Thursday, April 30, 2015

Wrap Rage

A few weeks ago, I posted the picture at right on my Facebook account, stating that in order to open the package, I clearly needed the scissors inside.  Oh irony!  Funny to readers; not so to me.  
Attempting to unwrap a package that is seemingly impossible to unwrap can be a frustrating problem.  And not just for me - there is actually a diagnosis for the hatred, anger and exasperation one feels when not being able to open packaging:  wrap rage.  You know it's real because it has its own Wikipedia page!  
It's the immense, sweat-inducing fury we've all felt trying to open packages that are simply impossible to open easily: light bulbs, potato chip bags, boxes of cereal, medicines and (10 years ago) CD cases.  Have you ever found yourself standing in your kitchen, unfathomably frustrated — fuming, even — after several attempts to open a bag of something only to realize it’s more secure than Fort Knox?
Manufacturers say that their packaging is simply the safest way to ship and store their products, and ask for "consumer patience" when opening the goods.  Easy to say, impossible to do.  Besides that, it's wasteful.  Nearly 1/3 of American waste is packaging.
I've a longstanding joke about my health that "I've survived a car accident, a stroke, cancer, a heart attack, and open-heart surgery all before the age of 40: which means that one day I will probably choke on an M&M and kill myself".  However, I am going to amend this phrase to add "...if I first don't puncture an artery with a screwdriver trying to open a pack of pens."

Monday, April 27, 2015

Joseph Palmer: Beard Wearing Freak

Since December 1, 2014, I've been allowing my beard to grow out.  I've never done this before, having what equates to a 5-day growth on my face for most of the past 20 years of my life.  But since full, long beards are still considered stylish, I thought I'd give it a try.  There are obvious limits to me being able to change my look.  Short of gaining and losing a few pounds here and there, and plus a few more wrinkles, I have pretty much looked the same way since the mid-1990s.  I mean, it's not like I've been able to change my hairstyle.

While researching beard-care and products, and image-searching for beards I wanted to emulate, I came across the story of one Joseph Palmer - a veteran of the War of 1812 and a member of the short-lived Utopian community “the Fruitlands”. He was described as a kind and tolerant man, but life was not easy for Joseph Palmer after he moved to Fitchburg in 1830. People would openly insult him, throw rocks at him, regularly break the windows of his home, and even cross the street so as not to be near him when he passed by. Despite being a deeply religious and God-fearing man who regularly attended church services, Palmer was publicly denounced during sermons by his pastor, Rev. George Trask, and even refused communion.
What awful thing had this small town butcher done to warrant such persecution? Joseph Palmer’s crime was that he was the only citizen in Fitchburg, Massachusetts who chose to wear a full beard, which (contrary to my vision of the 1800’s being a beard grower’s paradise) had been out of fashion in the United States since the time of the Pilgrims.  Think about it.  Look at all the photos of American men during the 1700's and the early 1800's.  You won't find a beard among them.
Mr. Palmer was so reviled that in 1830, while walking out of the Old Fitchburg Hotel, he was attacked by four men who attempted to forcefully shave his beard on the grounds that his beard was immoral. Palmer was thrown on the stone stairs, and even though he was a muscular, 200 pound farmer, he was unable to repel the four men and resorted to stabbing two of his assailants in the legs with his jackknife. His attackers were only hurt badly enough to curtail their efforts, but Palmer was arrested and fined for committing an unprovoked assault. Even though he had the resources, he refused to pay the fine on principle, and was jailed as a debtor in the Worcester city jail. He spent over a year in prison, during which time he repelled two more attempts by jailers and prisoners who sought to shave his beard against his will.
Palmer would be quietly released thanks to the large amount of bad press that was generated by his story as it wound its way through the national newspapers, but he would refuse to leave until he could secure a proclamation that it was perfectly acceptable to wear a beard. He was never given that assurance, and he was eventually tied to a chair and carried out of the jail against his will.
Joseph Palmer achieved national celebrity status at the time, and used his position to contribute time and money to the Temperance and Abolitionist movements. He would go on to circulate in New England intellectual circles with Transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau, and even appears as the character, Moses White in the Louisa May Alcott’s Transcendental Wild Oats.
Palmer died in 1873 at the age of 84, and on his grave in Leominster, Massachusetts is a picture of a man with long, flowing beard and the words, “Persecuted for wearing the beard”. He was one of the most ridiculed and persecuted men of his time simply because he chose to stand up against the herd in support of his right to wear a beard. Not ten years before Palmer’s death, Abraham Lincoln would be the first president of the United States to wear a beard in office.
The next time you’re feeling like a freak and thinking about giving up your individuality for a spot in the herd, remember: resistance is not futile, and sometimes freaks are only freaks because they’re ahead of their time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2005-2015: Ten Year Blog Anniversary!

Me, the month I started writing this blog
At the time, little did I know that 2005 would be such a pivotal year in my life.  A lot happened.  I mean A LOT happened.  During 2015, the launch of several 10-Year Anniversary markers will occur for me.

The first of which is that 10 years ago on April 11, 2005, I started this blog.  My first post was titled Kicking The Tires and it was about my trepidation at trying new things (some things never change) while comparing technology to my then dating life.  Blogging was still a fairly new endeavor for most people, including me.  I had initially built out a personal website, but my postings were pretty much just opinion pieces.  So BF#6 (the one just preceding Kevin) suggested I start writing a blog instead, which I did ... 2 week after he dumped me.

A similar situation occurred back in 1993 when BF#3 broke up with me after 2 years.  Only then, I actually wrote an entire book.  It was never published, but parts of it have shown up in this blog over the course of the last 10 years.  I was proud of that book and I am proud of this blog.

Look for more 10-Year Anniversary markers during 2015.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lincoln Assassination 150 Years Ago

One hundred and fifty years ago tonight, at about 10:20 PM (EST), Abraham Lincoln was shot in the back of the head by John Wilkes Booth during a performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC.  He will die the next morning at 7:22 AM (EST).  This event, as well as those leading up to and following, have fascinated me - and many others - for the past 40 years.

What began as a failed attempt at a kidnapping ended in the first assassination of a sitting U.S. President.  Lincoln certainly was not popular during his presidency, but his death made him a martyr and he has since been elevated to greatness because he fought for what was right.  In some ways, his life is an allegory of Christ:  born in modest and meager surroundings, lifelong student and teacher, champion of the downtrodden, leader of people, eschewed personal sacrifice for the greater good, put to death publicly for a cause in which he believed.  The more I continue to read about him, the more he guides my moral compass. His death is one of the more fascinating pieces of a life filled with adversity and challenge.

During the past 40 years, I've read about 30 books on the subject, visited Ford's Theater & Museum an uncountable number of times, visited Lincoln's home, office, grave site, and Presidential Museum in Springfield, IL, seen the gun with which he was shot as well as the chair in which he was sitting, the room in which he died, and even the bed in which he drew his last breath inside the Petersen House.

I've also visited both the boyhood home and eventual grave of Booth, as well as found the spot where Booth died, which is now a nondescript site in a median strip along Route 5 in Southern Maryland.  I've even seen the vertebrae removed from his neck during his autopsy, which is now  held in the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, MD.

I've ridden Booth and accomplice Davy Herold's escape route a few times including visiting the Surratt Tavern in Clinton, MD, and the home of co-conspirator, Dr. Samuel Mudd in Bryantown, MD.  And in December 2013, I visited Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, the prison where 4 of the conspirators lived and died.  I've visited the graves of 6 of the 8 co-conspirators as well as a few of their homes.

I've done all of this to get as close to and learn as much about this event and this man as possible.  To say I am fanatical is fair, but what is cool is that those who know me well cannot hear the name Lincoln and not think of me, if even for a flash of a second.  My friends and family have showered me with books, magazine, pamphlets, movies, documentaries and many trinkets that I hold dear - all now prominently displayed in our new home.

So tonight at 9:20 PM (CST) I will pause to offer reverence for one of the greatest men to have occupied the Office of The Presidency; a man who changed the course of the country in his lifetime.  And I'll wonder, as we all should, what we might have become had the event on that night 150 years ago not taken place.