Bye-Bye Li’l Sebastian

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After 7 seasons, the Parks department of Pawnee, Indiana will shut its doors tonight.

Pawnee looks a lot different than how we saw it in 2009. It is no longer the 4th most obese city in America. It is home to free WiFi for the entire town. Most of the starting members of the parks department have moved on to bigger an better things: they have gigs as a service worker in DC, Interim Mayor, Major figurehead in the National Parks Service, congressional candidate, owner of Very Good Building Company, Business Owner, married mogul headed to Seattle, and TV Superstar Johnny Karate.

Our little Parks and Rec employees have grown up, and it’s time to see them off.

Just like with all shows that have run for several years, many people tuned out before tonight’s finale. But for the rest of us, tonight is the heartfelt goodbye to characters we feel like we’ve raised.

Why is this show important? Why is this show — described by so many as a way to profit from the popularity of The Office in the late 2000s — so painful to say goodbye to?

I can only relate some of my personal reasons:

— The creation of Galentine’s Day, which is a real thing now

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— Treat Yo Self, also a thing

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— My discovery of Aziz Ansari as a stand-up comedian

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— My discovery of Nick Offerman, who I had the opportunity to see live at UMBC

Credit to NBC for images of Ron Swanson

Credit to NBC for images

— The world’s discovery of Chris Pratt (he is Andy Dwyer, not Starlord)

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— My weird crush on Ben Wyatt, which I can’t even try to explain

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— Getting all of Ben’s nerdy references to Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Star Trek, Settlers of Cataan, Economics and Accounting, Batman…

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— The cutest TV couple since Jim and Pam

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— Mouse Rat, the only fictional band I’ve actually searched for on iTunes

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5,000 Candles in the Wind, which I kind of want played at my funeral, even though my name is not Sebastian and I am not a mini horse

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— Countless actually-funny political jokes that I’ve heard at SGA events and poli sci classes for years. Seriously. I’ve even started adopting Ron Swanson as a half-decent representation of my view on domestic policies.

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— Guest stars aplenty (John Cena was on an episode last week. What other sitcom is John Cena gonna appear on?)

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Yes, it had its rough moments. But every show has its moments. When a person dies, his funeral isn’t usually an ode to the mistakes he made, but to his accomplishments, his brightest spots. Parks and Rec had a lot of them, and I’m glad it ran as long as it did. Was it time to end? Yes. Am I sad to see it go? Also yes.

So tonight, the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness will have to be amended: Crying is acceptable at funerals, the grand canyon, and the Parks and Recreation finale at 10 PM eastern on NBC.

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Potty-Training the Taliban

Warfare is never the first, best solution to a problem. But there are certainly times that it can be effective. When someone poses a threat to you or those you’ve sworn to defend, you have to retaliate. You fight the opposing armed forces, you win, and you keep them from ever threatening you again. Peace slowly returns and things return to a modified state of normal.

Then there are cold-blooded, deranged, sickening, mindless animals that decide to slaughter innocent people just to prove that they can.

This morning in the country of Pakistan, Taliban forces attacked a school for dependents of Pakistani soldiers. Casualties were mostly children; total death count is up past 120 people, with several hundred more wounded. Because of the nature of the school, these men—in uniform—were able to scale the wall unnoticed and attack. It’s made even worse by the fact that Peshawar, the city that these people called home, has been the site of massive terror attacks before. This life, one of death and fear and unpredictable attacks, is a repeated reality for them.

I don’t care what motive you have, killing schoolchildren is cowardice. Plain and simple. There is nothing to be gained by the loss of human life today other than the satisfaction of screwing the world up. This was not a strategic military operation. This was a terror attack.

This is the enemy. Not our own police force. Not the opposite political party. Not the entire Pakistani government. Not the nation of Islam. Just the minority band of extremists that think they can get what they want by killing civilians and scaring us into submission. We cannot fear them. If we give into fear, they win—and they keep killing people.

This minority group sincerely believes that it is their job to kill those that do not agree with them. And take my word for it: they’re not scared to enter the US. Look at Sydney the other day. Who the hell attacks Australia? These conflicts are not limited to the Middle East.

The reason that this is a problem though? The real reason? This movement is forged by an idea. This is not a racially-charged, patriotically-fueled war between countries. These groups are not representative of any people, religious or otherwise. Their brand of terror can convert anyone, anywhere. And if we do not send a message that we do not tolerate it, it will grow. It’s not limited by borders, age, race, gender, religion, or profession.

Technically speaking, the Pakistani military has been attempting to clear this mess out of their country. The Taliban is claiming that this attack was revenge for the death of some Tribesmen. But in reality, they’ve done more than that. And it’s all well and good that the leaders of the world can tweet their condolences and strong condemnation of this attack, but in the wake of recent beheadings, hostage crises, bombings, and all the trouble that’s been stirring up over the last decade or more, it looks like it takes more than that.

This is as much our problem as it is the problem of that part of the world. Because it could very well be us the next time. Think of Boston. Fort Hood. 9/11.

They wanted to send a message. It’s time we sent out own. And if it takes boots on the ground, so be it. Like an unruly dog peeing in the house, they think that they can continue these abominable acts because we’re not stopping them.  Time to housetrain the dog—by any means necessary.

Go Forth and Be Cocky

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I’ll never be satisfied with my life until someone calls me cocky.

I know that humility is a sought-after trait. I know that Christ taught us to be meek and humble. I know that nobody wants to be friends with the kid on the playground that brags about his game even though he can’t even shoot. I know that through humility, we grow. But too often, I see people take humility too far. They start believing that they aren’t actually any good at what they do. And that starts to seep into their work. And that’s not good.

We have forgotten the importance of self-confidence. We stress that everyone is a winner, that everyone’s work is equal—and let’s be honest, that’s a load of poo. In the real world, there are winners and losers. Someone will get to lead the next presentation at work. Someone will win that promotion. Only one person will be selected as team captain. Only one side will win the war. Are you really going to hurt your chances by thinking less of your abilities?

I competed in the music world when I was a kid. I met a lot of people while I was out for auditions and playing in groups. The best players are almost always the cockiest bastards that I’ve ever had the (mis?)pleasure of meeting. They knew they were good, and in the audition room they believed that they were invincible. That’s why they won everything. I know that every time I did well in an audition, I walked into that room thinking that I was top stuff. 

That said, if you talk of nothing but yourself, refuse to give credit to the people that helped you reach your goal, and actually stink at whatever it is you’re bragging about, nobody will ever talk to you. You’re only the star in your life; to everyone else, you’re a co-star at best.

There’s a way to be successfully humble. There’s a way to acknowledge that you are not a god, that you have a lot more to learn and achieve. I don’t know if I mentioned this when I spieled about Braden, but as cocky as he is during Monopoly games, he’s humble when it comes to running. He always credits his team members and his coaches for their massive part in each of his victories. He knows his competition. He judges fairly, and willingly admits when he had a bad race. But Braden does something that so many are forgetting to do: he pledges to make himself better. He puts on his game face and races his heart out like he is the best.

For one moment, right before a performance or test or competition, your thoughts are your own. You have to believe that you’re indestructible. You can’t pull any punches. You can’t let anyone intimidate you. You cannot be humble. Or else you will fail. And what kind of thanks is that to all those that helped you along the way?

If we end up with a world of unconfident, apologetic people with a little bit of talent, what kind of progress will we achieve? Go kick some serious butt at whatever it is you do. If not for yourself, than for all of those people you keep crediting for your work.

That Green Day Song, Part One

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This time of year, this overwhelmingly bittersweet period, is unlike any other. The middle of May is busy; the calendar is filled to the brim with parties, awards ceremonies, and spontaneous Frisbee games. Skin starts to tan, muscles regrow and the beauty of a late-evening walk is at its peak. The school year is winding down. Over the next few days final goodbyes will be said. Celebration will be overshadowed by sadness; every good morning means just a little bit more as the number of mornings remaining dwindles. These are the final days. These are the glory days.

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