JOE WEBB AND CO. – THE WRITTEN WORLD

LESSON #39: COCAINE = NOT THE BEST IDEA

Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on November 24, 2008

LESSON #39: COCAINE = NOT THE BEST IDEA

typewriter          Occasionally, I’ll find myself in a conversation with one of the more conservative, senior members of our department, and that professor will say something like this: “I just don’t understand why these kids today keep getting messed up with drugs.  It’s all so pointless.”  Well, this is kind of a silly question, and, while I don’t respond this way, in my head, I think about the truth.  The reason that people do drugs are that drugs are fun as shit.  The problem, however, with drugs, is that they are also addictive, and depending upon what type of drugs you are addicted to, they can pretty much derail your life.  So, today, in the interest of showing why dabbling in hard-core drug usage may not be the best choice for Johnny Undergraduate and Suzie Front-Row, let’s explore these two scenarios.

          Cocaine: Imagine that, like Dr. Faustus, you one day awaken to find Mephistopheles just kicking it in your dorm room, ready to offer you the following temptation: If you so agree, The Devil will arrange things such that you are able to have sex with Angelina Jolie as often as you’d like – but there’s a catch.  Every time you engage in conjugal relations with the world’s sexiest woman, Mephistopheles gets to remove one of your appendages.  So, the first time you have sex with Lara Croft: Tomb-Raider, you lose a pinky.  The second time, you lose a ring finger, and so on.  Eventually, once all of your fingers and toes have been removed, the Devil hires Lorraine Bobbitt to slice off that other thing on your body that looks (for some men) like a finger or a toe.  And there’s more…

          Certain people in the world have the ability to enjoy this act once, and then to move on with their lives.  They find that they are capable of dabbling in Miss Jolie for one isolated incident, and then are completely able to live normal, healthy lives with only nine fingers.  Other people have been hardwired differently.  Once they get a taste of the bliss that is Angelina’s bedroom, they are unable to keep from returning, and it becomes something that they need in order to function. The interaction of intercourse will become the one meaningful event in their lives, and they are willing to sacrifice everything else in their world for the return of that rush – including, because now all they have are a set of nubs for hands, typing their terms papers by holding a straw in their mouths and punching the keys on the computer one at a time.  Lastly, for a select group of individuals, say one in a thousand (like Len Bias), sex with Angelina Jolie mixes with their natural body chemistry in such an earth-shatteringly intense way that it stops their heart on the spot, killing them instantly.  The greatest catch is that you don’t know what type of body chemistry you have until you try the game for the first time.

          So, do you choose to accept this offer?  Many people, in fact, do choose to play this game.  Like Rick James says – “Cocaine is a Helluva Drug.”  The question is, at the end of the day, which joke will get to be yours.  Will it be A) “What did the five fingers say to the face?” “SLAP!”, or B) “What did the five fingers say to the face?” “I remember when I wasn’t a set five bloody removed appendages sitting in the Devil’s trashcan.”

          Marijuana: Smoking weed, on the other hand, is sort of like getting to hang out with Ellen DeGeneres.  She has a way of making everything funnier, even the little things in life, and she’s less dangerous in that it is basically impossible to cheat on your girlfriend with a 50-year-old lesbian (unless you happen to be a lesbian yourself). You come home at the end of the day, turn on the television, and something about Ellen makes you think it would be nice to have some cookies.  Still, even though Ellen is less intoxicating than Angelina Jolie, there is a certain amount of risk.  Some people, after hanging out with Ellen at the end of the day, start to enjoy themselves so much that they choose to order the Oxygen network from their local cable or satellite provider, and decide to spend all day every day sitting on the couch – because hanging out with Ellen’s just more fun than going to class.  Also, your parents might tell you that hanging out with Ellen is a gateway to having sex with Lara Croft: Tomb-Raider.

          Now, the great thing about life is that each of us gets to make our own decisions when offered these scenarios by Mephistopheles.  You can choose Option A; you can choose Option B; or like Richard Pryor in Brewster’s Millions, you can choose “none of the above.”  Personally, when I was in your position, I decided that Cocaine probably wasn’t the best idea.  I’d seen too many of my friends do things like jump through a plate glass window, bong a fifth of Jack Daniels and pass out in a phone booth, or wake up on a bus in Clarksville, Tennessee.  I have friends, in fact, who are still in and out of rehab (and other friends, who like Amy Winehouse, just refuse to acknowledge that they need to go).  So I decided that drugs were probably a lot like produce – the organic ones were safer.  But I won’t tell you what you should decide – I just want to lay out the options in a way that’s a little more realistic and relevant than advice delivered by Nancy Reagan.

          NOTE #1: Evidently, in real life – not the metaphorical world I have constructed for the purposes of this post – having sex with Angelina Jolie carries with it other consequences.  Just ask Brad Pitt.  Every time Achilles has sex with Lara Croft, she either spawns or adopts another child.  Somebody’s gotta get him some help, or at least a few more nannies.

          NOTE #2: Dr. Wizard’s Advice will be taking a short break for the Thanksgiving Holidays, and will not update on Wednesday or Friday.  So, if you’re new to the site, now’s the perfect opportunity to catch up – and to tell all your friends about The Wiz while you’re home over break.  (And, by The Wiz, I don’t mean the Wizard of Oz adaptation starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, although that’s good too.)

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LESSON #38: THE WORLD NEEDS ELECTRICIANS

Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on November 21, 2008

LESSON #38: THE WORLD NEEDS ELECTRICIANS

typewriter1          This may be the stupidest lesson I ever give here at Dr. Wizard, because if enough of you follow this advice I may someday find myself out of a job, but sometimes you’ve just got to say “What the Hell” and deliver a dose of honest reality, even if it’s a little personally painful.  The truth is that I would be doing both you and my blue-collar heritage an extreme disservice if I didn’t point out the rather obvious fact that the world needs electricians, and it will continue to need them for the foreseeable future.

          Without a doubt, one of the worst things that we have done as a society over the course of the last three decades is to propagate the myth that in order to be successful in life, you need a college education.  In part, this myth has been driven by the modern University system, which, while being technically a not-for-profitenterprise, is in fact entirely dependent upon an ever-increasing stream of tuition dollars in order to finance the construction of more awesome, hideous modern buildings and to continue the hiring of a select portion of the overstocked pool of graduate students into the professoriate.  But, in the process of propagating this myth and ensuring our own piece of financial security, we are allowing the American infrastructure to crumble into third-world oblivion.  Have you seen pictures of some of our roads?  Have you listened to my father talk every Christmas break about the lack of qualified tradesmen in the Electrical profession?  The bottom line is that far too many high school students go on to college when they would in fact have better lives, and better financial stability, if they were to instead choose the option of attending a trade school.

          In every high school graduating class in America, there are a certain number of students who have been given the gift of physical dexterity.  Oftentimes, they have an innate understanding of the way things are pieced together, but find themselves uninterested in the rather esoteric world of Platonic philosophy and Malthusian economics.  And what do we do with these students?  Rather than point them towards a trade school where they can find the training for a useful career as a plumber or a diesel automotive technician, we tell them that all students, no matter where their talent lies, should go to college – and we let the trades sort through the pack of high-school dropouts who scored a 9 on their ACT.

          But consider this.  Here are the median annual income figures for a group of tradesmen in Chicago with five years work experience: Bricklayer – $60,274; Carpenter – $51,428; Electrician – $54,924; Pipefitter – $58,889; and Plumber – $55,538.  Conversely, an Insurance Agent with 5 years experience makes on average $46,092 a year, and a Consumer Credit Analyst makes $42,534.  So my question is this: if you are an average business student, muddling through a Management degree with no strong prospects in the job marketplace, who happens to also possess strong technical problem-solving abilities, why wouldn’t you choose a trade occupation?  Would you rather be a 23-year-old journeyman electrician with no student debt and $100,000 stocked away in home equity, or would you rather live in a crappy apartment as you pay a quarter of your much smaller paycheck each month on your $100,000 student loan principle?  Furthermore, as the world continues to flatten in the twenty-first century, consumer credit analysis and the sale of insurance are the types of jobs that will most-certainly be outsourced to India, but it’s much more difficult for an electrician from Mumbai to commute to Chicago to perform a rewire of your house.

          In 1901, W.E.B. DuBois wrote “let us make philosophers of philosophers, and carpenters of carpenters.”  His point, in my opinion, is that each of us has been gifted with a certain set of natural skills that predispose us to be more adept at one profession or another.  If we were to more carefully follow this maxim, there would be less of a stigma attached to working with your hands in America.  These trade-professions are honorable, and until we do a better job of making this clear to  you, the college students of America, we’ll continue to be a country with a wealth of college graduates and a dearth of various skills.

          So, as I close this post that may one day lead to my own unemployment, I’ll argue one last time that college isn’t for everybody.  Don’t let your parents or your guidance counselors talk you into wasting four  years of your time and a whole lot of money if you’d rather feel the joy at the end of the day of having accomplished something concrete and material.  I mean, just look at LeBron James – he seems to be doing all right – and the last time I checked, his diploma reads St. Vincent and St. Mary High School of Akron, Ohio.