Mark Hurley

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Archive for the ‘Nonfiction’ Category

Education Letter

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For the purposes of this letter, “Editor” refers to the editors of all major news publications in Nevada.

To the Editor:

In my capacity as president of The Nevada State Board of Education, I have invited representatives of both Brian Sandoval and Rory Reid’s campaign to speak at our upcoming October 7th and 8th meetings. The idea is to allow the candidates to supplement their generalized comments from their August education debate, in order that they might articulate more comprehensive plans for the future, should they be elected. The state’s education budget faces alarming and potentially damaging cuts in the coming months, and it has become more imperative than ever that Nevadans understand who will safeguard the future of their children in the proceeding term.

Mr. Reid’s campaign has committed to sending an appropriate ambassador to these meetings, however Brian Sandoval’s campaign has replied in the disappointingly negative. In their response, it was indicated that there was no individual in the campaign equipped to represent Mr. Sandoval in talks on education. I fail to see the wisdom in this refusal to address the Board; it is not encouraging for the state of our schools under a Sandoval administration, nor is it prudent for the candidate’s campaign.

The Board has offered a perfect opportunity to address the officials elected by the people that live in the state Mr. Sandoval aims to govern. It escapes me why such an opportunity would be passed up, especially since the Board of Education is responsible for all K-12 education in the state, and whose actions directly affect the children of Nevada. It strikes me as odd that, as time before the election grows short, Mr. Sandoval would not wish to take advantage of one more chance to address the people he intends to govern.

Perhaps Mr. Sandoval believes that a 13 point lead over Mr. Reid in the polls is an excuse to play his politics safe, and ride out the election season on top. I would beg to differ. When leading in the fourth quarter of an important game, a coach ought not to finish the game half-hearted, with a skeleton squad of second stringers on the field.  Brian Sandoval should play the full fifteen, or else he should not be surprised if Rory Reid, in his willingness to play ball, runs away with it in the end.

It may very well prove that Nevada’s education budget will have to face detrimental cutbacks. However, until I hear otherwise, I must assume that Mr. Sandoval’s campaign has not devoted the appropriate manpower to considering the fate of our students with due diligence.


Written by scumbagstyle

October 5, 2010 at 1:08 am

Letter to Nevada Governor Candidates #1

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The open letter sent by the president of the Nevada Board of Education to the current governor and those vying for his seat in November 2010 received a write-up in the Reno Gazette-Journal and was generally well-accepted.

Dear [Candidate],

We, the Nevada State Board of Education, are writing to express our extreme dissatisfaction with the proposed further cuts to the state’s education budget. Already, we have been forced to approve a ten percent cut by the State Budget Office to the already anorexic funding our schools receive. Now we have been told by Governor Gibbons to prepare for a further thirty to forty percent drop.

In attending the education debate held between yourself and your opponent in the upcoming election on August 29, 2010, I admit to leaving with a sense of disappointment with both of your proffered positions. Your initial stances on the importance of education to the future of our state were commendable, however neither candidate felt it necessary to expound on the specifics of your plans to act on that importance. We cordially invite you to delineate your future policies as concerns primary education in Nevada.

It is generally agreed amongst government officials in Nevada that education will be paramount in long term plans to solve our enduring economic crisis. From the Board itself, purportedly up to yourself and your opponent for Governorship, the pervading thinking is that well educated students will be instrumental in alleviating our financial woes. How then can these draconian amputations be taken as anything but a strike at the livelihood of the people that would see you elected?

Beyond the economic considerations the current Governor’s proposals raise, what of our children? It is incumbent upon us – indeed, it is our ultimate responsibility – to ensure that the generation that will assume the governance and economic stability of our state be adequately prepared to assume that role. First among our concerns must be our children. Nevada has the lowest per-pupil spending in the nation, while her citizenry is the lowest taxed. If we, the citizens and government leaders of this great state, are truly serious about the importance of education to all of our futures, then we cannot be afraid to pay for it.

Further cuts to statewide education at this junction would prove nothing less than deplorable, and we ask you to reject each proposal outright. While mindful of our participation in the larger economic crisis this nation faces, we see no logic in lowering the education budget. It is true that, in the opening days of your administration, you must struggle beyond belief to maintain a balance in the state’s budget across the board, and not simply in the school system. However, to see this happen at the expense of the smallest among us, knots the collective stomach of Nevadans.

We genuinely hope you will spend more time on the solution to the problem we all share, if not for the sake of the government officials that address you now, than for the children we are all sworn to encourage and protect.

Thank you,

Chris Wallace

President, State Board of Education

Written by scumbagstyle

October 5, 2010 at 12:58 am


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(Tour Arizona’s scenic Sonoran Desert! Resort pickup! Van adventures! Shoot jaywalkers!)

My fiancée and I have recently returned from a spectacular weekend spent with a recently transplanted buddy in Phoenix. It was my first visit to the land of John McCain, NBA Jam era Barclay, and leathery retirees so sick of people that they handily eschew Florida, where their grandchildren are more likely to visit. I am pleased to report the sprawling urban experiment, made of stubborn desert landscaping and held together with the glue of moral fortitude, still stands. I ‘report’ this because, if the spin mills are to be believed, that particular section of the Sonoran Desert has gone all Fertile Crescent with violent crime, kidnapping, and unabashedly brown births being carried out on any given street corner. Arizona lies on the front line of an invasion, and every day its people feel the burden that Obama refuses to shoulder. Indeed, what is it about the world’s deserts that American Presidents can’t seem to keep healthy of biblical crises? We exist in a nation divided, and a disproportionate length of fault line lies in the jurisdiction of an immigration law designed for a place that, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we have never even visited. In the internet age, it is easy to forget just how immense our country is, and just how misplaced outrage can get when dramatically different ways of life are happening a couple hundred miles away.

If the concern over SB 1070 is that all Arizonans – not just the differently colored ones – are at risk of a domino effect, stripping the state’s residents of their humanity and civil liberties – – if that is the concern, we can send that worry the way of the Native American infestation: those blankets have already been distributed. Judging by the shifting, terrified eyes of the average citizen of Phoenix, you would think they were all hiding an extended family of opera singing Jews under their floorboards. Paranoia is such a way of life down there, Howard Hughes could be mayor by virtue of being the calmest, sanest sonofabitch in residence. In the short span of our visit, we witnessed a Big Brother system so intricately conceived that any smiling neighbor could double as informant against you if you made the mistake of having any fun in their viscinity.

The bitch of it is, the city is not overrun by crime, by any standard. Aware of the region’s purported woes, I kept my eyes open, and saw no corner drug deals, no bullet holes in brick buildings, not even a person that drove faster than 5mph below the speed limit. No evidence of criminal enterprise either, like graffiti or so much as a foreboding dark alley. As my friend Dan, who moved to Scottsdale two months ago, explained it, doors to cars and homes were generally left unlocked, as the punishment for a crime as odious but innocuous as breaking and entering could easily be death by the guy who could legally blow a hole in you with his shot gun. Everywhere, the people have been scared into enforcing the laws of the land, for fear the hammer will fall upon them.

Crossing the Hoover Dam and braving the treacherous mountain passes (we learned on the return trip you could avoid those by taking the Laughlin route off the 93) necessitated we arrive in Scottsdale past midnight on Friday, so it was determined that the party should commence directly, lest we waste more time. Dan took us to a glorious dive bar he frequents, the fabled crumbling slice of Americana with tabletop shuffleboard, toilets last cleaned in ’86, and an ancient Big Game Hunter video cabinet comprising the majority of the furniture. It was perfect. Pitchers were cheap, the jukebox was only mostly country, and we were well into the swing of a southwestern night of quiet debauchery when the box-dyed, 45 going on 70 bartender ruined the evening by declaring the bar closed.

When I informed the woman I was nowhere near the level of inebriation I had hoped for, and requested perhaps one more beer, her eyes widened with the naked fear of converses during the Spanish Inquisition. “Get out, get out!” she cried, I shit you not, good reader. We left then, not inclined to witness just how close we came to seeing a middle aged woman crap her pants. We decided, instead, to procure a case of Bud at the Circle K and continue our shenanigans at home, out of eye- and earshot of the local Gestapo. (Read full article)


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Written by scumbagstyle

September 1, 2010 at 1:30 am

The Best Laid Plans…

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A retort…
(Originally appearing on Scumbag Style)

brosnan thinks you're an asshole(The plot was so convoluted and obvious, even BROSNAN Bond thinks we’re stupid for missing it.)

Contributor Sean Torrie, while an upstanding gentleman and a friend of the highest credentials, is a verbose fool. While his article on the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” made some important points, his love of the sound of his own keyboard tapping diluted the argument so that his claim of final-say book-closing on the subject got lost in the translation. I will also chock some of that up to his insidious optimism (that I do not share), both in humanity itself and this experiment we call the United States. Here’s the bare bones, with less of the anecdotal apologetics, and none of the pandering. Seriously, sir, are you considering running for office? I was always under the impression you would be seizing power, to hell with the politics.

Sean was certainly right about one thing: despite our posturing and wailing over the past ten years, despite our cries from the respective religious and political pulpits, the terrorists have officially won. Our reaction to the racquetball courts a Muslim group plans to build near the site is exactly what our attackers intended. But where Sean developed whiskey dick and couldn’t close the deal is where he stopped short of the reality none of us want to face: The United States of America, as an experiment, has failed, from the common man to the tops of our four branches of government (include media before you call me a fuck head). Pack it up, it’s over. The Russians won, the Germans won, the Terrorists won, even the fucking British won. Because in this fundamental issue, this test of our fortitude in the face of what Sean would correctly call the “weakling bully,” we did not live up to the potential we fought every single war in our short history over.

It is all well and good to fight for our fundamental tenets of ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ when the wars are happening in Europe and Asia. But when Bin-Laden jealously witnessed our progress over the past century in civil humanity, while greedily playing fast and loose with our financial systems, he knew exactly where to strike: our largest monument to capitalist smugness. He also knew our cowboy mentality would cause us to view his attack as purely physical: a bombing on our soil requiring immediate military response, and a bandage-able wound. He knew we would not realize that his attack was less of a military one than a biological one, a poison that would destroy the foundation of our core values if he waited patiently enough.

It worked, probably better than he could have hoped. Now, nearly a decade later, we have entirely abandoned the one value that might have justified our arrogant actions since September 11, 2001. In any possible argument against the proposed Muslim community center in New York, we have fallen, with enthusiasm, to his level, and that is all he wanted for Ramadan. One cannot make a legal argument against building it, obviously. The fact that a mosque was already there doesn’t seem to phase the detractors, and fine. Perhaps building a new monument to even one of the ideals held by the terrorists is tantamount to incitement and, at the very least, insensitive (does ‘turn the other cheek’ ring a bell, those who incredibly believe ours is a Christian nation?). I retort by saying sensitivity has never been America’s strong suit, and pretending as much is sillier than pretending any variation of tofu tastes like meat.

America missed its chance in this, the first real challenge to our understanding of self since that ugly day. Instead of greeting this small group of Muslims with vitriol, would not the more powerful statement be to greet them with open arms? It would have been a small but significant, symbolic act that proved we were unshaken by 9/11. It could have proved that our core tenets of tolerance and equal rights remained firmly rooted, and that our existing laws protecting private organizations, no matter their affiliation, remain as effective as they were before they were challenged. The terrorists would have been put firmly in their place, but instead, by merely making a big deal of it, they have been put on a pedestal. A pedestal for stoning perhaps, but isn’t that what we hate them for? The worst part is, it is already too late. Even if this very article is packed with somehow unrealized wisdom, and the country changes its opinion, the damage has been done. The memories of our fallen, the appropriately deified heroes who fought for the American way of life by giving their lives for others at the World Trade Center, has not been honored by your dissension, it has been fouled beyond recognition. Those men and women did not even know they were fighting Muslims in those long hours, they knew they were fighting for the American way of life from an as-then unknown enemy. How then can a Mosque at that location (it is 3 blocks away, just by the way) dishonor their memory? The very difficult truth we must now face is that they truly did die in vain.

It seems now that what these people did die for is an incomprehensible Islamophobia. It is evident in rhetorical and violent reactions to mosques across the country, in Koran burnings by Christian groups, and perhaps worst: the resurgence of this idea that our president is a secret Muslim. It is everywhere in the news, the growing number of Americans who believe such rubbish, and the pundits who masturbate their idiocy to a throbbing, veiny talking point. Who the hell cares? By reducing the office of the leader of the free world, with all of the religious freedom and tolerance it supposedly embraces, to his religious affiliation cheapens us all. Hate to break it to you: most of the greatest leaders of this side of the BCE/CE divide, not just the United States, were pretend Christians the whole time, just to appease your theocratic asses. Get over it. We have two unsolved domestic natural disasters, three wars, a financial death-throe, and countless civil rights indignities to discuss and solve without pushing the not-so-subtle government takeover campaign by Protestant Christianity. As long as calling someone Muslim is an insult, the growth of our democracy will be indefinitely halted. As long as we pretend that Islam is any more (or less) silly on a political scale than any other religion, we have failed.

No matter how fluid the document or what the condescendingly, subjectively idolized Founding Fathers intended, the Constitution and its amendments were never meant to be used as political bargaining chips or fodder for campaign advertisements. That applies to the first amendment, and no amount of politicisizing Islam with one hand, while upholding Christianity as a shining, tax-exempt example for our government with the other, can change that. Even if our glorious Liberal leaders like Harry Reid and Hilary Clinton want to waiver on this issue for the sake of securing the largest possible voter base, the hypocrisy is far too evident. Even if, as one GOP senator suggests, Islam is a political movement more than a religion, there are offices across the country from the less powerful Communist, Fascist, and Monarchical Parties from the mountains to the fucking prairies. If you’re going to subvert the constitution, get a freshman in high school to check your stymied rhetoric.

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Written by scumbagstyle

September 1, 2010 at 1:23 am

Put Another Dime in the Ipod, Baby

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Put Another Dime in the Ipod, Baby

(Much thanks to the guys at SoYouWanna, who taught me a bit of the banter in this essay, but who are not credited personally on specific tutorials, which is a shame. I owe a lot to the guy who helped me get my cred.)

I am a big phony. In an environment where so many of my peers base their identity on the music they listen to, I am an embarrassing pop whore. Nobody knows this, because I have mastered the art of what I like to call “indie deception.” “Indie” refers to independent music, the kind that either cannot or will not score a contract with a major label. It also refers to a way of life, and a cynical attitude. According to the people I know, and the people I know are the only people, one’s prowess in taste is not based on what one enjoys, but what one should enjoy. It is enough for any casual listener to confine themselves to radio stations on which caller twenty-nine might win Britney Spears tickets, but for people “in the know” such behavior is looked upon scornfully.

One can only be cool if literally everything they enjoy is unpopular. I am here to say that I am so unpopular, I’m cooler than everyone else who is uncool. Or at least, I can pretend.

To make people think I listen to the right kind of music, I don’t actually have to listen to the music, I just have to look like I do. I’ll go a few days without shaving, to show that I don’t care. If I had hair, I would wash it less frequently, because that’s cool. The “bedhead” look is clearly a little obvious, but a modified bedhead with a greasy sheen is perfect. If I had hair I would be wicked indie.

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Written by scumbagstyle

August 2, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Posted in Nonfiction

On Smoking

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On Smoking

Recently I was asked very politely never to return to my local Wal-Mart. The banishment comes as a blow to a tight-belted college student who relies on his access to economy sized sticks of antiperspirant and seven dollar DVDs for his very survival. Despite the handicap my exiled state would prove to be, I am unable to imagine a suitable alternative, as I could not have backed down from my position that fateful day – that W-Day.

I tossed my spent cigarette butt to the concrete as I entered the massive and enticing sliding doors to poor man’s paradise, and ran a B line with my grey plastic shopping cart to the personal hygiene section. I was busy deciding which brand of women’s shaving gel would adequately baby my sensitive bald melon (it was yellow Skintimate, it is always yellow Skintimate), when I heard a feminine coughing from a yard or three down the aisle from me. I turned to see a full family selecting tubs of body wash for use for what must be the month or the biblical apocalypse: bearded father, portly mother, two young sons with toys in their hands and politely soft robot noises in the mouths, and a teenage daughter looking directly at me. I shrugged, and continued my contemplations.

“Cough, cough,” I heard again, and turned to find the young lady still fixated on me. She had also caught the attention of her parents. I was beginning to understand her malady, but I could not be sure. In any case, I was irreversibly involved.

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Written by scumbagstyle

August 2, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Posted in Nonfiction

Just Let Me Die

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Just Let Me Die

A lot of animals, in some Darwinian manifestation of heightened instincts, can sense when they are about to die. A lot of these animals, sensing the impending last car ride to the cloud kennel, will find a dark corner to settle in to die in solitude and dignity away from prying eyes. I’ve noticed that humans are that rare species that are seldom afforded this simple opportunity. So many times we hear of people dying in hospitals inhabited by thousands, surrounded by friends, loved ones, casual acquaintances, and the occasional gloating enemy with a handlebar mustache. Sometimes we even get to watch it on television; bonus points if it goes viral on You Tube. Popular forms of death throughout our history have included the public hanging, the lynching by mobs, and the suicide by crowded city skyscraper. Rarely are we afforded the decency of reflection and repose that most animals cannot even begin to appreciate.

I have never died, personally. However, I have frequently been in situations where all I really want to be is alone, left with my thoughts and personalized coping mechanisms. The most obvious manifestation of this feeling is simple embarrassment, if any emotion that feels so complex at the time can be considered simple. I have an unreasonably big mouth, which often leads to my putting my foot in it. One would hope that polite company and colleague relationships would allow for it to go unmentioned when I do, but this is almost never the case. Usually, my mistake is pointed out in front of large groups of people, and this generally leads to uproarious laughter at my expense. My embarrassment is compounded by my unusually pale complexion that exhibits the penchant for extreme blushing. My face swells and pinkens to the point where I look like a drunk Irishman, and when I feel the space heater that is my face plug itself in, my only thought is how I can escape the room. But my psyche is a predatory mistress, and I only feel the pangs of flaming shame when I am at work or class, somewhere I am obligated to remain.

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Written by scumbagstyle

August 2, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Posted in Nonfiction