Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Catching up, and my disdain of offense

Thank hell it's Wednesday. I've missed you Classics, and I'm glad I actually have time to post today, as these last couple weeks have been busier than a swarm of pregnant bees. Even Spring Break was work. It started in Joplin, Mo., with a mini-mission trip, then I spent the entire week seeing family and friends and it was more appointment-like than I would have preferred. I get back to school, where I'm suddenly behind in my classes, and have to immediately begin work as a baseball beat reporter. OK, maybe not immediately, there was a bit of mediate in there, but the time between was negligible as this was my first beat writing experience and therefore I wasn't considering the couple of days between getting back and starting work as "downtime" because I had never been "up." You see what I'm saying?

Anyhow, the baseball beat has pushed — shoved — me. I am a tired person, but at the same time really happy to be swinging the bat instead of managing the lineup. (Expect these kinds of analogies to become more frequent.) I miss my writers, or rather, "my writers": the idea that I am somehow above these people who work harder than I. There are a select few writers to whom I fervently enjoyed giving edits, and getting edited is less fun after being the one editing for a year, as the changes in most cases are a matter of compromise; what am I willing to give up to the editor?

The actual work is really enjoyable, though I wouldn't call it fun. Talking to athletes and coaches is always nerve wracking because of the general pampering athletic entities receive from fans (which we all are) and the media (which, we all are fans). You have to ask them poignant questions that get them engaged, get them talking, and don't piss them off. Meanwhile, we may forget that the athletes may actually be nervous talking to a reporter, or excited and hopeful to get quoted in the paper. Right fielder Davis Hendrickson recognized me at a bar last night and asked me if I remembered him. My first real story (other than piddly recaps and previews) ran in today's paper, and I'm proud of it — more so in the fact that I did it than the story itself. Illini of the Week is a weekly feature series we do at the Daily Illini, and this was my first time doing one. Doing an IOTW is considered (consciously or subconsciously) as one of the rites of passage on the DI Sports staff. After the story was turned in, the staff had a barcrawl (unrelated), wherein the staff mixed beer with orange shirts to breed camaraderie. I was always slightly anxious about writing a varsity beat, and the lack of experience in that regard is the main reason I was presented with for not receiving the position of sports editor. So doing this has a cathartic punch to it as well.

What's suffered most in my time as a beat writer has been Room 583, Townsend Hall. Box score sheets riddle the already-filthy floor, my books seep from my bed toward the television, and, unrelated to my new role at the DI, our chair — our one, nice thing — broke. You would think this would clear out some space in the room, but no, the chair's still there, essentially serving as nothing more than a felt circle of blue between whomever's rump and the ground.

I finally caught up on all my TV shows, which is great. I'm sorry mom and I promise to look into scholarships promptly after finishing this post.

The thing that sucks about being a beat reporter is that, if by some off chance, an Illinois baseball fan wants to follow me on Twitter, I have an obligation to not say "fuck" all the time. Same with being friends with my girlfriend's parents on Facebook. Some people just don't understand the value of the word "fuck." Frankly, this confuses me. I got why they didn't want me to curse in my youth — it's bad if kids are running around saying "fuck you" or that "you're a stupid mother fucker" but I don't see the harm in adults having an understanding of life's knack for inducing stress. Stress that makes people really want to say "fuck." I'm friends with some younger kids on Facebook, middle schoolers I meet through church retreats.  And I'm not interested in creating separate social media accounts "for those times when saying fuck is the only way" because I'm interested in promoting who I am, which is a person who, like most people, says "fuck" on occasion. It pains me to have to limit my colorful (a word I'm not even using in the sarcastic euphemism way!) vocabulary to conform to society's image or proper. It pains me a lot. Especially since the word "fuck" isn't really offensive even. It's not theological, sexist, racist or homophobic. It alludes to sex, but so does childbirth, children, and the human race at all. But really, we don't say "fuck" to mean sex, we say it to express displeasure with a situation, or to emphasize something, or as an expression to indicate an unfortunate state ("that's fucked up"). People aren't picturing sexual intercourse and then being overwhelmed with disgust, they are simply angered at the language itself, which is amazing in nature. This combination of sounds (fuh-k) makes us feel a certain way for the very nature of it and not for its meaning. I think some people are just frightened by the ferocity with which the word "fuck" indicates the user is speaking. For instance, people will freeze in their tracks if you question them by saying "Are you fucking kidding me?" when the only difference between that question and a mild "Are you kidding me?" is a word that doesn't mean anything in particular but has a distinct purpose of emphasis. Essentially, "Are you fucking kidding me?" and "Are you kidding me?" are the same thing. Also, the use of "fucking" in sentences provides a rhythmic build-up to the next word. In the case of "Are you fucking kidding me?" it builds a tension by creating a kind-of pause in the middle of the sentence (pause in the sense that the word "fucking" doesn't add any semantic value to the sentence) that's purpose is to emphasize whatever is about to be said. "Are you (!) (!) kidding me?" There's one (!) for each syllable. I guess (!) symbolizes the implication of accentuation and intensity.

It's different than using the word "fag" to mean dumb or stupid, and where people usurp presumed bigotry by saying "I don't even mean gay people, I'm just saying fag to indicate that I don't like it." The same concept applies with "nigger" or "bitch." The word itself, not by definition or context, but as a device to belittle or alienate, makes some people feel upset. That's what offensive is. Basically, this scene.

So fuck and asshole and shit are words that we should take lighter than bitch and gay and damn. Bitch is misogynist, gay is homophobic (we really should find a more correct word than homophobia, how about "sexualism" or "gaytred") and damn implicates the phrase "God damn it," or the notion of asking a higher power to damn something to an eternal inferno.  It's indicating the Lord's name in a vain manner, so Christians, attack that word.

Fuck is a thing necessary to human existence, shit is a thing all humans do and asshole is a thing all humans have. And when we cuss, we are succumbing to the human experience, frustrated by all that life has thrown our way. We are stressed out.

So if some asshole — a figure we all despise lest we remember that we have all before been some asshole — is telling you to do a bunch of shit — unpleasant things that we all have to experience practically every day — then you would be correct to assess the situation with an utterance of the word "fuck" — that's life.

--Eliot Sill

Monday, April 2, 2012

Nick - Unfair

This is a Blue Light story; the premise, outlined by Friday Conor here, is that The Blue Light appears above your head when your death is approaching.
. . .

Ellis was 22, insecure, and skinny. He was pretty quiet, but a genuinely nice guy. That morning he woke up hungover. He sat up and saw his blue light in the mirror on his closet door. He stared at himself and said nothing.

Adrian was 25, easygoing, and smart. She was working on her master's in political science. That morning she woke up, showered, and then saw her blue light when she went to fix her hair. She screamed and threw her hair brush across the room, then sat down on the side of the bathtub and cried.

Andy was 34, confident, and loving. He and his girlfriend used to party a lot, but now he had a job and lived a much calmer lifestyle. He sang to himself in the shower and didn't notice his blue light until he had gone downstairs, had breakfast, and looked out the window at his girlfriend's garden. When he saw his reflection, all he could think about was how he was going to tell her. They had been dating for almost nine years and she meant more to him than anything.

Ellis was still sitting on his bed staring at himself. He picked up his phone and browsed through his contacts looking for someone to tell. He noticed he was shaking. He put the phone back down.

Adrian walked across the hall, her eyes still red with tears, and sat with her housemate. They sat together and hugged, then they went and had breakfast. The housemate called up Adrian's friends to have a get together that night so that Adrian wouldn't feel alone.

Andy called in to work and told them he was sick; then he cooked a nice dinner. He set up candles and put out the good table cloth and glasses. When his girlfriend came home, they had a very tearful meal together.

Ellis was still sitting in his room. He picked up his phone, and then put it down again. He stared at it, hoping maybe one of his friends (he had many) would call him, and then he wouldn't have to do it. Like maybe his phone would know, and take care of it for him. If this were his last day, it shouldn't be going like this. He looked back to the mirror, and that stupid blue light was there, taunting him. He desperately wanted to beat it. "This isn't fair," he said aloud to the empty room.

Adrian's friends (she had many) had come to her house, and they all sat around in the living room. Adrian didn't want to spend her last day tearfully; she suggested that they all go out to a bar and have a good (albeit bittersweet) time. "We should enjoy the time we have left together," she said to her friends.

Andy and his girlfriend finished their dinner. He thought about calling his parents or his friends (he had many), but then decided that the only people he needed to have a good time were right here. The two of them decided to go out and have a drink together, for old times' sake, and then spend the night together, just the two of them. "I've had a good run, and I wouldn't want to spend today any other way," Andy told his girlfriend.


Ellis walked into the bar. He pulled a gun out of his cardigan sweater. He fired into a crowd of girls, and Adrian fell to the ground. The whole crowd of everyone there flew into a screaming panic, but Ellis stood his ground, determined to beat the blue light; if he could break its rules, maybe he could survive his own blue light. He took aim at a woman sitting at the bar, who did not have a blue light above her head, and he fired.

Andy pushed his girlfriend out of the way of the attacker, and the bullet found him instead. Ellis pulled the trigger again, but the gun was jammed. He stood staring at his target, who was now crying over Andy's body. He kept pulling the trigger but it wouldn't fire. He felt like he was watching himself from outside of his body.

Gradually he became conscious of the sound of sirens and the blare of red and blue lights from behind him. The bar was mostly empty now, the crowds having stampeded out in terror. Ellis was brought back to reality by someone shouting something at him. He instinctively spun around and pointed his gun;

The cop shot him.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Blue Light Parade, Pt. 1

"Are you alright, Emma? You look like you're getting sick."

Emma burst into another brief fit of coughing. When it ended, she cleared her throat and looked up at her older sister, Jennifer. "I'm fine, Jenni. It's probably just a little cold, that's all. I'll get over it in a day or two. I always do." Emma rubbed her mitten-covered hands over her arms in an attempt to keep warm. She could see her breath in the air. She hated the cold, but she always did love it when her breathing became visible. It was like little puffs of smoke coming out of a dragon's mouth. She smiled to herself.

Jennifer glared at her. "You know I hate it when you call me that. Jenni sounds like a little girl's name. It's belittling. If you can't say my whole name, at least call me Jenn. It's more...refined."

Emma rolled her eyes. "If you say so, Jennifer. Anyways, can we go home now? I'm freezing."

"Fine. Let's go." Jennifer picked up some of the wood she had been gathering and started toward home. "Well, are you gonna help me or what?" she called over her shoulder.

"Er...right. Coming!" shouted Emma as she scrambled to catch up with her sister.

They rushed home as quickly as they could. As soon as they got there, they dumped their cargo into the lumber bin right outside the door and hurried inside.

Emma and Jennifer started to shed their heavy winter shells of clothing. "Phew! It's freezing out there, Mamma. I hope it isn't this cold tomorrow for the parade!"

"Me too, sweetheart!", called their mother from the kitchen. "I made you both some hot chocolate to warm you up." They could hear her heels clacking against the floor as she walked toward them. They shared a private smile. Their mother was a classy woman, and she always dressed the part.

When the clacking stopped, Emma and Jenn both looked up from what they were doing to greet their mother. Jenn paused midway through unzipping her coat. Emma still held her slightly damp hat in her now bare hand.

Their mother had a strange look on her face. "What is it, M-" But she was cut off by her mother's horrified scream as she dropped the tray carrying the mugs of hot chocolate to the ground, shattering them. She collapsed to the ground, sobbing.

Jenn rushed to her side. "Mamma, what's wrong? I can't understand you..." She trailed off as she realized that her mother was pointing at something. Slowly, Jenn turned in that direction.

Then she saw what had upset her mother so. When she did, it took all of her willpower to keep from crying herself.

Emma stood by the door, hat still in hand, frozen to the spot by her mother's reaction. And there, above her head, was The Blue Light.