Yes, I know it’s not a real word, but it should be. So many people seem to be afflicted with this – the fear of being in debt to someone, or of accepting someone’s charity or offer of help – these days; so much so that if it were lethal and communicable, the entire population of the planet would be wiped out in the amount of time it’ll take you to read this. One person I know is so horrified of being in debt to someone that he won’t even lend out a buck for a guy to get a snack from a vending machine. So I can’t help but ponder lately why this insidious, logic-sapping disease is so prevalent.

Is it merely a side effect of all our parents raising us to think that we need to be self-sufficient at all costs? I don’t think so. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need to have the welfare programs that we have in this country, and I don’t mean just the ones that help the poor. (Yes, people, unemployment benefits are welfare.)

Is it that people are afraid of what the person they’re in debt to expects in return? It’s a possibility, but I think in response, why should they be? So many offers of charity are made with absolutely nothing expected in return, especially if the parties involved are friends. And if the person lending a helping hand really expects something in return, what does the debtor expect to have to do? Dress in drag and do the hula? Perform acts appallingly revolting and degrading even to the most degenerate mind? Insane thinking.

People should not be afraid to take a helping hand being offered, unless it’s holding a stack of papers with a ridiculous amount of fine print. Refusing such can often result in you missing out on an opportunity to experience something that will benefit you in a positive way (and you’ll regret it later); or worse, have disastrous consequences on your very livelihood. Much like the President being able to admit when he’s wrong, taking help is a sign of strength, not of weakness. Goddess knows that I wouldn’t have made it through college going it alone; I needed those extra sets of notes, those e-mail conversations with my professors in order to make sense of it all.

Now, if only all that education and charity received could have yielded an actual word for what I’m talking about…

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reflections on an icon

So unless you’ve been under a rock the past 24 or so hours, you probably know that Michael Jackson passed away yesterday. While making the rounds on the online communities I frequent in the immediate aftermath, I came across an interesting post where the poster talked about having someone in their 20’s comment on her Facebook that (paraphrasing) “it sucks to lose the iconic figures of one’s generation, but that’s what happens when you’re old.” (This was actually in response to Farrah Fawcett dying earlier in the day.) That person then promptly apologized hours later when the news of Michael’s death broke.

This got me thinking about not only what it means to be an iconic figure of a generation, but also about who said figures of my generation are. And it may sound sacrilegious to say on the surface, but I don’t consider the King of Pop to be one of them. I was a wee three months old when Thriller was originally released, and by the time I had matured to the point where I was able to appreciate music for its ability to shape society, Michael was more in the news for his alleged dalliances with near-pubescent boys. (I have difficulty believing most of the accusations, but that’s a subject for a whole different post that I don’t want to make.) To me, Michael belongs to those people born around the Summer of Love and in the pre-disco days of the ’70’s that would have been old enough to appreciate his talent at the time he started to hit it big – not someone like me who was late to the party, but can still appreciate Michael for the purity of what he was able to do with his craft.

The sad thing, though, is that being an icon isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. While someone like Tiger Woods has been lucky enough to defy it, Michael definitely fell into the trap of living a lonely, detached life, constantly in search of fulfillment but never finding it. And I don’t know this from being an obsessive fan that’s been to numerous shows of his and watched every documentary on his life, or following his escapades of weirdness and multiple marriages in the tabloids. All you need to do is listen to a song like “Stranger in Moscow” once and it’s easy to see that heavy was the head that wore the crown.

All that’s really left to say is let’s all hope – whether you’re a fan, a detractor, or in between – that the heaviness has now been lifted from his soul, and that he is at peace.

I’ve taken your name, and now I will leave you be.

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The week really couldn’t have started off much better from a superficial standpoint. The Buccaneers pulled off the biggest comeback in their history and won a game they probably had no business winning on Sunday afternoon, and then justice was served on Monday night when Chris Jericho became a world champion again. (I know certain people won’t agree with that second one, but in all honesty, those people don’t have a clue.)

However, both of these paled in comparison to the events of last night.

I had someone on the DMB Warehouse boards ask me after watching our next president speak whether I was more proud to be an American last night than any other night. And to that, I said no. As much as George Carlin (one of my personal heroes) railed against this, I can’t help but be proud of my country, and I always have been. I’ve always believed that America had the capacity – and, more importantly, the wisdom – to do great things. John McCain could have been a good president, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think he had the potential to be a great president – and Barack Obama not only has the potential to be great, but he has the potential to be transcendent – the type of president that we mention in the same breath as Lincoln, Kennedy, & FDR.

More importantly for me, though, is that for the first time in my adult life, there will be a man in the White House that I can believe in. It wasn’t just the policies of George W. Bush that I could not support – it was also the attitude with which he treated middle-class citizens like myself, and the appearance he put on that being president was essentially something he was winging, making up as he went along, etc. That impulsiveness scared me, and I saw much of that same impulsiveness in John McCain during the campaign season. (Never mind that McCain disheartened me by betraying who he was eight years ago to put himself in a position to win.)

Barack Obama’s talked about two virtues from day one: Change, and hope. Change is easy to impart, because it doesn’t always have to be the right change. And to impart the right change, you can’t be impulsive. You have to have a plan, and it has to be based around those people that need to benefit from it the most. And it has to be communicated to those people in a clear, consistent, and non-condescending fashion. Obama’s done that from day one, and that – above all else – is what makes hope possible.

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think of the children!

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Disney over the years. In my youth, they were the dependable old friend I could always count on for a laugh (or, barring that, entertainment) whenever life got me down. But as I’ve grown older, even the optimist in me can’t help but notice the outright hypocrisy and lack of concern for the needs of its own customer base that it’s fallen to in its attempt to squeeze as much blood money as it can out of the pockets of the besieged parents of America.

Case in point: I was walking back to work from lunch yesterday, and I walked past a theater that was advertising the new High School Musical movie that’s opening on Friday. Now, my complaint with this isn’t that this is the third movie in the series (meaning, usually, that they’ve gone back to the well one too many times) – considering that it’s the first to actually be shown in a theater, that could be excused if not condoned.

My problem? The theater was advertising a midnight screening (of the Thursday night -> Friday morning variety) of the movie. We all know that the fanbase for this movie is the tween crowd, who on a Thursday morning should be in bed, early, to get ready for the tests that they’ll inevitably face at school the next morning. (At least during my school years, up until I reached high school, Friday was always test day. It was a very clever mechanism the teachers included to ensure that we all attended instead of sleeping in with faked cases of stomach flu.) For Disney to tacitly – if not openly – encourage children to stay up late on a school night, and inevitably skip school the next day after getting home after 2:00 AM, just so their pockets can be filled with a little more money, strikes me as very disingenuous and unthoughtful as to what we should be trying to teach the youth of the country.

Either that, or I can blame AMC and their lot. It’s more fun to blame Disney though.

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twenty-three hours to a day

You know the old saying that as we grow older, time seems to move faster? Sometimes I can’t help but think that it’s a self-serving prophecy.

Here’s an example of what I mean: As I write this, we’ve still got the better part of a week before the summer officially ends. There still isn’t a lick of falling leaves on the ground outside my house. In fact, most days it’s still warm enough for me to go out in a t-shirt, shorts and sandals (assuming, of course, that work allowed me to wear the latter two garments). But then I got home from work tonight to find that my parents already had the Halloween decorations up: large plastic jack-o-lantern in the window, fall-themed wreath hanging on the door (which, as usual, Mom hung too high so that it’s blocking the view through the peephole) and a family of cutesy-looking scarecrows to decorate the bench on the porch.

As much as it may seem like I am, I’m not opposed to any of these decorations on their own. But why on earth do people want to rush the passage of time so badly by putting them up nearly a month before everyone else? It just seems like people don’t dwell on the here and now (or even on the recent past) anymore, like there’s some stench of death hanging out around it. For Christ’s sake, December 26th rolled around last year and there were already used trees on the curb ready to be taken away! It’s depressing, and it’s embarrassing to us as an entire species.

Then again, though, this is probably what Doc Brown’s mindset was like when he came up with the flux capacitor…

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closing ceremonies? feh.

For reasons that I really can’t articulate, the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games almost never have the same appeal as the opening ceremonies. Yes, even with the Chinese and their amazing feats of wonder running the show this time around, and even with the knowledge that London (bah!) won’t be able to hold a candle to what they’ve pulled off.

Could it possibly be because the ethereal experience that was Salt Lake six years ago totally soured me on anything Summer Olympics? Well, the whole Phelps thing was cool, and so was Usain Bolt breaking the 100m without even breaking a sweat, but do they really hold up to Sarah Hughes’s comeback win? Nah. Seems to me that’d be the most likely explanation, especially since it’s a proven fact adding a dropback of light snow to anything automatically makes it more awesome. (Certainly it’s not all the stories of outrage that the Chinese broke all the promises they made – freedom to protest, no censorship of speech/the Internet, etc. – in order to get the Games. Anyone with an average IQ could have seen that one coming.)

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