Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

A bundle of sticks!

Racists and sexists and homophobes—oh my?

We sure must like all of them because we give them tons of power. In fact, I would go as far as to say racists, sexists and homophobes wield more power than politicians, voters, queens (both the Elizabeth and Ru Paul sort), and Wall Street combined.

The reason these people hold so much power is because each category has a simple set of words that drive the public insane. If you new a single word that would drive someone insane, wouldn’t you use it to your benefit if you could?

And we, the easily offended public, are the driving force behind that power.

The Ku Klux Klan’s leader is called a Grand or Imperial Wizard. It’s a rush to judgment to assume they’re named this because of their little pointy hats. I’m convinced they decided on that title because they realized they’re magic.

Don’t believe me? Well look at the power words like “coon,” “spook” and “tar baby” hold. And let’s not forget about the dreaded “N-word.” That word is the most powerful of all. In fact I feel like I’m in a “Harry Potter” story. The word is so powerful that I’m not allowed to write it or say it—even to tell you how stupid it is.

I guess it’s just the word that shall not be named.

You’d better believe when someone says one of those words, that person gets lots of attention. Look at former Utah senator Chris Buttars, for instance.

A few years ago a bill that would make it easier for professionals to become teachers went to the Utah senate floor for a vote. Buttars argued SB 48 was no good and said: “…this baby is black … it’s a dark and ugly thing.”

If you follow local news you would have noticed the backlash against Buttary Boy. You wouldn’t have read two sentences on the volunteers at the local soup kitchen, and you wouldn’t have seen 30 seconds of airtime given to the animal rescue shelter, but you’d have Buttared Toast shoved down your throat at least once every news cast.

Do you see the power? Can you feel it? Where does it come from? It certainly wasn’t bestowed upon His Royal Pastiness, Chris Buttars, from on high. It didn’t come from Greyskull. It came from us, the public.

And do you know what gives those words even more power? When people of certain shade of skin deem it OK to use amongst themselves only. This means when a person of a different color uses it, it’s almost as if that person sneaked into the pits of Mordor and plucked the ring right from beneath Sauron.

Am I saying it’s OK to use the word? No. What I’m saying is when you hear someone else use the word then you need to stop giving that person all your attention.

Let’s move on to the sexists.

Sexism is dead, really. Both women and men have the same opportunities in life. Both can vote, both can become president, and both can play professional basketball.

But every once in a while you’ll hear someone utter the dreaded C-word. Just the thought of it made you shudder, didn’t it? See my previous advice for the dreaded N-word.

Now onto the thing that’s plagued me: the ever-so-hilarious F-word. No, I’m not talking about the synonym for copulation. I’m talking about the word that means a bundle of sticks, or a lit cigarette if you’re from England.

I’ve been called that word since I was in middle school. Yes, it hurt and offended me when I was younger. But as I became comfortable with myself, I decided to stop giving that word so much power. Some people would say they claim the word as their own. I say, “pisshaw.”

That word is not mine. It doesn’t accurately describe me because I’m not a bundle of sticks. When someone calls me that word I simply think: “Oh, you silly person. Where did you get your education? I’m not a cigarette!”

And I always find it amusing when someone says, “That’s gay,” and then immediately apologize to me.

Why would it offend me? The word “gay” has many meanings beyond the most obvious. In the past it’s meant “happy,” and today, in addition to meaning “homosexual,” it also means “stupid.”

We can all talk the talk when it comes to ourselves, but when it comes to family members we may be a little more protective.

My youngest brother Colin has the most severe case of Autism a person can have. He doesn’t speak, and he’s disconnected from the world we all know. He’s not savant in any regard. He doesn’t play piano or do art or math or anything extraordinary.

My brother is who he is, and nobody can change that. Not even the person who uses the word “retarded.”

So why should I get upset? If I hear some 18-year-old girl say, “that’s retarded,” would it make my brother all better if I jumped up and screamed foul? Would it suddenly cure Autism if I scolded that girl and called her an insensitive little beast? Would I suddenly take on godlike powers and be able to heal all the afflicted people in the world if I called that girl out on her so-called slur?

Probably not.

I’m past the point of letting stupid words like “faggot” and “retarded” hurt me. I’m stronger than that. I don’t let a word define me. So why should you? Why should you let the N-word or the C-word define you? Why should you let someone else define you by using those words?

I have only one Skewed Review for this article, and I’ve been saving it for the very end. For those of you who get so offended by these stupid four, six and eight letter words, I need to rate you with something important to do for the rest of your lives.

I can only assume you have nothing better to worry about if you get offended by some uneducated yokel whose vocabulary is so limited that it’s only full of one-syllable slurs.

I pose we give some different words power: friend, love, joy and peace. Those should be easy for any yokel. And if you’re up for a challenge, you can try words like happiness, together and laughter.

Next time you see me, I want you to call my column gay, and I want you to call me a faggot, and I want you to call my little brother retarded. I’m not going to give those words power. They’re only words.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Apathy is a.. something or other.

 If apathy is a deadly sin, then it might just explain where I’m going—and why I’m in this giant hand basket.

I’m not apathetic about everything, mind you, because if I were then you’d be reading someone else’s column right now; mine would have surreptitiously disappeared. Worry not, though. Writing is one of the few things I cling to that holds my ever-hurdling-out-of-control life into some semblance of gravitational normality.

That and the puppies, of course.

What do puppies have to do with anything, you say? Well firstly, how dare you? If Earth was a college student, then puppies are the equivalent of God wiring the planet money. Puppies are what make the bad things go away. Puppies are like bubbles. Only with fur. And alive. And not made of soap.

Secondly, I went directly to puppies (and the subsequent tirade) to illustrate a point: Just when you think something is going to go one way, it often goes in a completely different direction. Sometimes that direction leads you to a place you didn’t anticipate but are totally cool with—like puppies.

But sometimes the course of life can send you on a detour to a little place I call, “And tell me why the cluck I should care?”

I am only two college courses away from receiving my associate’s degree. Yes, I’ve already been here a long, long time. But the fact is I have been blessed with talents in some areas, and horrible deficiencies in others—namely math and pretty much any physical science.

God may have given me puppies, but I think I must have said something really insulting to him in the life previous because I sometimes think this is his cruel little joke.

“Hmm,” I probably said to Him. “And you decided to make all the planets round, huh?”

Yes, I’ve taken my math classes over and over, and I think it’s going to be the same story, more or less, with my physical science class. But I suppose this could be my fault more than any other’s. There just comes a point in the course when I start to wonder where and why I’m going to use this stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, alluvial fans are all well and dandy, and I guess I’m glad they exist. But if I ever find myself in a place where I’m writing a Skewed Review about alluvial fans, then something tells me I’d be failing so horribly that even the term “epic” and 400 million hits on YouTube wouldn’t do it service.

So am I halting my own learning by admitting to myself that I don’t need to know this stuff?

I know I’m not the first to question the sanity of the person who decided that in order for us to get jobs we have to know even the stuff we don’t have to know. That person, whomever he or she may be, gets the rating of retroactive punishment: burial under an alluvial fan until someone with a little more common sense comes along to change history itself.

Even my math instructor agreed with me, although I hadn’t said a word of this to him to begin with. I distinctly recall the day when he told the class we probably wouldn’t be using this type of math in our day-to-day lives. I remember it so well because I not only agreed with him, but I was also furious that I was throwing away my time and money on something I wouldn’t use.

It’s like going to Las Vegas and losing all your dough on gambling, strippers and drugs—only you don’t have a good time losing your money.

Now I’m not feeling bad for myself, of course. I’m feeling bad for E! Network, “Rolling Stone” magazine, and Fox News. These three entities might just be losing out on their next biggest entertainment commentator: me! And why? Because I don’t understand why knowing the subzero polynomial of whatever is important to my reading, writing and living in the entertainment world.

I don’t know about you, but I could use a puppy right now.

So I’m sorry, Salt Lake Tribune, and forgive me San Francisco Chronicle. My own realization of the obvious has impeded me from saving the newspaper industry. Until I can convince myself that knowing the Fujita Scale is important to my being fabulous and funny, then I don’t if I can even let myself graduate. I just have that much self-dedication, I guess. I’m not going to give up my beliefs for some silly math class.

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Monday, October 31, 2011

When Even Minuscule Amounts of Power Go To Your Head...

I’m such an advocate for anti-bullying because I am certain the act of humiliating a young person breeds an adult who become a power-hungry position-seeker.

I want to share with you a very short story, so there’s no need to fear boredom. But, as about 50 percent of my stories go, there’s a moral or two involved.

First, I would like to publicly admit something I did wrong: At the homecoming dance, I pulled a stupid college prank. In fact, at the time I was just trying to be silly and entertain my date. But the prank went horribly wrong.

For those of you who attended, you noticed the vases filled with pebbles, water, flowers and lights. I don’t know why, but I thought it would be funny to turn off the light and place it elsewhere. And no, I didn’t steal it—because frankly I didn’t want it.

I know. When it comes to off-the-cuff pranks involving random things I encounter, I’m actually not that creative.

Now I’m not proud of what I did. I screwed with someone’s attempt at making a romantic water feature, and for that I deserve to (yes, here comes a Skewed Review) set up every feature at every dance and then clean up after the rowdy college students from now until I graduate.

At the rate I’m going, graduation should be around 2030, and that’s if I do well.

A very concerned party planner/college chick/student government type approached me after my little playtime. I’m not exactly sure if she’s a member of student government, but I recognized her.

She was very nice to me when she asked, “did you just take the light from that vase?”

I was caught. I returned to look for the light. Unfortunately for all parties involved, I had placed the light in place where nobody could really find it. Especially since the light traveled from the spot I initially placed it. I conveyed my apologies to party planner girl, told her I was just pulling a stupid prank, and then offered to pay for the light if it wasn’t found.

So my date and I went off on our way as I started secretly praying that the light wasn’t worth too much.

If this is where the story ended, I would give party planner girl five out of five days of rest and relaxation for handling a silly college man with dignity. She hadn’t really gone out of her way to embarrass me, and when it was clear the light was nowhere in the vicinity, she dropped the subject.

But, suddenly, as my date and I walked to the fountain, a campus security car drove right up the sidewalk to us.

Yes. Party planner had called the cops on me.

Now this particular Skewed Review could easily go in three directions. I could have chosen to focus on stupid college students (like myself) who get silly kicks out of doing stupid things. I could have also focused on our extremely efficient campus security. I mean, after all, their response time was less than five minutes.

But instead I want to focus on positions of power and how people use them.

Party planer girl is just one example of a person who takes her position so seriously that she’s willing to go to the extreme to flex her power biceps. It could have been very easy for her to ask me for my name and number so I could replace the now lost light. She could have even asked me to leave the dance. But instead, she used the full strength of her position to summon security to punish me for me heinous crime.

This brings me back to my very first statement.

I think people who have been demeaned or bullied in some fashion in their younger years may tend to seek careers where they, in turn, can become the punishers.

My wonderful father, a man who started as a beat cop in St. George and then worked his way up to a sergeant at the state level, always told me he could tell which officers were bullied as children; they were always the ones writing tickets instead of warnings and citing high school kids for curfew rather than just telling them to go home.

My fear is that we are treating people so badly that those who are the brunt of our actions are holding onto those feelings until adulthood. Then those once traumatized people become officers, teachers, government officials, and so on.

When these people, who now hold positions of power, come across someone like me (who most likely reminds them of some petty bully from their childhoods), then suddenly they summon the powers of Greyskull and rain He-man hellfire down upon us.

Do I blame party planner for treating me like I just murdered president Nadauld and then smuggled a pound of heroin in his corpse into Mexico? Of course not. She was protecting her hard work, I’m sure. Yes, I do believe she went overboard because she took my stupid prank very personally, but it really was me who set the whole thing into motion.

My new review for party planner is this: Five out of five days of rest and relaxation. Oh, and she also gets an army of manicurists, cosmetologists, hairdressers and massage therapists. Not because she needs them by any means (she was very cute, mind you), but because she deserves better than a life where she has to resort to extremes to punish people who she feels have done her wrong. She deserves to have a few things done right to her.

And to the rest of you: Be kind to your fellow person. You never know who you’ll be molding into the next Mahatma Gandhi (or into the next Saddam Hussein, for that matter).

For the record, I’ve already ordered not just one replacement light, but also a whole box of them. Considering a container of six cost $7.92, I think I can afford the 75 percent interest.

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