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A thought.

Before I go into anything else, I’d like to apologize. Not for my opinion, for my hypocrisy. I posted something on my newsfeed about leaving Facebook behind for a few days until everyone calmed down. I then posted a couple of different things as somewhat passive-aggressive commentary on different aspects of the the unfortunate events in Connecticut. I had fully intended on avoiding social media for a few days. I honestly do not like most peoples political opinions to begin with, and find these opinions considerably less tolerable in the aftermath of any impactful event, positive or negative. I can’t shut them up, and I wouldn’t dream to, to be perfectly honest. But for myself, I had intended to keep quiet.


I have failed. After seeing the “dialogue” (if indeed that is the proper term), I can’t just NOT say anything. So, for the hypocrisy, I am sorry. It tastes awful on my palate.


When I was on my way to work yesterday I heard over the radio preliminary reports of the shooting. Details emerged along the way and, with the aid of several incredibly sad stories I had to deal with independently at work, I spent most of the day teribly depressed and occasionally bordering on tears as I thought of my almost two year old son going to school in the next few years. What could have caused someone to behave like this? What was going on in their brain that they thought this was an appropriate response to…..anything?


I go to break and check my newsfeed from my phone and already, less than 6 hours after the event took place I am already beginning to see calls for increased gun control on one side, and secondhand reports that someone on Fox News is labeling this tragedy as a ‘…result of taking God out of school/this nation moving away from God…’. 




I have spent the entire day feeling like my blood was boiling. First it was the audacity that some people have so little regard for the loss of life at the hands of irrationality or the families of the fallen, second at the brazen politicking. Now, just to clarify, it is not the diversity of opinion that upsets me. I have a great many friends that fall literally all across the political spectrum. I am rather proud of this fact. I have never believed that politics should be any reason to refuse friendship. What spikes my blood pressure is the  immediate rush some people have made to push their own agenda. 


There is a very distinct and identifiable difference between political position and agenda promotion. Agenda promotions care nothing for problem resolution, they only care for the adoption of their own policies. When there is a much more clear correlation between mental illness and mass shootings/domestic terrorism than there has been in the past, and the first thing some people at one end of the spectrum screams is more gun control, you’re really conveying to me that you just dont like guns and will take every opportunity to get rid of them, even at the cost of solving the actual problem. When someone at the other end of the political spectrum witnesses the same event and their response is that such tragedies happen when you turn away from God, you’re really telling me that you reject cultural pluralism and want a Christian dominant nation.

Honestly? The horrible events that occur all around the world on a daily a basis and the only response you can muster is some shameless agenda promotion? You question whats wrong with America, YOU’RE whats wrong with it. You don’t want any solution, you only want YOUR solution, fuck everyone else. Fuck liberty, fuck intellectual  and philosophical diversity, fuck everything that I don’t agree with. Simplistic? Reductionist? probably.


Lets discuss this then. There are a few very basic premises that need to be recognized. I don’t mean agreed with, because you don’t have to like it. These are simple realities. Regardless of the degree of civilization we think we have, this world is wild. Humans are feral beings in strappy sandals and neckties.We comfort ourselves in the false pretext of a ‘social contract’, rock ourselves to sleep at night under the preconceived notion that we are somehow protected by the artifice of government and existence of a legal structure. Now, understand that law enforcement and the legal system does not prevent a single goddamned thing. It responds after the fact. Every. Single. Time. At best we have learned some of the tendencies of the people that desire to break these laws and we try to implement activities that would discourage them. Things like making the police visibly present as a deterrent, or installing an alarm system. We cuddle ourselves with a binky made from hollow reassurances that “people wont break the law because they dont want to go to jail” or “criminals that go to jail just made bad decisions in their life and just need to be punished and deserve it”. 


Jenga… Bitch. This is all self-delusion. Its selfish ignorance. We can’t face the reality that we are simply bare faced neanderthals with shitty coping skills. No amount of legislation has ever, or will ever stop someone from doing something that they particularly want to do. You want to stop mass shootings? Dont take away guns, they’ll just do it with knives. Take away knives, they’ll do it with rocks. “But Ben, at least with knives or rocks it will be more difficult to accomplish and be less fatal over all”. I refuse to settle for “less fatal”, “more difficult to accomplish”. Why can we not recognize that there is a problem, even if with only rocks, when a person decides that the only way resolve their issue is to maim and murder as many people as possible? THIS is the problem. Not guns. Not lack of God. 


How about, instead, we focus on opening up our arms, learning who our neighbors are, reaching out to friends and family and strangers and letting them know that its ok if they have a problem. Its ok to seek to out help and that they’ll have the support of their loved ones while they get help. Instead of removing guns, lets focus on learning resolution skills and coping skills. With a little thought and effort it is entirely possible to make guns  obsolete without ever increasing restrictions. That, of course, is entirely dependent on people becoming more rational, more caring, more compassionate and more interested in resolution and compromise than they are in domination and “winning” the argument retrospectively.


I can’t possibly add more to this right now, but the bottom line is, how hard is it just to be civil with people you disagree with?

Justine Graykin

It’s been a rough couple of months. Losing the first cat wasn’t so bad (I wrote a nice article for the newspaper about that). The second cat was a lot harder (see the previous post). But that was nothing.  Nothing.

My brother-in-law called yesterday morning and told me my sister had died. I didn’t even know she was ill. Everyone else did. All her friends, the entire family, her church. Not me. Because she had expressly told them she didn’t want me to be told. They had their chance to visit her in the hospice where she lay dying of cancer. Not me. They begged her to let them tell me. She refused. Why?

Because I am an atheist.

It was her final gesture to me, her final retribution for my lack of belief in her god.

We had been estranged for a long time because I did not…

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A Preface to Any Future Political Posts…

I dont want to become defined as a political blogger, but my undergrad is in Political Science, I’m completing a Masters in Public Administration and am applying to a Doctoral program for Political Science, so sometimes political entries on here are simply unavoidable.

If you read this (or any other political piece I write) and feel like Im attacking you in some way, just assume I am and take a hike. Im not interested in partisan debate, ludicrous ad hominem attacks, or frankly, dealing with people too blind to see that they don’t actually understand how government or politics function. It would be much simpler for you to just be offended and go away.

It’s not that I’m not opposed to intellectual conflict, quite the opposite, I welcome it. I’m just violently allergic to myopic stupidity. Feel free to disagree and challenge anything, just don’t be that guy……

……… You can carry on now…


I held her hand firmly, it was still warm despite her paper-thin skin and bony fingers. In the palm of my hand I could feel her acrylics gently rubbing, slowly, and with that all I could think of was every visit between 8 and 12 years old. Every saturday morning when her and my grandfather would get up early, pick up coffee, donuts, and occasionally a handful of little trinkets for the three of us to play with, come by for an hour or so to visit before heading out to get her nails and hair done and his fun project of that weekend. People say that your sense of smell is the most powerful of our faculties because it carries such strongly developed linkages to memories and emotions. It seems to me its the other way around perhaps. Powerful memories, experiences that at the time of occurrence carry deeply personal and significant emotional value, are marked by a sensory annotation unique to that experience. As we grow further away from that experience and it becomes an increasingly distant memory, the more likely it is that the sensory annotation becomes the trigger for the memory, rather than the reverse.

Whatever was the catalyst of my recollection, I looked over to her face, much thinner, less expressive and interested in the world and all I could do was try not to break down and bawl. This was not my grandmother. My grandmother was robust, supremely curious and interested in the world, reading detective novels and science fiction, treating us to pay-per-view wrestling.

I glanced at the clock on the wall and leaned over and kissed her forehead.

“Ok Grandma, I’ve got to head out to now. I’ll see you later, I love you.”

“Oh? ok honey. Thank you, I love you too, I always knew you were different, special.”

I got up, walked out the front door and spent five minutes trying to catch my breath and wipe my eyes. The next time I saw her, she had no idea who I was and thought she was her 23-year-old self and back in Brooklyn.

not much new to report this week….

The second week of my training period for my new job is done… finally, and it looks like I can start getting into something of a routine starting this next week. Which will be nice considering that since sometime in August Ive been, renovating, packing, moving, unpacking, prepping, schooling, fathering, tackling post-move in projects, and training a new job. Literally we have not had one week that was the same as the last for months now, which makes it difficult to relax really. Not to mention that when we have the opportunity for a repeat week, my kid goes and bounces his noggin off the corner of the couch and has to be rushed to the ER for stitches…..sigh. nobody warned me.

The kid is fine, the ‘normal’ work schedule starts this week, so by the time I get caught up on school work and mid term prep, maybe Ill have a chance to get some writing done. We’ll see…..

Call me a beer snob, but…..

Maybe this is a sign of an impending market collapse for craft beer? Im not one to begrudge anyone the opportunity to make a dollar or two, but this reeks of empty capitalist opportunism in the worst sense. Dont get me wrong, Im no dirty socialist (whatever THAT means these days), but a big part of the reason that I became enthusiastic about craft beer is the incredible number of stories behind small brewers, brewpubs and craft brewers that can be summed up as such: “We couldn’t find the beer we like to drink, so we decided we would learn how and eventually just go into business making the beer we like, the best way we know how to make it and hopefully enough other people like it to keep us in business…” granted, this isnt the same story for EVERYone, but an aggregate market sketch of sorts.

‘What are these guys possibly doing?’ you might ask. The short version is that they are approaching contract brewers with product concept, asking for something in return that fulfills the idea, re-packaging,selling and marketing these relatively non-descript beers in national and regional chain grocery markets in a way that implies the same or similar handcrafted origin that defines ACTUAL craft brewers, but obviously for a much better price. These people are literally nothing more than profiteers with nothing of their own to say except to try and grasp at whatever dollars they reach from people’s pockets that don’t have any idea how the beer industry operates. It looks enough like craft beer, tastes reasonably close/similar to other craft beers, but costs less than good craft beers. Normally I am the first one to argue that everyone should unapologetically drink what they like to drink, I don’t care of its Corona or Miller light, or as much Pliny the Younger as you can get a hold of, enjoy it all you want. The difference is, going into those transactions the consumer has certain expectations and there is an above board nature to it. Someone drinking Bud Light has no pretense that it might be a specially crafted beer, its widely understood to be an industrial light lager that doesnt cost much at all. But this contract brewing nonsense, it feels………deceitful, as though someone thinks they’re going to be drinking an honestly brewed beer, but instead are being sold a false bill of goods. Whats worse is that the people being taken advantage of are the ones that don’t know anything about the craft industry. Those that do know generally avoid these beers, knowing that they dont come from a legitimate craft brewer, so it is almost as if its twice the sin because its the ignorant being fleeced.

By the end of the 90’s the craft beer bubble was bursting thanks to similar products flooding the market, mostly nondescript amber ales with over processed and thinly conceived marketing notions trying to sell poorly made generic reddish beer. I know that the craft market is only 10% of the total market (less than that actually), but if the big brewers (AB Inbev, et al) are entering the market with their own craft brands, maybe its time for all of us craft beer drinkers to start looking more closely at what were drinking and try to help educate our friends to avoid buying these duplicitous products, maybe we can help to avoid another bubble burst…