Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mayday

How does one chart maturation? In our society, when you hit a fixed age you are supposed to fill a certain quota of maturity. When you're 17, you are now responsible enough to drive a two-ton vehicle that could easily be turned into a killing machine. When you're 21, you are allowed to legally consume alcohol, taking the burden off of older siblings or friends to purchase it for you illegally, and having the confidence in you to know when you should stop drinking (and if you are not trusted, there are DUIs, DWIs, and public drunkenness). Of course, not everyone is the same, so do these blanket gestures really apply in real life? It's a subject I've grappled with in my own life both physically ("Mom, it's not a big deal if I drive around with my friends after midnight all right, it's a stupid law anyway!!") and theoretically as the basis for my screenplay now four years in the making.

After a lot of thinking--and living--I have found a sort of litmus test not as much for maturation as much as for the impending onslaught of tomorrow, of jobs, of what was once "the future" and might now be “today.” The best way to characterize where you are in life is the question, "What does May mean to you?"

Let's go back a ways to Sixth Grade, which is about to wrap up, at least in the Northeast. After being the low person on the totem pole for the last few years (damn turnover from 3rd grade to 4th made you Kings of Recess into lowly serfs again), you're at the end of your reign over the entire K-6 school. (To be adjusted to other schools who have 6-8 middle schools, please take this as 5th grade. Thank you.) It only gets better: next year, you move in to Middle School. That's almost High School! That means it's almost time for driving, for parties, for breasts (if they haven't shown up yet)! It's time to stop being a stupid little kid and be an adult (read: teenager). For you, it’s all gravy from this point forward. Goodbye, stupid Elementary School, hello best summer ever (the Pool! Biking everywhere! Maybe a trip to the beach!!) and Middle School!

Of course, they have no idea what is coming instead is Middle School, where no one is ever happy with themselves or their station in life, the denizens are all incredibly insecure with everything and everyone around them and refuse to believe that anyone else is going through the same feelings that you are when clearly everyone is. They don't know that what affects them in the next two or three years will forever cement who they are as people from that point forward. Hell, you never know that until you're a Junior in High School.

You've made it out of puberty, right on the cusp of stopping the acne and weird hair growth and just before you're able to grow legitimate, non-comical facial hair (or, for girls, decide whether to bleach or wax said facial hair). You've just finished the most pressure-packed year of your life, because Junior year is the one that colleges look at the most, and everyone goes to college cause if you don't go to college you don't have a future, and if you don't have a future you won't have a job, and if you don't have a job you won't have a life worth living, and if you don't have that you'll be living on the street alone with HIV or some other god awful disease because you didn't stay awake in your SAT Prep class and now you're slowly dying, starving, cold and alone. Deep breaths. But no matter; you can now drive, so you have your first inkling of true freedom, leading up to the all important age of 18. You'll be a Senior, once again at the top of the food chain, with upwards of five grades looking up to you with either love or fear (it'll be a few years until you read Machiavelli, but instinctively you choose to instigate fear). You're the head of the class, done with SATs, and moving on to college applications. It's almost summertime, and it's time to start Senior year right!

Holy shit High School is almost over. Holy shit you're going to college in a few months. Holy shit your best friends are going to Ithaca and Syracuse and you're going to Boston and the person you have a crush on is going to Maryland. Maryland! You know how far away that is? Oh my god, High School was so easy. All those times I would panic over what is going on...then you take an AP course, and then they tell you that's not even HALF of what college is like!

Man, college is going to be great, it really is, but how are you going to do it without your friends? How can you attempt to get through with all of that learning without them around to support you? This summer will be the last one where everyone's together, and that means everyone...even the people you don't like. How can you live without Tweak? Yeah he's annoying but...but he's Tweak! He's always there! Now he won't be there. You might never see him again. You might not see anyone else again. Holy shit, let's make this summer count, cause it's the last one ever!

Pardon my forray into second-person narration there. It was going to go into full-on first, but I decided that'd be too much of a shock to the system. Not unlike May your freshman year of college. Somehow you survived, getting by with facebook, the internet, text messages, and lots of alcohol. By now you're starting to think about the rest of your life in concrete terms, specifically "What do I want to do with it?" You might take different classes to test out if you're into History or Visual Arts, Business or English. You find out that sometimes learning isn't that bad, and that you're treated with a certain amount of respect that you haven't gotten before. That respect comes with a more personal responsibility, where you have to get things done without your parents or peers harping on you (your parents will be on your back when the report card comes, with the harshness of disappointment directly linked to how much money they are spending for you to not do well). You rushed home on Thanksgiving to be back with your friends where everything seems like it used to, a return to normalcy as you still adjust to sharing a shower with twenty other men. This feeling is still around in the summer, where you're sort of older, wiser, more experienced, and ready to do different things like the stuff you always said you would when you were out of High School and looked forward to college.

The things that change most are the sweatshirts, from a Nike swoosh to a “College” or “University.” The settings normally do not. For some reason, while everything seems like it's the same, it's just...off. Yeah, it's the same people in the same basement at the same party, but they aren't the same people, this isn't the same party, but those are the same Solo cups, which is disgusting, frankly. A lot of what united everyone was the common enemy: High School and the inability to really "grow up."

Now everyone has that opportunity. Most take the baton and run with it, some don't, and some run faster than others. A disconnect grows. Whose fault is it? With the friends at college, you can talk differently, share different view points, do different things, go to bars, go to parties with new and interesting (and different) people. You grow on your own, becoming more and more rounded only to return and try to jam yourself back into a square hole. You get through it, but it's more difficult than you can imagine. It's exactly the same as your "last summer ever," except, for some part of you, it was the last.

Sophomore year gets a bit more serious. Remember how everyone else was doing this and that to prepare for colleges? SAT prep courses, summer courses for college credit, visiting 30 schools in a month? Now you're expected to have internships and job opportunities. The time for summer being about fun over everything is being pushed aside, replaced as a means for the rapidly approaching "future" which is morphing into the "present" every passing day. You're warned to enjoy this time more than ever, cause it will never be this fun again while also you're being told you're crazy if you don't know what your major is, if you aren't trying to make connections, if you aren't doing slave labor that will look good on your application. This dichotomy extends to your friends, who are starting to really differ. They just don't get you like the kids at school do, who you ironically miss more in your three or four months apart than the kids you grew up with and don't see for eight or nine months. Then again, they don’t really get you, either. Maybe you avoid the whole situation and stay at school for the summer. Ha, “summer.”

Then Junior year ends and holy fuck now you're a senior. This is it. You have only one year to somehow relish being this young and stupid while juggling future opportunities for yourself out of college. Look back on your life and see how it is all leading up to one year from now. You will walk on graduation. You will be thrust into the real world, or if you're lucky, try and linger on with Graduate School. The future isn't really the future anymore. In fact, a lot of your close friends are leaving, moving on, starting that journey that you are hesitant to start and they are downright reluctant, or petrified, to head into.

You wonder how you can survive without your friends at school, the ones that keep you sane, the ones that make hockey games worthwhile, the ones that you can sit around and talk with til the sun comes up, the ones with whom you can put on a movie and never even watch the damn thing cause you're all too interested in each other, the ones who somehow know you so incredibly well in such a short time. You wonder about how you can live without them in a much more real and tangible way than with Tweak, who you only remember when your hometown friends remind you of his existence. You had a common enemy again, but your side didn't win. No one ever does, really. You lose to reality, to the present, to the inevitability you've been resisting this whole time: adulthood. So, start spending money at the bars you can now legally get into and drink away this feeling as fast as humanly possible.

Senior year.… Senior year I really can't divulge on, simply because I haven't experienced it yet. The way I see it, it's High School all over again, except the stakes are raised. You don't have anything else to prepare for, you've been prepared for the last 12 years plus for this moment. You don't have anyone else around you to ease your way through the next few months of adjustment, as you've already been reassured countless times by many different friends who have known you for various lengths of time. You have one last summer (maybe) to try and get everything out of your system before the real world hits you like a ton of bricks. You’re perched at the edge of the nest, looking down at the ground before peering back at your tiny little wings. Before you can jump, you're nudged out from behind: Mayday! Hope you can fly.

Hope I can fly.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Welcome To The Grab Bag

It has come to my attention that I do not update this blog enough. I really wouldn't know; I'm never really around to hear about it. My life is winding down...wait, that doesn't sound right. My busy days are winding down and slowly succumbing to the summer sun, leaving me more time to sit on my ass, play Guitar Hero, drink beer, and oh yeah, update this, I guess. The real reason why I haven't been updating as much as usual is a combination of my screenplay (film due out October, 2011) and, of course, my radio show. But now I am free (free!), and vow to be better with my posting.

How can I guarantee this, you ask? Well I will tell you, Impatient Reader.

I think of a lot of nonsense as I walk the streets, drive the streets, and do things away from streets (meadows?). I have a few post-its on my wall with ideas that I just never made it from yellow paper to the blue-backed internet. Basically what I'm saying is that there are a lot of little pieces of thoughts that never could be formed into a full post, nor could they really be partnered with anything else in a logical way.

So I figure the hell with logic. I'll just lump them all together and call it the Grab Bag, a weekly feature that was supposed to be every Wednesday...but I'm writing this early on Tuesday...so it's going to fall between Tuesdays and Thursdays, I guess. How about that? Not only is the content a Grab Bag, but whenever the hell it's posted is, too. There will still be full posts (I have a rather large one in the pipe for later this week) on top of this lazy ass conglomeration of whosits and whatsits. To the randomness we go....

I'm always puzzled when people feel it's the right time to befriend someone on Facebook. In the last few days, there has been a rash of friend requests from kids at my old High School. Looking beyond the fact that I'm obviously well-liked and a popular fellow, I just don't know what it is that makes people decide "ok, I’ve known him for a decade plus, NOW’S the time!"

I got a request recently from someone who is a younger sister of an old friend of mine. We haven’t talked recently, and I doubt my name is flowing through the halls more than it has to on a usual basis (27 times or the state cuts funding). Was she walking around and saw a beard and thought of me? Did she watch Queer As Folk and have "hey, Mike Anton!" pop into her head? I believe she reads, or read, this blog, so maybe that was it. Either way, I hope it wasn't because she was watching Dateline: How To Catch A Predator and thought of my last relationship.

If you're pro-life, you should never be allowed to eat eggs; it’s hypocritical.

How is it that ugly, fat, or incredibly dorky people are always in relationships? It makes no god damn sense to me. I'm single for years at a time, but I always see terrible looking (and sometimes smelling) people holding hands as they walk down the street. I can’t even escape it on the internet as they list having a boyfriend or girlfriend on facebook who is equally as into Battlestar Galactica as anyone could be. Is it because they look past the ordinary superficial boundaries, journeying far below the surface to find the true beauty inside of others? Nah. I think they just know that they have nothing going, have equally given up, and think, "fuck it, at least they have a penis or vagina." I was going to write "penis/vagina" and decided against it, although it may very well be the case for some people. Who knows? Grab Bag indeed!

Does it creep out anyone else when something is italicized, but when a word should be italicized in the italicized text, they just make it normal? Doesn't that ruin the whole reason for italics in the first place? It is sort of like the grammar Special Olympics, where you can somehow make plain, old, boring text feel good by giving it a bizzaro award. "Here you go for being ordinary in the face of excited text or in an aside, when being fancy just won't get the point across." I say we use bold, just to drive home the point. You get it?

Thank god for hyperlinks, or else the only reason we’d have underline is for magazine titles. Ouch.

Why did someone have to refer to gay people as fags? They totally ruined one of the most fun put-downs in the English lexicon. Everyone says it, even Hip Hop Superstar Eminem(tm)! The British were smart enough to co-op it as slang for cigarette, so they can always try and pull the lame excuse, “no, I was just calling him a cig.” At least they have something. On top of the Italics movement, I move that we de-hate the word "fag." This makes the homosexual community feel more accepted, makes straight people feel less guilty when it's the first thing out of their mouths when their friend does something dumb, and affords us the opportunity to beat the British like it's 1783, and those limey fucks are getting cocky again. Let’s see the sun never set over that, fags!

No, no, I meant cigarettes.

For whatever reason, people from all over the world check out my blog. Oh wait, I do know the reason: they want porn. The weird, ridiculous searches that lead to my blog have been well documented, but the new version of Blogger has led to a veritable feeding frenzy at an edible underwear party. Therefore, I have decided to really up the ante and trick Google and desperate perverts (why would you show up at "Almost Enlightening" for porn?!) by throwing out all the weird things I can think of at once. Feel free to throw in your own words in the comments and I'll be sure to add them. Ahem:

Suck lick thong girls underage Mortal Kombat II boys party teen panties KFC moist bra orgy duck Paperboy! oil lube used condom ew gross stegasorous backwards wet Kazaam hard eat soft rough fast slow watermelon head legs thighs binoculars push long

I’ll report back next week if there is any hike in the hits. At the very least, I made my Mom blush.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Racing In Circles

There is a dichotomy that is running rampant in America, and that is of equality when it is comfortable for all parties. On one hand, it does not matter what skin color you happen to live in as you should be allowed to have the same job opportunities, the same respect, and the same dignity of anyone else. But then, whenever it is most appropriate to the situation, the dividing lines are drawn. Race becomes a cause of concern and a means of division to get points across. This schism is becoming all too real and apparent in this "post-Imus world," and it needs to stop.

The Imus Incident--given caps and a name because it is so obviously important--is by no means a polarizing issue. To polarize would mean that there would be two different and equal opposing sides that people would gravitate to. There weren't two sides in this case, unless you wanted to be Wrong. The only side one could take is that Imus is a racist sonuvabitch who has no right to spew his hate speech anywhere, let alone on the public radio waves that could be broadcast to anyone close enough to his hateful radio transmitter. To think otherwise would label you just as Imus himself was labelled. No one would stick up for someone who is a racist out of fear of being called a racist as well. Who is going to defend him, Oprah? Dr. Phil?

The pile on began. Throughout all facets of media, from talking heads to blogs, it rained shit on Don Imus. A lot of people took advantage of this incident and tried to show how liberal, good hearted, and morally correct they were in opposition to such a terrible person. It was the equivalent of a decathlon against Terry Schiavo. The bigger the story got, the more elitist the response became.

Let's see someone on his high horse. ESPN seems as good a candidate as any, having carried the Women's NCAA title game that put the Lady Scarlet Knights in the news in the first place. Tim Keown, a columnist for ESPN's Page 2 (a sub-site on espn.com that tries to mix pop culture and sports, usually in a comedic vein), takes a very strong and holier than thou approach to the whole matter. His column, found here, discusses the Incident in the most pompous, arrogant, and elitist way imaginable. He does not go out and call Imus's listeners stupid, instead implying it by saying that they "were laughing into their gun racks and plastic tablecloths." He does not give any merit to the rights of freedom of speech, instead criticizing the humor. On the comment of "nappy-headed hos," he asks, "That's the kind of humor you can't get away with anymore? That's humor? And Bernard McGuirk saying the word 'jigaboos'?"

The issue becomes confused. What someone feels is funny or not should have no baring over whether or not a man should lose his job. Furthermore, the arrogance to tell people what is or is not funny, what is or is not tasteful, is astonishing. Who put you in charge of what I should have to listen to? There is no universal mandate on what is racial insensitive and what is not. Dave Chappelle had an incredibly popular show that dealt with racism on a constant basis, and he's hailed as a genius (and rightfully so). Where were all of these people when Chappelle would mock whites? Is that not racist? When he would go after Asians, that wasn't racist? No one threw him off the air. People weren't coming out of the woodwork to badmouth Chappelle's Show. The Klu Klux Klan still has the right to march the streets of New York, why in God's name can't "nappy-headed hos" be broadcast in radio waves above their hateful pointy hats?

A week later, another (shittier) radio show in New York, JV and Elvis, was suspended after they made a prank phone call to a Chinese take out place using a stereotypical "Asian" voice. An Asian coalition, much like Al Sharpton's National Action Network, decided to put them out on the streets as well. In the New York Times article, the final line did not have anything to do with the comments from the radio hosts, but that the organization "was not yet as media savvy as Mr. Sharpton’s." Is that the real issue here? What small entity decides what is most appropriate for the masses to hear?

We have all learned that race isn't something to be toyed with. It is an issue that divides. It brings up many emotions, including anger, and it's best to not fan those flames. Thankfully, we have all learned our lessons, and from now on.

Study shows black players whistled more than whites.

Poll: Whites, blacks view Bonds' chase differently.

Or not.

The first story is about how white refs in the NBA call more fouls on black players than on white players. The discrepancy "is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew." Let's just go beyond the fact that the majority of players in the NBA are black and that most of the refs are white, beyond how this isn't based on a single ref but calls made by all three members of the officiating team on the court, and even beyond that the study used statistics only and did not look at whether or not the foul calls themselves were fair or not.

The second story describes a large racially based discrepancy between blacks and whites on how Barry Bonds is viewed. 74% of black fans want Bonds to break the all-time career home runs mark, currently held by Hank Aaron (an African-American, like Bonds) while only 28% of white fans are rooting for Bonds. Furthermore, 46% of black people polled feel that Bonds has been treated unfairly while only 25% of whites do. Of those 46% of African-Americans, 25% think he is being unfairly treated because of his race (21% blame his personality). For the white side of the equation, 66% blame his unfair treatment based solely on steroids, and virtually none say it is because of his race.

For all the bullshit pandering that people like Tim Keown like to spew, the media conglomerate that pays him is very obviously keeping racial issues at the forefront of national thought to further their own profit. What does this story have to say about race? What general good does this do for the race relations that we hold so dear, especially after the Imus Incident? Where are the outraged masses to march on ESPN and demand that they not poll specifically between blacks and whites as we are all equals? Where are the Asian-American groups to ask why they were not equally represented? Why is the line drawn here?

The schism in this society is brought out by all of us, perpetrated by all of us, and then when someone "crosses the line," we all put up our dirty hands and attempt to show that we have wiped them clean. We are all guilty of playing into this game and then casting the first stone when it is comfortable and accessible in an effort to show others how "correct" we are, too. How can we have the audacity to say that we live united under one common, humanitarian banner when garbage like this permeates the air of society? These stories don't come from a "shock jock." This can't be pinned on someone who doesn't have the proper taste as any of the other Morally Correct people who are strewn across our land. No, this comes from the same media who shook their finger at a Don Imus. The hypocrisy is never ending.

This will not be the last time, either. At some point, another figure of questionable morality or decency will make a comment that is racially based and they will be run through the ringer. The media will ask aloud who is to blame, what sociological underpinnings make it so that the black race feels inferior and subject to ridicule, that whites have to be tolerant of other races, etc. etc. We are being played the fool. If polls which further divide the races are not published, what happens to Al Sharpton's position as a black leader? What happens to the Network he has put up? What happens on a slow news day when there needs to be a new angle on Barry Bonds? These stories sells papers, they make for airtime, and they bring up ratings and we all play along like marionettes.

This goes beyond the simple idea of what is funny or not, what is insensitive and what is not, or what is racist or what is not. This is about the majority (meaning all people) being jerked around by a minority who are thinking of themselves first and using a racial banner in order to achieve their personal goals. Instead of trying to unite, we are turned against each other, on purpose. Never once will they turn the mirror on themselves. Never once will they try and understand that they are the ones who perpetrate the never-ending racial issues. Never once will they question themselves because it drives stories, sells papers, fills up airtime, and gives certain people positions of power. This is an issue of morality and ethics, but it is not pointed at the proper targets, nor will it ever be.