Razing Arizona

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 | 0 Comment(s)

When I was a kid, I definitely wanted to live in Arizona when I grew up.  It was not "on my childhood list of places I may like to live," but rather, it was the list.

Please remember, this is 1990 we're talking about.  And to my upper-middle class 12-year-old self, Arizona was a great big dude ranch of fun in the sun.  I mean, I'd been to dude ranches (great name, really draws in the lady-folk) a few times.  They were awesome.  I learned to ride a horse in Arizona.  Not only that, but I took to it so naturally that I quickly lied to the ranch instructors and told them that I already knew how to ride in order to get to lope with the grown-ups on excursions.   

They filmed an episode of Webster on a dude ranch in Arizona.  I know cause I saw the episode while staying on that ranch.  They also filmed the then popular kid's television show, Hey Dude in Arizona.  I loved that show so hard!  I even got to travel (not so) deep into the desert to watch them shoot a scene from an upcoming episode. Which I then watched on TV a few weeks later!  Magic!

And that cuts to the heart of it.  Arizona was magic.  Before the name John McCain existed in my lexicon, the state that is so naturally beautiful they put the sunrise/sunset right there on the flag, was a land of imagination, innovation and promise.  

What a dumb fucking kid I was. 

That's not totally fair.  Part of the pleasure of experiencing a childhood is that you are allowed to play in the whipped cream topping of the sundae of life for years and years, without having to realize that the ice cream firmament you're resting upon is really just frozen excrement.  Especially in this case. 

Now, all the horseback campfires of my nostalgic daydreams have been steamrolled by the remorseless hate-mongering of those in the state government.  When I hear, 'Arizona' today, my mind fills with graphic flashing images of volunteer border patrols, minority profiling, and dangerous abuses of misplaced authority.

And now they've come with this recent antigay Jim Crow law.  A law that was not designed to allow public businesses the right (*cough cough*) to refuse service to homosexuals based on their own personal "religious" feelings against gays, but rather a law that says that explicitly.  You can literally Mad Libs out 'gay/homosexual' from the proposed legislation, and add in 'black' and be immediately transported to the deep South circa 1904.  

Congrats Arizona, you kinda invented a time machine!

To say the least, I don't want to live in Arizona anymore, let alone even visit.  While South Carolina serves as the low water mark for American political scandal and corruption (with New Jersey quickly closing the gap), Arizona is now the American example of White oppression and exceptionalism.  This is actually quite the accomplishment if you consider the well-worn stereotype of the deep South being the 'most racist of them all' -- you know -- starting the KKK and all.  To overshadow years and years of historical oppression takes some pure, ultra-concentrated, volatile hate-filled legislatures.  Sorry, I mean some extremely fervent religious advocates.

And so Arizona becomes another sad punchline to the seemingly unending joke that our legislatures, both state and federal, have become.  As our country's moral compass becomes unmagnetized from its due course, state after intolerant state (see: Kansas's proposed law to be able to hit your kids harder! and Utah's issuing of automatic weapons to police in public schools) slides off the rails, our country's reputation left resembling a scene from the side of an Atlanta highway, shortly after a snowfall.  Puzzle pieces of a long-since fractured union scattered together haphazardly, with only a fading notion of the larger picture from whence they came. 

The Stupid Who Cried "Hack!"

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 | 0 Comment(s)

I think there is a misconception about both what a "hacker" is, and more importantly what he or she does.

Ok, perhaps people do get the first part.  Hackers utilize a combination of technology and skill to infiltrate foreign computers.  That's actually pretty straightforward.  They go in their computers and come out your computer.

Back in the days of AOL, a lot of these so-called hackers were just kids screwing around trying to figure out how to make the internet work for them.  Most of these kids either became multi-millionaires with the knowledge they acquired, or went to college and got the hell out of their parents' attic.

That's not what hacking is anymore.  Hacking is serious business.  Hacking has led to the NSA listening to civilian cell phone conversations, stolen identities, and wiped out bank accounts. Governments have their own hackers on payroll, both in an attempt to steal foreign governments' information and to protect against cyber-attacks domestically.  Hacking is serious f'ing business.

Here is what hacking ISN'T! True hackers aren't taking serious personal risk in order to break into a semi-famous person's twitter account to say racist shit.  Oh wait, are you President Obama?  The Associated Press? You aren't?  Then yah, you weren't hacked. And yet every time I hear the word 'hacker' on the TV or the radio it is in reference to someone's twitter account spouting 140 characters of #IwishIhadntsentthat.  Without fail, the next day the Russian torch bearer, Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne, or Glen Beck all come out with statements saying that those vicious horrible uninformed bits of vitriol they typed yesterday were the result of outside forces infiltrating their online identities.

Look, I'm not saying it doesn't happen . . .
And yet the remarks always seem totally inline with the offline personalities of these fecal-specimens that put the twit in twitter.  Listen up people, nobody cares about any one of you enough to hack your twitter account.  I know that this is ego-busting and that the reality you create for yourselves won't allow you to fully comprehend what makes your presumptions of innocence so ludicrous, but please gift me this opportunity to say it again.  Universally speaking, none of you are important, interesting, or powerful enough to warrant the unsolicited attention you claim strangers are thrusting upon you.  And really, that's just a fancy way of saying that no one cares about you that much.

It was supposed to read, "Personal Integrity Compromised"
Oh Glen, which of your 80-year-old listeners do you think is clickidity-clacking in the back room of their nursing facility, trying to alternately defame you or praise you as some sort of troll demi-god by unleashing your inner monologue unfettered to the world through your twitter handle.  Lil Wayne, same question except substitute in your similarly non-computer programing heavy fan base.

These people I speak of, and please take a minute to ponder exactly how vast, and growing, this subsection of humanity is, these people, like the boy who cried wolf are the stupid who cried hack.  Or, perhaps more to the point, they all are confusing "hacking" with "taking personal responsibility."

Shitting on Golf

Thursday, February 6, 2014 | 0 Comment(s)

I can't tell if this is the most appropriate sponsorship ever, or the most inappropriate, but either way I would love to see the wording of the contract that made the "Waste Management Phoenix Open" come to pass.  I mean, as a "sport," (it's really a hobby--but that's an argument is for another day) golf is decidedly shitty, but not to this literal an extreme.

And I can't figure out the 'direction' of this sponsorship.  In other words, does the "Waste Management" community have a ton of funny money lying around that they try desperately to sell their sponsorship to, a la Big Tobacco?  Or are golf tournaments becoming unpopular enough as to start eliciting sponsorship bids from ANYONE.  And i mean anyone, cause you can only march into your boss's office with so much pride to announce, "I got the poop and pee business! We are rolling in Waste Management moola!"

You also have to consider the irony of a Waste Management sponsored golf tournament.  Ironic because golf courses are up there with the most ecologically harmful businesses in the country. First, they have to carve out large expanses of native wildlife in order to make room for the vast manicured stretches of flat greenery.  Then, in order to keep the grass green and the ball bouncing consistently, that surface has to be constantly treated with not only water, but pesticides and fertilizers.  Often those tricky corrosive compounds inconveniently make their way into the local water supply.  In deserts like Las Vegas (which has over 60 courses!), maintaining the grass on a golf course for one 18-hole round of golf requires 2,507 gallons of water. Per golfer! That's a pretty shitty use of a natural resources, pun intended.

Also, this event is happening in Arizona, so you have to at least consider the possibility that 'Waste Management' is actually be a euphemism for an event focused on deporting all the brown people without papers in Phoenix.  I bet you Chi-Chi Rodríguez knows what I'm talking about.

But then, in researching this piece (yes, I do research before spouting off about some things), I ran into the Rosetta Stone of this problem.  Something to make all these disparate organizations working together make sense.  In the article I cited above, speaking on water conservation in desert regions (specifically Vegas, but I'll bet my briefs this applies to Phoenix as well):

"As recently as 1996, Angel Park was using 644 million gallons of purified drinking water a year on its fairways and greens--enough water for a town of 12,000 people. Today, because of new water management techniques, and because Angel Park has been re-landscaped to give it more of a desert feel, the course is using only 376 million gallons of water a year--a 40% cut.

And all the water Angel Park uses comes right from a wastewater treatment plant--it's re-use water, not drinking water from Lake Mead.

So while all the golf courses in the desert are hardly an example of "sustainability," in the big picture, in water use terms, a golf course that uses 1 million gallons a day of purified sewage instead of 2 million gallons a day of drinking water represents a huge leap." 

My emphasis added.  Once again, here is a link to the entire article. 

In case you didn't catch that.  The way to keep those grasses green even in the 100 degree heat? Recycled toilet water!!!!!  Which, happily for me, cuts right to the heart of my long-held life motto: 
"When life gives you shit, make poop juice."    

I always thought nobody was listening.  Turn out, nobody was the PGA. 

Fuck The Police: Part IV

Tuesday, February 4, 2014 | 0 Comment(s)

I used to get petrified when I saw those blue and white flashing lights go on behind my vehicle.  Those two or three times I was hauled to the side by the pōpō growing up, I broke out in cold sweats and promised myself I would not cry.  I'm proud to say that even when pressed by a New York State-y, the water works were held in reserve.

Now I live in a 5-college town.  I get pulled over seasonally.  The only thought that goes through my mind when I see the blue and white flame on is: How funny a story will this interaction be?  

A few weeks ago I was driving home from Quarters, as I have been want to do as of late, at about 11pm on a Wednesday.  I took the "back-way" home through the cornfields and cow pastures so as not to be delayed by traffic lights or car accidents.  Since the back roads don't lead to any of the many local colleges, late at night there are barely even cars on the road, allowing me to cruise home in relative anonymity.  

As I turned onto the first pasture road, I flicked on my high beams to help delineate the space where the road meets the muddy ditch beside it. The speed limit is reasonable back there, and I came to a complete stop at the T-intersection, before taking a left down the next semi-abadoned street.  About a mile down that road, I encountered my first nighttime travel companion coming from the other direction.  

Nonplused, I trucked passed the vehicle and headed toward the upcoming 4-way intersection.  Two seconds later I realized my brights were still on and said, 'SHIT' audibly to myself as I flicked them off.  Three seconds after that, the blue and whites went on behind me.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I had inadvertently brighted a cop, and for that reason alone, that cop was going to come track me down and pull me over.  I must have really hurt the officer's feelings.  Was brighting a vehicle even a ticket-able offense? I thought it was more akin to a serious social faux pas?  I refused to slow down as I contemplated that "pulled over for brighting a cop" would now be added to the growing list of hilarious reasons my automotive travel plans had been delayed by the pigs.  Other hits include: pulled over for flashing my headlights to alert oncoming vehicles of a cop (on the day I graduated high school, no ticket), pulled over for swerving over the median (unconfirmed, no ticket), changing lanes quickly (no ticket cause . . . duh), pulled over for . . . pulling over for an oncoming police cruiser with its lights going, and pulled over for speeding (as determined by a cop driving at full speed in the other direction, no ticket cause I wasn't speeding and physics doesn't work like that).

On the surface it's just an huge inconvenience, but at the same time, I can't help but wonder if the police are spending too much energy on minor traffic violations, and less resources on curbing more violent crime.  Let's just say that headlight-based car violations are not the scurge keeping the nearby cities of Springfield and Holyoke in poverty.  I bet an increase in police funding towards the protection of neighborhoods in those communities that are hurting the most, could make quite a difference.  I say that because I don't think the police are all bad, they just seem to be at their absolute worst every time they interact with me.  And I'm sick of it.

But back to our hard working police officer stuck on a lonely country road with nowhere to pull a U-turn to pursue a car going the opposite direction. The deep moats on either side of the street prevented even a compact car from maneuvering itself around without causing an Austin Powers-like roadblock.  The cop was forced to go, lights on, for another 1/8 of a mile to a farm driveway in order to 3-point turn around.

By the time the cop's car was facing the correct direction, I had already reached the 4-way STOP sign, let a blue car coming from the other direction turn left in front of me, and then followed that car by taking a right turn a few moments later.  By the time the cop had sped his way up to the STOP sign, our cars were about 100 yards and 120 yards away from him, respectively.  He made quick work of that distance and I dutifully pulled over to the side of the road.  I was, I would argue understandably, confused when the trooper slowed down, then passed me on my left and sped toward the other vehicle.

Now I'm laughing out loud.  I'm putting together the most likely scenario of what's going on inside that cop car right now.  Personally outraged at the purposeful shaming by one of their constituents, this officer decided that while I already self-corected my mistake, he needed further satisfaction.  (I will admit that getting brighted is super friggin annoying and I have, from time to time, threatened to "fucking kill" said people -- but never pull them over.)  So he comes after me, righteous indignation at full tilt and with a sense of entitlement cramping up the space inside the car.

He is well on his way to getting his last laugh when he realizes that with all that backing up and turning around, he has no solid idea of which car he's so enraged at.  But he's already had his lights and siren going for about 5 minutes at this point, and he kinda has to pull someone over.  But who!  It's that moment when a cop realizes that he won't be able to wield his perceived infallible authority without further thought. But he was so looking forward to it!  Ambiguity really messes with a cop's complete lack of accountability.  

As he pulls the car in front of me to the side of the road, it's clear by his flashing brake lights that he still isn't confident with his final decision.  He speeds past the blue car, and begins to turn around again facing me.  I am busy working to suppress my giggles by the time my destined discussion with this police officer comes to pass.  Suffice it to say, as his car draw closer to mine he does not take the time to turn around again to park behind my car.  That fact alone makes suppressing laughter physically painful.  In fact, we both just casually roll down our windows, both cars running in 'park'.  I am not shocked to see a white male cop, considering the offense I'm being hassled about.

"Were you just coming down South Middle," he asked gruffly.

I have no idea which street is South Middle, and I'm not sure how that would clear up the misunderstanding he's having anyway.   I take a half pause to think about how I want to play this.  I could easily lie in any number of ways in order to purposely confuse the officer into a state of further agitation.  the down side of all of these approaches is that they take time with my window open to the bitterly cold night, and therefore I am highly motivated to get this whole shit-show moving.  So I level with the guy.

"I'm not sure which street is South Middle officer," I begin reverentially, "but I'm sorry for brighting you back there.  I forgot to turn them off in time, and I'm really sorry about that."  My inflection is going for sincerity with a hint of self-punitive apology.  I want him to hear that it was a silly mistake on my part, which it was.

Now, I can't tell if it was my tone of voice, the words I said, or the fact that this policeman did not want to have to pull another U-turn tonight, but it was quickly clear that I was going to get off with a warning.  Which is fair.  I mean, way over the top and a huge waste of time, but fair.  But then he has to go and roll out this parting line:  

"Well, you're lucky, cause you would've gotten $100 dollar ticket."

I said, "OK," with a complete lack of inflection this time. I rolled up my window, and move along.

But here is what I meant to say:

I'm lucky?  I'M LUCKY!?!  You're not even sure if I am who you think I am.  So I don't feel as lucky as I feel you are UNlucky!  And lucky how!?  Cause nothing happened to make me lucky.  I'm lucky you didn't get your way and couldn't write me a super bullshit ticket for "brighting you" just because you can.  I'm lucky you didn't waste my time in a court room where I would have to spell out what an imbecile you just made of yourself while driving on the abandoned back roads late at night instead of monitoring the populated streets in virtually every direction.  "Yes, your honor, he pulled us both over.  Yes, your honor, only because he got brighted.  Yes, your honor, I does seem like a great deal of trouble over a relatively minor offense." The fact that officers are trained (yup) to end these traffic interactions with this kind threat ('You're lucky, if I had written you a ticket it would have been for $400') is such an inappropriate and ineffective approach if you want your community to have a positive  relationship with it's 'armed protectors.' You can tell me how much the ticket would have been if you'd arrested me for drug possession, but ease the hell up on your moral high horse during routine traffic stops  (and especially ridiculous traffic stops), cause it's not like 'the force' has an unblemished record in this regard as well (and I'm not talking about Jedi's here). 

But I know better than to try and reason with a police officer at night, and I took a page out of the ol' worst case scenario handbook by keeping my head down and my mouth shut.  Until I got home, where I immediately jotted down notes about my latest absurd brush with the law.   Fuck the police.