The Day the Music Died

March 11th, 2013

The Day the Music Died

I was in 8th grade when I met Jon.  He was introduced to me by a friend in my band. Another friend told me how he’d first taken notice of the new kid; in Chemistry class, the teacher was asking if students wanted to hear their current term grades. Jon’s turn came – and with a smirking certitude, he answered “heh, sure.” Answer:  F. Jonny knew, Jonny giggled. It was a somewhat giddy, almost half-crazed, low-key “fuck it all” giggle. No malice, no snark, no embarrassment, no nervousness, maybe some way off hint of cockiness. It didn’t matter – didn’t even register; to Jon it was silly, absurd, worth a laugh. The new guy confirmed no fucks would be given. In short order, we became friends.

……

Time takes hold, it defeats intentions. I hadn’t spoken to Jon in a couple years since he was last in town. He’d built a life in the Virgin Islands – which just made sense, and we’d only talked a handful of times over the last 10 years. It was always on the fly. Each time a little more distance, almost 20 years after we first met. We stayed in touch, often through his older brother, Steve also being a seminal influence to me in his own way.

Then, last Friday night – Jon called me. All of a sudden it was like no time had passed – like we still lived just a few streets away back in Briargate. We spoke for over an hour. The old days, music, the things we somehow survived –and the new days, jobs, families, time. Same old Jonny, and same old me – from out of nowhere here was my old friend.  Afterwards I looked up hotels in St. Thomas, calculating what vacation time I’d have leftover come summer after some other scheduled trips. This became more important.

Jon and I talked about how it had been too long.

……

Early Saturday afternoon, my brother called then came over to my house. He told me he got a call from Steve.

Jon had drowned.

He was trying to save another person’s life as 12 foot waves hit a small tourist boat in a bad cove. He was 34.

 …….

Halloween 1994, we showed up at Denny’s as was the near-nightly ritual. French Fries and ranch dressing, coffee or Coke or Sprite. I dressed up like Charlie Babbitt, Jon as Rain Man. His mannerisms were spot on, my sunglasses were perfect, and the night manager bought us dinner. Other times if we had a few bucks, we’d go downtown to Jose Muldoon’s. On New Year’s Eve 1995, about 15 of us got together for a half formal evening at a place then called the Mirage– I think I made some speech about good friends; it was Jon who was the glue that brought everyone there.

I remember going up to Denver’s “Rock Island” Club with Jon and several others a few times. We always took the back way, driving up Highway 83 instead of the Interstate – and drove like bats out of hell. It didn’t matter. We were fearless in those moments. We’d all go and dance like fools.

……

The summer before he’d taken his parents’ old beater car – slated to be his anyway (a mid-80s VW Jetta called “the Skate”) – out for a joyride. He couldn’t wait for his license, and after all, so what. His Mom and Stepdad went off the deep end as parents will do worrying Jon was turning out to be the bad kid. That gave him a one way ticket back to Texas to stay with his Dad for the summer. He wasn’t fazed – and ended up getting his Dad’s gorgeous Nissan 240Z. He put in Boston Acoustic speakers and a removable face CD player. So it worked out – easy.

Jon took risks but wasn’t reckless; it sometimes felt like he was holding back, but nothing seemed to get to him. There were some times he pushed too hard – like when he was racing another buddy on the road behind Denny’s one night. The road wasn’t well lit, and he totaled that Nissan 240Z into the back of a parked 18-wheel flatbed. I remember driving with his stepdad to the hospital. Jon was concussed and his knee was badly swollen. He didn’t care. That car had been built up by him as his everything.  When that was gone, he turned to music.

……….

We connected on music – me from my drums and varied taste in genres, him with whatever instrument he picked up and his own wide-span eclecticisms. In those years, most of us were in bands. The local amateur scene consisted of a mass of interchangeable, talented friends, all of us jamming with each other at some point. While I’d been hooked on Nirvana, the Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains (and late 80s Wax-Trax Industrial care of my older brother), he finally convinced me to stop evading Pearl Jam, to listen to the Prodigy, and even some Crash Test Dummies and bands like The The. He could play the harmonica part to “Slow Emotion Replay” without a hitch. Same went for him on guitar – he was more the rhythm player than lead – saxophone, and even some piano. He could play covers easily enough, but had a steadier hand at writing his own material.

Jonny was always a heartbreaker – every woman in a room knew where he was. This isn’t pedestal building, rose-tinting embellishment borne from sudden loss. His pictures today look nearly the same. Six foot, Texas tan, lean muscled, easy demeanor, aw-shucks drawl. Jon knew he had “it,” of course – or more accurately, was aware of it.

We connected on girls. He was picky, never letting them too close. I, on the other hand, had a steady girlfriend who I cared for until it hurt too much. It ended hard, and after the destructive breakup and a few other things all coming down at once, Jon had me over to sit in his basement just to chill the fuck out. We listened to Pearl Jam’s “Indifference” over and over, every note, every lyric and verse still etched into me today. He knew where I was at, he understood the comedown – how I’d hit bottom and why; how I needed to get through that low and get it out of me. He sat there with me without pretense or judgment and helped get my head back on right.

For his part he had many wannabe girlfriends, mostly crushes, but more often than not was busy pining after an ex-girlfriend from Florida. Even after that passed, no matter how great the girl, he always kept them at a distance. That was a risk not worth it to him.

Mostly, we shared a warped humor built on taking nothing (including ourselves) too seriously. We played pool in his basement on a near daily basis, ball busting and leaving no topic sacred. We built a kinship that I’ve experienced rarely then or since, something words cheapen.

……..

Back then we played together for a little bit in my new fledgling band, but he knew the bigger fish was the band fronted by one of my brother’s friends, a guy with his own cult of personality. Jon couldn’t resist – they had local club cred from previous tries, and Jon’s talents brought them a whole new dimension. He was dynamic, and more than that he fit their quirks. They were named Soul Food – a hybrid of skater thrash and funk.

They cut an album the following spring, tried to get a real tour via a local label, but for various reasons it never built up beyond that. Within a year they’d be done. My own band broke up as our guitarist – the guy who introduced me to Jon, and who himself was truly gifted – cut the cord and went to college. So Jon and I played together once more. It wasn’t big, we made a few songs and it was good. We didn’t play gigs but we didn’t need that.

…….

That last conversation the night before he died, friends tell me it was providence and not coincidence. I don’t know why he called me that night – just that he did. We talked about our families, his love of his girlfriend, maybe his wanting children but who knew. I told him about my baby daughter and this awe of fatherhood. He played his guitar for me – one of the songs he’d written when we played together back in after our other bands had petered out. I told him I was still playing drums, and even still had the old kit alongside my new one. I’d been playing more lately, practicing several nights a week. He missed playing together. He said when I came down there we’d jam.

…….

My wife posted a picture on Jon’s Facebook page –it’s of the 3 of us together, out in front of our High School around May 1995. I had long hair. I’d forgotten about that picture. Jon still looks the same.

……

We used to laugh and say it took Jon 3 hours to get ready to hang out for 30 minutes. He was a perfectionist who put thought into every action, yet it still never seemed rehearsed. Again, he knew he had ‘it,’ but never had to milk it or force it. There was the other side of him, more calculating – yes there were risks worth taking, but he could conversely be ultra-cautious – trusting his gut to tell him when something wasn’t a sure thing. He was quick to trust, but slow to act. Everything was done, or not, in its own time – at his own pace.

……

Jon kept it simple, direct. He was not a person to stand and watch, not a person to be trapped in reflection or regret. There was no hesitation in his going into the water to save someone, despite the risks. This last risk was worth it to him. No scrambled thoughts, what ifs, just instinct. Jon was selfless, courteous, a person who said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ actually meaning it. He was not a tourist. He was not passing through.

He died saving someone else’s life.

………

In that last call, I would’ve asked him if he could still play pool with the best of them. I would’ve asked him if he remembered when his Mom came out to the garage to tell us she was pregnant with his little sister, or how we waited in the hall of the hospital when she was born. Did he remember all those shows at the Underground, and that night all our bands played together at the Bingo Hall show in front of a few hundred people?  Or all those nights we went to Denny’s, or to shows of friends’ bands, or when we drove around aimlessly for the hell of it? Did he have all of these memories flooding back like I did? Am I being selfish to wonder, or did he know how much he meant to me for so long?

He talked about Tanji and feeling whole, and the love and respect he held utmost for his brother who he looked up to “as the smartest guy I’ve ever known.” He talked about how he was looking forward to seeing his little sister again soon. He talked about maybe getting a piece of a bar, and how he was studying to become a captain of his own tour boat. And the music.

What I did ask him, what I’m glad I asked him – was he okay, and was he happy?

He said yes.

Jon lived the way he needed to, how he wanted, by his own methods and through his passions. He lived within himself and never put up a front or was tied down by regret. He was not lost in past glories, but rather honored his friends and memories. He endeared himself to so many people as he was so approachable, thoughtful, humble, so inclusive and so uniquely genuine.

Over the years Jon has become like a metaphoric symbol of happiness to me, an embodiment of what it means to be free – an idea, a representation of what could be. Maybe it’s a hokey ideal – an unfair one based in my mind’s eye. Jon wasn’t perfect – he’d never even think it – he was very human, he made mistakes, sometimes the same ones. To all of us who knew Jon, who knew his crazy giggle, who knew his joyfulness – these things stay with us.

I am proud to have known him, and happy that he knew me as his friend. I will remember him forever, and miss him terribly.

We love you very much- goodbye Jon.

Armed to the bitter end

December 22nd, 2012

Christmas lights and wreaths dot our streets as we numb ourselves with old hopes – all should be well again, soon. 

We convince ourselves, as so many times before, there is good in the world. We comfort ourselves this way to push away the invasive emptiness, as if by ignoring a tumor is to cull it. We pretend to be whole and carry on within the safer, practiced confines of denial.

Today is one week after Newtown.

It is terrifying to stare down true horror. To not be stricken paralyzed. It’s easier and far tidier to downplay it, often from a comfortable distance – rather than embrace it. Our M.O. is to always take the easier, well-worn path of letting the violence wash over us as another random, unfortunate occurrence – a path we’ve become far too used to walking.

We fail time and again to embrace these terrors of our own making; we empower them through the usual misguided apathy – the well wishes and prayers, as if pithy gestures equaled action. And so we continue to be victimized.

So we can expect more death, more terror, more rationalizations, and more moral relativism – more useless prayers. What kind of horror will finally drag us into overcoming our cowardice? Will it be a preschool next time, a hospital’s newborn ward? Or was the slaughter of 27 people, 20 children, enough to finally jolt us awake?

And like clockwork come the same tired, sallow arguments from a hundred times before – guns don’t kill people; people kill people. It never occurs to anyone making this argument that people with guns kill more people more often. “Well, cars can kill people, should we take them away?” Yes, from anyone making this argument. A car is not an instrument designed for death, much like an axe is not designed to hew limbs from people instead of trees. You can swing a cat and kill someone with it if properly wielded. People say if someone is going to kill, they’ll find a way. Perhaps – but it’s much more effective to use a gun than say, pruning shears. Oddly enough, I don’t hear about many mass knifings or random softball bat bludgeoning of large crowds resulting in massive death tolls.

A gun’s primal, designer purpose is to harm another living creature. A gun is a perfected killing machine. It doesn’t work well as a hammer or spatula.  

Many claim a gun is a deterrent. But I tend to believe a gun escalates tension rather than removes it.  In our culture, guns have their own mythos being symbolic of self-determination, manliness – the great fake embodiment of tough. They are a monument to the delusion of protection and false safety. To have a gun is not simply to own a killing thing, but to be part of some great fraternity of people obsessed with paranoia. “What’s mine is mine, and I will protect it.” But against what – rowdy neighbors? That constant, imagined mortal threat to your underground bunker? Against the next person who cuts you off on the highway, which certainly requires the use of deadly force? Or is it the phantom sheep rapist, nefariously cruising the outskirts of your farm? What about hunting? Using an AR-15 to hunt elk simply means you’re a shitty hunter harboring an angry little Napoleon complex.

Or we can talk about the reality of guns. Explain to me why a 3-year-old in Oklahoma is dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Explain to me why a roommate’s argument over the proper cooking of pork chops led to his being shot to death. Explain to me why a man owning 47 guns is threatening a school shooting in Indiana. Explain why all of these happened in just the last two weeks.

Explain to me why an unstable twenty-something had access to his mother’s small arsenal in Newtown. Maybe if she was armed, she could’ve stopped him – with her own guns that he used…right? After all, they say, if everyone were armed, we’d all be safe, right?

The National Rifle Association today said every school needs an armed police officer reasoning a good guy with a gun is the only thing to stop a bad guy with a gun. They said because they believe their opinion is necessary, and more than that tantamount – they’re the self-proclaimed experts. Their spokesman went on to blame the media for giving killers “the identity they crave” and fame, and blamed video game and movie violence’s supposed affects on kids.

Not once did he blame the proliferation of gun culture – a culture which the NRA perpetuates and thrives upon- a culture using fear for its lifeblood. Instead, they said we need a national database of the mentally ill. He did not mention the need for a national database of who owns guns.

Nor did he mention how these violent movies and video games are shown in other nations, yet there are no rampant, daily news feeds of killings via gun. Earlier this morning, 3 people were randomly shot by a gunman in Pennsylvania, and 3 police officers were hurt before the gunman was killed. I haven’t seen reports today out of Canada, Australia, Germany, or the United Kingdom detailing any shootings. But here, the NRA would have you believe our recent round of shootings somehow have no correlation with guns, but instead a lack of moral standards. Morals as qualified by people whose organization’s sole purpose is to advocate guns as solutions.

Paranoia breeds fear which feeds uncertainty – a witches’ brew for an itchy trigger finger. When everyone is out to get you, you arm yourself. It’s also the manly thing to do – it’s the rite of passage. When you arm yourself, that neighbor you don’t like had better watch out – and you just know he might be armed. This is the logic people use to justify their personal arms race. Some use the euphemism of calling themselves “Collectors,” as if their home is really just a mini-museum paying homage to violence. And we think of this as acceptable. If someone had a raging collection of machetes, we’d think they were deranged.

People cite the 2nd Amendment as their crutch, pleading a need to stay armed against a potentially tyrannical government (as if it was 1795, musket vs. musket). As much as your Bushmaster, .50 Caliber Desert Eagle and your Sig Sauer are well oiled, locked and loaded, somehow I don’t think they’d stand up to an A-10 Warthog, an F-15 Strike Eagle or an F/A-18 Super Hornet. They’d have a bit of trouble with an M1 Abrams Tank, or a nuclear submarine for that matter. Anticipating this argument, gun owners pirouette to the belief of a stronger likelihood of being wrongfully attacked by local authorities – police, sheriffs, etc. Police who they believe they could go toe-to-toe with in having similar armament. This sentiment coming from the same inquiring minds who cry “States Rights!”, yet it’s the local authorities who will be coming for them.

Any way you slice it, the arguments for guns are simpleton, brow-beating bullshit projected onto us by people with inferiority complexes. We’re left trying to reason with small-minded bullies with low self-esteem who find strength in menacing others because they own a gun.

So why do we continue to put up with this nonsense which is so obviously, completely wrong? It doesn’t take a gun to stand up to a bully. All it takes is the will to do what’s right. Sure, we’ve complained, cajoled, and made worthless half-attempts based on the occasional momentum. We’ve reacted too often, and we wait and wait and wait and make more poor excuses to justify our inaction.

We allow the assault weapons ban to expire, and we fall back. More mass killings occur, to the point where body counts are measured to keep score – and we fall back. Children bring guns to school, and we fall back. Armed men kill innocent people, and we blame a lack of morals rather than admit the problem is the easy access people have to weapons. And we fall back.

Where are our values? At the mere talk of a weapons ban, gun sales have soared this Christmas Season. What does that say about us? It says we keep falling back.

No more. Don’t let them hold us at gunpoint any more. Stand up and tell them, we will not allow this again. Tell the lobbyists, the lawmakers, the low IQ gun nuts that it’s over.

The best way to not forget Newtown is to never let it happen again. To start keeping track of all gun sales and re-sales, to register all guns and destroy those guns without serial numbers, to perform full background checks for each and every gun purchase and to keep a real-time database of gun owners. To ban assault weapons designed for the sole purpose of killing people. We must do this – or the blood will be on all of us.

Epic Winning

November 7th, 2012

The GOP took us to the brink again and finally paid for it.  And we made them pay. Liberals/Progressives/Democrats did something we didn’t do enough of in 2004 or in 2010 – show up. Now we have a decisive victory to show for it – this is THE MANDATE. You don’t win in former GOP-strongholds-turned-toss ups like Virginia, Colorado, Nevada and FLORIDA (and almost North Carolina) – TWICE! – without understanding how the times have changed. The vote had more women, more minorities (gasp!), and more young people come together to overthrow dinosaur Boomers. We have moved forward.

We not only won but trounced the conservatives by adding to our margin in the Senate against many odds, we gained in the House, and Obama swept the big 3 factors by winning the most states, the popular vote and the Electoral College by nearly 130 delegates. Was it a Reagan vs. Mondale Landslide? No. Was it a LBJ vs. Goldwater landslide? No – from early estimates, I compare this election to Bush-Kerry in 2004. As a result we’ll now have our third consecutive two-term President, two of which have been on our side of the fence. Speaking of – somebody please give Bill Clinton a cigar.

The GOP no longer has a choice – they must come to the table, and be made to beg for scraps. Okay, maybe not to that extreme as I’m being spiteful. But they have to do so in a manner which may finally – FINALLY, after nearly 16 years of unfettered pandering, brinkmanship-psychotic backward governing – make them admit the fact that the country has moved on without them. Yes they have the House; but for how long? It’s something we’ll have to rectify in 2014 (I know, too early – we should savor this win in the moment – but I think it best we liberals finally grow up and embrace the constant campaign, like it or not).  We have the resources and the “ground game” to do it. The GOP just showed that no matter how much Adelson, Trump and the Koch Brothers et al threw into the election, that a well-coordinated 50-state campaign can beat Citizens United after all. Obstructionism be damned.

Maybe I’m too giddy. Maybe I shouldn’t have been laughing at Romney’s pinched face during his very short, “get me out of here” concession speech (when you’re that entitled and aren’t just handed the Presidency, it must come as such an ego shock). Yet after all the hand wringing, all the self-fulfilling talk of Mitt-Mentum, all the blatant conservative vitriol, their overconfidence, their snide-ass fake self-assurance, and especially all the lies that seemed to compound each larger than the last…But we won.

Four more years, and more power in Congress – let’s make the best of it.

Oh, those Neo-Cons…

September 13th, 2012

In 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered after making an anti-Islamic movie. Not long after, Dutch cartoonist Karl Westergaard drew Muhammad wearing a bomb in a turban, leading to death threats (and his own panic room) as well as riots in the Middle East.

And now a group of bigots from America have decided to enter the fray with a film of their own – the consequences of which are far reaching.

This B-rate movie apparently depicts Islam and the prophet Muhammad as both corruptible and evil, and was made in the United States by a pissed-off Coptic Christian with a shady past; he was convicted for bank fraud/fake check writing in 2010, and who was until this week using a pseudonym while claiming to be Israeli-born.  Apparently this “Sam Bacile” – whose real name is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula – worked with a guy Steve Klein to make this movie. Klein is an ex-Marine tied to extreme Christian right wing hate groups who trains people in Southern California militia-style.

This film was endorsed by Pastor Terry Jones in Florida, the same person who decided burning Qurans on the 9th anniversary of 9/11 was a good idea. This film, destined to be yet another of the thousands of forgotten films made weekly in the US, somehow gets just enough hype to catch the eye of hypersensitive Muslims in the Middle East. It allegedly became yet another convenient flashpoint for misguided anti-American sentiment amongst Islamic extremists within a region still reeling from the ramifications of the Arab Spring.

And, right on cue, a few of these extremist Muslim crazies responded with their typical, butt hurt aplomb by enacting the usual process –  1) with excuse in hand, rile up still disaffected youth, 2) pick up all potential projectiles, and 3) throw them at closest American.

That’s how things went down in Cairo. Meanwhile, in Libya…This flare up apparently provided a splinter group of Al Qaeda the impetus and cover to carry out plans to attack the American Embassy in Benghazi on the anniversary of 9/11. 4 Americans are dead, including Chris Stevens, our US Ambassador who played a part in helping topple Gadhafi’s regime. Now 2 US warships are on their way to the Mediterranean.

Somehow, I think Nakoula and friends got exactly what they wanted. And they’re not alone – because now you have the straw-grasping Republicans jumping on the American Super Christian Exceptional-ist bandwagon anew!  

Romney the Manchurian criticized a tweet made by the US Embassy in Cairo as being apologist to terrorists, and then faulted the White House as if the Embassy and the President’s press office are one in the same. This salvo was fired despite the fact that the tweet in question came out several hours before either Embassy was attacked. The tweet – which The State Department rejected but Cairo Embassy PR Officer Larry Schwartz posted anyway- was an apparent attempt at self-preservation by people WHO WERE ACTUALLY FUCKING THERE to try and calm a gathering storm. In an interview with Telemundo last night, President Obama was rightfully unconcerned about the tweet given the context of what was happening on the ground, and said he cuts people under siege a little slack. The funny thing to me is the tweet wasn’t apologist. If anything it was a reaffirmation of American values – “…Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

But Romney has no room for facts – or for context, or a map, or a clock. Romney saw that Americans had died and assumed this mountain-from-a-molehill tweet came directly from Obama’s people, in Libya, after Ambassador Stevens and 3 others were murdered. He was wrong on all accounts. But that doesn’t matter- he continued to berate the President at a time when we should be showing a unified front. What does this tell us about Romney? He’s a selfish, clueless, petty, power-mongering windbag? Well, yes, of course, and more too.

Here we have an ex-Governor running for the office of the Leader of the Free World – and he can’t even get a fucking timeline right. Conservatives are backing this guy to make key policy decisions? This is a child who thinks Russia is our #1 threat – like “Red Dawn” is going to become reality any day now and that Jesus will rise again in the form of Patrick Swayze and save us. Combined with his love of Reagan and deregulation – and his legion of dated, really bad suits – Romney’s actually trying to recreate the 1980s. It’s in this vein of delusion that he continues missing the point, still doubling down on attacking Obama over a misinterpreted tweet! He’s sticking to the warpath like a good little Neo-Con playing straight from the Rove-turned-Palin playbook; be wrong, look stupid, hit rock bottom and keep digging…Anything but admit you were wrong – because to admit you were wrong is not a sign of being a reasonable adult, but a sign of weakness. Just keep on spouting bullshit loud and often, so long as you’re consistent! Shit on facts – facts are for pussies! Win, win, win at all costs – even if you lose, call it a win. That’s the Neo-Romney way!

President Obama responded to Romney’s foolish attacks as you’d expect – by staying within his omnipresent cool and firing right on target, aptly noting Romney shoots first and aims later. Even Sen. John McCain, along with many prominent Republicans in and out of the beltway, are smart enough to realize there’s no reason to attack Obama; at the same time, they’re openly wondering what the fuck Romney is thinking.

Does this not perfectly sum up all you needed to know about Romney’s foreign policy credentials? To date, he’s offered no plan, no specifics (or tax returns for that matter), no substance or depth at all on foreign policy or anything else in general…But it doesn’t matter because he’s consistent! He wants to keep some of Obama-care, wait, strike that, repeal it all, even though he had an extremely similar plan in Massachusetts years ago when he was hired – er, elected – as Governor. But yes, remember, Romney’s consistent! Right?

The only thing consistent about Romney is that he’s a flip-flopping figurehead for the privileged who’s obviously way out of his league. Can you imagine what would’ve have happened if Romney were President during such an event?

Let’s hope we never find out.  

It’s the mask’s fault

July 21st, 2012

12 people were slaughtered not 60 miles from my house last night. 59 more were injured by a deluge of bullets – several of whom are still fighting to survive in Denver hospitals right now. The bullets were fired by a 24-year-old fuck head whose motives don’t matter. He was dressed in riot gear and opened fire on a packed house of people watching the newest Batman premier. He used tear gas, a shotgun, an AR-15 and a Glock. It’s being reported that the murderer apparently dropped out of CU’s neuroscience PhD program. He also wired his apartment with bombs.

It’s the largest mass shooting in our history. And that’s saying something. We know this because we treat it like a record worth noting, because we keep score.

I remember Columbine. I remember Ft. Hood, and Gabby Gifford, and Virginia Tech, and so what. How about UT-Austin circa August 1966? The beat goes on. Same as it ever was.

We’ve become a country good at two things – breeding greed and madmen. We’re a country run by two peoples – rednecks and the rich who prey on them.

The NRA will probably be here next week to dance on the fresh graves of the dead. Same as it ever was.

The anti-gun lobby spends $240k a year. The NRA spends $2.4 million by itself. Would we have it any other way?

A Texas redneck Republican representative – same as it ever was – said someone should’ve been packing heat to take the gunman out. I remember a coworker several years ago saying how we should arm select grade school kids because it’d make schools safer.

Many movie theaters have banned moviegoers from wearing costumes, because that’s important. They won’t ban people from carrying weapons, because that would be against the law. The gun nuts will come out of the woodworks talking about the 2nd Amendment, millions strong, eleven teeth between them. Tommy has a gun – I don’t like Tommy, so I’ll get a bigger gun. We’re in an arms race with our neighbors who are obviously as paranoid as we are.

I’m sure Republicans will latch on to the fact this gunman was studying for a PhD, because smart people are dangerous. They won’t blame lax gun laws – but they will line their pockets with another deposit from the gun lobby’s teat.

I’m watching network and cable news like a junky, coverage of “the Massacre in Theater Nine” (dignified) and every other commercial is from an energy firm; BP advertising for the Gulf it almost destroyed, followed by another energy company telling us how natural gas drilling isn’t harmful to the environment as “fracking” continues to poison our water, or how coal is really super clean. Just ask its miners. This somehow fits – money over safety.

Around 10,000 people are murdered by guns every year in ‘Merica. Clockwork.

How long until the next gunman attacks?  I’ll bet Las Vegas already has odds. How much do you want to bet? You can rest assured the gun lobby will see that bet and raise. They do every time. Same as it ever was.

Riders on the Storm

June 8th, 2012

Dear online Diary, we haven’t spoken in a while, but I’ve had my reasons. Being busy at work and as a new father has eaten my schedule up. I know, excuses, excuses and I’m sorry. So, since it was a “dark and stormy night” again last night, I figure that’s as good a reason as any for us to reconnect since it provides a really cheesy writing convention cliché intro. 

I just read a story about an unidentified woman who dove into rising waters to help 8 trapped motorists from being stranded in their cars as flood waters rose. These stranded dopes were apparently either oblivious to the raging storm around them or simply held a fuck all attitude, or perhaps prioritized their need for Wendy’s and Cold Stone slightly above that of their need to live. The National Weather Service and news crews had been advertising for several hours (as they had the night before, too) to not go outside and tempt fate by facing golf ball-sized hail stones and the imminent, totally expected flash flood waters of freezing death. This was one of those rare and certain storms where the weather reporters could actually say “we’re not kidding” with a straight face. 

This hero woman – clad in bright orange rain poncho and a gay-as-Ricky-Martin flaming bicycle helmet – dove into waist-high cold rushing waters multiple times to get idiots out of their cars and deliver them unto higher ground. As much as I question her attire – not everyone has their Superman Suit handy at all times (let’s be real, the spandex doesn’t breathe well) – what she did is considerably badass. Even more so, when the news cameras arrived she refused to allow herself to be identified. Here’s some random selfless woman with zero fashion awareness putting herself into the jaws of danger to help completely oblivious strangers who themselves were perhaps on their way to a Darwin Award honorable mention. She didn’t want glory; she just did what was right – what you’d hope you would do if faced with the same scenario. When asked why she did it, she said she hoped it would inspire others to rise to the occasion when needed.

Here I am, feeling pretty good after reading this story.  And then I made the mistake of scrolling down to the comment section.  

There it was – internet rule #147: If something good happens, someone must give thanks to God and/or recognize that whatever said action was somehow God-inspired. A sample: 

“Thank God for people like her.” 

“People like her make me believe in angels.” 

“True definition of humility. God bless this woman.” (This person believes in God but not complete sentences.)  

…Here…We…Go:

How come these pompous piety douches aren’t calling out God for falling off the wagon yet again by going on one of His Old Testament mini-Flood benders? Why does He get a free pass? I call bullshit on that. Bullshit, Bullshit…Bullshit.

Someone needs to get this guy into Biblical AA– God needs to admit He has a problem and that there’s a Higher Power, or something. A couple anger management classes wouldn’t hurt, either. Heavy is the crown of absolute power, right, so He occasionally gets to blow off steam by unleashing nature’s fury for shits and giggles? What the fucking fuck? Hey, if we can’t sin and inflict harm on people or property and get a free pass, then neither should He. It’s about accountability there, God – find some. Take responsibility for your actions, and maybe divine up some petty cash to pay for all those car, window and roof repairs. We all know it’ll be out of pocket for Him – it’s doubtful He carries a homeowners’ insurance policy or property insurance let alone an umbrella policy. To be fair I imagine His premiums would be pretty high (but he should get several million multi-line discounts), but his nonprofit slush fund should help cover a piece of the tab.

Of course he may not feel the need to carry a policy because He’s “so above it” up in His Ivory Tower in Heaven – being omnipotent and all means He’s not exactly the most practical, down-to-Earth deity. And who knows what His credit score is if He actually needs to take out an emergency loan; we all know his Big Money player, the Vatican, is having cash flow issues, what with that glut of defense attorney fees stemming from those pesky criminal trials regarding 1,000+ years of indoctrinated child raping. What would He use as collateral then – Saint Peter? What bank would want his wrinkly old man smelly balls hanging about, because you know ol’ Pete goes Commando under that loin cloth and hasn’t bathed in damn near 1,950 years. I just figure with the amount of real estate God claims to have built and apparently owns – especially around here in Colorado Springs – He’d think about the long term protection of his investments.

Instead, He’s been whipping up these storms like Charlie Sheen snorts blow off a hooker’s butt cheeks – i.e., frequently. So I have an idea. I believe God needs a reality check from someone who understands Him and who’s been down this kind of destructive path…Someone like Ted Haggard, who also sells insurance, too.  That’s two birds with one stone, folks!

So there, all of you nervous Christians who attribute everything good but nothing bad to God in suffering from a crippling cognitive dissonance: Be it known now and forever that I am a Solutions Thinker of the Lord! I am here for you. Thank the Almighty God for this, and someone bring me the Flaming Bicycle Helmet of Heroes! Forsooth – FORSOOTH I SAY! – I may one day save your life from the megalomaniacal, random weather musings of a wrathful God while harnessing this mystical headgear as you near a drowning death.

Therefore you should pray for me, RIGHT NOW – and the best prayers are made with cash money donations to www.ihatepeacocks.com . Do this, or tempt massive suffering wrought by our angry God’s Vengeance! Operators might be standing by. You’d best pray that they are. Pray to us with your money in the next 15 minutes, and we may throw in a Flaming Bicycle Helmet of Heroes mostly- Authentic Replica and Gift Tote Bag made up of leftovers from Heaven’s last garage sale (for just 3 easy payments of $999.99). And then thank God hard for this bounty. 

Random whats

March 20th, 2012

·         The Russians sent troops to Syria to help Assad kill his own people more efficiently. He needed expert guidance from a practiced hand, I guess. Who better than the Russians to train a regime on how to wipe out their own?

·         This just in from the GOP Primary – Ron Paul has selected Sarah Palin as his running mate in an effort to boost his numbers. Meanwhile, Rick Santorum has declared sex illegal as part of his plan to ban porn.

·         Mitt Romney refuses to show his birth certificate, saying, and I quote, “I’m not an alien.” On that note, he chose Michelle Bachman as his running mate, despite her continued refusal to blink and prove she’s human.

·         Michael Bay has taken ‘Mutant’ out of ‘Teenage Ninja Turtles’ in an effort to further destroy of my childhood. I expect he’ll casually rape Voltron on top of the Hollywood sign next.

·         Peyton Manning is putting the band back together in Denver, while Tim Tebow is, well, who cares. I think I’m going to Tebow for Manning. At Focus on the Family’s HQ. With a Manning jersey – I’m as giddy as a school girl.

·         Subaru will soon launch the BRZ, a rear-wheel drive coupe with good looks and a light chassis designed in conjunction with Toyota. It’s the weirdest experiment since the classic Subaru XT, which was available in either front-wheel or AWD and looked like an arrow. I’m left wondering why – as in, why does it have only 2.0L 4-cylinder with 200hp – and WHY REAR WHEEL DRIVE? Why only a natural boxer 4? Why not a Turbo 3.6L boxer 6-cylinder STI-tuned power plant designed to butcher a Nissan 370Z? Ugh. 17” wheels only at 215/45? Pfft. Balls.

·         I think I’ve been watching too much Top Gear. I’m starting to talk like Jeremy Clarkson, saying things at work like “Power” when I walk around corners at a too quick pace for no apparent reason.

·         Soon, my home will be taken over by baby things. Baby girl things. Doomed. Completely doomed. This assumes, of course, that the annual Spring winds don’t destroy my home first.

·         This baby thing is good, and well-timed; it’ll distract me from the abject mess that Skyrim has become on my PS3. I’ve seen whales hump more smoothly and at greater velocity than this joke of lowered expectations. It was supposed to be a masterpiece, but it’s virtually unplayable the further into it you go. Really sad, and cripplingly frustrating. I cannot wait for the new GTA to arrive.  Bah!   

Hands off my junk

March 5th, 2012

The Republican blitzkrieg on women is horrifying – it’s like witnessing a march straight back to the Dark Ages. First, it was mandatory internal ultrasounds and shaming for women considering abortions – more commonly known as RAPE. Then it was an attack on women seeking coverage for contraception from insurance carriers (which is surprisingly not standard). Now it’s devolved into an all out assault on personal morality – not only did Rush Limbaugh call Susan Fluke a slut who should have to pay for contraception by making pay-per-view sex tapes (when Limbaugh, as Rachel Maddow points out, doesn’t understand contraception), but now the latest “personhood” amendments are popping back up in even crazier extremes. Today, the City Council of Wilmington, DE, voted 8-4 in favor of saying personhood extends to an egg and sperm, the latter only to be allowed to be “utilized” in the specific cause of generating life in a woman’s vagina!

So what happens if an egg goes unfertilized? What happens if a man masturbates – will he be arrested? What if a man is shooting blanks? Should he be castrated? And if a woman cannot produce eggs – should we get her to the nunnery or sell her for Soylent Green production? What of all those other sperm which don’t break the egg’s membrane in the race to fertilize – are they not victims, left behind to die?

I don’t even know what to say except fuck it, I guess I’ll have to curtail that trip to exciting Delaware. By their estimates, I’m a mass murderer the likes of which not even God has seen. I mean, I’ve destroyed entire populations, whole galaxies – entire cultures, all in a series of master strokes! One step into Wilmington, and now I’ll be off to The Hague, or some Conservative version somewhere deep in South Carolina. They’ll say I put Stalin, Mao and Hitler multipled by 10 to shame. Can you imagine that trial’s verdict?

“You, Operative X, are before this court because of crimes against humanity. You have been found guilty! So many sperm wantonly wasted. Have you no remorse? You are an evil of the lowest order and shall be executed by having to watch the 2012 GOP Debates on repeat until your life ceases! NO YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO MASTURBATE WHENEVER A REPUBLICAN LIES, there would be wasted sperm everyehere, you evil bastard! Yes, yes, we know that by killing you that we are destroying a factory of procreation, but we are Pro-Life and Pro-Death penalty, so this makes sense to us. But think of all the lives we’ll have saved from ever being produced by you, for you to only send to their untimely deaths.”

Of course, my misogynist defense, based entirely on self-preservation, would have me beg for forgiveness and attempt to undue my transgressions.

“Let no sperm go to waste! I too disdain every bone in a woman’s body except for my own! For yes, I have seen the light, repented my ways, and have accepted that I am a factory of life! Sentence me to procreation! Bring me women, truckloads of the attractive and semi-attractive ones for me to satiate my legal and moral duty! So what if our planet is vastly overpopulated, for I cannot simply stop ejaculating, as you know this would be against the will of nature itself and GOD’s – GOD’S! – Absolute Law! Let lesser men take vows of celibacy, for I will prove my fortitude and sew my loins into the lineage of a million decedents as a modern Adam for a New Inbred Age – it will be called New West Virginia! To hell with geneticists and the problems with common ancestor theory and the ultimate genetic mutations which will be triggered by my host of legion children who must follow in my stead! FOR I AM ORDAINED TO BE PRODIGIOUS, MEIN FUHRER!!!!”

(Whoa, sorry about that, went all Dr. Strangelove for a moment).  

For we must remember what Monty Python taught us…”Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great…If a sperm is wasted…God gets quite irate.” And here I was thinking Republicans wanted a small government which would keep out of our lives.

Bunch of jerk offs.

Leftovers

February 9th, 2012

-          A new study by NYU shows that employers have bias against promoting people whose names they can’t easily pronounce, which shows how pervasive discrimination (and sometimes flat out racism) is in the work force. I’ve seen several scenarios play out in my career – on one side, a manager doesn’t want to hire someone whose name sounds foreign; or, conversely, wants to hire a minority candidate on the basis it’ll help diversity reporting. Both of these are horrendously misguided – one is straight racial bias, the other a misinterpretation of AAP and OFCCP guidelines.

-          Sad: a predominantly white Pittsburgh-area high school hosted a basketball game against a rival and mostly black high school, and three white kids from the host school dressed up as bananas and stormed the court while making sounds like monkeys and then yelling racial slurs at the opposing team. Solid parenting there.

-          Happy to see Prop 8 overturned by the District Appeals Court. I wonder if the Supreme Court will hear an appeal. If so, considering the conservatives outrank the progressives 5-4, do you really think the lower court’s decision won’t be reversed? Will they try to mitigate the backlash by upholding the Same Sex Marriage Ban in pushing marriage as a state issue based on some anachronistic case law logic dating back to the 19th Century? And if they do split along ideological lines (as they’re prone to do), wouldn’t this decision be the kind of judicial social engineering which Conservatives hate, Ted Olson?

-          In the meantime, the great state of Washington just legalized Same Sex Marriage. T-minus 30 days until some Conservative dickhead files suit.

-          I remember in 2008 when Limbaugh was going all batshitty nuts about “Operation Chaos”, where he asked conservatives to magically help prolong the Obama/Clinton primary battle on the premise it would hurt the Democrats in the general election. Now that Rick Santorum just swept Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri to halt Mitt Romney’s ascendance – with no help from the Left, what does that say about the GOP’s chances in 2012? Also, Newty and Lil’ Ronnie Paul picked up decent chunks of votes themselves. A few weeks ago I wrote that the GOP would brainlessly rally around Romney as the inevitable choice, and then revise history by pretending they’ve always been unified in supporting him. I still think Romney gets the nod, but as Tuesday night showed, this is a wonderfully fractured and aimless party.

-          Speaking of the 2012 GOP Primary train wreck, I enjoyed seeing that a lot less voters showed up this year as compared to the 2008 GOP Primaries. According to CNN in 2008, 70k showed up in the Colorado GOP Primaries versus only 65k this year. 232k showed up in Missouri, less than half of 2008’s turnout. And only 47k showed up in Minnesota versus 63k in 2008. In the 2008 general election, all 3 states were for Obama, with Colorado and Missouri considered key wins. On the other hand, 4k more people voted in Iowa and New Hampshire’s primaries this year, but that was still lower than expectations as the Democrats weren’t exactly pitching a large tent this time around. Big Red South Carolina was way up, with 150k more people showing up to the 2012 GOP primary, but the Republicans could trot out Satan as a candidate and still win South Carolina, so long as Satan didn’t show up as a black man. But how about the nation’s 4th most populated state, Florida? In 2008, 2M voted in the GOP primary – this year, only 1.6M did. Nevada dropped from 44.3k in 2008 to not quite 33k in 2012, despite an expected turnout of 70k.

-          A PEW Research poll shows that nearly 33% of the 18-34 age demographic rate their job prospects and financial situation as “good.” 41% of poll respondents said those in their 20s and early-to-mid 30s have been hit hardest (29% said people over 65). Those in their early 20s have the lowest total employment and are earning 6% less than they did in 2007. On the political note, this age group voted for Obama nearly 2-1 in 2008; will they show this kind of support this year? I hope so. One area I’ve been critical of Obama in retrospect was his focus on Health Care first, followed by chasing the Economy. He should’ve used his honeymoon period to push through government grants as part of the Stimulus to spend on Infrastructure and Innovation, and push harder on higher taxes for the wealthy and on firms sending jobs overseas. Instead, he pushed these after the GOP had entrenched themselves with the 2010 mid-term victories and has gotten nowhere. I hope young voters understand who it was that stonewalled him.

Also, employers are hiring experienced candidates at lesser salaries as compared to hiring entry-level candidates who take more time to ramp up. Boomers are staying longer as they’re uncertain of their own retirement, and have had to support their kids longer in addition to their aging parents. As Gen X approaches their turn at middle age and the management wheel, they’re finding it harder to usurp senior managers who keep hanging on. This has led to a leadership and skill gap, especially as companies cut back on bench spending for training or R&D. It’s even harder to get ahead in the rat race these days than ever, and feels like a kick in the teeth considering companies continue to show record profits on the back of record employee productivity. Yet employees still aren’t seeing the rewards. Raises, profit sharing, 401k matches, bonuses, PTO, and employer-sponsored health plans continue to diminish in quality and availability; these once commonplace benefits of the Average Joe are now considered “perks” as employers cut costs. Pensions are nearly nonexistent. And as for those “job creators” at the top – they’re not going anywhere – why retire, or hire, when you have it so good?

-          Teen Pregnancy and Abortion rates are at new lows, which is great – contraception usage is way up, as it should be, despite Conservatives’ attempts to stop sex education at every turn. News flash – people, including teens, are still having sex regardless of how you feel about it. Stop being ashamed about sex and your body, stop tagging religious baggage to the morality of sex, and start realizing sex is more than an excuse to procreate. News flash – using contraception properly and responsibly reduces unwanted pregnancy. It’s 2012 and we are still saying this as if it’s some esoteric concept from beyond outer space because Jesus was celibate. So wake up and go get laid, Conservatives, you need it. Practice and you might get good at it, and then find out it’s the most fun anything ever. But please, use a condom – we don’t need more of you around.

Super Bowl Commercials!

February 7th, 2012

Audi Vampire Commercial:  Using Echo & the Bunnymen’s “Killing Time” was pure funny. But I’m closet Cookoo for Audi’s Coco-Puffs, so maybe it’s just my bias.

M&M’s, Just my Shell: Cute, in a Bob Hope humor-type way. 400 times from now, which is how many times it’ll be aired in the next 25 minutes or so, it will have lost its minimal luster.

Pepsi #1, Elton John: Only the Flavor Flav ending saved this, and just slightly. Was that really a contemporary (crap) mix of Aretha Franklin/Otis Redding’s “Respect?” Pepsi Marketing Employees – since corporations are people – start flogging yourselves in penance.

Chevy 2012: Nice shot at Ford here; survive the apocalypse with Twinkies, and a Chevy. I used to hate Ford – they were total pieces of shit for a long time (and their truck commercials with the wannabe Dennis Leary still suck) – but they’ve improved the quality and appeal of their product these last few years, so it’s nice to see Chevy come out swinging.

Coca Cola Bears, #1: Played out in a bottle. I think Coca Cola would be better off showing footage of its marketing execs being thrown to actual, starving Polar Bears.

Best Buy Innovators: None of those people work for Best Buy, so…? How is Best Buy innovating, exactly? By pre-Loading a bunch of shit onto their products, or trying to up-sell warranties?

Celebrity Apprentice: NBC masturbating is gross…and all over my TV, yuck. I can’t believe people actually give a shit about this.

The Dictator, trailer: Looks funny, can’t wait – then again, waiting for Borat and Bruno didn’t hurt. Sasha Cohen best bring it.

VW – the Dog, back in shape to chase cars: Only funny because of the Star Wars ending. The Beetle – it’s still best to buy two so you can drive one while the other is in the shop!

Chrysler, Halftime in America (Clint Eastwood): Yes, pandering for sales in aligning Chrysler and Detroit with America and the idea of a united comeback, but the message was good and when Clint Eastwood speaks, I listen, dammit. He’s like the anti-Charlton Heston to me. And since Karl Rove came out and said this commercial was promoting a pro-Obama agenda in some kind of backhanded way as Chrysler was bailed out, I like it all the more today. Fuck you with a piece of broken salty glass, Karl Rove.

Doritos, murdering dog: Funny, but I would’ve asked for more than 2 bags of regular Doritos to cover up the cat’s murder, and for different flavors – Salsa Verde or classic Cool Ranch, perhaps? Maybe this is why I still have that 20 pounds to lose.

The Voice, Vocal Combat: Meh, kind of funny, I like Cee Lo and Betty White, but don’t care even remotely for more of NBC’s jerking off right in front of me on my TV.

The Avengers Trailer: Would be better if Samuel L. Jackson played Jules Winnfield while playing Nick Fury. This also reminded me that I still need to watch Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man 2 (I’m a bad nerd). I wonder how many Marvel characters Chris Evans will play.

Doritos, Sling Baby: Derp. Would’ve been better if Billy Joe Bob Thornton was in it for a Sling Blade reference, I reckon. Derp.

H&M Body Wear, David Beckham: Good music, ruined. Sure the ladies love Beckham, and it was a man in underwear versus a woman in a commercial for a change. Reminded me I need to lose 20 pounds – damn vanity.

Teleflora: Buy a girl flowers, and she will put out on Valentine’s Night. Not specified – do I need to buy 1 or 2 dozen roses, and does each level of rose purchase come with a perk? Solid message for women’s self esteem.

Fiat: Sexy girl-as-personified-car seducing nerd, sure, but I guess my vehicle fantasies are more top shelf. A Fiat seems like the cheap porno mag I’d use in the now while I saved up for that dream Porsche GT3 or Audi R8.

Acura, NSX: Jerry Seinfeld, the Soup Nazi, Jay Leno’s chin…I think I’d take the Manhattan Zip Line over the NSX, though. The last NSX was, well, yawn, so good for Honda to push something other than the Acura TL, RL, and TSX for a change.

Toyota Camry, improvement of society: It’s still a Camry, so let’s put an end to even the satiric back slapping. This car doesn’t even make my nipples hard. Nothing says surrender like a new Camry, unless it’s a Toyota Sienna.

NFL.Com, Evolution: Look at us, we’ve added helmets and High Def since the early days of football, we must be advancing as a game and therefore as a civilization! Look, our players are juiced up more than ever, too!

Century 21, we’re Fast and Super Talented – with played out celebrities to boot: Cool, you can sell my house quickly in today’s market…still at 75% of what I bought it for in 2004. Thanks – can’t wait! Glad to see Apollo Ohno got a job after Subway.

 Coca Cola, #2: Bored, bored, bored…Animated Polar Bears – I wish I had this kind of money to waste on a Super Bowl commercial.

Dannon, John Stamos: Anyone who head butts Stamos is A-Okay in my book; nice twist to the playful food flirt genre (yes, there’s actually a genre for that).

Pepsi Max, Regis: I’m glad Beth Littleford got a job. Bored, bored, bored…Regis is still alive?

MetLife, cartoon summit: I liked the throwback to cartoons of my youth and the message you need not be rich to plan a future where you’re not working until age dead. That was a nice sentiment from a commercial slot which cost $2M. And it’s still bullshit – our generation won’t be able to retire.

Kia Optima, Drive the Dream: I hate Kia, but this commercial had unicorns and Motley Crue.

Honda, Matthew Broderick’s Day Off: The Ferris slight reprise, funny enough, but all for a CRV? Really?

Bud Light, Rescue Dog: Nice message at the end, but still doesn’t even nick the palpable hate I harbor for all beer commercials. Also- how many dogs can we put into commercials? I thought the Puppy Bowl was on another channel?

CareerBuilder, Co-Worker Monkeys: A message which resonates in a crappy economy where job prospects are sparse…does anyone remember Monster? Yeah, me neither.

Go Daddy: They’re still in business? How long until Danica washes out of NASCAR and finally gives in to The Hef’s Dark Side, Center Fold-Style? Go Daddy supported SOPA, so don’t go re-blog any of their bullshit “unrated content” or their lawyers will attack.

SAMSUNG, Galaxy Note: 100% Pure Liquid Awesome. The Darkness? Outstanding. Brian Urlacher? Um, sure – guess he’s happy he got to make a Super Bowl appearance in some capacity.

Cadillac ATS: A nearly affordable Caddy with AWD, a V6-stick and 318 hp. How many years will it take to establish credibility, or is it another crappy Caddy that zigs? Will it survive long enough to become an ATS-V to become the little brother of the completely badass CTS-V? I am intrigued – well done, GM.