Guys, I have concerns about the Trump presidency

I have concerns, people. Legitimate, logical, common-sensical, rational, nonpartisan concerns. Honestly, I don’t really care which political party is in control. I’m no die-hard Democrat, or Republican. I’m just a bro, who up until this election was pretty much 100% apolitical. So pump the brakes before you accuse me of being a whiny, entitled, sore-loser libtard. That, I am not. Instead, keep reading, because this post concerns you, regardless of your political affiliation.

What I am, is a cautious, informed, logical person, who doesn’t like the picture currently developing for our nation’s near future.

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This is it. This is the picture.

I am concerned by Trump’s cabinet picks. Besides being a mix of billionaires and multi-millionaires with little to no history of public service or concern for regular people, an alarming portion of them appear to be either dangerously under-qualified, or downright inimical to the position they have been chosen to fill. To name just a few, there are people like Scott Pruitt, a man who hates the EPA, nominated to run the EPA. Betsy Devos, nominated as secretary of education, who has zero experience with public education. Rex Tillerson, nominated for Secretary of State, who as an Exxonmobile executive with close ties to Vladimir Putin has both financial and diplomatic conflicts of interest written all over him.  Avowed racist Jeff Sessions, nominated for attorney general, who was previously denied federal judgeship in our existing racist judiciary system for being too racist. Andy Puzder, nominated for secretary of Labor, a fast food CEO vehemently against workers rights, who will be responsible for protecting workers rights in a time of rising income inequality. And the list goes on. You don’t have to be Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, Male or Female, Black or White, Human or Meat Popsicle, to have legitimate concerns about what these cabinet picks mean. It looks like Trump, who ran and was elected on a populist platform fueled by the anger of regular old blue collar workers, is already turning his back on those regular folks in favor of rich campaign donors and greedy business oligarchs whose first and most pressing concern is increasing their personal profits. Which really, isn’t all that surprising when you think about it.

I am concerned by the rampant anti-intellectualism apparent in Trump and his supporters. Being upset and emotional and passionate have their place. So does being calm and thinking really fucking hard about things. Facts are more important than opinions. Sometimes the right choice is the hard choice. Sometimes you need to fucking admit that you don’t understand something, and that you need to research it further. No matter who you are, no matter what you feel, no matter who you support, you will benefit from reading more, learning more, thinking more, debating more. You will not benefit from slipping into a Brave New World style shallow meme-based immediate gratification type culture. Decadence and Pride are dangerous to any culture. Including ours.

I am concerned by Trump’s petulance. He’s an incoming president with catastrophically low approval ratings, and he’s more concerned that fewer people came to his inauguration than to President Obama’s than he is about the actual issues facing our nation, to the point where he’s spent an embarrassing amount of time and energy telling people not to talk about the inauguration attendance, time and energy that would have been better spent focusing on the massively attended women’s marches which occurred across the country the following day. Mr. Trump, you are now responsible for the safety, health, well-being and security of these women. You are a public servant. They are your public. You serve them. So maybe when millions and millions of your bosses gather together to tell you about their concerns with your conduct, you should stop pouting and fucking listen.

I am concerned by how vulnerable Trump’s presidency makes women, minorities, LGBTQs, people of color, Muslims, and any other people in our nation and across the world who may be considered undesirable by him and his bigoted supporters. I don’t know how to convince those vulnerable people that they will be safe and respected, because I don’t know that they will be safe and respected. I think that our long, arduous, unsteady march forward against social injustice and hate is going to take a rough beating over the next four years. I think that is bad. I think a lot of Trump supporters are saying not to worry about it, but I’m moderately familiar with our history, and there are a lot of disturbing parallels between what is happening now, and what happened in Germany in the early 1930s. That turned out poorly for everyone involved.

I am concerned by what the Trump presidency means for our environment. He has already surrounded himself with climate change deniers. The science is solid here people. Climate change is real, and it is dangerous, and it is affected by our actions. Trump has already supported the interests of fossil fuel companies over the interests of the American public and the environment. He is set to completely reverse  several years of hard earned environmental improvements, for the sake of the almighty dollar. Instead of investing in new, state of the art, renewable energy infrastructure, which would create jobs both now AND in the future while cleaning up our air and water, and generally making the entire world a safer, healthier, more beautiful place to live, he is dead set on further stripping our land of its very finite fossil fuel resources, which will create jobs for now, at a devastating cost to future generations. Look, I like being slightly richer, right now, this instant, as much as the next guy, but I also enjoy doing stupid hippy things like breathing clean air and not going extinct. Let’s put it this way, would you rather visit Sweden, a modern country lauded for its renewable energy efforts, or China?

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Stockholm, Capital of Sweden. Look at all that gross greenery and disgusting clean air.

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Beijing, Capital of China. Looks GREAT.

Unfortunately, it appears that Mr. Trump is adamant about competing economically with China, a country known for its closed media, untruthful government, low wages, poor working conditions, and deadly pollution, by becoming more like China. Competing with China and growing our own economy stronger is good. Great even. Doing it in a reckless and short-sited manner, bad. As an American who would rather work hard now to improve the health and well-being of our country and entire planet for future generations, this short-sited greed and reckless behavior concerns me.

I am concerned by Mr. Trump’s choices regarding our national finances. I agree, we need to control our budget and decrease our debt. I disagree with his methods. I do not think we need to decrease our investments in social services. We shouldn’t defund planned parenthood. We shouldn’t eradicate the safety net of nationalized health insurance without having completely revamped our for-profit healthcare system. Here’s a simplified version of our national budget, if our nation was a person:

Food: $13.1, Transportation: $26.30, Housing: $63.20, Medical: $66.00, Education: $70.00, Guns: $598.50, Social Security/Unemployment benefits: $29.10.

That’s enough to give you a partial picture of what the budget looks like. It doesn’t include everything that our government spends money on partially because i’m lazy and don’t feel like typing more, and partially because I’ve shown enough data to prove my simple point. If you’d like to break it down further, here’s a simple info-graphic:

gov spend

Now forgive me, but I think I see something in there that stands out, something that could possibly be trimmed to balance the budget. But I’m not going to tell you what it is. I’ll give you a hint, it’s not unemployment benefits. It’s not education. It’s not medicine. It’s not housing. It’s not transportation. It’s not food. But again, I’m not going to tell you what it is.

I did not vote for Mr. Trump. I know a lot of people who did not vote for Mr. Trump. I also know a lot of people who did vote for Mr. Trump. I’m going to need to ask both of those groups of people to grow up, stop pointing fingers at each other, and to work together, because if something bad happens, it’s going to happen to all of us, so we’re going to need to confront it without being in denial, we’re going to need to identify a solution, and we’re going to have to fix it. Us. Not anyone else. Because sometimes when the employee fucks up, the Bosses need to step in and clean up the mess.

Trump and the government are the employees. We’re the bosses. Don’t forget that.

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Home Ownership so Far

If you follow me at all on any of my other social media accounts, you’re probably already familiar with my homeownershipsofar hashtag. If you aren’t, I basically use it exclusively as a platform to tell shitty jokes and puns about made-up situations that haven’t actually happened during home ownership…so far.

In reality, home ownership has been both deeply rewarding and outrageously stressful. When I was house hunting, unlike the troglodytes featured on most episodes of the HGTV show by the same name, I had humble desires, and understood that with my somewhat limited budget, I would ultimately be forced to compromise on some things. It was inevitable. I didn’t initially think that this attitude was in any way extraordinary, my realtor only admitted after the fact that every time during our very quick, smooth, and painless house hunting process when Mistress and I had a frank and understanding discussion with her about our realistic options instead of demanding a 13,000 square foot palace on the moon within a 4 minute commute to work on a budget of 56 cents and a broken rubber band, which evidently is how most first time home buyers act, that she’d drive home from the viewing furiously masturbating to the point of catatonia because of how wonderful we were as clients.

Here were my requirements.  I wanted a structurally sound home, privacy, and enough garage space to fit all of our vehicles. Those were not negotiable to me. Beyond that, I was willing to deal. The privacy was attainable by moving further away from the city, into a rural town where more land was not so expensive. I mostly work from home, so a super short commute in to the office was not high on my list of necessities.Really, it was actually a win for me anyway, I dislike people as a matter of course, so the less nearby, the better. The structurally sound home was found by looking at older 1940’s dwellings, which were built extremely well, unlike the crappy tract homes and McMansions available in newer developments. To keep within my budget however, I had to settle for a smaller home which only had one bathroom, and needed cosmetic updates. Still, honestly, to me that was a draw though. I know how OCD I am, if I had to clean and maintain a huge home, I’d never get to do anything else. And, if I moved in to a turn key, up to date, ready to inhabit, shiny, brand new home, I’d be tearing everything out and putting my own custom touch on it anyway, so what would be the point? When I found my little cape, in all its solid, private, massively garaged splendour, I was hooked. All the things that may have turned off my contemporaries in the market – it’s small, it’s isolated, the interior is dated, it only has one bathroom, the yard has been overgrown for so long it looks like Fangorn butt-fucked the forest moon of Endor and my house was built atop its bastard poop-child, were all exactly what I was looking for. All I had to do was play it cool and not start victoriously air humping until after the realtor drove away.

(Here’s the house exterior after I started taming the yard)

house

So I got my house. I got exactly what I asked for. Great. Now I’ve got to live with it.

You know what you have to do when you buy a fixer-upper? Fix it the fuck up. If you’re as willfully stubborn and proud as me, that means that you fix it up yourself. THAT means you spend all your spare money, time, and energy on house projects. You may have noticed a slowdown in my blog posting. For that, I apologize. But now you also know the reason why.

Every time I hear a new, unidentified noise from the house, I assume the worst. I’ll probably have a stress stroke before my next birthday. In the past few months instead of blogging, I’ve gone on countless Home Depot and craigslist runs, refinished my hardwood floors, installed trim, painted, rewired electrical, replaced outlets, replaced thermostats, replaced plumbing pipes, replaced faucets, installed fans, installed lights, fabricated doors, replaced major appliances, and more.

Instead of taking vacations to go somewhere tropical and luxurious, I’ve spent my time off swinging hammers and swearing. For the most part, I’ve done it all without major screw ups. Frankly, I’ve been feeling like hot shit. Like I’m the king of this castle and I actually know what I’m doing.

(Here’s the wood floors after I sanded and polyurethaned)

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(Here’s the trendy barn style office door I made from scrap metal and a spare door slab)

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As you can see, those projects, although not perfect, came out pretty well. Certainly not bad for a DIY weekend warrior. At this point my confidence and self-satisfaction were reaching their peak. Then I redid my kitchen floor.

(Here’s the floor BEFORE…cabinets are being redone too.)

kitchen

Don’t get me wrong, the floor project went quite well. I went from the above gnarly linoleum layered over lauan plywood, layered over vinyl tile, layered over tar paper, layered over unfinished hardwood, to these lovely 18×18 tiles.

tile-floor1

The entire process only took a few days, because I had help. I assure you, if I did it myself, I might still be midway through. Or dead in a tragic murder/suicide, where I murdered my house and then killed myself in embarrassment. Luckily, my stepdad, a career general contractor who has built gorgeous houses from coast to coast for decades, volunteered to take time away from his work and fly to Connecticut for a few days just to help me out. Let me tell you, it’s good to have family.

Like I said, I had been feeling pretty accomplished. I’ve held construction jobs before, I’m pretty handy, and I’m great at watching youtube videos if I don’t know how to do something. I’ve grown accustomed to being the go-to fixer/problem solver/handy man for my local family and friends. I felt pretty capable and confident. Then I saw a true professional work.

(Here’s the legend himself cutting some new underlayment like a boss)

steve

Bruh. Homie showed up, took a look at the floor, and got to WORK. He had all the trash layers of floor pulled out in minutes, then took a trip to Home Depot and loaded up on exactly what he needed for the project. When I go to Home Depot for a project, I usually have to go back 148 times for shit I forgot or didn’t realize I needed before I began. Not him. One truckload later and we had everything we needed. Then he set to with his typical robotic efficiency, requesting only a steady diet of Titos vodka, Marlboro reds, and sugary snacks. Our relationship has certainly evolved and progressed from when I was a small child and he was a somewhat resented authority figure, to more of a deep friendship and mutual respect, but having him working on a project like this was a trippy emotional time warp, to the point where if he asked me to get a tool or something from the garage, I found myself sprinting from the house to fulfill his request. As it was happening, I was thinking, what am I doing? I’m 31. I’m an adult man. A Manly adult Man. He doesn’t expect me to run.

That didn’t stop me from sprinting however.

Watching him do what he does for three days was humbling. The things he knows how to do, and do easily, are awe inspiring. He might not be as strong or as fast as he used to be, his hair is thinning, and his gut is looking a bit big and soft, but gods damn there’s no substitution for experience. The guy is good. I mean, I knew that, he’s worked on some beautiful properties for celebrities, and multi-millionaires, and discerning drug lords and all the rest, but seeing him in action, made me feel like a slow, dumb, idiot child with mitten hands and a lazy eye.

(Here’s me grouting the tiles like a little bitch)

grout-boy

Unfortunately, pops had to get back to his real job before we could complete the entire kitchen overhaul, so now I’m back to muddling through on my own. I’m currently working on the walls, replacing beadboard wainscoting, removing wallpaper, retouching the drywall and painting, and refinishing the early-american style dated ass cabinets.

(Here’s the wall, mid-project)

wall

For the cabinets, I’ll be replacing the hardware with semi-concealed hinges and new pulls, trimming the cabinet doors out in a shaker style, then sealing, and painting. With new walls, floor and the new subway tile back splash and satin nickel faucet, they should look good. Of course, I’ll be doing all that without a professional’s help, so maybe they will fucking suck. I don’t think so though. I’ll post a pic when they’re done, and you can be the judge.

Still up on the to do list for the house:

-install quarter round along baseboards and crown molding around the ceilings

-install built-in dressers/shelving in the upstairs bedroom knee walls

-Update bathroom

-Install second bathroom above the office

-Build second detached garage to store even more vehicular treasures

-Build raised vegetable garden

-Build sunken patio w/firepit

Home ownership. So far, it’s a real pain in my ass. Still feels pretty good though.

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Election 2k16- what a time to be alive…for a little bit longer

If we are Facebook friends, there are two things that will make me unfollow you, even if you’re my best, closest, favoritest friend in real life. Those are if you post a lot of baby pictures, or you post a lot of pet pictures. I have nothing against your baby and/or pet, they just don’t interest me, so I’d rather not have to scroll past sixty three thousand posts about them to see the important stuff, like that aunt Myrtle sent me another Candycrush invite, or that the neighbor of my mom’s former realtor likes Autozone.

You can now add a third thing to that list of posts that will get you un-followed: supporting Trump.

If reading that ultimately makes you unfollow me, so be it, but first please let me state my case. To do that, I’ll need to explain who I am to you. If you came to this blog post via my Facebook page, odds are that we are probably already friends, or I am at least a friend of a friend. So what does that mean? That means that we probably like each other, or would like each other if we got to know each other. That’s good, that means that we see redeeming qualities in each other, and have pretty much the same set of base values which guide our decisions and influence our life choices. If you haven’t linked to this post via Facebook, and we are complete strangers, I’m still pretty confident that we’d be able to reach enough common ground to get along and enjoy each other’s company. After all, I’m just a regular guy, trying his best to make ends meet to support my family. I go to work every day, but I grumble about it. I care about my friends, my family, my freedoms, and my country. I like jokes. I spend too much money on trucks and motorcycles. I enjoy shooting guns, and I exercise my right to bear arms. I eat meat and I hunt. I’m also a cynical, sarcastic, pessimistic bastard who doesn’t believe anything without researching it myself first.

Based on that, if any of those things are important to you as well, even if you’re a Trump supporter, we’d still probably get along, and have a good time tipping back a few beers. That’s why I feel the need to un-follow you. Not because I think you’re a terrible horrible no good rotten person. Quite the opposite. I think you’re a great person. It just saddens me to see you voting for Donald Trump, because I think you’re getting tricked.

I don’t think Trump is who you need him to be.

If you, like me, have to work for a living, and need a healthy and robust economy to get by, Trump might not be for you. I know he has made a yuge show of campaigning in coal towns and steel towns and factory towns, telling American citizens who have been disproportionately hurt by the corruption on Wall Street and in the Capital, families who have lost everything as they watched their mill, or factory, or farm shut down, that he is going to make America great again, but here’s the thing. I think he’s lying just to get your vote. He’s not like you. He’s not like me. He’s not struggling. He’s a rich, smarmy real estate developer billionaire. He loves the status quo. As he’s sitting at the top of Trump Tower gorging on Russian caviar, Lark tongues pickled in aspic, and Columbian BamBam, and washing it all down with four hundred year old Cognac, he’s not really worrying about the plight of the American coal miner. He’s not going to help normal people like us. He hates normal people like us. Trump has been accused multiple times of not paying his contractors for work they do on his real estate developments. These accusations have occurred regularly, and began long before he started running for president, so they’re not some Democratic spin. He’s greedy and he doesn’t like paying the men and women who do actual work to build his wealth. That’s a problem for me. Additionally, Trump merchandise is made in overseas factories. If he wanted to help American workers, he could make those products here. He doesn’t. He doesn’t need to be president to build jobs and add to the economy. If he actually cared about doing that, he could have started at any time. He hasn’t. I know he says he’ll fix things for regular American families, but people say a lot of things without following through.

Next, if you, like me, know a female, Trump might not be for you. The man is undoubtedly, unequivocally, undeniably a sexist, misogynistic, asshole. Even as a Trump supporter you need to admit that. Hell, it’s part of why you like him so much. He’s a hot-headed, charismatic firebrand who speaks his mind in a system full of smooth-talking career politicians. The problem is, most of the times when he’s speaking his mind, really offensive, degrading, vile things come out. Now, you might be thinking so what, people say stuff they don’t actually mean all the time. Sure. They do. Those people aren’t representing our country at home and abroad however. If those people say the wrong thing, maybe they get sued or punched in the face. If the president says the wrong thing, bombs might fall from the sky and kill us all. Even if the stakes were lower for Trump, the fact remains that while some people say crass, rude, disgusting things, especially when they’re showboating with their pals, they don’t then follow through on those things. Unfortunately, based on the amount of women who have alleged that Trump assaulted or otherwise treated them disrespectfully, it’s looking like he does more than just talk. If you care about women and women’s rights AT ALL, you need to wash your hands of Trump. He’s tainted beef. We need to make a clear message to him, and other predatory men like him that this type of shit is NOT OKAY. A good way to make that message loud and clear is by not voting for the asshole. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re willing to forgive Trump for his disgusting actions towards women, you’d better go ahead and forgive Jerry Sandusky for what he did to dozens of little boys. Whether it’s one or one hundred, male or female, the minute you abuse a position of power over someone vulnerable, you’re an evil person. (disclaimer: Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs were ALSO horrendously inappropriate. Bill is responsible for his actions and needs to own that. Luckily, Bill Clinton isn’t running for president again. A completely separate person who is not responsible for his actions is.)

Another vulnerable group of people who you, like me, may care about, are the LGBTQ community. Now Trump personally probably doesn’t give a crap about them one way or the other. He’s a rich New Yorker, he’s probably seen some shit, so he’s not going to be as uptight about alternate lifestyles as a lot of his conservative Midwestern supporters or old-school hard-line Republicans. His running mate Mike Pence however, is vehemently anti-LGBTQ. He has made a career out of persecuting people who are different than him. Now me, personally, I have a lot of friends and family who are gay. They’re also hilarious, awesome, wonderful people that Pence is trying to silence. Even if you don’t personally know anybody who is gay, and don’t feel comfortable about lifestyles that are different from your own, I say live and let live, and mind your own damn business. Don’t legislate hate. The whole idea of this country is that everybody belongs. Everybody.

Speaking about vulnerable people, let’s mention Minorities. If you’re a minority, you’re probably not voting for Trump, and for good reason. If you’re a person who knows some minorities, and cares about them, or if you’re just not an asshole, you probably shouldn’t vote for him either. That’s a no brainer. He’s a racist endorsed by racists. He’s wildly divisive right when this country could really benefit from some more unity and brotherly love.

That ultimately is my biggest problem with Donald Trump. His entire message is one of hate and fear. I say FUCK THAT. I choose not to hate. I choose not to fear. I choose not to vote for an ill-prepared, thin-skinned, ADHD, blowhardy, non-diplomatic man-child for the President of the United States, a position which requires preparation, thick skin, calm, cool, collected diplomacy to successfully represent our country to the world.

Look, I get it, okay? I agree, our government is a cluster fuck of corruption, greed, and stupidity. I hate the establishment. I want something to change. Unfortunately, Trump isn’t the man to do it. I don’t think he’s capable, I don’t think he’s honest, and I don’t think he’s qualified. All he is, is loud. We don’t need the loudest voice to represent us. We need the best voice. If you go out and vote for Trump tomorrow, I won’t hate you or be disgusted by you. I’m not a petty little bitch like that. I will however feel sorry for you, because I think you listened to your heart in a situation that requires a decision made logically with your head, and I think you’ve been tricked by a conman.

We don’t need a firebrand for president. We need someone who is ice-cold.

You got to give Hillary that. The bitch is frigid.

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Public Libraries are the greatest.

One of the first things I do when I move to a different town, after pooping in my new bathroom to establish dominance, but usually before setting up my Home Alone style security system of painful and hilarious traps, is find the local public library. I know what you’re thinking. Public Libraries? Aren’t they where homeless people go to shave and have sex? Yes. Yes they are. But that’s not ALL they’re good for! It turns out, they also have books! That you can take home and read! For FREE! How cool is that? Seriously, for comparison, museums are neat because you can go look at art made by famous artists, and maybe sometimes you’re allowed take shitty pictures with your smartphone, but it’s generally frowned upon if you try to take the art home with you. At a library however, you can load up a wagon full of your favorite author’s artistic creations, and roll the teetering mound right past the librarian’s desk and out the front door, and they’re okay with it! If you don’t think that’s just the coolest thing, then I’m afraid we have very little in common, and I likely won’t invite you to my funeral.

As a bibliophilic young gentleman who has moved multiple times, I have become acquainted with several different public libraries, and I have found them all to contain a fascinating collection of similarities and differences. These serve to make them true microcosmic reflections of the community in which they are located. Sometimes libraries, mostly in towns with an overabundance of geriatric AARP members, feel like mausoleums, and are usually full of musty air, looming stacks of yellowing books lit by flickering fluorescent lights, archaic microfiche machines, and bewildering Dewey decimal based organization systems. These twilight zoned holdovers from the literary paleolithic are inevitably populated by warty, slow-moving librarians so ancient that they’re still offended by the adoption of the new-fangled moveable type printing press over hand-written tomes as the en vogue publication method. Other libraries, in more fashionable locations, are trendier, with brightly lit, open floor plans, popular childhood reading programs, cafes, generous WiFi, and edgy young employees with hipster-chic tattoos and/or bad facial hair. Yet more libraries, usually in college campuses, are full of adderalled out, desperate and sleep deprived young men and women, feverishly trying to cram a year’s worth of information into one evening of study while their peers hump rapidly with varying degrees of discretion in the little visited corners of the genealogical archives section.

Regardless of whether your local public library is a forbidding repository of ancient wisdom, a semi-secret hookup spot, or a vibrant cornerstone of community recreation, it is nearly impossible to over-exaggerate their importance. The sad fact is that most people get the majority of their information from, or express their personal opinions via cartoonish memes on the internet. Unfortunately, it is a well documented, irrefutably proven fact that every time you like or share an “informative” meme on the internet, you lose at least two IQ points, and move the human race one step closer to a well deserved extinction. Not only are these idiotic click-bait “factoids” unforgivably biased and usually downright wrong, they are by necessity un-nuanced, simplistic, and incomplete. No matter what your opinion on a matter is, I guarantee you that you cannot fully prove your point via a tweet or with one or two seemingly startling “statistics” or “facts” printed over a picture of the American Flag. There is always, always, ALWAYS additional pertinent information. Information you are missing by relying on such an ADD/ADHD style of information sharing. That is why we need Libraries more than ever.

In the hyper-saturated, shallow, social-media driven world in which we live, we need access to the rest of the information. We need the deep knowledge. We need the second, third, or fourth opinion. We need to make our decisions based off of the accumulated wisdom of hundreds and thousands of people far smarter than us, who came by their opinions, beliefs, and theories after exhaustive amounts of dedicated research.

The Gettysburg Address, one of the most iconic speeches ever created, presented by one of the greatest orators to ever reside in the White House, at a mere 272 words, is incredibly short, but because it was cautiously researched, well thought out, premeditated, and written by a learned, intelligent, intellectual man who frequented libraries, it is one of the most profound and moving speeches ever presented.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Read those paragraphs, and tell me you’re not moved. And then there’s this:

trumpcoke

Voice of a generation right there. What a legacy.

I do not blame Trump for being a dufus. He’s a wealthy reality TV Star, not a diplomat. I blame us for making him relevant. The man doesn’t read books. The man doesn’t read books. The fact that someone so anti-intellectual can even be considered as the leader of the United States of America is downright embarrassing.

It doesn’t have to be this way however. Public Libraries are a thing. They exist. They’re all over the place. Please, I beseech you, go to one, pick up a book, any book, and start reading. Then read another. And another. And don’t stop. Not until you’ve learned the critical thinking skills needed to navigate through the world. Not until you’ve developed enough media literacy to be able to take every message thrown at you throughout the day with a generous grain of salt. Not until you’ve absorbed enough new knowledge to change your opinion on several subjects. Not until you’ve read about somebody else’s religion. Not until you’ve realized just how little you actually know. Because that’s the magic of libraries. They show you just how ignorant you are, and then they give you a means to rectify the problem.

Do that now, before our own stupidity dooms us to a nuclear Armageddon which will devastate our electronic and digital infrastructure, destroy the internet, and sends us back to the dark ages. Where will you get your information when Google doesn’t exist anymore? How will you learn “Life Hacks” without Pinterest, Twitter, or your Facebook news feed?

I’ll give you a hint. Even without electricity, unlike the favorites tab on your internet browser, the books in your local public library will still work.

 

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So you’re saying you’re a racist.

Let’s talk about privilege. I don’t think that anybody would seriously disagree that an able-bodied person is more privileged in our society than a physically handicapped person. Why would you? It’s fucking common sense. What might that privilege look like? Well, for example, an able-bodied person never has to worry about whether or not a building has a wheelchair ramp, or an elevator, because an able-bodied person can walk up stairs. Since not all buildings have handicap access, that’s a pretty clear case of being disadvantaged if you are physically disabled, and being privileged if you’re physically able. Are you with me so far? Can we fucking agree that being physically able is a form of privilege that not everybody gets to enjoy?

So how about class? Class is another clear indicator of privilege that you’d have to perform some serious mental acrobatics to deny. The richer you are, the more privileged you are. That’s self-evident.Say you want to… I don’t know, buy something, or go on a trip, or go to college, or get a job, or murder a hooker, or do crime and get away with it, or eat an endangered species, or literally fucking anything else. Obviously, OBVIOUSLY, any of these desires are easier to attain if you can throw a shit ton of cash at the problem. Just as obviously, any of these desires will be harder to attain if you don’t have a fucking dime. So yes, class privilege is a thing. Have I lost you yet, or ARE WE STILL IN AGREEMENT?

Now, what if you’re rich, but disabled? Does your class privilege somehow counter act or negate your physical disadvantage? What if you’re poor, but physically fit? Are you no longer privileged by your able-bodied state because you don’t have financial security? Or ::GASP:: can you be both privileged in some ways but disadvantaged in others, because life is fucking complex and convoluted and confusing? Here’s the thing. Privilege exists in many forms, and it is entirely possible to be both privileged and disadvantaged by different things at the same fucking time.

Take me for example. I have really bad eye-sight. That means, when it comes to vision-based activities, I am at a disadvantage. I can admit that because I’m really, really brave and heroic. It also helps that I am privileged in basically every other possible way there is to be privileged. I’m healthy. Anything you can do physically, I can usually do better. I’m young(ish). While death comes for us all, he probably isn’t breathing his nasty-ass graveyard fart breathe over my shoulder quite yet. I’m cis-gendered. So I can use any bathroom with a little dude on the door without worrying about angering some close-minded bigot,because I physically look like that little door dude, and I’m so comfortable in my own body that I can helicopter my dick around my house without feeling anything but pride and humor, and maybe a little bit of physical pain when I accidentally smack said dick against the refrigerator door. I’m straight, so I never have to worry about businesses refusing me service, or a friend, family member, or stranger judging me based solely on who I like to stick my wiener in, at least once it heals from the refrigerator door incident. I’m a guy, which, obviously is pretty cool for me, but sucky for anybody who isn’t a guy, because male privilege is a thing, and feminism exists for a reason.

Oh also, I’m white. and White Privilege is real. And that’s the purpose of this post. For those of you who recognize and acknowledge white privilege, right about now you’re probably thinking hell-yeah brother, preach. And for those of you who perplexingly disavow white privilege, you’re probably thinking oh, fuck this guy, I knew I always hated him, he’s a dumb idiot who isn’t even cool.

First off, I’m SUPER FUCKING COOL, so go fuck yourself you soggy floor noodle. Secondly, how can you even say that white privilege isn’t a thing? What you’re basically saying is “Hello, I’m racist.” If you admit that you’re racist, then okay, that’s that. If you like to think you’re not racist however, but you still really don’t believe that people of color have the short, shitty end of the stick in America, we might be living in different Americas.

We exist in what historically was, and still is, a systemically racist society. All you need to do to prove that is take a quick peek into your nearest jail or prison. The numbers don’t lie. There are EXTREME racial disparities within our criminal justice system. While people of color only make up about 30% of our population, they account for over 60% of inmates. How many white men are incarcerated? Less than 1 in 100. How many black men? 1 in 15. In fact, 1 in 3 black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetimes. One third of fucking black dudes can expect to end up behind bars at some point. What the shit? So how can this be? What is the reason for these crazy statistics?

Well. Either you think that people of color are just more predisposed to crime, that there is something just inherently wrong with them, which does in fact mean that you’re a damned racist, OR you have to admit that there MUST be something wrong with the system itself. The system must benefit whites. Whites must be privileged.

Now, by all means, try to make an argument against those numbers. Try to explain them away as something other than what they are, which would be the result of historic and continuing systemic racism against people of color. Give it a shot. Talk to me about affirmative action and how it makes your white life so unfairly difficult, without doing any research on the hiring practices and socio-economic issues which made and still make affirmative action programs necessary. Regale me with your completely unbiased tales about how the war on drugs isn’t really just a war on race. Tell me, oh, it’s not about race, it’s about money. More poor people end up in prison, and black people in America just so happen to, completely randomly by chance and nothing more, be poor in higher ratios than white people (26% blacks vs 10% whites), and that’s why there’s more black people in prison. Hmm. Okay. But those poverty numbers don’t exist in a vacuum either. Why, if that is your argument, are more black people poor? Is it because they’re just simply not as good at making money, because they’re naturally lazy, or dumb, or whatever racist fucking thing you want to say, although I suggest you don’t say it to me in person because I’ll punch your sternum through your spine, OR, are black Americans at greater risk for being poor because of a complicated system of social and economic factors that basically amount to the fact that we once exploited them as fucking slave labor, and the effects of that don’t disappear overnight, and our society remains racist as fucking fuck? I mean, black people weren’t even guaranteed the right to vote until 1965. There are congressmen STILL SERVING who were voted in to their positions before black people were allowed to vote. I’m not saying that they’re responsible for racist policies, I’m just stating a possibly pertinent tidbit of fact. We went to war with Britain over a minuscule tax on tea because we weren’t properly represented in British parliament when it came time to make the tea taxing decision.  And yet we wonder why movements like Black Lives Matter have such anger and vitriol over something minor like hundreds of years of oppression.

If you’re white, and you really believe that your whiteness doesn’t contribute in ANY WAY to your privilege in our society, then you’ve clearly never been pulled over just for DWB. Your parents have never had to have “the talk” with you about law enforcement. If you’re white, and you don’t understand why passionate movements like Black Lives Matter exist, then you clearly really don’t think black lives matter.

It’s like the All Bones Matter meme from twitter. Disagreeing with Black Lives Matter and countering with All Lives Matter is like having a broken fucking arm, and saying wait, All Bones Matter! Yeah, all bones matter, but MAYBE WE SHOULD FOCUS ON THE FUCKING BROKEN ARM RIGHT NOW.

I don’t know how else to say this. I’m white. I certainly don’t feel guilty for being white. I love being white. It’s pretty awesome.I just think that too many white people are hearing their black friends and neighbors say hey, something’s fishy here, something’s not right, and instead of listening to them, they’re going nope, your experiences are invalid, you’re wrong, shut up, shut up, shut up.

You can be white and experience various disadvantages. You can be black, and experience various advantages. Hell, you can even be a gun-toting, fiscally conservative, pro-law enforcement, pro-military, pro-women, pro-LGBT, pro-choice, pro-People of Color, white, middle class, mother fucking Champ from Connecticut who admits that one of his many privileges is white privilege because he’s not a racist dingbat. Life is complicated like that. Simply put, at the end of the day, your whiteness is more likely to be an advantage, and your blackness a disadvantage, in the fucked up, mixed up, muddled up world we live in here in America. That’s called white privilege.

white-priv

 

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house.

I did a thing. I bought a house.

house

There she is. A little 1300 square foot Cape on the edge of the woods in South Windsor. My own little slice of the American dream. How did I achieve this milestone of successful adulting when so many of my peers are still languishing in their parent’s basements, crushed under a mountainous burden of student loan debt, and broken dreams?

Naturally, I cheated.

The reasons I was able to afford this little piece of paradise are threefold:

  1. I don’t drink coffee. You can accept this statement at face value. I really don’t drink coffee, caffeine does nothing for me, and I think it tastes like a handful of beach sand scraped from the butt crack of a nudist hobo. You can also accept this statement as a clever metaphor for the fact that I just don’t buy stuff. I generally avoid all the little expenses that most people accumulate throughout the day, like snacks, drinks, cigarettes, chewing gum, herpes medicine, Plan B,  you know, all the tiny impulse buys that most people indulge in on a near constant basis. This is partially because I’m not a wild beast and I have self discipline, and mostly because I don’t really like to eat or drink, I find both activities to be a boring and joyless chore, so by default my bank account isn’t hemorrhaging a constant trickle of small bills on little crap. At the end of the year, all those dollars and cents saved add up to a not-insignificant amount of extra money.
  2. I’ve always had cheap places to live. I’ve lived alone exactly once in my life, and that was briefly. Other than that short stint as a crazy desert hermit, I’ve always lived in a friendship-house, bro-house, pack-as-many-roommates-as-you-can-under-one-roof-to-share-rent-a-million-ways, type situation. The cheapest my rent has dropped in the past ten years was $280/month, and the highest was a lofty $400/month. So obviously, I’ve had dirt cheap housing for a long time. (Cheap, financially speaking. I’m sure the appalling lack of privacy during that entire time has had a significant impact on my overall psyche.) While this worked fine for me because I’m willing to undergo severe inconvenience for the sake of a humorous joke, not everyone is willing or able to live for over a decade with three or more roommates to keep living costs low. But I was, so during that time I was able to save a respectable amount of money.
  3. I don’t have student loans.

That third one. That’s the big one, isn’t it. I have friends with upwards of $200k in student loan debt, for an undergraduate degree. Bro. Come on. That’s the cost of a nice house. How can you be expected to pay a mortgage on a nice house, when you’re already paying a mortgage’s worth of payments every month on your financed education costs? Now, is that a stupid amount of debt, that the debtor should really have thought twice or three or four times about, before enrolling in that costly of a higher education? Yes. Obviously. But is it also wrong that education can even cost that much to begin with? Also yes. A thousand times yes.

Before you draw the wrong conclusions, don’t think too highly of me for not having crippling student loans. I was able to pay cash for school, not just, like I usually say, because I worked full time throughout, but really because my dad was killed at work, and I received a large amount of money in the settlement. So that’s all it takes to afford college in America these days. A conveniently timed horrifyingly violent tragedy.

Here is where it all went wrong. Our grandparents probably didn’t go to college. After World War II, The United States became a powerhouse of manufacturing, innovation, and financial prosperity. Our grandparents were able to buy a house, a car, raise children, go on periodic vacations, spend a little something on their mistresses, all on a single salary blue collar income. They were ALSO able to send their children to college, which they did, because they naturally wanted an even better life for their beloved offspring. Their children, our parents, were raised in a time when higher education was a beneficial, and attainable expense. As the economic landscape of America changed, they saw a real increase in pay scales depending on whether they had a degree or not. Added on top of this, all of their parents (our grandparents) began retiring right around the time they were graduating, because pensions were a thing back then, and retirement was possible, thus opening up a whole new slew of jobs for young professionals just beginning their own careers.

Then we came along. We were the first generation raised by parents who mostly all went to college. They didn’t know any other way. As far as they knew, college was as necessary as nutritious food to their children’s health and wellness. So that’s what we were taught. You go to elementary school. You go to middle school. You go to high school. You go to college. You study hard and obey your teachers throughout. Then when you graduate, you get a good job, buy a house, start a family, and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, that was just a pleasant fantasy.

Here’s how it actually worked out: You go to elementary school. You go to middle school. You go to high school. You go to college. You study hard and obey your teachers throughout. Then when you graduate, you don’t get a job at all, because your parents and grandparents have ruined the economy with their shortsighted greed. Also, you have a MASSIVE amount of debt, because the cost of college has skyrocketed by a billion percent, WAY beyond any reasonable or acceptable levels. In all honesty, most of us shouldn’t have gone to college at all because it’s so unforgivably expensive. But what did we know? We were just stupid kids who were told our entire lives that college was the only pathway to success and happiness. So we signed up gleefully, and applied for student loans ecstatically, and watched our future financial well-being crumble away to dust for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae with dumb, stupid, vacuous grins on our faces.

Then when we couldn’t find high paying jobs right out of school, our parents had the audacity, the cruelty, to point at us and go hey, this is your fault! Back when I was your age, I worked hard! I paid for college by working part time as a dishwasher, and then when I graduated, I got a good job! Forgetting of course that their own parents had all been retiring around that time, because retirement was a thing remember, thus opening up the job market to new employees. So now our parents, who refuse to retire, because they don’t have pensions, and they lost all of their savings when they got greedy during the sub-prime mortgage housing bubble, are wondering why we can’t seem to find jobs. It’s because you already have all the jobs you silly twats.

Additionally, College costs just ain’t what they used to be.

Let’s do some simple mathematical comparisons. Most of our parents were probably in college in 1981. Let’s use UConn, because that is where I went to school, and it’s a fairly prestigious State School, so it’s more expensive than some other State Schools, but way less expensive than most Private institutions.

In 1981, the cost of a year at UConn for In-State tuition and room and board was $3,346. In 2016 dollars, adjusted for inflation, that’s $8,807.12.

In 2016, the cost of a year at UConn for In-State tuition and room and board was $27,630. So College costs over three times as much money now.

That’s only part of the equation however. To really see the difference, we need to look at incomes between the two years as well. Let’s use minimum wage, because that’s what most high school and college students can be expected to be making. In 1981, the federal minimum wage was $3.35/hour. That seems low, but if you adjust for inflation and convert that to 2016 dollars, that’s actually $8.29/hour. Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. So it’s actually effectively over a dollar LESS than what it was in 1981.

Hmm. A dollar less per hour, and college costs have tripled. Wait…that..that’s bad. That means that, while our parents could conceivably “work hard”, get a part time job, and pay for college, it’s literally impossible to do so now. Our parents would have to work 2.9 hours a day, every single day during the year to pay for their annual tuition. That’s doable. Working 365 days a year would suck, but 3 hours a day does leave time for, you know, sleep, and school, that thing you’re paying for.

A current 2016 student would have to work 10.4 hours a day, every single day during the year to pay for their annual tuition. Leaving, well, not nearly enough time to actually go to the school they’re paying for, and study, and sleep, and eat, and do all those other inconvenient time wasting things they’re always doing.

So what have we learned?

  1. College is fucking expensive now. It shouldn’t be. A lot of those extra costs go to administrator bonuses, not back into the actual education.
  2. I was able to buy this lovely home without being destroyed by student loan debt because of a devious mixture of low animal cunning, frugal and responsible living, and mind-boggling personal tragedy. This is not a life path I suggest for anybody else.
  3. Student loans suck mega horse dick. Most people are stuck with them, and it’s literally ruining their futures. To say those people shouldn’t have gone to college however, is wrong. While there are certainly thousands that should have gone to trade school, technical school, or gotten a job out of high school to better their financial situation, that should not be a necessity. College should be more affordable. It simply needs to be more attainable to a greater number of people for the good, and I don’t exaggerate here, of the entire fucking world . Don’t you see that while a philosophy major, or a drama major, or an art major, or any number of other liberal arts majors can’t realistically expect to have high paying jobs waiting for them upon graduation, we still need those people to study those things. Not everybody can be an engineer, or a doctor, or an accountant, or a financial analyst. But college can’t be just for those high earning career type courses of study. People need to be free to learn and study whatever they are passionate about. Life isn’t all about making money. Think about it like this. We don’t remember the ancient Greeks for their efficient accountants. We remember them for their beautiful sculptures, their philosophies, their..liberal arts.
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The hypocrisy of hope

It’s not easy being me.

I mean, as an educated, healthy, wealthy, handsome, white, cis-gendered, heterosexual male, with ready access to nutritious food, luxurious shelter, fulfilling and lucrative employment, abundant recreation, and unwavering support from friends and loved ones, I guess, technically, it is literally the easiest to be me. But for the sake of argument, it’s not easy being me.

The issue you see, is that I read too many books as a child. It has ruined me.

I grew up in a rich, rural town, the type of strangely anachronistic place that Trump probably has wet dreams about, where people don’t see color because all of your neighbors are white, dairy cows outnumber people, and the local high-school’s student parking lot looks like a high-end car dealership. And not used-cars, either. It was a town where dads were either wall-street bankers, or farmers, and the bankers were millionaires, but the farmers were billionaires. Don’t get me wrong, there was poverty of course. Some families didn’t have summer homes in the Hamptons, and wouldn’t even winter in the tropics, if you can believe it. My own family, in a particularly lean year, had to sell our airplane AND the Porsche. Hardships abounded.

This was the type of town where differences weren’t persecuted, but they weren’t necessarily tolerated either, and they certainly weren’t celebrated. They were instead steadfastly ignored, and whenever possible, sublimated through the judicious application of designer pharmaceuticals. The place is a sealed time-capsule, to a time that never actually existed, where everyone was happy, and everyone was special, and everyone was gifted, and everyone was white, and everyone was right.

Coming from this Stepford Wifey, cultish, Wayward Pines type idyll, I should be a close-minded, racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, sociopathic, elitist snob. Now, there are certainly times when I, like anybody, give in to my baser instincts and embrace my inner sociopath, but for the most part, I didn’t turn out like any of that at all. In part, this is because I left, went away to school, traveled as much as possible, and generally diversified my worldview through exposure to and immersion in other, less disgustingly masturbatory cultures and communities, but honestly even that wouldn’t have been enough, if I hadn’t been an avid reader of fantasy and science-fiction as a child.

The thing about Fantasy and Science Fiction, is that both genres allow anything to be possible, and when written well, even plausible. To the understandably sheltered worldview of a child whose parent’s estate was so remote that he had no visible neighbors, these fictional worlds were a blessing and an education.

Thanks to the anthropomorphic writings of Brian Jacques, I learned that even incredibly different looking people can live and love and work together in relative harmony. In current popular culture, I can see marginalized subgroups like Furries or Otherkin, and say ehh, it’s been done before. Thanks to Tolkien, I learned that even the least physically imposing among us can harbor hidden strength. That helps curtail my ableist tendencies, and to recognize an additional facet of my overwhelming privilege, that the world we live in is simply more accessible to people with my physical health and abilities. Thanks to countless Science Fiction authors, like Heinlein, Azimov, or even the Connecticut local, Elizabeth Bear,who introduced NB pronouns like Sie or Zi into my lexicon, I learned to think beyond the traditional hetero-normative gender binary, and open my mind to the fascinating, diverse, and beautiful breadth of humanity’s capacity for love in all it’s exciting iterations. From Steven Erikson, I realized that just because the world I reside in is sexist, I don’t need to reflect that in my work, and I can help change the narrative by writing strong female characters into my stories, not as exceptions to the rule, but as simple, canonical fact. From Zelazny, I learned that weird is good, and jerks make the best protagonists. Fantasy and Science Fiction both allow the author to create entire universes fresh, universes where our own foibles and faults and follies can be alternately focused on, forgotten, or twisted on end. They allow us to speculate, and think differently, to learn and grow, to escape from our mundane existence into worlds where different cultures exist and  different rules apply. The result is that we are forced to then reflect on our own world, which makes us think, what if things were different? What if they were better? For the most part, I find these genres to be incredibly optimistic, even if individual stories within can be violent, dark, and brutal.

As far as modern science can ascertain, we appear to be completely alone in the Universe, but as Arthur C. Clarke famously penned, two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe, or we are not. According to Clarke, both are equally terrifying. Of course, if Lovecraft was right, NOT being alone would be far, far worse.

So you see, therein lies the crux of my emotional turmoil. By the circumstances of my birth, I should practically be a Hitler Youth, unassailable in my confidence that this world was created specifically to cater to the various whims of myself and people exactly like me. After all, if different people were meant to be in charge, wouldn’t they be? By virtue of being on top, haven’t us straight white males empirically proven that we deserve to be on top? I Should be like that, but I’m not. You know what I would say to an idiot who thought like that? Read a fucking book, you piece of fungal jelly. And Mein fucking Kampf doesn’t count.

Thanks in part to the depth of my immersion into the other worlds created by the many fantasy and science fiction books I read, I was luckily able to escape the fate of being a complete asshole, and instead grew up with a more open-minded and open-hearted world view, as well as a powerful curiosity. Which would be great if I wasn’t a nihilist.

Unfortunately, my curiosity is tempered by the niggling suspicion that the entirety of human endeavor is comically insignificant on a cosmic scale, nothing matters, everything is pointless, nobody is special, and eventually we’re all going to die. If we’re lucky. The alternative of course being much more horrifying. So I say this to you my friends and family, I say this to you internet SJWs, I say this to you feminists, I say this to you He-man woman-haters, equal rights activists, equal lefts activists, the religious right, the liberal left, to hipsters, and hippies, The New York Jets, and every human who ever is, was, or will be, I say this with all the love in my little Grinch heart: You are nothing.

Rejoice.

‘Ph’nglui mglw’nafh CthulhuR’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

morty

 

 

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