Photo Caption: Two-for-one in South Beach! Cost: $50 and my reputation as a canny consumer.
My favorite column opportunity of the year; it just writes itself.
Here are my top 10 hopes for 2013, some serious, some tongue-in-cheek. Hopefully, you can tell the difference. I wish…
1. That something good comes out of the Sandy Hook school slaughter, common-sense restrictions on so-called assault firearms and the size of ammunition magazines available for them.
But as others have pointed out, we also need to re-invest in mental-health services, the sort of community resources that might identify and address mental-health issues that predispose a small fraction of people with personality disorders and other mental illnesses to go on bloody rampages.
In the aftermath of the Newtown/Sandy Hook tragedy, the NRA and other gun-rights supporters shrugged off the obvious role that anything-goes gun laws played in the slaughter, and instead cited the need to address mental-health issues in communities, mandate armed guards in the schools, and ban violent video games, TV and movies.
Does anyone else see the irony in these supposed solutions, coming from the same sort of people who otherwise support drastic cuts in public health, advocate cutting spending for local governments and schools, and take an absolutist position on one amendment, the Second, but seem OK with further diluting the pre-eminent one, the First?
2) That when people riled up about a political issue check their quotes before putting them online to prove their point.
On Facebook last week, a former Athens County candidate (a good person mainly), posted a meme, showing a picture of George Washington and the following quote:
"A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government."
He added a comment basically saying, "All you liberal gun-control supporters, this quote should finally shut you up!"
Suspecting the authenticity of the quote, since it doesn't sound like anything I've ever heard the deliberately spoken (and usually not provocative or inflammatory) Washington say, I Googled it. Here's the actual quote. It came from Washington's first annual address to Congress in 1790:
"A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent on others, for essential, particularly for military supplies."
As you can see, someone (probably not the person who posted the quote) went in and very deliberately changed the meaning of Washington's words, so it no longer bore any resemblance to the original intent (which isn't entirely clear anyway, since Washington was likely referring to parochial issues unique to that time and place). If one can get anything out of the quote, it more likely makes an argument against unfettered gun sales and ownership.
Washington's bogus quote isn't an isolated one, either. If you go to the Second Amendment Foundation's website (this is a pro-gun group that's admirably attempting to keep the record straight), they have a page listing bogus quotes that have been used to make the gun-rights argument.
I'm fairly certain that you'll find a lot of the same sort of fabrication anytime someone posts a pithy meme on Facebook that sounds just a bit too good to be true. On the other hand, if the gun lobby had a persuasive case to make, one wonders why they feel the need to concoct their "evidence" out of thin air.
3. That folks don't whine so much about the Christmas music in uptown Athens. It was a nice touch, and along with the holiday decorations in storefronts throughout uptown and lights strung on buildings, gave our downtown an attractive and classic Christmas feel.
This is despite the fact that my desk is situated a few feet from one of the speakers, and it was tough sledding listening to holiday tunes for eight straight hours everyday, usually diluted by the real-life samples of vehicle traffic on Court Street. But that's my own cross to bear, and has nothing to do with the aesthetic and commercial benefits of making uptown Athens an inviting place to Christmas shop.
I did think it odd, however, that while the uptown holiday music started shortly after Thanksgiving, for some reason it stopped a few days before Christmas. It seems perverse to play Christmas music on Dec. 1, for example, but then NOT to play it on Christmas Eve.
4. That next time the Athens Messenger publisher attacks our paper in a column, she at least check the definition of "shopper" before using it as a cheap-shot insult.
Just to set the record straight, The Athens NEWS publishes more news articles per issue than the great majority of newspapers our size, and many papers that are much bigger (including the entire roster of our trade association, the Association of Alternative News-media). You can dislike us for any number of reasons, but please at least concede that we're a newspaper. And I've always thought being free was a nice bonus for our readers.
After all, I'd never suggest the Messenger isn't a newspaper, or that it doesn't have talented and well-meaning people working in its newsroom – and probably in its other departments as well. (Though I do wish they could deliver the paper at my house before 9 or 10 a.m.)
5. That I have learned my lesson when it comes to margaritas. My family vacationed in South Florida the week before Christmas, and our first stop, Miami's South Beach, exposed me as a wide-eyed gullible rube with a very high sucker quotient. After checking into the Beacon Hotel, we took a walk down the club-restaurant side of Ocean Drive. Figuring we'd quench our party thirst with a margarita, my wife and I acceded to the very aggressive sales tactics at one of the sidewalk bars. A "two-for-one" margarita sounded like a good deal, so we went ahead and ordered two. Being a seasoned traveler and skeptic, I did tell the young Cuban-American server that we'd just like the "house" margarita (which in most places means the cheapest one).
A few minutes later, she came back with two aquarium-sized goblets of margarita, as it turned out 50 ounces apiece and $50 for both.
For the next two hours, we struggled to finish them, and finally took the cocktail equivalent of a doggy bag with us.
We got clipped, which is never a good feeling.
I did complain to the manager, and he just shrugged, "That is our 'house' margarita. We only have one smaller (32-ounce) one. This is what we're known for."
Oh, and they neglected to put any salt on the rim of my glass, which in hindsight likely would have killed hypertensive moi.
6. That next year, I start off this column by being honest about how many New Year's hopes and wishes I'm going to deliver.