1.10.2003

I feel like I could write all day today. Alas, I have to work. But I will share a little story, something that's ongoing.

Back in the day, I was really involved in Scouting. Really involved. It gets a very bad reputation these days, and mostly deserves that reputation, but I should say that there are merits to the program.

It has some success at teaching young men the value and consequences of hard work. There are exceptions, of course, but generally they build an association between setting goals, working towards them, and achievement. It's a nice setup when it works.

I worked at the local council's summer camp three summers in a row, and got to know a wide variety of people, many of whom I have long since lost touch with. This camp, this physical property, informs my concept of paradise. The geography is interesting but not stunning, the forest is old growth Hill's Oak, and it's a mostly rustic spot sitting on one of Wisconsin's largest lakes. It's where I fell in love with the chorus of cicadas singing to each other in the oak trees. The sun dances on the lake like spilled sequins rolling on the floor.

I learned about people, and developed a pretty healthy distaste for flip and nonchalant youth. I understand that it happens and it's mostly inevitable. But it's such a waste. Take this one kid, named Sam. No, it wasn't me. He was several years younger than me and about ten feet taller than me. In school, he was a volleyball star. Not only was he tall for his age, but quite precocious.

Kids like that often become a tricky problem. There's no doubt that they're mentally and physically advanced from their peers, but often they remain on the same emotional level. They receive praise and acclaim, and it goes to their head, and suddenly their ego precedes them. This kid was good, but he got cocky, and turned into gigantic prick. Which was too bad, because he'd always been so nice before. He was just a genuine good guy, and now he pulled lame center-of-attention gags that disgust me so.

The last year I worked at the camp, he was on staff too. As a shining star in the Scout world, it was only natural that he'd end up there. That's how these things work. I grew tired of his antics and did not attempt to conceal my contempt. Soon, the entire staff knew quite well that I would have nothing to do with him. Some of the campers probably found out too, and that's too bad.

I ran the trading post that year, and gave free slushees to the staff members I liked. Most of the staff felt comfortable enough to walk behind the counter, and take care of their own business. He was restricted to the same areas as the campers. I was a prick, but still he maintained his game as a Very Important Person. What gall for a fifteen-year-old.

That summer ended, and I went on to college. The next summer I needed a real job that paid a real salary, and couldn't work at camp, though I took some time off to go up there and visit. What I saw surprised me.

Sam had turned into a humble hard worker. Though he was a lifeguard on the beach (traditionally the royalty of camp), he spent his lunches washing dishes for the kitchen crew. He made time to help the weaker swimmers perfect their strokes, though he could have simply failed them in swimming class. His handshake got firm. When a particularly nasty job came up that required extra hands (latrine shoveling, hauling boats, hauling brush), he pitched in.

It was a remarkable transformation. To this day, that's who he is - a true achiever. When he sets his mind to do something, it's done.

Years passed, and I left Scouting, for many reasons. One reason certainly was their decision to prohibit homosexuals from being leaders, but that's not the biggest one. To a large degree, I felt I wasn't a good role model for the youth anymore, and couldn't continue in good faith. Though I don't regret my involvement and achievement, I also do not miss the program.

But Sam emailed me from out of the blue yesterday, and it took me a day to figure out how to respond. See, I don't miss the politics of Boy Scouts, but I miss some of the people. Especially people like him, who taught me there's more to folks than you might think, and how important it is to give everyone a fair shake.

1.09.2003

Regarding accusations from certain parties of cowardice on my part for not implementing a comments feature on this blog, let me say that I have considered the idea. I even visited one provider but they aren't accepting new registrations.

In the end, I don't think the traffic I get demands a comment box, and anyone looking to toss bons mots my way can link to my email address on this site.

So on the suckbox last night, a news station reported that this clown is probably going to run for President. Expect an announcement within the next seven days.

I'm of mixed feelings about this. If he runs, he will likely get the nomination, and it almost certainly ensures a victory by Bush in 2004. But it doesn't matter, because if Lieberman won, we'd be living in the same nightmare state we have right now. Goodbye civil liberties, goodbye fair use. Goodbye common sense.

But it bodes very well for support of third parties. Some people cannot vote for an obvious Zionist Republican cleverly disguised as a Democrat. There's probably more of you out there. Look for gains by the Green Party and the Libertarians.

Help me, Harry Browne. You're my only hope.

1.08.2003

Some of my thoughts on hyperbole:

I think it's a lot like puns - one of the easiest literary devices to use, and therefore the easiest to abuse. The worst English teachers I ever had were favorably disposed to using hyperbole. Beyond exaggeration, they made statements that went beyond the pale. Teenagers and ineffectual parents resort to hyperbole, and get the rolled eyes they deserve.

My main problem with it is that when used poorly, as it is now popular to do, it undercuts the message it's delivering. Automatically, it establishes the speaker as unreliable, out-of-touch, histrionic; speaker as drama queen.

But the device, when used correctly, can paint a vast, full universe. It can manipulate an audience into believing an author's lesser lies.

1.07.2003

Today was a good day. Didn't even have to shoot my AK.

1.06.2003

I keep getting these emails from buy.com, telling me to -surprise!- buy crap. I get one every day. It's so irritating.

In the bathroom, just now. Contemplating where I'm at and what my life amounts to after twenty-four-and-a-half years, and it's all piss. For a person normally given to optimism and cheerfulness, I am incredibly miserable. I feel like a complete failure.

It's a fault of mine, that I seldom show how I really feel. Most likely, it developed out of habit, out of working customer service, out of being a parent, out of being hurt and completely mistrustful of the outside world.

I just want to feel like I'm succeeding at something. There's this sensation like more and more gets set on my shoulders, that I have to bear so much, and in spite of how badly I want to break, I never will. Always getting closer to the center of the vortex, but never reaching it.

I should probably be medicated, but I can't afford the pills.

Today is another day full of dread.

1.05.2003

It snowed here - Baraboo - last night. Finally I can be satisfied with winter. In addition to the chilly winds and overcast skies, there's snow. The best part of winter. When I woke up, a bright, clean, white light reflected on the ceiling above my bed. Immediately, I knew.

Years ago, I lived in Minnesota, down in the southwestern corner rammed up against Iowa and South Dakota. It's flat there, probably one of the flattest places you can live in this country, outside of western Kansas and Nebraska, and it snowed like nothing I've ever seen before. Perhaps the only reason I can really relate to Hoth, in The Empire Strikes Back, is because I once lived there and witnessed truly massive snowfalls.

It snowed a lot there, inches upon inches, but because of the horizontal geography, it drifted too. I remember one time I was in kindergarten, my mom opened the front door of our one-story ranch house and it was blocked with snow. Those snow piles you see in large parking lots, after they've been plowed? They were on every corner. A kid could dig snow forts, seven feet deep. It was heaven.