Friday, December 20, 2013

Deja Disney

$100 to get in? This couldn’t possibly be worth it, could it? Well, we are in Orlando. Why not? It’ll be a recon mission. We will find the answer to the question. Will we ever want to take our kids to this horribly expensive and crowded “happiest” place on Earth?

As we board the ferry to cruise over to the Magic Kingdom, I’m already thinking the answer will probably be no. I feel like an immigrant fleeing Cuba, heading for the sandy shores of Florida. Getting off the ferry even tests our patience. There are people who can walk, but they’re riding in motorized wheelchairs. They are all over the place. They expect you to jump out of the way for them.

Now we are on Main Street. It’s a sea of strollers and rascals. There are odd groups of people walking around. They all have the same shirts on. As I study them throughout the night I realize they are wearing family reunion shirts. Some of the shirts have the dates of the trip on them. Another one read 4 generations, 4 parks, 1 magical Disney vacation. It appears to be a trend to have a family reunion here. I am suddenly so thankful Orlando was never a family reunion destination for my family, my wife’s family, nor will it be for our family 40 years from now.

We are at Magic Kingdom for the nighttime Christmas party. Crowds are apparently thinner during this time of year. It doesn’t feel that way, but the lines are short. Thank God! We ride on every attraction that is remotely interesting to us. We even walk through a giant tree. Decent headroom in that thing. Kate sits out two rides. The Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain coasters. On the latter, I hop in the rollercoaster cars with a mom and her three kids. It’s really awkward. I’m sitting right behind her. Everyone else is talking to each other, naturally, because they know each other. I’m just the silent, extremely huge person sitting right behind you who is thinking he should probably duck a little bit during this ride. Last time I was on these tracks I was a lot shorter.

Peter Pan’s Flight is insanely short. The coolest part for us comes as we fly over a miniature London. It’s beautiful, with little lights darting here and there, mimicking cars. Cars have never moved that fast in the real central London. But then this is Disney, everything is magical, like how the hell did they manage to attract two adults to this park so we could pay nearly $200 to stand in line for 20 minutes to ride this one minute flight?

As we exit another ride I see two adults yelling at a Disney employee. They tell her to get the manager on the phone. I hear her say, Okay, I will, because I haven’t done anything wrong here. It just makes me sad for some reason to see the adults throwing a fit. I’m sure what ever happened wasn’t that big of an issue. You’re at Disney World for crying out loud, get over it! I feel for the employee. Dealing with the American public in a customer service setting like that is poisonous. It can make you a little cynical. Can you tell I’ve been there before?

It’s a whirlwind tour of Magic Kingdom. We pretty much see everything. It’s after 11pm and we are dragging ourselves down Main Street one last time. We aimlessly wander into a few stores, don’t buy anything, and carry on toward the gates. At last, we exit and now I feel more magical than I did while I was in the kingdom. That’s not what Disney intended, I’m sure.

And we have an answer to our question. The recon mission was a success. We both don’t foresee us taking our family here. Certainly, the youngest we would take a kid to Disney World would be five-years-old. Younger than that, and you are spending $1000s on something a kid won’t remember when they are 10. But even with, say, an eight-year-old and a five-year-old, would we travel to Orlando to go to the Disney parks? Maybe not. There are many other places we would want to go with kids instead of here. Going to Kauai with two kids for a week would likely be cheaper than taking them to Disney World. Actually, without a doubt, Kauai would be cheaper and insanely more magical than any Disney park.

I guess right now, we are both people who want to take our kids on really awesome vacations, but we also want those kids to remember those vacations for much of their lives. I don’t expect either one of us to change in this regard. So, as a Disney vacation is one of the most expensive trips we could envision ourselves taking with kids, it will certainly not happen until they can grasp its significance and remember it years down the road.

Even with older kids, a less manufactured weeklong getaway would have a stronger appeal to us. For my wife, that’s because the most memorable family trips for her were to the Oregon coast, where she could explore tide pools with her dad and sisters, where they could return home every evening to a beautiful house they rented for the week and make a wicked family meal. For me, that’s because the most memorable vacations I had when I was growing up were ones of exploration, where there was no admission price, no walls, no massive crowds, just God’s good Earth laid bare in its many beautiful forms, all enticing to a boy who wants to climb, swim, get dirty, and run down a path without having to dodge fat people on rascals.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Best Newspaper Read of the Year

Since Monday, the New York Times has featured a daily article in a series called Invisible Child. The stories, written by Andrea Elliott, chronicle a year in the life of Dasani, one of thousands of homeless children living in New York City. Dasani, along with her six siblings and parents (Chanel and Supreme) occupy a 532 square foot room in one of NYC's worst homeless shelters. Yesterday, in part four, Elliott wrote about Dasani's 12th birthday party. She received no material gifts. However, her mom tried to make the day special for the little girl by presenting Dasani with a beautiful white sheet cake, which Dasani did not know was stolen from a local Pathmark. Later in the evening, a neighborhood teenager, who was flirting with Dasani's uncle, a much older man, gave Dasani a $20. The girl's joy was palpable, even through the written word.

Reading through the articles while vacationing in Orlando, Florida, made Dasani's story especially powerful. Orlando's theme parks, such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and Sea World, are teeming with kids who have no clue that children like Dasani exist. While these kids are concerned about getting in line to meet Belle at Disney's Magic Kingdom or line up to ride the Incredible Hulk roller coaster, Dasani closely follows city politics, calculating how much more money the family would have to spend on soda if Mayor Bloomberg's soda-size limiting proposal becomes law. At present, one super-size soda is shared among the entire family, but if the proposal had passed, Dasani's family would have faced a significant increase in the cost of soda for the family.

Throughout the week, the articles have become a bit of a devotional for me. If there is a better time of year to reflect on Dasani's life and the lives of the homeless throughout the country and world, I don't know of it. We are bombarded during this season to narrowly think of our own wants and "needs." Yes, we get excited to give presents, but how much of that excitement is rooted in the knowledge that we will get some gifts in return? Jesus encourages us to give with no thought of reward. He encourages us to be blind to a person's outward appearance or material possessions. He encourages us this season to think of the neediest, to reflect on our own blessings, and then to make a difference. And it is not important if the world thinks you are making a big difference or a little difference. To the recipient, the difference will always be big and that is all that is important.  

I am writing this blog to spread the story of Dasani and her family. It is dreadfully tragic and reading the articles represents a big commitment of time, but I believe they are rewarding. Even if you can't do something about it this Christmas, this Christmas will still be more meaningful if you come face to face with Dasani's struggle and remember her and others like her as you bask in the blessings of this holiday.

You can find part one of the series at this link.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Sochi Olympics Under Putin's Law

Last month's issue of Outside Magazine has an excellent article about the havoc and destruction brought to Sochi by the preparation for this February's Winter Olympics. I'm not surprised that Putin is doing whatever he wants in this supposedly public and protected corner of Russian wilderness, but to read many first-hand accounts of Putin's forces crushing various attempts by citizens to end illegal construction or bring attention to previously protected natural habitats is astonishing. One such mission by these concerned citizens is to investigate an illegal compound (named Moonglade) on or near a Unesco world heritage site. It is rumored that Putin has built one of his palaces there. At the moment, everything and everyone going to this palace is flown in by helicopter. Russia has already been warned by Unesco to stop the construction of one road, but it is reported in Outside's article that another road is under construction, this one coming in from the other side of the property.
It's embarrassing that the Olympic Games are awarded to countries (really their leaders) that are going to permanently destroy homes and natural beauty to put on a sporting event for two weeks. Sochi will never be the same and the people of the region, if they profit at all from this, are eventually going to be left poor with a nice selection of bulldozed-over nature preserves.
Thank you, Outside, for bringing to your readers a better understanding of Putin's dirty methods.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Obama...the smallest government spender

Don't know how I missed this one, but this handy little graph and article is a good way to fight back at the Thanksgiving table when your relatives start talking about how economically irresponsible Obama is and how he is ruining the country by spending more than any other president in the history of the United States. 

Check it out here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The 60 Minutes Non-Retraction

I also posted this blog over at my IR blog, which exclusively focuses on international relations and related topics.
After 60 Minutes announced they would apologize for their Benghazi story on Sunday, I eagerly anticipated a detailed, informative apology at the start of the show. Unfortunately, my expectations weren't realistic. What I got, after sitting through 56 of 60 minutes, was Lara Logan telling me she made a mistake. It was all over in less than two minutes. Logan had previously said the same thing on the CBS Evening News and CBS This Morning. Her 60 Minutes apology contained no new information for people who have been following the story.
For example, one would think it would be important to point out that Dylan Davies' book is published by Threshold, "a conservative imprint of Simon and Schuster," a subsidiary of, you guessed it, CBS News. And that said book just hit the shelves around the time the 60 Minutes report aired. The Huffington Post gives more detail regarding this point:
Did "60 Minutes" find Davies on its own, or did his book add an irresistible synergistic flavor to the show's Benghazi report? Did it face any internal pressure to help push for Davies' story to get on air?
Speaking on MSNBC last week, New York Times correspondent Bill Carter speculated that "60 Minutes" leapt to embrace the book because it needed a "new angle" for its Benghazi story.
I just don't think Logan's two-minute presentation was enough. It clearly didn't address the connection between 60 Minutes and the Davies' book, nor did it go into detail about how their key witness for their year-long Benghazi investigation was totally outed as a complete liar. This is a guy that started asking Fox News for money when they attempted to interview him. Fox News turned him down after that. On top of all this, it's Benghazi, a now highly politicized scandal, which the Republicans have pounced on as an integral part of their strategy to discredit Hillary Clinton as she moves toward the inevitable--her decision to run for president in 2016.
Benghazi is still a tragedy, even if 60 Minutes had done a full, in-depth retraction. However, I don't want the journalists I occasionally rely on to give me transparent, reliable reporting, to become what they are reporting on.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: Olympus Has Fallen

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Never underestimate Hollywood's ability to get a van load of good to great actors to sign on to action movies with the most ridiculous notions. This movie is just the newest example of this phenomenon, in case you forgot that top-tier actors (Morgan Freeman, for one) are not above making turds like Olympus Has Fallen.

The proper start of the movie is when an AC-130 gunship flies over DC, fends off multiple F-22s (multiple F-22s, I said) and circles around the capital's landmarks, indiscriminately laying down bullets the size of Red Bull cans. Meanwhile, the Secret Service just let a North Korean terrorist into the White House with the belief that he was a native South Korean and a member of a diplomat's security detail. The Secret Service and 60 Minutes must have the same background check team.

In addition to the terrorist inside the White House already, 30-50 North Korean terrorists have sidled up to the perimeter of the White House. On cue, one of them blows himself up and the fence leading onto the White House lawn. The terrorists swoop in and within fifteen minutes the president is hostage and, as far as I could tell, every Secret Service agent is dead, except for Gerard Butler, who plays a former agent turned US Treasury security, turned unofficial Secret Service agent when he starts running up on North Korean terrorists and putting bullets in the back of their heads.

Okay, there is no point in explaining the plot minutiae of such a movie because you already know lots of people are going to die and the film will end with an American triumph. Spoiler alert: it does. But what are all these good actors doing to waste an hour or two of your lives? Well, Morgan Freeman becomes acting president while the prez, played by Aaron Eckhart is far below the White House in a bunker. Angela Bassett, Secret Service Director, is sitting around a table with Freeman and Robert Forster, who plays a four-star general. Melissa Leo, a recent Oscar nominee for The Fighter, is in the bunker with the prez. In one particular scene, which encapsulates the over-the-top cheesiness that just oozes from action flicks like this one, Leo is dragged down a hallway to be executed, presumably, and she starts screaming the Pledge of Allegiance, channeling her inner Oscar nominee and failing, miserably.

A little less improbable than a gang of terrorists armed with semi-autos taking over the White House in 15 minutes, is that Gerard Butler single-handedly kills the entire North Korean crew, saves the president's son midway through, falls through two floors of the White House, shrugs it off, and saves the president. Also, a little less probable than a gang of terrorists armed with semi-autos taking over the White House in 15 minutes, is that there is a computer system in the White House bunker that enables the administrator (the president) to blow up every nuclear missile under US command with the click of a button. Luckily, Butler arrives at the computer terminal with 30 seconds before the US becomes a giant mass of radioactive goo. He gets the deactivation code from Freeman and supporting conference table cast and enters it with three seconds to spare.

If you are truly invested in Olympus Has Fallen at this point, you might let out a sigh of relief. If you see right through it, you are probably double-checking the length of the movie to see just how many minutes of your life you cannot get back.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Long Peace

I posted several times yesterday over at IR From Afar. The longer post is about the "long peace" we are experiencing at the moment. The long peace refers to the 68 years that have passed since the last hot war between world powers. The post is adapted from a paper I wrote last year. In the paper, we had to answer the question, do you think the so-called long peace will last? Why or why not? 

As much as I would have liked to answer yes, my gut instinct tells me the peace will eventually broken. Some scholars believe it truly is here to stay, that any conflict between great powers is going to be cold from here on out. I wish I had that much faith in humanity.

My attempt at an answer can be found here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Long Post about Awlaki

I just put up a long post, adapted from a paper I wrote at DU, on my other blog. I recently watched Dirty Wars, which made me think a lot about the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011. So, I thought I'd share a paper I wrote about the subject.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On Darth Vader

A quick video of a man I deeply respect talking about a man who made torturing our enemies the norm for America. Andrew Sullivan speaking about Dick Cheney. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Movie - The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby 

Having read some reviews of this movie I was prepared for the chaotic blend of reality, CGI, and a spectrum of bright colors. One review referred to all of this as an orgy of color. That's about right. I thought it was a bit visually disruptive, but I got used to it/didn't let it bother me and as the very long movie (2hr 23min) progresses, these weird scenes become less intrusive. 

I have a lot of thoughts about Gatsby, the book. This movie made me think about why I was not a fan of the book when I read it the first time (8th grade, maybe?) and a little more of a fan when I read it the second time (2009, maybe?) and how I might truly enjoy it if I were to read it a third time. 

As an English major, I feel guilty for not falling head over heels for classics like The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye. Of the former, I think its message was wasted on me in 8th grade. Of the latter, I've read it 2-3 times and it has never done anything for me. 

Gatsby, the movie, was good enough to evoke a strong desire in me to read the book for a third time. I thought the portrayals of Gatsby, Nick Carraway, and Tom and Daisy Buchanan were exceptional. I thought the acting was mesmerizing and the movie did not seem at all to drag on, but to speed up and move toward the inevitable crash and unraveling of an ideal future. The use of Fitzgerald's words floating on the screen from time to time as Carraway reads them was a powerful touch too. 

I know this movie has a 47% score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it green and rotten, but occasionally I don't see eye to eye with the consensus on that site. Dicaprio's portrayal of Gatsby is spot on. The guy still glows with this youthful exuberance and it's exactly what I expect Gatsby to look like, increasing the mystery of his wealth, the house, and the parties. 

I enjoy it when a movie makes me want to reread a book. If you're on the fence about this one, I think it's worth it. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

The falling

I found this poll via the Dish and Business Insider. Most Americans do not realize the federal deficit is currently falling. Of course you couldn't know this if you solely listened to Boehner or watched Fox News. The Business Insider poll found that nearly 70% of Americans believe the deficit to be larger this year than last year. Only 22-23% believe it is smaller than last year. The deficit is about to hit a 5-year low...

Friday, October 04, 2013

Mind Blown

This movie trailer for The Wolf of Wall Street is better than a lot of full-length movies out there.

Martin Scorsese.

Leonardo Dicaprio.

Matthew McConaughey.

This is how you make a damn movie trailer.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Impactful Screens

A friend shared this article on Facebook. I think it is a great read if you've ever been curious about the impact of screens on yourself or your kids. 

Money Quote:
“Adults use screens the same way kids do -- to avoid interaction and to avoid relying on our own inner resources," says Steiner-Adair. Increasingly when parents have a few minutes to recharge they are using that time to browse Facebook, send texts, etc. “It’s so much easier than picking up a magazine or putting your feet up on the couch and having a mini moment of relaxation -- or going for a walk and getting some fresh air-- all these things that we know actually make us feel better.” Some parents may feel that browsing Instagram or scanning the news is actually a calming way to take a break, but Steiner-Adair is skeptical. “Checking your email is not relaxing,” she says. ”Holding a tiny little hand held screen is not visually relaxing.”
Read the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Reinventing the Rules

"Those who keep talking as if there are two sides to this, when there are not, are as much a part of the vandalism as Ted Cruz. Obama has played punctiliously by the constitutional rules – two elections, one court case – while the GOP has decided that the rules are for dummies and suckers, and throws over the board game as soon as it looks as if it is going to lose by the rules as they have always applied." - Andrew Sullivan

I wish I had better thoughts about the GOP than Sullivan's, but I don't. What can you say about the House Republicans who have committed to shutting down the whole game because they don't approve of a new rule? It's embarrassing for them and the shutdown as a whole is embarrassing for the entire US government. 

Like every law, the ACA can be debated, tweaked, assessed, and changed as truths come to light during the rollout and impact of the law. So why doesn't the Republican party make this their focus? Instead they claim democrats are not willing to negotiate on the issue. But this assumes negotiation should take place on this issue at this point in time. On his show last night, Jon Stewart rightly pointed out that the debate over this was already held. There is no gap to bridge. Stewart further mocked the ridiculous talking point on the right that Obama should be as flexible with the opposition party as he is with the Russians and Iranians. If Obama can make a deal with the Russians and be heading toward something/anything resembling a peaceful resolution/way forward with Iran, but can't seem to move forward with House Republicans, then it does not reflect poorly on him, but on the GOP. 

I would love for the GOP to develop some sort of constructive criticism of the ACA, which they find so abhorrent, but that criticism does not exist. There is only vague reference to a law and how it spells doom for the economy, the US government, and the American way of life, but without providing any proof of the latter even happening or the two being connected. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Who Is To Blame?

In the last week, so many people have written about the looming government shutdown and answered the question, who is to blame? The obvious answer, the GOP, is the right one as well, but that hasn't prevented some GOP House Reps. to blabber on about how Harry Reid and Obama are shutting down the government. That's just not the truth and I think Josh Marshall's post about this latest episode of brinkmanship is one of the best reads on the ridiculous GOP and their inability to accept that this whole "defund and defeat Obamacare" strategy was already rejected in November of 2012. 

Money Quote: 
For all the ubiquity of political polarizing and heightened partisanship, no honest observer can deny that the rise of crisis governance and various forms of legislative hostage taking comes entirely from the GOP. I hesitate to state it so baldly because inevitably it cuts off the discussion with at least a sizable minority of the political nation. But there's no way to grapple with the issue without being clear on this single underlying reality. Sufficient evidence of this comes from 2007 and 2008 when Democrats won resounding majorities in Congress and adopted exactly none of these tactics with an already quite unpopular President Bush. This is the reality that finally brought Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, two of DC's most arbiters of political standards and practices, fastidiously sober, even-handed and high-minded, to finally just throw up their hands mid-last-year and say "Let's just say it: The Republicans are the problem."
Read the rest here. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Quasi Movie Review - Oblivion


After reading Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Disbelief, I'll probably never look at Tom Cruise the same way again. So, it was weird that while I watched Tom Cruise traverse the post-apocalyptic Earth searching for downed drones and scattered aliens, I kept thinking of moments from his real life as a Scientologist, like when the church held tryouts for a "special mission." The mission, you ask? To be Cruise's next girlfriend. So, I kept a close eye on Oblivion wondering if its story or message had some hints of Scientology theology. I think it does, but revealing that would spoil the movie, which pleasantly surprised me. These days, I'm pleasantly surprised by any good movie, which stars Tom Cruise.

Now, does my endorsement of this movie as good, but not outstanding, mean I have endorsed any or all beliefs of the Church of Scientology? Absolutely not. But you can still think of this as a double endorsement. That of Oblivion and another of Lawrence Wright's amazing book, Going Clear. Truly, the book is astounding in its depth and research and that Wright hasn't been sued into Oblivion. Pun intended.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Vote For My Photos

I'm promoting myself in this post. I entered my photos in a contest. You can vote for them this week and I'd really appreciate it if you did that. It's easy to do too! 

Below the big ad, click the "Gallery" tab. 

Three fields should appear/be visible. In the username field, which is located to the right next to the red "FILTER" button, type "@bperica". 

Click "FILTER."

All my photos will appear. There are ten of them.

Then click on the star in the middle, bottom of each picture. If I win, I promise I'll bring you back a souvenir or send you a postcard. 


I'm not Catholic, but...

I don't think I've ever posted about the Catholic faith on here, but I have read with interest the statements Pope Francis has made regarding homosexuality, abortion, and contraceptive methods. I think he is sending the strong, right message. However, as Andrew Sullivan pointed out today on his blog, Pope Francis' statements have put many Catholics in an awkward position, specifically, those Catholics who have spent a lot of time in the last few years focusing on the issues of homosexuality, abortion, contraceptive methods, and not much else. Watching them scramble now to act like they have always thought as Pope Francis clearly does makes for good reading. 

The people in the hierarchy and the hard-right of the American Catholic church have put their best face forward after Pope Francis’ categorical rejection of their entire project.
Read on.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Work, err, Perks Never End

A long, vomity cover story appeared within Time’s September 16, 2013, issue. It suggested that we take the most spoiled and privileged athletes on any collegiate campus, who almost never have to pay for a dollar of their education, and pay them on top of tuition, books, and room and board, to the tune of about $225,000 a year.

The author (Sean Gregory) writes that an “uncomfortable question has surfaced.” The problem, as he sees it, is that there is this game called football and it’s very, very popular. So popular, in fact, that people pay to watch it, even when it’s only a couple of college teams playing. So popular, that the crowds are large enough to support businesses that rely on the crowd’s support and addiction to this game. The university prizes the football players and they are rewarded for it in the form of full-ride scholarships, which, in turn, give them a great college education for free. For free, that’s worth writing one more time. The average college student graduates with $26,600 in financial debt. The problem here is not the debt of the vast majority of college students, but that college teams aren’t paying their football players a salary of $225,000 a year.

The notion throughout the article is that these football and basketball players are 21st century slaves and since they perform for a mass audience they should be rewarded. High school football players in Texas perform for mass audiences, some much bigger than collegiate football crowds. Should we pay them too? Gregory never answers that question, but of course we shouldn’t pay them. They are volunteering to play sports. And, in college, they are volunteering again, although this time they get the perk of having a free education worth more than $100,000 these days.

Gregory quotes several professors in his article. One of them being Roger Noll, “a noted sports economist from Stanford University.” Noll is quoted as saying, “The rising dollar value of the exploitation of athletes…is obscene, is out of control.” Even if I believed this was an accurate statement, I wouldn’t think paying the student in addition to their scholarship would be the solution. How about dialing back the football madness? As the popularity of the NFL has grown, the importance of collegiate football has also risen, putting a bigger and brighter spotlight on major collegiate teams and their star players. If we are looking to exploit them further, then, by all means, pay them a salary. Let the endorsement battles begin. I am sure this will only emphasize the importance of the college education they are already getting for free.

What especially kills me about all of this talk is that the players complaining to Time that their likeness is being used by the NCAA to sell jerseys, video games, etc. are often the players who are going to sign professional contracts after graduating. Meaning, they’ll soon be making millions in a year or over the span of their career. These are not needy people; they are some of the most-spoiled people on collegiate campuses who devalue their education to the extent that they feel they have seen zero dollars in compensation.

One of the biggest, erroneous claims in this article is that these players spend forty hours a week on their sports. This just is not true. In fact, it is illegal for players to formally spend this much time on their sports. Countable hours cannot exceed 20 a week. True, athletes are free to go home and study football plays and video, if that is all they want to do. One player complained in the article that he was spending more time on sports than academics. Well, that’s really his choice, but has anyone done some on-campus research or some Googling? If they had, they would realize that the vast majority of college students playing NCAA D-I football would prefer to spend more time on sports than on academics. Paying them will make this equation even more lopsided.

Look, these players aren’t victims, like this article suggests. They are cogs in a very profitable machine and they are being paid as such. Full-ride scholarship? Check. Books? Oh those are free. Your portion of the rent check? Don’t worry, the living stipend is in the mail. Line at the bar long? Let me usher you to the front. Drinks are sort of pricey tonight? This round’s on the house. Get a good sack in today’s game? Oh, here’s $300. (Read Sports Illustrated’s article about playing football at Oklahoma State University.) You have an 8am class? Coach will be up to usher you there in the morning. You have to go to study tables (where student-athletes are required to study on the clock, that is, if they are dumb and can’t sustain above a 3.0) but you really want to stay at the apartment and play Grand Theft Auto V. Don’t worry, when you walk in and sign in I’ll look away so I don’t see you walk out and then later I’ll sign you out so you get the hours. (This happens everywhere.) Shoes are looking worn? Come on in, I’ll hook you up with a new pair.

Here’s a favorite passage from the article:
And don’t imagine for a moment that universities harvest their athletes’ celebrity for only four years. After a truly memorable championship season, veterans are brought back to campus on a regular basis for reunions and tributes, sometimes for decades. The work never ends.
The work never ends? What the hell? I didn’t know voluntarily coming back to campus, having travel costs covered, wining and dining with the AD and the president of the university, and getting a standing ovation at halftime was work. Shit. Sign me up. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Feature, Not a Bug

I am an avid watcher of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. While I truly enjoyed John Oliver’s stint as the host of TDS this summer, I am thankful to have Jon Stewart back as host. He can, at times, deliver the most powerful critiques of our media, especially of the 24-hour cable news networks, and the critique he delivered on his Tuesday, September 17th show, was one of the best I have seen. Below is a money quote and the aforementioned portion of the show.

“So my final, not initial, conclusion is: This is deliberate. The chaos, the vomit onto the screen, the very thing we thought news organizations were created to clarify, is a feature, not a bug.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Never Forgetting, But Moving On

Last year, on September 12, 2012, the day after the eleven-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I read an article in the New York Times. I found one snippet of the article to be profoundly disturbing. Like many 9/11 anniversaries, there was a rally at Ground Zero on this day last year. Someone was speaking to the assembled crowd and the line that received the loudest applause was not, “We will never forget,” but “We will never forgive.”

I understand if someone who lost a loved one on 9/11 has not forgiven those who are responsible, but I don’t think “We will never forgive” should be our rallying cry on this day or any other. If we rally around a statement like that it puts us in a reactive state of mind, the one everyone was in the morning the towers fell. 

I have searched for and have failed to find a video I remember watching on this day twelve years ago. The video was of a man, one of the thousands walking out of Manhattan on the Brooklyn Bridge that day. He saw that a news camera was filming the scene and he took a moment to yell into the camera. His voice was understandably filled with rage and he said, “You see this, you see this?” as he pointed toward downtown, “Whoever you are, wherever you are, we are coming for you. We are coming for you!” It was a moment of raw emotion that we all felt that day. It was healthy to have that feeling, to express it, but not healthy to hold on to it.

During the interregnum, between that crisp, fall morning and this morning twelve years later, the US’ ventures in the Middle East have often been misguided by the “We will never forgive” attitude, an attitude that helped fuel erroneous claims that Saddam Hussein was connected to 9/11 and that he was intent on using WMDs or getting them into the hands of terrorists. It is an attitude that has fueled the rise of Islamophobia in the US. It is a “shoot first—think later” state of mind that some still cling to and that others are slowly beginning to shed as the country learns how to walk that fine line between Never Forgetting and Moving On. Do both today.