The “How’s it going?” Paradigm

“How’s it going?”

Any time we hear this phrase as we pass someone in a hall, on the street, etc. the response is always that same:

“Good!”

The weird thing is, this isn’t always true. I was able to observe a great example of this recently as our campus went through what is called “the housing lottery”. Basically, you choose where you want to live on campus for the upcoming year, and then you wait to get your lottery time. If your time is good enough then you’ll be able to select the room that you want before other people in the school take it. If your time isn’t good enough then your hopes and dreams will be crushed. It’s a lot like the Hunger Games except instead of 2 people being screwed from each district, nearly everyone gets screwed.

Image

And may the odds be ever in your favour.

Anyway, on the day of the lottery (or “The Reaping” as it’s affectionately known) no one is happy. Before everything is all settled everyone is stressed out of their mind worrying about what is going to happen, and after everything is all settled a good portion of people are angry and frustrated because things didn’t work out as well as they had hoped. 

Even on the darkest day of the year the response was nearly always “good” when “How’s it going?” was thrown out there. I know that I, myself, fell victim to this. I was walking across campus and a friend of mine walked by and said “Hey! How’s it going?” to which of course I responded, “Good!” and continued along my way. It took me three more steps before I realized that; no, I was not “good”. My housing situation stunk, I was stressed and frustrated. I was further from “good” that day than I have been in months, and yet my knee-jerk reaction was to respond the way I always respond and the way nearly everyone responds.

So why do we do this?

I’ve thought of a couple different possibilities. It could be a societal expectation that we are subconsciously trying to fulfil. If we do not meet that societal norm than we are different (which is bad apparently). We could be judged as self-centered jerks if we decided to elaborate and go into detail about how we are. The likely result would be forced exile.

It could be that we really have no idea how we are in that moment of contact. Like an easily distracted child we see someone that asks us “How’s it going” and our mind switches to a kind of “ooh, something shiny” mentality and we answer quickly and mindlessly.

It could also be that we are all malicious liars that are trying to spread falsehoods about our daily lives, but that seems a little extreme.

Then again, it could be I’m over-analysing something insignificant again. *woot*

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Oscar Wilde Tribute

Among the most accessible play writes of the last couple hundred years, Oscar Wilde was an individual that stood out among his peers. He was so intellectually gifted and ahead of his time that he is well-remembered and well regarded by many to this day. His witty commentary on society and people rivals, if it does not actually surpass in quality, that of Mark Twain. Below are some great ones.

  • “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every 6 months.”
  • “I am not young enough to know everything.”
  • “The secret of life is to appreciate the pleasure of being terribly, terribly deceived.”
  • “I think that God in creating man.”
  • “It is better to have permanent income than to be fascinating.”
  • “Music makes one feel so romantic- at least it always gets on one’s nerves- which is the same thing now adays.”
  • “Women can discover anything except the obvious.”
  • “The Niagara Falls is simply a vast amount of water going the wrong way over some unnecessary rocks; the sight of that waterfall must be one of the earliest and keenest disappointments in American married life.”

Oscar Wilde’s unique wit and impressive sense of humor is what little many people learn about the man. Few people seem to recognize the tragedy that befell him later in life. Oscar Wilde was gay and in the late 19th century that was shunned, and a serious crime. He was prosecuted in his forties for this “crime” the maximum sentence that he could be given would be two years hard labor. In the face of this charge Wilde stood up for gay rights before many had the courage to do so and spoke likely his most personal, important and underrated quote he ever made:

“The love that dare not speak its name” in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art, like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as “the love that dare not speak its name,” and on that account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an older and a younger man, when the older man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.”

Wilde would be sentenced to the maximum sentence of two years of hard labor. The judge at his trial voiced his opinion that he wished there were a greater sentence he could assign Wilde. Wilde asked permission to say a few last words before being taken to fulfill his sentence, but his voice was drowned out by a chorus of “shame” from observers. The two years hard labor would result in him getting severely sick, and when he exiled himself to France he was so poor that he could not afford the operation that could save his life. Upon being told how expensive the operation would be, he responded:

  • “I suppose I shall have to die beyond my means.

Oscar Wilde died at 46. He was more than just a man of wit, he is also a man of courage and we ought to remember what he said.

 

“Stand Your Ground”

The 17 year old boy went out to get a bag of Skittles for his brother and a can of ice tea for himself. He was heading back from the store after the sun had gone down. Meanwhile, the self-appointed head of the neighborhood watch was driving down the road when he spotted the boy. For reasons he still has not explained, the man became suspicious of the boy and began following the boy from his car. He called the police and informed them that he was following a suspicious person. The police told him that there were officers on the way and that he didn’t have to follow the person.

After that police call we don’t know what took place until phone calls began coming in to the police about gunshots being fired in the neighborhood. What we do know is that the man driving the car was carrying a gun, at some point he got out of his car and approached the boy and that the boy was shot and killed by the man.

The shooting of Treyvon Martin is in the forefront of the news for weeks. The fact that George Zimmerman, the shooter, was referred to as white in initial news reports and the fact that Martin was black added to the outrage due to racial tension. With 73% of Americans calling for the prosecution of George Zimmerman, it seems insane that he is not in jail already. However, due to one single law, Gerge Zimmerman will likely never see the inside of prison walls for his crime against a boy and his family.

I would like to preface my explanation of the “Stand Your Ground” law with the understanding that there is nothing I would rather see than George Zimmerman getting a life sentence for the death of Treyvon Martin. I will now explain why that will likely not happen.

In 2011 the Florida legislature added statutes to “Justifiable use of Force”. These new rules, which came in under what has been called the “Stand Your Ground Law” Removes any obligation by an individual to remove themselves from a potentially volatile situation before it becomes violent. The law authorizes the use of deadly force in situations of home invasion and if a person “reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.”

The second part is the real issue in this case. All George Zimmerman needs to say is that he was acting in self-defense, and then any prosecution against him has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not acting in self-defense. This is the highest burden of proof known to law and in this case there were two witnesses to the situation which led to Zimmerman shooting Martin, and one of them is dead.

But despite the perfectly reasonable public outcry for Zimmerman to be prosecuted, it is likely he won’t be thanks to the law. The statute stipulates that any person protected under this law are immune from prosecution. The law is worded so that people like Zimmerman cannot be arrested, detained, or charged for what he did.

The only possible chance the prosecution could have would be to argue that by getting out of his vehicle and approaching Treyvon, that Zimmerman initially provoked any force that was used against him. However, the “Stand Your Ground” law still states that even if Zimmerman provoked the situation, he can still use deadly force if he thinks his life was in danger, which Zimmerman can simply say it was.

The prosecution has to choose one of two options in this case. Either they don’t prosecute, or they do and lose the case anyway. Either way, George Zimmerman walks free.

If not for the “Stand Your Ground Law” then it would be relatively simple to prosecute Zimmerman for 2nd degree murder or manslaughter. However, with this law, there is almost a legal prodding for people to go around like cowboys with guns on their hips and settle disputes with gunfire. Consider a situation where two men with guns get into an argument and they both know the “stand your ground law” both know that the other can shoot them and claim self defense, so both have a reasonable fear for their life and well-being. Both have a right to shoot first. This is literally a modern day, and completely legal, duel.

I’m not trying to assert that this NRA backed law was created so that people could just take the law into their own hands, it just happened to be the result. The NRA didn’t plan for this law to be used to shoot innocent black people, it’s pure coincidence that the NRA was formed the same year the U.S. Government listed the KKK as an official terrorist organization. And I’m not saying that this law was created so that anyone can shoot anyone anytime if they simply claim they thought it was reasonable, that’s just what happened.

The only real justice that can legally come from the shooting of Treyvon Martin is a repeal of the “Stand Your Ground” law. If this controversy dies down without the removal of this law, then you can be sure that it will just be used again and again as an excuse for trigger-happy morons so that they can go back to their normal gun-slinging lives without fear of any consequences after killing an innocent.

The Tale of Clayton W. Smith

Clayton W. Smith opened his eyes as he awoke from a pleasing dream of playing Bach’s “Minuet” at Carnigee Hall. The dream was not as much of an aspiration, as it was a visit to a good time. He had played at Carnigee many times over the years.

Clayton W. Smith rolled over to check his alarm clock. 2:55 AM the clock read. Clayton W. Smith stroked his beard. It was still five minutes before his alarm would go off. Undaunted, Clayton W. Smith picked up a small toy piano he kept by his bed at all times and began playing a four and a half minute long piece he had written called “Clayton-W.-Smith’s-four-and-a-half-minute-long-song”.

Clayton knew his wife beside him would not be desturbed by the early morning harmony, as long as he didn’t miss a note, which was good. Clayton W. Smith never misses a note.

Just as Clayton W. Smith finished his aptly-named piece, his alarm clock went off, filling the room with the sound of Behtohven’s 9th symphony.

Yawning, Clayton W. Smith shut off the alarm to get ready for a very musical day. After taking a quick shower in water specially imported from Cape Breton, Clayton W. Smith enjoyed a hearty breakfast of eggs and bacon while studying music for various upcoming concerts and recitals.

At 3:30 it was time to warm up. As usual he started on his keyboard, practicing his scales, and stretching out his fingers. After warming up on the keyboard, it was time to step it up to the honkey-tonk piano. Clayton W. Smith played “The Entertainer” (one of his personal favorites) After warming up on the honkey-tonk for about an hour, Clayton W. Smith felt he was ready to practice his special pipe organ, built into the wall of his living room. He practiced each of the songs he needed to know for church on Sunday, sightreading each of them flawlessly.
Having finished on the pipe organ, Clayton W. Smith was warmed up and prepared to now continue working on a piece on his baby grand piano. After working on that piece for a while, Clayton W. Smith decided it was time to finish up his daily warmups on his grand piano.

Clayton W. Smith jammed on that grand piano playing everything from Motzart to some well known classic rock. So involved with his music, Clayton W. Smith didn’t even hear his wife come into the room.

“Honey, it’s 7:30.” She said.

Clayton W. Smith abruptly stopped playing the piano accompanyment to “Queen of the Night Aria”

“Dang, I’m late!” Clayton W. Smith grumbled as he got up and headed for the door. But before leaving, he stopped in front of a wide selection of interesting hats. Clayton W. Smith chose a green hat that would match his jacket well.
Clayton W. Smith then hopped into his black and white stripped car and roared out of his driveway down towards Hampden Academy.

As Clayton W. Smith neared the Academy listening to Motzart, he thought he heard a real piano over the sound of the radio. Whoever was playing it was good.

Real good.

Intriuged, Clayton W. Smith turned down the road to the elementary schools. Parking behind McGraw elementary school, Clayton W. Smith saw what seemed to be a blonde man in sunglasses playing a grand piano out on the track field.

Clayton W. Smith got out of his car, slamming the car door behind him, and began walking down the gravel path toward the field. As he came nearer, Clayton W. Smith was suprised to see that the man in the sunglasses was actually Elton John!

Elton John finished the end of “Rocket Man” and turned to Clayton W. Smith.

“Clayton W. Smith, I presume.” Elton John greeted him with a thick british accent. “I have heard of your skills on the piano, some say, you’re the best.”

“I am the best.” Clayton W. Smith shot back.

“I see.” Elton John replied skeptically, raising an eyebrow, “Of course you know of me. Sir Elton John!”

“I think I’ve heard of you. You’re supposed to be pretty good.” Clayton W. Smith chuckled.

“I’m better than you!” Elton said icely

“No you’re not.”

“Yes I am.”

“No you’re not.”

“That’s it!” Elton roared in anger, “I challenge ye to a piano duel!!!!!!!”

“Aight,” Clayton W. Smith replied, “I accept your challenge.”

“Choose your weapon Clayton W. Smith!”

Clayton W. Smith turned up the path to his car and popped the trunk. He then pulled his grand piano out of the trunk that he always kept there. He then carried the piano under one arm back to the turf. Clayton W. Smith knew as he sat down to his grand piano, this would be a piano duel of legend. Little children would sing songs of this epic battle for generations to come. The men faced each other across the field for three long minutes silently.

“So, how are we going to start this off?” Clayton W. Smith asked impatiently “I’ve got to go play for the high school.”

“I’ll start you off!!” came a voice from above that sounded much like the voice of Morgan Freeman. “GO!”

With God’s trumendous decleration, it was on. Elton John’s piano produced beautiful, flawless music that struck Clayton W. Smith as impressive, but not as good as he was capable. Clayton W. Smith began playing “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” at a tempo so fast that the piano keys started getting hot from the friction.

Clayton W. Smith was pleased to see sweat forming on Elton’s brow above his sunglasses. But Clayton W. Smith himself was begining to tire. That’s when Elton John did something very unexpected. Suddenly, and without warning, Elton grabbed his earring and flung it at Clayton W. Smith’s grand piano. Clayton W. Smith heard the golden earring beeping. Knowing the sound well, he quickly dove away from the piano just as the small explosive detonated sending flaming piano shrapnel through the air.

Clayton W. Smith stood up, brushing burnt pieces of the grand piano from his hair and cursing, he should have known Elton would use a dirty, slimey, underhanded trick like that. He had no other choice. He ran back up to his car to the sound of a piano playing, and maniacle british laughter behind him.

Popping the trunk, Clayton W. Smith pulled out a harpsicord he always drove with. He then turned and marched back toward the track field with new determination. Upon seeing Clayton W. Smith return with the harpsicord, Elton John was first shocked, then the shock gave way to amusment.

“A harpsicord?!” Elton laughed incredulously, “That’s nothing compared to the awesome sonic power of my grand piano!” Clayton W. Smith merely chuckled.

“Let’s just continue.”

They played on.

Elton John, sweat running down his face, sunglasses teetering on the edge of his nose. Clayton W. Smith, with a face of pure concentration, brow furroughed, fingers flying. The sound coming from the track feild that morning was too fast, too beautiful, to powerful for any mere mortal to hear. And yet, still, they played on.

“I’m done fooling around.” Clayton W. Smith said. “It’s time to end this!” Clayton W. Smith’s fingers flew faster and faster until the keys of the harpsicord were actually on fire. though the smoke stung his eyes and the flames licked his fingers, Clayton W. Smith fought relentlessly through the pain. He pounded on the burning harpsicord, delivering note after glorious note.

And as he brought his hand down for the final chord, he brought it down with such force that it smashed the burning harpsicord in two. But his blow continued downward, until it hit the ground. Just as his hand made impact, the whole track field exploded in a cloud of dirt and grass and piano peices.

All was silent dust swirled around the decimated field so that none could see the outcome of the duel. Then, Clayton W. Smith could be seen. He carried the burnt, broken peices of his harpsicord out of the dust. Something clattered to the ground not far in front of him. A cracked pair of sunglasses. As Clayton W. Smith marched up the path he stepped upon the glasses with a satisfying crunch and said,
“Yeah, I’m Clayton W. Smith.”

THE END

Thinking

Sometimes I think too much. When this unfortunate accident occurs I have a tendency to look at the world from a big picture perspective. I start with myself and work my way outward. I have a real nice life (in my opinion). I have a wonderful and healthy family that loves me, I’ve got great friends both near and far, and though I may not be a genius, I don’t consider myself an ignoramus either. On top of all that, I am at my first choice college, I know what I want to do with my life, and I consciously enjoy every day.

Yet, I give pause when I get into this “thinking” mood. For what reason do I seem to have everything going for me when there are so many others out there that would be as happy as I am if they simply had something to eat? My biggest worry is how I pay for my education while there are kids in America who don’t even live long enough to make it to college. Is that fair?

Here’s the rub for me: I feel like I really haven’t done anything worthy of what I have been given. As long as I have put a little effort into something then things tend to go well for me and yet there are people far stronger, far smarter, and far better than me who put all the effort they possibly can into something with little to no result. Each dinner I have an all-you-can eat menagerie of foodstuffs and there are some days where I’m disappointed by the selection. Everyone’s heard the saying “there are children over in China that would love that food.” Well the truth is that there are people here in America that would love that food too. What are we doing about it?

Nothing.

What am I doing about it?

Writing an insignificant blog post.

Here’s the result of my unfortunate thinking: This world could probably be made a better place for so many people if only people like me would get up and take action instead of just pointing out the flaws of the world

Lost Love

Do you get scared when you wake up in the morning? Like you’re missing something that you need?

Do you feel like there’s something special waiting for you that you just can’t have?

Do you feel like you’ve made a great mistake? Do you feel you’ve lost the best thing that’s ever happened to you?

Then you know what it feels to be me.

When lightning strikes it strikes hard. The flash is blinding like your smile. It shocks you like nothing else you’ve ever felt. And lightning never strikes the same place twice.

Maybe we all live on the edge of a cliff, maybe we’re all hanging on for dear life. Because when you fall in love you’ve got to hang on to whatever handhold you can. When you’re with me, I’ll never let you fall too far. I’ve got you by the hand and I can hold on tight.

There will be times when you just can’t go on, like you can’t take one more step. In those times if you just say the word I’ll carry you. I’ll carry you through rivers and canyons; I’ll carry you up the mountainside. It might take a long time getting there, but I’ll trudge on.

For what does this world need if not for love? Since the moment we were born we yearn for it and search for it. Why is it when we’ve found it we are so quick to walk away when we can’t feel it for a season? We all have seasons in our lives and perhaps relationships too. Now we feel the icy cold wind of doubt chill us to the bone, and we’re not sure if we should keep the journey going. We forget that spring is around the corner.

President Obama’s Appointements and the Future of the Supreme Court

Since Barack Obama was elected to the presidency, he has been able to nominate two Supreme Court Justices. First came Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first ever Latina woman, and the third woman ever to be nominated to the Supreme Court. Sotomayor came in to replace Justice Souter. Justice Souter had been nominated to the Supreme Court by George H.W. Bush. Bush did not know Souter well, however, it was expected that Souter would practice judicial restraint. It turned out, Souter would turn out to be a political moderate, who, in later years would side with the liberal end of the court more often than he would the conservative side.[1] Sotomayor, on the other hand, did not make any qualms about her judicial philosophy; Sotomayor is clearly a believer in a “living, breathing” constitutional philosophy. In her first year of cases with the Supreme Court she was a reliable member of the liberal bloc on the court, voting with justices Breyer and Ginsburg 90% of the time.[2]

Because of Souter’s liberal lean throughout his tenure on the court, Justice Sotomayor does not change the dynamic of the court much at all. Elena Kagan on the other hand was not as open about her views when she went before the senate for confirmation. However, considering that the Democrats had a large majority at the time of the confirmation, getting a liberal justice through the senate was not going to be a difficult task for President Obama. While allegations vary from calling her a closet activist to an obvious moderate, all agree that she is likely going to be a part of the liberal bloc upon the Supreme Court.[3]

However, from these slight changes, can we predict where the structure of the Supreme Court is headed? Currently the oldest member of the Supreme Court is Justice Ginsburg, and still, for the Supreme Court 77 is not that old.[4], and by Supreme Court standards that is not quite retirement age. I believe that the structure of the court will be affected mostly in the short term in whether or not President Obama gets a second term. If Obama gets a second term in office, then Ginsburg, and/or Breyer may be compelled to step down so that he may be able to fill their place with someone who holds similar views to their own.

Considering the ages of the more conservative Supreme Court Justices on the court, it is likely that all of them will be able to outlast both terms of Obama’s office (if he has two). If a conservative president is elected after that, it is likely that the Reagan appointees, and possibly even the George H.W. Bush appointees might retire, however, I would suspect that the second Bush’s appointees will remain on the court through probably another presidency after that.

The two main factors that will influence the structure of the court in coming years will be within whose presidency Ginsburg and Breyer will choose to retire, and, possibly more importantly, during whose presidency will Justice Kennedy retire?

Justice Kennedy, being the swing vote on the court will tip the balance of the court in favor of whichever side has the presidency when he leaves the court. Kennedy for a few years now has been the deciding vote on most of the 5-4 rulings that come from the Supreme Court. When he leaves, it is unlikely that the 5-4 decision will go away, but it is far more likely that the majority will always be either five conservatives or five liberals only.

Since Reagan’s presidency, the court has shifted to the conservative side of the spectrum with some momentum, however, the coming presidential elections and when the justices choose to leave will be the telling signs of whether that trend will continue, reverse, or if the current status quo of the court will remain like it is.


[1] Ponnuru, Ramesh Empty Souter-Supreme Court Justice David Souter, National Review, September 11, 1995

[2] Liptak, Adam (June 30, 2010). “The Roberts Court Comes of Age”. The New York Times: p. A1. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/30/us/30scotus.html.

[3] Mark Arsenault (Audust 5, 2010). “Senate confirms Kagan as 112th justice to Supreme Court”. The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligence/2010/08/senate_confirms_1.html. Retrieved August 5, 2010.

[4] Staff writer. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Undated. Oyez.org. Accessed August 24, 2009.