Monthly Archives: July 2011

SaveOurSchoolsMarch.org

A short clip of Matt Damon’s speech at this weekend’s Save Our Schools March in our nation’s capital.

“My teachers were empowered to teach me.  Their time was not taken up by a bunch of silly test prep, a bunch of drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning.  No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle.  They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to make the lessons resonate in each of us.  They were empowered to unlock our potential.  In other words, they were allowed to be teachers.”

Also, I found the following in someone’s Facebook notes recently.  I thought it was appropriate here: 

Are you sick of high paid teachers? Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do – baby sit! We can get that for less than minimum wage.

That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan — that equals 6 1/2 hours).

Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children.

Now how many do they teach in day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day. However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.

LET’S SEE…. That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 peryear. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here! There sure is!

The average teacher’s salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student–a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!)

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Categories: Politics/Current Events | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

The Son’s Salvation

Here is my Sunday sermon: 

The Son’s Salvation

He is sitting on his throne, hands gripped tightly on the rests.  He is powerful and frighteningly vast; lightning flashes in his eyes and thunder is his voice.  A blinding light hides his face, so that no one may look upon it and live.

There was an empty throne to his right, for I stood before him.  He looked down at me and I knew he was angry. “I will destroy man whom I have created.  They shall know my wrath!” he bellowed, “for I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End; I am the Creator and Lord of all; I am who I am.”

He was, once again, ready to start over, declaring that the next time, Mankind would choose the correct path.

Even I, his son, felt small in his intimidating presence.  “But you have done this,” I told him.  “You decided upon freewill.  And since then, you have given them nothing but cold tablets and a book filled with rules, and you then expect them to worship you without ceasing.  They only fear you because you have shown them no real grace.”

Roaring tongues of fire erupted and consumed his hair and beard.  “I created the heavens and the earth for them!” he thundered.

He settled back into his throne and I waited until I could no longer feel the heat of the fire on my face.

“Spare them.  Please.”

“Why?” he retorted.  “They have such a brief, fleeting life.  Nothing awaits them in the end.”

“It is precisely the shortness and fragility of their life that causes me to care.  It’s all they have.  Why destroy it?”

The light radiating from his face suddenly blazed and I had to shield my eyes.   It then slowly dimmed until I could see an outline of his face.  At first he revealed no emotion.  And then, he looked… disappointed.

“If you care so much for them, then you may take their Fall.  But, if you leave here, you will never return.”

His statement took my breath.  I knew my father’s care had its limits, but to banish his own son for eternity?  I looked over at the angels, who were still bowing to and worshiping my father.  One looked up, anticipating my answer.

I glanced at my throne and then turned to look at the miniscule speck of blue situated in an immeasurable ocean of blackness: Earth; the realm that my father provided for his favorite creation.

I looked my father in the eyes.  “Thank you,” I told him.  I then turned and entered the world of Man.

***

Crude spikes penetrated my hands and both legs.  A soldier below stabbed my side.  I cried out in agony.  The pain is something that I had never before experienced and its excruciating sharpness consumed me.

The crowd below laughed and spat at the base of the cross that held me high and exposed before them all.  “Some Messiah you are!” one man yelled.  Despite the fact that I had never claimed to be a messiah or king, they had shoved a crown of thorns into my scalp.

Perhaps my father was right.  Man shouldn’t be saved.  No; they didn’t deserve it.  I tried with all of my might to call upon my father’s angels to free me from that cross and to destroy those ungrateful mortals who mocked me even then.

What had I done to make them hate me so?  I merely taught to love your neighbor and your enemy as you love yourself. And yet they were crucifying me.

Yes, I called on legions of my father’s warriors.

But none came.  There was no answer from my father at all.

“Father, why have you forsaken me?” I called out.  I relaxed and let the weight of my body pull against the stakes.

Then I looked over and saw him.  He looked like the Rest, but I knew him:  he was Racism and Bigotry; Ignorance and Greed.

He was smiling.

I tried to lunge forward but only succeeded in tearing more flesh.

He spoke, though his mouth did not move.  “To think that you could prevail in such a world.  What a silly, idealistic notion.”

“If I could just teach them,” I heard myself saying, “If I could just open their eyes, they would see that what they share is greater than what divides them.  I can teach them Compassion.”

“Your father forbade that Apple and hid it from them long ago, keeping it for himself.  Why do they bother you so?  Even He has left them,” he said, glancing up to the heavens.

“Yes, but I am here –”

“You are nailed to a cross!” he shouted out loud.

I blinked.  And then looked down and saw blood, so much blood.  There were two men, one on either side of me, both talking, but I paid them no attention.  I was dying.

The sun dipped below the horizon and the world grew dark.  I knew my father had turned away from this world.  A tear slid down my cheek.  I breathed my final breath and then hung my head.

***

I’m sitting in an alley, just off the busy, main street.  I readjust myself, trying to find a more comfortable position against the concrete wall of the skyscraper behind me.  I place a cigarette between my lips and search my pockets for my lighter.

“God?” someone asks.  I look up and see a man, incredulous look on his face, stepping into the alley.

“Close,” I mutter before lighting my cigarette.

“Are you really him?” he asks.

“It depends.”

“On what?”

“On who you mean,” I say and take another drag.  The man doesn’t say anything for a moment.

“May I have a seat?” he asks.

“Of course,” I say and spread out some newspaper for him to sit on.  “Sorry I didn’t offer sooner.”

“It’s alright,” he says as he sits down.

I smile.  It’s alright he told me.  I chuckle. He forgave me.

“Do you mind?” he asks, and I look over to see that he’s pointing at my cigarette.  “The smoke kind of bothers me.”

My smile continues and I snub out the cigarette.  “Yeah, dirty habit,” I admit.  “So,” I say, “Ask anything.”

The man exhales; the enormity of the opportunity is obviously daunting.  “Since you’re here, does that mean that the End is here, as well?”

My smile drops a little, but I answer him.  “People speak of a Second Coming, but what they don’t realize is that I never left.” I pause, and then,” That wasn’t the question you really want to ask.”

He looks over, looks me in the eyes, and then quickly glances away.  “I just don’t understand.  Any of it.”

I take a moment to think.  “People often mistake the simple outcome of History as my father’s favor. But do you think that some living so lavishly while others suffer from the day of their birth is all part of some mysterious plan?”

The man just stares at his shoes.  I continue.  “My father retreated from this world long ago.  Only I am here now.”

The man clenches his jaws.  “So much blood has been shed in your name,” he says with a forced calm.  But, his next words spill from his mouth.  “Why don’t you reveal yourself?! Why don’t you come forward and straighten out the world?  Why don’t you perform miracles and show people that you are still here?!”

He is angry, but he is angry at the rampant injustice that has existed since the beginning, and so I stay calm.

“Miracles?” I ask.  “I stepped into the world of Man armed with the most powerful and infinitely beautiful miracle of all: the message of Compassion.  It is not a new message and it is a miracle that you yourself can perform every single day.

“I have watched acts of Compassion since the very beginning, but unfortunately, it always seems that its enemies are more aggressive.  I thought if only I could come and devote my life to teaching that Message…”I trail off.

But then continue.  “But since then I have watched one empire fall only to be replaced by another just as driven by Power and Greed.  I have ached as Exploitation and Indifference spread seemingly unchallenged.  My Words are highlighted in red, but are seldom actually read.

“But at the same time, I’ve heard dalai lamas, imams, and preachers alike teach my Message in ways I never could.  I’ve seen my works carried out by single parents, farmers, peasants, and students.  I’ve witnessed atheists follow the Scripture of Compassion closer than ‘believers.’

“You see, these people who recognize the humanity of others, who appreciate the diverse human experience, they understand what it really means to be saved, to be released from the bonds of Ignorance and Hate.  That is the salvation that I, Compassion, bring.  You don’t need a book or any deity to realize that salvation has been available to everyone, and through everyone, since this world began.”

We sit in silence for several minutes.  The man is thinking and I can sense that he is even a bit hurt.  Knowing that salvation lies in the hands of humanity can be overwhelmingly disheartening.  But, I am comforted in knowing that I am sitting next to my Equal; his heart is full of Compassion.  It feels good to be in his presence, and perhaps I am once again saved.

But I know that there is one more thing that he wants to ask; it’s the same question that everyone wants to ask me.

“Go ahead,” I tell him.

He bites his lip, partly because there is a little bit of anger welling up in him.  But I also think it’s partially because he is afraid that he may already know my answer.

He stares somewhere past me.  “There has been so much suffering, so much hurt.”  He then looks at me in the eyes. “Where were you?” he pleads.

I don’t blink, but hold his gaze for a moment.  I can feel my heart beating in my chest.

My voice cracks slightly.  “Where were you?”

He hangs his head and rests his hands on his knees.  A single tear runs down his cheek, and it reminds me of that day so long ago when I too realized that it was Mankind that had nailed me to that cross.


Creative Commons License
“The Son’s Salvation” by W. J. Newsome is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Categories: Entertainment, Religion | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Atlantis, Go With Throttle Up!

Earlier this month, on July 8th, the US’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), launched its last space shuttle mission, ending 30 years of the manned space shuttle program.  I – like many Americans – have mixed feelings about ending our manned missions to space.  Mainly I’m mad that the program is over.  However, in an economic climate like ours – where the US is about to have to park it’s car around the corner so that China doesn’t come and take it back (thanks to Jon Stewart for that one) – I can see where saving $450 million per space shuttle mission is an understandable goal, too.

Since I’m a total technology geek and a NASA freak, I’m pretty lucky in that I have a few family members that work for NASA down in Cape Canaveral, FL.  Thanks to my family, a friend (who’s as obsessed with NASA as I am) and I got VIP passes to the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis on Mission STS-129, back in November of 2009.  We got a guided tour of the space center on the day before, and the following day, we got to watch the launch from the closest platform – the same platform that congressmen, the astronauts’ families, and other VIPs get to watch from.  So, that’s why I felt a special “connection” to Atlantis as it flew NASA’s final mission three weeks ago.

I just recieved a special video that NASA made about the final flight and about the end of the space shuttle program.  I’m trying to find out how to upload it without having to pay for a video upgrade on here.  If I find out, I’ll post it later.  For now, I want to share the HD video of Atlantis’s STS-129 launch.  It’s a 20 minute clip, and it’s awesome to hear all of the radio conversation between Kennedy Space Station in FL and Houston Flight Control and with the astronauts themselves aboard Atlantis.  But if you don’t have twenty minutes, skip ahead to the 9:00 mark – that’ll put you to the T-Minus One Minute mark.

Nothing can replace watching a launch live.  Even from 2 miles away, the light from the flames will cause you to close your eyes and the rumble from the engines resonates throughout your body.  I still get chill bumps when I watch this video and think about that day:

Categories: Science/Technology | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The 90s

The other day I was thinking about the greatest decade in history:  the 1990s.  There were great movies, awesome music, and plus that’s when my generation came up.  Can’t get much better than that.  Here are some of the things that come to mind when I think about the 90s:

Forrest Gump

SEGA game systems

Darkwing Duck!

Boy Bands

Sony Discman CD players

Skipt It!, Tamagotchis, and yo-yos

Gym pants with buttons down the side (don’t worry, I didn’t look like that in mine either)

Titanic

007 Goldeneye for N64

Pokémon

Alf

Toy Story

Britney Spears (before going off the deep end)

Harrison Ford

Jurassic Park

Bowl Cuts

Furby

Razor Scooters

These are just a few of the things that take me back to my childhood *ah, sigh*.

What do YOU remember from the 1990s?

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Categories: Entertainment, History | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

OMG, like LOL!!!! :))):):)!

Like, boi ur not gonna believe this – ur gonna be like, OMG! WTF??!!  Or maybe just like LOLing, or cud be even ROFLing or LMAOing. Who knows.

But seriously, u def gotta stop…

…writing like that.

Really people?  Are we THAT rushed that we can’t take the time to spell out “you”?  I know some service providers limit text message length, but Facebook doesn’t.  The last time I tried to write emails, Hotmail and G-Mail both let me spell out words fully.

And is all of that punctuation really necessary?  When did exclamation points replace periods?  Or why are we all screaming all the time now?!?!  And when did we get so curious and inquisitive all of a sudden????????

We have different punctuation marks for a reason.  Periods are for your normal, everyday sentence.  I walked to the car.  Period.  When in doubt use a period.  Exclamation points, on the other hand, are for when you need to actually exclaim something.  Example:  “Shit!  There’s a monkey on the roof!”  You don’t need one for “I saw your mom at the store!”  Unless your mom is, say the First Lady.  Then a ! might be acceptable.

And ?‘s…just one is fine.  In fact one ! is fine, too.  Normally, you will never need more than one exclamation point, unless that monkey on the roof has a gun.

Now, I will admit that I do find some smileys cute…But only the ones that you don’t have to squint, stand on one leg, and smoke some pot to actually see the smiley face.  There’s the normal smile –    :)     And then the big smile –    :D  ANd you can even give them a nose    :-)  Actually, that’s about all you need.  You DEFINITELY don’t need more than one smiley in any text, email or Facebook wall post.  It’s as simple as that.  For those people who do this thing: : ) )))  What the hell is that?  A really fat guy with four chins?  Why would I want that smiley on my wall?

If you’re going to write like that, PLEASE have the common sense to know when you shouldn’t write like that.  Last semester I got an email from a student that started off like this:  “Dear Jakey  :)  !”  Needless to say, I stopped reading.  You should know how to use proper English when writing to a teacher, boss, or coworker.  Or to another human being.

And for God’s sake – if you insist on using “u” instead of “you,” at least use the correct adaptations of the abbreviation.  But then again, if you’re using “u,” you probably don’t know the difference between your and you’re anyway.  Your = possessive; ex:  your phone.  You’re = you are; ex:  you’re ridiculous.  So, at least try to use ur and ure “correctly.”

And while we’re talking about words that are apparently too confusing for their correct use.  There/Their/They’re.  There is like “over there.  Or, there is a monkey on the roof!”  Their is possessive; their monkey is on our roof.  They’re is a contraction for “they are.”

Not too difficult to manage.

But, like omg, if thats just to tuff bc ur just way two buzy over their, then keep on keepin on.

Anyways, I’ll brb.

Categories: Humor, Random Info | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Tied in a Knot

Some things just defy understanding.  I get that.  Mankind can only unlock so much knowledge. As a result, some interworkings of the universe will simply remain mysteries.

One of the greatest enigmas of all time:  Why cords, wires, and hoses will turn into a tangled nightmare no matter how carefully you store them.  Take this morning for example:  I spent a few minutes yesterday coiling up the garden hose very nicely to keep it from knotting up.  This morning, I go out to water some plants. I pull from the end, and it nicely unloops for about a food and then the entire damn thing comes lurching forward in one gigantic mess.

And don’t even think about trying to keep an extension cord neat.  Even if you wrap it up on a nail, in the time that it requires you to take the cord off and set it on the ground to string it out, both ends will have snaked and loopty-looped 13 times all through the bitch so that you’re left holding nothing but a huge knot.

And forget about orderly headphone cords!  Ho-ly shit, they are the worst!  At night I’ll wrap them up nicely and put them in my desk drawer.  Next morning:  grab the earphone, and up comes up one huge cluster f@*k!  Sometime in the middle of the night, my earphones, phone charger, and camera connector decided to have a drunken orgy and I’ve got to spend 5 minutes and ALL of my patience untangling it all again!

The whole thing makes me want to do very un-gentlemanlike things.

Maybe one day some theoretical physicist, or bored historian, or even a sidetracked biologist will stumble upon an explanation for this rage-inducing phenomenon.  Then after that, they can team up and find out how all of those single socks disappear from the dryer.

Categories: Random Info | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

I Wanna Be a Baller!

“Kids and their darned, loud rock music!”  That’s what my parents’ generation heard as they were jamming out on their walkmans and boom boxes.  Now, the same folks who grew up going to big hair bands’ concerts are remarking about “Kids these days and their filthy rap music!”  And who knows what kind of music my generation will be complaining about once we have kids.

The complaints against both rock and rap are pretty much the same: the music itself is loud and obtrusive and the lyrics are simply destroying every last shred of traditional values that humanity ever had, effectively stealing the innocence of our children.

I have to admit, for the longest time, I never really paid attention to any lyrics.  Ever.  I grew up listening to country music.  As I got older, I remember going through an “oldies” stage:  Little Richard, the Beach Boys, Elvis, Tina Turner.  Then I remember in high school loving alternative rock, and of course I liked to get in car, turn up the bass, and listen to rap music really loud (maybe because that was the music we weren’t “supposed to be listening to”).  And of course, there’s always the ever-present pop, which I do enjoy for what it is: mindless entertainment that can now be churned out by anyone with a computer.

However, I never really paid attention to what was being said; I simply enjoyed the beats and the music.  And then one day I caught myself listening to the lyrics.  And because I love to write, and I love how language can be used – tamed, mastered, or set free – I suddenly realized that song lyrics could be pretty awesome.  Because it wasn’t just about finding some rhyming words for a beat, but it was about dancing with the words (pardon the pun) in order to get a message across.

I guess song lyrics are the only type of poetry that I enjoy (sorry, Frost).  Maybe it’s because songs can fit so many moods, and hey, let’s not forget that the lyrics come with (hopefully) good music!  I can listen to my favorite band any time of the day, and I do love classical and foreign music when I’m reading or studying (so that I’m not distracted by the lyrics).  Pop can be fun, but it does have its (limited) time and place.  And as Sir Elton John tells us, sad songs have their place too, because “it’s times like these when all need to heed the radio, because from the lips of some old singer, people share the troubles we already know.”

But lately, I have become completely fascinated with rap and hip-hop lyrics.  I was only half-way kidding recently when I told someone that I wanted to drop German history and start doing the history of rap, its culture, music and lyrics.

Now, before I go any further, let me go ahead and say:  I have not really researched this topic.  Everything that follows is simply my opinion, which stems from my interest in rap.  The conclusions are mine, and I’m probably wrong about a lot of things.  If you know where I’m wrong, let me know.  Or, what’s probably more likely, I’m just a little white kid who has completely missed the mark on most everything.  Either way, these are my ponderings after all…

I wasn’t around when rap got started, but I’ve listened to some of the more popular remnants of the original stuff.  And it seems like, back then, it was more about actually crafting the English language, using slang and local words and putting it to a beat to tell a story.  And that message could be about most anything I guess.  Today it seems like rap – or at least what I call “pop rap,” the famous stuff that everybody, including ironically rednecks – is more about listing how many cars you have and talking about how much money you have.  Either way, I still enjoy rap lyrics…well, at least “pop rap” lyrics.  Ludacris may not be mastering the language the same way Walt Whitman did, but I still consider it a form of poetry.  And I’m (superficially?) fascinated with the vocabulary – how it’s tweaked (or twerked) and used.

Instead of just blabbing on and on, I want to provide a few examples that just might show (especially to any older readers, whose ears just can’t take all the ‘loud thumping!’) how interesting it can be.  My personal favorite is the whole phenomenon around “making it rain.”  Let’s go:

In 2006, the rapper Fat Joe put out a track (featuring Lil Wayne) called “Make it Rain.”  The main part of the chorus goes, “Gotta handful’a stacks; better grab an umbrella; I make it rain…”  The whole thing boils down to the fact that he has SO much money, he can throw stacks of bills into the air and let it rain down.  The single was a hit, rising pretty high on the charts, and the phrase “makin’ it rain” caught on.  And actually, the precipitation theme is still pretty prevalent today.

One thing I like about rap artists is that they often collaborate with each other (featuring each other in their songs) and they quote lines from other songs in their own.  For example, in 2002 Lil Jon released the single “Get Low.”  The song, which is about partying hard “from the window to the wall, til the sweat drops down my”….uh, testicles, became wildly famous (breaking into the top ten on the charts).   Nearly a decade later, the phrase is still being used by other rap artists, like Ludacris (from Enrique Iglesias’s “Tonight”): “From the window, to the wall, gotta give you my all; winter or the summertime, when I get you on those springs, I’m gonna make you fall!

Like I said, ‘making it rain’ hasn’t gone without use from subsequent rappers, singers, and kids across the nation.  In 2007, Rihanna released one of her most successful singles, “Umbrella.”  The rain metaphor can’t be lost – she doesn’t need a man to make it rain; the multi-millionaire star can handle that on her own.  In fact, in her song, she offers protection and support to her man: “Now that it’s raining more than ever, know that we’ll still have each other, you can stand under my umbrella.”  A lot of Rihanna’s songs seem to be about her being able to hold her own in the world.  In essence, the empowerment of women.

Another song that really plays up the rain metaphor is “No Hands” by Waka Flocka Flame (2011).  There are about three or four rappers featured in the song, so I don’t know who is saying what exactly, but the lyrics show that the message is all about showing off how much money they have:  “DJ, this is my favorite song, so Imma make it thunda’storm.”  And then, singing to a girl, “Those n*ggas tippin’ good, but girl I can make it flood cause I walk around with pockets that are bigger than my bus… ‘Rain Rain go away,’ that’s what all my haters say…My pockets stuck on overload, my rain never evaporates.”  In that one, I just love how they even incorporated the ‘rain rain go away’ nursery rhyme into the song.  I don’t necessarily endorse the message of blowing all your money on cars, jewelry, alcohol and strippers…and then bragging about it, but hey, they way they brag is interesting.

It seems to be that message, though – alcohol, partying, casual sex, lavish lifestyle – that’s the reason that rap is often condemned.  And to me personally, it seemed that a lot of the people that were condemning rap music, were ones that grew up listening to rock n’ roll.  So what is it that makes rock n’ roll – sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, remember – cool, but rap condemnable?

In 2007, Dem Shop Boyz addressed Rap’s heathen predecessor in their single “Party Like a Rockstar.”  The song starts off with a (mocking?) “T-t-toally Duuude!” and then asks, “Now, who started this?”  The song goes on to exemplify the partying life of a star and constantly alludes to many of Rock’s greats: “Do it like Ozzy!” “New pair of kicks so you can walk this way like Aerosmith.” However, not only do the Shop Boyz refer to famous rockers and their lavish lifestyles, they claim to one up the rockers. “Heavy metal” is referred to as only being in the rappers’ pockets ($$$).  And: “Yeah, we da ShopBoyz, nobody coulda did it better; we on fire, da black Red Hot Chili Peppers…We rock hard.”  And then, “I’m obscene, plus I’m ghetto, I’ll have your QUEEN in stilettos.”

The rappers seem to think they take the new “Rockstar” mantle quite well, making everyone party hard:  “I got that gangsta, hood star, pop star, screamin “Totally dude!”… “I ride in fast cars, and plus my chick’s hott…black shades around my face lookin rockstarish.”  And ultimately, fame and fortune are placed on the altar:  “I’m gonna be the Grinch, Shrek, all I like is green.  I am Bruce Bling-steen…MicK Jagger with my swagga!”  And then they wrap it all up with: “Da Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame need another couple names:  Shop Boyz, Lil Wayne, and Chamilitary Man…”

And of course, there is my favorite song, Lil Troy’s “I Wanna Be a Baller.”  Ballin’ is another tweak of vocabulary that I think is awesome.  It stems from playing basketball (b-ballin’), and especially being good and performing showy tricks while doing so.  But now, ballin’ means living the good life.  According to Urbandictionary.com (which is an awesome website to look up any slang word or saying that you may not know), “ballin’” is “to live a rich, upper-class life after growing up a poor, or ghetto, lower class life.  Or, to perform illegal or shady actions to make and/or keep money.”  So, ballin’ is a way to move up out of poverty and out of the ghetto.  Lil Troy says, “I wanna be a baller, a shot caller.” And in his 2009 single “I Look Good,” Chalie Boy lets everyone know that “Ballin’ is a drug that I don’t mind abusing!

I find it a little confusing that the same people that condemn such greed often have no problem with CEOs, or their heirs, having several multi-million dollar homes, jets, fleets of cars, etc.  Is the difference that the fat cat CEOs don’t rap about the thirst for money, instead they just yearn for it just as greedily, but calmly in a suit and tie?   I don’t know.

And it’s not that rap music is the only type promoting questionable values either.  Plenty of country songs, for example, are about jealous spouses killing the other (Garth Brooks’s 1992 “Papa Loved Mama”), or driving while drinking (Jason Aldean’s 2011 “Dirt Road Anthem”).

And not all rap songs are about violence, drugs, and money, believe it or not.  Take a look at “Live Your Life” (by T.I., 2008, featuring Rihanna – however don’t take a look at T.I. who was arrested on weapons charges).  The song starts out with a special shout out to all the soldier fighting in Iraq.  He’s addressing all of the new generation of rap stars: “Stop looking at what you ain’t got and start bein’ thankful for what you do got.”  He then hands out some chastisement for those who forgot their roots: “I brought back to the hood, all you ever did was take away.”  He continues:

I got love for the game, but, hey, I’m not in love with all of it;  Could do without the fame, and rappers nowadays are comedy; the hootin’ and the hollerin,’ back and forth with the arguin: where you from, who you know, what you makin, what kinda car you in.  Seems as though you lost sight of what’s important when you depositin the checks into yo bank account and you up out of poverty.  Your values is a disarray, prioritizin horribly, unhappy with the riches, cause you’re piss poor morally.  Ignorin all prior advice and forewarnin, and we’re mighty full of ourselves all of a sudden, aren’t we?

 In the 2006 remix of “Walk It Out” by Unk, André 3000 (who, like dem Franchize Boyz, Shop Boyz, the Ying Yang Twins, Lil Jon, Ludacris, T.I. and many others, is from Atlanta) raps, “Your white T, well to me, look like a nightgown.  Make yo mama proud, take that thing two sizes down.  Then you’ll look like the man you are, or what you could be…I couldn’t give a damn bout your car.”

Anyways, I’m done.  As you’ve surely noticed, I could go on and on about many different topics.  But I don’t want you to fall asleep at the keyboard.  I just wanted to share my interest in rap lyrics.  Many people dismiss it all as simply “talking,” but, I do think that it takes talent to be able to rap.  Of course, there is the kind that is simply done with computerized voice changers where the verses and choruses just repeat themselves over and over.  But that’s the same with any genre.  And it really is difficult to decide what is “good” and “bad” music since it’s all in the ear of the beholder.

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Schadenfreude

You gotta love the Germans.  They have a specific word for getting joy out of the misfortune of others:  Schadenfreude.

I hate to admit (actually, I don’t mind admitting it) that I can’t help but laugh when I see people falling down.  It’s my instant reaction.  So, whenever I’m in a bad mood, or stressed out, YouTube is there to provide me with hours of people falling down.

Here are a couple of videos that may get you laughing:

The best clip is at the very end of this one:

Categories: Entertainment, Humor | 1 Comment

A Heavy Heart

People scurried about below, hiding under their umbrellas.  All the same. He sat in his office, watching them on screens, from the windows, every where he looked he saw the people.  There were so many of them!

He sighed and stared out the window into the dreary day.  A siren sounded off in the distance.  Deep lines were etched into his forehead and face; his youthful appearance was long gone.  Grey streaks now teased his hair and his eyes were eternally tired.

The weather outside seemed to match his mood.  For two days now it had rained; an unrelenting down poor soaking everything to the core.  The sky hadn’t been seen in some time; the clouds rolled in days before the rain began.  It’s funny how the weather affects people differently.  Many parallel rainy weather with sorrow and worry.  But not him; he saw the rain as a symbol of power.  And also as a reality check for humans.  To him, it showed how something as simple as water could control so much of human life.  People wouldn’t go outside, or when forced to, had to huddle under shelter.  Entire activities such as sports had to be called off.  And then there was the lightning; power sent directly from the heavens, and the thunder; the voice of the gods.  It was all a reminder that, no matter how dominant humans thought they were, they could still be deterred by Mother Nature.

There exists yet one other force that was a threat to humans, and that is humans themselves.  Though all are born inherently the same, and on the same small planet, groups always find something to use as an excuse to go to war.

It had happened again.  After he had single-handedly established the greatest nation on Earth, some of his own had dared to attack it from within.  Spending so much time trying to protect his people from outside attacks, his regime never thought that such an attack could happen under their noses.  Thousands of civilians died; tens of thousands perhaps.  No one knew for sure yet.

He didn’t understand!  Why?!  He had provided them, all of his people, with everything they could want.  This was the land of plenty and a place where everyone was equal.  Why then did they do this?! What did they have to gain from taking innocent lives?

And what should he do now?  He had promised, taken an oath, swore, to never use violence against his own people.  But, if he did not punish these perpetrators, nothing was stopping them from attacking again.  The decision was made more complicated by the fact that the attackers consisted of a large group, nearly two and a half thousand people.  His subordinates were now waiting on him to make an answer; to take an action; to do something.

He took a final look out the window; he could just make out the outlines of the Mountains in the distance.

“Sir…I’m sorry, but we need to know what to do,” someone said.

He rubbed his face and then stared down at his shiny black shoes.  Thousands of peoples’ lives were now in his hands.  The thought of giving an order to kill, an order of death weighed him down.  His throat seemed tight; air would not fill his lungs.  He looked up.  Everyone was looking at him; pleading with him to make a decision.  He had to act.  He was their Leader.

Clearing his throat, he looked the General square in the eyes.

“Wipe them out.  All of them.”

Creative Commons License
“A Heavy Heart” by W. J. Newsome is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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What Is It About 20-Somethings?

Following is an article from the New York Times on August 18, 2010 by Robin Marantz Henig.  It’s about how the transition to adulthood is now collectively being pushed back to later ages.  Psychologists are now defining a new phase in the maturity process that takes place during the twenties.  It’s a phase characterized by moving around more, changing jobs at a higher rate, and getting married later.  Critics of this new transitionary phase say that it’s simply kids coming out of college and pushing off responsibility.  However, psychologists answer by pointing to the fact that 100 years ago, the transitionary phase we know as adolescence wasn’t generally accepted either.

At least in my opinion it’s an incredibly interesting article about how environment and culture affect how we mature and how “childhood,” “adulthood,” and other “natural” stages of development are not fixed at all.  Here are a few teaser paragraphs, with a link to the full article.  It’s well worth the read.

Click here for the full article

“The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever. The median age at first marriage in the early 1970s, when the baby boomers were young, was 21 for women and 23 for men; by 2009 it had climbed to 26 for women and 28 for men, five years in a little more than a generation.

We’re in the thick of what one sociologist calls “the changing timetable for adulthood.” Sociologists traditionally define the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had, by the time they reached 30, passed all five milestones. Among 30-year-olds in 2000, according to data from the United States Census Bureau, fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so. A Canadian study reported that a typical 30-year-old in 2001 had completed the same number of milestones as a 25-year-old in the early ’70s.

The whole idea of milestones, of course, is something of an anachronism; it implies a lockstep march toward adulthood that is rare these days. Kids don’t shuffle along in unison on the road to maturity. They slouch toward adulthood at an uneven, highly individual pace. Some never achieve all five milestones, including those who are single or childless by choice, or unable to marry even if they wanted to because they’re gay. Others reach the milestones completely out of order, advancing professionally before committing to a monogamous relationship, having children young and marrying later, leaving school to go to work and returning to school long after becoming financially secure.

Even if some traditional milestones are never reached, one thing is clear: Getting to what we would generally call adulthood is happening later than ever. But why?”

The New York Times article (link above), references the cover of the May 24, 2010 edition of The New Yorker magazine.  Below is the image, which is titled “The Boomerang Generation” by it’s author, Daniel Clowes.

For me, a student working on a Ph.D. in History (of all things), the image of a young man hanging his doctoral degree on the wall of his childhood room is cause for more than a little worry.  I just hope that by the time I graduate, the economy will be back on its feet…

Categories: History, Ideas & Philosophy, Politics/Current Events | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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