Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Evolution of Underage Drinking

Like many college students, Alexander P. Broughton, enjoys the occasional weekend libation. Unlike most college students he found the body’s digestive system too inefficient at delivering the effects of alcohol. So he and several of his frat brothers at the University of Tennessee decided to utilize a novel approach to consumption: alcohol enemas. The process (colloquially known as “butt chugging”) utilizes plastic tubing and a notable lack of shame to bypass the stomach and allow the alcohol to be absorbed directly by the individual’s rectal capillaries.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Mr. Broughton was brought into an area hospital with a blood alcohol level in excess of .4 and exhibiting signs of “physical and possible sexual assault.” When authorities arrived at the frat house they discovered several empty bags of budget wine and a handful young males in varying states of consciousness.  The investigation has been turned over to university police and interim sanctions have already been imposed on the fraternity.

Now supposedly, there are several upsides to the practice of “butt chugging” not the least of which is reduction in refreshment expenditures. In today’s tepid economy, these enterprising young men should be commended for implementing a beverage system where the question “What are you drinking?” becomes irrelevant. While other social clubs are running themselves all over town trying to locate Mike’s Hard Lemonade and domestic longnecks, the boys at Pi Kappa Alpha can make a quick stop at Costco, pick up a pallet of Boone’s Farm, and remain confident in the fact that they do not have to put up with someone complaining about how the drinks taste. As an added bonus, I imagine alcohol enemas can be a powerful weapon against the dreaded “freshman fifteen” that seems to affect so many collegiate upstarts.

In addition to the “rectal rum” approach, many of today’s youth are apparently using tampons soaked in vodka to expedite the drink’s journey to the bloodstream. Some believe these practices gained traction because of a mistaken assumption that such creative inebriation techniques prevented telltale signs of “liquor breath” and could even allow practitioners to fool a breathalyzer. Of course, both assumptions are inaccurate and since these techniques involve bypassing the body’s natural gag reflex the risk of alcohol poisoning is exponentially higher.

At the risk of sounding old and crotchety, in my day underage children had the good sense and self-respect to drink themselves into regrettable decisions the way the Good Lord intended. However, today’s youth are under the impression that the only reason people do not ingest liquids through their anus is simply because the idea had never occurred to anyone before. I can just picture some poor kid with his pants around his ankles stammering “may…may..maybe we should have gone with the smaller gauge hose…”

If this trend continues to grow, it has the potential to further erode our privacy as consumers. Currently the cashier only takes note of your purchase if it involves liquor, cigarettes, or Sudafed, but pretty soon you may send your teenage daughter out for a box of Super-Flo Tampax and a bottle of cooking sherry and find yourself answering some pretty tough questions at the police department.

I do have to wonder if the cashier in Knoxville thought anything was amiss when a half-dozen frat guys waltzed up to the counter with three home enema kits and enough table wine to recreate an Old Testament morality play and inquired about the store’s return policy.  

I have nothing against a good party and many find themselves sowing their wild oats during their university years, but there is a big difference between beer pong and small-intestine Smirnoff. I am not here to judge anyone’s personal choices, but this is an extremely dangerous trend that needs to be stopped before we lose a future politician. I know college is a crazy time, but no one looks back over their life and says to themselves “If I could do it all over again I would have taken off my pants at more frat parties.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Statue

I do not pretend to possess the cultural sophistication necessary to appreciate modern sculpture and the bronze statue in Overland Park Arboretum in Kansas in no exception. It consists of a headless female torso taking a self-portrait with what appears to be a digital camera. The work (titled “Accept or Reject”) is one component of the outdoor China-US Sculpture display that contains eleven pieces by six Chinese artists.
The Statue
The exhibit was the brainchild of Chinese immigrant Kwan Wu who got the artists to donate the works and arranged for the Chinese government to cover part of the shipping costs. A local charity covered the installation materials and the municipality covered the labor costs. The idea of the project, according to city documents was to “give the City a distinctive, unique, enriching community asset...echo our community's international well our City's unsurpassed commitment to the arts."

The statue has its share of detractors and one of them, Joanne Hughes, started an online petition to have the status removed on the basis that it “promotes sexting amongst children and teenagers.” She also believes that the sculpture should feature a “warning of the sculpture’s offensive nature.” Her cause was recently taken up by the American Family Association who has garnered over 4,000 signatures for the cause and released a statement saying “It’s beyond comprehension why a city would put a statute that’s celebrating sexting.”

When the artist was contacted he explained that the sculpture represented that the “virtual world removes control over one's image” and “a woman who's making the conscious choice to ignore her mind, soul, and identity." Once the completed petition is turned in the city will have sixty days to convene a grand jury to investigate the matter.

I must say the public commentary section under the petition was interesting. A few highlights:

  • The unfortunately named “Efthis Koukoutsakis” ranted:“the naked should be respected amongst grown up and not children, send this stupid thing to a private collection somewehere [sic]in a porn club”
  • Meryl Dodd believes the sculpture to be a warning sign that “America is changing for the worse.”
  • Becky Trigilio said simply: “Safety of children from pedifiles [sic]”

There were also some statue supporters such as Francis T who rebuked the detractors, advocated for more statues, and implored conservative Americans to educate and “not repress your children otherwise when they begin to feel strange itching in their private parts, they will make the same mistake of Palin's daughter.”

First of all, I am strong supporter of free speech but for the love of all that is pure can we get some proper spelling & grammar? What is “the naked” and where exactly can one locate a “porn club?” “Pedifiles” not only sounds like a records-management system for a day-spa, it bookends a sentence fragment. Also, if you are looking for signs that “America is changing for the worse” and a controversial Midwestern statue is the best you can come up with you are not putting forth enough effort.

Conversely, it is just as ridiculous to suggest that the presence of the piece would help prevent teenage pregnancy by normalizing puberty. Does this person really believe that some fifteen year-old girl will be walking by on her way to her boyfriend’s house and exclaim “I forgot a contraceptive!” On a side note, while I am neither a physician nor a post-pubescent female; it might be worthwhile to expound on when it is acceptable to experience itching in one’s nether regions.

I will admit that if someone were to show me a picture of the sculpture and ask me what I though the artist was trying to convey I would never have chosen “a woman who's making the conscious choice to ignore her mind, soul, and identity” but then again he could have told me that it was a re-imagining of the women’s suffrage movement and it would have made as much sense. A more fitting title might be “Why Headless Hannah Can’t Go Back to Six Flags.”

On the other hand, I am having a tough time getting on board with a decapitated bronze statue holding a camera being a catalyst for underage sexting. First of all, it is fairly difficult to sext without an actual phone. Second of all, it seems much more likely that teenage sexting would be affected by celebrity scandals and peer-pressure that modern artwork in Kansas. I might be mistaken, but I cannot imagine some young girl who is on the fence about the morality of sexting until she walks through this park and says to herself, “If it is good enough for an inanimate object it is good enough for me.”

While the project appeared to use very little taxpayer money, I do not see any harm moving it into a public art gallery where those that wish to can continue to view it without cost. The majority of the public would probably find this acceptable and the artist’s work would not be wasted. I think both sides are distorting the issue but if it is taken down and there is a quantifiable decline in teenage sexting that corresponds to an immediate spike in teenage pregnancy I will issue an apology.    

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Gam-Gam Conspiracy

I realize that a great many of the people reading this will disagree with and perhaps even be offended by what follows, but I feel that I must address the disturbing trend of children using nonsensical nicknames to address their relatives. When I was growing up the nomenclature was fairly intuitive and it worked something like this:

  • Your grandmother’s name was Lucy = Grandma Lucy
  • Your uncle’s name was Dave = Uncle Dave
  • Your Parole Officer’s Name was Bill = Parole Officer Bill

For whatever reason, society has deemed this system unworthy of modern application so instead we are left with entire websites dedicated to “selected one’s grandparent name.” I recently visited which hosts a “Grandparents Naming Guide” complete with a 20-question quiz to help you determine your grand parenting nick-name. After completing the questionnaire, I was informed that my grandfather name should be “G-Daddy” on the basis of my interest in technology and concert T-Shirts.

The site also suggesting the following “hip” suggestions for grandmothers:

  • G-Mom
  • MayMay
  • MawMaw
  • GiGi
  • Bebe
  • Honey
  • Lovely 

G-Mom sounds like something you put on a Crips Booster T-Shirt, MayMay makes as much sense as MarchMarch, and you have a 50-50 shot of locating the last two names on the rooster at a gentleman’s club. Where does it end? Today it is just “BeBe,”  but pretty soon calls of “Where’s Squaw-Pooh?” and “I want my Binkle-Dorf!” will be echoing through the aisles of your local Toys R Us.

In the interest of fairness, the following were offered for cutting-edge grandfathers:
  • Chief
  • Budddy
  • Captain
  • Duke
  • Big Daddy
  • G-Pa
  • Bompa
Now I can understand not wanting to be called “Grandpappy” outside of a Walter Brennan film, but “Chief” and “Buddy” are slightly condescending nick-names men use to address each other when their cannot remember their actual names and “Captain” is only applicable if your grandfather was honorably discharged from the Navy or happens to be Hugh Hefner. Also, I am pretty sure “Bompa” was Super Mario Brothers villain. 

While I cannot predict how I will feel once my children pro-create, I can tell you that I would feel more than a little uncomfortable if my granddaughter ran after me at Target yelling, “Give me a treat Big Daddy!”

It isn’t that I am against nick-names. I just feel that they should occur organically. For instance; if, in the course of your adventures together, your grandson has occasion to refer to you as “Grizzle Pimp” then I will not stand in your way. However, if you constantly refer to yourself as “Grizzle Pimp” in an attempt to indoctrinate the child you may be doing yourself (and the offspring of your offspring) a disservice.

In the spirit of hip grandparent names I have come up with a few myself that you are all welcome to adopt:

For the modern grandmother:
  • Teeters
  • Greezy
  • Quasi-MaMa
  • Gamma-Slice
  • Grindle-Boo
  • Butterscotch Carousel

For the modern grandfather:
  • Comandante-PeePaw
  • PappyLuv
  • Big-Grimpin’
  • Papylon-5
  • Thor

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Foreign Aid

Like many of you, I have been following the protests in the Middle East with a heavy heart. Many of you might agree with the idea that these extremists are the rule rather than the exception, believing Islam, by its very nature to be a violent religion bent on the destruction of America. If that is true I am not sure we would ever be safe since close to 25% of the Earth’s population is Muslim (around 1.7 billion people). 

That being said, it is inexcusable for Islamic adherents in these countries to attack and punish random Americans for an offense committed by someone else who happens to share the same citizenship. Sure depicting Mohammed as a pedophile was offensive and inflammatory but that does not give his followers the right to kill. If an Iranian citizen produced a video portraying Jesus as a child-molester, I would be upset, but that does not give me a license to commit acts of brutality against anyone born in Iran. Rudderless anger and senseless violence only serve to discredit peaceful Muslims and play into the hands of those who believe all adherents of Islam live only to pursue violence against those who do not share their faith.
However, by decrying such action on their part we must remind ourselves that our responses should avoid the same pitfalls. I have heard more than one person denounce the protestors for their generalized condemnation of America while suggesting that we pull all diplomats and suspend any and all aid to countries like Afghanistan and Libya as a retaliatory measure. I dare say this brand of knee-jerk diplomacy relies heavily on the same mistaken generalities the Muslim extremists rely on. After all, isn’t holding an entire nation responsible for the actions of a few of its inhabitants precisely what drives terrorism in the first place?

Don’t misunderstand me, I tend to lean isolationist in the area of foreign policy and feel Bush’s insistence on invading two Middle-Eastern countries was a fool’s errand that cost thousands of lives and trillions of US dollars while playing into the hands of those who would gleefully portray the United States as an international bully. As such, I believe that certain types of humanitarian and economic aid (de-mining, starvation prevention, healthcare, etc..) are worthwhile causes to be pursued while other expenditures should be scaled back dramatically and the money spent here.

So exactly how much American money do we give to foreign countries? To find out I went to the USAID website (also known as “greenbook”) and ran a report of foreign aid (both economic and military)from 2000-2010 and then compared that to the average population of that same time period to estimate the amount of US dollars for every person residing in that nation. So who got the most money per capita over the last decade? It wasn’t even close:

·          Israel - $4,400 per person ($30.5 Billion to a country of 7 million people)
·         Iraq – $2,000 per person ($59.2 Billion to a country of 30 million people)
·         Afghanistan - $1,500 per person ($46.2 billion to a country of 29 million people)
In order to gain some perspective let’s look at Egypt & Libya:
·         Egypt - $247 per person ($19.8 billion to a country of 80 million)
·         Libya - $8 per person ($73.6 million to a country of 9 million)

We are not exactly underwriting Muslim anti-American sentiment with these numbers. In Libya we could barely underwrite a decent meal. In fact, if one were resolutely opposed to giving any American aid to Muslims in the Middle East then Israel presents quite a conundrum since Muslims make up almost 18% of the country’s total population (compared to about 0.8% in the United States). Generally speaking, this means we have funded more Muslims through Israel than we have through Libya even assuming the entire population of Libya is Muslim.  

The trends of our international generosity are interesting as well.  From 2001-2010:
·         Aid to Iraq and Libya was highest in 2006
·         Aid to Iran was highest in 2004
·         Aid to Jordan was highest in 2003
·         Aid to Egypt was highest in 2002
I bring this up only to address the possibility that there is a correlation between the amount of foreign aid and local unrest. If that were true, it appears the logical conclusion would be that the more money we sow the less violence we reap; but most would agree that buying popularity is not a solid foundation for US foreign policy.

One last interesting fact was that the country to receive the smallest amount of USAID was Iceland. We gave them exactly $83 last year. I have to wonder how we settled on this number. Did we buy one orphan an iPod shuffle from the petty cash? Did one of our diplomats drop his wallet in the airport and feel this was the least embarrassing way to write-off the loss? All I know is, Iceland better watch their p’s & q’s because if someone so much as litters in front of the US embassy over there they can kiss that gravy train goodbye.

For the interested, you can go to the following website and run a 10-year report on any country that receives USAID: