Wednesday, April 28, 2010


It woke me up at 4:20 the other morning.

I knew something was wrong before I even woke up. My consciousness sprinted to play catch-up with my senses, some of them screaming that if I didn’t figure out what the wrong thing was, I might never fully wake up. The sheets on my bed were dry and smooth, they reassured me that all was not lost. I could see nothing in the dark of my room, so fire probably wasn’t it. I was hearing something.

It was the wrong thing. It growled like a swarm of bees trapped in candy bar, hundreds of primal minds full of energy and a desire to expand and conquer. I was alone with them.

In the elapsed seconds, I’d figured that I was in my bedroom, and in the direction the sound was coming from were a lot of my more expensive electronics, my desktop computer being the biggest and best of them. I’d lost my external hard drive a few weeks ago, and had only recently gotten new copies of the material on it saved on my main drive. In those files were days of media and years of my own creative works, files I would not be able to recover a second time, and if they were lost, so to would be lost a part of my soul. If the sound was coming from there, a device that was supposed to be completely off, that would be very wrong indeed – raping God’s sister level of wrong.

But the wrong thing wasn’t my computer. It was sitting right next to it, watching it. Watching me. It wanted to know what would cause the most damage: hurting me directly, or hurting what had most of my work in it. I should have known.
It was my electric razor, and that night was the night it would try to kill me.

Seeing the opportunity, it leapt from the dresser for the quick kill, and if I’d been fully awake it might have worked. Too much instinct was in control, and like my ancestors catching snakes in the trees, I caught the sound in mid-air, and its source along with it. Now as most men know, once you get an electric razor in a good grip, there’s a pressure point you can hit that will put the thing to sleep, and that’s exactly what I did.

It didn’t pass out. It just kept screaming. I pushed and I choked and I beat at the point but it just kept screaming. The wrong thing had become clear: the razor had moved its pressure point to a spot I couldn’t get at. I was dealing with the Malcolm Reynolds of electric razors, and it aimed to misbehave.

Since technique wasn’t going to carry me through the night, I had to switch tactics. Me being an adult male human, and it being a small object, I had some advantages. The ones I elected to use were my size and that mainstay of man-vs-everything: opposable thumbs. I ripped the teeth off the head so I could get at the rotary mechanism, and held it back with my thumb and forefinger, figuring that if I could make it work hard enough, it would run out of juice and give up that much quicker.

To anyone that might find this chronicle, I must warn that such a maneuver is not easy or gentle. The mechanism will strain and jolt relentlessly, and even if you manage to wedge the thing tight enough to wear it down, whatever you wedge it with will hurt. It will tear through paper and fabric, and anything strong enough to not suffer is going to be too big and unwieldy to jam into the small opening. About the only thing that works are human digits, and the only ones I had access to were mine.

I had to change my grip a couple of times a minute to prevent my mind from breaking. The sensation of so many oscillations a second going from the tips of my fingers up my arm was not one any brain was meant to handle. It was only after I gave a fingertip a break that I could detect the threat those vibrations posed to my flesh, but in the face of a homicidal shaver I had no choice. Five minutes passed and the beast showed no sign of slowing down. I cursed myself then, cursed myself for insisting on a waterproof razor; how much quicker and simpler my current task would be if I had the option to drown this monster.

Three more minutes left, and by then I had no finger that was not shaking for the stress. Though my boys were strung out they could not be allowed to rest here. They were my only line of defense against this traitor, and like the heroes of old they braced up and carried the fight.

I thought I could hear the thing losing strength. Experience had taught me that the first signs of fatigue are followed swiftly by the last. My fingers wanted nothing but to let go then.

“It is weakened, surely we can let it die on its own now. Another minute by our efforts or another five to let it bleed out on its own, not so big a difference, is it?”

I nearly acquiesced. I came so close to listening to passivity that looking back I think I must have been mad. As I considered the option, the razor’s life flashed before my eyes. It had behaved itself, if not admirably at least adequately. It removed my hair as it was told, usually careful not to nick my skin. Especially around my neck, where a few millimeters of skin are all that separates my life’s blood and the cold, unforgiving harshness of the open air. It wouldn’t take much to breach that, this was common knowledge.

I made my decision. This would be the final push. Though they moaned and cried, my fingers kept pushing, past their own pain and past the wailing of the razor until, two minutes and inches of raw skin later…

…the wrong thing finally died.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

All We Want is Life Beyond...

Thanks for waiting, everyone!

It’s not possible to live in the US these days without being inundated with talk of reform. We just passed healthcare reform, we’re currently up in arms about nuclear defense reform, immigration reform, banking reform. I’m a little sick of the term at this point, but I also understand that the most effective solutions are themselves types of reform, and thus perpetuating the problem.

We need a way to mold the reform process, and I think the best step forward is to take a step back. I suggest we adapt our legal system to incorporate that most effective of decision-making policies: Thunderdome.

First effect: efficiency. From months and months of arguing, debating, drafting, redrafting, and votes that these days usually end in filibustering (the political term for “I’m going to bitch and whine until everyone else gives up because they’re not doing exactly what I want”), laws are written, champions are chosen, and a few minutes later we have a winner. The merits of the issue so rarely enter into the debate itself in the current climate, so completely abandoning them in favor of trial by combat only makes the grievance official. Also, by making the decision-making process centered on the fight itself, there will be less interest in compromise, ensuring that the bills do not suffer from being weakened in their potential to change the system by being watered down in committee to make an attempt at compromise.

While political activism in general is building, actual popular attention to Washington proceedings remains low. The only people that pay scrutinous attention to the actual proceedings are shows like The Daily Show, and then only so that they can find new reasons to run the same people over coals. The entire democratic system is built on the principle that citizens must not only be aware but be active in the political process. My Thunderdome proposal does not limit the United States to one giant dome, but a series located throughout the country. Not only will major federal laws be decided this way, this policy would go right down to concluding how fiscally responsible a neighbor is for his dog’s digging into another neighbor’s property line.

Which brings me to my next point: abuse of the system. One of the great travesties present in our current legal system is that so many people are willing to use it not to seek justice, but to earn livelihoods from the absolute minimum amount of work. There are people who make their livings through lawsuits – mostly lawyers, but also their less empathetic clients – and even worse are people who are willing to spend millions of taxpayer dollars less for the potential payout but more so that their face can get on television. The day said people have to defend their cases with their fists, such abuses will end, either via forfeit or with hilariously painful displays. My system will allow a party to arbitrate their spot in Thunderdome to another party, but with restrictions: one cannot have a second more than a decade older or younger, must be able to prove relationship for at least a year, must be within a similar earning range. This should allow anyone sick, injured, or otherwise impaired to take part in the system and yet avoid the immediate creation of a professional legal-fighting institution.

While costs for the construction of facilities to enforce this new infrastructure may be intimidating, it is important to take into account the long-term savings and additional revenue streams to be enjoyed through this level of justice. Professional wrestling has done it best, and I think theirs is a model we should learn from. Allow free admission and viewing of the municipal-level arguments, things like small claims court and misdemeanors. Main events like capital or federal offenses, with more at stake and thus demanding a higher-caliber champion, will draw bigger audiences. Legal battles like, and I’m just being hypothetical, a trade dispute between California governor Arnold Swarzeneggar and former governor Jesse Ventura, would need to be pay-per-view simply to control the overwhelming demand. Revenues from such events could fund things education, energy concerns, public transit, whichever department could prove their need best in the ‘dome.

Modern day problems are coming at the public faster than ever, and immediate action has to be taken. The lines are being drawn in the sand as to which direction this country should head. Given the benefits I’ve outlined above, I believe the only people being hurt by my proposal are those who lack the courage to truly put themselves on the line for what they believe.

Thunderdome may not be the most enlightened method for seeing us through this conflict, but I continue to believe it is the most effective one.

I really needed to get that off my chest. Thank you.