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The Common Core Scapegoat

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No matter your nationality, ethnicity, education, culture, age, or gender there is one thing we should all be able to agree on that my country does well – pass the buck and avoid responsibility.

That is what the entire Common Core hubbub is all about. Pushing blame onto someone else (in this case the educational system).

What do I mean?

It’s a distraction from the giant lazy elephant sitting in the middle of the room playing Candy Crush and texting its besties.

The issue is entitlement and lassitude, of which the schools in America have zilch in the way of control over. Americans don’t want to learn. They want to be Entertained! Give us reality TV until our eyes bleed. We want generic pop music that has no substance. We want sex on tap! Give us pretty lights that dazzle the senses in 3D so we don’t have to go to the trouble of experiencing real life! That mindset rolls over into the next generation, and as that classic public service announcement once said, “I learned it from watching you! Okay?”

On the average Americans don’t read. Americans use their libraries as cyber cafes and DVD rental stores. Americans don’t visit their museums. (Sure some of you do, so don’t be offended. You’re part of the solution, not the problem.)

But…. the American culture refuses to acknowledge this lassitude and entitlement beyond a head shake, because in the short term entertainment is great for the economy. Not to mention easy. Who wants to think after a hard day of sitting in a cubicle, peddling massive amounts of fried foods, passing medications and wiping flabby geriatric butts, or any other vocation? Americans have this twisted cultural psyche where they equate thinking with work. No fun! Who wants to think? Like whatever!

Parents want the schools to change the students because they don’t want to change themselves. I’m a taxpayer. I pay your salary! It’s your fault my kids are dumb and don’t do well on tests! It’s the schools causing the problem in America! 

Which is quite funny, because they themselves are products of that same educational system that is supposedly failing these children.

I’m a product of the old system, and without tooting my horn I’m not exactly what anyone would consider intellectually stunted. So, did the old system fail me? Hardly. 
The mind
Education is a two way street. If it’s all the purview of the establishment then it’s indoctrination, not learning. Indoctrination is also great in the short term. It boosts spreadsheet numbers, makes for awesome PowerPoints, and assuages some of the bitterness over our extreme taxation.

But both entertainment and indoctrination are destructive in the long run because they breed stagnation. The number one culprit of extinction in all its forms – stagnation.

If the grown up world of America as a whole doesn’t want to think, then why should its children?

Don’t pass the buck. Scapegoats only increase the problem.

~Nick Shamhart

3/6/2015


The Cosby Effect

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I’m not going to speculate on the plethora of allegations against Mr. Cosby. That is not the point I want to focus on. I’ve never met Bill and so I do not feel I am qualified to judge his character. I want to talk about how this is an example of what happens when a culture allows a business, in this case entertainment, to hold so much value and influence.

For generations Bill Cosby has been synonymous with wholesome family entertainment from his earliest stand-up comedy to his many sitcoms, cartoons, and movies. Each routine and TV show illustrated the point in life where Bill was when it was performed – bachelorhood on through retirement. So, it stood to reason that Bill would have some entertaining material about getting old and falling apart. It’s that last stage of life and family isn’t it?

Well, that was the plan.

There was even a heated bidding war to sign Bill for this last hurrah project, because if done right it could have been a money machine. We  all know Bill isn’t shy about pimping out the sponsorship. He’ll drink a Coke. He’ll peddle that pudding. It doesn’t matter. Bill will push it. Who has expendable income right now? In a twist of cultural irony it is mostly the retirees. The exact viewing demographic that would have been the shows target audience. Imagine the revenue from prescription drug ads alone!

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Well, NBC finally won the bidding war and there was some sort of Netflix contingent or something (entertainment law and contracts are beyond asinine, don’t get me started). Things were set. There was going to be more Cosby to watch in the future.

But.

Remember that money for one network means loss for the others. It’s not about sore losers. It’s about millions of dollars. Less than a calendar year after these deals were struck the allegations began. I’m not saying they’re false. I’m not saying they’re lies. But I would like to know why the convenient time frame? Some of these cases are over thirty years old! Doesn’t that strike you as odd? We have been in full blown Dirty Laundry mode when it comes to news since way before O.J. so why now?

Entertainment is a business folks. It’s not about wholesomeness. It’s not about wisdom, knowledge, learning, or furthering humanity. It is about making money off of consumers. Selling you shit you don’t need. End of story. Guilty or not. I can guarantee you that if Bill had gone quietly into retirement. If he hadn’t tried to toss his hat back into a ring where television is changing so dramatically with more and more people dropping cable service – that none of this would be in the news. Not one story of misconduct. He would have remained wholesome and innocent in the public eye forever and ever.

No. This is the Cosby Effect. This is my point. Greed will destroy everything you’ve built.

~Nick Shamhart

2/26/15


The Art of Successful Terrorism

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As a perpetual voyeur (that’s really what any decent writer is just a voyeur with a skill for describing what they see), I watch. I wonder. I observe. I question. In a world of seven billion people where death and violence occur everyday, I puzzled over why certain acts of destruction hit the media full on, grabbing everyone’s attention, and why others go completely unnoticed. As a journalist I wanted to write an opinion piece listing what I believe to be the primary things to consider if you want to perform a successful terrorist attack.

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So you want to be a terrorist? It’s not an easy career move in this cutthroat, fast-paced world of violence. Sure, any Tom, Dick, And Ali can call themselves a terrorist and pull a trigger, but how do you step up and out of the masses of would be bin Ladens and make your own mark on history? Simple! Follow my easy list of eight considerations for a great terrorist attack and you’ll be well on your way!

 

 

  1. Make the Media Work for You: That’s the biggie. As a terrorist the media is the most important business partner you have. Without the media a terrorist is nothing. You can firebomb, release bio-hazards, and shoot innocents until your heart is content, and if the media doesn’t give you any coverage the world doesn’t care. That’s why the media will always be your number one concern. Every other step in the process has to be weighed against what type of media coverage it will earn you. You have to make sure it is worth their time. The producers of every program that airs your story need to sell commercial slots. Make sure you have a good mass audience in mind that the media can sell your terror to.
  2. Use Abstract Rationale: The reason behind your rage is a personal thing. You have your story to tell, but the thing is, most people couldn’t care less about you and your story. When the media reports why you have terrorized the masses with death and such it needs to be something abstract that the offended or scared peoples of the world can then apply to themselves and their immediate surroundings. The best rationales are the same that are typically banned from most holiday dinner parties – Religion and Politics. Those two allow for abstracts out the wazoo and people can easily add their personal interests to the topic, making it personal. Pick one of those reasons, or better yet a blending of the two, and the media will handle the rest.
  3. Location! Location! Location!: Let’s be honest. If you want to sow terror in the world you have to do it in a place that the world has heard of. There are small towns all over the American Midwest that you could wipe from the map completely and it would take years for anyone to notice (probably not until the IRS came calling). And that’s in the good old US of A. The biggest attention whores the world has ever known, so imagine attacking some backwater in a Western Europe, or wore yet Central China? Location is key and important for media coverage. Hitting a country’s capital is a bit cliched. Sure, it does the trick but have a little class. Try the entertainment capitals of any country. Not only do they have large populations, but the media is already in residence. They can easily  swoop in and report your dirty laundry as breaking news.
  4. Timing; It’s Everything: Terror needs association if it’s going to weather the storm of time. Once you have your city and country in mind do your research. Yes, a holiday terrorist attack will get you your fifteen minutes. The thing is once the generation passes that actually lived during your attack the holiday will most likely go back to it’s quasi religious/political origins. The exact things you were supposed to consider in Step 2. So, the best way to maximize your reign of terror is to commit it when the country you plan to violate has nothing else going on. This will limit the body count which is our next step, but it almost guarantees a national remembrance day. You can’t beat that. If unions and government jobs can give future generations a three day weekend because of your terrorist act? Oh buddy! That’s the terrorist jackpot!
  5. Body Count: Numbers are important. They always have been, but with the advent of social media they are more important than ever. Lists, my mayhem loving friend, they are everywhere. Six exercises to a slimmer waist! Twelve things you never knew about your pet! And so on. The key, just like dieting, is moderation. Don’t set yourself too high of a goal. Sure, killing millions would be impressive but it’s impractical. You don’t want to aim too low either. The only way a body count of under twenty four will reach the public mainstream media is if your target is so well placed that they can write their own press release. So, the best numbers are between triple and quadruple digits. Enough that people will take notice, get their dander up, and worry that it could have been them, but not so many that you give up a few weeks into your plan.
  6. Who Picks Up the Check?: If you are going to pull off a terrorist act with any sort of longevity to it you will need financial backing. This is an art after all, and no artist ever makes it big without a good producer. Here’s the tricky part. You need to find a flexible fascist willing to look at the long term picture. One that will fork over the dough you need to cause your casualties, and at the same time see that his or her investment will have a return. Future monies spent on wars and merchandising as a result of your terrorist act need to funnel a percentage into your producer’s accounts. No more than thirty and no less than fifteen percent. We want results. We want profits. But lets be subtle about it. You’re selling terrorist futures here, not Apple stock.
  7. Ocean’s Eleven: It’s pretty obvious that it takes hundreds of backs scratched and pockets lined to pull off a decent, memorable terrorist act. But, the thing is the public will get confused if all that was reported. Too many names won’t be remembered, so you need to keep your scapegoat crew on the low side. No more than a dozen, and it would be even better if your could keep it under six. Two to four trigger men and maybe two patsy planners. You know, the guys you let believe they are the master minds but in fact are just glorified pawns set up to take the fall. A small terrorist cell will appease the masses’ desire for retribution, yet leave the implication that their were more hanging around so your producer can make back his initial investment in the first six months. Now that’s a selling feature better than Wall Street can offer.
  8. Rock, Paper, or Scissors?: What is going to be your terror vector? How are you going to deliver it to the masses? Your major choices are explosives, ballistics, or germs. There are other options, of course, but these are your tried and true basics. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, just burn the mother down!

 

Those are your major concerns as a burgeoning terrorist. If you manage to master these eight steps then you are on your way to being a monster that history is sure to remember for generations to come.

Fartmask

 


No Rest for the Weary Parent

 

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All parents worry about their children. That’s par for the course of a healthy-ish psyche. But there is a comfort to closure for typically developing children. A sort of universal understanding that though they may need you for a while at some point they can and will function without you…

…That’s why there is something so soul aching to having a child that cannot reach that point.

Yes, hopefully others will help them when you are gone, but that is the only comfort you can ever have – vicarious at best. Mostly you’re plagued by the sadness of questions like: Will they understand? Do they even comprehend death as a concept? Do they think they did something wrong and that is why daddy is gone? Where is he? Why won’t he come back? Or…will they forget you completely? Will you just have been a face they knew? One that doesn’t bubble to the surface without the constant reinforcer of your presence?

True, a typical child may wonder some of those same things, but their parent has the comfort of knowing that one day they will have a better understanding of those concepts. Instead of that comfort parents like me have ulcers, drinking problems, both, and worse.

Parents of the mentally handicapped either worry that when we die our children will spend the rest of their days wondering where we went…or, will they be better off never remembering us at all?

~Nick

12/9/14


#BlameNick

#BlameNick

 

I understand that nobody wants to take the blame for anything. I get that. I do. But there comes a time socially when we have to accept that most of the world is just pointing fingers in an attempt to avoid addressing how to fix whatever the problem may be. Who wants to be culpable for the state of the world? Gods leave their worshipers in a lurch when the shit hits the fan. Deities don’t want to be accountable, so why should men and women? Governments bark, cry, and tattletale like children on a global playground. You won’t find any responsibility taken there.

That leaves our world in a predicament, huh?

Never fear. I’ll take the blame for everything. Sexism, Racism, War, Greed, Anger, Lust … Ebola, Cancer, Crack, Fracking, Religion, Climate Change, Poverty, and more. You name it. If you can point a finger and argue over who should shoulder the weight go ahead and Blame Nick. We even started a hashtag #BlameNick so you can easily let the world know on social media who is to blame for all the shit that’s going wrong from the economy to the Kardashians.

Why?

Because the world will remember us however it sees fit. Cowards are awarded praise and statues while the real heroes watch their own blood leak into the soil of ignominy and anonymity.

The catch? Why would I be willing to go down as the man who was responsible for such catastrophes and atrocities?

Easy. The second you #BlameNick there are no more excuses. You have your scapegoat. Your culprit and monster, so the world can stop bitching, whining, and crying and begin to do something about it.

~Nick


Cleveland Haunts

Cleveland Haunts

 

With the approach of Halloween, Samhain (FYI pronounced SOW-in), All Saints’ Day, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and so on with the end of the year/death/harvest cyclic and symbolic motif humanity has struggled with since we crawled down from the trees, my mind turns to legends and stories of the supernatural. This year I wanted to take a closer look at the ghost stories around my home – Cleveland. I also wanted to include my youngest daughter who is having social anxiety issues. Knowledge has always been fear’s panacea, and I hoped if I could help her be unafraid of what most people are afraid of then it would be easier to lessen her fears of the everyday. “You aren’t afraid of ghosts, so why be afraid of people?”

My, some would say obsession, with the concept of infinity necessitates that I emphasize that I am neither debunking nor substantiating these legends and stories. I will approach them with the all but forgotten art of unbiased journalism. I will give you some of the who, what, when, and where if applicable, but the why is yours to invent and decide upon. True to modern journalistic form though, I will also omit much of the substantial history behind these locations (it would only bore most readers and ruin the fun of the season in some cases). Believer or non-believer, the following are buildings and cemeteries steeped in histories that are worth knowing about. Plus, if you’re nearby stop and take a picture or two as we did. You never know what,  or who, may appear in the photo.

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My little ghost hunter watches for a Woman in White at Coe Lake in Berea where she is said to haunt the shores and graves of the nearby Adams Street Cemetery.

Cemeteries:

Lake View Cemetery, the unarguably historic cemetery on the East Side off Euclid Ave, is the final resting place of such worthy wights as President James A. Garfield, Jeptha Wade, John D. Rockefeller and more. Witnesses have reported lights coming from Garfield’s monument where no lights are supposed to be. One legend claims that on certain nights the spirits of Garfield and Rockefeller utilize Lake View’s many ornate tombstones to play an elaborate game of chess.

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James A. Garfield’s Monument at Lake View Cemetery

The plethora of Gothic and religious statuary at Lake View have led to the creation of countless urban legends, of which there are too many to retell here. If a particular monument catches your eye, I encourage you to do some further research and see which legends speak to you.

Chestnut Grove Cemetery located in Olmsted Falls is the home of Witch’s Hill. Legend has it that the townsfolk burned a witch in their cemetery and refused to place a memorial for her. Instead they fenced off the area with old used millstones to keep her spirit separate from the sanctified grounds. Witnesses claim to have seen odd lights around the grounds. Plus ill fortune and bad luck are supposed to come to any who approach or touch the final resting place of the witch.

Myrtle Hill Cemetery in Valley City is home to the Witch’s Ball (or globe). The Stoskopf marker is said to be cold to the touch in the summer and hot to the touch in winter. The legends surrounding this grave marker are elaborate and dissimilar in all regards as to the association of this gravestone and witchcraft, but if you speak with local youths they will all tell you about a friend of a friend who touched it on a dare and a horrible fate befell them.

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The Witch’s Ball in Myrtle Hill Cemetery

Haunted Houses, Castles, and Skyscrapers

The Franklin Castle is said to be the home of many haunts. Witnesses claim unaccountable floating lights and faces, echoing footfalls, and overheard conversations when no one else was supposedly in the house.

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Cleveland’s Franklin Castle

The Drury Mansion, stories of phantom footsteps, and random opening and closing windows began when the Ohio Parole Authority took over management of the property in the 70’s.

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The Drury Mansion

Grays Armory on Prospect and Bolivar is home to a phantom piano player, echoing footsteps, the random aroma of pipe smoke, and many more.

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Grays Armory

Saint Peter’s Church in North Ridgeville is home to echoing footfalls up and down the aisles of the sanctuary.

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St. Peter’s in North Ridgeville

Johnny Mango’s in Ohio City … Despite being ‘cleared’ by the real life physic that the television show “Ghost Whisperer” was based upon – Mary Ann Winkowski, stories continue among staff and patrons that the eatery is haunted. Especially the women’s restroom.

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Johnny Mango’s in Ohio City

The Burrell Homestead in the Lorain County Metro Parks is home to witnessed faces and lights at the windows when no one was supposedly inside the historic building.

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The Burrell Homestead

Squire’s Castle in the Cleveland Metro Parks has been the location of many unaccounted for lights and apparitions. The figure of a woman with a lighted candle has been said to appear in people’s photographs when nobody was there when the picture was taken.

 

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Squire’s Castle

Kohler Hall at Baldwin-Wallace is said to have many wild and at times violent, spirits that haunt the halls of this one time dormitory. Legends claim it was once an insane asylum at one point with a connecting tunnel to the nearby chapel.

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Kohler Hall at Baldwin-Wallace University

The Terminal Tower. Cleveland’s iconic landmark is full of stories from the staff relating randomly flushing toilets and running sinks, phantom footsteps, hostile energies, cold spots, rough phantom coughing and laughing. Plus full fledged apparitions of a man smoking a cigar.

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Terminal Tower in Cleveland

Places and Spaces:

 

The USS Cod is supposedly haunted by a lone crewman who was once left behind. He supposedly looks over the sub and follows people around when they are on board.

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The USS Cod

Within the confines of the Rocky River Reservation is the remnants of Puritas Springs Park. Witnesses have claimed to hear the screaming of passengers that crashed in an accident on the Cyclone roller coaster.

 

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is home to many legends and spooks such as Hell Town (an undisclosed and quite difficult to find place) that was supposedly swallowed up by the park. The much easier to find Everett Road Bridge on the other hand has witnesses claiming to have repeatedly heard pleading, disembodied voices imploring for help.

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Everett Road Bridge

Those are the places we visited this autumn ’14. My little ghost hunter and I did not experience anything out of the ordinary, but we did see some beautiful scenery. Perhaps if you are in the area, and you decide to swing by one of these haunts you will have better luck, or poorer luck depending on your perspective, and come face to face with one of Cleveland’s ghosts.

 


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