Blast from the Past

               Howdy folks, welcome back.  It’s been a while.  Despite my attempts at updating this blog more frequently, that simply hasn’t worked out too well.  A number of things have played into that, none of which will be discussed at this point.  Get over it.  No, tonight I’ve returned because I’m working on a rather time consuming project, and I’d like to enlist all of you to help with it.  It’s a bit audacious, a bit grandiose, a bit mad perhaps.  And while it is actually an idea I have been kicking around for a few months, it’s a bit of a slap in the face to that stupid Google Chrome commercial.

            Here’s the idea: I’m creating a perpetually growing time capsule for Axel, a sort of window into the world, not at a specific time or place, but over a long period of time.  I’ve created an email account for this project (axels.time.machine@gmail.com) and I intend to send him emails regularly about what he did on a particular day, milestones in his life, interesting things that he may have said or done and random tidbits about the world at the time.  Someday when he grows up a little, I’ll give him the password to log in and read all the messages from the past.

            Of course by now you’re asking yourselves “Gee that’s cool, Barry, but where do we all come in?” Well, I’m glad you asked.  You all come in whenever you’d like.  I want other people to email him too, with birthday wishes, advice, funny stories and jokes, suggestions for books to read or records to listen to, just about anything you feel like telling him.  Send him pictures of your kids, they may be close friends someday!  Tell him ridiculous stories about the good and bad times you and I may have had in the past, I promise not to be embarrassed. 

            I’ll log into the email account only frequently enough to keep it active and maybe archive the messages (by month or year or whatever), but that’s it.  I won’t be reading any of your messages, won’t be editing, altering or deleting anything at all.  This is entirely for Axel.  I hope that someday when he reads all the messages he will recognize familiar faces and names and have an amazing window into the world around his as he grew up.  I’m not asking anyone to write novels for the kid, just whatever you might feel like telling him whenever you feel like telling him. 

            And that’s it, that’s the task at hand.  How many of you are up to it?  Think of the international best-seller this could turn out to be in twenty years!  Will Oprah have a book club to recommend it?  One can only hope so.  Thanks friends, let’s get crackin! 

axels.time.machine@gmail.com

Barry’s Song

Throughout the course of my normal day-to-day routine, it is not uncommon for me to take a few minutes out of my busy schedule to thump some Wu Tang Clan in the car or just while walking around. Today, however, was unusual.  For the first time someone actually told me that Wu Tang wasn’t “meant for me,” presumably because I’m a white dude from the ‘burbs.  Ignorant post-racism aside, this really got me thinking: what music is meant for me?

As a self-proclaimed rock snob, I don’t have any problem taking just about any song I hear and deciding that it speaks to me in some special way or takes on some particular meaning just for me.  That’s
the extent of my ego.  However, what I became concerned with today was the fact that no song is absolutely and unmistakably
MINE.

And that got me thinking.  I personally know about a billion musicians, singers, songwriters, etc.  Some are great friends, some are close acquaintances, some are just dudes who crossed my path some years ago and we’ve randomly stayed in touch.  Here’s the point, I’m proposing an adventure –nay, I’m issuing a challenge.  I want someone to write a song for me, about me, starring me.  I don’t really care about the content, it could be about us hanging out one time, or how maybe I stole your lunch one day, or how you still owe me $10 for sneaking into a show years ago.

This is someone’s opportunity to write an epic rock and roll masterpiece. Think Magic Man, or Rocket Man, or some other man song.  Or Brian’s Song.  Ok, not so much Brian’s Song, I don’t wanna get so bummed out.  One of you could be sitting on the next MTV goldmine hit here, folks.  You guys know I dig hardcore, punk rock, hip-hop, just about anything; I’m leaving the style up to you folks.

So, who’s up to the challenge?    Message me if you’re seriously interested, and get crackin!  Any songs given to me will be posted on my page, my Facebook, Twitter, whatever.  Maybe I’ll put it on iTunes.  More likely I’ll put it on a bunch of tapes and mail them out to everybody I know.
And you’ll all get one!

I Hate Stupid Movies

For about a year or so my wife and I have had a subscription to Netflix.  It is among mankind’s greatest achievements.  I believe the order is: 1) fire, 2) polio vaccine, 3) Netflix, 4) surgical anesthetics then some other stuff.  We have the cheap, one-dvd plan, but mostly rely on the instant streaming deal through our Xbox.  The few dvds we do select to have sent to us are usually chosen after careful consideration and thoughtful discussion.  Except our last choice.  See, I had heard some great things about The Wrestler and particularly Mickey Rourke’s portrayal of the title character (or Randy “The Ram”).  Plus, I’ll typically watch anything Marisa Tomei is in, she’s great.  Unfortunately…..

                The Wrester is stupid.  It starts out as a pretty typical tale of a broken old man trying to get his life in order.  He meets a girl, tries to work, attempts to reconnect with his daughter and then BAM – heart attack.  So now he’s a broken old man who could literally die at any minute.  Cliché, sure.  The reason this cliché exists is that people like to see the downtrodden try to make good and improve themselves.  It makes us feel good about ourselves.  But, because this is a Darren Aronofsky film, the plot is about to get idiotic.

                Randy’s love interest is a stripper who likes him, but doesn’t, then does, then yells at him, then leaves him right when he actually wants someone there for him.  His daughter is a whiney kid who really just gets what she deserves.  You dad is a deadbeat and a loser; your attempt to forgive and forget turned out badly and we all know exactly why.  Shouldn’t have bothered.  Randy does drugs and they nearly kill him.  Wait…are we supposed to feel sorry for these folks?  Are we supposed to empathize with their situations?  I sure hope not, because by the end I found myself hoping out loud that the final match would actually kill Randy.  And did it?  We will never know because apparently Darren Aronofsky doesn’t know how to write an ending.

                Yes folks, I hate the works of Darren Aronofsky.  They are contrived, pretentious, self-important pieces of cinematic garbage

“Really Barry?  Didn’t you see Requiem for a Dream?  Or Pi?  Those were awesome?”

“I saw them both, and no they weren’t.”

Okay, I admit I never saw the end of Pi. To this day it remains the only movie I have ever stopped watching halfway through and hope that I NEVER see the rest.  At the time I saw it I considered it among the worst films I had ever seen, and it hasn’t moved very far down that list today.  Requiem for a Dream was no better.  Look at all these sad people and the terrible situations they get themselves into! Junkies and poor old ladies who become addicts unbeknownst to them.  How tragic!  But not really.  All I got was an overwhelming sense of disgust for these people who made so little effort to control their lives.  To this day the only reason I don’t hate Jared Leto is the fact that we got to see his Angelface get beat to mush and that he got his nose broken here in town.

Succumbing to the horrors of drug addiction is terrible, don’t get me wrong.  I have seen it destroy people’s lives.  But to subject us to watching it on film, in such a heavy-handed parable is insulting.  I wanted each of those characters to suffer the exact fate they did, and that makes me less of a compassionate human being.  Even in a “fantasy” world, I don’t ever want to have that feeling of near-hatred for people like that.  Thanks, Aronofsky, for destroying my karma for the next decade. (I know, I know, I don’t really believe in karma.  That’s a discussion for another time.)

The main point I want to get across here is that I will never again subject myself to one of his films (I didn’t realize he directed The Wrestler until the opening credits rolled; and immediately grew apprehensive.)  Nor will I base my watching habits on what critics or others say.  I watched the new Alice in Wonderland, with all its Depp-y glory.  Sorry, I didn’t mean glory.  I meant boringness.  Is that a word?  I did not enjoy it.  So there.  I’ll watch explosion-y blockbusters and artsy Viking movies equally, and make no apologies for either.  I’ll watch Jim Carrey talk with his butt and turn away from the gore wrought by Rico’s Roughnecks.  I will go to Star Wars prequels then drag Tommy out to see Fred and Shaggy place space men in the same day.  I will probably cry every time I ever watch Dancer in the Dark and be eternally grateful that The Godfather was made.

I’m going to watch Congo again, and hope the new True Grit is awesome

Semester’s End

Winding down my first long semester of my MS work.  I’ll have some more free time for a proper posting here pretty soon.  Any suggestions?

Welcome to Arizona. Now get out.

Fans: Hey Barry, what do you think about the whole mess getting messier out in Arizona? 

Barry: Boy, am I ever glad you finally asked! Short answer: Arizona has the right to enforce laws regarding trespassing in the state.  If you are an illegal immigrant, in Arizona illegally, I can’t think of a more clear-cut example of trespassing.  Long Answer: Holy cow, this could be complicated.

Fans: Wait, the long answer is shorter than the short answer!

Barry: Well sheesh, you didn’t let me finish.  On the surface, the purpose of HB 1070 is to prevent further illegal immigration to Arizona and to attempt (however impotently) to take legal actions against those who are already here.  Simple enough, I should say.  Illegal immigrants are just that, illegal.  I won’t bore you with fancified jargon like “interloper” or “undocumented worker” or anything like that.  We’ll not pussyfoot around the absolute basic fact that an illegal immigrant, is by definition, in the act of committing a crime.  Even if that crime is simply being in the U.S. without permission.

                And yes, it is a crime to be in the U.S. without permission.  It is a federal crime to enter the U.S. without taking proper steps to obtain visas or other proper, legal permission to be here.  I don’t care one bit about a person’s reasons for entering the U.S. illegally, reasons are moot.  People have what seem to be perfectly good reasons for committing other crimes too (bank robbers pay bills, crack heads ease withdrawal, killers act to stop the voices!).  These reasons do nothing to change the fact that their actions are crimes, by letter of the law.

                Some say that the U.S. is entirely to strict with regards to its policies on illegal immigration.  Indeed, there has been increased enforcement of existing laws, but those laws pale in comparison the severity of immigration laws in Mexico, for example.  If I were to sneak into Mexico illegally I could expect one of two things to happen:

  1. I could be caught soon after entering and arrested.  When this happens in the U.S., the offender is most often checked for warrants and if found to be clean simply transported to the nearest port of entry and released back into Mexico.  An illegal immigrant caught in Mexico is usually arrested, transported to a federal holding facility just outside Mexico City (yes, that’s where they hold em).  They are typically held for about a week, during which time it is the prisoner’s responsibility to contact an embassy, a lawyer, family or other friendly party to arrange their release.  Oh, and to arrange the prisoner’s meals, almost forgot about that.  Upon release, the illegal immigrant is walked outside the holding facility (read:jail) pointed north or south depending on their home country, and given 72 hours to get themselves the hell out of Mexico.
  2. I may get lucky and not be caught right away!  Hoorah!  Now, to find a place to live, maybe a job, have some fun, etc.  What’s that you say? It is constitutionally legal for Mexican businesses to refuse to give me a job?  It is constitutionally legal for Mexican landlords to refuse to rent to?  Right, and next you’ll expect me to believe they have those same constitutional rights to deny goods, services, employments and benefits to legal immigrants as well.  Sorry for the sarcasm folks, but yes, all this applies to legal immigrants too.

See, that’s the way it is.  An argument tossed around is that if American laws were more like Mexican laws, nobody would bother sneaking in here.  That’s a silly argument, given the numerous reasons people risk life and limb to come to America.  However, if our laws were more stringent and uniformly enforced, I don’t think it is unreasonable to believe we could have far fewer problems with illegal immigration.

So all this being said, where does YourBarry stand on the issue?  I think Arizona is doing the right thing.  Before you berate me for that, I’ll add the caveat that I think there are going to be serious issues with the way the law is enforced.  It’s going to be tough, and I don’t think anyone involved predicts an easy road ahead.  And while opponents say it could lead to a patchwork of 50 different immigration laws in the U.S., we must keep in mind that Arizona faces an absolutely unique set of circumstances.  I think it is up to the U.S. government to work with Arizona on a compromise, rather than suing to prevent the state from acting in what it considers to be its best interests.  I could spend days debating all this, but I feel like I’ve tried to cram so much into your heads over the last couple of days.  So I’ll leave you for now and hope to be able to discuss the outcomes and merits of the law and some date in the future.

And in the meantime, Sheriff Arpaio is going to be exceedingly busy!  I don’t support everything that man does, but you gotta respect that work ethic.  And wish him luck, cause he just took on what could be the toughest law enforcement job in the country.

Prop.8 – a dramatic enactment

Let’s say there’s a lesbian couple living in San Diego (I would be gobsmacked to learn there were no lesbian couples there, honestly); we’ll call them Liza and Louise.  Liza works for a financial advising company downtown, while Louise works for Dell.  They have been dating for seven years and have often discussed how great it would be to get married.  Suddenly one morning, Liza grabs a newspaper and rejoices to find that gay marriage is now legal in California!  Louise grabs her car keys and the two fly out the door, headed for City Hall to file for a marriage license.  Oh happy day!  I bought them a blender and did the chicken dance at their wedding.  The cake was good.

                Now Liza and Louise live happily in the suburbs and are getting ready to celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary.  One day, Louise comes home from work with some troubling news: Dell has decided that they desperately need her to move to their headquarters in Austin, Texas as soon as possible.  Much discussion ensues, and the couple decides that her career is solid and she should take the job in Austin.  Plans are made, movers are called, boxes are packed.  Texas, ho!

                Now in Texas, Liza and Louise go about getting their lives set up again in their new home.  They’ll need new insurance (insurance doesn’t cross state lines, fyi), a mortgage, tax information and so forth.  But then a problem arises: you see all of this was so easy in California where a married couple can do all this stuff together.  But Texas does not recognize the marriage of Liza and Louise as legal.  They have suddenly lost all legal benefits that come with being married!

                Liza can no longer sign documents as “spouse,” there will be no more filing of taxes as “married,” Louise cannot be named Liza’s “next of kin” in the event of an emergency.  “Family only” visiting at the hospital where Liza may someday need treatment will not allow Louise to visit her.  It’s a mess! 

                I know, I know, it’s awfully dramatic for such a nonsensical blog as this, but I hope you’ve gotten my point.  I am all for gay rights, and I honestly think it’s absolutely ridiculous that we even need to have a discussion on whether or not homosexuals should have the same rights as everyone else.  They are everyone else.  They aren’t some bizarre subculture that only comes out for full moons and midnight productions of Rocky Horror.  They are just regular old people. 

                This may seem like a pretty random tangent, but I just wanted to give what is really a real-world type of problem that faces the fight for legalization of gay marriage.  Broad legal issues within California and without must all be addressed before either side can truly claim victory.  I’m glad to see that most people understand my view and aren’t hating on me for just pointing out some of the facts.  And, true to my prediction, an appeal was filed this morning with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  This is far from over, so everyone needs to just stick to their guns and keep their eyes on the prize. 

                The prize is cake, right?

Proposition h8rs

                Today a federal judge ruled California’s voter-approved Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional.  That’s big news.  Celebrations rang out from coast to coast, by which I mean in both California and New York.  I’m not quite sure why New Yorkers would be so excited, unless they hope this ruling sets a precedent that the federal government may follow (hint: it won’t).

                I know this will probably be tough for many of you to hear and I only ask that you hear me out until the end before you jump down my throat.  The bottom line is: the fight isn’t over.  This ruling was handed down by a U.S. District Court.  That may sound pretty darn final but the truth is that there are still a number of appeals that the State can file, and at least two more courts in which to plead their case.  If there is anyone out there who doubts this is a Supreme Court-worthy case, I challenge you to convince us.

Next, expect the case to be presented to a Federal Appeals Court, which could take months.  In the meantime, the law may be temporarily shelved, but not actually expunged.  At the same time, provisions of the law will not be halted; that is to say don’t expect a sudden flood of gay marriages, they’re still technically illegal while the case is appealed.  Then this will almost certainly reach the Supreme Court, which will face the daunting task of determining whether or not the Constitution actually protects the rights of gays and lesbians, at least as relates to their legal right to marry.

And unfortunately that’s the sticky wicket here.  Plaintiff Kris Perry says that today the Court defended her Constitutional right.  I don’t claim to be any kind of Constitutional scholar or anything, but I cannot find anywhere in the U.S. Constitution any kind of protection offered to gay or lesbian couples’ right to marry.  I actually don’t see much of anything regarding the rights of anyone to marry.  I assume Ms. Perry is referring to her rights under the California Constitution, as most rights of marriage are governed solely by the states.

But wait a minute, didn’t the voters of California vote en masse to add a Proposition to their own Constitution that outlawed same-sex marriage?  Yes, and sorry for the sarcastic tone there.  Ms. Perry is asserting that her right to be married to another woman trumps the right of the people as a whole to decide what laws they would like to live by.  Believe me when I tell you that I fully support the rights of the individual, but I also support the rights of the governed to determine their course.  This whole mess started when a court decided that gay marriage would be legal in California, then there were protests and oppositions.  Then the issue was put to the voters to decide.  There were protests and oppositions.  The measure passed and the marriages were legally barred.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is the way the democratic process works.

So why didn’t the plaintiffs start a petition campaign to get a repeal proposition on November’s ballot?  They could certainly have counted on the support of all those in the state who oppose Proposition 8.  One of the main reasons Prop 8 passed in the first place, in my opinion was the massive voter turnout in 2008 to support Barack Obama.  He was able to heavily mobilize African-American and Hispanic voters like never before.  Unfortunately those groups are also well known opponents of gay and lesbian rights.  Call it cultural, call it social, call it whatever, but it’s a fact.

However, with no Barack Obama on the ballot, it is not unreasonable to believe that those voters would be less inclined to come out to vote against any possible recall proposition.  Of course I can’t say much about what seems to be an anti-Democrat backlash in general across the country and the possible resulting increase in Republican voters.  I don’t know, nor do I claim to know what the voting landscape is like in California today, so these hypotheticals I’ve put forth are just that, hypothetical.  What I do know for sure, though, is that the proper way to get Proposition 8 completely undone is by vote. 

So why isn’t it happening?  Can gay marriage not be the next hot-button issue in a land of hot-button issues?  Where are your celebrity endorsers putting a famous face to an otherwise faceless issue?  Is Ellen busy?  Melissa Ethridge?  Hell, someone call Sulu already.  Just get anyone famous who can help the average, heterosexual person realize that gay and lesbian couples are not going away and should be afforded the same rights as everyone else.  Get out and convince the populace that denying gays and lesbians the right to marry is ridiculous. 

But convince them you must, because if there is one thing that Americans don’t like its having their vote thrown out by what they see as an activist judge on behalf of a minority group making a big stink over an issue.  I assure you that a bigger fight awaits you if a repeal of Prop.8 is thrust upon the very same majority population who voted to pass the thing in the first place.  A voter-supported repeal of Prop.8 would be hugely influential among other states, of which many have already passed constitutional amendments banning the very same gay marriages. 

Here’s the bottom line folks: vote.  It really is that simple.  If you oppose Prop.8 find a way to vote it out of existence.  Vote for Congressmen and Senators who will help pass laws that support gay rights.  Vote for future Propositions that support furtherance of gay rights in your city, your state, and your country.  Don’t sue the state to get your way, that will only breed further resentment and opposition to your cause.  Among our most cherished rights as Americans is our right to choose what we feel is best for ourselves and our country.  And when the people make a serious effort to choose a radical path such as equal marriage rights for all, it can happen.

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