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    Sunday
    Aug252013

    Officiant Extraordinaire

    Last year, Khol Tightuss and Roxanne Cochard bestowed an amazing honor upon me by asking me to officate their American wedding.  I did, and here's a transcript what was said on Tuesday:

    Thank you to everyone for gathering here today on this momentous occasion.  We’re here to celebrate the union of two extraordinary human beings: Roxanne Astird Cochard and Cole Anthony Titus.

    Our presence in this beautiful valley is the result of these two souls crossing paths three years ago, at which point their formerly separate paths converged and merged into one large, superpath. 

    From the moment they meet on the porch of Cole’s childhood home, beneath towering redwoods and a blue summer sky, Cole and Roxanne clicked. I remember the first day they meet: they talked late into the night, laughing and giggling like little school girls.  I know this because at the time I was living in the sunroom adjacent to the porch, and I was secretly listening to everything they were saying. 

    The spark of love that ignited that day soon expanded into an raging inferno that could not be extinguished by the all water in the Atlantic Ocean, nor suppressed by the six-thousand mile – or if you prefer, 9,600 kilometer – airplane journey that they’ve repeatedly made between Paris and Sebastopol over the course of their long-distance relationship.

    Throughout this period of time, Cole and Roxanne have experienced their share of marvelous adventures which have served to solidify their friendship, trust, and love.  The seeds of their relationship were sown in the fertile soil of West Sonoma County, and the experiences that they have shared together have branched-out across the globe. 

    It didn’t take long for them to realize the joy that came about from being with one another.  Their enthusiasm for traveling together was realized in Northern California: through day trips to bask along the Russian River and Secret Beaches.  They now stand before us today having stepped foot together in four continents.  From snowboarding in Lake Tahoe to the French Alps, from driving to Baja California to hiking across sand dunes in the Sahara Desert – their combined spirit of exploration has proven to be a strong and exceptional force in their relationship.  They’ve crawled through catacombs filled with skulls and bones beneath the world’s most romantic city; they’ve experience a magical trip in Normandy, and they even were in Vietnam together.

    Additionally, Cole and Roxanne have found common ground in the deep appreciation they share for high culture and the performing arts, as demonstrated by attending the Book of Mormon musical in London, as well as seeing world-class bands perform live, such as Iron Maiden in Prague and Bruce Springsteen in Paris. 

    More important than their shared interest in exciting activities is the joint commitment they’ve invested in their relationship; they’ve sacrificed and they’ve taken risks, and they have prevailed. They are living, breathing testaments to power of love.  Roxanne has stood by Cole’s side as he arm-wrestled a midget in Bruges for some reason; courageously, she’s withstood a relentless bout of his horrific flatulence in Morocco, and she’s stayed with him even after she accidentally sipped from a wine bottle containing his tobacco-chew spit.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this is true love. And the marriage of Cole and Roxanne is the best deal America has arranged with the French since the Louisiana Purchase.

    Their future is bright.  It’s filled with countless sunrises and sunsets, full moons and meteor showers, road trips and voyages.  The Maldives is but one of many exotic destinations that they’ll visit as husband and wife to make us jealous of them.  Inevitably, there will also be times of uncertainty and sorrow, but just as they each have helped others overcome adversity, they will find strength in their mutual love and they too shall overcome. 

    And like their parents, if and when the time comes, they will produce wonderful and ingenious offspring that will add value to the world as they have.  They’ve already proven that there is nothing that can stand in their way if they put their hearts and mind into it, for, as the say in France: voulior c’est pouvior – to want is to be able.  Cole and Roxanne will go down in history alongside some the greatest duos to have ever existed, such as Calvin and Hobbes, Frodo and Sam, and Mrs. Piggy and Kermit the Frog. 

    From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for sharing your lives with us; and each person here is blessed to have you as a part of our lives.  Thank God you two have found each other.  Thanks also to your moms and dads and step-parents who have made you and raised you to be some of the finest people we have ever known.  Thanks to your brothers and sisters and friends who have all helped to shape you into the amazing people you have become.  No words can express how proud we are of you. 

    Of those friends of yours here that I know, I’d like to give a shout out to Dawson, Canyon, Stephanie, Marley, Marty, Evan, Adam, Drew, Ryan, Jordon, Migo, Renae, Victoria, Marine, and myself.  To those of you who feel inspired to get married, I am officially ordained, and would be happy to take care of you next; and to Cole’s single male friends, remember: gay marriage is now legal in the state of California.

    That being said, it’s time to bring this home. 

    Do you, Roxanne Astrid Cochard, take Cole Anthony Titus, AKA your “Yankee/Hubbie Wan Kenobie,” to be your lawful wedded husband?

    Do you promise to love and cherish him in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, drunk or sober, straight or gay? 

    Do you promise to stick together with him in the event of a drone strike, meteor strike, or if the Empire Strikes Back; all for one, one for all, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?

    Do you, Cole Anthony Titus, take Roxanne Astrid Cochard, AKA your “French French Fry,” to be your lawful wedded wife?

    Do you promise to love and cherish her in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, if you had a boat, and if you had a pony, you upon your pony on your boat? 

    Do you promise to protect her in the event of a natural disaster, cyber attack, robot uprising, alien invasion, alien-robot invasion, Nazi-zombie apocalypse, or if the Republicans win the national elections in 2016?

    Okay, now that that’s agreed upon, you may exchange rings -- and make it good, because this is going to be last time you’re ever going to get married. 

    I, Cole/Roxanne, give you, Roxanne/Cole, this ring as a symbol of my eternal love and commitment to you.

    In concluding this ceremony, I’m going to read an excerpt from a poem, as well as a quote.  The excerpt is from a poem called “The Old Astronomer,” by Sarah Williams:

    Though my soul may set in darkness
    It will rise in perfect light
    We have loved the stars too fondly
    To be fearful of the night

    And what follows is a quote by Carl Sagan:

     “You’re an interesting species.  An interesting mix.  You’re capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not.  See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other.”
    “For small creatures, such as we, the vastness is bearable on through love.” 

    Now, by the power vested in me, which feels like a hell of a lot right now, I now declare Primae Noctis! 

    I mean, I now pronounce you MAN AND WIFE! You may now kiss the groom – after me!

    Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you, Cole and Roxanne!

     

     

    Saturday
    Aug242013

    Keep it up...

    Thursday
    Feb212013

    Ten Tips for Young Men (some of which apply to Young Women)

    Here are ten suggestions that I believe will help young men live more gratifying, healthy, and successful lives. 

    1)     Travel – Adventure somewhere totally different.  This could be a cross-country road trip or a journey to a different country (the less affluent the better).  Traveling is an excellent way to learn about yourself and others.  After a long trip, you may come back home to find that the things (television, video games, social media, the internet, etc.) that you thought were important are not.  You will most likely return with new friends, awesome stories, and vivid experiences that will have made you stronger and smarter.  Traveling gives you the benefit of contrasting your way life to others, and often inspires people to improve themselves and the world around them.

    2)      Be Independent – This means that you should try not to rely on others when you don’t have to.  Being independent will compel you to make responsible decisions that will improve your chances of success in the future.  Those whom are handed everything in youth are less incentivized to work hard and brainstorm ways of becoming successful.  If you can, try to prepare your own meals, make your own money, and do not skirt around work responsibilities.  Being independent does not mean being solitaire – on the contrary, you will build new friendship networks through reaching out to people and working with others whom you would not have otherwise crossed paths with. 

    3)    Find a Passion – Explore options outside of your work or academic curriculum that you are highly interested in.  These should be challenging and rewarding exercises that you can pursue and enhance through time.  Do not allow yourself to become defined solely by your job or field of study; have a constructive hobby or interest that you love.  Start now and you will excel in the long-term.  Your passion is a parallel form education – that which is self-taught and can potentially be more valuable than your formal education or official job.  If you can figure out a way to make a living from your passion then hats off to you, for it’s true: Find a job doing something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.  Also, girls dig guys with passion.  It’s similar to how women are less attracted to a single guy than to a guy who has a girlfriend – it’s because they assume the taken guy (the guy with a passion) is doing something with his life and has something to offer.    

    4)      Limit your Screen and Interface Time – Allot periods of your day where you shut down your computer, video game console, and mobile devices.  You should spend this time engaged a constructive project or reading a book.  If you have to watch T.V, then watch a documentary.  Do not compulsively look at your phone; this makes you look crazy, distracted, and desperate – like an addict.  Don’t wake up and go immediately to your phone or computer, instead, try to lie in bed and remember your dreams.  You should be able to sit calmly in a quiet place and stay focused on one thing (reading, writing, drawing, etc) for at least an hour.  When you are online, ask yourself: Am I wasting my time? Is this activity helping me advance towards my goals?  If you are trolling the web and feel brain-dead, lethargic, lost, or uninspired, then turn off the machine and step away. Sit down and make a list of things you would like to accomplish in the immediate and long-term future, and then map-out how you intend to get there.    

    5)      Eat Healthy and Exercise – Be health conscious.  Try to eat organic food and plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables.  If you can, try not to consume any GMO, factory-farmed, processed meat, and stay away from pesticide-sprayed and fast food.  Don’t drink soda or consume anything with high fructose corn syrup or aspartame.  When you eat, practice good manners: chew with your mouth closed, don’t hunch your back, and don’t shake your leg convulsively – you look ridiculous if you do that.  Work out for at least fifteen minutes everyday.  Get some sun and enjoy nature.  Like all organic matter, you need to take care of yourself to grow and prosper. Make sure to floss your teeth and stretch.  Don’t sleep-in until noon (unless you have good reason for having stayed up late).  Don’t smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol too much either.  If you’re going to do drugs, make sure you do them in moderation and that you know what you’re getting into. 

    6)      Stand Up for Yourself and Others – Speak your mind and don’t take shit from anyone.  If you see injustice, do something about it.  Speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves.  There’s a good quote that goes like, “Say what you want and be who you are, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”  Across the planet myriad people are living in conditions of immense hardship; you should often keep these people in your thoughts.  Once you are in a position to help them, do so.  Be a man of your word and don’t be a pussy, but don’t be an asshole either.  It’s okay to pass judgment on people after you get to know them, but never prejudge strangers or discriminate against them. 

    7)      Question the Status Quo – Always question the fundamentals and the information being presented to you.  Things are usually more convoluted that they seem. Question the media, government, and corporations.  Try to maintain a global and historical context to compare whatever issue is being discussed.  If you are unsure about the details of a certain topic, recognize this (instead of arguing in ignorance), and then look into it so that you may formulate an opinion. Make sure you do not go along with anything that does not agree with your conscience or personal values.  When a wrong is being committed against another human being (or against a pocket of nature that you care for), you should always stand against that wrong – regardless of the rationalization under which that wrong is being perpetuated.

    8)      Live Not in Regret – Don’t expect that you’ll have more than one chance to do anything in life.  Whether it’s talking to a girl, going SCUBA diving, or making a speech at an event – seize the opportunity as long as doing so is not going to hurt anyone.  You don’t want to be lying in your bed at night, reviewing your day and thinking, “Man, I really should have talked to that girl...”  And you definitely don’t want to be on your deathbed thinking, “Gee, I really should have written that novel, or taken that trip to Bhutan, or learned about marine biology...”  This same principle of regret applies to how your treat those closest to you.  Don’t separate from your loved-ones on hateful terms – you never know if that will be the last time you see them. 

    9)      Curb your Materialism – Be conscious of where your commercial goods came from and where they will go once discarded.  Think about the chain of events that occurred in order to get any item or resource in your possession to you.  Try not to buy so much new shit, reuse things whenever possible, and don’t take more than you need.  Be self-sufficient and purchase local goods when you can.  Give back by cleaning up your surrounding environment, and always consider the impact your decisions have on others and the world around you. Don’t get caught up in status symbols and the misconceived value of material goods, as they’re largely irrelevant when it comes to improving your body, mind, and spirit. 

    10)  Be Grateful - Chances are, if you’re reading this then you’re living at the pinnacle of human material well-being in history.  You are privileged to be alive in a relatively stable environment and you have a wonderful opportunity to live life to the fullest, so make the best of it and don’t waste your time.  Thank your lucky stars that you are who are you are, and express gratitude to those people and things that have helped get you this far and are keeping you going. 

    Friday
    Nov302012

    Letter from North County Jail

    A writer friend of mine is serving some time in a Northern California jail and wrote an insightful letter which sheds some light on his experience behind bars.   With his permission, I’ve transcribed his letter to share with others.  In case you’re interested, here’s what he wrote:

     

    Dear Aaron,

    Thank you for the reading material – the books made it in, but the pornographic magazines, I am told, did not get past screening and were confiscated by the guards (I suspect they’ll be making paper mache of those pages forthwith).  Good show though; The Thought Gang will suffice for now. 

    Here at the North County Detention Facility there is an extensive library for the inmates in our compound: Building 101, which houses around 200 people.  We share a large “day-room” with tables, games, and televisions.  There are ten dorms that sleep roughly twelve people each, and we are generally free to move from our bunks to and from the day-room, or into the sunny courtyard as we please.  “The Farm,” as some here call it, is summer camp compared to where I was confined three days ago. 

    Three days ago I was still in the Main Adult Detention Facility (MADF), adjacent to the Sheriff’s Department and the Sonoma County Courthouse in Santa Rosa.  At the MADF, I spent two days in the minimum security jail (as opposed to higher/maximum security compounds on the premise), which is as close to a prison-setting as I ever hope to experience.  I shared a small, two-bunk cell with a fat man, whom, though jolly, made full use of the cell toilet all too often.  (Like many inmates, this man resorted to hibernation as a means of passing the time; he slept more than a house cat.  Perhaps this is in part because, for some reason, in jail one seems better able to remember their dreams, which may also being occurring with more frequency.  Throughout this period of my incarceration, I’ve had at least a dozen dreams that I remember).  The fat man and I were locked inside this small, blue-painted cell for most the day and night.  Three times a day, all inmates were let out of their cells to spend two hours together in a common area, which included a caged ball court.  Our meals were brought to our cells where we ate them (sometimes) with our assigned plastic spoon.  The cell had a tiny, translucent, silicone-like panel which allowed natural light to seep through.  The only other lighting alternative was a bright fluorescent ceiling light.

    Despite the overwhelming deprivation of freedom I endured in that facility, others there face greater confinement and much longer sentences.  Apparently, locked in the maximum security part of the compound are four men, all Asian, whom were found responsible for the murder of an innocent man they tortured and killed in Bodega Bay earlier this year (they were trying to blackmail the man’s brother, who owed them money).  The four men were sentenced to life in prison.  I cannot imagine having to suffer life behind bars; it would be Hell.  (Yet these men may have it better than many prisoners incarcerated in less judicially-conscious countries or in prisons that are more susceptible to lighting on fire.)  My two days there was more than enough for me, and I will do all in my power to avoid such incarceration again. 

    Having said that, I do recommended that everyone give jail a try just once.  In a way, perhaps it is like being told you have cancer: you start to daydream and plan for all the grandiose and well-intentioned things that you’re going to do once you’re released – things that you should have been doing before you got in.  Incarceration is a kick in the ass which makes you realize how valuable your time in life is, how precious your freedom is.  Freedom is usually taken for granted by most people; and as is often the case when a close family member or friend passes away, one seldom realizes how valuable something is until it’s gone.  I’m scheduled to be released in two weeks, and I feel as though I will be given a new lease on life.      

    The majority of inmates I have met here at the Farm are honest, witty, generous, and together they can be quite hilarious.  I would trust the inmates here to operate the United States Congress over those officials presently presiding in office. 

    Allow me to relate to you two exchanges between inmates that I have witnessed here and which I think you will find humorous: 

    1)  For lunch (here in North County, all inmates dine together in a cafeteria), inmates are regularly served processed baloney sandwiches and flavored Kool-Aid style water.  Today, one inmate wiped up some Kool-Aid he had spilled on the table and it stained the table red.

    “Look at the way it stains the table,” he remarked.

    “That’s that Jim Jones right there,” said his neighbor.

    “They’re trying to fucking kill us,” said another.

    2)  At bedtime, in the flatulence-saturated dorms, some men fart more than others, and referring to one man in particular, a man in a top bunk stated:

    “We have to smell this shit all night.”

    “You think we don’t?” responded someone from the other side of the room.  “It’s just a matter of time.”

    “My eyes are burning,” remarked the first guy.

    The inmates are exponentially more pleasant than the guards, whom mostly hate their jobs, are extremely rude, and like most uniform-wearing officers, are afflicted with war-paint syndrome.  The jail guards encourage people to double-deal and rat on each other – such great values to bestow upon one’s children…  Ultimately, I pity the guards, for sooner or later most men here will leave, but the guards must keep coming back.  I for one cannot wait to go.  Until then, stay out of trouble, my friend. 

                                                                                                                    Faithfully,

                                                                                                                                   V.G  [his initials]

    Sunday
    Aug282011

    Hunter S. Thompson - The Great Shark Hunt

    Here are some excerpts from the book The Great Shark Hunt, a compilation of articles written by Hunter S. Thompson.  The scanned articles posted below are part of a series HST wrote for the National Observer when he was traveling through South America in between 1962 to 1963, when he was twenty-five years old.  Great stuff.  Be sure to read his letters to the editors at the end. (In order to read most of the pages in full, you'll need to right click on the page and view it separately.)  By the way, the S. is for Stockton. 















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