Monday, January 13, 2014

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

So Goes The Nation…So Backslides Indiana

Amid the fanfare of becoming the first state to legalize recreational use of marijuana for non-medical customers, Colorado appears to be leading an inexorable trend toward relaxing pot laws that’s taking place in all of the United States…EXCEPT Indiana. Because of laws requested and signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence, Hoosiers actually have to deal with even stricter laws and penalties.

In a nutshell, Pence and the ultraconservative, GOP-controlled legislature revised reforms last year to actually increase possession from a misdemeanor to a felony. Ironically, these changes were initially intended to lessen marijuana penalties. During the debate, the Governor said he’s interested in reducing prison populations. "I think we need to focus on reducing crime not reducing penalties," Pence said.

Apparently, the Governor was not swayed by the statement made in 2012 by the head of the Indiana State Police.

While Pence remains resolute in his plans to clamp down on pot, some folks suggest that his motives may be laced with unethical and ulterior motives. From the Daily Kos, a diarist writes that Pence favors stricter penalties because it helps fill the beds in the state’s corporate prison system, whose parent company (the GEO Group) is a huge campaign donor.

“The Indiana governor wants to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a felony because, apparently, we aren't nearly hard enough on those non-violent pot smokers. Or something. Lurking beneath the surface is an insidious actor. The unmentioned hand of political influence guides his actions, as prison corporations like GEO own their candidates and wreck state criminal codes.”

According to followthemoney.org, GEO contributed $12,500 dollars in 2012 to the Pence gubernatorial campaign, and nearly $68,000 dollars campaigns statewide. From the Daily Kos:

“That (campaign) contribution made GEO one of Pence's top 30 corporate contributors, ranking in front of US Steel Corp, Caterpillar, and Koch Industries.”

If these assertions on Pence’s motives are true, then this information serves as one more contemptuous affirmation that the so-called ‘war on drugs’ is nothing more than a huge money-making scam for corporations and the political whores who serve at their beck and call.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Not So Insignificant Anniversary

I have two email accounts, one on gmail.com, which is my primary account. The other is my backup and secondary account, and after getting my daily update, I couldn't help but notice that I've had steady use of this account for 10 years. I established it on Yahoo back in 2004, and I can readily recall this fact because it's reflected in its address...joelal2004@yahoo.com.

Now, I realize that many of you are thinking to yourselves, 'Where've you been?" Sending and receiving email has been routine in your lives long before 2004. In my defense, I had an account briefly during 1997 on the now defunct Hotmail.com while I worked at Indiana State University. I more or less lost the bonus of having access to ISU's computers and with it, the account, after I moved on to another job in 1998.

I set up my Yahoo account while working at Eli Lilly (Elanco) in Clinton, Indiana. I lost this job in 2005, yet I maintained this account by accessing it through frequent visits to the public library. I found it to be a timely and convenient tool to keep in touch with my somewhat nomadic family.

It really wasn't until 2008, when my wife and I did what I jokingly refer to as "joining the 21st Century" and subscribed to home internet service and bought a PC. In my mind now, it's almost impossible to conceive of a life without it, and it really boggles the mind why we were such latecomers to the internet revolution.

Afterwards, my email usage seemed to increase exponentially. I began using it for jobs searches, bill payments, shopping, and of course, correspondence with family and friends. I even used it to establish a platform for pursing an online education. Sometime during 2012, my Yahoo account was 'hacked'. So, I decided to make a new account on Google's gmail service using the address: joel.wells.1@gmail.com.

It's easy to take it for granted. But, upon reflection, the technology of electronic mail (Does anyone call it that anymore?) has had a profound impact on the lives of millions...possibly billions of people. Yes, it has had its unintended drawbacks such as spam, hacking, viruses, and information overload. But after the having the realization of having a functioning email account for a decade, I can remember a time when when we all marveled at its capabilities.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: The Year of Twerking and Selfies

It has become a customary ritual during the waning days of every year. And as 2013 is poised to become history, like clockwork, folks are reflecting on the people, events, and trends that have made the past 12 months unique.

While having its share of politics and news of great significance, 2013, it seems, has had a curiously high percentage of catchy words and phrases. In my humble opinion, the following two entries are the most memorable:

Twerking

Hands down, “twerking” wins the award for generating the most news, social networking talk, and controversy during 2013. The Urban Dictionary defines a twerk as ‘the rhythmic gyrating of the lower fleshy extremities in a lascivious manner with the intent to elicit sexual arousal or laughter in ones intended audience’.

Pop singer Miley Cyrus and her infamous, and, shall I say, abominable, performance at this year’s VMA music award program catapulted the term into the national lexicon.

Due to my general lack of knowledge of contemporary pop culture, Cyrus’ performance, which was shown on seemingly every media outlet capable of playing video, was my first exposure to the term. My teenage sons, however, say they knew about twerking long before her performance last August.

Selfie

While not quite as earth-shattering as “twerking”, the entry “selfie” has made some significant headlines during the last year. The Urban Dictionary describes a selfie as ‘a picture taken of yourself that is planned to be uploaded to Facebook, MySpace or any other sort of social networking website.’ The picture of me on the right, which I’ve used as profile pic on Facebook, is an example.

The term gained a national audience when President Obama was caught snapping one with other world leaders attending the recent funeral for former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Within hours after its release, Obama’s selfie went viral, and his political opponents saw quickly another way to score some partisan points over his supposed narcissism. (First Lady Michelle’s body language in the pic suggested she was bothered, and this also lent fuel to the fire.)

Again, it wasn’t until the incident at Mandela’s funeral until I learned about the term, selfie. On the other hand, I suspect millenials have known about selfies for quite some time.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Early Resolutions

While not all bad, 2013 was kind of a discouraging year for me. In fact, I've been in kind of a rut. So, I've decided to get a proactive jump on 2014 by carrying out my annual New Year's resolutions before Christmas.


The first resolution I've begun pursuing is my pledge to learn how to play guitar. I've taken several casual stabs of taking up the instrument in the past But this time, I have a certain fire in my belly. After going nearly three decades without plucking a string, I, along with my wife, decided to buy brand new acoustic guitars as sort of a Christmas present to ourselves. So far, I'm really delighted that I have.



I've also begun putting the needed pieces in place that will enable me to act on another resolution, putting together a podcast file I can send to broadcasters as an audition for on-air employment. I've downloaded an audio editing software program called Audacity, and have settled on buying a 'Yeti' USB microphone online. It comes highly recommended from some trusted broadcasting acquaintances.



I'm at a point in my life where I want to work at jobs that I'll really enjoy, and fortunately, I believe that I'm financially secure enough where I can be really picky. Broadcasting is where I want to be. I just need to learn the mixing and editing techniques needed for a decent audition podcast. It will take some resolve, but again, I think I have that fire in my belly.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It's Time for a New Moron!

The subject of ignorant and uninformed voters comes up often in the blogosphere. And invariably, bloggers writing posts about this topic utilize this unforgettable image to accompany their story:


Just today, in fact, I had a story appear with that same image in my Facebook news feed from Alternet.org. The post's written content is spot on and enlightening. But I ask, must we fall back so consistently on making use of the not-so-bright looking St. Louis Cardinals fan holding up a sign that misspells morons?

Now, don't get me wrong! The image is a laugh riot. But it's more than 10 years old! So, it's not exactly current. Moreover, as a St. Louis Cardinals fan, I cringe at the thought of what Mr. 'Moran' is doing to pigeonhole the Cardinal fan base, St. Louisans, and Midwesterners, as well. This dude is hardly representative of us. And, we don't need to hand out added ammunition to outsiders that affirms their already-held beliefs that we're a bunch of uneducated rubes and rednecks.


My post, now, is mostly tongue-in-cheek, and I realize that my beef doesn't really touch upon any of the world's most pressing problems...not even close. But this is my blog, and I say right up front that it's my place to rant! Moreover, there is no shortage of political morons in the country. Might I suggest using this dude as the new poster boy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Kindergartner's Take on That Dark Time, 50 Years Ago

Folks often ask the question, "do you remember where you were and what you were doing?" when they recall momentous, and often infamous historical dates during their lives. Today, we observe the 50th anniversary of that terrible day in Dallas, Texas, where President John F. Kennedy was gunned down during the prime of his life. Since I was a 6-year-old kid back then, I believe that I may be one of the youngest persons alive who can actually recall that time. Most anyone who was younger than five or six back when JFK was assassinated is unlikely, I believe, to have any memory of it.

During the fall of 1963, I had entered Kindergarten at a suburban St. Louis grade school where I went to school for just half the day in the morning. So on that infamous Friday 50 years ago, I had apparently just gotten home from school when the shots rang out. I don't recall what I was doing when it actually happened, but I do remember my mother being very upset later that afternoon when she told my older brothers upon returning home from their schools that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I wasn't sure what that word meant, but I knew it was something really awful because when she said it, she was crying. (By the way, a family friend took the photo of me displayed on the right on Thanksgiving Day in 1963, which was less than a week after the assassination.)

Perhaps, it's more accurate to state that I recall the events during the immediate aftermath of Kennedy's death, than the actual, horrific deed itself. Many historians believe that JFK's assassination ushered in the age of television news. Fifty years ago, three broadcast networks basically dominated television, and all three, CBS, NBC and ABC, were giving this story wall-to-wall news coverage. As a result, my next memory of that time came on the following Sunday (November 24). While televised live before a national audience, JFK's accused killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was fatally shot while police were transferring him to the county jail. I can remember vividly my mother shrieking in horror as my family and I watched this attack unfold before our eyes on our black-and-white TV.



The next day, November 25, 1963, I can remember watching the wall-to-wall coverage of the funeral procession, where a riderless horse was pulling a carriage holding JFK's flag-draped coffin to Arlington National Cemetery. I remember wondering what kind a man was Kennedy at the time. After watching John-John's iconic salute to his father's coffin, I began wondering about his kids who were about the same age as me. I wondered if they were sad as the concept of death was still pretty new to me.



The Kennedy assassination had a profound impact on me. Beforehand, all I knew was basically my family, my school, and my dog. But afterwards, my concept of the world increased exponentially. For the first time, I discovered the existence of news, history and the politics that shapes them. Moreover, the Kennedy assassination made me aware of my own mortality.