Friday, July 31, 2015

Time To Laugh.

It's been a hell of a week. Honestly, I'm tired, I want to eat a bowl of popcorn and just watch a flick. I can't find the shoes I want, my printer is facing its imminent demise, I nearly died this week and my mood swings have been wider than the waistlines at a Golden Corral buffet after church lets out. This week has flat-out sucked.

That being said, I'm sharing a few videos that make me laugh. Goodbye July, Hello August!




Thursday, July 30, 2015

Shoe Shopping Is A Total Scam.

Honestly, I like to shop. Yeah, I know... I'm one of the rare guys who enjoys shopping. Yet, if there's one thing I don't like to shop for, it's shoes. I wear a size 10.5 Wide, which is a fairly hard combination to find. Thankfully, I can depend on Skechers to make a pair of tennis shoes that I fit into.

Today was a different experience, though. I've wanted to find a pair of casual, Oxford style shoes for a while. Unfortunately, I've had no luck in finding any for a reasonable price. Sure, I could pay upwards of $75-$100 for a pair that will fit me, but that's just ridiculous. As a general rule of thumb, I won't pay more than $50 for a pair of shoes -- and that's pushing it.

The very moment you walk into a shoe store like this, you're in immediate danger of being ripped off.

It's not that I can't afford a pair of $100 shoes, it's just that I'm not dumb enough to spend that much. They're shoes, for goodness sake! I wear them on my feet -- it's not like they can launch me to the moon. Shoes simply should not cost that much. In reality, they don't... and I have proof.

Last year, a thirty-plus year veteran of Nike revealed a long-standing mystery within the tennis shoe industry. Presenting before the University of Oregon's Sports Product Management program, Nike employee Steve Bence broke down just how much a typical $100 pair of Nike shoes costs to produce. I won't bore you with the exact details, but Bence provided some startling numbers. A pair of $100 Nike shoes costs about $28 to make and ship to the United States. By the time that pair of shoes has overhead costs and taxes levied upon it, Nike sells it at wholesale for around $50, making approximately 9% profit. I honestly don't take issue with this -- 9% profit is reasonable. Now, here comes the shocking part.

Once the shoe is purchased at wholesale by a retailer, they immediately raise the price to $100! That's where all the profit goes -- to the retailers. And remember... those shoes are being sold by part-time employees making minimum wage with no health benefits. Shoe retailers like Foot Locker (whom also owns Champs, Footaction and Eastbay) are making an absolutely killing on their retail products. Foot Locker was ranked #400 on the 2014 edition of the Fortune 500 list -- their market value was an astounding $6.8 Billion. Obviously, the profit margins are even higher on shoes that get top promotional billing, like Air Jordans.

So no, I won't buy a shoe that's been marked up nearly 100% percent at retail... and I hope you wouldn't either. Be a smarter shopper!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Lane Thief Just Nearly Killed Me.

My life flashed before my eyes today. Thankfully, I'm here to tell you about it.

On two separate occasions in the past year (here and here), I've written about the dangers of Lane Thieves. What are Lane Thieves, you may be asking? For the benefit of my new readers, I'll briefly explain.

Imagine you're driving a motor vehicle and have stopped at an intersection, waiting to turn right (or left depending on your country); it doesn't matter if it's a stop light or stop sign. The road you're on is a single lane with no turn lane. As you're waiting to make your turn at the intersection, allowing for the oncoming traffic to clear, another driver behind you decides to pull along the curb, get beside you and make their own turn. This is a Lane Thief -- they literally steal part of a single lane road as if there are two lanes, thereby passing you on the right (which is a big no-no on its own) and attempting to turn out of sequence. This generates all sorts of accident hazards for the first driver legally stopped at the intersection and waiting to turn.

Yet again, a Lane Thief has struck. This time is different, though... they nearly killed me in the process.


I was driving home just a short while ago. Upon exiting the interstate, I come to an off-ramp intersection exactly like the one in the image above. I have to turn right to get home. While sitting in the middle of the lane with MY RIGHT TURN SIGNAL FLASHING, I was waiting for oncoming traffic from the left to clear before turning right. As I'm sitting there, another driver comes up from behind me, pulls to the right side over the curb and tries to turn. As I'm making my legal turn to the right, this jackass decides to turn right as well.

Picture that for a moment, would you -- two cars from a single lane turning right onto the right side of a road. Obviously, there isn't enough room for the both of us.

There is a large truck stop at this particular exit, with tractor trailers coming and going all the time. As I'm completing my turn and realizing that there's another driver to my right, I have to think fast. Why? Because there's an oncoming tractor trailer on the left side of the road and I'm being gradually pushed over the solid yellow line by the lane thief! I put my foot into the accelerator to speed up and get past the danger. What does the lane thief do? Accelerate even faster and keep shoving me into the oncoming lane -- this guy is purposefully trying to kill me at this point.

As the tractor trailer looms closer and I'm stuck in the wrong lane, I have to think fast again. I steadily press hard into my brakes, but not so hard that I lose control of my Jeep. The lane thief to my right zooms by, nearly taking my mirror off. The tractor trailer to the left blows past me, nearly turning me into roadkill. And there I am... just a guy trying to make a simple right turn at an intersection, less than a mile from my house.

Folks, this is the kind of crap I put up with from society. Many of you wonder how I can be so angry with human beings.

IT'S BECAUSE YOU DUMB SHIT-HEADS ARE TRYING TO KILL ME!

Please, for the love of all that's good and decent in this world, don't be a LANE THIEF! You're going to get someone killed. I want you to remember this story the next time you attempt to steal a lane.

To the guy in the silver Dodge Caravan that nearly killed me... I hope your genitals are ferociously snapped off by a rusty bear trap.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Breeders Must Be Stopped!

As of late, I've come to the fairly bleak realization that a large swathe of society is only capable of doing one rudimentary thing in life... and that's be a breeder. No matter how much education you offer them, or job opportunities, or chances to expand their horizons, they will always settle for the lowest common denominator of human existence.

They just make more humans. Over... and over... and over... and over.

Please, I'm begging you. Make it stop.

Here's a simple, step-by-step explanation of the breeder's guide to life.

  1. Find a sexual partner.
  2. Have intercourse.
  3. Fail to use any form of birth control.
  4. Have a baby.
  5. Return to step #1

I want to shake these people and ask them...

Don't you want more out of life than to be a parent? Any loser with a functioning set of genitalia can do that. Don't you expect more from your own self, for that matter? You're a capable human being with the ability to think and transcend your starting point in life.

And yet... these folks just keep on breeding, spawning one little unnecessary hellion after another.

Ladies, I want to address you specifically for just a moment. Why? Because you're the gatekeepers to this whole dilemma. Of course, I realize that many of you have been forced to bear children because you've been raped -- this message is not for you. For the rest -- you are more than just a baby machine. Being a mother is not a life requirement. You can lead a full, healthy existence without any children whatsoever. At the very least, establish yourself in a secure career with a stable home before (not after) you start having babies. Being a mother is not a job -- it's a personal choice. I want to pull my hair out when women say that being a stay-at-home mother is a job. BZZZZZZZZZZZZ, WRONG! Instead of pushing yourself to achieve greater things, many of you settle for a ho-hum existence -- strapped to a gaggle of brats and unable to do anything for yourself. Don't fall into this trap! Refrain from dropping your panties for any schmuck that'll show you attention. Guess what -- if the only guys you can seem to attract are losers, thugs, delinquents, flunkies and deadbeats, then you're probably a piece of crap yourself. SHAPE UP! We don't need more humans on this planet -- especially those that are destined to be a breeder just like yourself.

Guys, listen to me... stop knocking women up, would you? I'm really tired of your low-quality kids making it tough on decent, responsible parents just trying to raise their own children in a better world. You and I both know that you're probably not fit to raise a child -- and that's even if you would bother to hang around. More often than not, you're absent from your child's life. So why bother? You're just adding to the problem of overpopulation, which tends to have this gnarly compounding effect. You spawn two new breeder kids, which spawn four breeder kids, which spawn eight breeder kids, which leads to sixteen breeder kids. See where I'm going with this? Buy yourself an entire case of condoms and use 'em, buddy. We don't need more of you, that's for damn sure.

This must be what breeder hell looks like.

Being a breeder isn't set in stone. It's no one's destiny to only ever make more humans. Being a breeder is a choice, which makes it all the more terrible. For the sake of my sanity and Earth itself, don't be a breeder!

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time... Fully Restored!

I enjoy restoring old video game cartridges. There's great joy to be gained from taking an old, beat-up and altogether abused cartridge and restoring it to glory. Being that I'm in the retail vintage toy and collectibles business, I buy a lot of used video games. Many that I find are all but destroyed -- they work, but look like utter trash on the outside. With a little bit of ingenuity, the right tools and some effort, they can restored. You just have to put in the work.

I completed one such restoration today.

As you can see below, I had a rather unsightly copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. This was obviously a former rental store copy -- it had various store decals, sticker goo, a security label, marker writing and a trashed label. As it was, this copy was pretty poor looking. Sure, it still worked... but for a game as important as Ocarina of Time, it deserved better.



The first step in restoring a game cartridge is to disassemble the outer casing. Once it's taken apart, the old labels can be removed from the plastic outer case. Great care must be taken not to touch or disturb the parts on the internal game board. I use rubbing alcohol to remove as much dirt and marker writing as possible. To get the old label glue residue off, I use Goo Gone. Once the plastic case is completely clean, I give it one final wash down with some dish soap and warm water. While I work on the plastic outer case, I make sure to put the internal game board, metal housing and screws in a safe place.




After letting the plastic outer shell halves dry, I then set about painting them. I use Dupli-Color Automobile Paint because it provides a clean, professional presentation. For this Ocarina of Time cartridge, I used a superb caramel-gold color paint with a shiny metal-flake finish. Multiple coats were applied, allowing time for drying between each coat. Finally, I applied a clear-coat to seal in the color and prevent against scratches. All in all, it takes a few days to completely apply the paint and clear-coat. I then allow three or four days for the paint and clear coat to thoroughly dry before handling. Once the game cartridge has been put back together, I then apply a set of professionally-printed reproduction cartridge labels -- one for the front and one for the back. In fact, the labels are so nice looking, they often surpass the originals in terms of quality. Anyone who has owned a copy of Ocarina of Time knows hows easily the front gold label fades when repeatedly touched.

Finally, the masterpiece comes together.





To finish the restoration project off, I created a custom storage case. What better way to display your prized game cartridge?


If you're looking for further information on how to restore a video game cartridge, or would like me to complete a restoration project for you, please contact me in the comments section below!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Draw Something: Manticore

For this week's installment of Draw Something, I thought I'd recreate one of the most classic of all mythological creatures -- the volatile Manticore!


Saturday, July 25, 2015

For Those About To Squawk, We Salute You.

Nestled along their tiny perch in a cage three times too small sat a trio of parrots -- Humphrey, Bebo and Snot.

Yes, Snot had a tendency to sneeze a lot, but that's not the point of this story.

One afternoon, their altogether dreadful owner Barbara happened to leave their cage door unlocked. She'd normally come in the evening to leave a paltry dish of stale food, as well as spray a can of terrible mango-scented air freshener. Assuredly, the room was not tropical in any capacity. As the three parrots took turns eating from their dish, they seemed depressed. In their bird language, they exchanged exclamations of disgust and frustration, much like caged birds do. Bebo flapped his wings and accidentally knocked the unlocked cage door open. As if facing down a giant tiger, the three parrots stared blankly at their sudden bout of luck.

Snot was the first to swoop down. Pushing the door wide open, Humphrey and Bebo quickly followed suit. They marveled at how much room they had to float around their faux-jungle accommodations. Screeching and squawking like never before, they rejoiced fervently.

Of course, Barbara quickly heard the commotion and charged in, fly-swatter in hand. Swinging wildly at the birds, she smacked each of them like pesky house gnats. Yet, it would take more than a simple swatting to cage these maltreated birds today. They were finally free from their jail sentence and they weren't about to go back.

Humphrey ripped through Barbara's poor offense and latched onto her ponytail. Wafting his impressive wingspan back and forth, he dragged her every which way. As Barbara wobbled uncontrollably, she lost her balance. The rug underneath her feet gave way, leaving her to crash against the hardwood floor. Bebo and Snot dive-bombed their captor in rapid succession as Humphrey mounted a counter-strike on Barbara's neck. Make no mistake -- Humphrey was resolute in his intentions. For far too many years, they'd been trapped by this monstrous wench. Sinking his beak into her throat, he sliced a small gash in her skin. His eyes became dark; a pit of unbridled rage rested behind them.

While Barbara was tied up with Humphrey, Bebo and Snot glanced intently at their surroundings. There was a window -- Yes! Like a mighty cannon blast, they shot themselves at the window... once, twice, three times. Again and again, they slammed into the glass, trying to make their escape. Finally, Snot gave it his all and struck the window with a thunderous explosion. Success! The shards of shattered glass fell fourteen stories down to the bustling city street below. Bebo squealed in anticipation as their path was now clear.

Still gnawing at Barbara's neck, Humphrey immediately took note of Bebo's jubilation. Rising like a indomitable phoenix, he shook the ash of servitude off his wings and took to the air. Snot was quick to bolt through the broken window, with Bebo not far behind. As they took their first free swirls through the open sky, they waited for their friend Humphrey to squeeze through the broken pane.

Spiraling towards his imminent escape, Humphrey tasted the azure sky. It had been so long since he'd floated with the clouds. Such a torturous existence he'd endured, trapped like a plaything. Soon, he would be free. He could feel the winds of freedom about to blow his way.

That is, until Barbara launched forth and tossed an old robe over Humphrey. He fell to the floor, covered in a net of pink silk. Peeking his head out from beneath the cloth, he looked at Bebo and Snot through the open window. His beak did not part, but Humphrey's message was clear.

"Fly, damn you. FLY!"

Snot and Bebo glared at each other, now forced to leave their trusted comrade behind. A rush of bittersweet pain engulfed their tiny hearts as they took to the clouds. Soon, the two parrots joined the horizon and disappeared.

-------------------------

"Thank you for watching the WPYY 6 PM News, I'm Greg McGregor. Reports have flooded in this evening of an apparent swarm of birds headed this way from the southwest. Our Eye in the Sky helicopter team recently took a survey of the birds, whom seem to number in the thousands. We spoke with an expert ornithologist from the state university who explained they had never seen anything like this before. Parrots, macaws, cockatoos, pigeons, geese, ducks, ravens, owls and even an albatross appear to be participating in this completely unheard of behavior. Excuse me, we have breaking news... I was just handed this update. It seems the swarm has made a sudden course change. They're now flying full speed towards downtown. We'll keep you updated on any future developments."


"We're coming, Humphrey."

Friday, July 24, 2015

What Do I Want Out Of Life?

I'm looking for answers wherever I can find them.

I was recently asked by someone very close to me about what I want out of life. It has taken some genuine soul searching for me to answer these questions. Admittedly, most people could probably answer them with relative ease; this is not true in my case. Perhaps I think too much about life. Maybe I operate on more data than the average person requires. Understanding the 'Big Picture' has made me slightly nihilistic and hollow. Either way, here's my best attempt at answering the following questions.

Where Do I See Myself In One Year?

Within the next year, I'd like to have moved to a new place. North Carolina has been really great for me, but it's time to move on. There's not too much left here that I haven't seen. The Triad is fairly small, with little to offer in terms of entertainment or of an interest to my hobbies. By Summer of 2016, I'm hoping to either be in the process of moving or have just completed a move.

...In Five Years?

In five years, I'm hoping to have settled into the new place that I eventually move to, wherever that may be. Hopefully, my collectibles business would have expanded and still be able to support me. In terms of writing, I want to be published by then. I'm not too picky about in what manner I want to be published, though. Whether it be a novel, a collection of short stories, a screenplay or even a children's book. I also want the audience of my blog to have at least doubled by then. Currently, I average around 4,000 - 5,000 unique visits a month. Writing has had a truly positive influence on my life. It's something that I'm actually good at.

...In Ten Years?

In ten years, I'll probably be looking at moving again. I don't want to spend my entire life in one place. I'd get bored with my surroundings. Hopefully, there'll be multiple books that I've published at that point. By then, maybe my website will have become a place where those whom read my work can contact me, as well as enjoy my daily articles.

...In Twenty Years?

I'll be 52 years old in twenty years. By then, I've hopefully left the retail collectibles business behind and am solely supporting myself as a writer. Maybe I've expanded into the screenwriting business and have had a motion picture filmed of my work. I'll probably have moved yet again -- it's hard to imagine that I'll move three more times within twenty years, but that's likely the case.

Where Do I Want To Go?

The two places on the top of my 'To Go' list are Scotland and Japan -- this is probably the easiest question for me to answer. It doesn't matter which place I visit first, but I want to go to both within the next decade. I'm hoping to go to Japan in 2016 if everything works out right. By 2020, I want to see Scotland. Within the United States, I'd like to tour the Pacific Northwest and Southern California. Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are also places I want to see. I want to travel to the Northeast and visit Colonial Massachusetts -- specifically to see the Adams National Historical Park. Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine are also on my to-do list. Finally, I'd like to see Hawaii and experience the life of the native people there. I have a great deal of respect for traditional Hawaiian culture.

Where Do I Want To Live?

I'd like to live out west and experience life on the other coast. Having lived on the East Coast of the United States my whole life, I think seeing how the opposite side of America lives would be good for my mind. While I don't think I'd want to live in Southern California, I might consider a smaller or medium size city in Northern California like Redding or Chico that doesn't sit on an active fault line. In terms of what I want to see in a city, I want a place with a thriving downtown area and an art scene. I envision myself spending nights walking from an art house to a bar, then to eat at a restaurant. A place with an active brewing community would be great as well. Being able to make friends with some politically motivated individuals would be nice, as well as those whom like to read a lot.

At some point, I want to live in Japan and Scotland, not just visit them. I realize I can't stay there long term without immigrating, but a good three or six month span would be nice. With Scotland, I want to experience life in a small village along the coast or in the Highlands. Inverness would also be an interesting city to spend some time in. In Japan, I'd like to live in Tokyo and travel all along the length of the country. I want to ride the rails from one tip of Japan to the other, then hop a boat ride to Okinawa. There's just so much there that I can't even begin to list it all -- the cuisine, the shrines, the natural beauty, the sea life, the art, the people.

What Do I Want To Do?

I want to be a storyteller. Honestly, I believe my ability to tell stories is one of my strongest skills. Not one to stick to only fiction or non-fiction, my works would transcend genres and mediums. I want to write a biography, a children's animated film and a fantasy epic. When future historians look at the most diverse writers of the 21st Century, I hope my name is occasionally mentioned. I pray that my stories will make people cry, will spark the imagination of a child, will bring two lovers together, will inspire humans to travel to the stars.

What Do I Want Out Of Life?

I want to figure out what makes me happy. I'm not truly passionate about anything right now. The only way for me to figure that out is to see new things, travel to new places and meet new people. Being trapped behind four walls like a hermit is no way to go through life -- and I've been living like that for far too long. When I reach the twilight of my life, I don't want to feel like I wasted my chance at making my mark.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Where Did Root Beer Come From?


Root beer, which is a beverage based upon Sassafras root or bark, has a long tradition within the United States, and North America as a whole. It's development began with Native Americans, whom used it for drinking recreationally, as well as within their worshiping rituals. Upon the arrival of European settlers in the New World, they adapted the use of Sassafras for their own drinking purposes.

By the late 1800's, root beer was still a homemade concoction with no real commercial value. This changed with Charles Hires, whom marketed the first successful root beer brand in the US. He debuted his Hires' brand root beer at the Philadelphia Centennial Expo in 1876. Within ten years, Hires' was bottling his root beer for national distribution.

Along the way, other major root beer bottlers sprung to life. The Barq's brand was sold beginning in 1898 -- thought it's formula was based upon the similar-tasting Sarsaparilla root and not Sassafras. A&W got its start in 1919 at a paltry road-side drink stand in California. Perhaps the reason A&W became so successful was that its owner, Roy Allen, served the root beer in frosty mugs. IBC brand root beer also came to life in 1919, largely due to Prohibition. It was formulated at the Independent Breweries Company in St. Louis, Missouri as an alternative to making alcoholic beer. Essentially, root beer kept their business 'a-float'.


One of the most loved uses for root beer is to make a root beer float. This sweet, dreamy mixture is a combination of root beer and vanilla ice cream. Ice cream floats were a popular invention around the very end of the 1800's -- they were usually sold in pharmacies which kept carbonated water and flavored syrups on hand to serve to customers. Many variations of the root beer float sprung up simultaneously all across the United States. One popular nickname for the root beer float was a black cow, whereas a brown cow is a root beer float that used chocolate instead of vanilla ice cream.

Thankfully, root beer is still in production to this day by a multitude of manufacturers. It's a wholly American treat that represent our nation well -- more-so than Coca-Cola or Pepsi in terms of soft drinks.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Five Novels Every Child Should Read.

My love for books is something that occupies a very special corner of my heart. Every book is a window into a new world -- they are full of excitement, horror, mystery, romance, adventure. The gamut of human emotions can be experienced through the written word. Without books, our lives would be so much more bland and grey.

In my experience, there are certain remarkable books which transcend time. Their ageless nature can convey wisdom, altruism, love, compassion and honor -- no matter the age of the reader or from which generation they're from. Though, such distinctive novels are best read when a child is growing and developing into a young adult. Their minds are open to a world of possibilities. These special stories can help mold them into more complete human beings.

Here are five books that I believe every youth should read. The impact that they can have on a person's life is profound. The examples I've cited have certainly made a difference in my personal journey.

  1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943) - This enduring novel from Betty Smith recounts the story of the Nolan Family. The live in the Brooklyn tenement of Williamsburg, surrounded by poverty and despair. Lead protagonist Francie, whom grows from age 11 to 17 throughout the course of the novel, gives the reader a glimpse into a world where there's no hope for success. Through it all, Francie's indomitable spirit pushes her to work harder and learn faster. She never gives up on herself, even when the world around her does. Addressing many of the factors that shaped early Nineteenth Century life in America (poverty, the lives of immigrants, alcoholism, abuse), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a novel for the ages. You can survive -- you just have to want it bad enough.
  2. Silas Marner (1861) - Written by George Eliot (pen name of Mary Ann Evans), Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe exemplifies the value of charity, compassion and sacrifice. Silas Marner, an unhappy and altogether bitter man, comes to let go of his personal demons and hatred through young Eppie, a toddler he finds wandering at night in the snow. Taking the orphan in as his own daughter, he develops into a selfless and loving person. Eliot's work is a testament to the power of love -- what was once broken can be made whole again if you just give it enough time and care. It also conveys the notion that doing the right thing is rarely easy.
  3. Brave New World (1932) - Set in the future London of the year 2540, Brave New World paints an altogether bleak portrait for the reader to process. This might be a novel filled with elements of science fiction, but it's not wholly of the genre. Instead, it functions much like a cautionary tale. What happens when the people of the world are content with their lot in life? What happens when no one wants to improve or become better? The global population is strictly regulated in number and ability; they exist in five different castes. Those at the top revel in lives of shallow luxury, with little thought for their fellow man. Those at the bottom exist merely for labor and industrialization, with no desire to become smarter or more independent. Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel is eerily similar to the climate which we now live in -- it is a future we desperately do not want to experience.
  4. Fahrenheit 451 (1953) - Ray Bradbury's magnum opus warns of a society where individual thought has been criminalized. State-sponsored censorship has led to the abolishment of books; owning one is a punishable offense. Firemen no longer serve to extinguish fires, but to set books ablaze if found. The vast majority of human beings exist in a state of illiteracy; citizens are now completely obsessed with pop culture and hollow entertainment. Sound familiar? It's chilling how much Bradbury got right about the future. Ironically, Fahrenheit 451 has been frequently banned by school districts since its publication. A book about the dangers of censorship being banned... go figure.
  5. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass (1865 / 1871) - In reality two books published six years apart by author Lewis Carrol (pen name for Charles Dodgson), Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass can be considered as one larger narrative. The young Alice ventures through a fantastical world filled with nonsense and wonder -- nothing seems to quite makes sense. Yet, the illogical nature of the world painted by Carrol serves to spark the imagination and tempt the reader. What is the nature of reality? What is real? What is imaginary? The tale doesn't merely exist to entertain for a short while; it makes the reader ponder the nature of the universe. Mathematics and logic problems are regularly lobbed at the reader by the vivid cast of characters. You don't just read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland... you experience it. On a much broader scale, the two parts can be viewed as mirror images of each other. Whereas the first part is wrapped in a theme of playing cards and takes place outdoors, the second part is enveloped by chess in a mysterious interior. Inherently, Carrol suggests that life is but one large game; it's completely up to you how you play it. The same holds true when reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass -- how the story plays out is ultimately left up to the reader and the manner they interpret it!
And there you have it -- five monumental novels that deserve to be read by every child, from all walks of life. Though, let me be clear. These books aren't just for the young. I still re-read these books on a regular basis. No matter how old you are, head to your local library (you know, those places where people go to surf the internet) and check one out. You can thank me later.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How To Spot The Sociopathic Cult Leader In Your Life.

Like a magician, a cult leader is a master of making you see what he or she wants you to see. They control the illusion.

Let's face it... we all know a sociopath or two in our life. Whether it be an immediate family member, relative or friend, there's always that one person that's just a little crazy, but in the smart and controlling way. Sometimes, that person's dysfunction will go even farther than that. They're not just a sociopath, but they're essentially a cult leader.

That brings me to the following question. How do you spot a cult leader?

It's a good thing you read my blog. You're about to find out!

Things to look for when trying to spot a cult leader.
  • They have a way with words. They're not just smart -- they're damn smart. No matter what situation a cult leader encounters, they can usually talk their way out of it (or INTO it, if need be). They are masters of storytelling and captivating an audience. Criticism rarely holds up against a cult leader because they always have a great explanation just waiting in the back of their mind. The lies that a cult leader tells are extremely convincing -- rarely will they make logistical mistakes or forget previous lies that they've told. They are really great at keeping their story straight for as long as need be.
  • A cult leader is intensively adept at influencing the emotions of others -- especially to form a relationship. Whether a friend, lover or spouse, the cult leader can weave intricate levels of apparent emotional attachment to force the other party into doing their bidding. Typically, a cult leader / sociopath will seek out submissive types of people to control. This makes their job all the easier. Once they've got their hooks in a person, the cult leader will dominate their existence. This leads me to my next point.
  • If you look up the definition of a micro-manager in the dictionary, you'd probably find the image of a cult leader right next to it. When it comes to those that they are dominating, a cult leader will officiate and oversee every aspect of that person's daily routine. They are told how to perform even simple, mundane tasks. Brush your teeth this way. Stack these boxes this way. Drive your car this way. Wear your clothes this way. Tie your shoes this way. Dig this hole this way. If the demands of the cult leader are violated in any way, they will immediately explode with anger. To disregard the commands of a cult leader is to defy their authority -- that's a huge no-no.
  • Cult leaders have no sense of guilt. No matter how many times a cult leader hits you, or takes your possessions, or makes a mistake, they are never wrong. This is why most spousal and child abusers are essentially cult leaders -- they never feel guilty for beating on their children or their spouse. It's never their responsibility for striking them; the victim must have done something wrong to deserve the punishment. In some instances, the cult leader will forcibly forget that they even harmed someone or made a mistake. Other times, they will use their powers of emotional influence and smooth things over, making it appear as if everything is alright. This rolls into the next bit of information.
  • Unsurprisingly, cult leaders are masters of illusion. They know exactly how to make their life and the lives of those around them APPEAR to be normal, without it actually being so. A sociopathic cult leader is highly skilled at dressing their home and their behavior to look just right. They treat life like a stage -- sets can be changed, actors can learn new lines, the lighting can be adjusted to hide imperfections in the costumes. It's all just one, big theater production -- and they're the director.
  • If a cult leader isn't the center of attention, then they are not happy. That's one of the whole points of their existence. They crave constant approval and praise, often to the detriment of others. A cult leader must be reminded constantly of how important they are -- that's why they surround themselves with willing submissives to lead.
  • The emotional output of a sociopath / cult leader is rarely genuine. Most well-adjusted individuals can tell when a person isn't being sincere. This isn't true for those that are being dominated by a cult leader, whom can not see that they are being duped.
  • If a person is surrounded by family, friends or followers whom consistently don't recognize that they're being taken advantage of, then that person is probably a cult leader. Such sociopaths have a knack for keeping those around them in the dark. Their submissives simply don't see that they're not in control, much to their disadvantage.
  • Cult leaders are often susceptible to outbursts of anger and rage. This is because of their internal struggle to feel like they're in control. Hence, their never-ending desire to control others. When things don't seem to be going their way, or a follower disobeys a command, their emotional state can flip almost instantaneously. One minute they're sipping a drink quietly, the next they're shoving you into a wall and kicking your ass. Twenty minutes after that, they're calm again.
  • Finally, cult leaders / sociopaths are talented at making their beliefs seem like a religion. It's no coincidence that cult leaders regularly weave a religious doctrine into their life. In many documented instances, cult leaders like to be at the head of a religious organization or movement. That way, it appears to their submissives that not only are they obeying their leader, but they're also appeasing some higher power.
So, tell me. How many of you know a sociopathic cult leader? Share your stories and let us compare notes.


Monday, July 20, 2015

The Government Doesn't Care About Rape (Because It's Run By Men).

A standard rape kit.

NBC News reported this week some alarming statistics about rape. Upon an analysis of roughly 1,000 police department entities across the United States, they found over 70,000 unprocessed rape examination kits.

Here's the kicker -- there are over 18,000 police departments in the United States.

Those 1,000 police departments represent a paltry 5% of all American law enforcement bodies. If that average holds true for the other 95% of police departments, that means there's probably one million or more unprocessed rape kits spread from coast to coast.

Wrap your head around that number for a minute, folks.

1,000,000.

That's 1,000,000 rapes. 1,000,000 instances of violence. 1,000,000 predatory acts going unpunished. Countless droves of rapists walking the streets, with no sense of accountability. 1,000,000 women with no support from the justice system, which supposedly has their best interest in mind. 1,000,000 women forced to endure an invasive and painful rape kit examination. All for nothing.

A literal mountain of rape kits, sitting unprocessed in a warehouse.

Currently, a rape kit will cost about $1,000 to fully process, from start to finish. Sure, processing 1,000,000 rape kits all at once would cost a whopping billion dollars ($1,000,000,000). Let's compare that number to what our government has spent on other more useless things, though.
This doesn't even take into account the fact that the rape kit backlog goes back as far as TWENTY YEARS in some places! You mean to tell me that over two decades, our government couldn't find a billion dollars worth of change in the proverbial couch? Give me a frickin' break.

There's only one reasonable conclusion to be drawn from these figures. It's not that we can't afford to process the shameful flood of unprocessed rape kits...

Our own government simply does not give a damn.

Why? Because it's run by men. Unfortunately, women represent only a fraction of our elected government officials.
  • 19.4% of Congress
  • 24.8% of all State Governors
  • 24.2% of all State Representatives
  • 17.6% of all Mayors
I can wholly guarantee you this -- if women properly represented half of all government officials (they make up 50.8% of the total population), that backlog of rape kits would not exist. This isn't a matter of being a feminist, or supporting equal rights for all (which I do). It's merely common sense. Men can be aggressive assholes; just ask the women they rape. Over 93% of all perpetrators of rape are men. I'm not saying every man elected to a government office is a rapist -- far from it. What I am saying is that without an equal number of female voices to address the concerns of women, our government will continue to not do anything about rape.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Draw Something: Suckface.

For this week's edition of Draw Something, I drew inspiration from one of my own pieces of fiction. This lovely drawing is based upon the rather nasty critter I dreamed up in my story from yesterday -- Wormwood Farms. I call it the Suckface. This is one beast you don't want to lock lips with!

Come here baby... give me some sugar!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Wormwood Farms.


"These are some pretty good peaches!"

Finishing the last bite of a freshly picked peach, Orson tucked a handful of others into his satchel. Smelling of cheap booze and body odor, the vagrant stashed what fruit he could before running. By sheer chance, he'd stumbled upon a farm while walking towards Ottumwa, Iowa. As he trespassed, Orson noticed the sign at the property gate -- Wormwood Farms. No one seemed to be home, so he decided now was as good a time as any to scavenge for some food.

Later that evening, Orson picked out a nice hiding spot under a bridge. Resting along the bank of the Des Moines River, this was as good as it was going to get for the night. It could have been worse, Orson thought to himself. That one time he cuddled up to a dead raccoon for warmth in Cleveland definitely took the cake. Orson pealed off his damp socks and hung them on a nearby branch to dry. As the stars began to emerge, he could count the bird silhouettes soaring above, floating along as the last rays of sunlight vanished. One bird, two birds, three birds...

Orson fell asleep counting them.

The sound of a rumbling train woke Orson from a terrible nightmare. Springing to life in a puddle of sweat, he couldn't help but feel like a whipped dog. Vivid images of squirming flesh morsels and rotten meat had filled his mind just a moment before. The train's low set rumble came to a squelch, then stopped as it eased into the local train station. Feeling bloated, Orson crawled out of his sleeping bag and slipped his shoes on. Stomping forth in the haze of a half-visible moon, he trotted down to the river and unzipped his pants. Relieving himself in the even-paced current of the Des Moines, Orson gripped his hairy stomach and let loose a gnarly burp. Unbeknownst to the hapless Orson, a peculiar gourmet of exotic substances were swirling in his bowels.

He'd know soon enough.

Shaking the last drop into the river, Orson began to zip his fly. Before reaching the top, a light stabbing sensation tickled his bladder.

"Damn kidney stones... ugh."

Scratching at his genitalia would fail to provide any relief for the poor bum. While doing so, he noticed the pain growing more intense and widespread. His manhood held firmly in his hands, he was alarmed at how it seemed to pulsate and swell. Orson again experienced the urge to urinate, but this time as if the power of Niagara Falls was pushing behind it. No longer urine, a single trickle of blood squirted into the river. Then another, and another. No sooner had Orson started to lose his balance did a gigantic blast of blood rip through his urethra, splitting his member into multiple pieces. Screaming in agony, Orson fell to the ground, gripping what was left of his organ in his hands. The oozing chunk of tissue simply wouldn't stop bleeding.

As the train left from the nearby station, the roaring thunder rendered Orson's screams all but silent.

His hands painted red, Orson couldn't quite gather his composure. He simply wouldn't stop bleeding. Alarmingly, the pain he'd just endured was nothing compared to what was about to begin.


What felt like a jagged saw blade ripped through his pelvis region. Orson's organs and guts launched in a glorious arch from his body, landing along the sandy river bank. His mind growing dimmer, Orson nearly didn't see the massive worm-like behemoth that emerged from his body cavity.

The light grew darker in his eyes. Consciousness was fleeting in this moment. Covered in mucus and guts, the viscous parasite flopped onto Orson's chest. Inching its way around his neck, it squeezed tightly. With the last breath escaping from Orson's lungs, he thankfully missed the part where the monstrosity blasted acid onto his face. The tubular sycophant began sucking the eyes from Orson's skull; it tugged until the optic nerves snapped free like a broken strand of rope. Slurping the noodle-like nerves into its mouth, the horrific fiend ingested the contents of the dead vagabond's head.

An hour later, Orson's cranium was as hollow as beach ball. Peeking forth from one of the empty eye sockets, the monstrosity opened it's razor-filled maw. It made a chattering noise, like that of a locust swarm. Orson's satchel rocked back and forth before its zipper ripped open. Four smaller versions of the parasitic mutant grub squirmed out of the bag. Using one of the crab-like appendages tucked along it's scaly belly, the hellish nightmare ushered its companions down Orson's throat. As they all dove into the fleshy feast, the last car of the train clamored into the darkness.

No one would discover Orson's body the next morning. Nothing was left to be found.

A few miles away, as dawn's first light emblazed the never-ending Iowa sky, a rickety old farm truck with a bed full of peaches lurched onto the highway.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Living In Hell: The Life Of A Feral Child.

What's more sad, pitiful, depressing and frightening than a feral child?

Throughout recorded history, cases of genuine feral children do turn up. What is a feral child? It's a condition linked to a child being left alone in the wild by unwanting parents, often because of a mental or physical disability. Once alone, they'll often find themselves raised by another wild animal, eventually becoming a member of some another species' community. Feral children can also erupt from severe abuse as a direct result of isolation from human contact. Kids whom are locked in single rooms, attics or basements with no outside interaction often become feral.

The only known photo of Ramachandra.

One of the strangest and most well-documented cases is that of a boy known only as Ramachandra. He was found in the early 1970's in the Uttar Pradesh region of India. Eyewitnesses stated that he acted like an amphibian and ate raw meat. He could walk, but with a very awkward gait and typically preferred to crawl. More often than not, Ramachandra would be found spending his time in the local river, much like a frog. By 1979, he'd been forced into living a modern life by villagers, with poor results. In 1982, a woman killed him with a pot of boiling water. Claims state that the woman was frightened by his approach and she acted in self defense.

Natasha, a five year old girl from Chita, Siberia, was found in 2009 by local Russian police. She'd been locked in a room with cats and dogs since before the age of two. Her behavior was not human-like at all. She would bark and jump at caretakers upon them leaving her room. Natasha ate food from a dish like a dog and never used her hands. She crawled on all fours. Given that the news is from one of the most remote locations on the planet, any further news about her survival has not been released.

Another troubling case from Russia involves a nameless boy. After the story of his horrible existence broke in 2008, he was referred to in local newspapers as the Russian Bird Boy. The boy's mother had locked him naked in a two-room apartment filled with a variety of birds. She never spoke to him and treated him completely like any other pet. Upon discovery, law enforcement were shocked to find that the boy would chirp to communicate with the birds living around him. He would also flap his arms to communicate, much like the birds.

This photo of Genie was taken a few weeks after her rescue. She was being cared for at the Los Angeles Children's Hospital. Genie had what was known as a "bunny walk".

One of the most famous cases of a feral child is that of Genie, which is a pseudonym as to protect her real name. She was discovered by child protective services in Los Angeles, California on November 4, 1970. Genie's father, for reasons unknown, decided that she was mentally handicapped while still a baby. By the age of twenty months, he'd locked her in a room alone. Genie remained in that room until she was approximately thirteen years old (her birth date is not known). Her father indicated after his arrest that he left Genie strapped to a child's training toilet or tied to a crib for most of her existence. Genie could not speak, nor did she understand any of the typical social constructs that most children gain in their early years. Genie is still alive and resides as a ward of the state of California. In her time, she has learned a few words, but usually communicates through rudimentary sign language.

I find it amazing how children can be such a clean slate from which to grow and change. Given the right tools, care and social interaction, a human child can grow into a responsible adult. Yet, if children are isolated and abused, they can grow to never be human at all. I believe this says a great deal about how important love and compassion are when raising a child.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Newly Discovered Raptor Zhenyuanlong suni Had Wings.

Say hello to the Velociraptor's nasty, feather-covered cousin.


This is the newly discovered dinosaur Zhenyuanlong suni. It was alive roughly 125 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period. Paleontologists recently found a near-complete skeleton of it in the western province of Liaoning, China. It was perfectly preserved in rock. The magnificent wings which it bore were clearly visible surrounding the fossil. This marks the largest feather-covered dinosaur ever found.


As with other members of its family, Zhenyuanlong suni was a land-bound predator. It didn't use its wings for flight. Instead, the feathers were merely used for display -- either to scare off other predators, attract a potential mate or establish superiority in a community.

It's now commonly believed that many more dinosaurs bore feathers than previously thought. One of the chief concerns with the ever-popular Velociraptor is that it most certainly had feathers or wings as well. I recently covered this discrepancy in my review of Jurassic World. While we can't wholly fault a fantasy film for incorrectly depicting dinosaurs, I do hope the day will come where dinosaurs are more accurately envisioned when brought to the big screen.

The discovery was made by scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

That's Just FAN-tastic!

I've lived in my current home for four years. Crystal and I purchased it in June of 2011. In that time, my office has gone without a ceiling fan. It had the hook-ups and wiring pre-installed for a fan, but for some reason one was never put in.

Today, I was determined to change all that.

After looking at the wires that were present in the ceiling, we trotted down to Lowe's and purchased a brand new ceiling fan for $50. Nothing fancy or extravagant -- just something to get the job done.

Upon bring it home, we went through all of the parts and followed the instructions step by step. This was the first time either of us had ever done an electrical installation. One hour later, the fan was installed and working properly. It was miraculous! I found myself asking...
"Why did I wait so long to install this fan? I'm an idiot."
That was easy.

When Crystal and I finished, I asked her as to why I waited so long to tackle such an apparently easy project. She explained that I lacked confidence in my own abilities for many years, only having recently come to understand how able-bodied and inherently talented I am. Crystal also said that I should continue to believe in myself and not fear future projects.

I think she's right. For far too long, I doubted myself and what I could do. These past few years have been a really healthy period for me. Every step of the way, I'm improving and becoming a more whole human being. It's like I'm earning back the pieces of myself that I gave away over the course of twenty plus years. Every time I look at that ceiling fan, I'll feel a bit of pride.

The funny part? We're thinking about moving in a year. I really should have installed the fan a long time ago so I'd get to enjoy it more!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

2015 Miss USA Pageant Earns Lowest Ratings Ever.

The night of Sunday, July 12 saw the latest installment of the annual Miss USA Pageant. The event, which aired on the Reelz cable network, drew only 925,000 viewers. This marks the lowest ratings numbers the program has ever had. Admittedly, the program was held on a third-class cable channel. The Miss USA Pageant normally airs on NBC, but they recently cut ties with Donald Trump, whom owns a stake in the pageant. Honestly, I suspect the low numbers for the pageant can't wholly be attributed to its move to cable.

As the old Bob Dylan song goes... The Times They Are a-Changin'.

2015 Miss USA Winner Olivia Jordan of Oklahoma.

The pageant saw its best ratings nearly four decades ago. In the 1970's, the Miss USA Pageant easily earned 40 million viewers per telecast. Though, the ratings for the pageant have been in steady decline since then. Last year, the ratings were definitely better than this year -- 5.5 million. But, you must consider that the 2014 edition was broadcast on a national over-the-air network. Essentially, it was free. Beggars can't be choosers for content, am I right?

Americans have been in the process of moving on from beauty pageants for a long time. Less and less, women are objectified as hollow know-nothings. A pageant dedicated to women strutting in bikinis, evening gowns and answering softball 'world peace' questions simply doesn't work in the modern world. Women are more than just objects of beauty... and they shouldn't be treated as such. Pageants represent a time when women weren't respected as equals to men. Honestly, I'm surprised the notion of beauty pageants has lasted this long.

I feel compelled to point out that while I find the concept of a beauty pageant to be archaic, the contestants are largely intelligent, hard-working, motivated women with a drive to succeed. The contestants recognize a path to earning notoriety, opening business opportunities and continuing their education -- I simply can't fault them for that. I just find it unsettling that the contestants have to render themselves to the lowest common denominator of existence -- letting judges decide who looks better in a bathing suit. Give me a frickin' break!

If beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, how can there be any sort of an objective beauty pageant? It just doesn't make sense.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Five Ways To Make Golf Fun.


I have to be honest with you -- I've never played a round of golf in my life. Not once have I ever stepped on a golf course and tried to play the game. I'm 32 years old at this point. Something tells me I'll probably never play golf. Yet, there is a perfectly good explanation.

Golf is boring.

You see, golf is nothing but a person swinging a stick at a ball, hoping that the ball will land in a specific hole. I admit that it takes a lot of talent and skill to make a golf ball travel to its hole in as few hits as possible... but what's the point? I've just never understood the motivation behind playing such a mundane and futile game.

This got me to thinking. What would it take for me to play golf? I present to you...

FIVE WAYS TO MAKE GOLF FUN.

5. Night Golf - Here's the idea: paint the balls in flourescent colors, light the greens with black lights, installing neon lighting and put a strobe light at the hole. Make the entire course pulsate in wild neon colors.

4. Real Hazards - Sand pits and ponds are child's play. Let's put some real, actual hazards on the golf course. Set loose a few alligators and leopards. Bring in a giant wind machine. Surround the holes with a mine field. Allow the use of dynamite by other players as a "defensive" tactic. Let's get back to what a hazard truly represents!

3. Time Limit - Give the players a set deadline that they must complete a course by. There won't be any dilly-dallying. Instead, players will be hotfooting it from one hole to the next, swinging as hard and as fast as they possibly can. Allow players to incorporate bonus points into their score for finishing the course first when competing against other players.

2. One Ball - What if multiple players were only allowed one ball? Instead of everyone competing to get the lowest score, players would be forced to approach the game in a "capture the flag" scenario. You want to take the next swing at the ball? Fine... but you've got to beat your opponent to the ball first!

1. Nudity - Really want to spice up a round of golf up? Force everyone to play in the nude. Talk about distracting! Sure, most golfers are retired old men... but what if they brought in cheerleaders as well? Ah-ha! That introduces a whole new dimension to the game.

There's one honorable mention -- Drunk Golf. After careful consideration, I realized that most golfers already play while drunk.

As a non-golfer, I don't know if any or all of these ideas have been tried before. If you know of any examples, please share them.

"Did you see where I parked the golf cart?"

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Draw Something: Kraken Warrior.

Tonight will be a change of pace for a typical Sunday article. Crystal made an excellent suggestion to me recently.
"Jared, why don't you use Sundays to draw something and share that? Get back to your art."
You know... I think she is right. I'm going to morph the weekends here at Jared Unzipped into a total creativity zone. Just as I write a new piece of fiction every Saturday, Sundays will be used for drawing. Here I am, getting back to my roots and expressing myself in the first way I ever knew how. I'm a little rusty, but I think I'll pick it back up pretty quick. Illustration is just like riding a bicycle!

Here we have a mighty undersea Kraken Warrior. Oh, look at those tentacles!


Pencil, Ink and Manga Studio Brushes were used for this piece. Completed on a custom sketch card.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

When Does The Moon Sleep?


All around the world, as sunlight fades away to the night, children find themselves falling asleep to blissful dreams of unicorns and kittens, sailing golden ships and flying with superheroes. The little ones crawl into their beds and take comfort in the rest that they are about to receive. And up above, ever vigilant as always, floats the moon. Never faltering or leaving its post, merely drawing the curtains back from time to time. There it shines endlessly, protecting the sleeping masses from that which lurks in the darkness.

Yet... when does the moon sleep?

One night a long time ago, the moon decided it needed a moment to rest. For eons, the moon had shone its bright light upon all the little children of the world. Yet, the moon had grown tired. It need some sort of break if it was going to continue shining. Therefore, it decided to take a night off. As the last rays of the sun slipped behind the horizon, the darkness crept in. Wrapping itself around houses and trees, through fences and over streets, the empty gloom took hold. Without the protection of the moon, there was nothing to keep the darkness from spreading. As the moon rested, boys and girls from all around the world experienced what it meant to be afraid. They clutched their blankets and pulled them over their heads, hoping the monsters and fiends would stay away.

As the darkness took hold of the night, the trembling little children finally fell asleep from exhaustion.

When the children awoke in the morning, they realized just how important the moon was. It's opalescent gaze protected everyone from the creeping darkness. Yet, where had the moon gone? They cried out to the sky...

"Moon! Moon! Please come back. We miss you! We need you!"

The moon, hearing the cries of the children below, calmed their fears and said...

"I'm here, my friends. I just needed one night to rest, but I never left you alone."

As the children came to understand that their friend the moon was always there, they truly appreciated what the orb of light and peace does for them. The children cried back...

"You protect us every night, but even the moon needs to sleep. We can brave the darkness for one night!"

With that, the children and the moon came to an understanding. For one night a month, the moon would sleep. On that, the darkest night of all, the children would be brave warriors, fending off the creatures in the pitch black. For the rest of the month, the moon would be there in the sky, a visible guardian to all. The moon and the children of Earth are linked in this agreement, forever helping each other in their time of need.


Friday, July 10, 2015

An Update On That Freakish Mutant Sunflower In My Backyard.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a very tall, abnormal sunflower that was growing at my back patio.


Since then, it has continued to grow and grow... and grow. This sunflower currently stands over twelve feet tall with dozens upon dozens of flowers on it. We had a bit of a scare a few nights ago when a massive thunderstorm struck. It caused the root ball to become loose due to an over-saturation of water. As such, the towering sunflower fell across our backyard and landed in our garden bed. Thankfully, we were able to use rope and stakes to pull the sunflower back upright. It's very top heavy due to its weight and stature. The sunflower plant is standing back up and its root ball has once again grown firm in the soil. All is well.


The past few days have seen many numerous flowers opening on it. In fact, the larger flowers have more new flowers growing off of them! It's all quite remarkeable, to say the least. We're definitely going to save seeds from this plant and grow more leviathan-like sunflowers next season. For now, all we can do is marvel at just how miraculous this plant has proven to be. Never in my life have I seen a sunflower this large in person. Have you? If so, please share your story below.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Brief History of the Garbage Pail Kids.

A few days ago, I mentioned the most nefarious trading cards series of the 1980's -- the Garbage Pail Kids. I can't tell you enough how much I loved these blasted things in my youth. As fellow children of the '80s, some of you may already be familiar with the GPK (as they're abbreviated) cards. This article will be a fun refresher for you. Perhaps you're a Millennial just getting into '80s nostalgia and want to learn more. Congratulations -- welcome to one of the nuttiest hobbies that sprung from the Decade of Excess!


The Garbage Pail Kids got their start in 1985. Aimed squarely at the insanely popular Cabbage Patch Kids craze, they were a grotesque and absurd parody. Each trading card featured some zany kid with an odd name. Often times, the kid was weird looking or performing an outrageous activity. Other cards featured kids in various states of death or decay. Even still, many more cards featured a kid with some disgusting bodily function. The horror was endless... and very funny. The GPK concept was the idea of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman, whom had previously developed the Wacky Packages brand. Spiegelman is also noted for writing Maus, which uses animal depictions to intricately detail life for Jews in Nazi Germany. Along with artist Mark Newgarden, Len Brown (co-creator of Mars Attacks!) and illustrator John Pound, the first series of GPK cards were massively successful. Fifteen series were produced between 1985 and 1988, before they were discontinued.


In their initial run, Garbage Pail Kids cards were largely the subject of criticism from parenting groups and those with the supposed moral majority. The tawdry, gross-out humor featured on the cards got them banned from many schools. Many parents objected to GPK's use of dark comedy as an affront to God! Obviously, these parents were wrong. I mean, look at me... I turned out just fine!

Topps, the company which owns the GPK brand, began releasing a new series of cards in 2003. They have been in production since then, with a new 2015 set just seeing release. By any measure, the Garbage Pail Kids brand is a qualified success. Also be on the lookout for the very special Garbage Pail Kids 30th Anniversary Series, dropping this summer!


The next time you're digging through your parents' basement or attic, check and see if you had some of the cards from your youth. Marvel at their hilarious illustrations and low class jokes -- you won't regret the feeling of '80s-related goodness that'll rush back into you.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Letting Things Go.

I've spent the vast majority of the past two days cleaning out my personal office space -- aka my collection room. Books, graphic novels, action figures, statues, Hot Wheels cars, comic book related merchandise... the list goes on and on. So much of it was cluttering my space and taking up valuable real estate.

Surprisingly, I've filled multiple boxes with things I simply don't want anymore. I was shocked at just how many pieces of my collection I had lost interest in. Things just three or four years ago that I would have never even considered letting go had now wound up in the 'For Sale' box. What happened in that time? Did I grow old? Had my need to cling to things diminished? As I write this article, it's occurring to me what changed.

As I developed this blog and expressed my feelings over the past few years, my need to possess items and invest emotions into them faded drastically. I want fewer and fewer things to hold on to because I simply don't see any reason for their being in my life. I repeatedly found myself asking "Why did I buy this?" as I would pick up most of the items in my collection. I'm sure I had a good reason many years ago when I acquired these items, but now owning them just doesn't make any sense.

Hording items for emotional comfort is not the answer.

It doesn't fix anything. In fact, those items just make your situation worse because you never actually confront your own emotional problems. They're a distraction from the truth. I realize that fact now... it only took me all this time to get it.

There is an upside to all of this, of course. Many of the things I've managed to collect over the years are fairly valuable on the secondary collector market. This relinquishing of items from my collection will put a nice degree of profit in my pocket. Hurrah for that!

So what have I kept?
  • Merchandise relating to Uncle Scrooge, Boba Fett, Godzilla, Thanos and the Silver Surfer
  • Generation 1 Transformers
  • Space-themed LEGO Sets
  • Imported and horror graphic novels, manga
Sure, I still have things in my collection, but I've really started to narrow it down to things I actually want -- not items I was emotionally invested in. I certainly believe this is a much healthier way to be a collector.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What Would I Put In My Nostalgic Man Crate?

I was recently asked by Alex, one of the fine folks at Man Crates, to share my ideas for a classic Nostalgia-themed gift crate. They're a new company that provides awesome gifts for men that come in wooden crates which need to be opened with a crowbar!
"The idea is for you to tell us all about your personal memories in a post on your blog. If it wasn’t Ferris Bueller, what other movies were always in your VCR?  What was the one gift you always wanted for your birthday, but never seem to come your way?  We want to hear what items you would want in a nostalgic crate."
Of course, I was happy to oblige. This is squarely in my wheelhouse! So, what would I personally insert into a nostalgic crate? Here are six things that would definitely gain entry into my sentimental Man Crate box of goodness.

Remember when 'King Size' candy bars were actually King-sized?

1. Zero Candy Bar - By far, this is my most favorite sweet treat. I must have consumed at least one a week when I was young. It was my grandfather whom introduced me to the Zero Bar. Being that my grandparents lived in a rural area with not much to do, we would take joy rides to the local (meaning only) gas station. He'd always give me a few dollars to spend once there. This usually entailed getting a soda pop, some trading cards (more on that in a moment) and a candy bar. On our first trip, he recommended a Zero Bar. This is one deceptively delicious candy bar. It breaks away from the standard chocolate-covered candy bar trend. Instead, an eye-catching white chocolate coating hides an almond-nougat, peanut and caramel center. The taste is something I can't quite describe... but oh is it so good. It amazes me how so few people have ever heard of the Zero Bar. But, if you know where to look, you can easily find it (Amazon, Hershey's Store).


2. Garbage Pail Kids Trading Cards - As mentioned with the Zero Bar, I also regularly obtained tradings cards in my youth. Make no mistake, the Garbage Pail Kids were the absolute best. Dead Ted, Roy Bot, Grim Jim, Spikey Mikey and Soured Howard -- my list of GPK favorites could go on and on. For an odd chap like me, Garbage Pail Kids was a celebration of the ironic, morbid and weird. Each pack held within it a creative, gut-busting surprise that brightened my day every time. Thankfully, GPK cards are still in production by Topps to this day and can be purchased via their web store or in person at your local department store.


3. Godzilla - If there's one thing I enjoyed as a kid, it was monster movies. I still do, to be honest. Godzilla isn't called the King of the Monsters for no reason; he's trashed every giant mutant freak from Tokyo to Toledo! The Big G is an icon to millions of people worldwide, especially to the young and young at heart. Perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of Godzilla-themed memorabilia I've seen recently is the NECA Reel Toys 12" Classic Video Game Appearance Godzilla Action Figure. It comes in a special window box which recreates the original retail packaging of the actual Nintendo Entertainment System Godzilla video game. The figure is decorated in a very pixelated manner, mirroring how Godzilla looked in the game. How cool is that?! Speaking of video games...


4. Final Fantasy - When it comes to the most deeply enthralling, thought-provoking video game of my childhood, Final Fantasy holds that honor. Role Playing Games (RPGs) were my favorite genre of video game growing up. An RPG requires intelligence, skill and strategy to be successful. The Final Fantasy series encompassed all the elements of a superior RPG... and more. I was lucky enough to receive the first Final Fantasy game on the Nintendo Entertainment System as a child. As to Final Fantasy II for the Super Nintendo, I only ever had the chance to borrow it from a friend for a short time. I never even held a copy of Final Fantasy III until I was an adult with my own career and income. As I grew older, I came to realize that Final Fantasy II was actually Final Fantasy IV, just with a new name for the North American market. The same goes with Final Fantasy III, which is really Final Fantasy VI. There were three other Final Fantasy games released in that era that never even made the trip from Japan to America. Thankfully, Final Fantasy I through VI have all since been re-released in one form or another over the years. Yet, if you want to play the original Final Fantasy, you can still find used copies for less than $20. Score!


5. Combos - The preferred snack food of choice in my youth was certainly Combos. Those tiny little treasure troves of taste were AWESOME! I can remember enjoying nearly every flavor available back then -- Cheddar Cheese, Pizza and the long since discontinued Peanut Butter (bring it back please!). Combos are still in production and distributed by Mars, Inc., much to the elation of everyone!

"Bring me four fried chickens and a Coke."

6. The Blue Brothers - This isn't even up for debate. If one movie is going into my customized Man Crate, then it has to be The Blue Brothers. I watched this movie non-stop as a kid. The car chases, the music, the witty one liners and non-stop hilarity... I love this movie more than any other. My original copy of The Blue Brothers was a poorly recorded, formatted for television copy on a blank VHS tape. In the early '90s, I finally managed to receive an actual, official VHS copy. Rapturously, The Blues Brothers has since received the proper treatment on DVD and ultimately Blu-Ray many times over. Recently released was the very classy Blu-Ray Steelbook Edition of The Blues Brothers, featuring both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film in marvelous high definition. Hit it!

So there you have it, my friends. Six wonderfully nostalgic things from my youth that I'd insert into my very own Man Crate. Perhaps they'll use some or all of these ideas for a future release. Either way, I'm very thankful to Alex for reaching out to me. Here's to celebrating our memories and making new ones!