Saturday, May 18, 2013

Politics- Let Me Shoot People In The Face

Let Me Shoot People In The Face
by Rob Cottignies

            Hello and thank you for reading my campaign essay. I know you think your time is valuable so I will make this somewhat short and get right to the point by first telling a story and then getting to the point…
            Recently, I was driving on New Jersey’s Route 17- a busy major highway- when I saw a giant SUV in the far-right lane going in reverse, against traffic. I’ve seen this scenario before but never by someone who presumably missed an exit by so much. To further show this person’s idiocy, it was the middle of the day and there was no scarcity of cars on the road. My immediate thought was ‘This person is dangerous and should have a full cartridge of bullets emptied into his face!’
            We’ve all done dumb things, but when your stupidity puts other people at risk I should be able to interfere with a fresh batch of ammunition to your face. The person mentioned above was clearly guilty of public idiocy and endangerment. If this putz is empty-headed enough to drive in reverse on a busy motorway in the afternoon, what else might he do that could endanger people? Walk around a mall while flailing a sword? Set fire to a retirement home? Put a baby’s crib over a furnace? These things may sound fun but they are silly and put partially-innocent people at risk.
            So why should I be in charge of shooting people in the face? For one thing, my track record of pointing out stupidity is impeccable. Not once have I said, ‘Oh, that person is stupid,’ and the person turned out to be terrific. Except Andrew WK, but I think we were all wrong about him in the beginning. Let’s party.
            Have you seen the movie God Bless America? Probably not since it doesn’t star Dennis Quaid or Candace Cameron or whomever today’s heartthrobs are. It’s about a guy who gets diagnosed with cancer and decides to spend the rest of his Earthly time killing people who deserve it. Instead of dangerous people, he focuses on the obnoxious. While some of the latter deserve a brutal and bloody fate, they are more subjective to judge, which can be unfair. One might say the idea is good but not necessarily the execution. Pun heartily intended. Oh yeah, and check out the movie. Bobcat Goldthwait wrote and directed it. What? Who’s he? Ugh, you…
            Now, it’s not that I want to shoot people in the face. Actually, I do want to shoot people in the face but that’s irrelevant even though it’s completely relevant. The important thing to remember is that the people I will go after are threats to society- you, me, and even themselves. And yes, they are somehow even more of a threat than stupid little dogs on 20-foot leashes. I would not get drunk with this power, nor would I get drunk and then shoot random people in the face. I am not susceptible to bribes. And although the number of times I’ve used an actual gun is really close to zero, my point-blank-to-the-face aim would likely be outstanding.
            For you advocates of non-violence, remember the guy who drove backwards on Route 17. What would be the alternative to me shooting him in the face? Should this brainless and hazardous driver be given a ticket? A fine and points on his license would not only not teach the offender not to repeat but there would be no example set for future potential offenders. ‘Oops, missed my exit. Should I keep driving and make TWO u-turns that would take up to FIVE minutes so I can catch my exit safely? Nah, I’ll just pull to the shoulder and back up. Oh wait, didn’t some guy get shot in the face for doing just that? I’d better keep going.’ I guarantee this would happen all the time by simply setting one example. And how did you like my use of triple negative?
What’s the best part of this plan? Jobs! Apparently people like to work and I think it would take no less than five recruits to fully clean up a successful Dangerous Idiot Execution. D.I.E. So clever. With so many morons doing moronic things, my plan will create at least dozens of jobs. Who will pay these people? The families of the idiots! By having this policy in place, idiots will have to think of their families before they do something dangerous and dopey. And what of the idiot’s car? It would go back to the family, of course. I’m not a monster. The splattered brains would be a constant reminder to not repeat their fallen loved one’s mistake. Sure, they’d get the car cleaned, but have you ever tried to get brain stains out of a back seat? It’s really, really difficult.
            In closing, I would like to say that this is the death penalty, only much quicker and fully awesomer. I am prepared to take on the roles of judge, jury, and most enjoyably, executioner. Should my service falter in any way, I will graciously step down from my post. Just don’t shoot me in the face. Vote for me at your next community electoral gathering and help make the world a safer, lovelier place with the occasional roadside civil service slaughter.

Book Review- Het Achterhuis by Anne Frank

Book Review – Het Achterhuis by Anne Frank
by Rob Cottignies

Known as The Diary Of A Young Girl to English-readers, Anne Frank’s “book” is like no other. I put the word book in quotation marks because it really isn’t. There are millions of books just like it- diaries. I’ve written several as I’m sure many of you have. So what makes this one special?
For those unfamiliar with this stretch of history, consider this your spoiler alert. Anne Frank was given a blank diary (which she named Kitty) for her thirteenth birthday. She wrote in it regularly for over two years, during most of which she and seven other Jews were in a confined “Secret Annexe” hiding from the Germans. Anne wrote about an array of topics: school and studies, friends, politics, boys, the beauty of nature, family life, her up-and-down relationships with everyone who was hiding with her.
The basic concept of this book is odd and, especially for me, unappealing. It’s the personal thoughts of a teenage girl. As a 31-year-old man, that idea hardly sparks my interest. It was the story surrounding the book that made me read it but I found Anne to be absolutely adorable. Maybe I’m getting soft but I found her prose charming and her ideologies far above many adults. Like very many people even to this day, Anne could not understand why she had to be in hiding. Even through that, she hardly expressed hatred for the Germans responsible, but rather confusion and wonder. She praised Winston Churchill and routinely prayed for the Allies to invade and end the war. I got particularly interested when her June 6, 1944, entry came around. She described D-Day from what she heard on her illegal radio and was quite excited that the invasion of France was finally underway. It was interesting to read such an odd perspective on the events without sadness but with joy and hope of finally leaving her hiding spot. Less than two months later this would happen, but at the hands of the Gestapo…
Already knowing that she wouldn’t survive the war was the hardest and most heart-breaking part of reading this book. Anne often wrote about what she would do and where she would go after the war. She wrote about getting married and having children and even speculated what she’d be like when she turned eighty. As a reader, I felt helpless. I wanted to jump into the book and tell her…… what, exactly? That she wouldn’t live past fifteen? That she would eventually become a world-famous writer, but certainly not in the way she had hoped?
Hope is what oddly makes this book so sad. This “silly little goat” (as Anne described herself) was so optimistic in such an unimaginably dark time. Being a teenager is emotionally hectic enough, but being forced to leave your home to share a confined quarters with seven people while never being allowed outside and with the constant threat of being found and taken away to an almost certain death? There are no words. Actually, there are- Anne’s. She discusses this in as positive a way as possible but at one point even wishes for death to arrive so she could be free from confinement. Can you blame her? Anne’s way with words was so touching though. She complained about her parents and the lack of food and other things but almost always had a little joke lined up. And I must admit that I cheered out loud when Anne got her first kiss. She didn’t know what it meant, but who really does?
Another odd aspect of reading this: At one point in the book, Anne went on for many pages about relatively trivial issues. I found myself wishing for some kind of action to happen; then I realized what that would mean and quickly wished for the nothing to continue. With so many emotions surrounding the book, I forgot it wasn’t fiction.
            The edition of The Diary Of A Young Girl I have is a paperback published by Bantam Books in 1993. It was translated from the Dutch by B.M. Mooyaart and features a short introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt. There are pictures toward the front of the book of Anne, her actual writings, and notably of her father- the only one of the eight to survive the war. He’s the person who had Anne’s writings published under the original Dutch name, Het Achterhuis, which is what she would have titled her first book had she been able to. Since there is no literary ending to her book, Mooyaart adds an informative afterword in three parts. The first tells of Hitler’s rise to power and how the situation in Amsterdam came to be; the second, sadly, completes the story of Anne and her family; and the third describes how the book came to be published and then so wide-spread throughout the world.
            Reading this book was a humbling experience for me. The journal writings of a teenage girl from another continent decades ago have taught me a very valuable lesson: No matter how dark things get, there is always light to be found. Just look out the window…

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God.” –Anne Frank, 1944

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Commentary- The Literally Complex

The Literally Complex or: Punch Paul Rudd In The Face
by Rob Cottignies

'Literally'- the verbal equivalent to the Bubonic Plague. And yes, I said boob. A-huh-huh.
My hatred for the misuse and abuse of 'literally' is known world-wide yet the offenders continue to offend. But I'm not here to repeat anything I've previously stated although I probably will anyway. There are two new misuses of the word which add complexity to its already-tarnished nature. These are as follows...

'This happened for real, not literally.'
I got this in a text message from a friend who commonly throws 'literally' around like a dog flinging a giant string toy. Those toys are great and dogs are great. Of course I mean real dogs and not little yippers on too-long leashes. Anyway, my friend's sentence is horribly wrong. Or is it not? I don't know anymore. Used in this context, 'literally' means 'not facetiously' which means 'for real'. How can something actually happen without actually happening? I am not a Physics guy. A Physician is a doctor. What's someone who knows and works with Physics? A scientist! I am not a scientist. Clearly. Or maybe I'm literally a scientist, which could mean whatever you'd like.
This misuse perplexed me because it used the word to mean the opposite of what it means. There are probably wormholes and string theories and Greek manuscripts all around the phrase, rendering it both useless and mind-blowing.

The second misuse I overheard in a bar: "That deli literally wrote the book on how to be a good deli."
This one knocked me on the floor. Not for real, but literally. I was stunned and completely confused upon hearing it. I broke down this statement into three sections:
Applause- "...literally wrote the book..." Yes! This is how one would write a book! Literally! Literature! Fantastic! In my professional opinion, the word was used correctly in this part of the sentence.
Non-existence- "...the book on how to be a good deli." There is no book and you should know by now that I certainly checked. Did I literally check since it's book-related? Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!! There are books about how to run a successful restaurant and give good customer service but not one specifically about being a good deli. I can excuse this though since a little exaggeration never killed anyone except some cat which is fine because cats are stupid.
Impossible- "That deli literally wrote..." No, it didn't. A delicatessen is a store with walls, windows, a door or two, counters, refrigerators, et cetera. Not one of these things can have a sentient thought, let alone scribble said unreal thought on some form of paper. Put them all together and there is still not one thought in a deli. The workers can and likely often do have thoughts. But the statement was not about a deli owner or worker. It was devised to make me think that A DELI- LITERALLY- WROTE- A BOOK! No! Stop it!

I have a few anti-literally allies and we have discussed several times that we may be witnessing the evolution of a word, like how 'island' is a shortened form of 'isolated land'. That's why it contains that crazy S! And actually, I made that up recently but doesn't it seem right? Maybe it is. Tell your friends. I bet nobody will call you out. Perhaps my friends and I don't know what 'literally' means even though we've done extensive research on the topic and have absolutely no doubt that we are hearing it misused on a daily basis.

Can a word lose its meaning just because people who don't understand it use it often enough?

A friend and anti-literally activist traced back to what he thinks brought about this 'literally' phenomenonsense™. Paul Rudd. Apparently he used it or emphasized with it or molested it in some other way in some movie I probably never watched. I enjoy Paul Rudd but I cannot forgive this even though he was just acting. If you see Paul Rudd, punch him in the face. Tell him it's from me and I believe he'll appreciate your reason for violence. My theory is that each time Paul Rudd gets punched in the face, one person will forget that the word 'literally' exists and never use it again. Paul Rudd will have to receive millions of punches in the face for this word to dissipate to an acceptable level but I think it's worth it. Sorry, Paul Rudd. Once more- punch Paul Rudd in the face. Paul Rudd.