First Presidential Debate (Big Bird)

The first presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took place last night. I’m not sure who won. Like the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention, direct exposure can be hazardous to your health. I was too busy playing Tiny Tower on my iPad, adding the 64th floor and firing/hiring workers in my quest to become a “small” Donald Trump. The only time I looked up at the TV screen was when my roommate hurled a well-timed obscenity at Romney for lying about Medicare, Social Security and everything else. Ho-hum.

I was amused by the talking heads saying that Obama looked like he wanted to be somewhere else. Uh, hello? Last night was his 20th wedding anniversary to Michelle. Can’t blame the poor guy for wanting to be somewhere else on such an important night.

A real debate for Romney would be to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman before the election in November. Letterman held no punches when interviewing Obama last month, which is probably why Romney is afraid to come on the show. If Romney isn’t willing to be on the show, Letterman told viewers not to vote for him. Senator John McCain also snubbed Letterman in 2008—and lost the election to Obama.

RNC, Dotty Harry & The Stinking Onion

I didn’t bother to watch the Republican National Convention last week, where the heavily scripted political sideshow revealed an alternative reality of America so disturbing that a Fox News columnist slammed it. Worse, Mitt Romney plans to run on the Ronald Reagan playbook. This isn’t 1980, and, despite whatever perceived failings, Barack Obama is no Jimmy Carter. The right-wing extremists will be sorely disappointed when their made-to-order candidate fails to win the election. I doubt they will follow the Democrat’s example of forming a circular firing squad to figure out what to do next to win the White House back.

Despite not watching, two things bubbled out of the gestalt to catch my attention.

Whoever invited Clint Eastwood to speak at the convention should have his sorry ass fired. Oh, wait. That was Mitt Romney. Never mind.

So what the heck did happen? I personally think Clint was peeved that the Republicans criticized his Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler as being a pro-Obama commercial for the auto bailout that he returned the favor by piddling on Mitt Romney’s parade in a roundabout way. It worked. Eastwooding was the biggest news coming out of the convention. That’s what you get for messing around with a legendary senior citizen.

The most offensive piece didn’t come out of the convention itself. I came home from work on Wednesday evening, checked my Twitter feed and came upon a headline link for The Onion’s latest satirical article: “John McCain Just Blew His Brains Out During RNC Speech.”

McCain—who at various points during his speech seemed out of sorts and apparently went off prompter to ask the assembled crowd, “What has this party become? What have I become?”—reportedly pulled out a .22-caliber Magnum revolver from his jacket pocket, held it to his head, stared unblinkingly at the crowd, and pulled the trigger, sending frightened attendees into a chaotic frenzy and his own limp body to the ground.

I didn’t find that to be a bit damn funny. John McCain is a war hero who has done much in the service of his country. He should be forgiven for picking Sarah Palin as vice presidential candidate, giving up on being a political maverick and toeing the Tea Party line as the Republican Party commits political suicide. But The Onion should be ashamed for running this piece of garbage.

As for us moderate conservatives sitting on the sidelines, especially in California, it’s time for a new conservative political party that embraces the real issues facing America today by working together with everyone to get things done.

Young Children Out Late At A Batman Shooting

The Dark Knight Rises Poster

Among the victims killed at the midnight showing of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rising” in Aurora, Colorado, were a three-month-old baby and a six-year-old boy. A father lost track of his four-month-old son while escaping the mayhem, only to discover later that the mother had picked up the baby while shot in the leg. What were those parents thinking when they took their young children out in public after midnight when the entire family should have been in bed at home? I sometimes wonder if bad parenting is a bigger threat to our children than gun violence at the movie theater.

When I worked at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crises), the QA team saw the first matinee showing of “The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King” at the AMC 20 Mercado when on opening days. Along with people from several other nearby tech companies, hardly anyone attended the first showing. This was a remarkable contrast when the entire company—still Accolade back then—spent the entire day to see “Star Wars Episode: The Phantom Menace” at the Century 22, where the HR girls handed out cold drinks to everyone in line as we waited for hours to see the first showing.

I noticed a young father barely out of high school with his baby daughter sitting behind me inside the theater. He smiled back at me at he nervously ate his popcorn, as if he knew he was doing something wrong. Although I’m not a parent, I knew he was doing something wrong. LOTR was never meant for children, especially with the horrific battle scenes between the forces of good and evil that dominated the third movie. This wouldn’t end well.

The little girl responded with glee to the My Little Pony toy commercial and paid no attention to the trailers that preceded the movie. Once the movie started, she became very quiet as her father ate the popcorn faster. The movie opened with the origin story of Gollum as a hobbit who came in possession of the One Ring, sitting down at the river and holding a caught fish. A screen-wide mouth with ugly teeth appeared, biting into the fish and ripping the flesh to shreds. A loud wail ripped through the theater before the crying started in earnest with lush wails.

I didn’t need to look back to see the father spilling his popcorn and hustling his kid out the door. They were soon forgotten as the LOTR theme song overwhelmed the theater. Needless to say, he didn’t get to see the movie that morning. Too bad he wasn’t charged with child abuse. Too bad the parents who take their young children to a midnight movie weren’t charged with child abuse as well. Maybe a stay in the pokey would put some commonsense back into them about raising children.

Food Blog Gets Nine-Year-Old Girl Into Trouble

Buckwheat Groats With MilkA nine-year-old Scotland girl, Martha Payne, got into trouble when the local newspaper ran a headline about her food blog that featured photos of the meals served at her school and the small minds of the school board banned her from publishing any new photos. That got the blogosphere riled up. Soon the small minds were backpedaling away from the ban as the controversy attracted the attention of political higher ups. On top of that, she was also raising money to feed children in Malawi.

Publicity caused by the ban helped the schoolgirl smash through her £7,000 fundraising target for the Mary’s Meals charity – with total pledges of more than £30,000 being made by Friday afternoon.

The total stood at only about £2,000 on Thursday evening.

A Mary’s Meals spokesman said: “We are overwhelmed by the huge response to her efforts today which has led to so many more people donating to her online donation page.

“Thanks to this fantastic support, Martha has now raised enough money to build a kitchen in Malawi for children receiving Mary’s Meals as part of our Sponsor A School initiative and has broken the record for hitting a Sponsor A School online fundraising target in the quickest amount of time”.

Thanks to the small minds of the school board, Mary’s Meals will have more than enough money to open kitchens to feed as many children as possible.

Friday Funnies: Americans Are STUPID!

I was driving back from the gym the other day when KGO-Radio interviewed this old geezer for posting this video on the current state of affairs in America — and putting the blame where it belongs. He told the interviewer that he didn’t know anything about computers until co-workers gave him a MacBook as a gag gift. He took it home, got a book, built a website, and now doing videos. Plus he doesn’t think that 22,000+ hits — at the time of the radio interview — was that impressive for his “viral” video.

 

Essay eBook Excerpt: The 1970’s Hells Angels

This is an excerpt from my new 3,635-word essay ebook, “Death At A Hell’s Angels’ Funeral: Driving Past The Memories,” now available at Amazon and Smashwords.

One evening, not long after my brother moved out to get married and start his family, my parents and I noticed the sheriff cruisers zipping past the huge picture window of our living room, dome lights flashing and sirens blaring. We wandered outside with the rest of the neighborhood to see what the commotion was about.

The cruisers formed a half-circle in front of the two-story house that the Hell’s Angels were renting down the street, where the front lawn had gone to seed and motorcycles filled the driveway. The deputies took up position behind their cruisers with pistols and shotguns drawn. The deputy-in-charge held a bullhorn in one hand while the other hand rested on his holstered pistol, shouting for the Hell’s Angels to come out or else. The expectation for violence was high, but not from the Hell’s Angels. The deputies were eager to crack some skulls while making lawful arrests under a court warrant.

Five men came out to form a line on the dead grass in front of the house. They were big guys with motorcycle tattoos on their arms, sweat-stained T-shirts covering their big beer bellies, and torn blue jeans tucked into knee-high motorcycle boots. Some looked like Vikings with their long, braided beards. One guy looked like Glen Hughes, the original biker from the Village People disco band, sporting a horseshoe mustache and long sideburns, and ready to break out in the YMCA song. But they didn’t put up their hands as the deputy demanded. With the deliberate cockiness of being outlaws, they unzipped their pants, hauled out their man handles and urinated on the parched dead grass.

The deputies, pissed off by the long-haired motorcycle freaks, holstered their weapons to tackle the Hell’s Angels to the ground and brutally beat them with their night sticks. At that point, my mother brought me back into the house before I could witness the bloody result of law enforcement in action.

I recalled the bright lights of a TV news crew on the opposite end of the street, which may explain why I remembered the incident so vividly even though I was too far away to see it. The violent arrest of Hell’s Angels made the evening newscast. If the Internet and YouTube were available back then, what happened next would have gone “viral” for everyone to see. I don’t recall if anyone screamed police brutality or the news anchor regarded it as business as usual as someone getting a jaywalking citation. The justification for this raid was that the Hell’s Angels were involved with fencing stolen merchandise, which was probably true among the many other things that they were commonly accused of.

Other than that, they were good neighbors and didn’t really bother anyone during their brief stay. Although their drunken fist fights occasionally spilled out on to the front yard, where the dead grass soaked up the blood and the neighborhood got free entertainment. My mother—probably all the mothers in the neighborhood—made sure we walked on the opposite side of the street when heading out to the stores. Just to be on the safe side.

Being At Work On The Day Steve Jobs Dies

I read about the news of Steve Jobs passing away five minutes before everyone else did at work.

As a PC technician doing a Windows 7 refresh at a Fortune 500 technology company in Silicon Valley, I was waiting for the data transfer from the old system to the new system to complete before I moved on to my next task. Sitting in the chair of the user whom I ejected out of his cube, I turned to the laptop on my cart and, seeing no work-related emails that required my immediate attention, started browsing the Internet to kill time.

Mac Rumors reported the death of Steve Jobs via the Associated Press announcement that more details were forthcoming. Unlike the false report a month before that appeared on the CBS Twitter feed, this one looked like the real deal. With every refresh of the web page, Mac Rumors kept adding more and more details to their article.

An immense feeling of sadness overcame me as the news sank in.

I immediately recognized that this was a “where were you when this happened” event. Like the Space Shuttle Columbia burning on re-entry (2003), the 9/11 Twin Towers bombing (2001), the Loma Pieta earthquake (1989), the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion (1987), the Iran-Contra scandal in Washington, D.C. (1986), the Iranian hostage crisis (1979), President Richard Nixon’s resignation during the Watergate Scandal (1974), and the Apollo 11 moon landing (1969), I can remember all those events with sparking clarity. Except for the moon landing since I wouldn’t be born for another three weeks, but even in utero I was with my family watching history being made on our ancient black-and-white console TV.

“Holy, shit!” an engineer cried out unprofessionally from a nearby cube. This was the payroll department, not the men locker room in the gym next door. ”Steve Jobs is dead!”

“Who died?” an engineer asked from a cube further away, sounding bewildered as if someone had assassinated the Pope in Rome or the Republican Party found an electable Tea Party candidate for the 2012 presidential election. Unthinkable.

“Steve Jobs, founder of Apple and inventor of the iPad!”

All at once the engineers in the surrounding cubes stopped working to browse the Internet. The major news websites started reporting the death of Steve Jobs from pancreatic cancer, throwing up their prepared obituaries about America’s most beloved inventor since Thomas Edison. My favorite obituary was from the satirical website, The Onion, with the headline: “The Last American Who Knew What The Fuck He Was Doing Dies”. A hushed silence fell over the cubes as mouse clicks followed the links.

An engineer wept quietly.

An email popped in to announce that the data transfer was completed. I pulled the old system and went on to my next task. As I walked through the other buildings, the death of Steve Jobs spread like wildfire and the hushed silence took hold everywhere. This particular technology company already had a quiet intensity to daily work was now so quiet that you could now hear Death chortling over the grief of a creative visionary being dead. As I browsed the Internet during those brief moments of downtime while waiting for my tasks to complete, there was no escaping the obvious fact of that day.

Steve Jobs was dead.

Then a horrible feeling overwhelmed me. This felt like the death of Elvis all over again, where he died of a drug overdose two weeks after my birthday and my mother cried for three days straight in August 1978. I can imagine some poor kid coming home to find his engineer mother weeping uncontrollably over her iPad, wondering why she was more in loved with an international celebrity than her husband, and later find a black velvet painting on the living room wall. Rather than seeing the bloated Elvis in his white suit and red scarf making love to his microphone, the mercurial Steve Jobs would look out through the lenses of his glasses with a fist to his bearded chin underneath a knowing Mona Lisa smile. I shuddered at the thought of another childhood tragedy was in the making.

Note: This post will be the unrevised introduction to my forthcoming essay ebook, “Experiencing The Death of Elvis: Another Childhood Tragedy,” about how the death of Elvis impacted my family in the late 1970s, now available at Amazon and Smashwords.

Pondering The Secret Gospel Of Mark On Easter Morning

When my radio alarm blared at 6:30AM on Easter morning, I listened to Brent Walters, who is the host for God Talk on Sunday mornings for KGO-Radio 810AM, talking about the spiritual significance of Easter. The second and third hours told the story about how he, as a young man in still seminary school, was trying to learn about the real Jesus beyond the traditional biblical references. He read all the available books he could find. After ordering a 12-volume set written by a leading biblical scholar through the bookstore, and reading all those books, he felt no closer to discovering the real Jesus. His father, who was a minister, then asked him if he read “The Secret Gospel of Mark” by Morton Smith, which he hadn’t, and his father refused to tell him anymore. He went to one bookstore to order the book, but the clerk refused to do so. Several more bookstores refused to order it for him. Eventually, he got the book. Today it’s very easy to get “The Secret Gospel of Mark” through Amazon. A very interesting topic for Easter.

The canonical version of the Gospel of Mark was supposedly edited by a rival faction within the early church to suppress certain church doctrines that weren’t widely accepted elsewhere. This doesn’t surprise me at all. There are at least forty authors who had written the Bible. Each one had their own political viewpoint to shape and mold the text as they like, presumably under divine influence. The most recent controversy was the Old Testament (the Hebrew bible) being edited to remove references of God having a wife to present a single god rather than multiple gods that were common prior to the Jews being exiled to Babylon.

Thirteen years of church had left me a cynic. When I first came into the church in 1992, we were encouraged to study the sermon and verify the message against the Bible. When I left the church in 2005, neither the ministry nor the fellowship were doing that. The word of God should be trusted through faith and a grain of salt. But not the men who wrote and edited the Bible in the past, and those who claim to know the know the will of God today. Everyone has an agenda that they are trying to push on others. If someone claims not to have an agenda when preaching the word of God, they are lying to themselves and others. I think being a Christian today requires examining the controversies behind the Bible, the motivations of those who wrote the Bible, and questioning those who preach the Bible.

Forget The Shutdown, Dissolve The U.S.A.!

If you haven’t been paying attention to the recent hissy fits in Washington, the Republicans are threatening to shut down the government unless the Democrats commits hari kari by cutting sacred liberal cows from the federal non-defense discretionary budget, which is only one-percent of the overall federal budget and isn’t driving the deficits in the long-term. What would happen in a government shut down? Probably the same things that happened in the 1995 government shutdown: about 800,000 “non-essential” government workers will be furlough, national parks and museums will shut down, and all levels of government paperwork will stop being process (including tax refunds). If you read the comment boards for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, people are very vehement about shutting the down federal government.

Which begs the obvious question: If the federal government is so bad as so many people believe it to be, why not dissolved the United States Constitution and send everyone home?

Absolutely no one is calling for a complete and total shut down of the federal government. I think because too many powerful people are benefitting from the current status quo of a divided federal government. One of the two political parties will eventually cave in to keep the government running—probably the Democrats—and the other political party will pay the price at the 2012 polls—probably the Republicans. The lobbyists, lawyers and news media will continue to do business as usual. The military will grind on in their two-and-half wars with troops being paid later. Wall Street isn’t worried about the government shutting down since there is still money to be made, although that will change if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later on.

The dissolution of the U.S.A., however, would threaten the interests of all these powerful people because power of the government will go back to the non-federal government entities of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all the assorted territories. If power isn’t concentrated in one location, it’s very difficult for any power broker to exercise influence over multiple jurisdictions without it costing a pretty penny. Even Rome stopped being the world’s most powerful empire after everyone went home and the barbarians crashed the party.

What would happen if the federal government dissolved completely? The Balkanization of continental North America is likely.

  • The South will rise again with the Confederate flag flying over head and slavery re-instutionalized for all the sons and daughters of the Confederacy to reclaim their missing heritage, plantations and slaves.
  • The original 13 colonies—minus the southern states in the New Confederacy—will embrace the original U.S. Constitution to become a Tea Party haven.
  • The Midwest and Northwest will be absorbed by the Canadians to spread that wonderful health care around.
  • The Southwest will be absorbed by the Mexican cartels to expand production of America’s favorite white powder.
  • Alaska will be retaken by the Russians to build a Bridge to Somewhere.
  • Hawaii will become New Tokyo as the Japanese nouveau riche move away from the nuclear fallout and avoid having to take care of their irradiated elders.
  • Washington, D.C., will be maintained as a monument to a great nation that coulda, shoulda and woulda if the politicians elected by the people had the brain, heart and courage to acquire some backbone to do what is right for the people and not the special interest groups.
  • California, already the world’s eight largest economy and with one-sixth of the U.S. population, will continue to party on as if nothing had happen.

Does this all seem familiar? If you read “Damnation Alley” by Roger Zelazny (1967), “Friday” by Robert A. Heinlein (1982) or “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson (1992), the Balkanization of North America is a common science fiction theme. I sometimes wonder if  the power brokers in Washington are deliberately hurling the United States into a bleak future to prove science fiction as reality. If the U.S.A. does split into so many factions, former banana republic dictators and Fortune 500 executives will be in high demand to consolidate power. If you can excuse me now, I got a dystopian novel to write about a once great nation.