people cry out against any media if it ever depicts a woman as a sexual object that draws the eyes of men, or is unintelligent, or whores herself out to men in a “non-sexually liberated fashion” (whatever that means), or is ever emotionally attached to a man, or emotionally dependent on a man, or ever cries over the loss of a man, et cetera.

It’s getting to the point where I have to say that nothing will satisfy some of these people.

Is the world, particularly the Western bits, strongly heterocentrist? Yes. Is it strongly male-focused, in regards to power? Yeah. So, should there be a strong effort to show non-heterosexual lifestyles and women in better lights, ones where they are treated as kindly as men and heterosexual relationships? Definitely.

But not all men and heterosexual relationships get the kindest treatments. Yet there seems to be a growing (at least in volume, if not number) trend to demand only the ideal in portrayals of women and alternate lifestyles. Here’s my problem: Sometimes, women are weak. Sometimes, women grow dependent on a man. Sometimes, they lose it when they break up with someone. It happens in real life all the time. And the inverse is true, too. I’m not saying our current standards are good, but I am annoyed at the people who seem to suggest it would be best to eliminate all those “negative” representations. Sometimes, it’s just representative of real life.

There are definitely measures to take. For example, I started to put my play “Camp Gethsemane” up to the Bechdel test. Theatre and film aren’t so terribly different. It passed the test, sort of/barely. I noticed then that there were a lot of big male roles and only two decent sized female ones. So I made the decision to change one of the bigger minor characters (named and has several lines/scenes, but not exactly a main character) to a girl. But out of all the major characters, James was the only character I could do that to. Because of the setting, because of the other characters, because of the story… That’s just how it worked out. A different story, different setting, I could feasibly have a mostly female cast. But you have to remember also that I’m a guy. I default to writing things I’m more comfortable with and used to, which will tend to be male characters, especially since I often put some of myself in those characters.

My suggestion? Lets get more women writing screenplays, plays, television shows and stories. Let’s make a concerted effort to not cast a blanket over an entire group and stereotype them all over the place. Let’s let art imitate life in every aspect and treat everyone equally. But by that same token, let art imitate life. Life isn’t always kind to everyone, so don’t demand art to be that way. Instead of calling everyone misogynistic, let’s work toward dialogue and actually fixing the problem.

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People (Especially Politicians) Need To Stop Saying Stupid Stuff

I napped most of the afternoon away… Unfortunate, because it means I’ll be awake all night… But I deserve some napping, I think. Probably do some more after this.

Anyway. Due to napping, it’s difficult for me to really think of anything deep or even remotely important to talk about. Especially since I’ve actually been spending a decent amount of my free time working on my play (both the one I’m writing and the one I’m acting in)… or watching “Psych.” But I love that show.

Anyway, there’s been this awkward trend for politicians this week. A trend of them saying really stupid things that, really, you would THINK they’d know better than to say.

Here’s some examples.

Here’s Michele Bachmann using the phrase “tar baby” to talk about President Barack Obama’s remarks on oil speculation. Now, maybe it’s because I’m from the South that I am more familiar with how terribly racist a phrase that is. But, even if that weren’t the case… why the hell did Bachmann use it? Seriously, what the hell does it mean in her mind if it’s not a racial thing? Who waves tar babies in the air? How is that a thing?

Here’s Mitt Romney deciding to heckle a beloved small business local bakery with some of his attempts at humor that, of course, always seem to come off as him just being a bit snobbish. Saying the cookies seem like they come from a local 7-11? How is that supposed to be funny? Not only does it seem snobbish, but it’s also kind of mean to say about a small business. You know, one of those things a presidential candidate should generally say he wants to protect. Jon Stewart may have originally given Romney the comedic edge over Obama before, but with this and his heckling NASCAR fans for their rain ponchos, I feel that’s something to be revisited. Romney’s humor seems to just be coming off as kind of mean. Not good in a presidential candidate.

Oh, here’s a favorite. West Virginia Republican Senatorial candidate John Raese decided to compare a cigarette ban to the Holocaust. Does no one seriously understand the whole stigma behind Adolf Hitler? At all? Remember how Bosephus got his Monday Night Football song canned? Hank Williams Jr. was just trying to point out how starkly opposite Obama and John Boehner are, politically speaking, but the mere mention of Hitler causes people to go slightly apoplectic. You just don’t compare people to Hitler, even if you’re not trying to call them evil. You don’t compare ANYTHING to Hitler in a public forum, ESPECIALLY if you’re a public figure. Everyone will tear you apart for it. Leave the Godwin’s Law stuff to the Internet comment sections and forums. Likely, you’ll get compared to Hitler for comparing other things to Hitler. It’s just stupid.

Of course, not all the people on this list are conservatives. We have Vice President Joe Biden recently making a really awkward analogy. This one isn’t quite in the same flavor as the others, and Biden is well known for being a gaffe machine. But, as opposed to Romney’s “I’m rich, suck it” gaffes, Biden’s come off more like a slightly tipsy uncle’s word vomit. This one, comparing controversial legislature passed by Obama to “legalizing rattlesnakes in the lobbies of hotels in Arizona” is… well, really confusing. It’s not a stupid thing to say the same way these others have been. It’s just… weird. What does it even mean? I mean, really?

There is, of course, the unfortunate phrasing of Hilary Rosen I could bring back up… Because I’ve been having trouble finding liberals saying silly things recently. Not that liberals don’t. They’re just as capable of foot-in-mouth as anyone. Just this week has been very conservative heavy.

Which reminds me of our good friend Geraldo Rivera. You’d think that, after his Trayvon Martin hoodie comments, he’d not, y’know, talk about hoodies and stereotypes again… but, of course, he did. And it’s pretty unfortunate, too, because if people do get upset at Rivera for this, they’ll likely ignore the first 99% of his conversation, which was surprisingly insightful and well thought out. But that’s what saying that one stupid thing tends to do: swallow anything important you had to say in a mucky mire of gunk.

Don’t politicians have people that are supposed to talk to them about avoiding these things? That’s what “The West Wing” seemed to teach me.

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The Risks Of Media Justice

The case of the killing of Trayvon Martin has seen its first day in court, essentially, as George Zimmerman made his first appearance today. This case will easily be one of the most followed, popular cases of the year, as the media (taking a couple of weeks to get started) took on the case in pretty much every single facet over the past month.

This is certainly not the only case that has had such explosive media interest and treatment. The Amanda Knox and Joran van der Sloot cases garnered quite a bit of public interest when they swung around, but the media hounding and partisanship didn’t seem to be as massively present in those cases as it is in the Martin case.

No, this case reminds me of two other cases that seemed to cause much more fervor and emotion: The Casey Anthony case and the Jerry Sandusky case, particularly when dealing with former Penn State football head coach Joe Paterno.

I’ve written on the Paterno case before, but I kind of want to talk about it from a different angle. Recently, the story of JoePa, the former Penn State president and others involved in the Sandusky case was written on by ESPN in a long, but extremely thorough and actually somewhat troubling, article. It’s one of the better pieces of journalism I’ve read, and well worth a read.

See, with Paterno, as with Zimmerman, the media reaction was almost instantaneous ad the fervor began. Condemnation was swift and unforgiving. Paterno was culpable, a disgusting example, a man forever to be tarnished by his inaction. People were pointing at Paterno and assigning him duties he did not necessarily have, and then hanging him for not completing those duties.

Now, Paterno admitted, as do I, that he perhaps should have done more than he did. Hindsight does give better vision. And thanks to the actions lacking in several others in the case, added to Paterno’s perceived weight at Penn State, he took the brunt of the public ire.

But as the article from ESPN shows, we are now seeing that perhaps some of that ire and disdain should have been directed at other people. We see that others were perhaps mining out personal gains from all the tragedies.

And perhaps, the media and those following it were far too quick to hang a man for moral crimes. This is one danger found in the media rush to involve itself in trials: They reach the verdict before all the information is in. This is something that clearly happened in the Martin case, as the discussions the media should have been having, discussions on “Stand Your Ground” laws, gun control, police procedure, the slow justice system, were all set aside as the media went after solving the case. Eventually, the case became politicized, as Barack Obama’s comments were jumped on by some of his political rivals as encouraging racist thoughts. Then it became a left vs. right issue, one it never should have been. Unfortunately, the media went with it, straying far and away from the topics the nation should have been hearing about.

These quick, from the gut, overly-emotional rushes tend to just lead to people getting too involved and upset, or people doing or saying things that they should know better than to say, and then later apologizing for them. Unless, of course, you’re Rush Limbaugh.

In the Casey Anthony trial, something similar happened. Nancy Grace of HLN grabbed onto this case and made it a national sensation. In her typical style, she beat it into everyone’s heads that Anthony was guilty, guilty, guilty. In a strange twist, one might be able to blame Grace for Anthony getting off, since her sensationalizing and popularizing of the case could very well be what brought the good defense lawyers on Anthony’s side.

But another problem that people might not consider caused by the media uproar and attention is the prejudgment. I’m not really talking about the quick judgment in this case, in which we condemn before we know for sure and cry out for action before justice, like with Paterno. Rather, I’m talking about people keeping up with the case deciding how the case should end up. They let the case go through the court systems, but they go in with a verdict in mind.

That’s problematic for our justice system, which will often call upon an impartial jury. Jurors that already have their minds made up are usually discarded, deemed not able to reach a verdict the way they should. If a case becomes too popularized, the details revealed too soon, the court’s options are limited in choice, making the juror pool smaller. It certainly doesn’t help in the prosecution of a criminal, and it makes jurors less likely to listen to the evidence as presented.

The media has pretty much completely messed up on how they handled the Martin case. Some in the media have behaved worse than others. Hopefully, justice can still be reached. But I’ve already seen the effects it’s had on average people. I’ve even seen people turn on Martin’s mother for suggesting this was an accident. People have already closed off their minds. (For the record, I think she’s right. It probably was an accident, to an extent. I don’t think Zimmerman hunted Martin down and murdered him maliciously. I think Zimmerman made a series of severely bad decisions that culminated in a confrontation wherein he shot Martin, possibly during a struggle, but I have doubts he did it with the full knowledge that Martin was unarmed and not a threat. But that is still a crime, even if it was completely accidental. And he should still be brought to justice for it.)

It’s unfortunate. And it’s something the media needs to fix itself on. Before any more damage is had in any other cases.

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Sing, Sang, Sung – “I Like To Go To The Barn Because I Like The” By Band Of Horses

Okay. So, there’s been political stuff going on, of course. Trayvon Martin’s killer George Zimmerman has finally been charged with a crime and has been detained only… what, a month and a half after the fact? But, still, charged. And, while I haven’t seen the rhetoric between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama increase just yet, you know it certainly will soon enough.

In the meantime, I’ve had a job to go to, a diet to continue on for another week and a half, an exercise plan to make and start hopefully this Friday, a play to act in and a play that I’m definitely hoping to finish writing the first draft of within the next month or two. Which will be a Herculean task, since the first half took me about three or four months. Basically, I’m a busy busy guy.

Except when I find the downtime that I always manage to. This time, the downtime involves re-watching one of my favorite television shows, “Psych.” (I’ve already re-watched “Community” again.)

Now, as someone that doesn’t actually listen to pretty much any radio that isn’t a Classic Rock station, I don’t often get introduced to new songs. I don’t recall if I’ve heard a single dubstep song, Skrillex is an unknown thing to me and the last one of these segments I did is the only Taylor Swift song I’ve ever heard.

One way I do get around to hearing new music, though, is through movies and television shows. Movies like “The Hunger Games” led me to that Swift song I just mentioned. TV shows like “Community” introduced me to Kate Nash (who I’m sure I’ll bring up later). A “House, M.D.” season 5 promotional trailer led me to hear my first Ludo song, something I have not regretted.

But the song I’m talking about this time comes from the crime comedy show “Psych” on USA. …really, crime comedy is not a common combination you hear. But I love it. It makes me laugh and makes pop culture references I actually get about 75% of the time.

Anyway, the show now closing in on the end of Season 6, has had a pretty decent run thus far. One I hope continues for a while. And, while the show is a crime comedy, it has had its moments of sincerity and drama. In particular, the season finales of seasons 3, 4 and 5, which were all part of the same recurring arc, something “Psych” doesn’t generally do. In the arc, Shawn Spencer is directly challenged by a rather insane, puzzle creating serial killer known only as Mr. Yang. That’s the first time. The second time, they meet Yang’s counterpart, Mr. Yin. Things were tense enough in the previous episode. The season 4 finale was absolutely brutal, filled with thick drama, pain, loss and an incomplete conclusion. Like many trilogies, it expanded what the first sought to do, did it a bit better and then proceeded to leave us hanging. (See also, season 2 of the BBC’s “Sherlock.”)

At the end of the episode, a touching, poignant montage is played, showing the main characters throughout the episode in their reactionary moments to what had happened during the events prior. That poignant montage is underlined, italicized and bolded by the song “I Like To Go To The Barn Because I Like The” by Band of Horses.

I had never heard a Band of Horses song before. And this was an amazing introduction.

Somehow, despite being repetitive and circular in the lyrics, as well as somehow feeling much too short and incomplete, this song is one that hit me hard and has always stuck with me. It is the most melancholy, wistful, morose, hopeful, nostalgic, soothing, emotional song I’ve ever heard. And it really needs every one of those adjectives. The harmony isn’t even really a harmony, but rather a melding of two voices that are so starkly different creating one beautiful sound that is hard to get out of your head. The style of music is underplayed, with softened, friendly tones, reminiscent of soft country rock (much like The Civil Wars in that Taylor Swift song I mentioned before).

…I again remind people, music is something I love, not something I necessarily write about well.

Anyway, this song is one I’ve played repetitively, over and over and over again. It never seems like it lasts long enough. Like the title, it seems incomplete and mysterious, and leaves you asking, “Yes? And?” But you still end up liking it. Give it a listen. Tell me what you think.

“I Like To Go To The Barn Because I Like The” by Band of Horses

Well I’d like to think I’m the mess you’d wear with pride.
Like some empty dress on the bed you’ve laid out for tonight.
Maybe I’ll tell you sometime.

Time. Sometime.

You were right.

Right. You were right

Outside
By your doorstep
In a worn out
Suit and tie.
I’ll wait
For you to come down
Where you’ll find me
Where we’ll shine.

Outside
By your doorstep
In a worn out
Suit and tie.
I’ll wait
For you to come down
Where you’ll find me
Where we’ll shine.

Outside
By your doorstep
In a worn out
Suit and tie.
I’ll wait
For you to come down
Where you’ll find me
Where we’ll shine.

Oh.

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Please Stop The Political Deceit

So, despite all the other discussions that have fairly important subtext the majority of people seem to be ignoring, there is still a GOP primary race going on. And boy, is it a party burner.

With Newt Gingrich finally admitting he can’t win before the delegation, deciding to scale back his campaign in hopes of ruining Mitt Romney’s chances of being the delegate, and Romney being wholly and completely unable to stop being an idiot about how rich he is (which makes me wonder if he could ever, y’know, do anything to help his constituency with his complete inability to learn from mistakes), things have been rather ridiculous for the GOP candidates.

But, for some reason, as people are oft wont to do, it’s never enough to hit the people of opposing ideologies where it hurts, as in the things they actually say that are ridiculous and awful, or even hit them with a simple “I disagree” when they say nothing awful. Instead, we have to make stuff up.

No, I’m not talking about the recent, ridiculously moronic wrath taken against President Barack Obama’s statement of solidarity and empathy toward the family of the deceased Trayvon Martin. Not this time, at least.

Instead, I’m talking about a certain photo that has been making the rounds on Facebook. In the last one I talked about, some college kid erroneously attributed himself as not being a member of the lower 99% of the economy simply because he’s lucky enough to soon be debt free. In this one, the target is a specific candidate, Rick Santorum.

Here’s what the photo quotes him as saying:

“While the Obama Department of Justice seems to favor pornographers over children and families, that will change under a Santorum Administration. I will ban all pornography. Especially gay pornography. Gay pornography is the reason people choose the gay lifestyle or what I call the deathstyle. If we got rid of that, homosexuality would be gone within a matter of months. This is one of only a few things I see eye to eye on with the Taliban.”

Now, it certainly sounds almost like something Santorum would say. He did say something along the lines of Obama seeming to favor pornographers over families. And it sounds like something he’d think. He’s quite well known for his anti-homosexuality stances. But it all kind of falls apart when you read that last line. Y’know, the one where he says he agrees with the Taliban.

Santorum would never ever say anything like that. Even if he did, you can bet that his political opponents would jump on that like a dog jumps on the only piece of meat he’s seen in weeks. Santorum would be painted as someone who agrees with terrorists and hates Americans, a radical extremist wrong for this country. You can check out Snopes and see what they say on the issue.

Look. Santorum is not a good candidate for America. He is extremist on every single social issue. I have talked about him over and over and again. His politics are terrible. He has said stupid things, made moronic stances, insulted the majority of Americans at one point or another.

Does anyone else remember Santorum and Michele Bachmann signing that “Marriage Vow” that stated enslaved black families lived better lives than black families living under the Obama administration?

THAT is a horrendous thing to do. An awful thing to sign, and by doing so, agree with. It was awful. And that’s not even in the five links I just posted earlier about Santorum’s views. Heck, those five links just happen to be the five articles I’ve written that have his name in the title. I’ve written several others.

There are a billion and a half things to take offense to when it comes to Dickish Rick. It’s easy enough to get terribly boring after a while, and to start being disappointed in humanity. Particularly the American bits.

So why make things up? To what point and purpose is there? It merely weakens the faith people have in you and your position should you be found out. It makes you and your beliefs seem faulty and deceitful. Don’t lie to hurt your opponent, or to set up your own beliefs. Be honest, and let people make decisions informed by reality. Maybe something good will come of it.

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Can You Not Wait Until Elected To Insult Other Countries?

In the midst of all this discussion about Trayvon Martin, a discussion which has simultaneously exploded and imploded, some things have become lost. While people run to convict George Zimmerman in his and his lawyer’s absence or condemn Martin for things like his choice of clothing and potential crimes likely unrelated to his death, much of the important discussion is being left by the wayside.

Things about choices made by Zimmerman, like why did Zimmerman say he was a neighborhood watch captain? Why did he chase down Martin after being told not to? Why did he remain silent for so long? And choices made by the cops. Why was there no arrest, even temporary, made on Zimmerman? Why were cops coaching witnesses on their own their testimonies? And perhaps the most important discussion in this entire case, what is the purpose of the “Stand Your Ground” law?

But even more lost in these Martin discussions and outcries is the discussion of, well… much of anything else. And today, something I’d like to think is rather politically important happened that, likely, not many people noticed.

Earlier today, in a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, President Barack Obama was caught on a hot mic saying that he’d have more flexibility after this election.

Sure, some might say he’s being arrogant, assuming he’ll win the election, but the majority of political candidates, especially incumbents, talk in terms of winning the election. Others have been jumping all over this “flexibility” thing, as though Obama is going to attempt some wild and crazy stuff unseen in his first term.

That’s probably true. I mean, sometimes, you want to get things done that won’t always be popular. And if you want to get the most of it done, you’re going to have to try to spend as much time in office doing so. Which means getting reelected, which means saving the more controversial stuff for later. Like, say, if Obama took a stance on gay marriage. For or against, it’d be a hugely controversial move that would lose him votes.

Now, I have absolutely no idea what Obama may or may not have in mind when it comes to Russia for his potential second term. And, really, I don’t think anyone else does, except perhaps some of his personal advisers. People that definitely don’t know include Mitt Romney and the GOP leaders.

But that won’t stop them from attack ads… or, in Romney’s case, really really foolish statements.

With all the bluster about Iran, and the impending worry about North Korea’s new, unknown leadership, one has to wonder exactly how many countries the GOP has to align themselves against before their happy. Palestine, Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Cuba… And now, Romney has decided to add Russia to the list. Not only has he decided to add it to the list, but he’s decided to hearken back to the Cold War and put them in spot number 1.

Saying that Russia is “without question, our number one geopolitical foe,” Romney has effectively ruined diplomatic talks with them if he somehow gets the presidency.

Isn’t hating on other countries something you should wait on doing? Like, y’know, until AFTER you’ve met with them at least once? Talked to them? Tried to figure out one another’s goals?

I don’t really have much else to say about this. It’s a politically amateur, idiotic thing to say. Yes, Romney, we get it. You disagree with everything Obama or 2008 Romney has ever said. That doesn’t mean you have to make yourself look stupid by picking fights with people not involved in your political aspirations. Russia may not be the superpower it was in the ’60s and ’70s, but that doesn’t mean we should take them lightly or poke the bear.

So, please. Get elected first, Romney. THEN you can make sure everyone hates America.

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Hoodies Don’t Kill People. People Kill People.

In the continuing saga of Trayvon Martin’s death, be it murder, manslaughter, or self-defense, there have been some strange reactions.

I’ve already reacted to it a couple of times now. I don’t really count mine among the strange reactions. Not really. Nor do I count President Barack Obama’s reaction as strange.

I would have to say Newt Gingrich’s outrage over what Obama said to be odd. Some would agree with me on that front. Others, not so much.

Also a bit ridiculous are some of the reactions that hinge directly on Florida’s now extremely controversial “Stand Your Ground” law. Like this one that suggests Martin was in the wrong for not running away from the gunman. Personally, were I in that situation, I would have likely either a) tried to knock the guy out or b) tried to take the gun. Preferably both. Or, possibly, c) frozen in fear. Guns aren’t the least scary things in the world, for sure.

As ridiculous as those may or may not be, however, I think the dumbest reaction has to be one that’s been perpetuated by multiple people. And that reaction is that the hoodie worn by Martin was as culpable as the shooter George Zimmerman in Martin’s death.

An opinion first nationally stated by Fox News regular Geraldo Rivera, and later by Sirius XM radio host Dan Graca, it’s the idea that a darker skinned person wearing a hooded sweatshirt, particularly with the hood raised around their head, is in inherent danger. That it is instinctual to be suspicious and potentially violent toward people like that.

A few problems, though. First, by all the accounts I’ve read, Martin put his hood on after he noticed he was being stalked by Zimmerman. Unless adding a hood after someone has seen you adds to your dangerous imagery, the entire argument is a load of crap. Second, exactly how, if you’re being stalked from behind, would someone notice the color of your skin if your hood is up? And why would such a thing matter? As a white man, I’ve worn hoodies tons of times. The hoods can sometimes be helpful when it’s cold or rainy. There was a time, though, when I just wore a hoodie because I liked it. And Rivera isn’t unknown to the article of clothing, either. So what exactly is the insinuation here? It seems to actually support the idea that Zimmerman was, in fact, racist.

The very idea that a specific article of clothing should make someone the target of suspicion seems ridiculous to me. That the article of clothing in question is a hoodie merely makes it more ridiculous. Hoodies are worn by many people. They’re very popular. You can generally say that someone with teardrops tattooed on their face has likely killed people. Teardrop tattoos aren’t terribly common. But a hoodie as a sign of instant suspicion and dangerousness is ridiculous.

Not only is the idea simply ridiculous, but it distracts from the tragedy. It attempts to blame the victim for something innocuous. It alleviates blame from the person that should be blamed. It takes away from the necessary discourse of racism, police procedure and gun control.

All of these subjects are ones important to our continuing growth as a nation. Our attempt to strive toward a more perfect union. To establish justice and ensure tranquility.

Determining the fashion of crime is nothing but a useless, idiotic and ultimately harmful direction for discourse. And it needs to stop.

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Bad De Niro Jokes, Possibly Racist Cops And Evil Board Games

Well, today isn’t a day I have a whole lot to say… so I’m just going to look at a few persistent things that have been staying in the realm of chatter all day.

First, I don’t know if you heard, but Robert De Niro, the actor from that one episode of “30 Rock,” made a terrible, horrible, offensive joke today.

Do you want to hear it?

Here’s the set up: De Niro was introducing First Lady Michelle Obama at a Barack Obama fundraiser. De Niro quipped the following (hide your kids):

“Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady? Too soon, right?”

…You still here, or did the vicious and reprehensible nature of De Niro’s humor sicken you to the point of leaving?

I think the point of the joke here was to pick fun at the 2008 GOP questioning if America was ready for a black president. But, because De Niro said the word white, a divisive, hateful descriptor, he got Newt Gingrich all sorts of upset.

Gingrich’s response: “What De Niro said last night was inexcusable and the president should apologize for him. It was at an Obama fundraiser, it is exactly wrong, it divides the country. If people on the left want to talk about talk show hosts, then everybody in the country should hold the president accountable when someone at his event says something that is utterly and terribly unacceptable as what Robert De Niro said.” You can read the article for other things Gingrich said.

Here’s the thing… It was barely even a racial joke… and barely even a joke at all. It wasn’t mean spirited, and it definitely didn’t say a single thing that wasn’t true. The wives of the GOP presidential candidates are, in fact, white. Tada. Cat’s out of the bag. Surprise, America.

The really awkward thing for me about all of this is that, first off, the office of the First Lady agreed that it was “inappropriate,” and second off, the rather heinous Ann Coulter agrees with me that any hullabaloo about this is ridiculous. Not necessarily for the same reasons, but we end on the same page. Which kind of makes me think the Mayans were right about this year.

De Niro has since “apologized” in a fashion, but I think he knows that trying to take offense to this joke of all possible things is rather stupid.

In other news, remember a couple of days ago when I mentioned how we need to talk about racism, and specifically about the unfortunate case of Trayvon Martin? Well, to update, the case is finally getting national attention as it should be. National attention and pressure will hopefully lead into an investigation on the police force that has only begrudgingly released evidence and still hasn’t arrested Zimmerman, an arrest for George Zimmerman, an actual trial and, perhaps equally important, a more scrutinized look at Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which appears to be central to the entire case. Basically, the law states that people aren’t required to turn and run from potentially violent situations first, but can legally stand their ground and fight back in confrontations. Or so I understand. It definitely has its holes, though, as this case has shown.

Finally, on a non-national front, I was introduced to another new board game by my roommates, one called Betrayal at House on the Hill. It kind of has Arkham similarities, as it’s a “horror” board game, but instead of you all against the board, it’s everyone against the board until someone becomes the betrayer. I, as I pretty much always do, played the old professor character. When my roommate Sally ended up becoming the betrayer, she quickly summoned an Elder God who ran rampant around the house. And by rampant around the house, I mean she came straight to me. Twice. Somehow, my old man bones survived both encounters, just before a fellow teammate managed to set fire to the book at the center of our Elder God problems and win the game for us non-traitors.

Still, a fun little game and worth a looksee. But if you’re playing in candlelight and you order Jimmy John’s, expect your delivery person to be a little confused.

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