Monday, October 25, 2010

Gunning Scared



I had never before asked myself, “What Would Jesus Shoot?” I seem to remember from years of Catholic school that he was no big fan of swords, but Jesus is practically an American now and frankly there is nothing more American than exercising the right to bear arms and blow the shit out of targets, clay pigeons, or what-have-you. Hell, I enjoy it. 

When I was 12 or 13, I joined a group called the Explorer Scouts and their membership was comprised of both males and females. There was a weeklong trip into the woods where the group stays in cabins and it seemed like a great potential for rookie nookie.

That, my friends, is another story. It was before this weeklong trip that our extremely elderly group-leader took us down a dark staircase in a brick building, underneath which was a firing range. We didn’t bother with eye or ear protection. Many of the kids in the group were hunters and had fired a rifle countless times before; I barely understood how to hold the fucking thing. As I peered down my lane over the top of the rifle, I lined up the rudimentary sight upon the center of the target and fired.
My shoulder bore most of the kickback, but it was unexpected and immediately my right ear began to ring. 

The smell, the old man had already referred to it as “brimstone,” seemed to not only infiltrate my nostrils, but also into my eyes causing me to well up. The old man was distracted, barely paying attention, and I peered to the paper that seemed miles away from me. While the image was of four concentric black rings, the innermost of course solid, when I focused instead on the three white circles that made up the space in-between, I spied a speck of black in the center left quadrant of the middle white ring. My first shot in life was kind of on-target.

While my aim has gotten worse with time, the thrill of firing a weapon has never dulled and when I can afford it, I enjoy going to the range with friends I want around in case the Zombie Apocalypse ever goes down. During the winter months, we frequent an indoor range where it is the policy of the proprietors that no outside ammunition be used. In recent months, the price of the ammo has risen substantially. When I asked the man behind the counter about it he informed me of a startling fact.

“It’s the Ammo shortage since Obama took over,” he said shaking his head, and then with empathy,

“It drives the prices right up, especially for recreational shooting.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” I asked, ignorant to the gun community-at-large.

“Well, Obama doesn’t like guns and God knows what he’ll ban, but no one is taking chances. The military, the police, guys like you and me, have all been buying up the bullets faster than the companies can make them.” He placed another box of Winchester .380 rounds in front of me and rang them up. I handed him a twenty dollar bill, he returned a five to me.

I placed a call to the Remington ammunition and components plant in Arkansas to get to the bottom of the shortage posing as the spokesperson for a group looking to open a gun club and range. A kind woman named Patty told me that I could order as much as I wanted. She informed me that the company was doing well, despite the poor economic times they had their “best year ever.” I was informed that while it was once a three-shift operation, they were now working “around the clock,” and that by the first of the year everyone would be able to earn double-time overtime.

Federal Ammuntion told me the same thing, and a little more. A spokesperson for Federal told me that they only sell through distributors and these distributors may or may not be restricting or rationing purchase. There was no shortage of ammunition and, if anything, there are more bullets out there than ever before. I called an ammunition distributor, that will get no mention from me, that told me a different story. The man identified himself to me as Jim and exhaled with what sounded like despair when I asked about the shortage of Ammunition. “You follow politics much, son?”

“No,” I lied.

“Well, you see since Obama got elected, it is only a matter of time before he bans assault weapons again or starts banning handguns. A lot of our customers are buying as much ammo as they can and, I don’t know why, but the price is going up. We still have great deals, you want to reserve some with a credit card just in case?” The man waited in silence, a master pitchman, letting the silence build with the fear and tension that might build if I actually believed this swine. 

As any Gun enthusiast knows, what happens in the sporting goods stores and gun clubs across the country bears little effect on the Hajj like pilgrimage to the anything-goes gun show, a whirlwind of arms dealing. I walked into a sea of denim and camouflage clad people milling about tables with all sorts of weapons, ammo, and accessories. Yet it seems the shortage has stuck here as well, the boxes were not piled as high and the selection of weapons and rounds, and the amount of deals offered, were not as varied as they once had been. As I browsed the tables examining the other wares offered, I was stunned to see an SS-style knife, complete with swastika, for sale at a table. As I traced the outline of the swastika with my finger, the very fat man behind the table began telling me about the knife and his other “World War II” collectibles, mostly from the losing side though.

“But did this knife ever slay a Jew, I wonder?” I mumbled. The fat man looked at me uneasily, a question he had apparently never considered. I walked off shaking my head. The was not the last piece of Nazi paraphernalia that I would see for sale that day, nor was it the most disturbing item being sold.

I couldn’t stop shaking it because I then found a table scatted with pins, bumper stickers, and T-shirts bearing “funny” statements. The bumper stickers were ignorant, ideology and a basic grasp of the English language: “I HAD RATHER BE RIGHT, THEN POLITICALLY CORRECT [sic],” “OBAMA-OSAMA, SAME!” and a button that read, “A VILLAGE IN KENYA IS MISSING ITS IDIOT” (Although this is a bastardization of a dig on Hillary Clinton as fallout from her “it takes a village” comment). 

It was there that I laid eyes on the T-Shirt that asked the question that started this column, “What would Jesus Shoot?” The answer, on the back, is “An AR-15.” I spoke to the man selling the shirt and was amazed to discover that this shirt was designed WITHOUT irony in mind.

My friend was also wearing a t-shirt that read, “Marriage is SO gay.” For the most part of the day, most of the folks that read the shirt either didn’t get it or completely misinterpreted the meaning of the shirt. Said one mulleted man (or woman?) “Ha Marriage sure is gay. Single is where it’s at!” As I haggled with the man selling the shirt, I saw him notice her shirt and I could tell he GOT the joke: that she was wearing a pro-gay marriage t-shirt to their tea party. He chased after us to give her a free t-shirt, implying she should put it on immediately. We left the gun show with a heavy heart and no guns or ammo. Our beloved firearm pilgrimage had been taken over by extremists.

As always this troubling development in American society has roots in the conservative media web. Rush, Hannity, and all the usual suspects have hounded the President since the days of the Pennsylvania primary that he was an enemy to the 2nd Amendment and gun owners across the nation. Of course, no one does this better than the current Prima Ballerina of the movement, Glenn Beck.
In February he interviewed the President of the company that owns his favorite shooting range. So while giving the place free publicity and the promise that you might spy Beck himself there, their conversation served to scare the shit out of anyone listening. There was a brief moment when I thought Beck was going to be journalistically responsible saying that Obama was not going to “take away our guns,” but then added, “but he will make it impossible to own one.” 

The huge moustache on the other side of Glenn Beck spouts off both that “Police can’t protect you,” and that the President was going to impose a 500% excise tax on guns and ammunition, a complete lie.

There is no legislation in Congress or plans by the Obama Administration to increase the current 11% excise tax. In fact, the only moves the Administration has made was to expand the rights of gun owners. With the proper permits, it is now legal to carry a loaded weapon into a National Park. This was the results of Amendments 1067 and 1058 in HR 627, The Credit Card Holders Bill of Rights, signed into law by the very “Kenyan village idiot” that they fear so greatly. In my opinion, this is sensible. In a National Park there are no beat cops or 911, and there are many animals, human or otherwise, that could lurk in those parks.

However, the words of fear that are spewed forth by these conservatives can have a harmful effect, that only serve to fuel the arguments of those who wish to restrict responsible gun ownership. Richard Poplawski killed three Pittsburgh police officers responding to a domestic disturbance call after he violently argued with his mother about a pissing dog. He shot two officers and then shot another officer, who was off-duty, who was just trying to retrieve his comrades for treatment. 

When it was over, it was discovered that Poplawski feared that Obama was going to take his guns. He shared videos of Beck’s program talking about FEMA concentration camps, where the normally reasonable Ron Paul validated his nonsense for what is surely a political move. You can practically see him compromising his integrity by saying the concern is justified.

The segment I profiled earlier about guns and that the police weren’t protectors aired only 5 weeks before the shootings occurred.

Like all national debates where the context is derived mostly from irresponsible coverage, it has gotten into the realm of the absurd. It is impossible to reason with an argument that only speaks fear and paranoia. It poses to ignite fringe elements that instead of arming themselves with weed, bongos, and hugs actually arms themselves. Unlike some of the clashes between the red and blue crowds, this one isn’t funny; it only promises tragedy. Everyone is worried about the President, when we all know the real threat looms on the horizon: Zombie Apocalypse.

(Originally Published on Matt's Naked Word in 2009. Edited for formatting/typos 2016)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sitting Down For Equal Rights (Published on Matt's Naked Word, 12/2009

Liberty and Justice For All: The Story of A 10 year-old boy with more courage than most grown men.

By Joshua M. Patton.

It is always inspiring to see an act of patriotism. Yet, who are the patriots? What is it that defines that kind of love for your country? The diplomatic answer is that there are many ways to define patriotism and that there is no such thing as perfect patriotism. However as far back as the 17th century, English-speakers were debating about the meaning of this word. What is consistent is a love of country. Not necessarily a defender of the government and often used to describe a disturber of the government. It has always been my belief is that patriotism is a combined love of country and a willingness to take to task the leaders of the country if they go astray.

When I was in grade school, I remember standing up every morning and reciting our morning prayer, I went to a parochial school, and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America. I did not think of it as indoctrination nor do I feel that it had any negative effect on me. In fact, it was more of a time to goof around and change up the words to see how foul one could make the pledge – and sometimes the prayer – before the teacher got wise to what we were up to. However some kids listen to the words they have memorized and actually put some real meaning behind them. Will Phillips, a ten year-old boy for Arkansas is one of those kids.

On a Monday morning in early October, Will made the decision that because he didn’t feel that the government was currently providing “liberty and justice for all,” that he was not going to stand and recite the daily pledge. To have been a fly on the wall to see the face of his substitute teacher when Will gave her what was surely a very reasoned argument for his civil disobedience.

In the small amount of media that has covered this story, the child handles himself better than most interview subjects that have not yet hit puberty. In the Arkansas Times he is quotes as saying that as his teacher grew more angry he was “fuming,” and I understand that. Smart kids are often condescended to in the classroom, especially if they make a reasoned judgment that goes against the mainstream. I recall innocently correcting a mistake a teacher made in a junior high classroom and was invited to “come up and teach the class.” The irony was lost on me. I assumed that this was some Robin Williams Dead Poets Society teaching technique, although it would have been creepy to call this particular teacher, “My Captain.” When I stood, he lost his shit and in a spittle-laden fury I was sent to the Principal’s office.

My mother was of the mind that children have no rights, thus for my 18th birthday she only had to get me a copy of the Bill of Rights and perhaps an ice-cream cake. Luckily for Will, the seeds of his dissent were planted by his parents and they continue to nurture what they have cultivated. Laura and Jay Phillips have been straight supporters of many gay rights causes. Little Will has apparently grown up absent of the stigma that most children of religious households have towards homosexuals. He did not see sinners, perverts, or any sort of abominations to the Lord, but people who were just like him. And because this young man is already a measured and contemplative individual, he decided to take a stand, weak pun intended.

During the only television interview of this kid that I have seen, he sat next to his father Jay. During an answer to the Muppet-like John Roberts, he explained that he told his teacher to jump off of a bridge “solemnly and with a little malice in his voice.” His father buries his face in mock exasperation, but before that I noticed an expression I was very familiar with because I wear it often. It is the expression that comes over a parent’s face when he or she realizes that one day their child is going to be far more intelligent than they ever were.

When I first heard of this story, I was watching the John Roberts segment. When I listened to the careful and articulate answers of this 10 year-old patriot, I practically welled up. We are a nation that is hungry for leaders. Once the progressive leaders in this country started getting killed off and publicly disgraced, we have had a hard time finding a person to rally around. We stand around waiting for the next Dr. King or RFK. It is how President Obama won the White House, by sounding like someone who could lead us like progressive, efficient sheep.

Will Phillips is no sheep. This young man believes so much in his rights as an American that he dared exercise them. He believes that the daily pledges of children to the Flag, to the country, matter and come at a price. He was as aghast as I was when John Roberts asked him what a “gaywad” was. His answer was perfect. I wonder if he only told them he was called that because he felt it would be inappropriate to say “fag” on the cable news channel. Gaywad can’t be the go-to insult for kids today, can it?

When I was in parochial school, we would get in trouble for calling someone what in Britain would get you a cigarette. Yet, the admonishments from the teachers were not because we were using derogatory language, but instead we warned not to call someone such a “terrible thing.” The implication being that it was an appropriate word in certain places the way that “bitch” is appropriate at a dog show.

In the words of wrestler Mick Foley, when on Comedy Central, “Will Phillips is a great American.” And it’s true. He is a young man that briefly captured the attention span of the media and got “exclusive”-ed out of the news cycle. His story stays alive on the internet, but I wonder how he is doing today? While I respect his courage, I hope he can lay low and get through school, becoming a lawyer and fighting the good fight. I hope he stays off the radar for awhile and gets to be a kid for a bit longer, but not too much longer. America sometimes likes to eat its young.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Farce News - Published at MattsNakedWord.com 11/2009

When does news become comedy or vice versa? The way I have watched the news in recent years is to watch all three of the big cable networks, take it to the Internet, and try to determine what part of the various reports are news and what parts of it are bullshit. The three cable news networks suit this manner of watching the news perfectly. CNN is always a good place to start, because they try to fit as many stories into one block of programming as possible. However, this leaves their discussions – specifically between the anchors and the pundits – to only scratch the surface of any significant story. MSNBC is clearly in the blue corner as most of their coverage is mostly favorable to the mainstream democratic agenda, Pat Buchannan notwithstanding. They do not really hide their bias, but I feel they are rather responsible in presenting the issue before they start pontificating. Their snide remarks can be rather witty and perhaps after a few years, it will become more of a serious outlet. And that leaves us with Fox News.

So when does comedy become news? The answer I would offer is when comedians have more integrity than the newscasters when it comes to truth-telling. To be fair, the truth is the basis for all great comedy or satire and unfortunately the same cannot be said about journalism. Two of the most renowned names in journalism, Pulitzer and Hearst, sensationalized stories and sometimes wrote outright lies to boost their circulation. This practice in journalism is largely credited for drawing the United States into the Spanish-American War, to liberate the Spanish colonies from Spain. It seems as if this is the business model of Fox News and it is working so effectively that Hearst and Pulitzer are either rolling in their graves or sporting huge boners.

For over 10 years, Comedy Central has made a late-night daily news satire the foundation of their entire primetime line-up. Since Jon Stewart and his staff have taken the helm of the show, the show became a mockery of all that is terrible about the news and the newsmakers. It was on the night of November 10, 2009 that The Daily Show may have ascended to the level of shows that it often satirizes. A clip from the Sean Hannity program was played where he and Congressional moron Michelle Bachmann discussed a rally that she held last week against healthcare. Footage played over their conversation and the first piece showed a few groups of people trickling towards the rally site on a clear fall day. Then with only the word, “Earlier” in the upper-left of the screen, a multitude of people were shown, however the trees and the sky were different from the first clip. At one point, Hannity comments about the respectable size of the crowd “for a Thursday.”

It didn’t stop there. The eagle-eyed staff at The Daily Show was able to discover when the exact same clip of video was shown: during a segment on the Glenn Beck program. The exact same shots of the crowd were shown at what was actually a tea-bagger rally. Hannity claimed it was an accident, taking only a few seconds at the end of his program to address the issue. Typically the problem many have with Fox News is that it skews events so that it best fits in with the particular narrative they are trying to deliver rather than analysis of the events of the day. However to deliberately mislead the viewing audience is perhaps the worst kind of Yellow Journalism.

While it makes me feel a little dirty to view it, I don’t actually mind the insertion of opinion into any news story, even on Fox News. Journalism is the watchdog of democracy and it requires two distinct elements to fulfill its responsibility to the average American. The first is that there be clear and factual coverage of the events of the day, regardless of the subject matter. As such, the perfect combination would be a mixture of facts, eyewitness reports, and/or interviews with the newsmakers themselves. The second leg of journalism is the pundits. Their opinions and analysis serve to explain the news that was just delivered so that the average American could understand them. A successful version of this would be a discussion between two reasonable people on either side of an issue moderated by an anchor with only the agenda of equal exposure in mind.

Sadly, that formula does not translate into huge ratings and advertising dollars. Thus the sensationalism and the general overtones of fear that seems to permeate throughout all of Fox News. Glenn Beck may be almost certifiably insane, but he knows how to work this formula. From his Strangelovian segment called “The War Room,” to his chalkboard talking points that often spell a word that explains what exactly is so terrifying. For example, in one of these sessions he had written a number of things on the board and began to circle the first letters of each word. Soon at the top of the board were the letters, O-L-I-G-A-R-H. He then said that there was one letter missing, so I thought the absence of the letter “C” was, inexplicably, on purpose. He then writes a letter “Y” on the board, presumably for “Oligarchy.” Later, when trying to explain this particular error, rather than laughing it off as a goof, he explains that he also intentionally left off the C because of all of President Obama’s “czars.” A “czar” is in charge of a particular government initiative, a position in the administration pioneered in a white cowboy hat by none other than the Gipper himself.

While the original meaning of “the fourth estate,” referred to the press against the other three estates of clergy, nobles, and commoners, an effective press is essentially a third branch of the government. Sadly, it seems that the fourth estate has become nothing other than a sorority reality show. How soon until he have the first season of “Who Wants to Be A Legislator?” where contestants go through challenges to earn a place on the ticket. No one votes in primary elections anyways; why not make it easier by dialing in your vote each week? Joke though this may be, we would at least get to see the core of these slick bastards that have the highest political ambitions. Who breaks what alliances? Which one drinks too much? And imagine the hook-ups! Instead we have journalists that repeat talking points given by political handlers and freely admit that what they are reporting is “spin.”

So it is up to comedians like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Maher to ask the important questions that are not being asked by the mainstream media. However for those that aren’t fans of this type of comedy, are missing a significant part of the story outside of the pre-determined narrative that the producers of these news organizations are paid the big money to dream up or at least transcribe what is given to them in a hand-delivered parchment signed in the blood of the poor or the wealthy. Thus a parasitic vine of influence has wound itself deep within the Legislative, Executive, and even Judicial branches of government, it has also found its way into the media.

Religion and simple lust for power are all contributors to this problem, but without money the other two are powerless. Using a scheme that depends on lobbyists in Washington and the might of lucrative advertisers, it is becoming increasingly easier to buy a network. Network News in fact, the hulking giant of news that is increasingly becoming irrelevant, is struggling to remain relevant and that translates into trouble turning a profit. Of course profit is the business of business and it isn’t as if publicly financed media would make much sense. No the actual people to blame are everyday average Americans. The disinterest in political and current events, media laziness if you will, created a hole in the market that can only be filled by a large, snarling beast with blood on its teeth and coupons in its hands. We asked for this by skipping civics in high school, if you’re high school even offered the course. We asked for this because rather than take time to watch what is happening in reality, we escape to the reality of others in programming that rarely, if ever, looks is comparable to our reality.

I believe in freedom of the press very deeply, that includes the freedom of certain media outlets to consist of only the opinions of bastards and assholes. Still there is a responsibility to the profession of journalism that seems to have been shoved into the corner, perhaps because of the influx of non-journalists getting the microphone for hours a day. The press has a duty to inform the people about what is happening and we the people have a responsibility to stay informed. That dirty, God-hating, Communist Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Rules are not sacred, principles are.” It is okay to break the rules in journalism and honestly the best journalism usually comes from breaking the rules. Yet it is not okay to deviate from the basic principles inherent in responsible journalism: to educate, to inform, and to explain.

The goal of this column, this site, this entire movement of which Naked World Post is but a small part, is for the people of this country to be fairly represented in the halls of Congress and in print and on the airwaves. We don’t have time for bullshit or the pageantry of the whole relationship between politics and the media. A site like this is the best place for that. After this article there is a comment section where after you read this, you can add to the discussion. It’s democratic media. Join me each week to either examine what stories have been either gotten wrong in the media or not told at all. It is not all gloom and doom, my friends. I believe in this country and its people, one of the reasons I served in the military. To criticize one’s country and its officials is the exact opposite of un-American; it is practically patriotic as long as it is based on reason and solid moral or ethical ground.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Stab At Fiction: Hurricane Jillica

Thanks to the GI Bill, I am back to school working to finish my undergraduate degree. After many different majors, I have finally decided to be broke, but happy, with my English degree. Thus, I am awarded the opportunity to take a fiction class. I have always thought of fiction as a flight of fancy - from a writer's perspective - and have only indulged in it a handful of times.

At Pitt, however, they make you pigeon-hole yourself into one area of English: fiction/non-fiction writing, Literature, or writing for business. I am trying out both fiction and non-fiction, and while non-fiction seems to be a better fit, I thought it might be fun to share my fiction as I work through the assigned exercises. I would welcome your feedback as my specific goal with this story is to write an authentic female main character. The majority of folks in the class seem to give a shit less about the writing process and more about resenting the early hour of the class or sounding like a writer in front of the professor (myself included).

This is the third exercise we did for this class. The instructions were to write the same scene from three different narrative points-of-view. Enjoy.

Joshua M. Patton

Introduction to Writing Fiction

Writing Exercise #3

Hurricane Jillica

First-Person

I glanced down at my watch and I had 20 minutes until the meeting and, after last night, I needed some coffee. As I took the empty elevator down to Dominican Dave’s, the newsstand and barista in the lobby of our building. The elevator doors whisked open breaking the simple silence and I think for a moment that I wouldn’t have minded being stuck in the elevator for the afternoon. Once I passed the elevator bank, I stopped as I watched the new security guard try to flirt with Jillica.

“JILL-ica?” The security guard said with a flirty tone as he held her ID card up to the light.

“It’s pronounced YILL-ica, asshole.” He looked startled, she continued, “Don’t be shocked, some of us actually have jobs that extend beyond a particle-board podium so if you are done staring at my tits, can I go? I see my colleague.” She gestured toward me and I tried to appear sympathetic to the poor guard when looked over at me. Jillica is gorgeous. Smooth skin, nice figure, meticulously-styled hair (not better than mine, but that is why we can be friends). She worked very hard to appear effortlessly beautiful and she often succeeded much to my ire when I have a fat day. “Hey bitch,” Jillica greeted me with her face planted in her multi-colored rhinestone-studded smartphone, “buy you a coffee?”

I shrugged and walked into the store and immediately into the line. It was small and cramped, stuffed with books and magazines in the aisles, but the counter was packed with pastries and coffee accessories. I watched Dave move quickly to take the order, fill it, and ring up the customers to shrink the line with a fervor I never saw when I worked retail.

“Tell me you have something good for today’s meeting,” Jillica implored, “I have nothing to present. All of the dependable designers are churning out crap this year. It’s like I’m starting from scratch. But I did find some really slutty Halloween costumes for next quarter.”

“I’ve got some things, our department will be fine.” I actually had a big presentation planned, but I didn’t want to tip my hand. Elaine Torgoff, the vice-president tapped to replace the head of the purchasing department would be there and I wanted her to notice me.

“Thank God,” Jillica said, trying to discreetly break off a piece of a giant oatmeal cookie cooling on a tray. Dave, even though working on the customer directly in front of them, noticed.

“Hey Miss!” he yelled in his lightly accented voice, “How many times I gotta tell you? No sampling!”

Jillica slowly turned her head to face him, the old man looking at her at first with a look of disdain, quickly replaced by a look of fear. Her blazing blue eyes bored directly into the center of Dave’s forehead, his stern expression fell. “Do they have ‘the customer is ALWAYS right’ in your country? How much money do I spend in here? You cheap. Raghead. FUCK.

Jillica panted dramatically, her ample cleavage heaving. Dave’s eyes were transfixed, the insult disregarded, if even heard at all.

“Dave. Dave!” I snapped my fingers, he snapped to meet my gaze, “Two cookies and two lattés.” Then to Jillica, “This one’s on me. Why not wait outside?”

Jillica glared at Dave again and walked off cursing him in Spanish. Dave looked back at me, these insults he heard. “Doesn’t she know I speak espanol?

Second Person

You glance down at your watch and see that you have 20 minutes until the meeting. You decide to get some coffee. The elevator is empty on the way down to the lobby and you are thankful for the moment of solitude. Especially after being up so late arguing with Conrad. You feel a twinge of disappointment that he didn’t even care how important this meeting was for your career. The elevator’s doors slide open, pulling you out of your thoughts and you round the corner to Dominican Dave’s, the newsstand and barista in the lobby of the building.

Before you can walk into the store, you see your associate Jillica stopped at the security desk by what looks like a new guy. You hope that he isn’t trying to flirt with her.

“JILL-ica?” He say to her. You chuckle quietly to yourself when you hear his flirty tone of voice.

Your friend is beautiful. On good days you appreciate how much work she does to make her beauty appear effortless. On bad days, you try to find one flaw to pick on all day, passive-agressively of course, usually your hair. “It’s pronounced YILL-ica, asshole. Some of us have jobs that extend beyond a particleboard podium, so if you are done staring at my tits, can I go? I see my colleague.” The guard turns a disappointed face to your direction and you try to wear a sympathetic look, even though once he turns back your expression turns into a bemused grin.

“Hey bitch, buy you a coffee?” Jillica asks you when she joins you, looking not at you but engrossed in whatever she was doing on her glitzy, rhinestone-bedazzled smartphone.

You agree and walk into the small, cramped store. There are only two people in front of you, but the small space is so crammed with books, newspapers, and magazines kept things tight. A tray of oatmeal cookies lay cooling on the pastry case on the counter, the rest of which was covered with coffee supplies and accessories. Dave works intensely and you respect how quickly he is working.

“Tell me you have something good for today’s meeting,” Jillica says to you, ““I have nothing to present. All of the dependable designers are churning out crap this year. It’s like I’m starting from scratch. But I did find some really slutty Halloween costumes for next quarter.”

“I’ve got some things, our department will be fine.” You didn’t want to tip my hand to Jillica, but you hoped to impress Elaine Torgoff, the vice-president tapped to replace the head of the purchasing department.

“Thank God,” Jillica says, discreetly breaking off a piece of a cookie..

“Hey Miss!” Dave yells in his lightly accented voice, “How many times I gotta tell you? No sampling!”

You watch Jillica’s blue eyes blaze and her expression makes both Dave and the lawyerly customer in front of you look fearful. “Do they have ‘the customer is ALWAYS right’ in your country? How much money do I spend in here? You cheap. Raghead. FUCK.

You close your eyes, slightly embarrassed at her outburst. When you open them, you see that Dave’s gaze is firmly entrenched in Jillica’s ample cleavage, heaving dramatically after her tirade.

“Dave.” You say. He doesn’t respond. You snap your fingers and again call his name. He snaps his head to face you, and you tell him, “Two cookies and two lattes, please.” Then to Jillica, “Wait outside, this one is on me.”

Jillica mumbles insults in Spanish under her breath as she walks away. Ironically, Dave notices this one. He looks at you helplessly and asks, “Doesn’t she know I speak espanol?” You feel the smile again pulling at the corners of your lips.

If you compliment Dave on his work ethic, Turn to Page 64.

If you tell him to mess up Jillica’s drink, Turn to Page 112.

Third Person

Susan glanced down at her watch and saw that she had 20 minutes until the meeting. The argument with Conrad last night had drained her more than she would ever admit to him. With the presentation she had planned for today, she decided to get a coffee with her time. The elevator arrived on her floor almost immediately and it was blissfully empty. Susan reflected on the presentation, pushing aside all thoughts of Conrad and their problems. The elevator doors whisked open too soon. With a deep breath, Susan exited the lift and walked past the elevator bank toward Dominican Dave’s the newsstand and barista in the lobby of her building.

Before Susan could go into the tiny store, she spotted Jillica, another purchaser for the company, being delayed by a new security guard. Jillica was gorgeous: dark, smooth skin; a beautiful figure; original, flattering clothes; and crisp, blazing blue eyes. On good days, Susan could appreciate how much work she did to appear so effortlessly beautiful. On bad days, Susan would often find a flaw in her armor, usually her hair, and throw underhanded jibes her way all day. Today, however, the security guard was going to get a taste of what Susan liked to call “Hurricane Jillica.”

“JILL-ica?” The security guard said with a flirty tone as he held her ID card up to the light.

“It’s pronounced YILL-ica, asshole.” He looked startled, she continued, “Don’t be shocked, some of us actually have jobs that extend beyond a particle-board podium so if you are done staring at my tits, can I go? I see my colleague.” She gestured toward Susan and she tried to appear sympathetic to the poor guard when their eyes met. When he turned back, Susan smiled and her friend approached her. “Hey bitch,” Jillica said, her face planted in her multi-colored rhinestone-studded smartphone, “buy you a coffee?”

Susan shrugged and they walked into the store and immediately into the line. It was small and cramped, stuffed with books and magazines in the aisles, but the counter was packed with pastries and coffee accessories. A tray of freshly-baked giant oatmeal cookies lay cooling on top of the pastry case. Susan watched Dave move quickly to take the orders, fill them, and ring up the customers to shrink the line with a fervor she never saw when she worked in retail.

“Tell me you have something good for today’s meeting,” Jillica implored, “I have nothing to present. All of the dependable designers are churning out crap this year. It’s like I’m starting from scratch. But I did find some really slutty Halloween costumes for next quarter.”

“I’ve got some things, our department will be fine.” Susan didn’t want to tip her hand. Elaine Torgoff, the vice-president tapped to replace the head of the purchasing department would be there. Susan wanted to be noticed.

“Thank God,” Jillica said, trying to discreetly break off a piece of cookie. Dave, even though working on the customer directly in front of them, noticed.

“Hey Miss!” he yelled in his lightly accented voice, “How many times I gotta tell you? No sampling!”

Jillica slowly turned her head to face him, the old man looking at her at first with a look of disdain, quickly replaced by a look of fear. Her blazing blue eyes bored directly into the center of Dave’s forehead, his stern expression fell. “Do they have ‘the customer is ALWAYS right’ in your country? How much money do I spend in here? You cheap. Raghead. FUCK.

Jillica panted dramatically, her ample cleavage heaving. Dave’s eyes were transfixed, the insult disregarded, if even heard at all.

“Dave. Dave!” Susan snapped her fingers, he snapped his head towards her, “Two cookies and two lattés.” Then to Jillica, “This one’s on me. Why not wait outside?”

Jillica glared at Dave again and walked off cursing him in Spanish. Dave looked crestfallen, these insults he heard. “Doesn’t she know I speak espanol?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Letter to the Editor

So in a whiskey-induced rage, I rang off a letter to the editor of the student newspaper at Pitt because there was an editorial about why the Park51 Islamic Center should be moved. It was originally longer.


Below you shall find my full-length text.

JMP

Dear Editors of Pitt News, Steve K, et. al.

I am greatly disappointed to see this column as both a new student to the Pitt campus and, as such, a first-time regular reader of the Pitt News. I am an Iraq war veteran and, while I knew no one personally that perished on 9/11/2001, I do know far too many friends and colleagues who have died on their behalf. To the families of the victims of those attacks this is an emotional subject, because to them those attacks were not levied against this nation, but against their very families. Because of such a close emotional connection, their input into this debate should be tactfully and respectfully disregarded. This is not Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Center, but in fact a run-down Burlington Coat Factory in a neighborhood that has practically been abandoned for a decade.

To correlate what I mean about disregarding the opinions of the victims’ families in what has become the type of issue the First Amendment was designed for, I would compare it to my feelings for the Westboro Baptist Church and the families of the funerals they protest. I value the protection of the First Amendment and still proudly defend it. Yet I would deny it to those sign-carrying swine who would protest a veteran’s funeral, probably while also violating the rights preventing against “cruel and unusual punishment. I am far too emotional about this issue to think rationally.

Whether or not you think we are at war against Islam, the “hearts and minds” we are so desperately trying to win are Islamic hearts and Muslim minds. The tragic irony is that Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf and his followers are Sufi, the exact sort of liberal-minded Muslim we should be courting in order to win the greatest battle in any war against terror, a battle that will not be fought with soldiers or guns or bombs. Even the Bush Administration got that part right. Terry Jones threatened to burn the Quran and thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, two people he would have never met anyway died in protests against the mere threat. This sort of thinking proves the philosophy of the extremists correct: that Americans equate “enemy” with “Islam.” But it isn’t just Islam, either. There is a Catholic Church, St. Nicholas, that sat directly across the street from Ground Zero and was annihilated when the towers fell. This debate has caused that project to stall as well, because if Park51 is ultimately moved, it could mean doom for not just this church but for some essential American principles.

Respectfully,

Joshua M. Patton

Friday, August 20, 2010

Everyone loves a little side-boob....

Hey all,

The latest issue of Sex Appeal Magazine has hit the digital stands. This is a great urban magazine that spends its time examining issues that are taboo in the culture. There are also great pictures of really sexy women...you gotta love that right?

Anyway, check it out. On page 66-67, you can read my take on Goldman Sachs. Res Ipsa Loquitor.

JMP

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hey all, it has been a long, long time since I composed anything for this sad little weblog of mine, but this is not because I haven't been staying busy.

I have been writing missions for a video game about Atlantis that should soon be flooding and drowning the fake Farms of the internet with shark-riders with spear-guns blazing. More info on that as it becomes available.

I am also really excited to announce that I have joined the staff of VeteranJournal.com and will be contributing about three short articles per week, so please check it soon and often.

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

JMP

UPDATE: Here is the link to my first published piece: http://www.veteranjournal.com/no-response-for-responders/

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pitt in Ireland - Sports writing sample.

Panthers Invade the Emerald Isle

By Joshua M. Patton

The green shores of Ireland, now part-time home to Noted Yinzer Ambassador Dan Rooney, will welcome the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball team for a whirlwind tour of games and goodwill that will take them to Cork, Dublin, and Belfast. Dan Rooney might be the only one anticipating the arrival of the Panthers with any significant excitement. Basketball is an emerging sport in Ireland with only a few nationally televised games per year. Still, Pitt will be taking on an international consortium of assess to kick on the court.

The nature and tenor of the visit is touted as an exercise in goodwill and international athletic brotherhood, which in part it is. However one only has to read between the lines when head coach Jamie Dixon says that “from a basketball perspective, this is an outstanding opportunity for our team to get an early start on the season.” The Panthers will maintain a normal practice schedule in-between games, sightseeing, and events. However, they will face four Irish teams and should win handily. There greatest challenge follows, the dreaded Melbourne Tigers, a professional Australian team that has won championships in their home country. The six-game tour is then closed out in Dublin as they face the English National Team, formidable I’m sure, but not as cohesive a unit as Dixon hopes his Panthers will be.

The good news is that even if the locals, the Brits, and the Tigers mop up the gym floor with the Panthers – perhaps too tired from sightseeing, normal practice, and “shagging,” to really put forth the effort – it is a great way to break up the monotony of a normal NCAA season. The Panthers are typically in and out of a town faster than a late-night visit to a reverend’s daughter, no matter what the outcome of the games, they will have an uplifting experience on the other end of the tour.

They will be visiting UPMC facilities in Ireland, to include the Children’s Hospital Dublin Branch. They will also be doing some work of worth with Peace Players International, an organization that tries to keep Protestant and Catholic children from attempting to kill each other and settle their squabbles through triple-doubles and athletic competition. And the Panthers need the fun, Utah is their first opponent and it is undoubtedly the toughest opening bout in the Big East. Erin Go Big or Go Bragh.

Friday, June 11, 2010

THIS JUST IN: Second Coming of Christ Interrupted by Border WatchDogs

This idea came to me and struck me as funny. I thought this might be something I could use to perhaps start working with the brilliant writers at The Onion. Alas, they do not consider freelance submissions. Thus, their loss is your gain, my dozens of readers....

TEMPE, AZ – Citizens were startled earlier today when trumpets heralded the second-coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Immediately after descending into town, apparently from Heaven, the Son of Man began to assist some poor migrant workers attempting to repair their ramshackle hut with a paltry supply of materials. By the time Jesus was through, they had built a ten-room, 9000 square foot mansion in a 1500 square foot lot.

Said George Washington Smith, one of the carpenters on the scene, “Thees man, he take our boards, make more boards. Very nice. I citizen though, I vote Tea Party, yes?”

Edna Whipplesnatch, a local border-watch volunteer and registered Libertarian, called the police when she heard the angelic trumpets, thinking they were a novelty car horn. “It wasn’t that dreadful ‘cook-a-roochya’ that they usually have, but I figured anyone with a horn like that on their car is worth a second look.”

Officer Jimmy “Spoony” Davis was the arresting officer and first on the scene. “When I arrived on the scene a group of illegals…I mean residents, were finishing a structure that obviously violated building code, so I started asking for I.D.” The majority of the group immediately fled, but He Is the He Is stayed to speak with the officer. “He just kept rambling on and on about how we were all brothers, so I knew he was obviously on marijuana.”

The Christ was tasered for assaulting an officer when after Jesus said he could “sense his affliction,” touched the hip of the officer, healing his chronic life-long arthritis. However Officer Davis assumed he was going for his gun or nightstick. “I feel great, so I am thankful for that. But you just don’t TOUCH the police. I’d taser him again, if I had to. Shit, if I woulda shot him, he'd been resurrected by the weekend, you know?”

Jesus has been deported to Mexico. His whereabouts are unknown, however the drug war has ceased and lands that once bore no vegetation are teeming with trees where the birds of the air come to make nests in its branches. Says Edna, “I am a little embarrassed to have had the King of Kings deported, but I will be more than willing to accept Jesus Christ’s salvation, AFTER he goes through the proper immigration process.”

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Primarily Broken - 400 words on Proposition 14 in California

Proposition 14: The End of Democracy or the Beginning of a New Politics?
by Joshua M. Patton

California is often said to be where new ideas are field-tested in America and an initiative to reform elections will be the next idea put to the test in the statewide election on June 8, 2010. Dubbed “Proposition 14,” the measure seeks to reform the way primary elections are decided in that state. By taking the power to elect away from political party nominating committees and placing it directly in the hands of the voters, the system mimics those used to elect officials in Los Angeles and bears striking similarities to the non-partisan blanket primary system currently used in Louisiana. This ballot-initiative is not without controversy.

That the controversy and hyperbole comes from the political party establishments that would no longer nominate a candidate is not surprising. What is unexpected however is that it seems the only thing that can unite Republicans, Democrats, and even the Green parties is the threat of a reduction in their power. According to the Los Angeles Times, this coalition referred to Proposition 14 as “the end of Democracy in California.”

One of the problems with primary elections is that typically only the fringes and more extreme supporters of the parties even participate in the vote. This formula can possibly result in the unfortunate circumstance of a candidate winning the primary that would most likely lose a general election match-up. Under the current laws, the party bosses could disregard the will of the voters and nominate whomever they think has the best chance of winning the general election.

Proposition 14 would give the power of nomination directly to the voters. The two candidates that receive the highest number of votes would go on to the general election regardless of their political parties. Similarly, the voters themselves could vote for any candidate regardless of their stated party or lack thereof. There are of course measures in place for runoff elections in the event of a tie. Still the debate rages on as to whether or not this will diminish the effectiveness of third parties or if it will allow one party to gain a stranglehold on the state. By June 8, the voters will vote to maintain the status quo or they will seize control of their primary and general elections from the hands of dealmakers in smoke-free backrooms.

400 More words on the LOST finale

Below is a "writing sample" I wrote and submitted to perhaps land an advertised gig, only to discover that they were willing to pay me all of $2.

Finally Finale
By Joshua M. Patton

On May 23, 2010, an era of television ended, perhaps for good. The series finale of LOST aired to a viewing audience of over 18 million people after six years of character-stories, myth, and mystery. Yet this day did not just mark the end of an ambitious and riveting television show, but perhaps marked the passing of the big-budget serialized-drama on the broadcast network. The LOST finale is on-track to be the highest-rated scripted finale this year, but was the profit high enough to justify the exorbitant price-tag of the show? The two-hour pilot of LOST was the most expensive in television history costing ABC between $11 and $14 million. Although HBO’s Boardwalk Empire may cost that network over four times that amount according The New York Post. The beleaguered broadcast industry cannot keep pace with creative spending of that magnitude.

However, throughout the season, LOST rarely beat American Idol in the ratings – a show far less expensive to produce or NCIS – a procedural police drama of self-contained episodes. LOST, like other critically-acclaimed darling, but ratings-failure Arrested Development, was not a show that the casual viewer could start watching halfway through a season. The plotlines of the show were interwoven with character vignettes that simultaneously advanced the greater story arc of the season. Still ABC made every effort to give the casual viewer a chance to glean all of the necessary information needed about the show to enjoy the finale by devoting their entire weekend to LOST.

On Saturday, May 22, 2010, ABC re-aired an enhanced version of the pilot episode of LOST. While the story played subtitled information about the characters, the mythology, and plot of the show relevant to the action like Pop-Up Videos for the BlackBerry and Twitter age. The following day, a two-hour series retrospective with interviews with the cast and creators of the show highlighted the story and some of the more iconic scenes from the series, such as when Terry O’Quinn and Matthew Fox argue over science and faith. Show-runners and head writers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were on hand, but series creator and director of the pilot J.J. Abrams was noticeably absent. After the two-and-a-half-hour finale, Lost superfan Jimmy Kimmel dedicated his entire show following the finale to say goodbye to LOST and perhaps closing the book on the serialized drama on network television.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thoughts on the LOST Finale

As a fan of the show LOST, I discovered within that community a number of people who had a flair for writing that was fueled solely by their passions for the show. They provided theories and recaps of the episodes and helped those confused at the end of each week to put their thoughts in order....and also talked some major NONSENSE.

Still here is a collection of their thoughts, but be warned the first guy on there is really long-winded.


Enjoy and Namaste.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day: Bigger Than What You Believe

I was recently employed by the government for the second time in my life. The first time I received tax dollars for salary (which oddly is still taxed) was when I began my 8-year enlistment in the United States Army Reserves. I was just a college student then, well a first-time college student, and after a deployment to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999-2000, I had really gotten used to cashing full-time paychecks. My girlfriend at the time had gotten a job for the 2000 Census as an enumerator. It seemed like a pretty sweet gig, so now that I find myself ten years later as a college student in need of a job, I decided to give the 2010 Census a whirl. We have to meet most everyday with our supervisors and it was at one of these meetings that I decided to stretch out the time on the timecard (sorry taxpayers, get 'em to pay me by the project and not the hour next time), I began a little small talk.

"Anyone have any Memorial Day plans?" I asked the two women pouring over timecards and questionnaires, one below drinking age the other significantly past it, ironically it is my suspicion that the underage girl drinks and the overage woman does not. I digress.

"Do you mean real Memorial Day plans, like cookouts or something?" the older woman asked.

I thought about this for a moment and said, "No. I guess if I were to call any sort of plans "real" Memorial Day plans it would be going to a graveyard or some sort of service honoring the Vets. I meant more like cookouts or something."

The older woman looked up from her paperwork at me and it seemed that she was trying to comprehend why on earth I would suggest something as morbid as visiting a graveyard on Memorial Day, but then it hit her. And that is the way it goes with most people when it comes to this holiday, myself included. Before I enlisted, I had no real thoughts at all on what the significance of Memorial Day was and often I was still in my winter mode where all I want to do is stay in and read books rather than go out and frolic in the sun.

Now that I am older, I do understand the significance and importance of this day, especially since we have been a country at war since the onset of the 21st Century. Yet, I abhor graveyards and the typical American funerary practices. I think that funeral directors, in their spacious mansions where 15% of the rooms are filled with dead bodies, are swine and slime and exploit the grieving. Who wouldn't want the best for someone loved that has dearly departed, thus air-tight, water-proof caskets with DVD drop down screens and a nightlight are pushed upon those who in a more rational moment probably had that kind of money to spend because they are good at avoiding ridiculous purchases such as this. But I digress yet again, and this is a topic for another time because when a loved one sacrifices himself or herself while wearing the military uniform, that sort of sacrifice deserves every honor and ritual available.

Paul Rieckhoff is the executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and has written a very moving piece about the significance of Memorial Day. And with all due respect to Paul, I disagree with him slightly on this because I think that the President could do more to honor the sacrifice of those veterans in more proactive ways. Although this might just be a result of my odd and perhaps nihilistic view of how we grieve for and honor our dead. I do agree with Paul's sentiments and remain ever grateful that we veterans have such a passionate ally. The sacrifices made by those in defense of the nation, whether it was for the idealism behind the drive to defeat the Nazi's or in support of a more questionable conflict, the sacrifices were made for individuals. From the heroes' own mothers, fathers, wives, children to a stranger on the bus, these sacrifices made for them were, by extension, made for all of us. And so it is our duty to honor them in any way we can, so that if we ever do enter into an era of peace, those who are fortunate enough to only know that will be able to measure the cost of this peace and how precious it will be to maintain.

I remain eternally thankful to my brothers- and sisters-in-arms that have protected their homes, their family, their neighbors with their very lives. It's okay to celebrate the freedom and community we get to enjoy because of these sacrifices with cookouts, picnics, or hell, even buying mattresses. The point is to remember why it is we celebrate today and that for some, this celebration will be eternally filled with tears.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Ploy of Sext: A Warning and A Guide to the Art of Karma Cell-tra: NOW AT TWODAYMAG.COM

Hey all,

My favorite online magazine about relationships is back online and better than ever! Click on the link below to read part one of my article about "Sexting."


Namaste....

Joshua M. Patton

PS I have relented and joined "The Twitter." @JoshuaMPatton

Monday, May 3, 2010

On Becoming 30

A decade ago, I welcomed my twenties already a veteran of a foreign mission (despite my best efforts) and a man with only great things ahead of him. My birthday party was a Margarita bash at my mother's home. Even though I was underage at the time, most of my friends were not. Also, having "risked my life" (a phrase thrown around then with less gravitas than it carries today) in defense of this country on a peacekeeping mission, I figured the least the country owed me was a few drinks on my birthday. The party was a massive failure. The only two guests, who were not Army or family, were two women I went to school with for a dozen years. One was my first-grade crush and another girl that was a great friend and taken for granted. They were important people in my life that I cut myself off from in an effort to become the kind of adult I wanted to be. It was culmination of a bad attitude about where I was from. Ironically, my closest friends now are all from my high school (or their spouses). It was a long and circuitous journey right back to where I started. Just like this past decade.

My two party guests, I think, are now both married and well on their way to a happily-ever-after, while my wild new relationship went down in flames leaving me no better off than I was ten years ago, with the giant exception that the child this relationship produced is now the literal center of my world. Her mother, that former wild girlfriend, has seemingly settled down with a career and what appears to be a serious, adult relationship. If 30 is the new 20 maybe that is why I feel like for ten years I have been running laps around a track, clocking miles on the odometer, but going nowhere like a hamster on a wheel.

The ideas of birthdays in general have always been awkward for me. It feels wrong to plan one's own birthday party, but if there are a number of circles of friends that don't intersect, it is the only way to get them all together. I felt obligated to do something large and celebratory and crazy to mark the beginning of my third decade of life. In actuality, I would be content to not do much. Bachelors have to throw their own parties and frankly, I just don't give a shit. It is nice to be celebrated, but it's the pinnacle of vanity to expect to be celebrated for keeping oneself alive. Still, I'll never turn down a free drink, a free dinner, or unearned kindnesses from the people in my life.

But then again, I always party like it's my burfday….

Monday, April 26, 2010

Review of Jay-Z's the Blueprint 3 published on WordSurferPost.com 9/15/2009

What happened to Hip-hop? What was once the most subversive and terrifying music parents feared to find their children listening to is arguably a shell of its former self. First, lyrics – the lifeblood of any hip-hop act – took a back seat to production and danceable grooves. Kanye West, one of the last best hopes in hip-hop, released his last album with Auto-Tune effects on every song. Add to that internet videos of daughters and mothers dancing in unison to “Crank Dat,” a song which the hook advocates ejaculating onto your woman’s back and affixing the bed-sheet like a cape. Yet, when it looks as though hip-hop is about to go the way of the dodo and disco, Jay-Z swoops down to save the genre from itself.

The first single from The Blueprint 3 is “Death of Auto-Tune,” produced – ironically – by Kanye West, who shoulders the bulk of the production work on the record. The song advocates violence and general unruly behavior, but also contains the album’s apparent thesis: “You rappers singing too much/ get back to rap you t-paining too much./I’m a multi-millionaire/ so how is it I’m still the hardest nigga here?” Had one seen Jay-Z last winter hosting concerts in concert with the Obama campaign for voter registration or perhaps as the only guest for a segment of Real Time with Bill Maher, one might think that perhaps Jay has gone mainstream like the Black Eyed Peas. However, one listen to this single and the rest of the album reminds the listener that one of the reasons Jay has been so successful in the past is that rather than cater to a mainstream audience he brings “the suburbs to the hood.” The Blueprint 3 is no different.

The album snags in very few places. Jay-Z has seemingly perfected the formula for a number-one album. There are radio-friendly offerings. The first, “Empire State of Mind” featuring Alica Keys, is the obligatory ode to New York. The lyrics ride aloft on the waves of the beat, punctuated by a powerful chorus. A chorus that you can’t resist trying to sing along with, but will inevitably cause some awkwardness at traffic lights, as Ms. Key’s vocal range is tough to imitate. Especially for a raspy-voiced, white guy, but how else can one sing their own hometown’s name rather than the NYC?

“Run This Town,” features the dulcet tones of Rhianna and some witty rhymes by Kanye. “Forever Young” features artist from Kanye’s label, Mr. Hudson doing his best Sting impersonation. An airy tune that, if not careful, can put into perspective how age is nothing we can avoid and make the listener wonder if he will feel as comfortable at 40 as Jay does.

The battle of the sexes is fought in the tracks Venus vs. Mars, produced by Timbaland – one of his three tracks on the album – and in “On To the Next One,” produced by Swizz Beatz in a song that evokes the mentality of “Big Pimpin’.” There are some songs that seem out of place, but like the last few OutKast albums it takes a few listens before the song seems to fit in your ears. Most notably, “Thank You” seems to be one of the songs. The chorus is a bit repetitive and shrill. The lyrics seem to dance around the beat, almost competing with it. On the third listen, maybe the fourth, the realization occurs that this is completely intentional. In what is maybe the most ironic song on the album, Jay apparently skewers his entire lifestyle. He shoots as many barbs at himself as the rappers he claimed he was going “9/11” had they not done it to themselves.

The two weakest songs are “Real as it Gets,” with Young Jeezy and So Ambitious featuring Pharrell. This is more because of lackluster guests rather than a failing on Jay-Z’s part. Young Jeezy has a unique style, and Jay seems to respect him as an artist, however his verse and work on the chorus leaves much to be desired. As for Pharrell, his sound has really been stagnant for about five years. Pharrell at his worst is better than most in hip-hop at their best, but sonically the song seems like far too familiar territory. In regard to Jay-Z’s contribution to these songs, one almost wonders if he found some forgotten lyrics from 1994. The cadence of Jay’s lyrics on “So Ambitious,” seems to match the cadence of his words on “Feelin’ It” from his classic debut album. The entire album echoes Reasonable Doubt in the way that Jay-Z hoped his concept album, American Gangster, would have.

Jay-Z is one of the few artists who still think of an album as a greater work than a mere collection of songs. The album is constructed to be listened to as an entire work of art and it is in the listening that one can truly appreciate that this is a journey through what remains on the landscape of true hip-hop. By taking the genre to task, as his main rival and contemporary Nas does, it is as if there is hope for those who found hip-hop because of the poetry hidden in the gritty, dark lyrics. No song is filler and there is not one dance instruction in the entire 61 minutes of music. It’s not hip-hop for grown-ups, but more like grown-up hip-hop.

Where’s Woody Guthrie’s Guitar?


 

One of my best friends constantly extols the climatic virtues of the great state of Arizona. Conspiracy theorists have warned of an approaching fascism from underneath tinfoil hats for decades and the tea party movement has taken up that mantle, complete with outlandish costumes, a creepy affection for guns, and nonsensical rallying cries (e.g. "Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare," pictures of Obama as Hitler with a hammer & sickle underneath, et. al.). That longtime Republican (Non?)-Maverick John McCain is facing a tough primary challenge and the passage of two laws makes Arizona a veritable Tea Party Mecca.

At first the laws that are making the most news appear dissimilar. One is an amendment to Arizona State Senate Bill 1024 requiring that Presidential candidates submit an affidavit to the Arizona Secretary of State proving their citizenship and their age. If the office of the Secretary of State, has reason to doubt that information they can refuse to allow the candidate's name on the ballot. The other controversial law is a measure that allows local law enforcement to ask for proof of citizenship for those they suspect may be here illegally. Yet, at the heart of both of these bills I find very similar ideas specifically that both laws seem a bit, well, fascist.

The problem is, thanks to our friends in the tinfoil and tri-corner hats, when one even mentions fascism at all, eyes begin to roll and immediately the subject of conversation will change to sports, beer, or boobs. And I am talking about my female friends as well! Still as Seth Meyers asked on SNL, "Can we all agree that there is nothing more 'Nazi' than saying 'Show me your papers?'" The Tea Party claims to be all but literally "up in arms" to prevent the eroding of personal liberty and freedom. However, somehow those terms only seem to apply to money and not to actual freedom. Sure, white folks really don't have to worry. Any illegal immigrants from the former-soviet bloc will still probably be able to walk around Arizona freely shirking taxes and taking jobs away from documented citizens. However, if you happen to be of a more non-lily-white variety, you may have to present your identification if you happen to linger too long outside of a Home Depot or if you happen to be doing yardwork at your own house. I am not sure if this is the exact criteria they will use, or if they'll word it all fancy-like.

Sherriff Joe Arpaio can barely contain his power-boner and promises to immediately use it to fuck Mexicans. A warthog in a campaign hat, Sherriff Joe is the type of full-speed-ahead-damn-the-torpedoes lunatic that can genuinely amass an incredible amount of power, climbing the backs of the brown and the poor, and his sights are currently set on the Governor's mansion. He has a fistful of complaints, lawsuits, and alleged abuses to his name, but in his country sheriff costume with big, scary inmates wearing pink underwear and living in tents, a certain section of the Arizona population is very comforted knowing he is fighting the "good fight." With some clever lawyers, the investigations into his misdeeds are moving at a stoned snail's pace. In the meantime, Sherriff Joe could achieve his ultimate goal, be it the Governorship or perhaps he just wants to eventually own a person.

If liberty and freedom are important to these Tea Bagger folks, why are they so willing to allow the government to infringe upon the rights of the citizens that would most likely be profiled? It's easy to just dismiss them as racists, but I would wager that they are more like Orwell's loyal sheep, echoing the arguments of those who yell the loudest. "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." Selah.

 
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