Friday, October 31, 2008

Security and Freedom, a response

I left this comment on my very good (and smart) friend Mike's blog, in response to his post on Security and Freedom...I thought I'd post my response here, just for fun and to possibly generate more discussion. Mikey and I tend to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum, and we have occasionally had very fun and spirited discussions on some topics. I tend to lean left and he tends to lean right, but I would hazard an extremely educated guess that neither of us would ever declare for a particular party, following ideas and ideals, rather than party platforms and people. Here is the comment:

I was going to leave a smarmy remark about how I'm leaving room for you at the next ACLU meeting, but then I realized I kind of disagree with Franklin a little bit, which came as a surprise to me. Franklin's far-left assertion is completely theoretical--just as is the far-right's position to let the free market decide everything, potential economic collapse be damned. Franklin didn't have to worry about dirty bombs in train stations, jumbo jets crashing into football stadiums and the like. Whilst I value my freedom above anything, I also value not having to worry about some extremist drop a 747 on my head just because I'm at the Super Bowl. (Note, in the Declaration of Independence, Life comes before Liberty!)

By the same token, to do nothing in the current economic climate, while staying true to a pure free market economy, would be completely foolish. Sure, you keep your "American" principles, but big deal, there's no economy left because we have no banks and no American auto or real estate industries. That's like if people no longer had to take their shoes off at airports--sure, that's a freedom back, but big deal, somebody drove a plane up my ass while I was just trying to enjoy a ball game.

I find it curious that countries that are much, much older than ours have moved to the left (a lot, in some cases) socially and governmentally, and to the right on some issues like security (there are cameras ALL over London, for example). They've been through all this before, and they learn from their histories so they do not repeat it. We're still learning. That's why the great Greek and Roman empires flamed out--they grew too far, too fast and didn't learn quickly enough. If you look into a crystal ball, America will look a lot like Western Europe in another 20 years, I think. And you might say we deserve neither freedom or security if we do that, but I would argue that it's just societal evolution--survival of the fittest and flexiblest.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What's In A Name

Spending as much time in schools as I do, I come across lots of names for kids. It inspired me to write this...

A very good friend of mine* called recently to let us know that he had some very good news to share. He and his wife** found out that next spring, they will be welcoming their first child*** into the world. My wife**** and I were overjoyed for them, and we invited them over for dinner and a movie, and to talk about the upcoming blessed event.

While we were enjoying our pizza, the subject of what they were going to name the baby came up. My wife and I put a lot of thought and effort into the naming of our kids, so naturally we feel like we are allowed to meddle in the process for other couples, especially younger couples having their first child. The conversation went, more or less, something like this:

Me: “So, have you given any thought to names yet?”

Him: “Yeah, but we’re still pretty undecided.”

Her: “Pretty undecided? We’re clueless!”

Wife: “Oh, I know what you mean. We struggled, too. There are so many things to consider!”

Her: “Definitely. There are just—so many—names out there to choose from.”

Me: “Well, have you started to make a list? Kind of figure out what you want?”

Him: “Oh, sure. We know we want the name to be unique, but we don’t want it to be too different from, say, other kids in school.”

Me: “Okay, so…different, but the same.”

Her: “Right. Like, if it’s a girl, we’re not going to go with a Jane or a Mary. We want something more modern.”

Wife: “Like what?”

Her: “Well, we like something along the lines of Allie, Hallie, Hailey, Bailey, Caylee, Kylee, Kayla or Katelynn.”

Me: “Wow, that’s a mouthful.”

Him: “We also like McKenna, McKenzie, Madeline, Madison, Addison, Zoe, Chloe or Sophie.”

Wife: “Madeline is nice.”

Her: “Plus, we can do an alternate spelling with Madeline.”

Me: “Alternate spelling?”

Him: “Yeah. Madeline is a little too traditional, so we’d call her Maddie, but we’d spell it something like ‘M-a-d-y-l-y-n-e.”

Me: “Why all the y’s?”

Her: “That way it looks different, but is pronounced the same. The unique-but-fitting-in thing, remember? We can do the same with ‘A-d-d-y-s-y-n’ or ‘M-a-d-y-s-y-n’.”

Wife: “Oh, I get it.”

Me: “Hey, why not Radisson? It’s a highly respected hotel chain—and you can even spell it ‘R-a-d-y-s-y-n.’”

Him: “The boy names are a little trickier.”

Her: “Yeah. Our current favorites are Aiden, Braden, Caden, Jaden, Jordan, Jaylen, Brady, Brody, Cody, Taylor and Tyler. Caden and Cody could also start with a K. You know—the alternate phonetic spelling.”

Me: “That sounds like the cast of characters in High School Musical 11.”

Him: “We also like the Irish-sounding names Keegan and Teegan.”

Me: “But you’re not Irish.”

Her: “We know, but we like the ethnic sound of them.”

Me: “Have you considered Helmut, Lars or Guiseppe? Those are pretty ethnic-sounding.”

At this point, my wife got up and left. She thought I was starting to get sarcastic.

Him: “If it’s a boy, we also are thinking about tough-sounding names.”

Me: “Such as?”

Her: “Colton-with-a-K, Tyson, Bryson, Brayson, Grayson, Dakota, Jack and Troy.”

Me: “I have an idea—you could go ethnic-sounding and tough! How about Angus, Thor, Zeus or Jackie Chan?”

Him: “Speaking of Dakota, we’ve got place names that we like, too, that can be either boy or girl.”

Me: “Do tell.”

Her: “We’ve got Branson, Dallas, Brooklyn, Denver, and Sydney.”

Me: “Hey, Sydney has two y’s, but I think Hoboken or Walla-Walla might work, too.”

Her: “But we’d spell Sydney something like ‘C-i-d-n-e-e.’ You know, non-traditional.”

Me: “Uh, couldn’t that be pronounced like ‘kidney’?”

Him: “And then, there are the Biblical names.”

Me: “Biblical? Dude, you haven’t been to church since we used communion wafers as poker chips!”

Her: “It’s more about themes in the Bible. We like Faith, Hope, Charity, and Chastity, as well as Eden and Nevaeh, which is ‘heaven’ spelled backwards.”

Me: “If you’re looking for prominent themes in the Bible, there are also Lust, Greed, Envy and Sloth. Those would be interesting names, don’t you think? I mean, can’t you just hear it now—‘Sloth! Time for dinner!’”

Him: “We also like Mercedes, Lexus, Portia and Avalon. You know—high class things we can aspire to.”

Me: “You’ve lived in an apartment for five years. If you’re looking to name the child for something you aspire to, try Down Payment. Or at least Renters Insurance.”

Her: “Finally, if it’s a girl, we’re also considering influential modern women as examples.”

Me: “Ah, excellent! Like Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem, or Virginia Woolf?”

Her: “No. More like Oprah, Madonna, Lindsay, Brittney, Paris or Delilah.”

Me: “Delilah? Delilah who?”

Her: “The radio host. We really like her. Plus, it’s kinda Biblical, and we can spell it D-e-l-y-l-a-h.”

Me: “Wait…you missed a phonetic-spelling opportunity here.”

Her: “I did?”

Me: “Yeah…the first syllable of Delilah could start with D-U-H.”

* I don’t really have a very good friend—this is just a literary vehicle to begin a mostly opinion-based, first-person account of an event that didn’t really happen, featuring a topic like silly, cutesy, alternatively-spelled modern kids’ names. That’s not to say that I don’t have any very good friends—I do. But none of them were involved in this encounter.

** Since I don’t really have a very good friend, the wife doesn’t exist, either. That’s not to say that none of my very good friends have wives—they do. But none of them were involved in this encounter, either.

*** Since there is no very good friend, nor is there a wife, it would only logically follow that there is no child, either. That’s not to say that none of my very good friends have children—they do. But…well, you get the idea.

**** I am indeed married, but my wife was also not involved in this encounter, since it didn’t really happen.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Between a Slug and a Turd

Yesterday I came across somebody’s blog entry that offered this brilliant analysis of this year’s election: the choices for president are between a slug and a turd. Aside from trying to figure out which candidate was the slug and which was the turd, I thought to myself that, wow, that was one disillusioned voter.

No doubt he was tired of choosing between the lesser of two evils, and I can certainly understand that—especially because the last go-round we had to pick between Howdy Doody Dumbass and Flip-Flop McHorseface. But this year, I think I disagree. I actually think we have two people running for president that are competent and genuine.

And, really, that’s all I want in a president: can you do the job, and will you put my interests ahead of your own and ahead of the special interests.

Regardless of which political wing you belong to, I think the problem most people have is with how those in office, once they get elected, make a beeline for the deep pockets of the power brokers that can get them re-elected. After all, what is the one thing all first-term politicians want that is exactly the same? Yep—a second term.

As I’ve said before, I don’t profess to belong to any political party because I think the vast majority of them on both sides are bought and paid for (see Blagojevich, Rod and Ryan, George). I will say, however, that this year, as a matter of complete disclosure, I’m supporting the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. But it’s not because I don’t like John McCain. Sure, I disagree with some of his policies (and certainly his awfully negative campaign—thank you, Karl Rove’s “How to Win an Election for Dummies”—not to mention his choice for VP), but I really think I could live with McCain in the White House.


Because I honestly think that John McCain, as much as Barack Obama, wants to change the culture in Washington, that he genuinely cares about the good of the people of this country more than his own skin, and that he’s able to step in and do the job with integrity and credibility. I didn’t agree much with Reagan, but was the economy good and did the Russians stay behaved? To quote Tina Fey, “You betcha!”

And to me, that’s all that matters. People get so wrapped up in superficial things (“he didn’t wear a flag pin!”) and irrelevant things (“he’s old!”), or latch onto one issue, that they become completely blind to anything else.
The fact of the matter is both men are qualified to lead this country in a manner befitting the ideals set forth by our Founding Fathers.

But that hasn’t always been the case in the voting booth. So I started to think back about the history of presidential elections—and I came to the conclusion that for the first time in a very, very long time, we’ve actually got two good candidates for president.

Think about it:
2004: Bush vs. Kerry (The Lesser of Two Idiots)
2000: Bush vs. Gore (The One That Got Away)
1996: Clinton vs. Dole (Slick Willie and Captain Viagra)
1992: Clinton vs. Bush (Governor Grab-a-lot and Read My Lips)
1988: Bush vs. Dukakis (Dude, seriously?)
1984: Reagan vs. Mondale (The Cowboy and the Sacrifical Lamb)
1980: Reagan vs. Carter (Heston’s biotch and Joe Powerless)
1976: Ford vs. Carter (I’m glad I was only 4)
1972: Nixon vs. McGovern (Paranoia and The Prairie Populist)
1968: Nixon vs. Humphrey (Tricky Dick and LBJ's puppy)
1964: Johnson vs. Goldwater ("War! War!" or "More War! More War!")
1960: Kennedy vs. Nixon

Stop right there. Kennedy vs. Nixon. That might have been the last time we had two good candidates. Of course, we know what Nixon turned out to be, but back then, he was a sitting vice president under a very popular president (Eisenhower), and might very well have gotten elected had television not been so newly prominent. And, of course, there was Kennedy, with his youth, “vigah”, heroism, and optimism. We never did get to see the full measure of what he could have become, but that wasn’t exactly his fault.

Kennedy vs. Nixon was 48 years ago. My father wouldn’t have been able to vote in that election—he wasn’t old enough yet. How sad it must be for somebody of that generation who has never had two good, decent candidates from which to choose.

I’m as jaded and cynical as they come with respect to the political and governmental process in this country. But if you don’t think the two people running for president this year are at least genuine and competent, whether you agree with them or not, you’ve got a much, much darker view of America than I do. And I feel bad for you—because it might be another few generations before we have this opportunity again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Making the heart grow

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted. And I apologize for that, to you, all three of my readers. But I'm running out of gas--at least temporarily. You see, it's Fire Prevention Month, and while I haven't tallied my events since the beginning of October, suffice it to say it's been a poopload. I talked for four hours today. I feel like Wayne Newton doing back-to-back shows in Branson--it takes a lot of energy to be entertaining and informative, and not to appear like you're mailing it in, despite the fact it's about the 800th time I've said the same thing in the past 9 years. My knee is killing me for some reason (and not the knee which usually bothers me), my back is starting to ache from lifting my 65-lb. display case in and out of the car several times a day and my voice is starting to give out. I feel like there's a pack of angry bees with light sabers in my throat. Oh...and did I mention we're short-handed in my office, after Pee-Wee left last month? So, this, in October, after spending all of September doing my work, the rest of Pee-Wee's work for September, and then all of my October work, and much of Pee-Wee's October work. I'm ready for a break.

But, that being said, I do have a little something in the works, hopefully I'll get it together tomorrow or Friday and get it wrote. It's pretty funny--at least it sounds, as do most things, funny in my head.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Single Issue Voters - one from the archive

Single Issue Voters

Originally written May 4, 2007

I don’t profess to belong to either major political party, so until candidates are set for the general elections, I usually don’t much follow what goes on until the races are down to one candidate from each of the parties. That being said, I was reading an account of the first Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Library, which, presumably, took place between the stacks of “How Ronnie Whipped the Russkies” and “Jellybean Quarterly,” and I noticed a particular statement from one of the candidates had been called out and set apart as one of the “quotables” from the event.

The statement was from 61-year old Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, who, if you do the math, has been around for a few notable events in the recent history of the planet. But I’m getting slightly ahead of myself.

Tancredo said, in regard to the 1972 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, “That would be the greatest day in this country’s history when (it) is overturned.”

Pardon me?

The “greatest day in this country’s history”? Regardless of where you stand on the issue of abortion, calling the overturn of Roe v. Wade “the greatest day in this country’s history” is laughable, at best, and horrifying, at worst. At the very least, it shows how much ignorance and hyperbole can be exhibited by the single-issue voter.

I’m going to give myself about thirty seconds, give or take a few, depending on how fast I can type, to come up with just ten days that are better than a potential day on which Roe v. Wade might be overturned. I’ll even include the event that happened on that day, so those losing contestants on “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” don’t have to get out their encyclopediae.

In no particular order: July 4, 1776 (duh); June 6, 1944 (D-day); July 1, 1969 (Armstrong walks on moon); February 22, 1980 ("Do you believe in miracles? YES!"); January 1, 1863 (Emancipation Proclamation issued); August 18, 1920 (19th Amendment - Women's right to vote - ratified); September 12, 2001; January 20, 1981 (Iran Hostages released); April 30, 1789 (Washington’s Inauguration); December 15, 1791 (Ratification of the Bill of Rights). December 5, 1933 (repeal of Prohibition) just narrowly missed the list. Sorry.

Where would Roe v. Wade appear on that, or any list, of this country’s great days? Well, I suppose that would be where you stand on the issue. However, I would argue that even if you’re on the farthest feather of the rightest wing, such an event might not even crack the top 100. It might rank among the top political achievements ever (and, again, regardless of where you stand, it would indeed be quite the political achievement), but to include it as part of the list of this country’s greatest days would be a travesty.

And so I return to the idea of the single-issue voter—or candidate for that matter. Usually, these folks represent a pretty narrow interest; I’d call someone whose main criteria to support a candidate is his or her position on saving the spotted owl (tasty with a light brushing of oil and oregano, by the way) a “single-issue voter.” I wouldn’t call someone whose main interest lies with national security by the same moniker.

These kinds of voters and candidates scare me. I might be in favor of gay marriage, as an example, but I’m not going to vote for a candidate who supports such a position, but also thinks we should disband the army and only allow rich white men to vote. But there are people who vote like that. And Congressman Tancredo’s statement is an example of the rallying cry for those kinds of people. My question is, if he gets elected (which is highly unlikely) and he gets Roe v. Wade overturned, what would he do next?

Would he have the chops—or the interest—to take on other issues? Or would he sit back, put his feet up on the desk of the Oval Office and say, well, we accomplished the Greatest Thing Ever for this country, so there’s really nothing else to do, because everything else is comparatively minor?

You know, just like the Abraham Lincoln did after he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
I guess what I’m trying to say is to encourage people to keep an open mind to more issues than just the one that’s most important to your own interests. After all, isn’t that the central idea for a democracy? Or have we gotten so red-state/blue-state that now it’s important as to which shade of red or blue we are?

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Hybrid *what*??

I was watching my favorite late-night talk show the other night when I saw the most amusing thing I’d seen in a very long time. No, it wasn’t Craig Ferguson’s “Michael Caine in Space” bit, which is very funny; rather, it was a television commercial I hadn’t seen before.

Except that it wasn’t supposed to be funny.

It was an advertisement for the new Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. Excuse me? Cadillac Escalade Hybrid? They’re making a luxury sport utility vehicle (yes, I said luxury SUV) you won’t have to spend as much on for gas? That’s kind of like booking a penthouse suite at the Plaza and not opening the $16.99 bag of Godiva-covered macadamia nuts.

I mean, isn’t the whole point of owning an Escalade to show everybody how much money you have? And isn’t part of that conspicuous consumerism the ability to flaunt being at the gas pump smugly reading Cigar Aficionado as the “total sale” readout pole-vaults over the triple-digit mark as everyone else around you wrings their hands and gnashes their teeth in disbelief at how little gas you can buy for twenty bucks?

But I guess for rich people, who, sadly for them, I guess, have become somewhat looked down upon by the rest of us slobs, it’s no longer enough. They get sidelong glances from the rest of us at the gas pumps as they lean carefree against their gleaming black mobile palaces. They get eye rolls from us as they saunter by in their oversized Paris Hilton-style sunglasses, iPhone in one hand, Starbuck’s non-fat half-caf extra whip iced mocha latte in the other. (Wow…I’ve never ordered anything from Starbuck’s before…I just made that up…somebody should check to see if they actually have something like that on their menu!) We groan quite audibly when they talk about their “busy” day dropping the kids off at cello lessons and lacrosse practice, picking up a pre-school entrance exam/application, going for a mani-pedi, shopping at Von Maur, and then—can you believe this—the cello instructor ended the lesson ten minutes early and they had to go pick up the 6-year old (who, naturally, called from her own cell phone) before they were able to pick up the dry cleaning.

So the rich needed something to put them back on top, where they deserve to be, dammit, where they’ve been admired and envied since the first well-to-do Neanderthal family could afford to have someone else sweep out their cave. And because there is nothing more admirable and buzzworthy right now than social responsibility, some twerp in sales and marketing at GM made the connection that, hey, what could be more awesomer than a socially responsible rich person? Enter the Escalade Hybrid. Problem solved.

Think about it—it’s the ultimate “fuck you” to everyone else. We’re rich, and we’re saving the planet. We could spend our money on gas, but we won’t. Now you have nothing to criticize us for. You can love—and more importantly—admire us again.

I guess I’m not sure what I’m really saying about all this nonsense. I guess I just found it funny that there was even a need for this vehicle, that it was important enough to enough rich people that Cadillac had to make an Escalade that saved on gas. But really, as I try to think of a way to wrap up these thoughts, all I’m feeling is sadness and disgust that I can’t provide for my family much in the way of groceries this week, while some fuck gets to feel better about himself because he can spend 60 k to save a few gallons of gasoline here and there.

Friday, October 10, 2008

As a matter of record...

I'll be periodically adding things that I've written in the past in other forums. Some of it has to do with local stuff around here, but much of it is pretty general and worthy of posting, I think. To wit:

Blaming Andre Agassi (originally written in October 4, 2007...note the reference to gas prices...)
Personally, I blame Andre Agassi. For what? Well, the state of the American auto industry, for starters.

You see, back in the early 90’s, ol’ Andy did a television commercial for some camera, in which he declared “Image is everything” whilst his flowing mane and dangly earring glittered in the artificially-generated breeze. This, of course, was shot long before Agassi figured out that substance was more important than style and started winning major championships. Perhaps a lesson can be learned from that—but I digress.

My point is this—in the late 70’s and through the 80’s, the American auto industry was getting its collective behind kicked by Japanese and European automakers when it came to quality, durability, performance and fuel consumption. But then, in the 90’s, the U. S. and A made a little comeback. SUV’s were all the rage, mini-van sales surged like one of W’s troop call-ups, and pickup trucks continued to be the hottest sellers.

And then—Steffi’s husband had to say it. Image is everything. What happened? Well, our SUV’s got bigger. Our mini-vans became upscale. The category of “luxury full-size pickup” entered the automotive lexicon. People started buying ginormous homes with sub-prime mortgages and interest-only loans. They started living beyond their means and buying Hummers and Navigators so they can take their 2.1 kids along while they picked up their dry cleaning. Why? Because image is everything.

The rest of the advertisers bought into the idea and followed suit. You have to have a high-def TV with a Klipsch 7.1 surround system and a subwoofer the size of R2-D2. You have to have a $5.50 coffee from Starbuck’s. Subsequently, you can’t just have a pickup truck anymore—it’s got to have a hemi—and leather seats. Your minivan has to have stow-n-go seating, a moonroof and a DVD player. Your SUV has to be trail rated. All these features have increased vehicle power, size, fuel consumption—and price.

Meanwhile, back on that little island we rebuilt after vaporizing a couple of its cities, they continued working their plan that was so successful in the 70’s and 80’s. They’re building economical, practical, yet sporty-enough small cars, crossover SUV’s, and solid, dependable mini-vans with enough features to make soccer moms happy without breaking their bank accounts in the showrooms or at the gas pumps.

You know, Barack Obama is a brave man for calling out the auto industry on its reluctance to implement stricter mileage standards. But he’s absolutely right. He wants to achieve his goals in part by targeting a 4 percent annual increase -- approximately 1 mile per gallon each year -- in fuel standards.
He says, "For years, while foreign competitors were investing in more fuel-efficient technology for their vehicles, American automakers were spending much of their time investing in bigger, faster cars. Whenever an attempt was made to raise our fuel-efficiency standards, the auto companies would lobby against it, spending millions to prevent the very reform that could've saved their industry."
China, one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to carbon emissions, has higher fuel mileage standards than we do. The result? Can’t sell our cars in China, the world’s fastest growing market.
Detroit’s response? "If you go that high with fuel economy, something else has to give," said Gloria Bergquist, a vice president for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. She called a 35 m.p.g. standard advocated by Obama "unattainable" because consumers have largely rejected small, efficient vehicles in the past.
Well guess what, Detroit. That was before gasoline was one refinery disruption away from four dollars per gallon. Let’s do a little math here. An SUV that gets 15mpg in the city (which is extremely generous--the Durango we had for 3 years got about 9 in the city) and has a 20 gallon tank at $4.00 per gallon would cost $80.00 to fill up. You’d get about 300 miles out of that tank. Driving 900 miles a month (which averages out to a conservative 10,800 miles a year) would require three fill-ups, totaling a whopping $240 dollars—or $2,880 a year for fuel. Pocket change for some people, but not for most, I’d reckon. Certainly not me; and with three kids and a 4-bedroom house with a white-vinyl picket fence, I’d have to count myself as pretty average.
Now, back to Mr. Agassi, and the lesson we can actually learn from him. After some spectacular flame-outs, he decided to get serious about his tennis. He lost the poofy mullet, he lost the extra body fat, he worked hard on his game, discovered that image isn’t everything, and what do you know—he won Wimbledon en route to a successful career well into his 30’s. The lesson is: why don’t the automakers lose the hemi engines that get 12mpg, the ridiculous Hummers that men think have the medicinal effects of Enzyte, and the trail rated, commercial-grade nonsense that we use for nothing more rugged than going over the curbs into our driveways. They need to concentrate on their game, remove their excess fat. Cut back on SUV production. Increase hybrid and flex-fuel production. Make the cars more fuel efficient while keeping them safe, reliable and comfortable.
What happens if they don’t? Well, we keep buying more Hyundais, Toyotas, Hondas and Kias. American automaker sales continue to plummet. Maybe we lose one of them, and the other two merge. The Big Three has been renamed the Detroit Three in some circles, because they’re no longer the three top-selling automakers in the world. Given the current state of affairs, in another dozen years, it could just be the Detroit One.
Or maybe just the Big One, as in, “the American auto industry has bitten the Big One.”

Thursday, October 9, 2008

How's it goin', eh?

Just a brief introduction about the things you will be reading here...some will be funny, some will be serious, some will be rancorous, some will bear a little of my soul. But it will all be me. And some of you might find it offensive. But I really don't care. If you don't like it, call me on it. Let's have a debate. Let's go a few rounds. And then, let's be friends (or spouses) again. Because I know everbody's not going to agree with me--even my friends. I know for a fact that there are some people I know pretty well and am pretty close to that hold diametrically opposing views about certain things. And that's okay. I don't like them any less just because they have the wrong opinion about things. (Some things will be sarcastic, too :P ) But none of us should ever be afraid to debate things with our friends for two reasons: one, if we think our friends won't be our friends afterward, maybe they weren't really our friends to begin with; and, two, maybe our opinions aren't strong enough to survive a debate and therefore need to be reconsidered.

The things you will read here will, for the most part be rated PG to PG-13. I will warn you that you'll run across an occasional F-bomb. The MPAA says, "If a film uses 'one of the harsher sexually derived words' one to three times, it is routine today for the film to receive a PG-13 rating, provided that the word is used as an expletive and not with a sexual meaning." So if you feel okay about watching PG-13 movies, but not rated R (yes, LDS friends, I'm talking to you), don't be shocked and horrified by the occasional expletive.

Finally, the title of the whole shootin' match comes from something my best friend's mom always told us before we went out and did something: "Have fun, do good!" Having fun was always the most important, that's why it came first. But we also had to do good--in both connotations. We had to try our best to succeed at whatever we were going to do, but more importantly, we had to try to leave the world a little better place for our having been out in it.

Off I go.

This is NOT a blog.

Let me start by saying this is NOT a blog. Call it a periodic-though-non-deadline-oriented online expression of my thoughts. I hesitate to call it a blog because I've generally been annoyed by all things blog as we move farther along into this digital age. (I don't even like the word blog. Blog. It sounds like the noise I make when I vomit. Blogggggg. See?) When blogs--weblogs, as they were initially christened--first started, they were great ways to keep your family updated on your life, to share pictures, etc. Hence, the 'log' part. My good wife and several of her friends have blogs, and that's what they do. They post pictures, recipes, updates for out-of-town families, swap ideas on child-rearing, and vent when the tools they're married to do something stupid. But more and more, blogs have to come to have an influence that I think is a little unhealthy.

Mind you, I think it's great that anybody can now contribute to The Conversation--it's truly free speech in action. However, I'm an elitist. You see, I believe people should have the right to express their opinions. But I also think I have the right to discount those opinions, especially if they're dumb or unduly prominent. I don't like having those opinions thrust upon me. I hate that media-types are constantly gauging the temperature of the blogosphere. (Blogosphere--isn't he the Governor of Illinois? And if there's a really hot topic in the blogosphere, would that be considered contributing to blogal warming?) I also just don't think most people's lives are that interesting or exciting that they need to chronicle every bit of minutiae for the rest of the world to see.

I kind of view blogs--what they've become, not what they were meant to be--with the same kind of disdain as I do short stories. I think people write short stories because they're not skilled enough writers to turn their ideas into opems, nor is a partiuclar idea good enough to sustain a novel. (See? Elitist.) In other words, blogs have become a medium for people who don't want to write letters to the editor, or can't write well enough to have an article published. But because they're instant (oooh!), online (aaah!), current (wow, Britney just did that!), accessible by everyone, and are a facsimilie of words on an actual page, they're often assigned an importance that just isn't warranted.

There's also a danger of blogging making the art of the verbal dance dry up. If everybody blogs in their own little way on the things they know about the most to a limited audience of people who generally already agree with them, what happens when you happen upon, in person, a topic that generates some discord? People who are used to having time to create a measured opinion, or used to tempering a short comment on somebody else's measured opinion from behind the luxury of a comfy chair and a flat panel, won't be able to do the dance. They won't be able to verbally defend or advance their position. There will be no debate. Heck, even if it's a friend's blog that stirs such a fire in you, and you don't want to offend that friend by being offended and making a comment, you have the easiest of outs: "I didn't see the entry." No such out in an actual conversation.

Further, what, at all, might be the point of face-to-face conversation anymore if everyone has a blog? Everybody's going to know everything about everybody else. You're not going to have anything to say. It's all already been expressed, commented upon and replied to. As I said to my wife the other night, in response to the fact that she and her circle of friends are all blogging: "Do you guys actually have conversations anymore? Or, when you get together, do you all bring laptops and just read each other's blogs?"

So even though I probably deserve to have my voice heard above the fray by way of crafting an influential, much-heralded blog, I'm not going to call it that. I'm too much of an elitist.