Monday, December 15, 2008

Economic Rec-depr-ession ... or Surviving in the Lean Times

It's depressed the dollar, yanked the yen, and pounded the pound and now it's coming after you and your once-impenetrable piggy bank. It's the looming shadow - the wolf in the darkness who breaks into your home, eats your instant noodle soup and spends hours on your couch racking up the pay-per-view bills (and ordering infomercial-based fitness programs and blenders). Of course, I'm talking about the Recession ... or the Neo-Depression ... or ... well, let's just call it the #$!%^&-ession.

Now, you may be behind TARP ... or you may think the bailout is the worst trick since Edward Bernays’s 1929 campaign to recruit women smokers (Bernay's campaign successfully tied smoking to the women's liberation movement and gave us little white "torches of liberty." He's probably more responsible than anyone else for the last eighty years of smoking-related disease and death among women).

Either way, it really doesn't matter. I mean, we can chitter, chatter, and complain all we want about the crisis and the government's (ill?) response to it ... but that's not gonna keep the wolf from shoving his money-sucking snout into your wallet (not sure how I feel about this metaphor anymore ... oh well). When it comes down to it, we can be "mad as hell" and "not gonna take it anymore," but how will that help you keep your home (or buy lunch for that matter)? Righteous indignation just ain't gonna pay them bills.

Truth is, we've got some tragically tough times ahead. And while I still feel optimistic - after all, no one ever starved with a law degree as long as they were willing to order takeout - I realize it's high time I started cutting back. I mean, that hedonistic, devil-may-care approach to finance that most of my generation has known since birth has finally broken down ... and hallelujah, it's just in time.

I mean, we all want to blame Wall Street and those fat-cat execs who have been livin' life high on the investor's dime ... but let's get a few of those fingers pointed in the right direction. After all, an absence of liquidity in the markets wouldn't really hurt most of us if we were already out of debt and putting our surplus in safe, time-tested investments. And even a deep drop in the stock market wouldn't mean as much if we protected our principal and left high-stake risk to the crew from Ocean's 11.

This crisis seems the perfect storm ... it's destructive, it's dangerous and it's likely to destroy small fishing vessels who care more for profit that personal safety; but those folks who built a shelter and have hunkered down to weather the mess have nothing to worry about. Fail or fortune, we've only ourselves to blame.

So suck in that belt, kick off those extravagances and follow these basic principles to get and keep yourself in the black (lovingly ripped off from The Richest Man in Babylon):
(1) Fatten Your Wallet: Take one-tenth of EVERYTHING you bring in and save it for the future. Pay it like clockwork ... like tithing ... like your financial success depended on it. (It does). Don't let a paycheck pass without retracting your tenth.

(2) Control Your Expenditures: Don’t buy frivolous things. Avoid the "it's on sale mentality." Frugality and fortune go hand in hand.

(3) Multiply Your Money: Once you've built up some savings, invest it wisely, safely and with a clear eye to the future. If you start saving money, it shouldn’t just sit in a mattress. After all, a high-yield savings account can double your principal in about fifteen years.

(4) Protect Your Assets: Only invest where the principal is safe. For the most part, this would discourage stock investing. Sound crazy? Just talk to someone who lost 45% of their net worth in two months.

(5) Ensure a Future Income: Keep your eye on retirement (no matter what age you are) and make sure your family will be taken care of if you pass. Buy an affordable home ... keep your belongings in good shape.

(6) Invest in Yourself: Work hard, find opportunities, get educated. Today, a college education is one of the best investments you can make; I’m not saying that it’s a requirement to be successful, but it opens the door to greater possibilities.

Of course, there are countless more bits of advice, but in the end, the key is this: Follow the prophets, get out of debt, and use your common sense. And if nothing else, try and smile each time you stop at those gas pumps. After all, these #$!@#&-essions ain't all bad.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Little Holiday Spirit (Part I) ...

It’s been far more difficult to start off this little memoir than I thought. You see, I wanted to give a go at some homage, pay the piper and all that, but I stuck myself in a bit of trouble because homage demands “literary prowess” (whatever the hell that is). In the end, though, it finally came to me—the perfect beginning.
The ghost was bored, to begin with.

It was so simple. So clear. I had gone through a few drafts (i.e., “It was the most exciting of times, it was the dullest of times” and “Whether I shall be the hero of my own memoir or whether some other git-faced spirit will take that role remains to be seen,” and simply “Hell.” I liked that last one best, but I wasn’t sure anyone would get it), but when this popped into my head, I was done. I could add nothing more.

I mean, it’s nice—not too highhanded or over-the-top or anything like that. Pure, solid homage. After all, I gotta hand credit to the book that really put me on the map, literarily speaking, I mean. Why, if it weren’t for Monsieur Dickens (that cheeky little bastard) no one would care a two-pence or a haypenny or a hey nonny-nonny for me or the other so called “spirits” that “haunt” (can you believe this insanity? Words in quotes?! Hah!) A Christmas Carol.

Ok, I guess I better back up two shakes. First off, the name’s Edward—Edward Salberry, to be precise. I know what you’re thinking, “Who the hell is Edward Salberry?” (or, if you’re a bit higher minded and moral and all that, probably like, “Who, perchance, is Edward Salberry?”). And I can’t blame you one bit. I mean, no one knows me by that name anymore. Not since Dickens anyway. Like as not, you’d recognize me as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. But actually, just to set the record straight, that’s more of a title. It’s like knowing a knob named Bill Accain who shovels dirt at the cemetery and thinking his name was really “the Shoveller” or “the Man who Moves Dirt For Recompense” or something like that. Nice when talking with friends about a bloke, but no good if you wanna talk with the man himself. So, by all means, call me Edward. And, like I said, I am the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come … and Hannakuh Yet to Come … and Ramadan Yet to Come … and Diwali Yet to Come … and, well, let’s just say that if it’s an up-and-coming religious holiday you want haunted, I’m your spirit.

Didn’t used to be that way, though. Back in the day it was straight up Christian holidays and nothing doin’ with those heathen jobs living in their deserts and jungles and the like. Fact was, most of those pagans were already filled to the brim with kindness and charity and Christian cheer … well, in a blood-sacrifice kind of way. Mind you, I don’t recommend the cannibalism or the “human sacrifice to please Baal,” or anything like that. I’m just saying that when they weren’t chanting and chirping and gorging on their victims, they could be pretty damn civil. And did they know how to party. Wow! This one feast in Papua New Guinea before they offered up virgin triplets probably blasted the doors off any other dinner in history. Really.

But I digress.

Fact is, we’re living in an increasingly global society with political correctness and equal opportunity kicking you in the face every time you turn around. Buddy of mine once got fined half a month’s wages for failing to properly haunt this Scientologist guy into repentance and redemption and what not. Well I just have to say, bugger that. What if I got some problem haunting the man … you know, on moral grounds or something. It just ain’t right that some union can come in and make me fork out some hard earned cash because I'm not gonna do anything "repugnant to my nature" or whatever. It's a bloody mess, if you ask me.

And who do we have to thank for all that? Why, Dickens himself. I mean, he just waltzes in with his serial novels and his "realistic" characters and … well, I'll get to all that. Guess what I need to do is tell ya more about myself. I mean, sure, Dickens will play a part, but we’ll keep him in the wings more than not. Gotta head out now ... busy time of year and all that. But don't worry. More to come. More to come.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Emotive Twenty-Somethings ...

This morning, while looking through old files on a long-forgotten flash drive, I found a poem I wrote during my senior year of college. Thinking back, it seems like I used to write a lot of silly things like this. Up 'til now I've rarely shared them with anyone ... but this one was too good to pass up. I mean, what was I thinking? How bored must I have been to even start, much less finish, something so inane? Oh, well. Nothing can keep an emotive twenty-three year old down ;)

Still, given my last entry and the upcoming fun & food-filled holiday season, this poem* may even be slightly apropo. Cheers to ya'll, and good luck keeping those upcoming New Year's Resolutions.


“Weighed Again, Come January”

Mid-January, I stood in the shower and realized
I couldn’t see my feet without moving my head forward
(more than I care to admit).
Only with effort could I make out what lay beyond
the titan mound of all too solid flesh.

I stood stark naked as water trickled down a drain
(to be reused by others in a perverse, yet telling,
cycle of modernity), and thought how easy corpulence would
melt away
in the sweat of a rubber-padded weight room.

And so I came to the meat auction
where scores of ruddy-faced men and women
whored themselves in public spectacle. (The world of weights
revolves around breasts and biceps).
But I was not so degenerate.
Or rather, I was (am) but didn’t (don’t) have the right figure.
So, I wore baggy sweats.

An acrid smell drifted across the checkered floor
and I nearly left because I couldn’t stand to breathe in the mix of five-year old sweat and hairspray.
But looking down I saw nothing
but my Dionysian stomach and so ...

Weight machines stood in a row like a collection of
sculpted scrap metal that once may have composed the guts of a Chevy or a washing machine. The machines were foreign,
their magic made more potent by mystery
and the Alchemic ability to transform fat into figure.

I stepped to a machine as music blared inanely across the room.
“Dirty deeds done dirt cheap ... ”
And I remembered why the progression of time
is such a good idea. (Good one, God).

Others in the room moved like large, shapely specters,
seemingly unaware of the rest of the room, but secretly staring
and lusting. “Dude, throw thirty more on,”
the blue-shirted shape said;
perhaps meant to entice the girl with the butterfly tattoo.

The hour passed and gravity took its toll. I straggled home,
legs tense and arms quivering.
Even in this frozen wasteland, my body found a way to sweat. (Thanks again, God).

In the apartment, I stripped down and stepped into the shower, consumed by Promethean pain.
And as the water spilled out, I looked down and smiled weakly.

I still couldn’t see my feet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Will Run for Food ...

Those dark moments of life (death, divorce, destruction, disease, decomposition, etc.) often create just the right batch of ingredients for a rebirth. It's a bit like that whole Phoenix thing. We can't be reborn until we've been burnt to a charcoal-covered crisp.

See, midway through second semester of my first year of law school (a time of life universally recognized as a trip through physical and mental hell ... even if you enjoyed yourself most of the time) I looked down one day to discover that I had slowly devolved into a 285 pound mass of jelly-filled humanity. This was bad ... high cholesterol & blood pressure just added to what I now refer to as the MOST ABYSMAL PHYSICAL CONDITION OF MY LIFE.

After commiserating with some of my fellow chubbed-out first years, I decided to begin an activity that would significantly change my life: Running. Throughout my high school and undergrad years, I had avoided this most polarizing of activities like it was the smelly guy in science class. See, I related with the Morgan High Cross-Country club motto: "What most call hell, we call home." I was firmly on the "hell" side of that dichotomy.

Nevertheless, I disregarded my prior bias and began on a program aimed to get me from couch potato to half-Kenyan marathoner in sixteen weeks. Those first several weeks of running, I felt (and probably looked) like this:

But despite the back aches, the leg aches, the head aches, and the generally feeling that if I went one more step I would probably keel over along the side of the road, I kept going. And things got better. My lung capacity deepened and my legs, back, and stomach began to support my considerable girth. The highlight of that time of my running life came three months later when I set out on an idle Friday night and ran for an entire hour without stopping. I felt invincible; I felt like superman; I felt like this guy:

Even though I FELT good, however, I didn't actually look much different. Sure, I lost a few pounds (down to 250 at first and later down to 240 when I started training for a half-marathon), but my body still looked like an M&M - a lot of good stuff covered in a thick candy shell. It was only then that I began to realize the other half of my problem: Food.

Most of the seven deadly sins are relatively under control for me. Anger? Not since I beat up that kid in fourth grade (topically enough, for calling me fat) or punched a whole through our living room window screen have I let that emotion really take control. Envy? Well, I do live with Eric Vogeler, so ... yeah. And Lust? Well, I think Henry Higgins put it best when he asked "Have you ever met a man of good moral character where women are concerned?" (OK, after reading what I just wrote, I realize I might need to work on those as well). But the worst of all the game, by far, has always been Gluttony. We're a nation whose main passtime is overeating ... and I've always been proud to be an American.

But the problem with my greedy need for food is that it counteracts the majority of good that can come from a solid and consistent running program. I could run 25 miles a week and, thanks to my habit of mercilessly choking down Twinkies, end up two pounds heavier than I was the week before (this has happened ... how sad is that?).

So I'm going to cut down. Seriously ... this time it's going to happen. This life is all about learning to control our finicky, fickle bodies, no? Let that be my goal. My heart is healthy, my legs are strong and, while a flat and chiseled belly may be too much to ask for, hopefully cutting out the junk will help me move closer to that optimum 220.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Lot Like Love ...

"We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love."

I found that statement while looking through quotes some of my friends have up on Facebook (the most socially acceptable way to stalk ...). The quote reminds me a bit of a comic strip by Bill Watterson (a genius of the highest order, comic or otherwise). In one segment written several years ago, Calvin is walking along a path with Hobbes while the pair, as they are want to do, have a VERY illuminating conversation:

Calvin: What's it like to fall in love?
Hobbes: Well... say the object of your affection walks by...
Calvin: Yeah?
Hobbes: First, your heart falls into your stomach and splashes your innards. All the moisture makes you sweat profusely. This condensation shorts the circuits to your brain and you get all woozy. When your brain burns out altogether, your mouth disengages and you babble like a cretin until she leaves.
Calvin: THAT'S LOVE?!?
Hobbes: Medically speaking.
Calvin: Heck, that happened to me once, but I figured it was cooties!

It may not be Valentine's Day or Christmas or really any day that might spark the heart or quicken the pulse ... but it is raining outside. And, on a rainy day, a little love can go a long way.

Cheers to ya'll ... and much love.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"America will never forget ... "

Today, while reading through the so-called "Great Speeches" of the last one hundred years, I came across one delivered by current President George W. Bush to Congress nine days after the terrorist-driven destruction of 9/11. Among many other poignant and well-crafted lines (two points to his speech writer for coming up with "whether we bring our enemies to justice or justice to our enemies, justice will be done") was the following promise and observation.

And on behalf of the American people, I thank the world for its outpouring of support.

America will never forget the sounds of our national anthem playing at Buckingham Palace, on the streets of Paris and at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

We will not forget South Korean children gathering to pray outside our embassy in Seoul, or the prayers of sympathy offered at a mosque in Cairo.

We will not forget moments of silence and days of mourning in Australia and Africa and Latin America.

Nor will we forget the citizens of 80 other nations who died with our own. Dozens of Pakistanis, more than 130 Israelis, more than 250 citizens of India, men and women from El Salvador, Iran, Mexico and Japan, and hundreds of British citizens.

America has no truer friend than Great Britain.

Now, I don't want to end up sounding like some melodramatic country song, but with the lowest global approval rating since ... well, ever ... I can't help but think that we have forgotten those sentiments. And we've lost (or are losing) many of our friends as a result.

Why, for instance, did we decide to twiddle away our previous political prowess and relatively unsullied foreign image (remember when EVERYONE wanted to be us ... except France ... and they did too, secretly, from a distance) for a turgid, dumb war in Iraq?

And why have we decided to take the lone wolf, devil may care approach to foreign policy that ends up alienating the new Russia, the new China and the old everyone else? (Granted, we are doing better with some countries, such as India, but we've dropped significantly in the eyes of many, many others).

Before going on, I must point out that yes, I am several years late and a few well-thought-out phrases short of having a really meaningful entry here. (In my own defense, though, I must say that's largely because I was out of the country during 9/11 and the ensuing two years of US foreign relations rebound while I was serving an LDS mission in Southeast Asia leading, as you might expect, to a very different perspective on this whole thing). Obviously, disregarding the downward glances of our foreign friends isn't a new trend or a hot issue - it's been going on for years. For whatever reason though (call it fate, call it destiny, call it being at work with absolutely nothing else to do), my personal apathy toward the whole mess has finally begun to fade away and I've started wondering how to get our country back to where we were eight years ago - at least as far as foreign relations are concerned.

I don't think I'm being naive (idealistic, maybe, but not naive). I'm aware that we've always had a way of grating foreign cultures and countries with our brash, uncouth ways. I mean, we've always sort of done it our own way - but at least we used to have the diplomatic sense to keep more doors open and more friendships alive. And at least we used to try and make sure that when we went into some country, we went in with a wink and a nod from our friends across the pond and around the world (as opposed to the curse and jeer that seem more the preferred greeting today).

In that speech Bush gave nearly seven years ago, he paid homage to the right idea and the right approach to foreign policy: America cannot forget the good the world has done for her. America cannot choose to go it alone anymore (and whoever the next president is, he's got to clue in on that concept pretty darn quick). Sure, we'll continue to have our difference and we can't always just "play nice" with the schoolhouse bully, but if we don't make friends with the other countries on this large global playground, we'll be little more than a bully ourselves.

I may not be the most insightful chap this side of CNN (ha ha), but I do love this country and I always pray for her continued success. God bless America (and God give her sense enough to deserve it)!

God of our fathers, known of old--
Lord of our far-flung battle line
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine--
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The captains and the kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe--
Such boasting as the Gentiles use
Or lesser breeds without the law--
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

- Rudyard Kipling

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I got this e-mail a few months back from a co-worker at the Utah Supreme Court. Funny man. I kept it (for the love of a good guffaw) and am only now getting around to publishing it. Enjoy.

Hello [witty moniker]:

It's that time again. I realize that you are all busy with [seasonal non-religious activity], but [pop culture reference], don't you think? Our [regularly occuring, work-related outing] is just around the corner and should be great time to share our impressions of cases, practice caricatures of our favorite jurists, and [pinky and the brain reference].

With that in mind, I say we get together for an informal brown bag lunch on Friday at noon. I realize the notice is short but remember [cite to fake statute], and we took an oath to uphold the law, right? Ha ha!

As usual, feel free to attend even if case discussion is "verboten." We won't make you talk or even eat the dessert unless you are [ambiguous, possibly inappropriate joke]. Chattham house rules apply.

I hope to see you there.

[clever, likely self-deprecating nickname]

Friday, July 4, 2008

Balancing the Court

Finally, for all us "right-brained" lawyers out there - a bit of pictorial magic detailing the voting styles of our current Supreme Court (showing the "major" cases - as judged by the NY Times - over the past term). This pictograph begs two questions, as far as I can see:

(1) Will Kennedy ever NOT be the swing vote? I mean, really ... isn't it time for Stevens to step into the limelight a little? Just a little? (And, while we're on the topic, how 'bout Steven's bow tie? A perfect complement to Thomas's slant-lipped stare of death).

(2) Can Scalia and Ginsberg let bygones be bygones and join together on some issue of universal importance, thus rising above their political biases?

Thanks to those happy-go-lucky NY Times people from whom I lovingly stole this image.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My town ... that created all the bass sounds ...

What ever happened to the sweet, sweet hip-hop that pervaded the 90s? I know, I know ... most of you are shaking your head in disbelief - as if there could be such a thing as "sweet hip-hop" - but just read on ... you'll see what I mean.

Take for instance "I Need a Hot Girl" by Hot Boyz, one particularly rousing anthem from the end of that era. Here, verbatim, are the first four lines:

'You need a hot one I got one, I take and bend
Shake it down, break it down, with me and a friend
Biggity bounce, slide, ride, work that thing to the right
Push it down, push it up, boom you dynamite' (add appropriate inflection)

And then there's "My Projects" by Coo Coo Cal:

'In my projects, my project thick
In my projects, everybody cooks bricks
In my projects, my projects thick
Don't come to my projects if you ain't wit dis clique'

Or how about the unforgettable Western/Hip-Hop crossover "Ghetto Cowboy" by Mo' Thugs from 1998:

'The names Powder P can I get a twelve gauge
Outlawed everyday on the front page
Mr. Kid, if you give me the low down
Me and Blackjack, we ready for the showdown
With two double barrels pointed at whatever
We'll stick together, I'm perdy clever'

(Perhaps the best use of the word "perdy" in any song ever. Period).

But need I quote more? For everyone in touch with their inner, sex-crazed thug, the genius of these hip-hop masterpieces is beyond reproach (My Inner-Thug Name: T. Four Piece). For the true believer, there was never a better era.

So the question is, what happened? Where are the Koopsta Knicka's, Tupac's and Krayzie Bone's of today? I know, I know ... some of those guys retired. Some overdosed on heroin. Some are serving time in maximum security prison. And some are dead urban icons rumored to be coming back in 2007, but not really actually coming back. (You know who you are).

I just don't think today's hip-hop has that same, undefinable quality ... we've seem to have moved past that time when music was able to eternally straddle the line between completely depraved and lovable 'gansta magic.' No, the hip-hop of today has definitely crossed that line. The music of today can best be described only as "Fergalicious."

Oh, well ... I guess some things will just never be the same. I'll just have to resign myself to being one of those crazy old guys who embarrasses their "hip" grandkids by rapping on the front porch with his dawg's and remembering the days when the Notorious B.I.G. reigned supreme.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hope, Work, and the Good Life

They say that the Monday of the last full week in January (MLK Day) is traditionally the most depressing day of the year because of (1) high credit card debt from the hoildays, (2) the long, cold, darkness of winter at its dreariest, and (3) most people give up their New Year's resolutions about this time.

Tragedy, my friends, unmitigated tragedy. Ok, so I'll give you that the cold, dark disgustingness of a thick January inversion isn't liable to take many people to the land of sunshine and rainbows ... but forsaking those newly-made resolutions? What gives? Twenty-two days into the rest of our lives and already the majority are packing in the gym socks, giving up on love, and pulling out those old nicotine deathsticks.

And it makes me wonder all the more ... how many people actually keep those resolutions past Dark Monday? Are there any sticklers still straddling that Thin Blue Line (random British comedy reference) and keeping their resolutions into May? August? December?

I hope so. And, what's more, I hope I'm one of them and that this time next year finds me thin and sexy, in love ("Its not too late to find a mate in 2008"), and smoke free ;) Cheers.