Sunday, September 24, 2017

Has it really been 20 years?

A group of smart, intelligent people who graduated 20 years ago. And me, I'm in there too.

Of all the people who have ever lived, I'm fortunate to be a member of a select club. There are only roughly 230 people who are can claim membership and we had a meeting of sorts last night. We don't meet often and we're not all always able to go, but it's always special to get together.

Ok, that is vastly overselling my 20-year high school reunion, but in a sense, it's true. There's only a little more than 200 people who can say they graduated in 1997 from the high school I went to. Some of us grew up here, going from kindergarten through high school here. Others moved here at some point during elementary, middle or even high school. We all had different hobbies, interests, cliques and clubs we were a part of. But at the end of the day, we all share the fact that for whatever else we've had in life, we all had she shared experience of finishing high school together.

The ubiquity of Facebook makes reunions a lot less mysterious than they used to be. Not only did I have a general idea of who all was coming, but I knew, more or less, what was going on with almost everyone there.

But social media is no substitute for actually getting together. Being able to hear the voices of the guy you played soccer with or finding out the pretty girl who sat behind you used to cheat off of your paper when she could. (I hope I got those answers right for both of us, Brandy. And I'm glad I could help.)

Then there's finding out what, exactly people are doing, not just where the live or where they work.

It's finding out the girl who you were on the Math Team with in elementary school now works in analytics for Delta. Or that one of the sweetest girls in school is a kindergarten teacher where she seems like a perfect fit.

It's being able to solve the mystery of what happened to that quiet, but really funny guy I sat next to in Biology my senior year and who seemed to have left no trace of himself online.  (He didn't make it, but someone at the reunion says he now lives in New York and works for Google. The fact that he works for Google and can't be found online makes me wonder if he knows something we don't.)

But it's also hanging out with the guy who lives three doors down and the guy who has a kid in my kid's class. It's doing more than just a polite hello to that classmate you see at the athletic fields as you're going to your kid's game and she's leaving her kid's game.

It's finding out one of your former classmates lives in the same town as your in-laws and hitting it off with her husband (though we both had a lot to drink at that point so it's quite possible he doesn't actually like me that much.)

And then there's running in to that girl who, every time she sees me she tells me how much she enjoys my blog and that I should write more. And she is just so sweet that I can't help but try to write more.

It's the random coincidence of talking to a guy whose mom was your wife's Pre-Cal teacher in college (and your wife confessing that she failed the class and him feeling bad about it.)

But more than anything, reunions are about nostalgia. Yeah, high school wasn't the greatest. I think even the people who really enjoyed it wouldn't necessarily go through it again.

But we all lived that experience together. We all freaked out about the tests and dealt with the stupid drama that comes with being 14 to 18 years old. We went to football games and parties and did whatever extracurricular activities we did that seemed important at the time. Whatever cliques existed 20 years ago have long since disappeared. It was just fun to talk, catch up, share stories and enjoy each other's company.

But then we all had to go our separate ways. For some of us it was just across town. Other's had flights to catch including one girl who had to get a flight back to Dallas before leaving tomorrow for London. I have no problem saying she's a better person than I am. Still others had to drive a few hours home where we'll go about our lives.

I realized as I was writing this that I kept writing "guys and girls" instead of  "men and women." That's the power of nostalgia. For everything that's happened in the 20 years since we graduated, my strongest memories of just about everyone there is from when we were kids. We were guys and girls, and in my mind's eye, we still are.

Now if I can just run in to the girl who always wants me to write, maybe I can actually write more regularly. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

This blog post available for a limited time

So I was watching tv the other day and this commercial came on.

Now normally I pay no attention to commercials. In fact, the overwhelming majority of my television viewing is online, either with Netflix, Amazon or, or watching PBSKids with my son, so commercials are rarely seen in my house. (Good for most of the year, bad when asking my son what he wants for his birthday and/or Christmas and I get an "I don't know.")

But for some reason I watched this one and my first thought was "I must be hungry because that looks pretty good" and I'm generally opposed to eating at Subway not so much on principle, but because I don't find their food all that good.

My second thought, however, was less inspiring. The end of the ad said the sandwich was there for only a limited time. As I usually do, I had twitter open when I was watching and tweeted the following:

So yeah, a Subway commercial both made me want their product and also consider the brief existence we spend on earth. I not only wasted 30 of those seconds watching an advertisement for a restaurant whose food I don't even like, but now I'm contemplating my own mortality.

I'm only disappointed it wasn't an Arby's commercial as I generally enjoy the Nihilist Arby's parody twitter account.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Modest Proposal for Bringing Everyone Together Over Confederate Monuments

My friend and former newspaper colleague Jake Hallman wrote a piece recently regarding the Confederate Monument in our hometown. In his article, he suggests that such a monument has no place sitting on the courthouse square due to the inability to place such a statue in context while sitting in such a place of prominence in the city.

While I'm certainly sympathetic to his argument, I would like to present my own modest proposal that will no doubt leave both sides of the debate pleased with the outcome.

The primary argument for keeping a moment to the Confederate solders who rebelled against the United States and fought to create their own, separate country, is that in keeping it, the monument teaches us our history.  Removing it would erase the history of this area, the argument goes. Clearly this is a powerful case as all the books written in the world have never touched on the war that nearly ununited the United States of America.

Our statues are truly the only way to preserve this history. Until such a time that books can be written and distributed widely to children and adults, perhaps in schools or some sort of public repository that would allow people to borrow a book on the topic of their choosing, free of charge, and return it after a designated period of time, the statues will remain our only source of learning about our history. So therefore, the statue should stay.

But as I mentioned, the war the Confederate solders fought in was not a scrimmage against themselves. They were fighting another army. In their minds, they were fighting another nation. Yet, oddly, that side of the story remains untold on our courthouse lawn. Our children are only learning half of the story and, as I mentioned, books are unavailable to present the other side.

We have seen that statues teach us our nation's history and as such, I would like to present my modest proposal to the citizens of Bulloch County and the Board of Commissioners. Standing next to the Confederate Solder on the courthouse lawn should be a statue of William Tecumseh Sherman, the General from the United States who marched his solders from Atlanta to Savannah, through Bulloch County, in a devastating military campaign. Sherman burned down the courthouse, a log building that doubled as a barn when court was not in session, before proceeding on to Savannah.

Erecting a statue to this United States General directly alongside that of the Confederate monument could not possibly draw objections from anyone. After all, what better place for such a statue than on our courthouse lawn, the epicenter of learning in our community, far ahead of Georgia Southern University. Those who want the Confederate monument to stay would be pleased and those who feel it's inappropriate to have it there would have their own monument they could take pride in.  And rather than being a nondescript union soldier, or even Abraham Lincoln or Ulysses S. Grant, it would be of a Union general who was actually in Statesboro. Imagine the learning possibilities for young and old alike.

Those arguing that the Confederate monument teaches history will no doubt be thrilled that additional educational materials will be available right on our courthouse lawn. My fellow citizens, I urge you to show up to the next County Commission meeting and demand that the Confederate monument issue be addressed. Some among us may say to you, "WTF?" when presented with this humble idea. To them, I say, "No. W.T.S." He is the statue, the monument, that we need at this time to heal this divided country.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Steal my sunshine

That was cool.

Like, legit, a top-5 life experience.

I don't really have anything profound or insightful about today's eclipse. My son is eight and like a lot of kids, he's interested in outer space. He knew the moons of Mars and was able to tell the planetarium director their names when he as five (until then, I didn't know Mars had moons*)

So when I heard several months ago about today's eclipse, I pretty much knew I was going to go. I could have planned to stay in town where the moon was going to eclipse 96% of the sun, but.... but if I drove 100 miles, I could get in the path of totality and experience a total eclipse.

So we decided to go. Unfortunately, last week my wife learned she wasn't going to be able to go with us. Se's usually the planner of our events. All I knew was I wanted to see a total eclipse, but beyond that, I didn't know what places were holding events or anything. She'd mentioned South Carolina State University was hosting an event and I figured what better place to go see this than an institution of higher learning.

I picked up my son from school about 11:15 and we set out on the roughly two-hour trip. My son wasn't all that talkative at the beginning, but as we got closer and closer, he started talking more and more. The eclipse began at 1:08 local time and we pulled in the parking lot about 1:15. We got out and immediately put on our glasses and saw the first traces of the moon moving across the sun.

We walked over to the football stadium where all the festivities were happening. Along the way we saw people grilling out, others in lawn chairs and blankets. There were also lots of amateur astronomers with telescopes set up along the short walk. Once inside the stadium, we saw a balloon being lifted off to get above the clouds to collect data for scientists a lot smarter than I am.

After that, the SCSU marching band started playing and there was also a DJ there playing songs. It was a festive atmosphere with college kids, community members and people from all over the globe there. In addition to people from South Carolina and Georgia, there were people from Maryland, Washington, Jamaica and Germany all in little old Orangeburg, South Carolina for the eclipse.

So for about an hour my son and I sat there, looking up every now and again with our glasses to see the moon slowly move across the sun while we laughed at the college kids around us, enjoyed the music and waited. For the longest time, if you didn't know an eclipse was happening, you wouldn't have noticed anything different.

Finally, at around 2:20 you could tell something was starting to happen. It started to cool off a little and the sky started to get darker. There was someone (I assume an SCSU science professor) explaining things. The sky in the west started to get darker and through our glasses we could see the moon nearly completely in front of the sun.

As it inched its way across, we both left our glasses on, watching and anxiously waiting for what we were all there for. There was yelling and cheering and a palpable excitement as the moment neared.

Finally, at 2:43 p.m., the moon moved entirely across the sun and for two minutes. The cheering and screaming (of which I fully admit I was one) of excitement echoed throughout the stadium. We could take our protective glasses off and were able to see Venus and Jupiter as well as the corona around the sun. With 20 seconds remaining, we were told (ok, encouraged) to put our glasses back on so we didn't look in to the sun when the moon stopped totally blocking the sun.

And just like that, the sun's light started to come back. As soon as it did, the crowd cheered some more. Being there with so many other people made it a better experience. We stuck around for another 15 minutes or so, but my son was ready to go home and I couldn't blame him. We made it back in a little more than two hours.

I'd do a disservice if I didn't mention that SCSU did an outstanding job with the event. From the music to the information to providing eclipse glasses to those who needed them, it was a first-rate 

*The moons are Phobos and Demos.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Jesus Recycles

"Come on Jesus, get up. The crowd will be here soon."

"Bartholomew, it can't be time to get up yet. We had such a long night last night. I knew staying up by the fire telling stories was going to come back to bite us, but noooooo, you wanted to tell that stupid story about the goats again. No one finds that funny. When they write a book about us one day, you're going to get mentioned once or twice and never again."

"Hey now, everyone likes my goat story. But whatever, we have to get up. Have you even prepared a talk for the crowd today?"

"A new talk? Come on, you've got to be kidding me. Where are we today?"

"Come on, dude, how much did you drink last night? We're in Capernum. It's been a few months since we were here last, but rumor has it the crowd is going to be a big one. You're getting quite popular. And if they do write a book, do you think they'll include my awesome sense of humor?"

"Fine, fine. Ugggh. Give me a minute. Ok, what did I talk about when I was here last time? I don't want to repeat myself, even if there is that one guy always in the back wanting me to play the hits."

"You did the Bread of Life part last time you were here, so don't do that."

"Can I just use what I talked about in Tiberias last week? No one would notice, would they? I just really don't want to have to come up with something new today."

"Are you really going to recycle a sermon, Jesus?"

"No one will ever know. Come on Bart. Don't be that guy. I'm just not feeling it today."

"Jesus, dude. Come on. You're better than that."

"What if I'm not, Bart. What if I'm just tired and not in the mood to come up with something new and insightful today and I just tell them the same thing I told the crowds last week. No one would know."

"Come on Jesus. You're not seriously considering this. I thought you were better than this."

"Bart, you try coming up with something new and meaningful every day. It's exhausting. Maybe just this once, we let it slide and recycle. If they haven't heard it before, it's new to them."

"Fine, Jesus, you're in charge. I just hope they don't mention this in whatever book they write."