Of “Legal” Age: It’s my BIRTHDAY!!!!

I’m not really sure what the phrase “Of Legal Age” means, but I do know that now I am that. Yes, it’s my birthday. And I’m eighteen.

As I leave the realm of childhood behind, I will become an extremely mature young man who makes good decisions. Oh, who am I kidding? I spent last night watching Harry Potter and eating cookie dough. Whatever delusions I have of maturity were pretty much negated then. But honestly, I don’t care. Because at least under the law, I’m legal.

I can maybe get into clubs now, provided the clubs don’t serve alcohol, so basically, I can’t get into any clubs.

And if you’re bordering on the notion of subscribing, you should. You know, cause it’s the birthday! And also because I messed with the Header image so random pictures pop up. Yay! Randomness!

That’s what this post is, all it really is. Just a small collection of thoughts before I go do birthday things. Maybe I’ll come back and edit it a bit. Does that mean you should read it twice? Definitely. I have a sick obsession with tracking blog stats.

What does it mean for me to be eighteen? Well, let us figure that out, shall we?

1.) I can order things from infomercials.

2.) Buy cigarettes

3.) Serve Jury duty

4.) Rent a hotel room (in some states, though elsewhere you must be 21 or 25.)

5.) Go into strip joints

6.) Can’t drink, but CAN serve alcoholic drinks

7.) Can be sued

8.) Can open a bank account solitarily

9.) Can place bets

10.) Pawn things off at a pawn shop

11.) Purchase pornographic materials

12.) Buy a LOTTO TICKET!!

13.) Go to prison…

14.) Buy white out without parental consent

15.) Get a piercing without parental consent

16.) Get a tattoo without parental consent (I’m thinking a snitch on my chest?)

17.) Make a will (If I actually do get a tattoo or go to a strip club, I will need to make one of those)

18.) Change my name! (How does Humphrey McHumpbottom sound?)

19.) Participate on the Price is Right!

20.) Join the ARMY

21.) Buy lighter fluid

22.) Get married! WHAT? That can’t be right…

23.) Buy paint thinner

24.) Drink in the UK

25.) Buy a crossbow

26.) Participate in online surveys NOT targeted for those under 18

27.) Have legal sex

28.) Smoke a cigar and sheesha

29.) Feel awkward in “adult shops”

30.) Go to Dave and Buster’s without an adult

31.) Spray paint!

32.) Oh…. yeah…. and register to vote. But whatever, the important thing to remember here is that I can now legally purchase a crossbow. How cool…

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Poem: Manly

I have no idea what it means

To really be a man

But if I can come up with some half-good

Answers for all my questions

I’d be halfway to the moon by now

And I guess I ain’t going soon

Because I don’t know anything

 

When I was ten I knew

What being a man was all about

You wore cowboy hats and drove a motorcycle

Or rode a horse in foreboding sunglasses

Or tats of naked women straddling eagles

Or snakes or dragons

And did whatever it takes to keep hold of your dignity

That sort of manliness is something I lack

I certainly don’t look like a buff, bearded lumberjack

 

But these days that idea of masculinity

Holds all the necessity of a bullet in my head

Which mind you, I don’t think I need

So I plead with you, know

That it’s not always men who go into fights

Who are manly

But instead the ones who spend their nights

At home with their families

Working two jobs just to have enough to send his little girl

To college one day

That place he never got to go

Because he’d throw a punch

Every single time his honor was questioned

But now he forgets about that

And instead says “I love you”

Every single chance he can

Because he knows now what it means

To be a man

Thoughts About The Library

When I was in elementary school, the Book Mobile rolled into the parking lot every day around 2:30. Waiting outside in the gravel parking lot, we carried our old books in our dumpy book bags. Bags with vinyl depictions of Power Rangers and Harry Potter. The old bus was outfitted with shelves, a small, cramped desk placed behind the driver’s seat. It kicked up gravel when it pulled up, and we hustled inside, especially when it was raining.

Standing inside the Book Mobile, we stood in a single file line, pressing our bodies into the shelves every time someone needed to pass by. The books we checked out were kid’s books: The Magic Tree House, The Hardy Boys. My mom wouldn’t let me read Goosebumps, because it was too scary, too gruesome. I hated horror books at that age anyways, anything too real. I guess now that’s pretty ironic.

This was my first experience with the library, waiting every Tuesday for the Book Mobile to bumble into the gravel parking lot. They’ve paved over that parking lot now; the Book Mobile sits outside the library, and I don’t know if it visits the elementary school anymore.

When I’m running behind on writing an essay or a column for The Hornet Herald, I visit the library. First, I read. I read funny books by Steve Barry and Ian Michael Black and Lewis Grizzard. And then I take out my laptop, get down to work. It’s mostly quiet there in the library, especially upstairs in the Nonfiction section. Along with the essays on poetry and the biographies. There’s wifi too, which is more distracting than helpful.

Facebook has increased the percentage of turned-in-late essays in my grade by 76%. I made that statistic up—writing blog posts or writing columns, you’re allowed to do that. You’re allowed to make up stories and anecdotes and quotes, because all that matters is the story. And if a story seems true, then truth doesn’t really matter.

After spending so much time in the library, I’ve learned something: old books smell so good.

I love buying books, especially old books. Because there are some books you must own, really own. To share with friends and carry. And keep on shelves to show everyone what books you own. And unless a book I really want to read has just been released, I will buy the book used.

But if I ever get published and visit the library, I won’t say anything to anyone. I’ll sometimes visit my work, to flip through the pages. I hope it begins to smell musty, the cover get battered, and the pages yellow. Because to me, that sort of wear-and-tear is a distinction. Sometimes, I flip through the books I check out and wrench out receipts from past users, reading the foreign names of people who traveled this journey before me. I wonder whether or not the book made them feel quite the same way. I wonder if this book meant anything to them.

I love the library, because it is like a home I’ve yet to move into.

But mostly I love the library because it’s free. Without the library, I probably would not be writing. It’s not that my parents didn’t buy me books, but how can any parent have the expense to satiate a kid’s imagination. I didn’t just want one book, ever. I wanted to read them all. I wanted to sit all day and night and scour the shelves and discover and learn and excavate through the archives of storytelling pasts.

Every book in a library is a story and picking up that book, you’re sharing it with the hundreds of people who read the book before you. I love finding white check-out slips hidden between the pages as bookmarks. Names of people who shared these emotions with me, this story.

Sometimes, I go to visit others who call it home. Sometimes, I revisit my favorites, pulling them from the shelves, indulging in surreptitious sniffs. Sometimes, I come with a list and a sturdy face, tracking down books I’d like to read. Other times, I don’t have a list: no names. I just wander around, looking at the titles, bringing home books I’ve never heard of. I’m a biting, critical reader, so sometimes I’ll leave the book alone. Sometimes, I fall in love.

And I hope maybe I’ll be able to find a book with my name on it on those shelves. And I’ll hope someday, some kid will pick it up, flip through its pages and think, “Old books smell so good.”

When Robots Rule the School

{A column written for Aiken High’s Hornet Herald. If you missed it or do not attend Aiken High, you can read it here.}

Movie buffs may remember Arnold Schwarzenegger teaching phonics in Kindergarten Cop, but rarely does one imagine his Terminator character as an educational instructor. A future exists where this is a reality.

Under his robotic tenure, the classroom is silent because the classroom is not physical; students interact across internet highways. After the imminent robot apocalypse, all classrooms will suffer this fate. But it’s not all science fiction. We are approaching that version of the future.

Recently, taking online classes has become a more integral part of a typical high school education. This summer, while taking a P.E. class through Virtual School, I pondered how technology might continue to change how students learn.

It seems advantageous and time-efficient to attend school on computers. The more we depend on technology, however, the further we risk not only a loss of personalization, but also a brutal robot uprising.

While I’m positive thatVirtualSchool’s firewall successfully blocks viruses, what if the school of the future includes pop-ups? A freshman of the future attempts to review his geography notes, but instead be offered a low mortgage rate and a discounted prescription of Viagra.

In the school of the future, schools could sell ads in the margins of English quizzes. Students could learn how polymers form and also where to meet hot singles in their area.

As far as I know, the teacher of my online class could have been a sentinel robot or a computer programmed to send generalized, automatic responses to the students’ queries. In the school of the future, human teachers might be eliminated, and tests could be created by outsourced companies in Russia, India, or Lithuania.

If robots control our education, how long will it take for them to realize their power to corrupt the minds ofAmerica’s children? Robots could teach children that 2 + 2=5, that George Washington was un-American, and that Cheetos are actually good for us. The school of the future might inspire a robot apocalypse:  first we give computers the capacity to teach, and then they learn to use guns and kill us all.

With the advance of technology in schools, we must face more immediate, if not deadly, consequences. We lose a very important student-teacher relationship if we rely so much on computers. When students need extra help on something learned in class, the school of the future will redirect the troubled student to another website, possibly the Wikipedia page for “Calculus.”

At the school of the future, students might read in their history books about pens and pencils and Sharpie markers, the sorts of writing utensils past generations used. At the school of the future, classrooms could simply be closed groups on Facebook. At the school of the future, students can come in too-short shorts or spaghetti straps or simply come naked because the classroom is a bedroom. At the school of the future, students might not need to understand the concepts as long as they click the right buttons. At the school of the future, students can text in class without getting caught.

If students learn only what textbooks can teach, they miss a major part of their education. I hope the school of the future will not simply teach us what to think, when it should teach us how to think.

Flashback Thursday: The Hogwarts Dorm Life

My friends and I began a vlogging team that cataloged the lives of Hogwarts students. Here are the introduction videos for all three of them, myself included. There is also a short film we did as these characters, which I intend to post soon. Enjoy.

Me:

Tim McFall:

Anna Brisbin:

What did you think? This was actually a really fun, cool idea, but did not work. Anna ended up going to NYU for theatre, so how cool is that?

Review: Lion King in 3D

Some may say that this is a ploy to empty your pockets for the sake of nostalgia, only in 3D. I think it is more of an opportunity to introduce the children of today to the wonders of Disney’s past.

While we waited through the opening trailers, I remembered what had gone wrong with Disney. Showing soon was another movie about hamsters and yet another Air Buddies film for the incredibly long saga of sequels following Air Bud. This marks the fifth straight-to-DVD spin-off of that series.

So, to rewind back to the good ole days when Mufasa ruled Pride Rock on the silver screen, it was quite a treat. If any readers here want to feel especially old, you should know that The Lion King was the first movie I ever saw in theaters. It came out before I had turned one years old.

The Lion King, being one of my favorite movies, cannot fail but be good. I’m rather glad I hadn’t seen it in a while (years), so a lot of jokes returned fresh to me.  Just so you know, I will not recap the movie for you. Whether you like it or not, The Lion King is a must-see. I shan’t waste time recounting the plot. So, go watch it. Bonus points: if you’ve ever read/seen Hamlet, imagine that with lions and also a gassy warthog.

Watching it as an older human being, I realized a few things about the movie:

1.) Mufasa, while being such a great father figure, is sort of a jerk to his brother. I mean, imagine how much abuse Scar had to put up with before finally deciding to kill Mufasa? Also, at one point, he forces Zazu, his Tucan companion, to act as a target for Simba’s target practice. Now, I cry too every time Mufasa topples into the stampede of wildebeasts, but now at least I understand what embittered Scar so much. So, basically, even if you hate for me for saying this, Scar wasn’t so bad. Oppressed under his brother’s rule, the runt of the family, maybe his actions were at least understandable.

2.) The hyenas, portrayed as evil, comical minions to Scar, spoke with accents different from the rest of the cast (American or British). I read that this may be an underlying message of racism, to cast African Americans to voice the ignorant, evil characters.

3.) GASP! Sexual innuendos? Yeah, pretty much.

I’m glad, yet not glad The Lion King has been released in 3D. On one hand, it gives today’s children a chance to experience the movie as if it were only now coming out. With the avalanche of crap kids’ movies, this is a welcome revival.  Arriving in the theater, I was actually surprised that more children than teens my age had come to see the film.

The 3D was underused and horrible. The scenes “in 3D” were just pathetic. They could have marketed it as a normal movie and that would have been fine, but they insisted on 3D. So, basically, I had to pay an extra four dollars per ticket for lackluster 3D. I am obviously not a fan of 3D. In this aspect, the decision seemed simply to make more money on The Lion King‘s re-release.

If you have a child who has never seen the film before, I suggest you take them out to see it in theaters, to experience its full impact.

If you, like me, simply want to revisit your childhood, just pop in an old VHS, because it may not be worth the money.

What do you think about the film? Is it good to bring back old masterpieces to cinemas? Or is this just a ploy to pillage your purse?

The Lion King returns to theaters after being long dead. I guess, that’s the Circle of Life?

Reading is for Nerds, Freakin’ Awesome Nerds

So what? I read books, bro… Get off my Dickens.

At some point, reading books became something only geeks did. Before Netflix, Youtube, and Facebook, (about 100 years ago, I suppose), everyone read books. Well-read men were looked upon as young, dashing sages. Writers were mysterious men with typewriters, scribbling romantic lines in yellowed notebooks. What happened to that freakin’ awesome stereotype?

When did books become such a symbol of lameness? Books can be pretty awesome. If reading or writing isn’t cool, then maybe you’ve just not been reading the right books.

I fully blame the public education system, which fortunately is the scapegoat for most of the blame for anything that I find wicked. English teachers assign, sometimes, the worst books. Children as young as ten are FORCED to read particular books, which gives them a bad perspective on books over all. Rather than be an intellectual escape, books represent horrible slave work. They become prisons of multi-layered syntax and qausi-universal themes, all of which you may never fully understand.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the lack of boys reading, which I suppose is normal. If we are forced at a young age to read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, we might swear off books altogether. Reading has become a pastime for nerds and pansies. Very few books transcend this stigma, deemed worthy of every child reading:  such as Harry Potter perhaps, or The Bible. But crack the spine of anything else, and you’re a nerd.

Stories, though, are more important than we give them credit. Some books are not simply good just because of an awesome premise. Rather, books are a medium through which people can share their stories. Even if the story is fiction, the ideas can be the understood, the emotion truly felt. Themes hardly matter in a book if you don’t feel something physically. The story needs to affect you on a very visceral level, make your stomach churn or your head feel light. We need to realize that reading isn’t merely intellectual, but also a sensational experience.

We must find books to share with people that will touch them. Especially kids.

In books, they give away free passports to every country on Earth. In books, they sell train tickets to places that don’t even exist. In books, heroes triumph on a daily basis. In books, you always get the girl. In books, you learn something about yourself you might not have otherwise figured out.

Reading is seemingly intimate. A solitary experience somewhere. But by reading a book you are affected in the same way that so many others reading the same book felt. Maybe you can’t feel exactly the same, being a different person. But you share the experience with people all around the world.

So, yes, I read.

I write.

I want to use that medium to change people’s minds and to make them laugh. To make them scratch their heads and to make them crap their pants. To make them hoot and holler and to make them put the book down on their lap and look quietly through a train window in deep thought.

Stories are the spirit through which all humans can strive to understand each other.

Before the Internet

It was a dark and quiet night without the internet. Gathering all of our blankets, we huddled in the bath, rocking back and forth, anticipating the imminent demolition of earth. First, the phone lines cut off, then the internet. After that, we waited for the world to splinter apart. It was only a matter of time until yet another cataclysmic disaster struck.

Bulldozing through our backyard to lay down another electrical line, “the company that shall not be named but rhymes with AB&B) cut our phone line, which supplies not only the house phone but the internet. (The beloved internet, may it rest in peace.) Right now, we are still safe from the apocalypse, and I write this hunched over in the back of the library nonfiction section. After learning the news, my chief concern was, “Who’re we going to call?” Before anyone broke out into the Ghost Buster’s theme, we called “The Company.”

Six days, they said, before we can reach you to fix the problem. SIX DAYS? Without the internet? But… where will I get my LOL fix? Can I start hash-tagging everything I say in real life? Will I actually have to watch TELEVISION to catch up on all my favorite shows? And then there’s the question of what I’ll do while in the loo. I mean, will I just have to settle with Entertainment Weekly or Times (and I don’t mean the Ipad App versions).

This extremely horrifying ordeal has struck me with a question: what did people do before the internet? Maybe if you’re reading this blog and are even only slightly older than me, you know the answer to this, but I don’t remember a time when there wasn’t an internet.

One pro of being internet-free is that I get a lot more work done (you know, on that novel… THAT one, yes). Every time I minimized Word to check my e-mail or browse Facebook, I was met with “No connection found.” So I kept working and working…

Sure, the internet is a wonderful tool of boundless information and also boundless misinformation. But it distracts from what we do in our everyday lives. Maybe research papers might not take hours to write if I didn’t use PDF texts rather than paper texts as sources. My mother, suddenly cut off from her virtual farm on Farmville, began scrapbooking rabidly (something she hasn’t done in years.)

The truth I’ve found is: beyond this digital world is in fact an entirely different world, one that involves reading books not on screens, but in print. Cleaning and actually finishing homework assignments. Did you know that beyond Netflix, they also show films at these extremely large complexes called “theaters.” Instead of squinting at my tiny laptop screen, I can sit back and watch movies on these immense, colorful screens—sound blasting through the walls. You find wonderful things outside of the Internet.

I’m not saying the Internet is useless, because it’s probably the most revolutionary innovation that man has put forth in fifty years. It changes how we interact and locate information and keep tabs on our tax returns and buy new running shoes. It also changes how we use our time.

In my late teens, I’m what is called “plugged-in.” Everything I do requires the internet. Need to contact me? Facebook me, e-mail me, tweet me, check out my blog. Who needs a business card when you have a website URL? But even my generation did not exactly “grow up” on the internet. We were slowly introduced to it as it sped up, from dial-up to satellite. One day we’ll get to say to our kids, “I remember when it took ten minutes to get to another webpage.” When I was a child, we played outside. And maybe that will be a constant pastime for children. Maybe not.

How will the generation who spent elementary school playing Angry Birds instead of dodge ball shape the world? Learning how to text long before learning the multiplication tables?

The Internet is a beautiful, useful tool, but what we use it for may be devastating.