Thursday, April 30, 2015

'Star Wars' Is About The Bounty Hunters, Right?

The only character in Star Wars
that Darth Vader is afraid of -- Boba Fett.

Star Wars is a series of films about various bounty hunters struggling with survival in a dangerous, unpredictable galaxy torn asunder by chaos. There also happen to be these boring wizards with tricked-out flashlights in a multitude of colors.

That's how I see the Star Wars saga. I have felt this way since the moment I watched The Empire Strikes Back.

I could really care less about the whole Jedi versus Sith conflict. I have zero interest in mystical ninjas who can do magic tricks and like to pretend they're samurai.

Darth Vader... don't care.
Obi-Wan Kenobi... don't care.
Luke Skywalker... really don't care.

Han Solo and Chewbacca are also of no real concern to me. Solo is just another typical cowboy jock with an inflated ego. As to Chewie... well... I've seen shag carpets with more personality.

And let's not forget C-3PO and R2-D2 (I wish I could) -- two annoying characters without any real sense of necessity. They're just MacGuffins to move the plot along. The only really important droid in the entire Star Wars saga is R5-D4. Without its existence, the whole story literally collapses. Can you say linchpin?

Why don't the fans love me? They should.

To be perfectly honest with you, I don't particularly enjoy A New Hope at all. It's boring and predictable. The dialog is stiff and the action, even when considering it's the late 1970's, is sub-par. And what's up with Obi-Wan's disappearing act? It just doesn't make any sense. After I saw A New Hope for the first time as a kid, I wasn't impressed. Meh... just another science fiction movie.

And then I saw The Empire Strikes Back. Finally... some interesting characters! There are bounty hunters... and they're cool. On board a Star Destroyer with Darth Vader, we're initially introduced to Boba Fett, IG-88, Zuckus, 4-LOM, Bossk and Dengar. They've been contracted to catch that knucklehead Han Solo. Hurrah, some characters to finally root for! At the end of the movie, the bad guys (good guys?) actually win. Boba Fett has captured Han Solo! YES! These bounty hunters obviously have substance; they have a story to tell. Unfortunately, they get few (if any) lines of dialogue. This is what depresses me most about Star Wars...

The most interesting aspect of the entire cinematic universe, the Bounty Hunters, is almost a footnote.

Return of the Jedi doesn't improve the bounty hunters' presence any. In fact, their best hunter Boba Fett is gobbled up by a giant Sarlacc. Sure, he eventually escapes the beast's gut, but that's another story entirely.

My enjoyment of Star Wars is a love/hate relationship. They're perfectly decent films, but the best component of the entire story is nearly absent. Why weren't the bounty hunters fleshed out? They could have an entire film saga all to their selves and it would be immensely more interesting than what we are familiar with. When it comes to the Star Wars fandom, I'm definitely in the minority. Yet, I hold out hope. Perhaps the new trilogy will feature more bounty hunters. We could only be so lucky.

Hi! I'm 4-LOM and this is my pal Zuckuss. We're two wild and crazy guys!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

When The Police Overreact.

Tony Cleveland, Jr. (17) of Greensboro, North Carolina was arrested yesterday on charges of urging a riot, possession of a handgun and weapons of mass destruction. Why?

Because of this image he created and posted to his personal Facebook account.

That's right -- it's now completely illegal to create an image that the police might not agree with.

Based upon information gleaned from the suspect's father, Tony had no intentions of actually causing a riot at the "Gboro Mall". Mind you, such a mall doesn't even exist. There are two major shopping destinations in Greensboro -- the Four Seasons Town Centre and the Friendly Center. The image doesn't state if either of these locations was the intended "target". The time on the flyer also says "5-until". Is that 5 AM or 5 PM? The when says "this saturday". So which exact Saturday is that?

Obviously, this image was created by an immature teenager with little intention (or the necessary planning) to actually carry out a riot. Most likely, the teenager crafted the image because of the recent news involving the Baltimore Riots. Like any impressionable youth, he decided to become involved in some silly, misguided way. It doesn't make what he did right, but it also clearly doesn't pose a threat to anyone. Common sense is a hell of thing. Would you think this potential riot was serious if you saw that image? I wouldn't.

If you think the above image was serious, then you need to get a grip on reality.

I'm not going to defend Tony -- he's a juvenile delinquent with a long string of charges including breaking and entering. Clearly, he has little respect for the law and his parents probably did a terrible job raising him. Yet, there's cause for alarm when any police department would charge someone over a silly image -- much less with urging a riot, possession of a handgun, and weapons of mass destruction.

Does this image indicate that the creator has WMD's? If so, they must be as invisible as those supposedly owned by Saddam Hussein. Does the fact that he placed a cartoon image of a gun next to a cartoon image of a police officer's head mean he has a handgun? What about people that possess tattoos which have weapons in them? Does that mean the individual owns those exact weapons? If a kid has a poster of an F-16 fighter jet in their room, does that mean they own said plane?

No. Only idiots think such nonsense.

If the police are going to begin arresting people for images on social media that they don't agree with, then they better build more prisons. Nearly everyone has shared or liked an image on Facebook that law enforcement might not agree with. We'd all be guilty.

This is yet another example of the police over-reacting and over-stepping their boundaries. The People of this Nation have every right to produce images like the one above. The First Amendment protects individuals in cases like this, whether you happen to agree with the content or not. I don't agree with it, but what I think doesn't matter. Had Tony and a band of his friends actually carried out a riot, then sure -- charge them to the fullest extent of the law. Up until that point, though... it's all just childish foolishness. Riots are absolutely wrong and should not be encouraged -- they only cause reckless bodily harm and damage to property. Yet, let the sentence be appropriate for the crime.

I find myself asking... what crime took place here?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dead Soda Brands From Our Youth.

As I grew older, I came to realize the folly of drinking too many soft drinks. In fact, I haven't had a regular soda pop in many years. Every once in a blue moon, I'll partake in a diet soda. This is usually to create a mixed adult beverage, though.

Diet Cheerwine and Bacardi Black Rum, anyone?

When I was a kid, my parents kept our home fully stocked with all sorts of soda pop; so much so that drinking water seemed wrong. Yeah... thanks parents. I'm lucky I've never had a cavity.

Thinking back, I remember all of the great sodas I had in my youth -- RC Cola, Dr. Pepper and Cherry Pepsi just to name a few. But, what about some of the discontinued and forgotten sodas? Where did they go? Here are three to invigorate your memory.

Surge was released in 1996 by Coca-Cola to combat the rising popularity of Mountain Dew. Obviously, they failed miserably. By 2003, it was totally discontinued. Surge was marketed as one of the first soda/energy drink hybrids and played heavily into the extreme sports fad of the '90s. Ultimately, Surge was brought back late last year in limited supply -- you can only order it online at Amazon.

Here's an oldie that I loved to drink back in the day -- Slice. Beginning in 1984, it came in many different flavors, including (but not limited to) fruit punch, peach, mandarin orange, pineapple, lemon-lime and strawberry. The fruit punch flavor was awesome, as was the mandarin orange. I remember not liking the peach flavor, though. The lemon-lime flavor was the springboard for Sierra Mist, which has since become the chief national competitor to Sprite. By 2000, production of most Slice flavors was scaled back heavily. In 2005, the line was completely eradicated by parent company PepsiCo. I have read in multiple places that select flavors of Slice are exclusively available at certain Wal-mart locations, but I've never personally seen them.

Ahhhh... good old Crystal Pepsi. You were utter crap. I tasted you twice back in 1992 and was absolutely disgusted. I remember the exact place I first tasted Crystal Pepsi -- I was in the parking lot at the long shuttered Star Value grocery store in Victoria, Virginia. I got one out of a vending machine (remember when soda pops cost a quarter). What a waste of twenty five cents! My brother Josh seemed to enjoy Crystal Pepsi, if I remember correctly. How, I have no idea. I can still remember the flavor -- it tasted like a flat, bitter tonic water with a dash of syrup. It was absolutely awful. By 1994, it had vanished from store shelves. To this day, I can still recall the Crystal Pepsi commercial that featured Van Halen singing "Right Now". Yeah... your soda sucks RIGHT NOW is more like it. Crystal Pepsi hasn't been seen since, much to the delight of everyone.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Future Of Domestic Drone Use.

Let's face it -- within the decade, we're going to see a vast expanse in domestic drone use. Owning a drone will be like having a back-up camera on your vehicle... everyone will have one. That being said, I like to believe I'm a forward-thinking man when it comes to technology. What will we be using drones for in the not-so-distant future? Here are some thoughts I came up with.
  • Mall Security - As if indoor malls weren't already becoming a relic of the Twentieth Century, those old shopping destinations will have a hard time affording their security staff. What better way to maintain a watchful eye and lay off some ineffective rent-a-cops than to employ drones? They will afford you the same degree of visual coverage at a fraction of the cost. A drone doesn't get sick, take a holiday or fall asleep. One or two control room operators can scan an entire structure constantly, thereby reducing overhead and improving visibility. It's a win-win!
  • Wedding Photography - Nearly every couple wants candid, unstaged photos from their wedding. The drone could fill this void without getting in the way. The often slighted wedding photographer, whom is told to stay invisible and not to participate, would become all but obsolete. The drone won't eat any of your hors d'oeuvres, can silently cut through the reception crowd and will refrain from hooking up with one of the bridesmaids!
  • Televised Golf - While I don't admit to watching golf on television (it's so boring), I know many other people enjoy to do so. Why not set a drone to follow the golf ball at all times? When the golfer tees off, the drone will stay locked onto the ball. It will provide the audience with a birds-eye view of the action.
  • Classrooms - This is an idea all you fans of hover parenting will love. Why not place a drone in every classroom and school hallway? Kids will remain under constant surveillance, creating a permanent record of their every action. When one of those little brats decides to act up, the drone can administer a swift electric jolt with an on-board taser. Smells like victory (or burning flesh)!
  • Amateur Porn - It seems everyone these days wants to record their own sex tape. While I can't say it's the best of ideas, people are free to do as they wish. Instead of shoddy camera work and grainy cellphone videos, why not use a lifeless, dead-inside drone to record all of the "action"? It beats having your drunk buddy sit in the corner with a camera and watch, am I right?
  • Fishing - How valuable would a drone equipped with a sonar locator be on a lake... or even better... on the ocean? You could send your drone out like a scout to spot schools of fish, thereby saving you the trouble of looking. Once your drone has locked onto some fish, you could command your boat there and reel in the big haul!
  • Window Washing - Isn't it a pain in the ass when you've got a window to wash, but it's on a second or higher story? A drone equipped with a cleaning solution sprayer and some form of wiping apparatus could fly up and clean your windows, without you having to so much as lift your rump off the couch. Take this idea one step farther -- use drones for cleaning windows on tall municipal buildings and skyscrapers!
  • Jousting - Drones would make the perfect candidate for sports. Why not attach long lances and defense shielding to the units, then send them into battle like the knights of old? They could each fly their own unique flags and feature simulated horse sounds!
  • Voting - Instead of having to get dressed, hop in your car, drive to the local polling station and wait in a long line to register your vote, what if the voting booth came to you? A small swarm of drones could canvass a neighborhood and meet with each and every citizen. An on-board computer tablet could allow the voter to make their selections, then quickly move on to the next person. Voters could schedule their drone visits in advance, so they wouldn't have any issue casting their ballots. There wouldn't be any excuse for a person not to vote.
Do you have any suggestions? I'd really enjoy hearing them!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Friendship Is All About Showing Up.

When it comes to being a friend to someone, the equation is simple. The biggest component of friendship is just showing up. The rest is merely the fine details. What matters is that you are there for someone, in both good times and bad. You're there for birthdays and weddings, for funerals and break-ups. You do your best to maintain open channels of communication. You remember holidays and special moments from the past.

You simply try to maintain a presence in another person's life, even when time and distance make it nearly impossible to do so. That's what being a friend to someone is.

I suspect you might be asking me "Why are you thinking about the matter of friendship this evening, Jared?"

A close friend is celebrating her birthday today (Congrats Brooks). Even though we're separated by many miles and work schedules that rarely, if ever, make it feasible for us to see each other, we've remained friends for years. In fact, our friendship is more stable and has lasted longer than that with the person whom initially introduced us! We trade greeting cards and gifts, text messages and friendly notes. She's made a point to remain a presence in my life, just as I have in her's. That's what being a friend is... just showing up and saying "I'm here."

As of late, I find myself asking...

Who is saying "I'm here" in my life? Who makes a point to maintain an open dialogue? Who wants to actually take the time to see me?

I did an inventory of my circle of friends... and it's grown quite small. In fact, I could probably count it one hand... with a few fingers to spare. I'll be perfectly blunt with you -- I haven't had any sort of meaningful social interaction with a friend (barring extreme geographic barriers) in what must be years. In essence, I've become a hermit. If it weren't for my better half Crystal and my two dogs, I wouldn't see any friends at all. Indeed, I wonder if I even still know how to make friends. It's been so long... I have probably forgotten. I desperately want to get out and have fun with a friend -- catch a movie, grab lunch or dinner, trade barbs over a few drinks, go shopping. I want to do anything normal friends do, though I'm not quite sure what that is because I never properly learned how.

I'm a work in progress, but that should be obvious to my long standing readers at this point.

What irks me the most is this -- I make a point to try and maintain a presence in the lives of other people. I send cards and texts. I try to call. I offer sound advice and honesty...

And I don't get a lot back in return.

I feel like I'm doing all the work to keep various relationships alive, truthfully. I've become fully convinced of this notion...

Lots of people like the IDEA of being your friend versus actually BEING your friend.

If you want to be a friend to someone, then show up and remind that person that you are there. Don't rely on social media to do all the work for you... it doesn't do squat. Otherwise, do not foolishly expect the other person to bear the burden. It's a hard life lesson to accept, but it's become quite evident. I won't carry the load any longer. Either you're in, or you're out.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Last to Leave.

A reckless burst of wind slipped against my shutters as I nestled in for the night. My dog Horace, not one to be such a light sleeper, had already turned in for the evening. Honestly, I was surprised that the blustering force outside wasn't keeping him awake. If anything, he was out of character.

Upon turning my reading lamp low and rocking backwards in my chair, I scanned the library around me. Even in the soft light that struck each and every book's spine, I could still make out their names. Carroll, Stevenson, Chaucer, Eliot... these were my comrades in arms; my friends. Their pens were as the mighty claymore, slicing the mind's eye into a million minuscule parts and reshaping thoughts into each author's own singular image. These men and women I could respect. Alas, each of these wordsmiths had long since crossed the mortal realm into the vast unknowing. Here I was, the last to leave.

Rising from my seat to return this evening's adventure to its rightful place upon the shelf, I nearly tripped over Horace. Nary a whimper or gruff escaped from his jowls. If only I could submit to sleep as easily; I was envious.

As I turned away from my bookcase, I heard a slight movement at my library door. Nothing of particular note or clarity, just a simple scuffing back and forth. Like a handful of thistle scratching against a windowpane, it was noticeable, but faint. I called out...

"A hot poker for your ribs!"

Alas, the noise continued, though this time it grew somewhat louder. My instincts told me that some degree of tomfoolery was afoot. Had my home been breached? Did hooligans intend to strike me down in cold blood and relieve me of my possessions? I called again...

"Do not flounder. With hellish strength I will strike!"

Swiftly, I reached to the hearth and grabbed my fire iron. The coals had grown dim, but still had life in them yet. As such, the searing rod would give any man reason enough to retreat. A fine striking weapon indeed; should even the mighty Beelzebub try to enter, his thorny self would have cause for alarm!

The scratching on the door continued as I crept closer. Steadily, my free hand reached for the doorknob. Just as I was about to make contact, the somber chafing suddenly stopped. With eagle like agility, I parted the door and shoved my poker through. The darkness now thoroughly punctured with my iron, I opened the door fully to see my foe. Yet, there stood but an empty hallway and my mother's old painting of a Thanksgiving feast. I took note of how the painting's colors seemed to have faded slightly, then pressed onward. Looking left, then right, I perused the depths of my corridor. My mind must have been playing tricks on me. Or, perhaps I required some traps for the mice, who would have me fall dead from paranoia. Those rodents, ever the sly devils. Lowering my poker, I turned around to reenter my library. In hindsight, I wish I had kept on walking into my hallway.

Before me, without a squeak nor strike of lightning, stood a cloaked specter. Perhaps two and a quarter meters in height, it towered over my now humbled frame. Shroud in fibrous crimson linen, I could not make out a face. Its chest did not rise and fall as a man's chest would. The life in the room quickly evaporated; the already dim coals in the fireplace shrunk to mere specks of orange and yellow. The warmth in the room had all but vanished. My own breath became visible, which eerily seemed to mingle with the misty vapor surrounding my visitor. A damp fog encircled the library, leaving me with little ability to see. As the bellow on a pipe organ, this creature spoke to me.

"Do you long for yesterday?"

How could I be prepared for such a strange inquiry? I grasped at the phantasm's cloak, with little ability to reply.

"Do you long for yesterday?"

The chime of my grandfather clock suddenly clanged, startling me to the bone. The hair all across my body stood at full attention. I muttered nearly incoherently.

"B-b-but... I, eh I... I do not... k-k-know how, how t-to answer."

The erubescent wraith seemed to tilt its head to the side, then spoke once more.

"Your friends are all dead. Your coals are dead. Your dog is dead. You... are dead."

Terrified, I reached for dear Horace. Placing my hand to his wet nose, I realized that it was not wet at all. His lips were white, his torso frigid. Poor Horace... my companion had indeed passed on. Had the room not been so glacial, I undoubtedly would have wept. I stood to my feat and locked gazes with the guest of death, whom spoke again.

"We must go."

The apparition seemed to glide across my floor, never taking a step. With the smooth grace of a swan, it floated towards the exit.

"Follow me."

I kept asking myself -- had I passed away in my reading chair? Was my corporeal form now a feast for the worms? How long before someone would discover me? Would my library become my tomb? Faced with little alternative, I accepted my fate and followed the red shroud away. Yet, I was frightened of what might come next. Why could I not stay here, surrounded by what I know best? The tales all around me were good enough for comfort. With a warm fire, there was an eternal sustenance to be had here. Instinctively, I made a choice.

As I passed by my Davenport desk, I quickly reached inside its largest compartment for my old tinder box. With great dispatch, I flung my hands against the flint and struck a clutch of matches. Set ablaze, the sulfurous stench the matches produced caused my nose to tingle. The phantom seemed to turn its head over its shoulder to inspect what I had done. Too late for him, indeed. With great velocity, I flung the staunch flame at his cloak. No sooner had the fire made contact did his blood-soaked garment erupt in furious anger. Spreading all over the veiled monstrosity, the fire was simply too powerful to stop. As the ethereal horror twisted in torment, the cloth wrapped over its structure melted away. Through the smoke and glistening embers, the burning carcass revealed itself to be but a hollow skeleton. This was no human frame, though. Scattered about the bony visage were gristly lumps of calcified plating. Shards of cartilage and other quills of osseous matter jutted at random. Whatever my now lifeless visitor had been, it must surely have existed in sheer agony. Perhaps I performed it a favor.

No sooner had the fire captured the revenant did it fall to ash. As I approached the pile of dust, it seemed to drop between the boards of my floor, sifting through the cracks like tumbling sands in an hourglass. Without warning, a massive gushing force slammed my library door shut. The fog lifted and I could feel the temperature rising ever slightly. Once nearly out, the coals in the hearth rose to a cherry color.

It was as if the mysterious ghost had never come at all.

Surely, I must have been dreaming. Returning to my reading desk, I sat in my plush chair once again. The only remedy was to calm my nerves and awake in due time. And so I did, leaning back in my chair once more... to sleep within a dream.

I awoke to the chiming of my clock. Each bell struck like the echo in a cavern, forever reverberating in a hollow flutter. The coals in the fire were still warm. Horace rested upon the floor, not having moved. My lamp was still low, as I had left it. Gathering my strength, I lifted up from the chair and made for the library door.

Turning the knob, I pushed the entryway open.

There was no painting in the hallway waiting for me. In fact, there was no hallway at all. As if staring at my own image in a mirror, there stood an exact duplicate of my library, only emulated in an exact reflection. Across the length of the mirrored library stood another door. Galloping forth, I raced to that door and flung it open. There too, another library, this time matching my own original room.

And another door leading to a mirrored room.

And yet another room matching my original library.

I found myself trapped in an ever-looping cycle of endless libraries, only mirrored from one to the next. And in every room, Horace slept the eternal sleep, never stirring to life.

What had I done...

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Hunt Is Over. I Found Camo Wedding Rings!

Didn't you hear?

That's right! The hunt is O-V-E-R! You and your baby can finally come together in holy matrimony in the only way you know how -- under the luxurious protection of full camouflage! YEEEEEEEEEEEHAW!

Click to see full size image

Folks, I've seen some weird crap in my time. But this? It takes the cake. I happened across this ad in my most recent Sunday newspaper. It was mixed in with the various coupon booklets and sales advertisements. Never in my time have I seen something so gloriously trashy, all the while completely hilarious. I'll break the ad down for you.

Up for sale is a Camo Diamonesk His & Her Wedding Ring set. As if having a camo couch, camo truck, camo bikini, camo underwear, camo dish set, camo lawn mower, camo bed sheets, camo soap dispenser, camo backpack, camo bowtie, camo shower tiles, camo pillows, camo plastic cups, camo phone cover, camo lingerie, camo kitchen countertops, camo baby pacifier, camo lawn chair, camo wallet, camo sunglasses, camo checkbook cover, camo cooking apron, camo car seat covers, camo press-on fingernails, camo umbrella, camo baby seat, camo pencils and camo mascara wasn't enough... you can now get your wedding rings in camo. I mean it makes perfect sense, right?

Except when you drop your camo ring in the woods. How in the hell are you going to find it?

The trashy absurdity doesn't end there. Let's analyze the sales pitch!

Hmmm... these rings come with authentic Diamonesk simulated diamonds? Well now, they're probably worth the same as real diamonds (read my past article about diamonds here). Check out that classy platinum-plated sterling silver. It must be worth as much as two, maybe three of the knives in your kitchen silverware drawer! As a bonus, you can engrave up to twenty characters on the inside of the rings -- put your names, your wedding day or the date your hubby shot his best friend Dwayne by accident while recording a video for YouTube after downing a six pack of Old Milwaukee!

You simply can not wait to purchase this ring set. This is an absolutely amazing deal that is too good to pass up.

The entire set can be yours for only $169. But wait... if you can't afford to spend $169 for your wedding, then you can break it up into five equal installments of just $33.80! It's like lay-a-way for your wedding day! Golly, I just made a rhyme!

Let's make one thing clear -- if you can't afford to plop down a meager $169 for wedding rings in one fell swoop, then you might ought to reconsider your life choices. Obtaining some cheap camo wedding rings for you and your baby daddy might not be the smartest of choices.

The one line in the ad that cracks me up the most is...
"These unique rings perfectly capture the lifestyle you share as a couple."
Yep, a lifestyle of poverty, low standards, cheating on your man with the owner of the trailer park, leaving loaded weapons in your house, complaining about minorities using welfare while you yourself have an EBT card, and all around just being a worthless piece of trash. Congratulations! Little Baby Jesus would be so proud!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sharing Memories From My Youth.

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic this evening. Ever the sentimentalist, right? I'm just going to share some of my memories with you. Nothing is meant to be cohesive from one moment to the next -- I'm just recording some memories from my teenage years and early twenties while I have them on my mind (and before I forget).

I think back to Spring Weekend at Longwood University, April 16 of 2004. On that night, I saw Yellowcard and Something Corporate play. Perhaps one of the most memorable experiences of my early 20's -- I remember how powerful that show was. Something Corporate really left a mark on me that night. They closed Bandfest with Konstantine, which is still one of my most favorite songs. I met Stephanie and Beth that night -- two former friends whom are unfortunately no longer in my life. They were good people and hope they're doing well, wherever they are. It's funny how you lose touch with people over the years.

Unsurprisingly, I was almost late to my high school graduation in 2000. Literally, I arrived with moments to spare and barely got into line to walk out for the ceremony. My mom and dad, ever the ones to run behind schedule, held me up from arriving on time. When I got there, the procession was already formed and about to head out the door. I burst into the high school cafeteria without even my gown on. Everyone looked at me like an idiot. After graduation, the senior class got together that evening to hang out one last time. The funny part was that I'd never hung out with any of my classmates in a social capacity after school. Their final time together was my first time together. My memory is a little fuzzy as to the order of events that evening, but I know a large party took place at the Barnette homestead. I can remember being there for a short while, then at some point heading to someone else's house. I'm not sure which of my classmate's home it was, but it was in Kenbridge (on Broad Street if I remember correctly). I'm pretty certain the only reason I was invited was because I owned a copy of Friday on VHS. We sat in a basement and watched it -- Jeffrey W., Mary Catherine W., Thomas C., Tiffany S. and I. After the movie was over, I went home. It wasn't even that late, to be honest. I'm sure everyone else got into some hijinks after I left; but for me, high school was over.

One of the highlights of my high school years was the annual Library Club trip. Every year, our little group of nerds, brainiacs, outcasts and oddballs went somewhere cool to cap the year off. We'd always pitch in a little cash and rent a tour bus for the day. One year we went to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Another year, we went to Richmond and saw the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. It was always a cheerful time for me, wrought with eagerness and teenage angst. We'd huddle together on the bus, sharing CD's (remember those), drinking soda pop and play games. As I think back, it feels as if the time we spent just being teenagers on the tour bus was more important than wherever it was we were going. For just a little while, we were free to be ourselves and socialize. It was on one of these trips (I think my junior year) that I chickened out of my first kiss with a girl. B. (you know who you are, I won't rat you out) -- you intimated the hell out of me. I was just a shy, insecure guy. Can't believe I missed out on something most teenagers are dying to experience. I was a big wimp.

During my junior and senior years of high school, I had art class at the mid-day lunch break. Often times, Jeffrey W. and I would drive off campus and eat lunch. Mrs. Kunath, our art teacher, was a great woman who cut us both a lot of slack. She trusted us to leave and come back without causing any problems. Not once did we ever get into any trouble, partly because we were responsible. We looked out for her, she looked out for us. I've never forgotten those drives into town. Thinking about it now, Jeffrey probably just had me along because he felt sorry for me. I was a dork in high school and I'm certain he knew it. Yet, he took me along anyway. That was really cool of him and I won't forget it.

I cut my high school football field's grass for one year (my dad and the coach pushed me into it -- it's a whole other story). As payback for making me do it, I'd cut it absolutely terribly. I would change the elevation of the cutting deck up and down, do circles and go as slow as possible. Passive aggressive, much? Anyway, I had this Walkman that I'd listen to while cutting the grass. I was already miserable, so I tried to zone out and forget what I was doing to pass the time. I had a cassette tape that was filled with songs I'd recorded from the radio and off other tapes. It was my Football Field Mix Tape. Some of the songs on that tape were Desperately Wanting by Better Than Ezra, Counting Blue Cars by Dishwalla, Foolish Games by Jewel, Hook by Blues Traveler, Crush by the Dave Matthews Band and Everlong by the Foo Fighters. All of those songs have stuck with me over the years -- I still listen to them on a regular basis. It's amazing the things we cling to in moments of unhappiness.

That's all for now. If you are one of the people mentioned and want to chime in, feel free. Or, if you went to high school with me and have something to add, I'd be eager to hear it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The #KylieJennerChallenge Proves Idiots Will Try Anything.

I kid you not...

The internet is currently set ablaze about how you can make your lips bigger. I mean B-I-G-G-E-R.

We're talking epic giraffe-size big.

Over the past week, total morons all around the country have been participating in the #KylieJennerChallenge. What is this challenge? It's inspired by the lips of Kardashian brood member Kylie, whom is apparently known for... nothing. She's known for absolutely nothing. Here is a recent photo of her, which reflects her supposedly luscious lips.

Reportedly, she has not had any lip injections (sure). Whether she has or not, I could care less. Anyone with the proper know-how can accentuate their lips naturally with the right make-up techniques. To participate in this challenge, you're supposed to cram your lips into a small cylinder, like a shot glass or pill bottle. Then, after creating suction inside the bottle for an extended period of time, you're supposed to pull your lips out and enjoy their new found sexy girth. To finish off the challenge, you snap a selfie of and post it to social media with the hashtag #KylieJennerChallenge. Here's a video showcasing some of the dumbest people you'll ever meet on the internet.

Seriously... I can't even believe I have to report on this nightmare. You shouldn't cram parts of your body into tight spaces under high pressure. Blood vessels can and will burst, sometimes causing permanent damage. I'm certain many of the knuckleheads whom have participated will see some type of permanent discoloration or disfigurement. Best case scenario, their lips will be heavily bruised for a week or two. Oh, but it's sooooo sexy. NOT! I would rather kiss a giraffe. At least I know the giraffe isn't a total dumbass.

I can't help but wonder -- why would folks willfully submit to such a foolish scheme? Don't they know their lips look clownish and absurd? No one naturally has lips this large! Yet again, idol worship has replaced common sense. Send in the clowns!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

President Obama is Wrong On the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I’ve spent the last six and half years yanking this economy out of the worst recession since the Great Depression."
That's the opening salvo from President Obama in an attack on Senator Elizabeth Warren. During a recent interview taped with Hardball host Chris Matthews on MSNBC, Obama went into great detail about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP is a massive trade agreement between twelve nations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. Combined, this trade agreement would account for over 40% of the world's gross domestic product (GDP). As the agreement currently stands, it would drastically alter copyright and intellectual property law on a global scale. Essentially, the other eleven countries in the trade agreement would adopt the copyright and trademark policies of the United States, but then take those same laws to the next level of enforcement. This would directly influence the production of pharmaceuticals, automobiles, consumer goods, films and other forms of media. The drastic changes that would result from the TPP include:
  • Internet Service Providers would be required to police their own networks and users for potential copyright infringement. There wouldn't even need to be clear evidence that a user had committed such infringement; the TPP only requires that three allegations be made. At that point, users can and will be restricted from accessing the internet through that ISP and shall be placed on a black list, which would be accessible to other ISP's. Without any sort of trial, a private person can be banned from accessing the internet from the comfort of their own home.
  • Digital locks, which range from special frequencies in remotes to phone's being restricted to one particular cellular network, would be heavily bolstered. This means that copyright holders could legally shut down any form of competition to their product, without so much as a civil trial or investigation. This is particularly frightening, considering the company with the deepest pockets would win every time.
  • Journalists and their sources for information would be at great risk should the TPP be enacted. They would be required to disclose private data about any whistle-blowers within a corporate institution, should that company feel their intellectual properties are being impeded upon or put at risk. The TPP is the ultimate silencer when it comes to keeping dirty corporate dealings private.
  • The ability for private citizens to discuss and share their personal experiences about products or services through the Fair Use clause of US Copyright Law would be a sitting duck. The TPP would make it near impossible for any of us to comment on anything without being at risk for litigation from the holder of a copyright. Let's say you review your local Subway on Yelp and didn't like their service. If Subway reads your review and feels that it infringes upon their trademark because you mentioned them, then they can order for it to be removed. You can see where I'm going with this... big business could silence anyone for any reason.
  • The TPP conveniently extends to nations where generic drugs are produced and sold to other nations, including the United States. This would mean that big pharmaceutical companies could legally restrict any country involved with the TPP from allowing the production of generic drugs that would compete with their own products.
  • In cases where private consumers share various forms of media without the intent for commercial gain (transcribing an old book for others to read for free, creating a free voice dub translation for a foreign film, using a video to create a parody of it, etc.), that person could face stiff fines and lengthy jail time -- even if the copyright holder in question does not make a claim against the consumer!
As you can see, the TPP is nothing but a big push by the President and other politicians to secure profits for major corporations. When lobbyists practically own all the politicians in our government, this should be no surprise. Not only would the above-mentioned changes alter the digital landscape, but they would further increase the flow of jobs outside the United States and into nations where employment laws are extremely lenient. As if the outsourcing of jobs in this nation wasn't already exacerbated, the TPP would compound the problem to a level we've never seen before.

Obama, a fair majority of Democrats and nearly all of the Republicans in Washington are pushing for this agreement to go through. Warren, whom staunchly opposes the TPP, was called out by name during Obama's interview. He said...
"I love Elizabeth. We're allies on a whole host of issues. But she's wrong on this."
Warren has stated her concerns about the secrecy of the TPP time and time again. She's in the right on this issue -- the TPP's terms are not even public knowledge and are only available to select few. The document language of the TPP agreement is kept in private and delegates are forced to sign non-disclosure agreements. Essentially -- even if Obama did want to reveal information about the TPP to the American public (which he doesn't), by law he would not be able to. This is certainly a cause for alarm. Some of the TPP agreement has been leaked to the public, thanks to Wikileaks. You can (and should) read it here.
"And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is... when you dig into the facts, they are wrong.”
We have dug into the facts, Mr. President. You're no different than the majority of political leaders that have come before you. Whomever has the biggest wallet has the biggest voice in Washington. The President clearly believes he alone helped to fix the economic mess left by the Bush Administration. He's obviously baffled by those, like Elizabeth Warren, whom would oppose his efforts to continue "fixing" our economy.

That's how I know he's wrong.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Breasts In The Workplace -- Do They Matter?

Queen Louise of Prussia -- Josef Grassi, 1804

My article today will be a very frank discussion about the power of sex appeal in the work place. More specifically, does a woman's bust size have any bearing on personal achievement, salary, promotions and responsibility? Many of the answers I discovered weren't so shocking. Other answers went against my expectations. Here's what I determined.

Overall, a woman's breast size does have an impact on how she is perceived on the job. For empirical proof, one has to look no further than an extensive research study performed by a Cornell University professor in 2010. The survey respondents were all waitresses. In this study, it was clearly determined that the larger a bust size a woman has, the higher her average tips were. Larger breasts equated to higher earnings, no matter the respondent's age, location or level of experience. This set of information was not surprising at all. In fact, it just goes to support why restaurants like Hooters, Twin Peaks and the Tilted Kilt are so successful. Within the food industry, such establishments are called breastaurants. They cater to a clientele that likes a little sex appeal with their club sandwiches, chicken wings and frosty beer. Not only are larger busts beneficial to the waitresses, but it also drives up profits for the establishments. High-earning waitresses tend to remain at their positions longer, which secures repeat customers whom will come back time and time again for the same level of "service". While I don't believe we needed such a research study to know this, it's nice to have some hard proof to back up the notion. More cleavage means more tips.

As you move up the corporate ladder, though... breasts aren't always a benefit. Numerous lawsuits in recent years have involved large-breasted women whom were fired from their positions, claiming that their bountiful busts were chastised for being 'too hot' or 'got in the way of business". In almost all of these various suits, the women won and were paid handsomely. In fact, studies have shown that male co-workers view women with medium size breasts as the most professional. Why? Who knows... men aren't always that bright. Male survey respondents have stated that large breasted women are intimidating or distracting, thereby keeping them from performing their job effectively. Or, they have said that large breasts implied that a woman was ignorant or not qualified. On the opposite end, small chested women were viewed as weak or ineffective. Again... men can be very, very oafish, so take this data with a grain of salt.

The problem large breasted women face in the corporate arena is that -- to put it simply -- it's hard to find clothes that fit properly without showing their endowments off. Fashion typically is not tailored for women with grandiose busts, which leads to consistently exposed, unwanted cleavage. This is a catch-22 for these women; it's not like they can hide their chest. A general rule of thumb in many corporate offices is that tops should land two inches above the cleavage line. This is fine and dandy when you're a modest A, B or small C cup. Yet, when you have large breasts, it can be highly difficult to find anything that will meet this standard. What's a big breasted gal to do?

Ultimately, this is a problem more and more women are going to face. Hard data shows that the average bust size is growing. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average American woman weighed 140 pounds in the 1960's. In the 1970's, that rose to 144 pounds. By the 1980's, it was 154 pounds. In 2010, that number had grown to 166 pounds. Obviously, women (and everyone else) are becoming heavier. This is no surprise, given the climbing obesity rate. These numbers directly correspond to the increase in bust size, as measured by the bras women purchase. Internal retail data in the lingerie industry has shown that, over the past fifteen years, the average bra size purchased has gone from 34B to 36C. Breast are indeed growing larger. This isn't to say that the climbing rate of larger breasts isn't completely linked to our increasing waist-lines, but it is playing a keen role in it. Along with our eating habits, hormones in our foods are also participating in ballooning women's chests. Particularly, many of the foods we ingest (dairy milk, beef, pork) have high levels of super estrogen, which many scientists and food analysts suspect of influencing the size of breasts.

Venus of Urbino -- Titian, 1538

In all of the research data I've read, every personal blog and every news article, it became blatantly clear that how a woman looks in the workplace has a measurable influence on her success. In areas where women directly serve customers -- retail and service industries -- having larger breasts is a clear advantage. In other work sectors -- especially the corporate environment -- larger breasts can actually hinder your achievement and make others incorrectly judge you. Fundamentally, I'd say there's one constant that must be made apparent in all of this...

Guys - you have to stop basing every interaction with a woman on the size of her breasts.

My female readers -- I'd be curious for your input. I'd like to report in a future article about your personal experiences in the workplace. Contact me and tell me what you've gone through. Did your large bust get in the way of a promotion? Were you hired for a job simply because you had ample cleavage? Did you feel slighted because your breasts weren't seen as large enough? Any information you share will be completely confidential and pseudonyms will be used in the article. If you don't already know me directly via Facebook, you can reach me here via email (click). Thanks in advance.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Would the Real Rand Paul Please Stand Up?

In the pursuit of being our next President, Rand Paul has practically flipped on every issue he once held a position on. Considering his obvious ties to the Tea Party and Libertarians in the United States, this should come off as troubling. Mind you, I don't count myself in either one of those camps, but I find the mysterious case of Rand's willfulness to appease everyone in the Republican Party to be interesting to say the least. Whereas he once promoted a marginally isolationist agenda in the vein of his father Ron, Rand has seemingly adapted to the modern Republican party -- one that supports big business, money in politics, war and all-around global imperialism.

If anything, Rand is a wonderfully blatant example of bending to the ideals of a political party to keep yourself in power.

So what exactly has Rand flip-flopped on? Let's cover a few key points.
  • As recently as 2011, Rand wanted to completely sever all foreign aid to other countries. This included Israel, which has become a beacon of preservation for modern Christian conservatism. By 2014, Rand had gotten on the pro-Israel bandwagon and touted his unwavering support for them. It's amazing what a few years in Congress will do to a man's opinions. He's even gone as far as to explicitly enter bills into consideration that would specifically deny any aid to the Palestinians.
  • Only last summer, Rand was clear in his objections to the United States becoming involved in any combat scenarios with the Islamic State, or ISIS. He still held to his non-interventionist ideals, saying that destroying ISIS would be ultimately a moot point. What purpose would it serve the American people? Lo and behold, he suddenly became pro-interventionist as soon as he entered the 2016 Presidential race. Now Rand comes at the situation with fury, saying that ISIS must be completely obliterated. He's in full support of drone airstrikes to cripple and ultimately eradicate the Islamic extremists.
  • Rand's signature was on the letter recently drafted by Tom Cotton that was sent to Iran, in an effort to muddy the diplomatic efforts of the Obama administration to reach a nuclear anti-proliferation pact. He must have amnesia. In January, Rand was in full support of a diplomatic plan with Iran and wanted an open, non-partisan dialogue. I guess that message wasn't resonating well enough with the Republican base.
  • Two years ago, Rand wanted to see undocumented residents in the United States begin a massive push to obtain legal status. He wanted immigrants to start the documentation and naturalization process without fear of being deported. Now, Rand has come at the immigration debate completely from the other side of the pond -- he deems undocumented immigrants as a massive security threat, which in no way should be granted any form of "amnesty."
  • In just a span of twenty four hours in early February of this year, Rand flip-flopped on the vaccine debate. Between two interviews, he stated that vaccines have played a role in causing various debilitating conditions like Autism, only to follow it up with the notion that vaccines do not cause any conditions or disorders. I've heard of forgetful politicians, but to change your position in only a day? That's astoundingly dreadful.
  • Rand led a famous 13-hour filibuster in early 2013, of which one of the points he spoke about was the use of drones. He made it clear that drones should not be used on American citizens, stating "I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court." A month later, Rand had changed his tune. He said the following on the Fox Business Network: "I've never argued against any technology being used when you have an imminent threat, an active crime going on. If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and fifty dollars in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him." It seems the importance of the Constitution and the right to due process was only temporary to Rand.
The peculiar case of Rand Paul is both disappointing and insightful. While I never agreed with his agenda, I at the very least initially appreciated Rand's ability to be an independent politician. Ultimately, like most other politicians, he ran up the white flag and surrendered to party politics. There's a clear difference between changing your mind as new information becomes available (which is important to making sound decisions) and blatantly pandering to the voting base. As far as I'm concerned, that makes Rand a poor candidate for any political position, much less one that involves leading the most powerful nation on the planet. On a much larger scale, it just goes to show that most politicians that participate in the Republican / Democrat charade are not to be trusted.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Deep, Glistening Kiss.

"Watch your tongue, witch!"

With a snap of his wrist, the cloaked figure beckoned for the burly royal stone guards to move away. They slowly trotted towards the cellar door and pushed it forth. The creaking scrape of the metal entryway was not pleasant at all.

"Now, tell me... what gave you such impressive dominion over that lap dog Karsit?"

Within the darkness of the cellar, very little light was present. A few random moonbeams flickered through a nearby window. For the benefit of the guards' vision, a single Orb of Lustrobe hovered in the corner. Intermittent breaks in shadow revealed a non-imposing figure chained to the floor. Feminine in appearance, her arms were clearly bound behind her back. She was short with skin that appeared to emit an onyx radiance. Her hair seemed to ripple every which way in long curls; it would change from teal to indigo as the pale light struck each strand. Perhaps most haunting were the prisoner's eyes, which shone a remarkable light blue color. Though the cellar was poorly lit, her eyes were easily visible.

"Answers I could readily provide, though you would not understand their meaning."

This infuriated the cloaked figure. Rushing forth to grip the prisoner's left arm, he made it readily apparent that his patience was wearing thing. Though, such bravado made little difference to the captive woman.

"I typically prefer to know the names of the men who touch me. You're no different."

Whipping the hood of his cloak back, the shocking visage of a heinous fiend grinned with delight.

"I like a challenge. Let's play."

In what could only be described as rupturing crevasses of scarred flesh, this ogre of a man drew himself close to his hostage. Her piercing blue eyes met with his. Any decent woman would have shuddered at his grotesque appearance. Nay, this was no average woman. Parting her lips, the pure essence of her being slipped forth unnoticed. It snaked towards the hobbled mound of talking flesh and drew him tight to her chest.

"Your wounds never quite healed properly, did they? Tell me... do you want for the touch of a woman? You must miss the caress of another. Wouldn't you like me to embrace you?"

At once a towering predator ready to interrogate his prisoner, the scarred creature now seemed sullen. His mind had grown dim.

"Now... tell me your name instead."

The crack in the man's face that he once called a mouth parted, letting slip his name.


Before the last letter of his name floated out, Arraup had unconsciously removed the shackles binding the vixen. Free from her chains, she ruffled her luscious hair. Sparkling flecks held within her locks came loose and scattered in the air as she did so. Leaning forwards, she placed both hands on the disfigured specter's face and gave him a deep, glistening kiss. It seemed to last forever, at least for Arraup. He was totally, maddeningly, if not somewhat willfully, under her spell.

As her slippery lips parted from his, she spoke softly.

"My good Arraup, I am Phaalora. Now... take me to your throne room. I have a date with your queen. Oh, and one more thing... run me a bath and fetch some of your water maidens. I'm in need of cleansing. This surely will not take long."

Friday, April 17, 2015

I Secretly Want a Walk-In Bathtub.

I must admit... I secretly want a walk-in bathtub.

No, I'm not retired. No, I do not have a physical handicap. And no, I do not have any grey hair. I envy those keen and clean silver-age scamps who get to enjoy their walk-in tubs free from harsh criticism. Sure, I might only be 32 years old, but I'll be darned if I haven't wanted a walk-in tub for years!

These tubs are the epitome of comfort. You get to sit down in a jacuzzi-like enclosure and enjoy the warm water of a bath cresting at your shoulders. There are pulsating jets of water that shoot at you from every angle. Some tubs allow for you to inject special aromatherapy oils into the water. Others feature built-in radios and app-friendly programming. Everything about a walk-in tub is designed to provide the most relaxing experience possible.

We've all seen the commercials for walk-in tubs on television. How many times have you awoken to an infomercial at 3 AM to see the ever-youthful Pat Boone trying to sell you one? I know I have! But, this is one of the very few instances where I actually have been sold on a product featured in a paid advertisement. It almost makes me eager to become a senior citizen!

I've looked into the cost of owning a walk-in tub... and they vary wildly in price. Ultimately, one could expect to pay in the range of a few thousand dollars on up to $20,000 for the most advanced models. That's a pretty steep price to pay for some exquisite at-home comfort, but I hope to install one at some point in the future. Perhaps I could crowd-fund a walk-in tub for my home and write new articles from within it!

I guess it's not a secret anymore!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Rising Tide of E-Cigarette Use By Teenagers.

In a shocking bit of news today, the Centers for Disease Control revealed that the use of electronic cigarettes by middle and high school students tripled between 2013 and 2014. The statistics show that the percentage of students using e-cigarettes in the United States jumped from 4.5% in 2013 to a whopping 13.4% in 2014. While the number of underage tobacco users has largely remained unchanged in recent years (currently around an absurd 30%), the use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers has moved along at warp speed. This is unheard of in other developed societies. Much less, the damage that nicotine can do to a developing mind is well documented. Nicotine has a degrading influence on the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which directly alters the decision making process. Teens who consume nicotine, in any capacity, lessen their ability to make wise decisions.

There's another downside to the consumption of electronic cigarettes, which function by vaporizing liquid nicotine. Often mixed in with the liquid nicotine are various flavors and additives. Unfortunately, we just can't be certain exactly what's in this nicotine cocktail because electronic cigarettes are completely unregulated. The various liquids, which typically originate from countries like India and China, usually do not indicate what ingredients are included. Yet, chemical analysis has shown that such harmful chemicals as DDT have been found present in the liquid nicotine that's currently available at retail. Personally, I find the use of electronic cigarettes to be just as foolish as smoking regular cigarettes -- you're trading one set of bad chemicals for another. Much less, no long term studies have been conducted on the use of electronic cigarettes or the vapor that's exhaled by users. It's a dangerous and all-around uninformed choice to be inhaling unknown chemicals from places that could give a damn about the safety of their products. This negatively affects teenage users worst of all. They'll have a lifetime to contend with any possible negative health impacts from the use of liquid nicotine. Never mind the assertions of pro-vaporizing lobby groups, which contend that the use of electronic cigarettes is completely healthy. Appallingly, medical doctors regularly prescribed the use of tobacco for their patients on into the middle part of the Twentieth Century. Advertisements for various cigarette brands even featured "expert claims" by doctors as to why their brands were completely safe. If Americans only knew then what we know now -- smoking will kill you. Should we not apply this same cautious logic to the use of electronic cigarettes?

An authentic, vintage Camel Cigarette ad from the mid twentieth century.
Talk about deceptive!

The ability of the federal government to regulate the sale and use of electronic cigarettes as soon as possible isn't just a matter of public safety -- it's about preserving the lives of youth. Modern student health programs should educate about the dangers of nicotine and tobacco use, including the consumption of liquid nicotine and e-cigarettes. Ultimately, I'd hope for the end of nicotine abuse globally, though that notion is surely far from being a reality. Yet, we have to start somewhere.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hillary Clinton - You're Not My Champion.

"Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. Everyday Americans need a champion... and I want to be that champion."

This is the message Hillary Clinton puts forth in her first Presidential campaign announcement video, just released on April 12. I have to be honest with you. I find this initial message to be a bit troubling, as well as a stark reflection of how Hillary views herself. Chiefly, I take issue with anyone that claims they want to be your champion. Who says something like that? It's so presumptuous and grandiose. I don't need a champion speaking for me and neither do you. We are our own champions. Every day, we rise out of bed and fight our own battles. Not once have I ever turned to a politician and asked for them to espouse my life. I seriously doubt that any of my readers have, either.
"Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so." -- Gore Vidal (1925-2012)
I might be a progressive, independent voter, but I have never been a fan of Hillary's. Since Americans first came to know her in the early '90s, she has always emanated this strange aroma of discontent and treachery. The amount of space I'd have to spend explaining the murky dealings of the Clintons would require a separate article all to itself. To make a long story short, I would never vote for Hillary, even though she's supposedly the "champion" of a more moderate and progressive America. Truth be told, she wouldn't be any better than a Republican president. Both would maintain the status quo.

Perhaps the second biggest issue I take with Hillary is that she's basically assumed she'll be on the Democratic Party's ticket in 2016. This links to the previously mentioned stark reflection I spoke about. Without batting so much as an eyelash, Hillary has already positioned herself as the only Democratic choice for president. No matter that there's a whole nineteen months until Election Day 2016, or that there will be countless debates and a primary election process to go through. Nope... it's a done deal. Humph! Such pompous tomfoolery completely negates the fact that there are other worthy contenders within her own party -- chiefly Elizabeth Warren. I find Warren to be an Independent wolf in a Democratic sheep's clothing. She's one of the very few (I can count them on one hand) politicians aligned with either the Republicans or Democrats in Washington that I actually respect. Were she to run, I'd actually consider voting for her. America has been ready for a woman to be president for a long time. Unfortunately, I don't think Hillary is that woman. She's just too deeply entrenched in typical Washington politics to do the average American any good.

As it stands now -- I won't vote for anyone that's a Republican or a Democrat in any election -- state, federal or local. There's no real difference between the two parties, other than their name. They both support the same old song and dance that's ravaged our nation for decades. By creating the illusion of two parties, Americans can take sides and feel like they're on the winning team. All the while, the crooks are playing a giant shell game in Washington and stuffing their pockets. A vote for either of the two major parties, in nearly all instances, supports this never-ending machine of profit and power. As I always have, I advise you to vote for independent and third-party candidates.

Finally, I want to point out a simple, but powerful fact. Hillary Clinton, by very definition, is one of those at the top. Hillary's net worth, which is extremely difficult to nail down exactly due to loopholes in financial disclosure laws and the broken federal tax code, officially floats anywhere between $5 Million and $25 Million. This doesn't even take into account income which may not directly be in her name. Because many of her personal filings were made private once she became a Senator, there's just no real way for Americans to know how much Hillary is worth. What we do know is this -- confirmed figures for earnings from publishing, personal appearances and speaking engagements between 2001 and 2012 for the Clintons total to at least $136.5 Million. If you take this into consideration, her campaign announcement message takes on a much different connotation. The deck truly is stacked in favor of those at the top -- just ask Hillary, she would know!
"Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other." -- Oscar Ameringer (1870-1943)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ice Cream That Will Make You Scream!

The snow clouds are moving away. Temperatures are on the rise. April showers are sweeping through the United States. Spring has definitely arrived... and Summer isn't far behind. That being said, Americans are returning to one of their favorite frosty treats -- ice cream.

Of course, we all know of popular flavors like vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, mint chocolate chip and fudge royal... but what about the other not-so-well-known flavors? I present to you a rundown of ice cream flavors that might just make you SCREAM!

Lobster -- That's right, you can actually order lobster-flavored ice cream right here in the United States. This odd flavor is produced by Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor, Maine. It should be no surprise given the geography. Surprisingly enough, it's quite the popular selection with the locals. Now that's some ice cream with a bite!

Butternut Squash -- When you think of potential ice cream flavors, vegetables typically don't come to mind. This odd concoction is crafted by il laboratorio del gelato in Manhattan, New York. Mmmmm... squash flavored ice cream. I think I'll pass.

Secret Breakfast -- Perhaps the best ice cream for deviants and those whom will eat anything, this unique flavor is from Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream in San Francisco, California. So what exactly is in Secret Breakfast? You've been warned... it's a mixture of whiskey and corn flakes. Talk about the ultimate hair of the dog treatment.

Wasabi Pea Dust -- This is an ice cream flavor with a kick! Coming from the wildly successful Big Gay Ice Cream in New York City, it is sure to wake you right up upon first bite. They also have other interesting flavors like Cayenne Pepper and Pumpkin Butter (I think I'd like to try this one, actually).

Cow Tongue -- This one is probably the oddest flavor on the list, hence why I saved it for last. You can taste not only this unique treat, but many others just as strange (if not stranger) at Japan's Namja Town amusment park in Ikebukuro, Tokyo! Within Namja Town are various ice cream parlors. Some feature more traditional, well-known flavors. Other stalls... they're peculiar to put it mildly. You can not only order Cow Tongue, but also Octopus, Snake, Salt and Yakisoba -- all in ice cream form. Sign me up!

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Startling Facts on Child Abuse.

Before I begin with today's article, I'd like to give a warm welcome to all of my new readers. I've spoken with many of you directly over the past few days. Your readership is very much appreciated. I hope you'll stick around!


Thanks to some recent discussions about my own experiences as a youth dealing with child abuse, I started doing some digging. I was curious as to the raw numbers relating to the prevalence of child abuse in modern America. What I found was troubling, to say the least. After compiling this data set over the past few days, I'd like to share with you what I determined. Unfortunately, it's not good news.

As the statistics currently show, approximately one out of every ten children in the United States is a documented victim of some form of child abuse -- whether that be physical, emotional or sexual in nature. The reported numbers between boys and girls is relatively even. More than 1600 children were killed by a perpetrator of child abuse in 2012, of which one of the parents was responsible nearly 80% of the time. That translates to roughly five children dying a day at the hands of their abusers.

When it relates to how child abuse affects a person as they grow into adulthood, the numbers continue to be horrific. Females whom suffered abuse as a child are 25% more likely to experience pregnancy as a teenager. 46% of all teenage runaways are victims of physical abuse; 17% are victims of sexual abuse. You're 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile and 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult. Overall, no matter the age, incarcerated individuals whom experienced child abuse correlate to over 30% of all violent crime. Across the board, those whom are locked up reflect child abuse rates that are twice the national average.

The use of illicit drugs and the abuse of prescription medication and alcohol is clearly linked to child neglect, accounting for nearly 65% of all individuals in drug treatment programs. In terms of health, child abuse doesn't end there. As adults, victims are alarmingly more prone to asthma, high blood pressure, respiratory diseases, eating disorders, allergies, post traumatic stress disorder, dissociative disorder, depression and periods of extreme anger. More than 80% of all documented child abuse victims meet the criteria for one or more psychiatric disorders by age 21.

Scholastic performance is traumatically affected by child abuse as well. When a child is abused, they are 50% more likely to do poorly in school. 30% of abused students develop a cognitive or language impairment. Of students whom are diagnosed with a learning disorder, child abuse increases your chances by 22%.

The numbers don't lie -- child abuse creates adults whom are less healthy, less scholastically capable, less able to function as a productive individual of society. If you calculate the impact of child abuse in pure dollars and cents, it reveals that the long term effects are quite bleak. If you were to compile the combined lifetime cost of health care, legal services, criminal justice expenditures, lost worker productivity and welfare directly linked to newly reported incidents in only one year, child abuse costs our nation annually over $125 billion.

Just when you think you've got a grasp on these statistics, you have to consider one more piece of monumental information. Most incidents of child abuse never go reported -- current estimates suggest that for every one documented case, three incidents occur without ever being known about. If you take this fact into consideration, it becomes blatantly obvious that more children are being abused than you can possibly imagine.

The most damning statistic is this -- nearly forty percent of all victims of child abuse will themselves becomes perpetrators of it in adulthood. They will continue the cycle of abuse that's seemingly never-ending.


I have to be honest with you. When I read all of these statistics, it made me realize just how darn lucky I am. The odds were stacked heavily against me. Thankfully, the only psychiatric problems I've encountered as an adult were depression and anger. I also used food as a coping mechanism. All of those issues are under control, though. I can't change the fact that I have asthma or severe allergies; they're something I just have to contend with.

If you know of a child that is experiencing neglect and abuse, make a stand and speak up. If you're a child that's reading this article, please know that you are not alone. Child abuse only continues when victims and those whom witness it remain silent.

Call the National Child Abuse Hotline toll-free at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). Counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your call will be totally confidential. It could save a life -- perhaps your own.

And remember -- share this information with your friends and family. The more people that know, the less children that suffer.

Data Sources:

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden... and Perhaps a Concussion.

Today was all about an unexpected adventure... and a little bit of pain!

On a whim, Crystal and I decided on short notice to visit the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia -- about a three hour drive north from my home. They were hosting a show for the Richmond African Violet Society, to which Crystal is an awesome collector and fan of these wonderful flowering plants. Though, I believe we were in for a surprise treat upon arrival. This Botanical Garden is one of the best I've ever had the joy of visiting.

From massive beds of tulips and daffodils to an amazing conservatory filled with tropical palms and orchids, this place had it all! If you ever find yourself in the Richmond area looking for something to do, then head over to the Lewis Ginter complex and enjoy the day. It is mostly child friendly and has a few playground areas. Bring plenty of sunscreen as well -- there's lots of walking and exploring to be had.

And now, on to the aforementioned pain portion of the program. Don't worry, it's quite humorous.

On our way back from Richmond, we took a break at a truck stop to use the restroom. This particular truck stop was remodeling. To provide a restroom to their customers, they had brought in a portable trailer unit. Believe it or not, it was quite clean and inviting inside -- nothing gross or grimey. But, the stalls were tight and cramped, to say the least. On the back side of the door in the stall I selected, there was a pleasant designer frame with various photos of New York City. As I was standing up from being seated on the toilet, I didn't gauge the amount of room I had correctly. I slammed by hard head into the picture frame, cracked the glass and bent the frame's border in half.

I kid you not, I believe I nearly concussed myself.

Due to the pain, I rocked backwards onto the toilet and evaluated the damage my skull had done. My head was spinning from a deep pain in my forehead. My brain felt as if it were thumping like a drum! Before me hung a severely cracked photo frame. I couldn't believe the damage I did with just my gigantic noggin! After a few minutes, I took my second attempt at getting up, this time tucking my head to the side and dodging the door. Thankfully, I didn't stab myself in the head with any glass!

Ultimately, perhaps my little accident was for the best. I've now learned that my head doubles as a secret weapon!