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Category Archives: The Intelligent Dunderheads – College

Defeat of Bull Run: The Failed Division I Experiment

Defeat of Bull Run: The Failed Division I Experiment

This will always rank among the greatest mysteries of the universe: Why was Stonehenge built? What was Fermat’s Last Theorem and how did he come up with it? How on Earth was Danny White, former athletic director at the University of Buffalo, not fired once his plans for The New York Bulls Initiative came rolling out of his mouth? With White having departed Buffalo in 2015, we will probably never know.

I don’t want to decry Danny White completely. He did do a lot for UB Athletics: He improved the facilities, raised money, got the alumni association excited about UB sports for the first time in forever, and many of his coaching changes were upgrades. He can be credited as the guy who made the Bulls competitive. On the bad end, he also just plump dumped both Jeff Quinn and Bobby Hurley, and god only knows what he was thinking. And being one of those hotshot wunderkind executives, he was basically in and out. But we can deal with that; this is Buffalo, after all, and no matter what the sport or what level of said sport, we don’t expect anyone to stay very long. White came in and did his time on the bottom rung. We knew he wasn’t going to stick around.

You remember The New York Bulls Initiative. That was one of the two worst things he did to the university. The quick refresher is that White created a brand change which would have emphasized the “New York” over the “Buffalo” in the “State University of New York at Buffalo.” It was a victory for the school, but only in the most perverse way possible: The only people who approved of the change were a handful of treasonous alumni active on prominent digital media; the same people who graduated from UB, packed their degrees under their arms, and bolted. The students at UB were indifferent, and the residents of Buffalo rejected it with a capital R-E-J-E-C-T-E-D. The people of Buffalo are already pissed about having to qualify their home state with the phrase, “No, not THAT New York,” which packs an innate hatred of New York City. To see SUNY’s flagship – one of the very few things Buffalo can lay claim to that New York City can’t – try and attract attention by latching itself to a place no self-respecting Buffalonian can stand was maddening. It counted on the idea that potential recruits didn’t know geography, and one wonders how long it took for touring students to make it to downtown Buffalo and realize Times Square was eight hours away.

After White’s departure, UB relocated its brain and rediscovered is proper identity. The university mopped up the damage from The New York Bulls Initiative and rebooted its inherited call sign. But a week ago, we got to see the real damage left by White’s grandiose plans. Now, I don’t want to call White a bad guy for this: If anything, he was a visionary who saw the big-time potential for UB Athletics and tried to act on it. No one can complain about that. The problem is that White misread the sports interests of longtime Buffalo residents. He was from the south, in college football country, and was naturally inclined to think a Division I football team is the keystone of all college athletics. He convinced the university of that idea to such a point that, to keep $2 million in athletic subsidies for football, UB cut baseball, men’s soccer, women’s rowing, and men’s swimming and diving. All in the name of a bad football team with no local media coverage.

Buffalo is a professional sports city. I’m not saying the Bills and Bulls can’t coexist in harmony here. Following the sports in Seattle has shown me that football fans can be fanatical no matter what level the sport is being played at. Generations of football fans in the Puget Sound megalopolis were grandfathered into football fandom following the University of Washington Huskies. When the NFL finally popped into Seattle and introduced the Seahawks in 1975, all those Husky devotees took one look at this weird newcomer and… Decided they had enough room in their hearts for both teams. Every sports memorabilia store in Seattle has a couple of racks given to the Huskies. Come autumn in Seattle, you’re hard-pressed to find people NOT dressed in Husky purple on Saturdays. Sundays, blue and green light up the streets – and the Space Needle – for the Seahawks. And hell, fans of the Huskies’ primary rival, the Washington State Cougars, have a presence in Seattle too, even though the Cougs play way the hell over in Eastern Washington. (And not the close part of Eastern Washington, either; the university’s city, Pullman, is less than ten miles from the Idaho border.)

Now, I’m not saying this CAN’T be Buffalo. I’m pointing out there’s a million reasons why it WON’T be. Keeping with the Huskies as my reference point since their harmonious coexistence with their local NFL team is what the Bulls are shooting for, we can start with longevity. The Bulls don’t have any. Yes, the football team was founded in 1894, but they’ve had a rough and inconsistent go of it. The team was never very good, and it was actually suspended in 1970 because the student body didn’t want to use its fees to fund that sort of shoddiness. When it was reinstated seven years later, the Bulls were a Division III team. They moved up to Division I-AA in 1993, then took their big leap to Division I in 1999, and after that… Well, they’ve won a conference title and competed in two bowl games. Eight of their players were drafted since 2000, including Khalil Mack, the decorated linebacker who was taken fifth overall in 2014 and is being credited with the Raiders’ turnaround. It’s better than the first years of their Division I status, in which they were ranked dead last in a field of over 100-some odd teams. It’s really not fair to compare them to the Huskies, but since they’re playing at the same level of college football, we need to clarify what the Bulls are up against. The Huskies created their football program in 1889 and have always been playing in Division I. They’re established as one of college football’s legendary powers, a team you would not be ashamed to show to an Alabama or Michigan fan. Playing in the nasty Pac-12 since 1917, the Huskies have claimed a couple of National Championships, many conference titles, and played in a hell of a lot of bowl games. They’ve never had a Heisman winner, but seven of their players have finished in the Heisman voter top 10, and they’ve had players win a lot of other individual awards. Their alumni includes established NFL luminaries including Corey Dillon, Lawyer Milloy, and Warren Moon. Just this last season, they were ranked in the top five, won their conference, and played against Alabama in the Peach Bowl. Yes, they got hammered by an unstoppable Crimson Tide team which many thought would win the National Championship, but you can bet that Nick Saban planned every which way for the Huskies. Had Alabama played against Buffalo at all, the Bulls would have been written off as one of the Tide’s schedule creampuffs. Saban would have rested any players who weren’t trying to impress an NFL scout.

The likelihood of Buffalo playing for the National Championship here isn’t improbable – it’s impossible. The dirty little secret of the FBS is that it holds some conferences in higher esteem than others. The Huskies play in the Pac-12, the harsh conference which includes USC, Oregon, and Colorado. Alabama plays in the downright brutal SEC, that conference smack in the middle of college football country where LSU, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Georgia are in a constant state of almost-war. Buffalo plays in the MAC, which people serious about college football see as a cute little sideshow. The people in charge of the college football cabal threw the MAC into the Group of Five, better known as “oh, those OTHER conferences.” The college football teams people have heard of and, you know, follow, are in a group of conferences called The Power Five. Those are the teams that get automatic bids to big, cool bowl games like the Rose Bowl and the Orange Bowl. They’re the ones that are ranked in the national polls to visit the playoffs and ultimately compete for the National Championship. Members of the MAC don’t get to go to those or play for a national title. Buffalo is an MAC team, which means that International Bowl invitation from 2008 is as good as it gets. And the backhanded write-off is justifiable; the Bulls have played against nationally ranked teams 14 times since moving to the FBS, and their only victory came against Ball State. The other 13 teams they’ve faced obliterated them in short order. Their best showing was probably the nationally televised game against Ohio State in 2013 which unveiled Khalil Mack to the football world, and they lost 40-20.

You’re free to argue that Buffalo hasn’t turned up with an enormous fanbase because it hasn’t been playing top flight college football long enough. A fair point, but Buffalo is never going to find that non-alumni fanbase because there are other factors in play which help connect fans to their favorite teams. Let’s start with the location. UB has its north campus and its south campus. South campus is easily located right on the northern edge of the Buffalo city limits, between Main Street and Bailey Avenue. That’s a convenient location with seemingly half the bus lines in the city, plus the rail stopping and starting there. Although south campus is the more scenic of the two, it’s north campus where the crux of student activities happen. North campus is the home of The Spine, UB’s response to a common university quad. Most of the classrooms are there, more students live there than on south campus, and all the athletic facilities are there – including both UB Stadium and Alumni Arena. Now, at most universities, the campus offers an idyllic setting: Syracuse University is set on the peak of Syracuse’s University Hill neighborhood, where it’s conveniently between the Syracuse Business District and Westcott, the local bohemian enclave. The University of Washington is on the southern peak of a gorgeous bluff overlooking Lake Union, in close proximity to The Ave, a lively small business strip on University Way. It offers incredible views of downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier. UB North is… well, if there’s such a thing as an island on land, UB North is it. A major pain in the ass to get in and out of, UB North is locked up in the center of a set of thruway lanes and parking lots in Amherst. It offers nothing photogenic, and if you want to walk down to an off-campus chow joint, well… Good luck with that. You’ll need to take the shuttle to south campus first. Any take-out orders on north campus WILL be delivered. Lots of college football teams offer great tailgating. UB North makes tailgating more trouble than it’s worth. As for public transit to UB North? Forget it. The campus gets a couple of inconsistent lines, so if you plan to take public transit to Bulls games, it’s easier to enroll and jump the Stampede busses. As for the stadium itself, it’s a bleacher version of a tool shack which was knocked up in an hour by your suburban uncle who doesn’t know anything about construction. It’s a converted track field with around 30,000 seats, and even a sideline seat is far off enough to require a telescope. Husky Stadium, by comparison, has 70,000 seats in a football facility that keep selling out.

In short, UB is under the delusion that a football team that regularly gets hammered by the Army Black Knights (which they do, since they play each other most years) that plays in glorified bleacher seating in a spot longtime Buffalo residents barely know how to get to is going to turn into Notre Dame. And this is a win/lose gambit to boot – with Buffalo’s football loyalty sole property of the Bills, anything less than national contender status will leave the Bulls somewhere around The Yukon. THIS is what the UB suits are trying to make into a national power, the thing four other sports teams were cut for. It was a resort so they could get a subsidy for the football team. Subsidies are last resorts. They’re grants to prolong the suffering of already-dead programs. You don’t see universities from the Big 10 using subsidies, because they have revenue. FBS Bulls football is a failed experiment which could rescue its dignity by swallowing its pride and dropping back a couple of divisions.

How many scholarships got dumped so UB could keep itself convinced of this charade? The football Bulls already play like a Division III team, so why keep pretending? Why NOT get bumped back down to the lower divisions? Anyone who felt pressure would be removed of it, and everyone could go back to enjoying football for fun again. Four sports teams wouldn’t have been unceremoniously ditched. No, UB wouldn’t have any power to attract big-name high school prospects to their football team, but guess what? They’re not doing that anyway! Buffalo has never been the place where players with serious NFL ambitions wind up. People who want to play football while they learn things are the only players who play for the Bulls, and that’s always going to be the case no matter what division the Bulls are in.

This is frustrating because of what the university is ignoring in its attempts to boost its helpless football team: The basketball team turned legitimately good right under everyone’s noses. Basketball is a huge college sport with millions of fans too, and the basketball Bulls have emerged as a somewhat known and respected commodity. 351 schools play Division I basketball between 32 conferences. Since being admitted to the MAC in the late 90’s, the Bulls have won the conference tournament twice, been to the NIT once, and received ultimate validation in 2015 and 2016 when they played in the March Madness tournament. They’ve been the regular season champions twice and the division season champions three times. Now, Alumni Arena is on north campus, so it shares a few of the same problems as UB Stadium. But the basketball team has a few distinct advantages over the football team besides being good. The Bulls don’t have an NBA team to compete with, and they’re in ideal position to kick off rivalries. Canisius is is slightly more storied team which has also made a handful of March Madness appearances. The Canisius campus is also located right in Hamlin Park. Niagara and St. Bonaventure would also be big local rivals, but the big advantage is that Syracuse University and the mighty Orange are two hours down the road. The Orange is one of the greatest college basketball teams in the sport’s history, and they play in the ACC. The blood rivalry would write itself if the Bulls moved to the ACC – it would pit New York’s largest private university against New York’s largest public university.

Furthermore, the cartel that decided the Bulls are ineligible to compete for football’s national title isn’t nearly as omnipotent in basketball. The college basketball structure isn’t as convoluted. 351 teams compete in Division I. All 351 have a shot at the National Championship. Yes, the NCAA still plays favorites with conferences, but there are still Cinderella teams in March Madness every year which can make deep runs and spoil the giants’ hopes. That gives the Bulls opportunities in basketball to make waves in ways the football Bulls can only dream of.

The emphasis on football also has the effect of ignoring Western New York’s greatest athletic talent resource. Yes, when Buffalo sports fans talk about their teams, they tend to lead with the Bills, but that’s because football is the country’s everywhere reference. Buffalo’s true sports roots are in hockey. The culture of the city revolves around hockey. Hockey – and ice skating in general – are leading off Downtown Buffalo’s redevelopment. The city has hosted several important hockey tournaments, and an amateur ice hockey tournament is held every winter. The city is home to many NHL professionals. The extent of football’s culture in Buffalo is… Well, what? The Bills? The Bulls? The fact that chicken wings are now tailgate staples? Well, what? You think about that. I’ll wait… Okay, get the idea? Buffalo is a hockey city at its core, and for whatever bullshit reason, its most prized university doesn’t have a team. This is one of the biggest no-brainers we’ve ever seen in the city; more so than even the Chicken Wing Festival. With the insane reserve of hockey talent running around upstate New York, the Bulls would go from nonexistent to contender within a few years – and that’s the worst case scenario.

The University of Buffalo is writing this off as a result of economy. It doesn’t have to be. All it would require for UB to keep the four teams it’s cutting and football is a little thought. And the ability to swallow pride and admit that Division I football at UB is a failed experiment. Yes, the university will have to swallow its pride, but so does anyone with the misfortunate to have to root for them.

Branding UB

Branding UB

About the time I was starting out at the University of Buffalo, the university itself decided to undergo a rebranding. Understand that the name of the University of Buffalo is nicknamed among absolutely EVERYONE because its proper name is so long it’s obscene: The State University of New York at Buffalo. It’s the flagship campus of the State University of New York system – or SUNY – a large state-funded education blanket which is comprised of 64 different colleges. And The State University of New York at Buffalo was always shortened to match its original name, the University of Buffalo, to make it easier to fit into a headline banner. Well, the university wanted more publicity, so instead of highlighting the University of Buffalo part of the name, some new guy in charge of marketing – someone who wasn’t from Buffalo, wouldn’t you know it – decided it was time to highlight the NEW YORK in the name.

It didn’t go over well.

The idea was meant to try to draw attention to UB, so while it worked, it only worked in the most perverse of ways. While there were a handful of bloggers and online writers and UB alumni who backed it because the title screamed “NEW YORK,” the populace hated it. Hated, hated, hated, Hated, HATED it. And why not? It was an idea that counted on potential UB students being failures in geography and being recruited on the belief that they were going to be spending their nights in bars down in the OTHER New York. How dumb did they think people were? Didn’t they get the impression – any at all – that some student who took the bait would eventually make his way to downtown Buffalo and wonder where the Empire State Building was?

But here’s the thing: Buffalo looks at universities and colleges in a rather obtuse way. Less than half the population there holds any sort of college degree, and the city in general is a place where intellectualism gets snuffed out. Buffalo is a traditionalist stronghold, which keeps it trapped in a bubble of its own making. As I’ve grown accustomed to pointing out, the city graduated less than half its population from high school until recently, and even now the high school graduation rate is still pretty pathetic. Those who do graduate high school aren’t always in a hurry to run screaming off to college to earn their doctorates, either. They’ll learn just enough to know the different between tomato and tomahto, walk into the first call center with a Now Hiring sign in the window, and that’s it. The rest of life is marry the high school sweetheart, drink, raise kids, and hope the Bills bring home that elusive Lombardi Trophy. My joke that ambition in Buffalo means earning a high school degree isn’t too far off the mark.

So yeah, it felt like the city’s many institutions of higher education needed to cause a shakeup. UB went about it in the most extreme way it could think of, which was to latch on to the city that no self-respecting Buffalonian can stand.

Although the people in Buffalo are always keen to jump in support of their own civic institutions, UB can come off like a slap in the face. The people in the area who haven’t attended UB are in the habit of forgetting it’s there. Its location – the South Campus is right on the city’s northern border, while the North Campus is plopped in a distant no-man’s land in Amherst – certainly plays a role there. And the university’s athletic programs aren’t exactly the University of Michigan Wolverines. Hell, they’re not even the Huskies of the University of Washington or the Northwestern University Wildcats. Although they’ve been steadily improving and getting more attention as of late, the Bulls are still a mediocre team stuck in maybe the worst conference in college sports. And even with winning records, they don’t exactly have the world going for them. What be the problem? Let’s count the ways: Their campus might as well be stuck in the middle of the desert; the stadium has a football field surrounded by a running track, which doesn’t exactly lend itself well to intimacy; the bleacher section at Wrigley Field can hold more people; their primary rivals don’t realize they’re supposed to be our rivals; they don’t have any local media coverage – the fact that they’ve been aired on national TV several ties in the last few years is a miracle that Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad all gave up trying to perform; and their nickname is one letter away from infringing on the copyright of Buffalo’s NFL team.

It’s funny how it took an advertising campaign like this to remind the people of Buffalo just how much they love the University of Buffalo after all. It didn’t seem like the people of Buffalo were giving a whole lot of mind to UB until this came along. When they did, it was sort of an offhanded bone. Maybe the kids went there, or maybe one of the football players made big news while playing in the NFL, but it all went the same way: With someone claiming they love and support this institution, but not really thinking about it until the NEW YORK was given lettering bigger than the BUFFALO. So this whole project leaves me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I want to tell the University of Buffalo, “Well done!” On the other hand, I’m hoping the person who thought of it is shipped back to wherever he came from, where naming something after New York might work better.

To think, if the people of Buffalo had been paying attention to UB in the first place, this whole charade never would have been necessary. But I guess this is the sort of thing that happens when a city ignores its potential as a higher learning destination – even the stupidest and most degrading rebranding becomes a necessity, just so it isn’t left out of the peoples’ minds.

The Tom Brady White-Out: Sports and the Intelligentsia

The Tom Brady White-Out: Sports and the Intelligentsia

It’s a pretty common thing for people to watch sports when they get bored. Or to go outside and play sports when they get bored. Or to maybe read and write about sports. What isn’t quite as common is someone getting bored and randomly writing about sports when he doesn’t have the faintest clue of anything that happens in the sports world. Maybe you’re wondering what I’m talking about. Well, what happened was that upon the recent NFL deflated football scandal, some clueless intellectual in search of a way to spin a racial angle into the whole sad episode decided to make Tom Brady’s suspension the point of reference for a rant against white privilege. Not as a guy who hasn’t been the recipient of it, but as a person whose punishment for maybe deflating a few footballs has received it.

Now, I’m not trying to deny that white privilege exists. It does, and even though I’ve lost out on certain options in my lifetime because of my deformed arm and my atheism, I’m not trying to argue that I’ve never been the recipient of white privilege. If you’re a white American male, you have access to certain luxuries and opportunities which you will probably never be aware of, and as a white American male, I’ll never know what it’s like to be followed through a department store for no reason or pulled over for driving through a good neighborhood. I’m not even trying to argue that Tom Brady has never received white privilege. He came from a fairly well-off family in a California suburb, after all, and if anything, he’s probably received more of it than I ever will. But trying to convince a knowledgeable sports fan that Tom Brady’s white privilege is suddenly symbolized through a four-game suspension for tampering with footballs – or, in fact, not even tampering with footballs, but simply on the suspicion of ball-tampering because he refused to turn in some evidence in the league’s investigation – requires total, abject ignorance of context and a willingness to take everything about what happened at face value. And even if you’re capable of doing that, it requires stretching to the breaking point. Anyone who knows anything more than that about all matters NFL-related knows this suspension-as-privilege bullshit is incapable of holding cement, let alone water.

There is a surprising number of observers knowledgeable about the NFL who have been able to recognize Brady’s suspension for what it really is: Another stunt punishment meted down from Roger Goodell calculated to preserve his league’s bleeding image which is, if anything, a little heavy-handed. I’m not endorsing cheating and I hate Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the New England Patriots, but they just got their skulls cracked for a form of cheating so old that sports leagues are picking and choosing cases of it to come down on. Ball-tampering is not a highly-enforced rule. Just during November, the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers were both caught placing balls next to heaters during a game. When the NFL saw it during the broadcast, it basically wagged its finger. In 2012, the San Diego Chargers tried coating their towels in a sticky substance which would have made the ball easier to handle, and the incident was basically laughed off. Jerry Rice, the legendary wideout – who is black – confessed to using stickum during games just a couple of days before the deflation scandal broke, and no one removed him from the league’s all-time team. If you want to bring other sports into it, Gaylord Perry had to chutzpah to name his damned autobiography after the illegal pitch he spent his career using. In basketball, the New York Knicks dynasty of the early 70’s is praised for their smart passing, but not the underinflated balls which enabled their particular brand of small ball. In the 80’s, the Los Angeles Lakers’ legendary Showtime dynasty overinflated their balls to create a more lively and unpredictable ball which was suited to their up-tempo offense – and when the Chicago Bulls defeated the Lakers to win their first Championship, coach Phil Jackson had them carrying paper clips in their shorts to stick in the valve to deflate the ball whenever the refs weren’t looking!

Here’s a little context about Brady’s white privilege for the intelligentsia to lap up: Ray Rice, black, beat up his wife in an elevator and was suspended for two games. When public court demanded a stiffer punishment, Roger Goodell first tried hand-waving the case on account of there being a lack of evidence. He didn’t do much of anything about it until TMZ released the video of the actual assault and threw Goodell’s back against the wall. Adrian Peterson, also black, beat his kid and the NFL did jack shit – and the Vikings suspended him for a single game. Some 70 players were arrested in the last season and no one breathed a word. Brady, who didn’t do anything that endangered the welfare of another human, was suspended for more games than any of them, and his team was docked draft picks and fined a million dollars – which, by the way, is twice the stated maximum NFL fine. The deflation scandal was exactly the kind of thing Goodell was hoping and praying for – a nice distraction which the Commissioner could use to reassert his authority, come off like a zero-tolerance good guy, and use to make people forget about the year the NFL just had. You don’t get to pull the white privilege card in a case that would have gone away had the NFL handled it the way it normally handles ball-tampering cases; slap the offending team with a $25,000 fine immediately after the game, tell them not to do it again, and kick back while everyone forgets it.

This attempt to paint Brady as the new poster boy of white privilege is resulting in the most incredible avalanche of intellectual dishonesty I’ve ever seen from critical theorists. This isn’t social criticism. It’s crying for attention. It seems everyone doing it is aware of that on some level. In an attempt to paint Brady as some great villain who gets away with everything, some writers – like Dan O’Sullivan of Vice Sports – are even diving into his past and cherry-picking facts. O’Sullivan’s piece is a real howler for how much he either didn’t know or willingly omitted to push his narrative. He mentions, for example, that Brady had a mediocre high school career which resulted in a full scholarship from the University of Michigan anyway. Now, this may or may not be true, but what I know is that even if he was a bad athlete in high school, “mediocre” is a strictly relative term. Brady attended Junipero Serra High School, a nationally famous athlete factory which also produced Jim Fregosi, Lynn Swann, and Barry Bonds, and he played baseball and basketball as well as football there. Sucking at a place like Serra wouldn’t be the same as sucking at, say, Seneca Vocational. O’Sullivan says Brady was a bad college quarterback, which simply isn’t true. Brady once owned the single-season record for completions at Michigan. O’Sullivan does mention that Brady was inserted as the fourth-string quarterback after getting drafted, and that it was an unusual move. He’s half-right. Brady WAS originally the fourth-string guy. That’s kind of the par for a sixth round draft pick, especially when the team’s main guy is cannon-armed Drew Bledsoe, a multiple-time all-star with borderline Hall of Fame credentials. Brady worked his way up to second string, then was automatically given the starter job when Bledsoe was sidelined with a serious injury.

I’ve seen the idea raised that if it was Marshawn Lynch in Brady’s position, he would have been given a much worse punishment. And yeah, that’s true. But the problem with that narrative is that Brady has always been the pitch-perfect All-American Golden Boy. He’s never been in trouble or said anything controversial. Most importantly in the league’s eyes, he’s never done anything to endanger the bottom line or the clean, family image. Lynch has at least one illegal weapons charge under his belt, another hit and run charge, and was caught driving drunk during his time in Buffalo. Since his trade to Seattle, he appears to have mostly cleaned up his criminal side, but he also found a way to subvert the NFL’s ridiculous laws about media availability without actually breaking them. He shows up, uses subtle ways to show his contempt for the league for making him show up, never answers any questions, and leaves. Journalists are frustrated by him and several have called for the league to just fine him and suspend him anyway. The NFL already suspended him once for the weapons charge. That ran for three games. The fact that he hasn’t been suspended again either shows the league is being uncharacteristically lenient with him, or that he has a legal team comprised of wizards, Jedi, and Time Lords. I promise you Roger Goodell is looking for a reason to suspend him again, for the same reason he just suspended Brady – endangering the bottom line and the image. I also promise that if Lynch cheats and gives Goodell that reason, the ensuing suspension won’t have anything to do with cheating, and anyone who argues otherwise is a fucking idiot.

There are two reasons why using Tom Brady to symbolize white privilege is killing me. The first is because so many valid instances of white privilege are all over sports. Hell, if it was so imperative to attack the Patriots specifically, one needs to look no further than at Tom Brady’s favorite and most effective target, the adolescent-minded frat megadouchebro Rob Gronkowski. The picture the media paints of Gronk is appalling. Gronk is white, and he’s been spending most of his time engaging in the same vein of off-field hijinks this same media repeatedly slammed Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens for. Yet, rather than hover over him and call him an embarrassment to whatever code it’s peddling this week, the media continues to glorify Gronk as a lovable galoot having fun in the prime of his youth. And speaking of codes, there’s also enough material in baseball’s stodgy and suspiciously pale Code to attack the entire baseball establishment – players, owners, representatives, and even fans – for years. The players sometimes attack each other over antiquated ideas of respect which come from an idealistic past which was never real; or even if it was, would be rooted in a time period in which baseball was whites-only. The 7.8 percent of black ballplayers are stuck adhering to traditionalist values of the white majority, and any sign of personality or excitement gets them drilled on their next at-bat. Chris Rock just released an impressive seven-minute rant on the whole subject. For something that isn’t quite so far out of the intellectual comfort zone, attacks against team owners who demand to build new stadiums in places that would drive minority populations out of their homes hits a trifecta: It’s a civic issue, a race issue, and a sports issue. The intelligentsia knows race and infrastructure issues well, and sticking to them when attacking sports stadiums makes white privilege in sports a sort of default target.

The other reason is because there’s a veiled insult in it. Sports are a major social institution. The way sports influence and are influenced by society are subjects sociologists and psychologists study. There is even a full-fledged organization, The North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, which was created to observe the impact of sports on humanity. Murray State University Professor Daniel Wann basically created his entire name and reputation studying the psychology and sociology of sports, and dedicating multiple books to the subject. Yet, the average intellectual can’t seem to shed the mindset that sports are strictly a neanderthal endeavor. This is a crowd that is not only ignorant about all things related to sports, but thunderously trumpets that very ignorance from the mountaintops, making no effort to conceal its contempt or condescension. Now they’re trying to wedge themselves into the national conversation about this deflation scandal by trying to inject it with a racial angle that doesn’t exist, and they’ve apparently chosen the method “use a national scandal we’ve ignored but which the entire sports-following world could school us in and apply it to a white athlete we’ve heard of.” It’s the same form of ignorant punditry Fox News runs on.

I love sports, and I’m capable of expending many happy hours keeping up with them the same way I keep up with my bicycling, exercises, video games, writing, and various other interests. Sports mean a lot to me because they’re something that brings out my better qualities. I credit baseball’s New York Yankees in part for rescuing me from social oblivion. Sports helped inspire me to try for certification in physical therapy, and hopefully exercise science in a further future. I’ve been following hockey’s Buffalo Sabres for 30 years. I once wrote a blog dedicated to baseball literature – which I’m now looking to revive – that professional authors have noticed and sent me compliments for. One of my final projects for my sociology class this last semester was on the sociology of sports fandom. I put a ton of time and effort into learning about sports and their quirks and intricacies to make sure I have the most accurate angles possible on everything I say regarding them. The insult here is that I can pick up the very same grasp on the necessary nuance and context with no effort whatsoever. I can stick my head in the ground whenever the subject comes up, pull it out when I hear a muffled word from a 22nd-hand source, and already know everything about the situation that I need to in order to make an accurate sociological assessment of it.

The lure of sports is so strong that some experts have even likened them to religion, and favored teams become indistinguishable from the “totems” that legendary sociologist Emile Durkheim described when he referred to religion as a cultural symbol. Intellectuals seem to have trouble grasping that, and train themselves to not take sports seriously. And so when some of them do try to come out and treat sports in a serious context, we get glorified trolling like talk about how Tom Brady’s color is the only thing preventing the NFL from taking the Patriots’ latest title away. (It might interest an intellectual to know that, while they’re beating up Brady, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is trying to pull some actual privilege: He’s demanding an apology from Roger Goodell and the overturn of the suspension. In the meantime, Brady himself is making an appeal to the commissioner. If he gets his suspension reduced, THEN you can play the white privilege card.) I’m sick of seeing a legitimate social institution that I spend my free time studying get reduced to sound bites by proud ignoramuses. If the average intellectual wants to throw their social commentary into sports, they need to either start putting some time into learning about them or just back the hell off.

Learning English Again for the First Time

Learning English Again for the First Time

I love my language, and I get a kick out of thinking, toying with, and explaining the little quirks and nuances about English most of us don’t usually bother thinking about. I don’t believe offical recognition of English as an official language is an idea which is entirely without merit, either. But one of the things that drives me crazy about the people who want to promote that latter viewpoint is that they are frequently barely capable of properly speaking English themselves. I don’t just mean throwing a few emoticons into their regular text messages, either; we all do that. I mean that in regular, ordinary speaking and writing, they keep making juvenile mistakes which aren’t exactly major, but still enough to make me question their intelligence.

Well, guess what! In a shocking twist of fate and fortune that could only ever happen to me, upon transferring to my old college, too long had passed since the last time I had taken a proper English course, and so it was time for me to be a good student again and force myself through a whole new English class. And for a person who has been writing semi-professionally for 15 years, knows the language extremely well, and constantly complains that most people complaining about how English isn’t our national language suck at speaking it themselves, I’m rather clueless in knowing exactly what the hell I’m doing in a lot of the problems I’m given in that class. I’m not having some overwhelming amount of trouble, mind you; what’s going on is that when it comes to knowing what’s what in the English language, I’m not quite as smart as I thought I was.

English literature courses rely on cranial flexation in order to understand the theoretical and abstract from any given piece of literature. This is usually music to my ears; the theoretical and abstract are things my own brain gets along with just fine, better than a lot of the course material I’m required to study, in fact. I’ve written interpretations of a lot of movies, TV shows, and literature. You’d think finding and deciphering a theme would be second nature to me by now. As an author who is increasingly writing short stories, though, I am also well aware of the fact that when a writer sets out to write a piece of literature, we frequently write it with just the story idea in mind. Many authors will write up a guideline to help themselves flesh it out, but I feel like that would restrict me on the atmospheric level – I’m only trying it just now, and it doesn’t seem to be going well.

In other words, we have stories to tell. We don’t often write anything up with any idea of what themes can be culled from it; as long as the story itself gets told, I doubt most authors really care how their work is interpreted, and I’m sure most would read an interpretive essay with interest on the reader’s conclusions and how they came to those conclusions. The story I’m currently writing is about a luckless romantic trying to impress a girl he likes, and ending up in a fistfight with Mike Ditka in the process. Read that sentence again, and answer this quiz question: Do you think, with a story like that, I’m really giving a shit about themes or interpretations? I’m not. I’m just going with the flow of the situation, and hoping it turns out halfway decent.

This is kind of my specialty when I try to write fiction. Invent a character, invent an unlikely situation, and figure out how the character would adapt to the situation. I’m also working on a mystery story revolving around a hitman who also acts as a sort of detective for people who live under the law, but that one isn’t going quite as well. In the past, I’ve written works about a rock musician who had an out-of-body experience (that one was inspired by the story of Motley Crue member Nikki Sixx, which he talked about in the band’s autobiography); a guy who found a hidden treasure that made him rich beyond his wildest dreams and exactly what happened after he found all that money; a conversation between God (yeah, that God) and a suicide bomber, and others. I also wish I could write them faster, and that I could figure out where to send them without so much difficulty.

Themes were never the concern with any of them. Sure, I’ve tried to write a few of them within some sort of context, but context is something broader than theme, at least once the rules you’ve established for your fictional world are set up.

In layman’s terms, I think of the unusual situation, and set out to write a story about (mostly) ordinary, regular people in those situations. I tried writing a couple which vaulted off that form of literature – one was a science fiction story that worked nicely, the other is that mystery I mentioned about (I wish I knew how to be good at writing mysteries) – but mostly, that situational stuff is probably my niche.

Besides that, I’ve also got to worry about the subjects of sentences; the verbs of sentences; predicates; sentence fragments; and all those other little goodies that drove us crazy in elementary school which no professional author has ever used. Learning these has given rise to the personal realization that I’ve forgotten everything I’ve ever known about them.

To think that, during the past two semesters, I was learning calculus and needed my formal understanding of basic algebra to return to me. What should happen in that instance but my old algebra lessons actually coming back to me, and not being so cluttered or confusing that time. In fact, I was remembering my algebra – a subject I took twice in high school and four times in college – perfectly, and without any of the confusion or clutter that made it such a pain to learn. My second semester, when I took a class in human movement which involved physics, recalling my geometry took a little bit longer, but I still managed to do it when one of my professors was giving me help. Now here I am, fully taking a subject I studied and passed, and having trouble recalling rudimentary aspects of it, even though it’s something I’ve been doing now for a very long time and excelling at. I’m not very fond of my brain right now.

You Know What’s Worse than Working?

You Know What’s Worse than Working?

We take employment for granted in this country. We’re apparently under the impression left in our heads by all those Warner Bros. cartoons we watched as kids, that finding work is as easy as walking into the first store with a “hiring” sign, yanking it out of the window, telling the manager “Here I am!” and getting put on the job immediately. Every job has a single applicant, and employers are so desperate for help, they don’t even bother with an interview.

To what little credit I can offer this overly simplistic viewpoint, I have seen – and even worked – jobs which have operated in this very same fashion. Unfortunately, the only jobs that work in such a way are commission-based, door-to-door sales jobs which force you to work 12 hours a day, six days a week, on the hope that the mathematical law of averages swings into your favor. In other words, they’re scam jobs where the returns on your investments are practically nonexistent. Any real job, in which you can make an actual wage and maybe have a few benefits, requires going out and doing the legwork – filling out applications and hoping you get called for an interview, after which you’ll be made to wait a week or two for your potential employer to give you any kind of word. I regularly read job-hunt books, and most of them say the same thing about that scenario – if the employer says he’s got a bunch more interviews, you’re on the backburner; he’s already hired his guy, and he just wants a few people as backups in case the person he hired decides not to show.

I like to believe most people in this country are aware of this, at least on some level. Unfortunately, even then, the Warner Bros. version of the typical job search tends to prevail in the American imagination. Even in the job search books I’ve read, almost every author makes one of two assumptions: Either that the reader is already working and just looking for an improvement, or that a part-time job is growing on a nearby jobby tree to be easily plucked. Since I returned to Buffalo, I’ve been forced to say no to three jobs I was offered that were totally in the bag, offering reasonable pay and benefits, due to distance. Now that I’m a student, such packages don’t come along every day, but I’m still in the hunt for a part-time position because I want to pursue my career schooling full time. I’m having a difficult time finding a proper part-time position which can get me an income and help me pay off my debts.

I find something a little disturbing in the fact that finding a position like this is so difficult. Finding part-time work shouldn’t be hard. There are people, after all, who are able to find long-term employment after being out of the workforce for years. I managed to go to plenty of interviews, but they all ended with the same message: “We’ll call you back no matter what.” In other words, they’ve made their desired hire and I’m never going to hear from them again.

There has to be some kind of trick to getting whatever job you happen to be interviewing for at the moment, and the people I envy the most are the people who have managed to figure that trick out. You know those people: They’re the ones who are able to hop from job to job, staying on whatever job they’re working for two or three months, then quitting, then, when you talk to them, tell you about how they didn’t like this or that store policy or how their manager was a major douche, so they quit their job and found work someplace else literally the very next day. The jobs they’re constantly drifting in and out of aren’t even skill jobs which require training or education, either; they’re regular, ordinary part-time jobs with a wide glut of people competing with each other to get into. I don’t know what’s more amazing about the people who are able to do that; the fact that they’re able to so callously go in and out of work so easily, or the fact that employers, even after presumably looking at their work history and seeing there’s a better-than-even chance they won’t be around for a very long time, still hire them, apparently convinced they’re the magic employers who have found the secret formula to taming the common job players.

Meanwhile, there’s me, and I plan on staying wherever I get hired for at least the next couple of years so I can finish educating myself. I’ll stay on for longer if I find a job in a media industry – which encompasses my old degree – or the health industry, which is what I’m currently pursuing. I work very hard and haven’t been properly fired since 2006. I’m perfectly capable of leaving my nonconformist tendencies at home whenever I’m on the job. I’ve been praised for being friendly and professional nearly everywhere I’ve been, and the ultimate testament to friendliness and professionalism is that I managed to reel in over $7000 while working to solicit donations from people who watch PBS in Buffalo. These were phone solicitations too, which basically meant I was working as a telemarketer to take these donations. I’ve been able to fit in and get along with every co-worker I’ve ever had, so it isn’t like there are any major issues that anyone should be worried about.

I’ve pinpointed interviewing as my trouble spot, and that’s partly because I’ve received so much conflicting advice over how to deal with interviews that, at one point, I tried following all of it. As you can probably imagine, that didn’t work out very well. So I recently ditched around, oh, say, probably 90 percent of the interviewing advice I’ve ever received and started just going strictly by the basics: Keep my personal life out of it, research the company, avoid asking about salary or benefits, things of that nature. Still, I want to be one of those people who can get any job on the planet and hop from one to another with no trouble. I’m not saying I would hop from job to job at the slightest inconvenience. I’m just saying I hate not having an income and am in search of any infallible secrets which could help me attain one. I have a life I really want to get back to living, you know.

A Different Kind of Viewing

A Different Kind of Viewing

Anyone can learn human body vernacular. Anyone can look at a nice, clean drawing of the heart and say, “now that’s a heart!” A guy going into a professional medical field, though, can’t learn anything just by looking at those drawings. Think about how scary that would be: You’re about to go under the anesthetic, and there’s a newly-minted doctor in front of you with the scalpel, and he’s saying something along the lines of that episode of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: “Don’t worry, I’ve pretended to do this operation a thousand times. Look, this time they gave me a real scalpel! Cool!” Yeah, medical professionals need to have a rather exacting idea of what your innards look like, and so one thing medical and health professionals do to train themselves is look at cadavers. It’s a lot like the dissection part of your high school biology class, except in this instance, you’re not looking at a worm, grasshopper, or frog. No, you’re looking at a very real dead human who’s been cut open, leaving organs exposed for all to see.

Since my area of study is based mostly on biomechanics and physics, I didn’t really expect to have an opportunity to view a cadaver at all, but it came up in my anatomy and physiology class. Since it was worth a few free points, I decided to sign up. The Professor said if we were nervous or unsettled by the fact that we were going to, you know, look at a dead human who was cut open, all we had to do was turn in the signup sheet and that would be that. We would show up at our lab time, hand in the form, leave, and free points were ours. If we stayed, there were certain rules to be followed: Above all, respect the body. No photographs, no recordings, no holding the intestines against our abdominal cavities and pretending we’d been cut open by Jason or Freddy. I gave a bit of thought to maybe trying to lighten the mood with a zombie joke, but decided against it. We were going to be looking at a person generous enough to donate her body to a scientific cause, enabling future medical professionals to learn useful information about the human body by cutting her open. If someone did the same thing anywhere else, it would be considered desecration, so the cadaver deserved respect for permitting it.

The only zombie joke made at the viewing came before me and the handful of classmates with me followed the Prof in to see the cadaver, and it came from the Prof himself, and he did it mainly to reassure us that there was nothing to be afraid of. “Don’t worry, the cadaver isn’t going to get up and walk off,” he said before taking us in. “If it does, I’ll give you all A’s.” It put us at a little bit of ease. He also said that if we felt uncomfortable, we were free to leave. Anatomy and physiology, however, is not a course many people take as an elective. Most people who take it do it as part of a larger program, which means it’s safe to assume that almost everyone in the class has at least some level of interest in how we look on the literal inside. No one who was with me to view the cadaver left or had a noticeably debilitating reaction to the sight. I always had a rather strong stomach, so I assumed I would take it pretty well, but I honestly had no idea how I would react. I’ve been to funerals and seen graphic slasher flicks, but knew better than to assume looking at a human cadaver would fill me with the same reactions as those.

I confess to a slightly lightheaded feeling as I approached the cadaver and watched the Professor carefully peel back the layers of skin, fat, and muscle covering the thoracic and abdominal cavities. Any thoughts about those zombie jokes were sucked out of the room instantly. It was clear in only a few minutes the viewing wasn’t a look-but-don’t-touch show. The Professor invited us to touch certain parts of the cadaver to get an idea of what they felt like, and strange as it may sound, that helped put me at ease because it drilled into me the fact nothing about a cadaver was out of the ordinary. First, my classmates and I felt the skin. It was dry and leathery, which made perfect sense since leather is basically dried skin anyway; in this case, it happened to be human skin. After the skin, we touched the layer of fat directly underneath the skin. The Prof asked us what our first impressions were and how they differed from what we thought the body might look and feel like. I expressed my surprise the layer of fat was so, well, organized and neat. By then, all the A+P students were familiar with the school Health and Wellness Association displays comparing five pounds of fat to five pounds of muscle. My classmates and I had expected the fat to look like the organization’s plastic model chunks: Large and unwieldy, spreading out in many random directions. The Prof explained the fat in our bodies is actually liquid, and it only solidifies at room temperature. He then asked us to observe our hands after feeling the fat, and we saw that our gloves were now covered in liquid because the fat had melted upon coming into contact with our body heat.

The Prof riddled us throughout the viewing, asking what we thought one thing or another was to see how our impressions of the cadaver compared to what we were expecting. To give us an impression of how embalming fluid acts upon a human body, he also asked us to touch the liver and note how hard it was, in contrast to when liver is cooked at home and flops around in the pan. He showed us the lungs and was careful to point out the small amount of soot which darkened them slightly, explaining that lungs are likely to absorb a small amount of soot no matter what. They were mostly white, though, which told us they were very healthy. For comparison, the Prof then pulled out a full pair of lungs from a longtime smoker and passed them around. When I got ahold of them, I was surprised by how hard they were; it might have been the embalming fluid acting on them, as I had always imagined lungs to be loose and floppy. The Professor also pointed out the stomach and gallbladder. The stomach looked harder than I thought it would, like the plastic used in milk jugs, while the gallbladder was deflated. The diaphragm was a lot thinner than I envisioned, and the greater omentum a lot bigger.

We didn’t get to see the cadaver’s heart because the heart is buried deep in the thoracic cavity. Fortunately, the Prof had a pair of extra human hearts which he also passed around. One was normal size and the other was enlarged. The heart was the only part of the experience that looked and felt the way I thought it would. It was thick but flexible. The enlarged heart had an opening to look at the atria and ventricles, and when I looked at it, I made sure to take a closer look at both the aorta and vena cava. I had learned about blood vessel thickness as far back as the third grade, and it was drilled into my head for decades: Aorta – thick, elastic, muscular. Vena cava – thin and brittle with valves. I didn’t spot any valves, and the vena cava looked like it had taken a small beating, but they generally both fit their respective descriptions.

The most prominent part of the cadaver was the intestine, which sat there like a beached snake before the Prof removed it to show us the aorta and iliac arteries and show us what an arterial hemorrhage looked like. The arteries felt solid, but I didn’t want to accidentally rupture them by pressing down too hard or something, so I didn’t. Along the way to the aorta, he pointed out where the uterus would normally be and showed us the appendix. The appendix surprised me the most, because it was the size of a string. Medical students are all familiarized with the appendix being something thick and muscular, about the size of a finger, from all the grade school drawings that make a point of showing it. The Prof explained the appendix only grows to that size when it becomes inflamed, d told us why a ruptured appendix is dangerous.

The head was covered throughout the viewing, so instead of giving us a look at the cranium, he took out a human brain and passed it around. It was another thing that felt nothing like I expected, and another thing which may have been hardened by the embalming fluid. The popular image of the brain, of course, is spongy and manipulable, like in the Halloween episode of The Simpsons where Mr. Burns wore Homer’s brain on his head, but it didn’t feel that way at all. It was so solidified, it could have easily been used to hit someone over the head to knock them out. My classmates and I were a little surprised by the size of it, too. The Prof asked us if we thought it was a child’s brain or an adult’s brain when he took it out. We correctly guessed that it was a full-grown adult brain, and the Prof said he was surprised by the size of it the first time he saw one. The size would make perfect sense if we were to hold it up close to our own heads and remember how many layers sat between our brains and the outside world to cushion and protect them.

I wanted to see more than time permitted, and there was a lot more to see. Nothing looked the way we imagined it, or the way our online photos pictured it. The Professor had told us going in that if the cadaver had any parts which were as clean as our APR photos, it would become legend. It was certainly interesting, though, and for everything that went wrong with my semester, I’m glad I got to partake in the lab.

My 2014 List of Things I Hope Go Extinct

My 2014 List of Things I Hope Go Extinct

I know that at some point around New Year’s, it’s customary to write up a list of the greatest triumphs of the past year. I, however, am a contrarian prick, and so I’m going to do the opposite and present this list of things I hate that I would like to see die off in the next year.

The University of Buffalo Chemistry Department
It’s bad enough that the textbooks and equipment alone cost a truckload of money for anyone to be able to take this course. After getting all them, you have to purchase a damned computer code in order to have any access to the homework assignments, and you have to turn in all your work by a certain date. Yes, that’s important in schooling, but after a certain date, they cut off the acceptance of any and all assignments, leaving people who weren’t able to get their book on time with no options to get them in. It’s nice that the lab equipment doesn’t cost much to replace if it gets lost or broken – I lost a burner lighter which only cost me $.26 (yes, that’s cents) to replace – but no other college course on Earth apparently places its students at every possible financial disadvantage only to fail them so they have to go through it again the following semester. This isn’t education, it’s class warfare.

The Olympics
Ohhh…. So we have a corporate-sponsored series of sporting events based on an ancient Greek sporting tradition which mangle and maul the originals so much that the ancient Greeks would never recognize them. They’re known to cause host cities to shut down small businesses, destroy large chunks of poor neighborhoods, cause nationwide debts, and hold cities under martial law, and it’s only NOW, with Russia’s new set of anti-gay laws, that people are finally waking up to the fact that the International Olympic Committee is basically a corporate terrorist organization. The presentation is beamed in over tape, and many of the sports that get shown are flash events anyway. Yet, despite all this, we continue to pick and choose heroes who will be forgotten after two weeks, and hold them up to some torchlight of sporting purity under the assumption that god and country are the only things on the mind of a bunch of young, hormonal kids whose training in many cases left them depraved of a real life. You wonder why Michael Phelps smoked marijuana. I’m angrier at the fact that he believed he had to apologize.

Architectural Rules
Freedom Tower in New York City is now officially the tallest building in the country, even though Chicago’s Sears Tower has more accessible floors. A panel of architects gave the designation to Freedom Tower because of a ridiculous technicality with which Freedom Tower’s antennae – which is exactly what it is – was counted as part of the building. If it looks like an antennae and functions like an antennae, it doesn’t take a jump to a conclusion so much as a small step. All the architects on that panel would have to be New Yorkers, because New Yorkers never miss an opportunity to whip out their dick substitutes whenever they can to show everyone else why their city is the most overprivileged, self-absorbed, elitist city on Earth.

McDonald’s
According the the Mickey D’s bigwhigs, it’s easy to live on their salary if you just hold down a second job and give up on a few essential payments. Apparently, heat payments max out at $50, health insurance is only $20, and $100 will cover all sorts of luxuries like groceries. They also took the time to tell their employees that it’s always nice to tip the nanny, and presumably the limo driver which poor people can apparently afford. According to Forbes Magazine, an authority on money, has this to say about Mickey’s lack of reality:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/janetnovack/2013/07/23/mcdonalds-minimum-wage-budget-ignores-tax-credits-food-stamps-and-reality/

Religious Inspirational Stories About Disabled People
It’s bad enough that our society insists on turning people with very real day-to-day physical challenges into inspirational tokens for other people who use these stories to feel better able themselves. Bringing some sort of god into it, though, is one of the most despicable things that can be done. If this god is brought into it in a negative way, that means the disabled person is being punished. If it’s in a positive way, then it’s often a portrayal of a person receiving sort sort of extra heavenly reward, which trivializes what some of these people have to face. I have a very deeply held suspicion that the people who buy into this tripe are doing it out of less sympathy than reassurance; after all, if someone sees a disabled person doing something you wouldn’t ordinarily think a disabled person was capable of doing, it gets him off the guilt hook about the fact that there are a lot of ways we make the everyday lives of the disabled more difficult.

Bottled Water
The United States has the best tap water available on the planet, and this is how elitist we are: We bitch about it endlessly to the point that even the biggest tree-huggers in the country advocate buying it with huge extra expenses in wasteful plastic bottles. Then we trick ourselves into thinking the corporations who provide them are personally sitting at a spring brook, trying to coax the water into those bottles instead of doing what they really do, which is simply running the plain tap water through a few extra filters. Of course, fluoride gets brought into the discussion as being the silent killer despite the fact that there’s plenty of it in our toothpaste and tea, and its presence has dramatically reduced recorded instances of tooth decay. I study nutrition, and my prof – who, by the way, works in the official capacity as a scientist for my school, with a lab and everything, and who has run the tests – was blunt about the fact that everyone’s fluoride paranoia doesn’t hold water. No matter how many idiot students she gets who try to argue with her about it.

United States Congress
This is the thing that probably goes without saying. Congress voted quite repeatedly to get the Affordable Healthcare Act repealed, let the government shut down because they wanted to piss all over each other’s territories, and took good long vacations in the middle of a financial crisis. It continually amazes me that there are people who want to grant these thieves more power. We all want the ability to see Congress as a united body with the best interests of the American people at heart, but that has never, ever been the case. Congress has never been anything more than a group of individuals, all representing their corporate overlords, whose purposes upon election are to settle their own petty squabbles.

Yahoo Mail
It’s pretty bad that Yahoo had to ASK the majority of its employees to switch to its own email service. It’s even worse that only about 25 percent of their employees decided to actually make the switch. Yahoo was my first email, and I’m in the process of making the full switch. Yahoo is slow, half the time it doesn’t want to delete the emails you want deleted or even take you to your emails at all, and when it made its last switch months ago, it still feels the need to let you know about the differences by taking its users to a screen trumping the switches after you log in. It’s also slamming spam emails into the top of your mailbox nowadays which advertisers are obviously paying them to do, since they can’t be deleted.

Facebook Video Game Requests
My god, Facebook has more video games than are buried in a New Mexico landfill, and it wants you to know about and play every last one of them. When one of your friends gets addicted to a game – hell, IF they’re actually playing them at all, and knowing Facebook, it’s a strong possibility they’re not – you’ll inevitably start getting the invitations to play right along with them. There’s no way to completely turn them all off at the same time, so they’ll all be there to clog his feed. And the right to play the video game comes from you conceding all your Facebook information to some outside source, so, people, no, I’m not interested in joining your game.

The Fashion Media
The absurdity of this doesn’t strike you until you really think about it. Author John Steinbeck once said that the reason socialism never caught on in the United States is because everyone thinks they’re temporarily embarrassed millionaires, and nothing is a better testament to that than the fact that there’s an entire wing of the media dedicated to what kinds of clothes people are wearing. When you tune in to the fashion reports, they always seem to revolve around the latest works in one particular show with supermodels in an exotic location. When it gets beamed through to you, the models are always dressed up in weird space designs that never seem to actually show up on a market where they’re accessible to us lowly knaves. They tend to get made up for one particular model – or at least a single body type – for one show before being thrown aside and never seen again. If they do get onto the market, they’ll be so expensive that you could afford to not just buy a whole wardrobe for the price, but get it tailored to your personal specifications. The media takes it upon itself to then stand off to the side throwing thumbs up or thumbs down along with snarky comments about what they would have done with the outfit to make it more palatable. Somehow, this is thought to be important, even though everyone knows all these outfits are either single-wear outfits or too expensive for anyone to ever buy them. There’s no way to justify the existence of fashion reporting, since high-end fashion is something no one will ever have to worry about.