Archive for the 'Rants' Category



21
May
08

I’m not going anywhere

It was all going so well, too. But all of a sudden, my little ship of life sailed into some stormy waters. I won’t bore you with the details. You have your problems; you don’t need to hear about mine.

As usual, the blog got the short end of the stick. Blogslackery is my stock in trade, but this hasn’t been blockslackery, this has been total blog neglect. I get that. I have treated the people who have supported me in a very shabby fashion indeed. Those who take the time to leave comments deserve to have those comments acknowledged, and I have not done that. I have been a bad blogger.

I am (as many of you have probably figured out) manic depressive. I offer this as an explanation, not an excuse. The events going on in my life have been such that I have found it difficult to muster the energy to even get out of bed and live my life, let alone write creatively.

A well intentioned fellow blogger suggested that perhaps a hiatus might be in order. In fact, that’s how this post started. It was going to be my farewell (for now) post. “Dear friends, it is with a heavy heart that I write these lines…..”

And then a thought hit me, out of the blue as it were…

FUCK THAT.

Yes, there are things in my life now that suck. A lot. Yes, I feel like shit and there are days I don’t even want to get out of bed. There are days when I have to force myself to remember that I will not find the answer to my problems at the bottom of a bottle of Bushmill’s.

I will not be silenced by my own demons. I have things to say, and a unique way of saying them. I will write what I want, I will express my opinions, I will be heard.

Depression, you can KISS MY ASS!!

And to those who cared enough to give me some tough love (and you know who you are), I have two things to say:

1) You’re all a pain in the ass.

2) I thank you. With all my heart.

Sorry, kids, you’re stuck with me.

-smith

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24
Apr
08

be afraid. be very afraid

I don’t normally write a post strictly about something that someone else has written, but once in a while someone says what I’ve been thinking better than I could say it myself.

In today’s Boston Globe Perry Glasser, who coordinates the professional writing program at Salem State College, writes an op/ed piece entitled “The Dance of the Bees”, which really hit home with me.

Those who have read this blog for awhile are familiar with my dismay with the teen and twenty-something generation. One emailer accused me of “hating” teenagers.

Not true. My job brings me in constant contact with older teens and younger twenty-somethings, and I sometimes find their brash way of looking at the world refreshing. But I do feel that this generation, as a group, has been duped into thinking that they will be regarded by their peers as a lower form of life if they don’t have:

  1. A cell phone
  2. An iPod
  3. A Facebook or MySpace page.

Glasser’s piece reflects my own anxieties about this generation. Simply put, these are the people who will be running the joint when I’m ready for the nursing home. Read Glasser’s piece, and be afraid.

Be very, very afraid.

-Smith

11
Apr
08

sometimes, you just want a cigar

One of the advantages of working at a smokeshop is that I get to smoke on the job.

I don’t often show my ugly mug on this blog, but a friend recently snapped this pic of your humble scribe doing one of the things he loves most, so here you go.

I love smoking, I love tobacco, and I personally don’t give a rat’s ass who knows it. Personally I’m getting a little fed up with being vilified by society for indulging in one of life’s great pleasures, a pleasure, I would add, that is, at least for the moment, still completely legal.

The cigar, for the curious, is a “Rocky Patel”, a Honduran cigar with a Sumatra seed, Ecuadorian sun grown wrapper. To put it simply, it is an exquisite cigar

A few random thoughts on smoking here:

Many people (non-smokers, naturally) paint the pipe, cigars, and cigarettes with the same black brush. This is utter rubbish. Comparing cigars to cigarettes is like comparing McEwan’s Scotch Ale or Sam Smith’s Taddy Porter or Old Peculiar Yorkshire Ale to Bud Light.

One drinks a good stout or ale for the flavor. The idea is to taste and enjoy the subtleties and complexities of the brew. The alcohol content, while significant, is of secondary import. But let’s be honest here: no one drinks Bud Light because it tastes good. The only reason to drink this misbegotten beverage is because you want to get drunk and it does the job, quickly and efficiently.

By the same token, no one smokes cigarettes because they taste good. The only reason to smoke a cigarette is to get that six-second-lung-to-brain nicotine hit that a cigarette provides. And just as one might drink Old Peculiar or Sam Smith’s because one appreciates the exquisite flavor of these brews, so one smokes a fine cigar (or pipe tobacco, for that matter) for the flavor. The idea is to taste the tobacco, as the leaves from various subtropical countries combine to form a complex panoply of flavors which intrigue and delight the palate.

I find it astounding that the anti-smoking zealots claim to be doing this “for the children”. Ah, yes, it’s always for the children, isn’t it? Has anyone bothered to take a gander at what the “children” are getting up to these days? Teenagers are binge drinking (usually Bud Light, not Old Peculiar), driving cars after binge drinking, using hard core drugs like cocaine and heroin, indulging in unprotected sex, and posting naked pictures of themselves on the internet. I guess this is okay, because-thank God-THEY’RE SMOKE FREE KIDS!!!! Where the hell are all the public service announcements aimed at discouraging this sort of behavior that can irretrievably alter-or end-their lives in an instant?

Actually, this isn’t even true. The smokeshop where I work is within walking distance of several colleges. Out of curiosity, I recently asked one of them why he had started smoking. I pointed out to him that he was too young to have ever seen a cigarette add on TV. In fact, the only information concerning cigarettes available to him from the electronic media (which is where teens get 99% of their information) was all NEGATIVE. Since this kid was old enough to understand the English language, he has been bombarded with nothing but adds telling him not smoke. So why does he? His answer was simple and to the point: “Everyone was telling me not to do it, so that just made me more determined to try it.” Ah, from the mouths of babes….

Here in Massachusetts, our feckless governor, Deval Patrick, recently held a press conference to announce that there would be no broad-based taxes. The people of Massachusetts, he said, were already paying enough, between soaring gas prices and an already hefty tax burden (they don’t call it “Taxachusetts” for nothing, kids.) Okay, I thought to myself, I can get behind this. For once I thought I found myself agreeing with a Liberal, until I got to the last paragraph of the newspaper story. There it was revealed that Patrick intends to raise the cigarette tax by a dollar a pack. Evidently the cigarette tax does not fall into the category of “broad based tax”.

The truth, of course, is that tobacco taxes are the favorite method of politicians who are too cowardly to implement an increase in the gas tax, or alcohol tax, or any sort of tax that might actually get them booted out of office by an incensed and already overburdened electorate. Tobacco taxes are safe because they only affect a now politically impotent minority, and besides, it’s “for the children.” I find it supremely ironic that Liberal Democrats, who are supposed to be the party of compassion and the common man have no problem resorting to this most regressive of taxes when it suits their purposes.

Unlike cigarettes, cigars are not physically addictive. You don’t “Jones” for a cigar the way you do for a cigarette. This is because you don’t inhale cigars. As mentioned before, the idea is to taste the tobacco, and to this end one simply “sips” the tobacco into the mouth, lets it linger there for a moment or two, and then exhales it. While a small amount of nicotine does enter the bloodstream through the lining of the mouth, it is not in sufficient quantities to create a physical addiction. Rather, it is a gradual and relaxing process, which is why smoking a pipe or cigar is such an effective way to relax.

Which, now that I think about it, is what I need to do right now.

-Smith

23
Jan
08

The Lynching of David Seanor

Has it really come to this? Have the forces of political correctness so taken over that we can’t even discuss the topic of race in this country without being labeled racist?

You may have heard of the controversy created when Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman, in a moment of breathtaking stupidity, said that the only way to beat Tiger Woods would be to “lynch him in a back alley”, a comment which practically had co-host Nick Faldo scrambling for a crowbar to help her get her foot out of her mouth.

Nice going, Kelly. Given the number of black men who really have been lynched in back alleys, the remark was profoundly stupid, insensitive, and unfunny.

Not surprisingly, this caused a major uproar. Al Sharpton, the man who has never met a television camera he didn’t like, predictably called for her firing. Interestingly, Tiger Woods himself, acting with characteristic maturity, downplayed the whole incident, and accepted Tilghman’s apology. Tilghman was suspended for two weeks.

Enter Golfweek Magazine. Again not surprisingly, they ran an article on the whole sorry affair, and the cover of that issue (pictured above) featured a startling image of a noose.

This caused even more of an outcry than the story it was covering. Faced with (what else?) the threat of advertisers walking out the door, Golfweek fired editor David Seanor.

Am I the only one who sees a certain irony in all of this? Kelly Tilghman makes a stupid, racially insensitive remark, and gets off with a slap on the wrist. David Seanor attempts to examine not only this incident but also the larger issue of race as it relates to this overwhelmingly white sport, and he loses his job.

Seanor explained to the Associated Press, “Most people who are objecting to it—within the golf industry—are saying this episode was just about over,” Seanor said. “I think it’s indicative of how, when you bring race and golf into the same sentence, everyone recoils…I wish we could have come up with something that made the same statement but didn’t create as much negative reaction…but as this has unfolded, I’m glad there’s dialogue. Let’s talk about this, and the lack of diversity in golf.”

Now before you start sending me the hate mail, let me make something perfectly clear. Blacks have gotten screwed in this country for hundreds of years. The way blacks have been treated in this country is an evil blot on our history. Whites, at least some of them, have much to answer for.

But what is so very troubling about this is how when the subject of race rears its ugly head, rationality seems to be the first victim. Seanor’s heart was, from all accounts, in the right place. Golf is just about the most lily white sport there is–to this day there are country clubs which don‘t allow blacks–and this incident provided an admirable place to examine this issue. What we have here is a classic case of shooting the messenger.

Was David Seanor being provocative? Sure he was, but last time I checked, that’s what editors are supposed to be. Even if he did cross the line, what was warranted, at most, was an apology, and frankly, I don’t think he has anything to apologize for. As editor, his job is to intrigue the reader, make you want to read the article, and hopefully, make you think.

This has not happened here. Indeed, people seem to have stopped thinking. Sadly, it seems as though everyone is too busy focusing on the cover to actually read the article. Had they done so, they would have read a thoughtful exposition of not only the controversy in question, but of the issue of race in golf in general.

But even more troubling is how the notion of freedom of speech is being subverted by political correctness, which is in reality nothing less odious than censorship masquerading as benevolence. If the concept of freedom speech is to have any validity, then it must apply to everyone, not just to those who are saying what you want to hear. Not everything that is said is going to be intelligent, or kind. But the price you pay for being able to say or write what you want, is that you have to put up with everyone else saying and writing what they want.

As I read this story, all I could think of was the stories of David Howard, a Washington, D. C. mayoral staffer, and Stephanie Bell, a fourth grade teacher from Wilmington, NC, who both got themselves into hot water for using the word “niggardly“, a word which has absolutely no racial connotations except to the uneducated and hyper-politically correct. David Howard lost his job. Stephanie Bell was ordered to write a written apology and attend sensitivity training! This is what happens when political correctness replaces factual discourse.

As a strange little sequel to all this, I read in the paper yesterday that, when asked if Bill Clinton was the “first black president”, Barak Obama stated that he would have to “investigate [Clinton’s] dancing ability” before he could “accurately judge whether [Clinton] was in fact a brother”. So, like any good American, I checked out the video.

The audience laughed. Hillary laughed. I laughed. John Edwards looked extremely uncomfortable, as well he should have. He knows damn well that if he had been that “witty” he’d be out of the race by now. You can check out the video here.

What is happening in this country is that this most cherished of our freedoms is being eroded by the twin forces of political correctness and advertising dollars. What Kelly Tilghman said was stupid, but she did not deserve to lose her job. In fact, it seems as though the Golf Channel wasn’t going to punish her at all until it was pressured by advertisers, resulting in her two week suspension.

Is it fair that David Seanor, whose only crime was a desire to report the incident and create dialogue, should suffer a worse fate than Kelly Tilghman? I think not. It bodes ill for us all if we cannot even discuss the issue of race in this country without being labeled racist.

-Smith

14
Nov
07

Still smoking, and proud of it

I love smoking. There, I said it. It takes a certain amount of testicular fortitude to say this nowadays, but it’s just so liberating to say it out loud! I think I’ll say it again: I adore smoking!

To me, smoking a pipe or a cigar is one of life’s great pleasures, akin to a fine whiskey or wine, or a nice cup of coffee or tea. My fascination with the pipe goes back to my childhood, when “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” and “The Lord of the Rings” were among my favorite reading.

Whenever I fill my pipe–perhaps a Sasieni made back in the 1920’s out of briar that was 100 years old back then–with a fine matured Virginia, sit back, light up, see the ember glowing in the bowl, and taste the exquisite flavor, my mind and soul find peace. There really is nothing to compare to the taste of the Virginia, the feel of the warm briar in my hand, and the visual beauty of the finely grained wood. They all combine into one of the most satisfying sensory experiences known to man.

And yet, because I indulge in this pleasurable and completely legal activity, I am basically one step above a child molester in the eyes of the politically correct. In fact, I’m not sure that the child molesters are not held in higher esteem in those quarters.

The ridiculous extremes that the anti-smoking movement has come to is best illustrated by the case of Scott Rodrigues, an employee of the Scots company who was fired, not for smoking on company time, but simply for being a smoker. This sad story can be read here.

Of course, this should come as no surprise, as the Scotts company is run by a martinet named Jim Hagedorn. Scotts employees are urged to take exhaustive health-risk assessments. Those who refuse pay $40 a month more in premiums for their group health insurance.

Using data-mining software, company analysts scour the physical, mental, and family health histories of nearly every employee and cross-reference that information with insurance-claims data. Health coaches identify which employees are at moderate to high risk. All of them are assigned a health coach who draws up an action plan. Those who don’t comply get whacked for another $67 a month.

This is an unconscionable invasion of privacy.

Some argue that smoking drives up health care costs, and that is no doubt true. So do a lot of things. But the only ones who get fired are the smokers. Not the drinkers, not the overweight, not the reckless drivers. Just the smokers. If one is going to argue that health care costs should be the sole yardstick for social policy, then one could logically argue in favor of prohibiting any woman over the age of 40 from conceiving a child, since beyond that age the chances of having a high risk (and therefore, very costly) pregnancy increase exponentially. Clearly, no one is advocating such an odious policy, at least not yet. 28 States have passed laws prohibiting the firing of smokers just for being smokers, but sadly Massachusetts is not one of them.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find this article in the normally liberal Boston Globe. The author, Alex Beam, has a history of being a little out of step with his liberal employers, which is, of course, why I like him. I’m just amazed he’s managed to keep his job this long.

I was so impressed with this article that I have added a link to Dr. Siegal’s blog over there on the right. Just click the blue caduceus to read how one brave physician is putting his career on the line by standing up to the politically correct anti-smoking radicals.

Now, without further ado, I am going to shut off this blasted computer, fill my Sasieni Four Dot (that’s a pipe, for the uninitiated) with Dunhill Aperitif, fill a glass with Old Bushmill’s, and continue reading my Conan Doyle.

-smith

05
Nov
07

the good guys win

Well, it seems that I have been victorious in my little battle with a certain dirty little plagiarist. When I checked her site today, the post was gone.

I want to say a special “thank you” to the lovely woman in Great Britain who was kind enough to draw this to my attention.

What really made my jaw drop, though, was that in its place was another “clown” post, in which she complains about–are you ready for this?–bloggers who are “incapable of doing [their] own thing… and can only copy and paste”.

Sweet Mother of Jesus! I was sorely tempted to point out the irony of this statement to her publicly, but for once in my life I decided to keep my big mouth shut (see, Annie, I do listen to you).

Quite honestly, a quick perusal of her {ahem} writing shows that we are not exactly dealing with a paragon of emotional stability here, so for once in my life I’m just walking away.

Cheeky bimbo.

-Smith

05
Nov
07

plagiarized and pissed off!

Yes, it’s true. Some moron has actually stolen one of my posts and reposted it as her own. Don’t believe me? Check this out!

Of all the stupid things to rip off, why would anyone steal the coulrophobia post? I suppose I should be glad she’s not plagiarizing anything halfway decent, but still, it’s the principle of the thing.

I guess I should be flattered, in a way. I mean, no one would steal my stuff if I totally sucked and no one read my blog. Granted, the thief in question isn’t exactly a literary giant in her own right, as a visit to her blog will readily reveal. And yes, I realize that plagiarizing Smith isn’t quite the same as plagiarizing Hemingway.

But that’s not the point, is it? I wrote it, she stole it, and that pisses me off!

I did try to take care of this the nice way. I didn’t want to air out dirty laundry in public. (I’ve already learned that lesson the hard way). So I PM’d her with a request that she either remove it or give me attribution.

I had to register on the site first. This in itself was a pain in the ass, since this is apparently a dating site of some kind and I had a hell of a time convincing their server that I wasn’t looking for a date. I sent her three PM’s, all diplomatically worded (I’m sure you didn’t MEAN to steal my stuff, dearie. A simple oversight, no doubt).

No reply. I guess she’s turned off by the fact that I’m not looking for a date with someone from the UK. So I left one of my usual delicately worded comments, which I assume is still there unless she clobbers it. I also sent a complaint to the site admin.

I’m still holding out hope that this is all just a misunderstanding on someone’s part. Maybe she’ll do the right thing. It’s not like I’m looking for money here, just a little credit for my own intellectual (in the loosest sense of the word) property. As John Lennon once wrote, “It gets on my tit!”.

-Smith




taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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