Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Here's To World Champs, And A Class City

So, I met up with some friends downtown to watch what we hoped would be the final game of the World Series - Game 5. We stayed at the bar until the top of the 7th, at which point we headed over to Busch Stadium. We thought they might open the gates to let people in. No such luck. So we watched from the street in the outfield - we actually could just hear stuff happen and watch the scoreboard for pitch counts, replays, etc., but it worked just fine.

After the game ended, they did open the gates and we were able to get in. Fans still hung around as Cardinal players randomly came back onto the field to celebrate with them. After reveling in this for a while, we headed back into the street and went over to Paddy O's, where we partied until 3am. And let me tell you - a lot of people were still there at that time. I don't think anyone realized, nor cared, how late it was. I know we didn't - we were amazed to look at our watches and see the time. It was just the euphoric nature of downtown that seemed to make time stop, but of course, all good things have to come to an end. So, we finally hit it and headed home.

Without going into every intricate detail, that's pretty much my Game 5 experience. And what a game and night it was - except for actually being in the stadium for it, there was never a better feeling then seeing the third out displayed on the scoreboard and everyone in the street cheering, high-fiving, and hugging strangers. It was pretty cool. The best part? The riot police were prepared for the worse, and nothing happened. That's a testament to Cardinal fans - we know how to celebrate championships without rioting.

(Now about that Stanley Cup . . . )

©2006 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Limitation of Harm

Journalists are thought to be impartial purveyors of current events and topical information, their journalistic integrity imploring them to report the news objectively rather than promote sewing-circle gossip. Like anything in life, this is not easy. After all, we are all only human. However, countless journalists have put forth their own agenda over the reporting of the news, and it is nothing new – since the first scribe put stylus to papyrus, reputations have been built and ruined on innuendo and rumor rather than the truth. Ever since the Nixon administration, however, it has become common sport to skewer anyone in the public eye in the pursuit of a story, no matter the facts or ramifications.

For some journalists outside the United States, this is the way of journalism. In a June 2003 interview with National Public Radio, Jeremy O'Grady of Britain's The Week, expressed that "the Brit is less afraid of opinion and more naturally embraces slant and agendas as part and parcel of the journalistic, historical process surrounding the recounting of events." In his estimation, this has given international media a more irreverent tradition with an inherent bias than its American counterpart. Thus, foreign journalists are not afraid to state opinion as fact in reporting a story.

Nonetheless, if a journalist has an ax to grind and uses a media forum to express it, they have become, in essence, a lobbyist for the formation of public opinion. They are no longer upholding journalistic principles of presenting the facts and allowing readers to form their own opinions. The belief in attaining objectivity in journalism may be theoretical futility, as O'Grady describes it, but it is a necessity for journalistic integrity. Without reverence for the facts and truth, journalists will become nothing more than advocates for a certain perspective – their own.

Of course, that's just my opinion . . .

©2006 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Coincidence, Synchronicity, Karmic or Crazy?

Ok, right up front I'll tell you this will sound crazy . . .

For the past few years, I have encountered some strange occurrences. It all started with the clock, and the time. Whenever I looked to see what time it was, and being completely unaware of the time, it would read either 2:22 or 3:43. It's actually hard to explain what exactly I mean by this, but it's sort of like that "every time I look at the clock it reads 11:11" thing. For example, I'd be sleeping and suddenly wake up, looking at the clock to see the time. And it would read 2:22. Then the next day, or maybe a few days later, I would wonder about the time, and it would be the same as the previous day/night - in this case 2:22. The first few times this happened I simply dismissed it as coincidence, pure happenstance that both times I looked had the exact same time. But then it kept repeating, occurring over and over again. So, I began wondering if there was some meaning to these numbers, perhaps a cosmic/karmic connection and/or sign (yeah, I know . . . crazy!). I still don't know, but it does freak me out to think that maybe there is something more to it than just coincidence (or maybe I just watch too much "Lost," which deals with such mysterious "coincidences").

Anyway, akin to this numbers situation is one that involves movies. I'll be talking about a movie, sometimes one that I have not seen in a bazillion years . . . and later that day/night it will be on! Seriously, one night I was flipping channels and this old movie that never, I mean NEVER, gets shown was on one of the classics channels . . . and I had just been wondering about it earlier in the day! Just yesterday I was talking to my sister about James Bond movies, specifically "Die Another Day." Without a doubt, it was on later that night. Is this just some bizarre coincidence?!

If that's not enough, I have more. A few weeks ago, I was in the car with some friends. And let's be honest - it was late, we had been drinking. That said, I made a sarcastic comment about maybe hearing some Nelly, or even some Kelly Clarkson. Not even a second later, what comes on the radio? That's right . . . Nelly. The next song? You guessed it . . . Kelly Clarkson. I mean, right after I make a joke about it, both Nelly and Kelly Clarkson get played one after the other on the radio. They are not even in the same music genre! How did my "friends" (and they know who they are!) react? Completely dismissed it, as if it were an everyday occurrence. Well, that was it for me. I freaked out, mostly due to the circumstances already described above. I couldn't dismiss it so easily.

As I've said, I really don't know if any of it means anything. It could just be bizarre coincidence, or it could be something beyond current understanding. Or maybe I'm just crazy, imagining it all in my head by putting value on something that has none. Does anyone have an idea?

Alright, I've shared my weirdness . . . now I'm going to go find a doctor to get some pills before someone calls the men in white coats that have rubberized rooms for such things.

©2006 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Things Learned Watching Reruns

1) The Korean War lasted 11 seasons, yet had one Easter, Halloween, and Thanksgiving, five winters/Christmases and two New Years. (M*A*S*H)

2) No matter how many warnings, criminals always choose the hard way. (Walker: Texas Ranger)

3) If you have Friends, everyone knows your name at the local coffee shop (or bar). (Friends & Cheers)

4) No matter the odds & situation, no one will get hurt . . . and the plan will always succeed. (A-Team)

5) Seeking out new life and new civilizations means boldly going where no one has gone before. (Star Trek)

6) No matter how many conspiracies one debunks and exposes, more always exist - and you cannot trust anyone. (X-Files)

7) Even if you are a POW, you can still carry out secret missions and keep the enemy from succeeding at every turn (while making them look like bumbling fools). (Hogan's Heroes)

8) Mundane moments may be subtly about nothing, but can demonstrate the inanities of everyday life - close talkers, man hands, face painters, shrinkage, regifters, being master of one's domain, yada yada yada . . . (Seinfeld)

9) Obstructing, hiding or destroying evidence matters very little - because they can test for it. (CSI)

10) Sometimes, it really does only take a pocket knife & duct tape. (MacGyver)

©2006 Steve Sagarra

Monday, May 15, 2006

Tao of Cusack

I was watching Wicker Park last night, which, no, does not have John Cusack in it. But it made me think to Serendipity, which does. And that triggered some thoughts . . .

At times, I feel like Lloyd Dobler standing in front of Diane's house blaring a shared moment. Only to realize I'm at the wrong house. Yeah, I've written that letter. I wrote it in 8th grade, and again - metaphorically and real - on several occasions years later. Half of me wishes those "letters" never existed, destroyed by the same flames that fanned their sentiment. Each time thinking it was "that moment." Each time realizing the futility, never learning my lesson. Fortunately, futility outweighs regret. Had those letters never existed, that's exactly what would have come to pass - never having said what needed to be, even if it meant rejection and loss. Never knowing, always wondering.

However, it does seem that every story since is a composite version of that first time. But, sometimes you just have to draw the line at the unrequited. Perhaps that's the swift kick to the head that alters things forever - sitting alone, your whole life flashing before your eyes. I don't know. Does anyone know? Because I've listened to my gut in the past, and quite frankly my guts have shit for brains.

Once you get the shit beat out of you, your heart does mend and move on - thats the function of pain and heartache. The universe lets you go through that to come out to a better place. Does one listen to the thousands and thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain and loss to enhance an already fragile state, or does the misery simply resonate from the music with which we identify because of that emotional state? Do you need just someone, or do you need that certain someone? And are they calling off their wedding and heading to the park, where you now wait for them to show up?

©2006 Steve Sagarra

Friday, March 24, 2006

A Stupid Runs Through It

People who know me know that I don't care, in general, for people. By that, I mean stupid, annoying, wish-they-would-die type people. You know, the average person walking down the street. I'm not an angry person by nature, but my blood runs hot whenever I encounter these types. I'm not saying that I'm the smartest person. Trust me, I've done a lot of stupid things in my life. It's just they are few and far between, not a lifetime. Bragging and pride aside, I do consider myself an intelligent individual - a mix of both book and street smarts. But there are people who have absolutely none of either one. To quote George Carlin:

"Some people are really fucking stupid! Did you ever notice that? How many really stupid people you run into during the day? Goddamn theres a lot of stupid bastards walking around. Carry a little pad and pencil with you. You'll wind up with thirty or forty names by the end of the day. Look at it this way think of how stupid the average person is and then realize that half of them are stupider than that. And it doesn't take you very long to spot one of them does it? Take you about eight seconds. You'll be listening to some guy, you say, 'this guy is fucking stupid!'"

Bill Engvall figured out a solution to the problem:

"Stupid people should have to wear signs that just say, 'I'm Stupid.' That way you wouldn't rely on them, would you? You wouldn't ask them anything. It would be like, 'Excuse me . . . oops . . . never mind, didn't see your sign.'"

I've worked almost my entire life in the food and beverage industry, as a bartender and manager. I've encountered a lot of stupid customers . . . and they were never right. Never! As it turns out, I'd rather spend time with my dogs than with most people. Dogs are wickedly innocent - they know they peed in the house, I know they peed in the house. But they scrunch up their face, put their head down or roll over to have their belly rubbed, and that anger goes away. People aren't like that, they aren't as repentant.

I'm not completely soured on people though. Anyone who knows me knows that when it comes to friends - true friends - I am loyal and encouraging to the bone. I'd take a bullet for most of my closest friends. That's how deep my friendship runs. That's also why I have a close-knit, core group of friends that most people don't - most of us have known each other since elementary/junior high, and we all share the same attitudes. There is an unbreakable bond between us that has long been established. That sort of trust is earned, not just given. But I don't trust a majority of people. Maybe it comes from watching too much "CSI" or "Law & Order"-type shows, but I'm guarded and suspicious toward others by nature. Ever watch those "Autopsy" shows?! For the most part, I think people are evil, and if left to their own vices would do the worst rather than strive for their best simply because they could.

That's why I hate people. Especially the stupid ones.

©2006 Steve Sagarra

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Subjective Life

To paraphrase Jesus Christ, let those who are without sin cast the first stone. Whenever one jumps to conclusions, in their own rush to judgment, there never seems to be an end of stone throwing these days. Certain people seem to think that they are the purest of the pure, with no stink that would attest otherwise. As Christ pointed out, no one is without sin, and no one should pass judgment unless they too be judged.

Bias plays a part in this judgment. Despite the greatest efforts, no one can completely remove themselves from their own ideas, philosophies and prejudices. Racism, socio-political propaganda or even outright sensationalism are unfortunate examples throughout the history of mankind. Whether intentional or not, bias is an inherent part of everyday life. However, arguments and conclusions that are based on truth and evidence, rather than preconceived suppositions and opinion, can supplant any inherent bias.

A typical companion to bias – the double standard – plays a major part in the problem. Far too often people are held to a higher standard than we would apply to ourselves. The inequities of life make it so. People often take an allegedly principled stand, only to switch to the exact opposite if it is to their advantage – utilizing a set of standards only when they support a particular preference at the time. Throughout our lives, we are bombarded by contradictions and stereotypes which fail to convey uniformity, let alone a sense of fair play, toward all. Often times they go unchallenged.

No where is this more prevalent than in the media. There are countless examples in which journalists put forth their own agenda over the reporting of the news. It is nothing new. Since the first scribe put stylus to papyrus, reputations have been built and ruined on innuendo and rumor rather than the truth. It has become far too common in today’s world to distort and misrepresent in the pursuit of a story, in spite of the facts and ramifications of such. If a journalist has an ax to grind and uses the media forum to express it, they become, in essence, a lobbyist for the formation of public opinion – no longer upholding journalistic principles of presenting the facts and allowing readers to form their own opinions.

While attaining objectivity may be theoretically futile, it is a necessity for journalistic integrity. Like anything in life, this is not easy, but there must still be the attempt. Biases and double standards violate the principle of impartiality by holding different people to different standards. Whichever part of the spectrum one is on, all sides are quick to point fingers in spite of their own biases and the failure to acknowledge such a double standard. Without reverence for the facts and truth, journalists will become nothing more than advocates for a certain perspective – their own. So, for anyone who would throw a stone, be certain you are aware what it’s casting entails. Otherwise, what goes around comes around.

©2006 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Give Me Liberty And Give Me Death?

Mention the word death, and a single image springs to mind – the ending of life. Depending on culture, religion or other similar views, it can have many connotations. For some, it can mean simply the end of a life, coupled with the process of grief and coping that accompanies such loss. For others, it can represent a glorious extension of, and beyond, this life into the next that is to be honored and rejoiced. However, death for a growing number means only one thing – the end of suffering, for them and their loved ones, by means of euthanasia, otherwise known as “assisted suicide.” It is a choice that many have made, and that a majority of Americans support. Aside from the moral debate, the question is can that choice ever be reconciled with the legal challenges facing it?

Naturally, the average person does not want to die. After all, that is the secret to life – not dying. With funerals that cost the price of an average car, who wants to die in the first place? Still, many people in extreme cases refuse life-sustaining medical treatment. Such was the case for Teri Schiavo, the Florida woman who laid in a vegetative state for years and sparked a landmark legal case over the right-to-die. In such instances, an individual has only to state their wishes, such as in a living will, in a clear and mentally competent way. In Schiavo’s case, her intentions were the center of the case as she had no living will. In essence, the person is making a legal contract for their future suicide should it be necessary. What then is the difference between refusing life-sustaining treatment, often communicated through a second party, and assisted suicide, both of which produce the same fate?

The moral argument against euthanasia is ambiguous, as many cultures and religions consider suicide honorable and respectable. The classic example is the samurai warrior taking his own life in the name of honor and duty. As Americans, we are all too familiar with the kamikazes of World War Two – seen as an expression of the samurai virtue – as well as the present-day suicide bombers attempting to derail the democratic process in the Middle East. For the majority of Western culture, however, suicide is a disdainful selfish act, not to mention a sin. Nonetheless, it is an individual act dependent on either the acceptance or rejection of such morals concerning it.

The legal side of the argument is more broadly problematic. Morals aside, does an individual have the right to die by his or her own hand with the help of another? After all, one party is asking another to help murder them in order to end their suffering. It is analogous to homicidal suicide – or would it be suicidal homicide? – with legal consequences for the assisting party. However, sometimes the right, i.e. lawful, thing to do is not always the moral thing to do, and vice versa. Just ask Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who saw it as immoral to stand by and do nothing for terminally ill patients in spite of the legal ramifications. For Kevorkian and others like him, their oath to do no harm means helping end pain and suffering when no other options exist.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is the founding principle of this nation. The question is, when life is diminished terminally and irreversibly, does liberty allow for the pursuit of dignified death? How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life and, as in life, each individual should be allowed to deal with it in their own way. It simply depends on one’s own beliefs and convictions, and only in terms of the situation at hand. It is idealistic to hope that no one ever has to make such a choice, but likewise, there is the hope that the choice could be yours to make rather than a lobbyist or bureaucrat. With the Supreme Court’s latest 6-3 ruling in support of Oregon’s “Death With Dignity Act,” that hope still remains. 

©2006 Steve Sagarra

Friday, January 6, 2006

Choosing The Inevitable

"The question that faces every man born into this world is not what should be his purpose, which he should set about to achieve, but just what to do with life? The answer . . . is more a practical question . . . then a metaphysical proposition as to what is the mystic purpose of his life in the scheme of the universe." -Lin Yutang

It is an age-old question: what is the purpose in life? Theologians and philosophers alike have pondered the question for several millennia. Without a doubt, it arises most often when there is little sense of direction in life. In such instances, there is the human need to question the nature of existence and to look to an overarching plan from a higher power. Is it as simple as divine serendipity, or nothing more than setting goals and achieving them on your own?

The role in life can be an allusive one. Should we be an individual or part of the collective? Are we to play the part of oppressor or the oppressed or a collection of individuals that fight for the oppressed against the oppressors? Throughout history, the answers have often been determined by the standard sociological measures social, economic and political status, as well as place of birth. These factors are not limiting, however especially at the dawn of the 21st century. Any person, entity or nation can branch beyond what they are given at birth. It is simply a matter of wanting, and striving towards that goal.

Yet, there are those who are unable to reach their potential, their purpose, through no fault of their own. They become victims of their circumstances. In the course of human history, failure has often outweighed success from the first amoeba that failed to reproduce to the hundreds of dotcoms that went bust. What can be said about that trend? Is it that some are destined to fail, that that is their purpose, while others are born for something greater? Or that failure, no matter the effort, is a natural order of existence, and success can only be measured by it?

Of course, some people merely quit, crushed by the weight of trying in life. They have lost the quintessential emotion next to love - hope. When hope no longer exists, the same is true of dreams and life itself. Fortunately, when all hope is lost the only place to look is up. Only then do some find their role in life.

In the pursuit of the answer to our purpose, more often than not we end up finding the purpose without realizing it. The question drives us toward our purpose; the answer itself is irrelevant. Without the question, there would be no sense to act and we would fail to answer the question. What is the purpose in life? The answer is already known - it is a leap of faith based on the strength of our convictions and the ability to act upon them in order to reach our goals. It just depends on whether one accepts failure as an option.

©2006 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Reinventing The Wheel In Order To Build A Better Mouse Trap

Are there no new ideas?  To borrow from Hollywood, are there only old ideas to be re-imagined? In the 1980s, Coca-Cola attempted to re-image a classic by introducing New Coke. It was a disaster. Prompted by the choice of a new generation, Coca-Cola switched back to the tried and true formula. There have been many others to muddle with a good thing, not fortunate like Coca-Cola to rebound in such a way. The adage has proved repeatedly that some things should not be changed, as “new and improved” does not necessarily translate to better.

The question remains though, are there no new ideas? Perhaps it needs to be examined from a different perspective – have we reached a point where only the improvement and reinvention of old ideas is viable? Can there be any new ideas? Styles and trends are the epitome of old versus new, creativity versus re-imagining. This occurs when an innovative idea becomes the norm, and then is repeatedly copied until the novelty is worn out. The problem lies in the fact that even when “new” ideas are introduced, they are simply old ones relabeled. It is simply a way to reintroduce products to a new generation. Take for example bell-bottom jeans, now back in style after a long hiatus. Only they are not called bell-bottoms – they are called “flares,” “boot cut,” or any plethora of names; they are, however, the same wide-legged jeans of the 1960s & ‘70s repackaged under a new name. Very original.

The worse case of this creativity, however, comes from Hollywood itself – the Mecca of re-imagined storylines. Tim Burton did it with a remake of the cult classic Planet of the Apes (ironically, Governor Arnold was to star in another Charlton Heston cult classic, The Omega Man), as did George Clooney et al with Ocean’s Eleven. Is Hollywood so lacking new ideas that they must continually remake and re-imagine earlier works? Film is not Shakespeare to be re-interpreted over and over and over ad nauseum, which only serves to dilute the originality and take away any importance the original may hold. Is it not too far of a stretch to perhaps one day see the likes of actors and actresses recasting Gone With The Wind, Casablanca, or even Citizen Kane?

Change is inevitable, and the catalyst for a society, but the change must be a measurable one that shows actual growth. While it is natural and beneficial to expand upon the work of others, especially those that came before us, there are just certain things that should be left alone. Newness as change that perpetuates the old is not change at all, but rather stagnation. So, when a politician, author or Uncle Lou touts a “new” idea based on the innovation of old-fashioned values, take them at their word. It is just another old idea that someone else thought of before, repackaged for a new, and unsuspecting, generation. 

©2006 Steve Sagarra