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8 Things I Learned in 2008

2008 has come to an end, and it has been an interesting year. It saw me creating and keeping up with this blog--a writing experience that has been extremely rewarding--dealing with some rough patches on the financial front, hitting a milestone age, and becoming a daddy, in the process achieving one of my two life-long goals by starting a family. Naturally, it was a harder year for Amelia, who had problems on the employment front and had to deal with the trials of pregnancy. Still, through it all, she and I have come out into 2009 with smiles on our faces and our hopes and dreams fully intact. 2008 wasn't our finest hour, but I can definitely say I learned a few things from it.


1. Government bureaucracy can get more mean than I thought


As an outspoken Libertarian, I shouldn't be surprised by how thoroughly the government can suck. However, when my wife lost her government job to bureaucratic nonsense, I will admit to having been shocked by how mean-spirited the whole process was. You see, when you lose a corporate job, it's pretty straight-forward: you are told you are fired and you have until the end of the day to clean out your desk. But the government can make the process of termination last for the better part of a year, forcing you to jump through hoop after hoop in the vain hope that somebody somewhere might be impressed enough to save your job. But what's worse is that they tie your hands, telling you you can't start looking for another job until they actually fire you (if you do, you'll never stand a chance of getting your job back, and you'll never be able to get a security clearance again, which is a seriously bad thing for an engineer). By the time Amelia was able to put out her resume, she was seven months pregnant and nobody wanted to hire her just so they could put her on maternity leave. And, just to make the point, the government didn't fire her, not exactly; they just denied her three-year old application for security clearance they had already granted her, and without that clearance, she couldn't get on the naval base at which she had been working for three years. In other words, the government is one big, fat, hairy bitch, and I want to slap that bitch in the face for what she did to Amelia.


2. Nintendo is just a company trying to make as much money as possible


Yeah, there's no Zelda or Metroid news, but we're still swimming in money, so you hardcore Nintendo fanboys can just go screw yourselves!
"Yeah, there's no Zelda or Metroid news, but we're still swimming in money, so you hardcore Nintendo fanboys can just go screw yourselves!"
2008 was a pretty good year for video games, and thus it would be silly of me not to say something about the industry here. I'm a Nintendo fanboy, and I used to take great joy in the fact that, from a financial point of view, Nintendo is absolutely winning this generation's console war. However, this year, Nintendo only put out two big games for the fanboy--Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii--and they did it right at the start of the year. Since then, they haven't wanted to offer any hype or hope for the next big game; no mention of Zelda, Mario, or Metroid at E3, an insistence that Animal Crossing is somehow a hardcore title worthy of being the big holiday Nintendo game (depite an ad campaign that shows two young women eating cucumber sandwiches and talking in hushed tones), and a complete lack of competition for a plethora of quality hardcore products on the other systems. Fanboys like me, it seems, are no longer Nintendo's target audience, and that saddens me with a deep sting of rejection. Meanwhile, while I sit at home without a single Zelda trailer to watch, Nintendo is out there rolling in the dough, planning the next fifty dumb minigame collections that will sucker in the kids and grandparents who sit in the center of Nintendo's crosshairs. Now, I kind of wish Nintendo weren't making such a ridiculous amount of money, because if they weren't, maybe they'd have to pay attention to us hardcore fanboys, the people responsible for getting the company this far to begin with.


3. A comic book movie can be relevant


Comic book movies have always been, in my eyes, plain and simple entertainment. There may be a slight subtext here and there, but for the most part, a movie based on a comic book is not a very artistic device for commenting on the world today. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, as I love to be entertained. Thematically, these movies are all about the hero's journey and whatnot, and that's a timeless theme without much poignancy. Until recently, I had assumed that a comic book movie could never offer any sort of important message about the modern age, and the few movies that had the potential to do so (like Superman Returns) failed to deliver. However, this year's The Dark Knight proved my assumptions wrong. This intense film is definitely a comic book movie full of comic book sensibilities, and yet it manages to get right in your face with issues of terrorism, the escalation of violence, and the hidden sacrifices made by those who protect us. The film manages to be political without being partisan or preachy, and it manages to offer a direct commentary on the anxieties of the day without sacrificing the comic book nature of the story. This is an important milestone, I think, in the history of film.


4. Political thought is too shrill to be logical


Anger and finger-pointing: the only substance of political analysis today
Anger and finger-pointing: the only substance of political analysis today
I'm sick of people saying that Barack Obama is a socialist, and I'm sick of people saying he's the greatest. I'm sick of people saying that President Bush is the worst president in history, and I'm sick of those who think he can do no wrong. I'm sick of people telling me that terrorism is the greatest threat to our security and something--anything--must be done about it, and I'm sick of people being just as vehement about global warming (oh, sorry, "climate change"). I'm sick of people who get all their news from John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, just like I'm sick of people whose opinions parrot the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. In short, I'm sick of the partisan bullshit going on in America today. It's been getting gradually worse in the last decade, and now the shrillness of political dialogue is completely out of fucking control. When I sat down to do my shrill-free analysis of the presidential candidates last year, I came to realize one thing: over 90% of the voting public (probably closer to 100%) is filled with voters who don't let facts get in the way of their political opinions. Most people didn't vote for Barack Obama because of where he stood on the issues; they voted for him because he was a charismatic black Democrat they were told to adore. Similarly, the people out there who tell you they're scared shitless about what Obama will do to this country aren't really reacting to Obama's plans or strategies; they're reacting to the fact that he is a charismatic black Democrat. Let me be clear, as someone who has tried to cut through the nonsense and find something resembling the truth: politics is not based on logic, reason, or sound judgment, and anybody who tries to tell you otherwise is full of shit. Politics is based on who can spin reality the best and who can convince you to believe in their lies, exaggerations, and misrepresentations. If there really is an honest politician out there who you can really believe in and who has a sound plan to change the world for the better, he's probably bleeding to death in a D.C. gutter.


5. What it feels like to be 30


Age is, to some degree, an abstraction. Or at least, that's what you tell yourself as you get older. 30 is not, by any stretch of the imagination, old; three of my grandparents are still alive, after all, and I still play video games while eating Chef Boyardee. There are, however, a few differences between 30 and 20. When I look back at the kid I was ten years ago, it's almost embarassing. The guy partied too much, drank too much, didn't take care of himself, was pointlessly angsty, and was just starting to do drugs, all while supposedly figuring out what he was going to do with his life while in college. I don't regret the stupid things I did, but seriously, I was an idiot driven by hormones and personal issues. Now I'm 30, I'm thinner, I take drugs that are actually prescribed to me, I'm up to my eyeballs in debt, I'm married, I have a pillow shaped like a donut, and I'm relaxed. I'm not trying to say I'm a better person than I was--because I firmly believe I'm still the same person in essence--but it definitely feels different to cross the threshold into my thirties.


6. Amelia and I can take it


The first couple of years of my marriage were the best years of my life up to that point. Things were stable, secure, and wonderful. Amelia and I couldn't have been any happier, though we knew we hadn't yet been tested. Surprisingly, though this year presented several obstacles all at once, our marriage hasn't changed much; it's still wonderful. Now I'm not saying we've been through Hell--we still have a great support structure of friends and family and we are by no means living on the street or dealing with any real loss or hardship--but we have been through a lot and managed to stay strong through it all. Love may or may not be unconditional, but it can definitely take a beating. Amelia and I love each other, and though this past year has been pretty stressful, our love has done nothing but strengthen as a result of it all. I'm convinced that we can take whatever life throws at us.


7. Labor is nothing like TV


Notice the lack of sweat, blood, bruising, and swelling, not to mention the make-up and hair
Notice the lack of sweat, blood, bruising, and swelling, not to mention the make-up and hair
We've all seen the movies or television shows where a woman is pregnant, her water breaks, and the man goes frantic, throws the woman in the car, and drives to the hospital at a hundred miles an hour while the baby threatens to arrive at any second. I know now that this interpretation of how babies are born is complete nonsense. Sure, the bit about the man being frantic while the woman is pretty calm during the early stages is not too far off, but the rest of it is bunk. While Amelia's labor started with the water breaking, this is not the normal way. Also, labor takes a really long time, so there's no rushing to the hospital or panicking; in fact, if you were to call the hospital and tell them that you were in the early stages of labor, they'd tell you to call back in a few hours. And then there's the whole bit about the baby just popping out after a few minutes of pushing. Ha! I should note, of course, that no two labors are the same, and it might be possible for a labor to happen the way it does on TV; it's just not very likely. What surprises me is that, with so many births happening every single minute, you'd think somebody out there would try to portray it correctly. I mean, you can forgive them getting things wrong on CSI because there aren't that many of us who know how forensic crimonology works, but how can they get away with getting labor wrong when almost every woman will, at some point in her life, give birth?


8. I'm a daddy


I'm a father. Wow. It's like... Wow! I'm a dad, a daddy. I have a baby. Amelia's a mommy. We're parents. Just, wow. I mean, just, uh, wow. Give me another year to get used to this before I have anything meaningful to say about it. Wow.


-e. magill, 01/05/2009








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