…Even Cold November Rain

Two days after the twins were born, I found a semi-private area in the hospital and took a few minutes to mourn my former life. I said farewell to my leisurely evenings of watching TV on the couch, as I knew they were now a thing of the past. Instead, my time would be spent feeding babies, changing diapers, washing breast pump parts, and attempting to get in a few moments of sleep.

I was correct to believe that my life had been permanently altered. But what I’ve come to realize is that even if I hadn’t been blessed with two new children, my life would still have changed.

I typically don’t embrace change, but it’s become clear that my feelings on the subject are inconsequential. Change happen to all of us; even if we try to maintain the status quo in our lives, we can’t stop the world from changing around us.

This is no longer representative of my free time. (Image source)

This is no longer representative of my free time. (Image source)

I recall the summer of 2009, and how different my life was. My free time was spent drinking, playing kickball, and participating in other such activities. There are times when I feel slightly wistful for those days, but it’s not like I could go back to that life even if I wanted to. Most of my friends from those days have either similarly started families or found other ways to occupy their time. Just as I have moved on, so too has the world.

It feels that change comes more frequently than ever these days. The Cutlet will be entering first grade in the Fall, the twins have begun preschool, and in another week, we’ll be getting a new au pair. (The first one went and found herself a husband.)

I don’t know if I’ll ever love change. But considering that change seems to be the one constant in my life, my hope is that I can at least learn to accept it.

Posted in The Cutlet, Twins | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Mike Pence: Because We Really Want White Men to Vote for Trump

Last week, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced that his running mate would be Indiana governor Mike Pence. This was clearly a bid to win the affection of hardcore right-wing Republicans, as Pence is basically a stereotype of an ultra-conservative politician come to life.

Upon learning about Pence, a scene from the movie Rocky Balboa came to mind:

I imagine that when trying to decide on a vice presidential candidate, Trump’s campaign manager made a similar speech:

“To beat this guy, you’ll need the Latinos. But you’ve said some racist things, and they hate you. And your misogynistic history means the women aren’t going to support you, so you’ve lost their vote. The gays? The Muslims? The blacks? They’re all out too.

“So what we’ll be calling on is good old blunt force white male power. We’re going to get the most conservative vice presidential candidate we can find, and make absolutely sure every white Christian male above the age of 40 is firmly in our camp. Every move we make is going to be based around getting white men to cast their vote for Trump.

“Yeah! Let’s start rallying the white people!”

TrumpPence

“Oh, and for some reason, we’re going to design your campaign poster so it looks like a T is f***ing a P.”

Posted in Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

O Captain, My Captain

Despite threatening to stop playing kickball several times over the past few years, I can’t seem to quit the adult version of everyone’s favorite children’s playground game. I no longer travel to the National Mall in DC for my kickball fix, instead opting to play in a local league with a few of my co-workers.

Since I was the one who proposed the idea of a team, I decided to take upon the role of captain. Back in my kickball heyday, I would take my job as captain VERY seriously. I spent a lot of time formulating strategy, coming up with lineups, and writing long recaps of each game.

I’m not quite as intense these days. Fortunately, we’ve got a small team, so there’s not much work to be done. It’s more a case of making sure everyone is facing the right direction and knows when it is their turn to kick. Of course, considering that we’re 0-3 right now, maybe a little extra intensity is in order.

The return to captainhood made me think about a post on the subject of captaining that I wrote for the kickball league’s blog a few years back. (Yes, I wrote stuff for the league’s blog too.) With nothing else pressing to write about, I decided to re-visit that post and share it with you. (I made a few edits for timeliness and to remove a few league-specific details.)

O Captain, My Captain

Congratulations! You have chosen to become the captain of a kickball team! Prepare for all the glory and adulation that comes along with that title. But don’t get TOO excited – this job comes with real responsibilities. Unless you want to simply shirk all your duties as captain (a course of action that many captains unfortunately opt to take), you’re going to have to put in some effort.

I’m not saying you need to dedicate all of your time and energy towards captaining. Not everyone has the time nor desire to carefully cultivate a lineup, and then later write a lengthy “recap” email that only minimally touches on what happened in the game. No, that is the territory of the truly great captains. For you mere mortals, you can probably do a suitable job with a lot less effort.

The way I see it, a captain simply needs to facilitate his team having fun and put them in a position to win games. Whether or not a team actually has fun or wins is largely up to the team itself, but a good captain can go a long way toward making that happen.

Of course, this can be a tough balance. Even on the most fun of teams, people will get discouraged if they lose all their games and aren’t competitive. And if a captain takes the desire to win too far, it’s not as much fun for everybody.

Remember, this is a social league, so captains should try their best not to be like this guy:

http://deadspin.com/5788716/kickball-rec-league-captain-sends-out-fantastically-bitchy-email-to-his-underperforming-team

In order to gain further insight on the art of captaining, I gathered up some famous captains from around the world for a round table discussion.

Joining me today are:

Steve Yzerman, former Detroit Red Wings captain

Captain Planet, environmental superhero

David Beckham, former captain of the British football team

James T. Kirk, captain of the Starship Enterprise

Cap’n Crunch, cereal spokesperson

 

Cutter: Thanks to everyone for joining me. I wanted to start out by asking what makes you a successful captain.

Planet: That’s easy; I’m one fifth heart! And heart is all a good captain needs.

Crunch: It also helps if your players eat a healthy breakfast. That’s where I come in!

Yzerman: But your cereal, it is not healthy.

Add some sugary cereal, and you've got a healthy breakfast! (Image source)

Add some sugary cereal, and you’ve got a healthy breakfast! (Image source)

Crunch: Like my commercials say, it’s PART of a healthy breakfast, along with eggs, juice, and perhaps a multi-vitamin or two.

Beckham: I’ll be honest with you: Most of my success is due to my good looks. If I didn’t look like a model, would anyone really give a crap about me?

Kirk: I agree with that. My good looks made me an effective leader and allowed me to have sex with women of all sorts of alien races.

Yzerman: But you don’t have to be good looking. In Canada, I’m still considered a sex symbol, eh?

Beckham: You play hockey, so expectations are lowered. In football it is a different story. I owe almost all of my fame to my handsome face, my chiseled abs, and the fact that I married a pop star.

Kirk: *laughs* A pop star? I wouldn’t go quite that far.

Beckham: The Spice Girls first album went platinum eight times! How many times did The Transformed Man go platinum?

Kirk: Hey, that album was a classic. It was just before it’s time.

Crunch: I had the Spice Girls CD back in the day! Which one was your wife?

Mrs. Beckham (Image source)

Mrs. Beckham (Image source)

Beckham: The skinny brunette with the disproportionately big rack.

Crunch: Oh. I preferred the blond one.

Yzerman: The sad thing is, the stupid Spice Girls are more famous in America than I am. And I won the Stanley Cup three times!

Beckham: Americans at least consider hockey to be a major sport. I came to the States and the sport still couldn’t draw ratings.

Yzerman: Major sport? Hardly. Maybe in places like Washington where the local teams have been so bad that they’ll jump aboard the bandwagon of any team that gives them some hope. But most of the country doesn’t give a crap.

Beckham: Well, isn’t it considered to be “cool” to like hockey?

Yzerman: Maybe back in the ’90s, eh? Hockey stopped being cool right around the same time your wife stopped being relevant. You want to know how unnoticed hockey is in the U.S? That picture up there? It isn’t even me! That’s my teammate Niklas Lidstrom. But I bet nobody reading this even noticed, eh?

The real Steve Yzerman (Image source)

The real Steve Yzerman (Image source)

Beckham: I don’t get Americans. All a bunch of wankers if you ask me. Especially that Landon Donovan guy. No wonder the sport never became popular if he was considered the country’s best player.

Cutter: Let’s move on. What would you say has been your biggest challenge as a captain.

Planet: Climate change deniers. People used to love it when I showed up to save the day. These days, half the people just throw things at me and call me a tool of the liberal media.

Crunch: For me, it was when I had to stop the Soggies. They were a real menace!

Beckham: What the hell are you talking about?

Crunch: The Soggies – They’re an alien race dedicated to making cereal soggy.

Yzerman: And you stopped them? You’re like two feet tall, eh? What did you do to them, cut the roof of their mouths?

Crunch: Cap’n Crunch does not cut the roof of your mouth! Those are lies! Lies!

Kirk: The Soggies? That’s nothing. Try fighting the Borg some time.

Resistance is futile. (Image source)

Resistance is futile. (Image source)

Yzerman: Wait, you never fought the Borg!

Kirk:I know, but now that my timeline was rebooted I probably will.

Planet: What was up with that whole timeline alteration thing, anyway?

Kirk: Seriously, I don’t know. It didn’t make much sense to me either. But it’s not like we should have expected logic in time travel when the movie was written by the creator of Lost.

Planet: Speaking of movies, did you hear that they’re making a movie about me?

Kirk: Dear Lord, that is going to suck so hard. Is Hollywood really that out of ideas?

Planet: Pretty much. I’m just hoping that they have Vin Diesel play me.

Beckham: I would go with Rob Schneider.

Planet: You better watch it. You don’t want to get on my bad side. I can go HAM if I want to:

Cutter: Guys, we’re running low on time. Is there anything you’d like to add?

All: Do you have –

Cutter: Keeping in mind that I already explained that I don’t have any illegal drugs with me.

All: *silence*

Cutter: Thank you, guys. This has been quite educational.

Posted in Randomness, Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Where the Grass is Green and the Girls are Pretty

 

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We were supposed to leave for my family’s annual beach trip last Sunday morning. Those plans were changed when Mrs. Cutter saw that Guns ‘N Roses would be playing at FedEx Field on Sunday night. Until recently, I likely would have passed up the chance to see them live, as GNR consisted of Axl Rose and a constantly changing roster of backing musicians.

But at the end of 2015, there were rumors that the original band was planning a reunion tour. Those rumors proved only partly true; for one reason or another, neither Izzy Stradlin nor Steven Adler have returned. But Slash and Duff McKagan are indeed back in the fold, and 3/5 of the classic lineup is probably the best we’re going to get. I figured there was no way I could pass up a chance to see them, so tickets were promptly purchased.

I was glad they came to DC early in the tour. It was their second stop, meaning they’d likely still have a lot of energy, and perhaps more importantly, they wouldn’t have had much of an opportunity to break up again.

Seeing that we’re old and lame now, Mrs. Cutter and I were somewhat wary of attending a concert that was scheduled to begin at 8 PM, especially considering GNR’s reputation for late starts. We realized there was a chance that they might be playing well past midnight, so we had to plan ahead. I took a nap in the afternoon, and drank a couple of sodas with dinner. I felt confident that I would be able to hang no matter how late the show went. (Mrs. Cutter was less confident)

The opening act was Alice in Chains. I’ve never had much of an opinion about them one way or another, but as they played a collection of their greatest hits, I realized that I do like a lot of their songs.

Once AIC finished, we didn’t have too long to wait for the main event. They actually started earlier than expected, and I only made it back from the bathroom with about a minute to spare.

It was a little jarring to see Axl at first. Although I’ve seen recent pictures and clips, I guess I still kind of expected the 1989 version of him to walk out on stage. It also felt like he needed a little bit of a warm up. The first couple of songs were slightly shaky at times, but once they got to Welcome to the Jungle, he found his form and mostly sounded like the Axl of old.

GNR2

The rest of the band was excellent – especially Slash. This show made me truly appreciate just how good he is. (Yes, Squinty. He is definitely still cool.) I’ve watched clips of the band since he and Duff left the group, and the difference is remarkable. The classics sounded remarkably better, and the songs they played from Chinese Democracy made me believe that the album would have been hailed as a classic had these guys been a part of it.

They played most of their hits – the only song of note that was missing was Don’t Cry – and threw in some lesser known songs as well. I was pleased they played Coma, since that had always been a favorite of mine. I was hoping that due to being the Washington D.C. show, they would play I.R.S., but apparently, I’m the only person who likes that song.

GNR3

The crowd was somewhat interesting. Many of the attendees were in their thirties, forties, and fifties, and I got the impression that many of them were trying to party like they used to – and finding they weren’t quite capable of doing so. For some reason, a rotating cast of drunk people decide to camp out in the aisle next to us. Most notable was the shirtless guy who looked about fifty who alternated between screaming, barking, and wobbling around like he was about to pass out.

At the end of their main set, the combination of caffeine and adrenaline had me still going strong, but Mrs. Cutter was dragging. I told her we couldn’t leave until we at least heard Paradise City, so we powered through two songs in the encore until Slash began to play the familiar opening chords.

Despite the thrill of hearing Paradise City live, I was actually a little disappointed. It felt a little rushed, and I thought they needed to let it breathe a bit. On the other hand, there was an impressive pyro display at the end that helped make up for it.

Once the final note was played, we rushed out of the stadium, hoping to beat most of the traffic. As we were leaving the parking lot, we actually saw drunken shirtless guy stumbling along the side of the road. I’m not sure where he was going, but I was relieved he wasn’t going there by car.

It was an excellent show, and it was well worth the cost (Yay, Ticketmaster fees!) and delaying our beach trip by a day. I’m just hoping that next time they come to town, Izzy and Steve are with them, and my dream will finally come true.

 

Posted in Pop Culture, Trips and Events | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

More Writing Samples from a Kindergarten Student

Since my last post was a bit heavy, I wanted to lighten things up.

A couple of months ago, I shared some of my daughter’s writing assignments in school. It was as adorable as it sounds. Now that she’s done with kindergarten (time flies, no?), they sent home a large packet of her writing.

Here are a few of the pictures and stories that were included.

Yesterday I went to the park with my brother and sister. I wore my super hero costume.

Last month, she went to a PJ Masks themed birthday party, and all the kids received masks and capes as favors. She was really into wearing it for a few days. Then again, this might be referencing something else since in the picture she appears to be wearing animal ears and does not have a mask on.

Next, we have a multiple-part story which I like to call “The Adventures of Butter Cream the Bunny.”

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One day I saw a bunny. I noticed that it was Butter Cream. She said hi. I could also understand her.

Mrs. Cutter remarked that we’ve learned more from her school work than from talking to her. For instance, I did not know that the Cutlet either encountered a talking rabbit or that she can understand animals. Either way, I’m kind of annoyed this information was kept from me.

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I showed my dad Butter Cream. He said I could keep her. We had many adventures. When it was night, we went to bed. Now our day had to end.

Or maybe the knowledge of the talking rabbit was not kept from me? While I have suggested to Mrs. Cutter that we get a pet rabbit, I don’t recall ever giving my daughter permission to keep a rabbit that she found.

It feels like I would have remembered the talking rabbit part, so there’s a chance this is a fictional story.

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Part two

Oh yes, the story of Butter Cream is too much for just one part. The above picture shows the Cutlet and Butter Cream cuddling in bed together. Do rabbits actually cuddle?

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Me and Butter Cream were having fun at the fair. I saw a cat. It was Sugar Sprinkles.

When the fair was in town last summer, Mrs. Cutter and the Cutlet went without me. I don’t recall ever seeing cats at the fair, but I guess there is at least one there. I’ve also realized that Butter Cream looks a lot like Pikachu.

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I brought her to school. We played at the playground. When the teacher came, Butter Cream hid in my lunch box. I went home.

I hope the au pair washed the lunch box that day. I can’t imagine it’s especially hygienic to have a rabbit in with your food.

And thus concludes the epic Butter Cream saga. I hope you enjoyed it.

We’ll wrap things up with one more:

I love my mom a lot because she is nice and cuddly.

It’s true; Mrs. Cutter is nice and cuddly. And according to this drawing, she also looks like a Shopkin.

Posted in The Cutlet | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Cutter’s Guide to Fixing America: Guns

I originally began this post in the wake of the mass shooting at San Bernadino. I couldn’t quite get it right at the time, so I saved it as a draft. I actually hoped that I would never finish it, because that would mean that the subject of guns and mass shootings hadn’t become a topic for discussion again. As we all know, that has not been the case.

I’m not sure my words will actually influence anyone’s thinking. If you disagree with what I say, I don’t think I’m going to change your mind. But hopefully, at least some of you maintain an open mind, and don’t automatically dismiss what I have to say.

The Cutter’s Guide to Fixing America: Guns

I sometimes allow my children to use an iPad. Sometimes, they’ll fight over it, get too rough, or become frustrated and throw it on the ground. When that happens, I tell them that they’ve proven unable to properly use it, so I take it away from them. It feels like we may have reached a similar point when it comes to guns in America. How many deaths do we have to endure before we say “this isn’t working?”

I’m not completely opposed to the existence of guns or for people to be able to own firearms; I simply don’t want anyone else to die in a shooting. I don’t want the next incident to take place in my town. I don’t want my family or friends to be among the next victims.

Unfortunately, it seems that not everyone feels that way. There is a certain segment of the population that loves their guns, and either refuses to admit that they may be a problem, or simply don’t care. I’m going to look at a few of the common arguments made by these gun enthusiasts and try to make some sense of them.

The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun

While you’d assume the opposite, mass shootings like the one in Orlando often empower the pro-gun crowd.  After the San Bernadino incident, I read arguments that California’s relatively strict gun control laws helped make it possible. Their logic was that the laws made it harder for law-abiding citizens to obtain guns, and those gun-carrying citizens might have served as a deterrent – or even been able to stop the shooting.

Have we really reached a point where vigilantism is our only hope to remain safe? And would we truly be any safer?

Remember the Tamir Rice case? How about what happened in Ferguson? Those are just a couple of instances when the judgement of police officers’ use of lethal force was called into question. Keep in mind that these are police officers – men and women who have undergone extensive training. If we don’t trust them to make the right decision with guns, what hope do the rest of us have?

Many gun owners think that if they were in a dangerous situation that they’d be able to calmly take out the shooter. I’m not so sure.

GunMeme1

Yes, there have been cases where armed citizens have stopped or deterred crimes. There have also been cases where would-be heroes misidentified the shooter and almost shot the wrong person.

And let’s not forget about people like George Zimmerman. Do we really want to depend on our fellow citizens to identify and take down potential terrorists or mass shooters? “Hey, that dark-skinned guy looked like he might be pulling a gun. I didn’t want to take any risks, so I shot him!”

You may have seen this meme before:

ObamaGuns

This is supposedly proof that the president is a hypocrite. He pushes for gun control, and meanwhile surrounds himself with armed guards. The sad thing is, many people will agree with this meme because they don’t understand the difference between a member of the Secret Service and John Q. Public who wants to obtain a firearm.

I actually agree that more “good guys with guns” are necessary, but that doesn’t mean relaxing gun laws so that anyone can get one. It means that we need to have armed guards at public places like schools and churches. If police officers can’t serve in that role, then the guards would need to undergo an exhaustive vetting process and undergo extensive training, and be subject to frequent reviews.

It shouldn’t have to come to that, but given the current state of affairs, I don’t see any other choice.

Criminals will find a way to get guns regardless

I acknowledge that despite gun laws, criminals still find a way to obtain them. If there were tougher laws, some people would still find a way. Does that mean we shouldn’t make it harder for them?

Since my kids are adorable, I’ll use them in another analogy: If we don’t want one of the twins to have something, we’ll put it on a high surface that they can’t reach. It’s still possible that if they’re truly determined, they still might find a way to get it. But as they’re pushing a chair over to the counter in order to reach it, there’s a good chance that I’ll notice them doing it and put a stop to it.

Likewise, if we make it harder for would-be criminals to obtain guns, the more likely it is that they’ll be caught.

As for the criminals who already have guns, I’m all for a concentrated effort by our law enforcement agencies to track down illegal firearms. As has been pointed out, the existing gun laws on the books aren’t enforced as well as they could be. That seems like a good place to start.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people

Here’s another meme that’s popular with the pro-gun crowd:

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Assuming you believe the Bible (which is a dicey proposition in its own right), Cain killed Abel with a rock. But I’m pretty sure that if Cain walked into a nightclub with a rock, the death toll would be significantly less than 50. And if rocks are such efficient weapons, then why do people need guns in the first place?

I understand what the meme is trying to say: We should figure out WHY people are killing each other and stop that, rather than becoming so concerned with HOW people are killing each other. I agree that we need to figure out why people are killing each other with such regularity. But until we figure that out – and as I’ll discuss below, we don’t appear to be very close to doing so – can we make it a little harder for people to kill others with such efficiency?

It’s not a gun problem, it’s a (fill in the blank) problem!

So yeah, let’s figure out the why. Unfortunately, nobody can seem to come to much of an agreement on that either. After every mass shooting, people offer reasons why it isn’t a gun problem. Here are some examples:

“It’s not a gun problem, it’s a terrorism problem!”

Not all mass shootings are the work of terrorists, so it’s not always a terrorism problem. And if we really want to stop the terrorists, making it harder for them to obtain weapons seems like a really good step in that process.

“It’s not a gun problem, it’s an Islam problem!”

Similarly, not all mass shooters are Islamic. I’ll talk about the Bill of Rights more later, but for now we should remember that government persecution based on religion is one of the things it doesn’t allow.

“It’s not a gun problem, it’s a hate problem!”

I agree with this. I’d love it if we could all get along and nobody felt the need to shoot anybody else. Unfortunately, humanity has found reasons to hate one another since the dawn of time, and that problem doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

“It’s not a gun problem, it’s a mental health problem!”

I agree that mental health is a problem in America, but blaming it for the gun violence doesn’t explain this:

GunDeaths

You’re telling me that America either has that many more mentally ill people or is that much worse at identifying and treating them? Let’s hire some Japanese doctors immediately, because they’ve apparently found the cure for mental illness!

Whether the shooters were motivated by religion, hatred, or mental illness (or some combination of them), they all had one thing in common: They were able to obtain firearms. That makes me think that it is – at least partially – a gun problem after all. So while we’re busy fixing all of those above problems, maybe we can work on the gun issue too.

I need to protect my family

Some gun owners claim that they need a gun in order to protect their home and family against burglars or other intruders. When I hear people talk about home invasions and needing to defend themselves, here’s what comes to mind:

Statistics show that gun owners are far more likely to harm themselves or a family member than actually stop any would-be home invader. I have some really bad news for all you semi-automatic rifle owners out there: If you are facing a threat that can only be stopped with such a weapon, it is very likely that gun or not, you are going to die. (There is one exception which I will talk about below)

If you’re that concerned about your safety, why not rig your house with booby traps? It worked pretty well for Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, right? You can even go a step further and set up some explosive devices that will put a stop to any potential intrusions upon your homestead.

You might be thinking, “That’s ridiculous. Setting up booby traps would put my family in danger! I have small children around!” My suggestion is to just teach your children how to properly use and respect the booby traps. That should be enough to ensure that they are never harmed by them.

Seriously though, if you’re that concerned about your safety, there are lots of ways to protect yourself: Learn martial arts, stock up on pepper spray, carry a taser gun. Perhaps you could even learn to use a bow and arrow. It worked pretty well for Katniss and Hawkeye.

I have to protect myself when the zombie apocalypse happens!

I mentioned there was an exception, and here it is: If the zombie apocalypse does happen, people with semi-automatic rifles are probably going to have a better chance for survival. I concede this point.

The Constitution gives me the right to buy a gun

This is correct…technically. According to the current interpretation of the Second Amendment of the Constitution, American citizens are allowed to own firearms.

Here’s the thing about the Constitution: It’s an imperfect document that in some cases, reflects the time in which it was written. Perhaps the smartest thing that the founding fathers did was acknowledging that the Constitution was imperfect and would likely have to change over time. That’s why we have the ability to amend it.

For an unbiased history of the Second Amendment, please read this. If you don’t feel like clicking that link, here’s a brief summary: The Amendment was written at a time when the validity of a standing national army was in question, partially because there was fear that the national government would use it to usurp states’ rights. As a result, militias consisting of armed citizens were seen as necessary for national defense.

I’d say that times have obviously changed, although if you ask some people, the whole “gun control” movement is just the first step for the national government to somehow take over the country. Because…

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Sigh…this is not Nazi Germany – Stop making everything out to be Nazi Germany! Whenever the government talks about doing anything that might restrict rights, people start making comparisons to Hitler. Yes, the Nazis disarmed their people. That’s pretty much where the comparisons end.

It’s also amazing how many people don’t understand just how government works. The government was the one who granted us all those rights in the first place, so they can take them away if they so wish. People surrender individual rights all the time in order to serve the greater good. For instance, I can’t drive my car 100 MPH on the highway; that “right” has been taken away from me.

What’s amusing (and by amusing, I mean so ironic that I have to nervously and sadly laugh) is that many of the people worried about civil rights when it comes to the Second Amendment, seem perfectly okay with violating other civil rights. I’ve heard talk about banning anyone from the country if they are Muslim. There are some people in favor of the government rounding up the country’s Islamic residents and putting them into internment camps. Apparently, in their minds Amendment Two carries more weight than Amendment One. The Constitution giveth, the Constitution taketh away.

That leads to an important question: Since Islamic people are the ones who might actually be in danger from the government, shouldn’t they be given the easiest access to weapons so they can defend themselves?

The real enemy

Recently, the president spoke about gun laws. He didn’t say anything about “seizing everyone’s guns,” instead he promoted a message of, “let’s make sure the wrong people don’t get them.”

You would think that the truly responsible gun owners would have been on board with his message. You’d think that they’d see that the criminals are giving all gun owners a bad name, and threaten the right of all citizens to own a firearm.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. There doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgment that perhaps there is a middle ground between “everyone has the right to own a gun” and “Obama’s comin’ to take our guns!” This seems to be mostly the fault of one organization:

Instead of working to make sure guns are used responsibly, the NRA has instead fostered an environment of “us against them.” They’ve made it seem like ANY additional gun laws are an egregious violation of civil rights. They’ve caused all gun owners – responsible and criminals alike – to be lumped together.

Why are they doing this? If you answered, “Because they care about and want to protect the civil rights of Americans,” you’d be wrong! While I’m sure some members do genuinely care about civil rights, like many things in this world, it’s much likely more about money. The NRA essentially serves as the lobby for weapons manufacturers. And stricter gun laws would likely be very bad for business for them.

The NRA is powerful and has been fighting restrictions on guns with all the might they can muster. But aren’t we about at the point where someone calls the head of the NRA in front of Congress and asks, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

Here’s my question to the pro-gun crowd: Why are you so worried about tougher gun restrictions? Assuming that the government isn’t really planning to seize everybody’s guns (And bad news: If the government wants your guns, they’re going to get them one way or another), then what are you afraid of? If you’re truly as responsible and deserving of owning a gun as you claim, then shouldn’t you have nothing to fear?

So what can we do?

We’re a far way away from “Obama coming to take your guns,” but if the mass-shootings continue, it just might come to that. So it seems that responsible gun owners and anti-gun crowd should realize that they have some common ground: Get the guns out of the hands of those who would put them to evil use, so that all would-be gun owners are not punished.

As it turns out, the Second Amendment allows people to bear arms, but it doesn’t prevent stricter regulation. (The word “regulated” is right there in the text!) It’s been done before, and can be done again.

First off, since they have little purpose besides mass murder, semi-automatic weapons should be banned from civilians. Next, let’s place some heavy taxes on the sale of guns and ammunition. Sure, it will cost more, but if owning a gun is necessary for the protection of your family, then money should be no object.

Most importantly, let’s switch the burden of proof. Instead of relying on the government to identify people who shouldn’t have a gun, let’s require would-be gun owners to prove they deserve one.

You want a gun? Fine. You need to complete an extensive training class and be subject to an exhaustive background check. And the fun shouldn’t stop once you have the gun. Every gun owner should undergo an annual mental health exam to make sure they are of sound mind. (Also helping the country’s mental health problem. That’s killing two birds with one bullet!)

If anti-gun lawmakers were smart, they’d find a way to allow the NRA to profit from these reforms. If that happened, I’m willing to bet there would be a lot less opposition.

In conclusion

This is not a simple problem, and it isn’t going to be solved easily. I’m not naive to think that anything I’ve suggested will immediately fix the problem. Criminals will still fall through the cracks, and people will still die from gun fire. But actual ideas seem to better than what I’ve heard from most of the pro-gun crowd, which is nothing.

I can guarantee one thing: If we continue to do nothing, nothing is going to change. The mass shootings will continue, and we’ll have to listen to this debate once again. Is that what any of us really want?

Posted in Guide to Fixing America | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I’m No Kenny Powers

You may remember the show Eastbound and Down. It chronicled the life of fictional former baseball pitcher Kenny Powers as he tried to make a comeback. Powers endured several setbacks along the way, many of them self-inflicted. He often conflicted with would-be friends and family, mostly because despite having a heart, that heart was buried under several layers of asshole.

In the fourth season, Kenny Powers had finally retired from baseball and was living a relatively mundane life in the suburbs with his wife and children. However, the quiet life didn’t quite agree with him. He resented that he wasn’t famous anymore and had to work a regular job. Instead of doing drugs and partying all night, his social life was reduced to having dinner with other couples in the neighborhood. While at these dinners, Kenny could barely contain his contempt for the inane small talk that took place.

As I watched, I found myself relating to one of the characters on the show…but it wasn’t Kenny. I’ll admit that I can be an asshole at times, and can often make social situations uncomfortable for those around me. But I’d like to believe that even in my worst days, I was never quite as bad as Kenny Powers.

Instead, I’m probably a lot more like Gene:

Aside from realizing that actor Tim Heidecker should be the leading candidate to play former Eagles coach Chip Kelly in the movie biopic, watching Gene makes me think we have a lot in common. We both like to follow our sports teams (he talks about Wake Forest football), we both like to play sports (assuming you want to qualify golf as a sport), and like all cool men, we wear visors. (Honestly, this is probably the real reason I identify with him.)

Gene was probably a fun enough guy back in the day, but now he’s settled into his comfortable existence as a husband and father. He just wants to get through life without receiving too much harassment from his boss, his wife, and especially this idiotic “friend” who has been forced upon him. Gene doesn’t really want to be friends with Kenny. However, their wives are friends, so they’re forced to hang around with each other.

You don't remember the Paul Reiser Show??? (Image source)

You don’t remember the Paul Reiser Show??? (Image source)

I’m sure nobody remembers the short-lived Paul Reiser show. (I doubt more than a few episodes made it to air.) I wouldn’t remember it either, except one part did strike a chord. Reiser’s character talked about how his current friends all seem to either be the husbands of his wife’s friends or the parents of his children’s friends.

That’s pretty much how it works. Every time Mrs. Cutter makes a friend with a married woman, she REALLY tries hard for me to become friends with the husband. Sometimes she becomes a bit overbearing. “Oh, you like professional wrestling? You should talk about that!!!”

The good news is that so far, most of my new friends seem like okay guys. While I can’t claim to have found my new BFF, at least there aren’t any Kennys in the group who I dread having to talk to. I do accept the possibility that I am the Kenny of the group, and the other husbands cringe when they see me coming. But that’s okay. They’ll learn to find me charming eventually. After all, unless our wives or kids get into a fight, they don’t really have a choice.

Posted in Pop Culture, Randomness | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Talking ‘Bout My Demographic

Most days, I listen to ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike show during my morning commute. The show itself is fine: They discuss the hot sports topics of the day in a generally inoffensive, if somewhat bland manner. As a white male in his thirties, I’m probably right in the middle of the show’s target demographic. That’s why I’m a little taken aback by the commercials that play during the show.

The first commercial is for Sport Clips. If you’re not familiar with Sport Clips, they’re a chain of hair salons for men. While I couldn’t find a clip of the radio commercial online, I did find a TV spot that was basically the same thing:

When I first heard the commercial, it seemed almost like a parody. I can imagine a few people sitting around Sport Clips’ corporate office trying to come up with the perfect commercial.

“Okay, so we’re trying to appeal to men. What do men like?”

“Um…sports?”

“Yes! Good! What else?”

“Women?”

“Great!”

“So how about we come up with a commercial where we make it seem like getting a haircut is a sport somehow? And we can make it seem like a near-sexual experience with hot women giving shampoo massages!”

“Yes!”

“And we’ll imply that thanks to our haircuts, guys will somehow get a raise or be able to ask a girl out!”

“You know what? That doesn’t sound like a commercial to me. That sounds like a license to print money!”

Daddy's new ride (Image source)

Daddy’s new ride (Image source)

The commercial has gotten me thinking: Maybe I should give Sport Clips a try. Then, I’ll have the confidence to ask for a big raise at work. (“Well, your work has been shoddy…BUT that’s a mighty fine haircut. Raise approved!”) Next, I’ll go out and buy that Jaguar convertible I’ve always wanted. (“Sorry kids, the minivan had to go. Daddy’s having a midlife crisis.”) Finally, I’ll work up the nerve to ask out that hot girl at work.

I’m obviously kidding about that last one; None of my female co-workers are attractive. (Yes, this may be a test to see if any of my co-workers are reading this.)

This provides me a handy segue to discuss another frequent ad spot: The one for a local divorce lawyer. (Sorry, I can’t recall the firm’s name offhand.) It features a guy who vaguely sounds like Mr. Rogers talking about steps and precautions for men to take if they’re in the midst of divorce proceedings.

I have learned a few helpful tips in case Mrs. Cutter ever decides to leave: Document my belongings with video, change my passwords, and DO NOT get lured into a confrontation. Although if I avoid confrontations, how would I be able to tell Mrs. Cutter that everything was her fault? (I mean, it couldn’t possibly be my fault, right?)

So there you have it: According to my radio habits, I’m overly into sports and sex, and I may need a divorce lawyer. That’s kind of sad, so I’ll cheer myself up by looking at a few posts from the archives:

Optimism of Young Sports Fans

Would You?

Making the Bed

Hmmm…perhaps radio advertisers know me better than I know myself.

Posted in Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200

Like all supermarkets under the Albertson’s corporate umbrella, Safeway recently ran a Monopoly promotion, where customers could collect game pieces and win prizes – the grand prize being $1 million – if they could find all the pieces in a category. This seemed like it would be awesome. Game pieces were earned based on how much money was spent, and considering how high our grocery bills tend to be, I figured we would soon be awash in prizes.

Good times await?

Good times await?

It was fun…at first. It was exciting to open the game pieces and affix them to our “board.” In addition, each piece came with either a merchandise coupon or a bonus code to be entered online, giving us a second chance at victory. We ripped open every game piece with a sense of anticipation that this one would contain the piece we needed for victory.

The fun didn’t last. After a few trips, it became apparent that we were getting a lot of duplicates. Obviously, EVERYONE can’t be a winner, so some of the pieces were naturally harder to find, but I don’t think we appreciate just how rare the “rare pieces” were.

I don’t think we came away with any original pieces from my last five trips to the store. What had once been fun soon became a monotonous exercise of throwing away duplicates. We assumed that at some point, we’d manage to win something, but we couldn’t find a complete set for any of the prizes – not even a lousy $5 gift card!

IMG_2755

Here lie my hopes and dreams

As for those bonus codes…most of them were losers too. And most of the “winners” turned out to just be awards for more game pieces. Hooray.

I’m happy to say that we didn’t come away completely empty: One of my bonus codes won us a free Redbox rental. On Tuesday night, I reaped my reward when I went to the local Redbox machine and checked out Creed.

I thought Creed was pretty good, and probably the best movie in the Rocky franchise since Rocky III. I thought it would have benefited from a Survivor song (after all, what couldn’t be made better by a Survivor song?), but I liked that Creed’s entrance music was Hail Mary by 2Pac.

Sure, we may have spent a lot of time and effort peeling game pieces, and we might not have wound up as millionaires. But all that effort allowed me to watch a good movie for free. I’ll call that a win!

Posted in Randomness | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

In Defense of Participation Trophies

NFL running back DeAngelo Williams recently made news because he forced his daughter to give back a ribbon she got for participating in a school field day. Williams said that his daughter hadn’t done anything to earn the ribbon, and he didn’t want her to think that merely showing up is worthy of a reward. Last year, another former NFL player James Harrison similarly made his sons give back their participation trophies.

Many people have complained about participation awards in recent years, claiming that such awards have created an entitlement attitude among American youth. They believe that because kids are being rewarded for doing nothing but showing up, they’ll expect to always have things handed to them, and will never work to accomplish anything.

I disagree with those critics. I think they’ve forgotten a few things about children and youth sports:

Children are not stupid

Kids know which trophies matter and which don't. (Image source)

Kids know which trophies matter and which don’t. (Image source)

I don’t think most kids are going to get those participation awards and think that they “earned” something. They can see that the kids who won got different – usually bigger – awards, and are smart enough to know the difference.

More importantly, I don’t think the awards really affect them very much. The kids who really want to win aren’t going to be satisfied with a mere participation award. The kids who don’t care as much probably aren’t going to become more competitive simply because they didn’t receive a ribbon.

Besides, the extra motivation might not even matter because…

Hard work only goes so far

“You can be anything you want to be! You just have to work hard!” These words of advice have been presented to countless children over the years, and they are simply not true. For instance, no matter how hard I worked, I was never going to make it to the NFL. (I wasn’t even invited to the Combine!)

DeAngelo Williams (Image source)

DeAngelo Williams (Image source)

Williams seems to think it was his amazing work ethic that got him to the NFL. Had he been coddled with participation awards as a child, he might not have had the motivation to make it. Admittedly, Williams had a harder road to the NFL than most, but I’d guess that he’s still more athletically gifted than 99.99% of the country’s population.

Most kids can work as hard as they want, but they’re still not going to play professionally. Williams and Harrison seem to think that by taking away their kids’ participation awards, it inspired them to work harder and win actual trophies later on. Did they win because they had extra motivation? Or was it because as the children of elite athletes, they’re probably more naturally gifted than their classmates?

Not every kid is going to win, even if he’s the hardest worker around. And they’re never going to work hard at a sport if they don’t enjoy it. That’s why we need to remember that…

Sports are supposed to be fun

Here’s a good message to send to children: Winning is the only thing that matters. Did you play hard, try your best, and have a good time? Nobody cares! You’re a loser, so you get nothing!

While I’m sure some parents sign their kids up for youth sports with dreams of scholarships or lucrative professional careers, most kids are playing sports because they’re something fun for them to do. At the youth level, children should just be allowed to enjoy playing the games, and for some kids, participation awards add to the sense of fun.

Let the kids have fun first, and worry about winning later! (Image source)

Let the kids have fun first, and worry about winning later! (Image source)

Perhaps the lack of reward for mere participation will inspire some children to work harder. On the other hand, it may also teach them that winning is more important than teamwork and sportsmanship. For the less talented kids, it might make them want to just quit.

Williams and Harrison had successful professional careers, so it makes sense that they may have forgotten that sports aren’t really supposed to be work. They also may not realize that if kids don’t enjoy playing sports, then they’ll probably never succeed, no matter how athletically gifted they may be. Let the kids just enjoy playing first. They can worry about winning later.

Kids will learn soon enough that in the real world, mere participation isn’t enough to receive an award. They’ll figure out that they won’t get handed a trophy simply for showing up to something. But at the youth sports level, or at a school field day? If a ribbon or small trophy adds to the fun for some kids, then I don’t see any harm in them.

Posted in Randomness | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments