Friday, September 12, 2014

HBO Series Review: The Leftovers

Gone.  Just fucking gone.
I don't remember how I heard about this gem, or what even prompted me to actually watch it.  It's an HBO series based on the novel of the same name by Tom Perotta.  I typically don't enjoy just straight drama on television, but I have to say that this series turned out to be well worth my time.

Set in the modern day, The Leftovers follows the residents of Mapleton, a little town in New York, and how they cope with what they call "The Departure."  What is the Departure?  Well, on October 14, three years before the events of the show, 2% of the world's population--roughly 140 million people--mysteriously vanished into thin air.

There is no rhyme or reason for who vanished.  Men and women.  The young and the old.  The good, bad, and the ugly.  Relative unknowns and celebrities.  Hell, even the Pope.  The just and the corrupt, the rich and the poor.  All of them gone, just gone.  And it all happened in an instant.

Now, you might think that this is the premise for some silly sci-fi trip, but this show is anything but.  The show itself does not focus on the answer to what happened.  In fact, there will never be an answer as to what happened to the Departed, where they went, or why it even happened.  The Leftovers is concerned with the world-wide existential crisis that followed, and how the residents of one small town attempted to cope with it.

Think about that.  As if there wasn't enough unanswered questions in life, you are suddenly overburdened with the completely inexplicable and brutally sudden loss of someone you love more than anything.  After three years, there is no indication that you will ever see that person again, and you come to the painful realization that not only is that person gone, but there is nothing to mourn over.  Your closest human connection vanished into thin air, and you will never know why or to where he/she went.

The show mostly focuses on the Garvey family, headed by Mapleton Police chief Kevin Garvey (played by Justin Thoreaux).  I won't spoil anything, but suffice to say, the Garveys have their fair share of misery despite not losing any of their immediate family members in the Departure.  But it also spends time with some other residents of Mapleton, most tragically Nora Durst, a woman who lost her entire family (husband and two small children) in the Departure.

Well, if the premise didn't indicate well enough the tone of the show, I can tell you right now that The Leftovers is not for the faint of heart.  If you're the type of person that has to have a happy ending, then I wouldn't recommend this show.  There are few, if any, happy endings in the Leftovers, and the show has met some negative criticism because of this.  Truly, it is a show that is all about pain, misery, and a general feeling of "what the fuck does anything matter anymore."  Despite the endless oceans of suffering, there are still little glimmers of hope here and there.  But make no mistake, there is more pain than pleasure.

But this is one of the show's strong points, the fact that it focuses specifically on the characters and their slogging journeys through uncertainty and doubt.  The actors are superb, and fortunately they were all handed a hell of a script that cuts through the heart with biting, gritty dialogue.

My verdict?  The first season--which runs 10 episodes--is something of a masterpiece.  Although the viewer is repeatedly slugged with one depressing scenario after another, if you allow yourself to be immersed in the premise, and if you fully invest in the emotional journey of the characters, you will walk away satisfied.  I'm not one to cry, but this show brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion.  For me, the whole plight of humanity in The Leftovers is summed up in one of the early scenes in the season finale in which Kevin Garvey reads a passage from the book of Job.

If you're like me, and you enjoy thought experiments and exploring the most tormenting existential quandaries that could easily shatter even the most resilient human mind, then you'll love this show.  If you can't handle that sort of thing, then you may want to move along.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Because Guns Are Bad, Right?

From The Daily Caller


An Ohio woman who is licensed to carry a gun but had only recently started carrying one for protection put it to good use earlier this week.

Dinah Burns was out walking her dog, Gracie, on a path near an elementary school in Lancaster on Monday when two men approached her with a baseball bat and threatened to abduct her.

“Two gentlemen came out of the woods, one holding a baseball bat, and said ‘You’re coming with us,’” Burns told WBNS, adding that Gracie was little help in deterring the men.

Thankfully, Burns had something else for protection.

“I said, ‘Well, what do you want?,’ and as I was saying that I reached in to my pocket and slipped my gun out, slipped the safety off as I pulled it out,” Burns said.

“As I was doing that the other gentleman came toward me and raised the baseball bat. And, I pointed the gun at them and said, ‘I have this and I’m not afraid to use it.’”

The men backed off and left, Burns told the news station.

“I think if they’d gotten any closer, I probably would have fired,” she said, citing her concealed carry training which taught her “to get out of a situation, back out, get out of it as much as you can without having to discharge your firearm.”

“[I'm] very thankful that it turned out the way it did, and hope it doesn’t happen again, but I will be prepared,” Burns said.

Ohio, which began issuing concealed carry permits in 2004, has experienced a massive surge of new concealed carry permit requests. According to an article from the Columbus Dispatch earlier this year, 96,972 new permits were issued in 2013 — a 50 percent increase from 2012. Permit renewals quadrupled over the same time span to 48,370.


And a bit of editorial . . .

And to think, if only guns were outlawed here in America, this vile woman would have had the opportunity to fend off her would-be assailants with strong words!

But no, we live in a country where barbaric citizens, like this woman, are audaciously allowed to own firearms to "protect" themselves from the honest, hard-working criminals.  The right to bear arms!  What a barbaric, terrifying, out-dated notion!

Please, write your congressmen and women and tell them to take away our guns!  We simply cannot afford anymore instances where free citizens are allowed to use guns to defend themselves against the sweet and innocent criminals that stalk our streets!

Monday, August 25, 2014

To Al Sharpton: What about Dillon Taylor?

Al Sharpton, you're so mad about unarmed black men being shot by the police, why aren't you so angry when unarmed white men are shot by the police?  To everyone upset about the Michael Brown incident, I ask you:  What about Dillon Taylor?

Also, there seems to be some sort of conjecture about the nature of murder in America in terms of the race of the offenders.  I'm all about using hard, statistical data in my arguments, here are a few links to the FBI's official murder statistics for 2012.  Also included is some violent hate crime stats from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.  Interpret the stats however you will.

Murder Offenders 2012:

Total:  14,581
Males:  9,425
White:  4,582  (Accounts for 31% of all homicides in 2012)
Black:  5,531  (Accounts for 37% of all homicides in 2012)
Other:  240
Unknown:  4,228

Race of the Victim and Offender 2012:

White Victims:  3,128----Race of Offenders on White Victims: 2,614 White; 431 Black
Black Victims:  2,648----Race of Offenders on Black Victims:  193 White; 2,412 Black

Bureau of Justice Statistics 2012 Violent Hate Crime Stats:

Race of Offenders:  White-34; Black-32
Race of Victims:  White-52;  Black-13

Population Percentage by Race in the US 2010:

White:  72.4%
Black:  12.6%

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Calling White People "Racist" Is Racist

When I was a student at Ohio Dominican University, there was a race incident.  One of the students thought it'd be a good idea to put up a "Whites Only" sign in one of the dorm bathrooms.  This sparked outrage among all of the students, myself included, and it spawned protests from the black students at ODU.

The black students at ODU were upset because they felt that the administration did not do enough to investigate the incident and catch the person responsible.  They also used this as a backdrop to highlight what they perceived to be a "lack of diversity" at the University.

I remember in a sociology class of mine, some of the black students who were sort of spearheading the protests expressed their concerns.  From what I heard from them, they were mad that there was not an "African Studies" program at ODU.  Now, mind you, Ohio Dominican University is a small school, maybe 4,000 students total, many of them adult students trying to get their MBA.  There were not many black undergrad students there, and it certainly was not because of a lack of effort on ODU's part.

Diversity was always a big deal at ODU, even before the protests.  For small universities, it can be difficult to create new major programs because of the money and resources that go into offering an accredited major course of study.  Of course, these subtleties were lost on the students protesting.  I don't blame them.  They were your average know-it-all 18 year old college kids.

At any rate, the incident and the protests made it into the Columbus Dispatch.  The whole damn city knew about it, and Columbus is a fairly big place.  It didn't bother me until one day when I was waiting at the crosswalk to go over to the school parking lot.  The crosswalk is at a very busy section of Sunbury Rd..  One particular afternoon, a car approached the crosswalk where myself and another white girl were waiting patiently for our chance to cross.  The car slowed down, and a black woman in the passenger seat shouted at me and the girl: "racist assholes!"  True story.

The girl and I, whom I didn't really know, gave each other a look mixed with equal parts befuddlement and offense.  We shrugged, gave an uneasy laugh, and went about our lives.  I didn't just go about my day, though.  That moment has stuck with me to this day.

If I walked up to a black person and said to him, "I bet you love fried chicken and watermelon," then I would be branded a racist.  If I went up to an Asian person and said "hey, I want you to make me some egg rolls," I might be branded a racist.  If I said to a Hispanic person "I bet you're an illegal Mexican immigrant," I would most certainly be branded a racist.  Now, the funny thing about those statements is that while they might be considered to be racially charged, they are true for some members of those racial/ethnic communities.

Yes, there are in fact black people who love fried chicken and watermelon (I love both of those things myself).  It's no secret that the people making the egg rolls in Chinese restaurants are, in fact, Asian.  And I'm sorry to say it, but the illegal immigrants coming from Mexico are Mexican--people of Hispanic/Latin descent.  But the problem with those statements is that they are considered to be racial stereotypes and therefore offensive.

So I have just one question: why is it not considered racist to call a white person racist?

I didn't know that woman who called me a racist, and she didn't know me.  Yet for some reason, just by looking at me, she somehow determined that I must be racist.  What was the basis for her assumption?  The color of my skin.

Just apply a little logic to this concept.  If it is racist to make a generalization on someone because of their race, then one must accept that to assume a white person is racist is, itself, racist.  And no, it's not "reverse racism."  There is no such thing.  If you have a hard time wrapping your brain around that, then consider this.  To be racist means that you have a sense of superiority over another race of humans.  Tell me that the woman who erroneously called me a racist didn't feel a sense of superiority over me, a white man she assumed is racist.  Since her assumption was based solely on my skin color, then ultimately what was the source of her sense of superiority?  My skin color.

What a twist, eh?  For the reasons of closure, the Ohio Dominican University administration did conduct an investigation of the "Whites Only" sign incident.  As it turned out, it was actually one of the black students at ODU that made and posted up the sign.  He confessed to it.

Go figure.

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Crooks and Liars" Proved So Gullible That They Will Literally Believe *Anything*

This is a story that is somewhat old, but I wanted to cover it because this problem needs to be addressed.  A few weeks ago, a story came out about how "progressive" and "liberal" websites fell for an obviously satirical story about Michelle Bachmann calling for "Americanization Centers."  One of the sites among them?  Crooks and Liars.

I publicly follow that site, but only ironically.  I used to actively participate in their "discussions," but I quickly discovered the futility of it all.  I faced all manner of insult from these so-called "enlightened" individuals.  The regulars on that site called me racist, a plant, and regularly insulted my intelligence.  There were a few who actually engaged me in polite discussion, but for the most part, I was branded a troll.  And for what?  For daring to disagree with the obvious and unapologetically biased  groupthink?

Anymore, I mostly just read their headlines.  That's all it takes to confirm that they are not, in any way, interested in reality or Truth.  After a while, it was apparent that the folks at Crooks and Liars would literally believe anything negative said as long as it is directed towards someone who is not a Democrat.  It doesn't matter how outlandish the lie: if it paints conservatives in a bad light, they will believe it.

Now, the good part is that if the information is shown to be a complete fabrication, they will at least admit that they were duped.  But of course, in typical pretentious fashion, their admission comes with a caveat.  When asked for comment about being complete dumbasses in believing the Michelle Bachmann satire, the spokesman for C&L had this to say:
"Yeah, I got pwned," the author wrote. "How sad is it that it was just this side of realistic enough to believe in the first place. When you have a reputation for making outrageous and ridiculous comments, it becomes easier and easier to believe something that should have been dismissed out of hand."
Yes, how sad indeed.  Notice how the author shifted the focus away from the fact that he is so blinded by his ideological bias that he can no longer distinguish between reality and farce.  And notice how he shifted that focus onto Michelle Bachmann, like it's somehow her fault that the author failed to fact check before believing something he read on the interwebs.

Don't get me wrong, I think that Michelle Bachmann is an incendiary fool who reaps political gain from saying outrageous things to America's uninformed masses.  But if I were dumb enough to believe in a satire piece about her, I would at least have enough integrity to stop and ask "how could I allow myself to be such an idiot?" rather than blame someone else for my own intellectual short-comings.

When I read about the story, I pored over the C&L headlines to find the article in question.  Either it happened so long ago that I just can't find it, or C&L took the article down once they realized their epic stroke of public foolishness.  It's likely that they took the article down not just to cover their own asses, but to cover the asses of the hundreds of comments from their intellectually bereft commenters who also blindly took the bait.  Just as well, there was no article of apology in the matter.

Crooks and Liars is living, breathing proof that even educated men and women (many of them claim to hold graduate degrees) can be complete idiots.  C&L is a place where intellectual integrity goes to die.  It's a place where men and women who have given up on objectivity and truth go to engage in dangerous, nigh unbelievable groupthink.

It doesn't matter how ludicrous the idea: if it supports the narrative that conservatives are ignorant, racist assholes who are somehow able to perpetrate a vast right wing conspiracy (thank you, Hillary Clinton) for the purpose of destroying American liberty, then they will believe it.  They will believe it, report it as fact, and circle-jerk each other on how they "get it," and everyone else is just an uneducated slug.

It would be infuriating if it wasn't so sad and pathetic.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Some Call It "Justice," I Just Call It "Looting"

The events surrounding the shooting incident between adult Michael Brown (he was 18--a man in the eyes of the law--but media outlets insist on calling him a "teen") and Ferguson police officer Darren Williams have made it very clear that there is still a race problem in America.

I don't believe that anyone thought for a second that racism had vanished from the hearts and minds of all Americans, but let's face it: America has come a long way since segregation.  As far as we've come, race tensions still hold fast.  However, the race issues of the 21st century are not your grandma's race issues.  The problem today is that any time a non-black person kills a black person, the immediate assumption is that the killing was racially motivated.

Allow me to illustrate my point.  It's pretty safe to assume that just about everyone is aware of the Trayvon Martin - George Zimmerman case; and now it's likely that most Americans are aware of the Michael Brown and Darren Williams case.  But how many people know about the case of Robert Arnold and James Whitehead?

I never heard about it until today.  Apparently, it was not a big deal, because when I attempted to conduct research on this incident, I couldn't find any information about it on any of the major news outlets.  Low-hanging fruit I suppose.

At any rate, Robert Arnold was an Orange County Police captain who shot James Whitehead, an Iraq War veteran, in an O'Reilly's Autoparts parking lot.  Arnold is black, Whitehead is white.  Arnold was off duty, and was at the store.  Whitehead was getting into a verbal altercation with a store employee because the part he bought didn't work.  Arnold attempted to stop the altercation, and he asked Whitehead to step outside.  A verbal altercation ensues, and Whitehead is physical enough without actually attacking Arnold that Arnold felt the need to draw his off-duty gun.

Long story short, Arnold shoots Whitehead.  All accounts indicate that Whitehead was an asshole, but all accounts indicate that Whitehead was trying to leave while Arnold prevented him from leaving.

My point is, a black, off-duty, police officer shoots and kills an unarmed white man, and the nation does not hear so much as a peep about it.  Where were the race riots?  Where was the burning and looting of businesses?  Where was the civil rights investigation?

The race problem in America is that whenever a black person is shot by a non-black, the African American community surrounding that particular victim attempts to pain the victim as some sort of saintly angel who was just innocently strolling down the street until an evil, sadistic, racist white guy rode up to brutally execute the victim.  Nevermind that in both of these cases--Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown--that both victims had a history of violence and social deviance.

Hell, there is a video showing Michael Brown robbing a convenience store the same day he the incident with Officer Williams took place.  Are we honestly supposed to believe that an officer with no prior record of violence--with no complaints against him at all, and who had just recently received a medal for exemplary service in the line of duty--just got mad at a kid that punked him and decided to execute him in full view of "witnesses"?  Or is it more plausible that Michael Brown--a man who had just violently robbed a convenience store that same day--engaged in a physical altercation with an officer of the law?

Regardless of what happened, many African Americans in Ferguson felt the need to start burning and looting local businesses.  Some report that it's out-of-towners doing all of the damage, but the crowds of rioters--by all reports--are predominantly black.  The same people calling for "justice" think that justice comes in the form of committing crimes against innocent citizens.

They call for justice, they call for greater equality, and non-blacks are left asking them "how much more equality do you want?!"  Non-blacks are already passed over for job offers and promotions because of Affirmative Action.  Being white does not get you preferential treatment for college acceptance, but being not-white can get you to the head of the line.  Whenever a black person kills a white person, we don't hear so much as a peep.  But when a white person kills a black person, it makes national headlines.

The race problem is that all whites--whenever they make a decision that adversely affects a person of color--are accused of being racist.  Well guess what: that is racist.  If I stated that "every black male is a gangsta thug niggah," I would immediately be branded a racist.  If a black person says that "every white male is a racist cracka," everyone just agrees and moves on.

The riots and the looting should be evidence that many calling for justice and equality don't even really understand those concepts.  They're using events like the Michael Brown shooting as an excuse to literally do as they please under the guise of "peaceful protest."  As if it couldn't be any more ridiculous, they then complain about being tear gassed as they burn down the convenience store that Michael Brown robbed.  A man gets robbed, and so his store gets burned down.

Yeah, that's justice alright!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Actor and Comedian Robin Williams Dies, 63

Robin Williams was found dead today from an apparent suicide.  The coroner ruled it as death by

According to reports, Williams had been suffering from depression as of late.

I don't know about anyone else, but I find this to be immensely tragic.  Yes, people die every day--hell, people even commit suicide every day--but that a man who brought laughter and joy to countless millions could not save some for himself, that is a particularly gut-wrenching irony.

Perhaps when the whole story of his life is revealed, we will see that all along he was a sad clown, but for now we should remember him as a man for the ages.

Truly, Robin Williams was one of the great comedians of our time, and an awful lot of people are appreciative of the first class entertainment he gave to humanity.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Coping with Shitheads: Divine Judgment

I've caught myself often repeating a specific phrase lately: "I hate this world."  I suppose it is a symptom of my growing cynicism.  Last night, after seeing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (damn, that's a mouthful, but at least it was a good movie) as my friend and I were walking to my car, we heard some local band playing covers of some fairly terrible 90's pop.  It wasn't the fact that these bros were playing that bothered me, but rather that the people at the bar were actually digging it.

"I hate this world," I bitterly uttered.  The funny thing is that this surprised me because I recognized the intellectual fact that the situation wasn't really all that egregious, but it still bothered me enough to curse all of existence.  The people cheering on the crappy cover band reminded me of how limited and imperceptive we humans can be, and that's why the world is so terrible.

The world sucks because it's filled with shitheads.

What is a shithead you might ask?  Well, the great thing about that title is that it applies to an incredibly wide range of humans with specific attitudes, personalities, and preferred modes of interaction.  The people at the bar: shitheads.  Women who thrive on Alice-in-Wonderland (read: completely fucking absurd) type drama: shitheads.  Men who think it's a good idea to get multiple women pregnant without any intention of taking care of their offspring: shitheads.  Terrorists: shitheads.  Politicians: shitheads.

No matter who you are, it is exhausting to ruminate on the staggering number of different ways that this world totally blows.  Over the years, I have arrived at a philosophical conclusion that helps me cope with all the shitheads of the world, but I can't help but wonder: how do the idiots and the shitheads cope with all the shitheads of the world?

It should should not shock anyone to hear that most people in the world are too stupid to understand even the simplest ideas of philosophy, so there is only one logical conclusion as to why there are not mass suicides: religion.  Well, to be more specific, we're talking about divine judgment.

Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do the evil prosper from the blood and sweat of the pious?  Well, the obvious answer is that most of the bad shit that happens to us is completely random, unless you believe that God is a sadistic asshole who enjoys torturing his most fervent believers; and that he's a giant douche who rewards the vile sociopaths of humanity.  Even though it's not hard to conclude that an Omni-Omni Being (OOB) would possess such asinine qualities, that still doesn't provide much comfort.

So, to make ourselves feel better, we invented the notion of divine judgment.  Divine judgment provides humanity with a false sense of eternal reward for the pious and damnation for the vile.  When the greedy fat cats on Wallstreet or in the government get away with stealing right from our pockets, we tell ourselves that they will get theirs in the next life.  When tragedy after horrifying tragedy befalls us, we sooth our weary minds with thoughts of ethereal paradise.

We convince ourselves that our suffering will bring us justice in the end, and the greater our suffering, the greater our reward.  It makes it a lot easier to cope with horror, because the only thing worse than enduring suffering is to do so without hope.  Hopeless suffering is the worst brand of misery a human can experience, and we avoid it at all costs, even if it means believing in an idea that we would normally dismiss as fantastical superstition.

One must recognize that the notion of an afterlife, and religion itself, is an invention of man.  It's humanity's way of coping with meaningless suffering brought on by the shitheads of the world.  For a moment, suspend your belief in the notion of divine truth and examine the psychology of religion.  Religion fulfills the same psychological needs as philosophy, but religion only requires blind faith in the existence of imperceptible things rather than understanding complex ideas about the nature of all things.

So a question for my readers: does humanity truly benefit from the notion of divine judgment, or would we be better off without it?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

May your beers be cold and your barbecues be hot!  Enjoy this day and celebrate the highest ideals we have for ourselves as humans!

Because if we're not free to openly admire the beauty of the female form, then
what's the point of being free?!
Happy Independence Day!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thoughts on Bergdahl: Yes, One Man Is Worth It

As an admitted student of Machiavelli, I fully understand that most of the time, life presents humanity with impossible decisions. Would that there is always a clear "right" or "wrong" answer for every situation, but as the Joker says in The Dark Knight, "[people] are only as good as the world allows them to be." Given the infinite combinations of no-win situations humans are faced with on a daily basis, it's little wonder that many of us abandon the notion of the ideal for the more practical application of sound decision-making of the "Greater Good."

Lately, the media circus has focused on one particular no-win situation, that of U.S. Army Sgt. Bergdahl who was recently released from 5 years of Al-Qaeda captivity. It would be nice if we could simply sit back in joy and relief that one of our own has been saved from the enemy, but as life would have it, nothing is ever quite that simple.

Did Bergdahl desert his post? Was he just taking a leisurely stroll while on watch (which would still amount to abandoning his post)? I don't have the answers to these questions, and until an investigation is completed, neither will anyone else. Legally, we have to figure out whether or not President Obama violated the law by not notifying Congress prior to Bergdahl's release. We have to determine whether there truly were safety concerns and extenuating circumstance that warranted a different approach. For that, we won't have the answers until an investigation is completed by Congress.

Important questions that need to be answered, but for me the more pressing issue involves America's very soul: was it worth saving one man for the risk of endangering others and weakening America's opposition to global terrorism?

A lot of pundits have been vocal about why it is American policy is never to negotiate with terrorists. A lot of Republicans have cried foul that by conducting a prisoner exchange--one that seems to heavily favor the enemy--America now appears weak to our enemies. To those men and women I ask this: do you really think that terrorists consider America to be strong in the first place? Are you truly all that concerned with how America is perceived by whack-jobs who are willing to strap bombs to their chests and blow up school buses full of children? Perhaps we should be more concerned with actually being strong than appearing to be strong.

Then some say, "this sets a dangerous precedent. Now Al-Qaeda will try harder to capture more Americans. They've already stated that they will try harder!" Here's another question: do you honestly think that before this incident, capturing an American was not a high priority on Al-Qaeda's to-do list? Taking hostages is a staple of terrorism, regardless of the organization or its cause. If Al-Qaeda truly had the capability to capture more Americans, they would have been doing that long before Bergdahl's release. The incentive to capturing Americans is creating a sense of terror, and that incentive remains. Prisoner exchange is not even really a bonus for them, because the ultimate goal is breaking our spirit.

So when I ask myself, "was one man worth it?" I answer: yes. Am I pleased about how everything unfolded? It probably could have been handled in a better way, but ultimately I'm glad that someone in our government stood up and said "yes, one man is worth it." Whether or not you agree with how Obama went about it, bringing Bergdahl home shows the terrorists that they have not won.

Their goal is to dehumanize us--to break our resolve and bring us down to their level of horror and inhumanity. Now, we have shown them--and the world--that America still has a soul and, to some degree, that we still believe that no one is ever truly expendable.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Why Religion Isn't as Good as You Thought

Because it's funny.
Question:  When was the last time we saw a group of scientists vow to kill each other because they believed in differing interpretations of a set of data?  Does anyone remember reading about the great war of "Did dinosaurs have feathers or not"?  And aren't we glad that scientists no longer enslave entire populations of non-believers for the purpose of forcing them to believe in dark matter?

Hopefully, all of that sounds completely absurd, because really, who would actually enslave an entire race of people just because they didn't believe in dark matter?  Forcing people to believe in something they can't see sounds asinine, and actually waging war against an entire group of people because they believe that dinosaurs actually had feathers sounds totally Alice (Alice in Wonderland--I'm trying to make a new catch-phrase).  Warriors for atomic theory!  We're doing the work of science: changing hearts souls, winning over minds for science!

By now, any reader should be able easily to see where I'm going with this.  Let's try asking these questions again but from a different perspective.

Question: When was the last time we saw a group of religious fanatics kill each other because they believed in different theological texts?  Does anyone remember reading about the Crusades?  And aren't we glad that Christians no longer enslave entire populations of non-believers for the purpose of forcing them to believe in Jesus Christ?

So much horror has been wrought in the name of God that I find it baffling that we, as a species, have not yet awakened from the nightmare that is religion.  Sure, religion has some benefits.  It gives people a sense of belonging and community.  It allows people to ponder infinity and that part of existence that we cannot perceive.  Religion helps many people find their cherity and compassion, people who otherwise may never have realized their potential for good.

I used to think that religion wasn't to blame for all of the bloodshed, but that people were to blame.  Unfortunately, I can no longer hold that belief because I understand that religion itself is an invention of man.

Why did man invent religion?  Well, because one day, some poor, random bastard--after having his home and his farm burned to the ground, his family murdered, and his entire life shattered--had the audacity to ask himself "what the hell is the point of this miserable existence?"  The man, broken hearted with no will left to live, resigned himself to end it all.  As he knelt in the ashes of what was once his joyful existence, the sharp blade pressed against his throat ready for one last slice, he stared into oblivion and became frightened.

He didn't go through with it because he asked himself an even more chilling question than his first:  "what if there is nothing after I die?"  Shaken to the core, he let the knife drop to the ground because the only thing more terrifying than all the horrors of this world is the prospect of becoming nothing.

As Karl marx once suggested, religion is an opiate.  It facilitates a sense of comfort by providing "answers" to the questions that have no discernable answers.  Why fear death when there is a promise of eternal life after shedding this mortal coil?  How can you feel alone or adrift when God loves you and gives you purpose in life?  And the best part about it is that no one can tell you that you're wrong, because no one can prove you wrong.

That is a perfect set-up when you think about it.  Consdering most people don't like to be wrong--and moreso, they don't like to be proven wrong by ideological opponents--believing in something that can never definitively be proven wrong is an ideal arrangement.

Religion is not so great because it is based on feelings and faith rather than logic and knowledge.  Think about it: the entirety of the scientific community agrees that the force known as "gravity" exists.  The scientific community agrees on a lot of concepts like photosynthesis, atomic energy, and plate tectonics.  But what does the religious community as a whole agree upon?

That God exists?  Nope (Buddhists).  That Jesus Christ is the savior of humanity?  Nope.  That Mohammed was a prophet and revealed the final testament of God?  No, again.  Or how about the idea that much of the Old Testament is not meant to be taken literally, because much of it is based in myths common to the Middle East?  No, Christians can't even agree on that.

When you believe in something without evidence, that is called faith.  When you believe in something because there is evidence supporting the existence of that thing, it is called knowledge.  A man of science can be arrogant and can appear to be "close minded," but that's because his beliefs are based on knowledge, evidence and study that has been conducted countless times.  If someone tells me that gravity is a load of hogwash, and I respond by telling him he's mad, that does not mean I have a closed mind.

Similarly, when someone tells me that he knows God exists, and I tell him that because of the limitations of human perception, we can only surmise that there is an equal chance of God not existing as there is a chance of God existing, that also does not make me close-minded.

People cling to religion because it provides them comfort.  Religion eases the burden of oblivion and self-purpose.  Religious people don't like science--and often ridicule men of science as arrogant know-it-alls--because science suggests that their beliefs are fictitious. 

When a religious person is challenged and becomes angry or upset, it is because he is afraid he may have to finally face the very real potential that there is only oblivion.  When a man of science is challenged and becomes angry or upset, it is because the challenger usually has no basis for his argument and cannot provide any evidence to support his claims other than "because a 2000 year old book tells me to believe it!"  Sure, to believe in science takes faith because not everyone has the time to run countless tests to prove theories, but when I watch a pebble fall from my hand, that's a hell of a convincing argument for gravity.

What can you tell me that God has actually done lately?

Friday, May 9, 2014

We have nothing to hide! But seriously, call off the investigation . . .

Benghazi and the NSA: If something doesn't smell rotten when it comes to these two hot-button issues, then you might have a neurological disorder that prevents your brain from detecting the unmistakable scent of shit.

Yesterday, the House voted to create a select committee to investigate the Benghazi incident.  I think I speak for a large number of Americans when I say: finally!  Yes, there have already been several investigations, and according to this article, those investigations actually led to punishment.  Even so, many Americans still can't help but wonder whether or not the blame goes a lot higher up the food chain.

Democrats allover have expressed their protestations against this investigation.  Unsurprisingly, Nancy Pelosi has decried this as political theater--a publicity stunt, perpetrated by the GOP, to smear as many Democrats as possible before the mid-term elections.  It's true that we can't deny the fact that this investigation certainly will create a positive political advantage for the GOP, but that is merely a side-effect, a result of what may come to light.

The truth remains that there is a number of White House communications regarding Benghazi that have been redacted.  Given the little information that has been released and/or exposed, there still remains enough evidence to cast a large shadow of doubt on whether the White House was not somehow complicit in the Benghazi tragedy.

To the Democrats, I have only one question: if there was truly no malfeasance on the part of any member of the Obama administration, then why are you acting as though you have something to hide?  Although the GOP is often guilty of this, many times dealing with the Democrats is like dealing with children.  It's like when you ask your kid to clean his room.  After a couple hours, you ask him if he cleaned his room just as he was told.  He says "yes," but when you go to check to make sure he actually did it, he stops you and says "it's okay, you don't need to check!  I told you I did it!"

Does that not seem awfully suspicious?  Would you not then be further compelled to check whether or not he complied with your instructions?  The Obama administration tries to tout "transparency," as though we're supposed to simply trust them.  But then we're faced with oddities like heavily redacted emails and an increasingly evasive administration, it's hard to trust that there is no cover-up afoot.

And why shouldn't we be suspicious?  Look at all that has been revealed about the NSA's illegal surveillance programs.  It's interesting that the very concerns that Ed Snowden expressed, and the illegal activity that he exposed, have all come to light and have been proven to be true.  Yes: Snowden violated his NDA, but he did so to expose the illegal programs of a government agency long bereft of any true civilian oversight.

When the Snowden documents first revealed the "metadata," fiasco surrounding American cell phone communications, the NSA vehemently denied that they record phone calls.  A few months later, we find out about the MYSTIC program, it's purpose being none other than to hold 1 month's worth of American citizens' phone call recordings.  The Obama administration claims to have known nothing about this.  So what is it?  Is Obama still woefully unaware of what is going on in the US government, or is the White House lying about the extent of their knowledge/involvement with the NSA's illegal surveillance?

What's more: why are folks on Capitol Hill still calling for Snowden's arrest?  As far as I can tell, Snowden has not damaged America's intelligence efforts against our enemies--unless, of course, the average, free-thinking American citizen is considered the enemy these days.

The past year has seen some serious questions raised about what our government is up to.  Fortunately, we have patriots like Ed Snowden who are not afraid to sacrifice everything in order to protect the American people from would-be Big Brothers.  What is worrisome is that, although we have brave men and women who are unafraid to ask the hard questions, we seem to have a shortage of brave men and women in positions of power who are afraid to actually find the answers and bring them into the light of day.

One last thought before the Democrats rush to the defense of their King: you want us to let go of Benghazi--an incident that cost American lives--but you didn't want to let go of Chris Christie and "Bridgegate."


Friday, April 11, 2014

Burn the Witch! ~ by AHB

For those of you who haven't been keeping up with current events, there is yet another victim of the social justice warriors: Brenden Eich. Eich is a prominent member of silicon valley and the inventor of javascript (not to be confused with Java itself) and had a significant impact upon those of us who grew up in the early days of the world wide web.

The "problem" was back in 2008, he made a $1000 contribution to the proponents of the widely derided proposition 8. Prop 8 was a bill that passed in California to effectively ban same-sex marriages, and was ultimately ruled unconstitutional. While I do remember reading about people being up in arms about his "involvement" back then, what has happened recently just proves to me that like so many things, tolerance is only accepted when it comes in the form of a one-way street.

So, for 6 years, this has been in the back of the public's mind and lo and behold toward the end of march Eich was promoted to CEO of the Mozilla Foundation. Cheers and good times all around right? Wrong. The social justice warriors called for his head on a plate, with one of the largest dating sites, OKCupid, actually changing their message to mozilla firefox users saying "hey, uninstall firefox if you aren't bigoted" essentially. The outcry online as well as within mozilla about the boycotts basically ran Eich out of the job and into resignation barely a week after he took the reins. Eich himself stopped short of apologizing, but he basically said more or less "you have the right to your opinions and so do I."

This is just the latest in a long line of social justice gone wrong. The Duck Dynasty fiasco that took place last year if you recall, as well as Paula Deen's reputation and livelyhood was basically shattered into a million pieces for having admitted to "using the N-word" in the past. Chick-Fil-A being accosted because of the opinions of their CEO... Before that was the noted case with Don Imus and the "nappy headed hos" comment which ultimately cost him his place on TV.

Now I am all for people having a voice, but that is a two-way street in my view. Yes, freedom of speech (and the press) is technically a protection against the government and not the arena of social opinion. However, if we are going to ruin the life's work of a man simply for donating money to a cause (which at the time, was even a LIBERAL stance, hence the bill passed) where does it end? These people are acting like the god of the bible who convict people of thought crimes in their sleep. I hear all the time from my more democratic friends about such injustices, and when I remind them that their cult icon Billy C wrote DOMA into law, I get the whole gamut of rationalizations.

It's no different than this latest bullshit about the wage gap between men and women. Those of you who have read my piece on feminism knew that. What you are being told is outright bullshit with just the vaguest hint of truth. Yes it is true that women make 77¢ to every man's earned dollar, but this is not the result of gender discrimination at all. It would be just as asinine for me to say "People who don't go to college only make 64¢ on the dollar to every college grad! That's Degree-ism!" No, that's the way it is because there is a fundamental difference between what is offered to college grads and what is offered to non-college grads. The choices women make determine their income, and truly nothing more.

The pay gap nearly completely vanishes when you compare apples to apples. When you take never married no kids males and compare them to never married no kids females, in most fields it is the WOMEN who dominate the income scale in that arena. Also, just like other social justice bullshit, not one word is spoken about how we can narrow the gap in workplace fatalities and injuries. If you want the pay gap to narrow up and you want equality, why not strive for EQUALITY in everything? The reason is because getting maimed on the job is an undesirable situation and since it doesn't negatively impact women, who gives a shit?

People want their cake and eat it too, and they don't even want to bake the cake, pay for the baking of the cake, or work off calories after eating their cake. They want calorie free cake 24/7 because god dammit this is 'merica and fuck you for oppressing us and shit, we are not responsible for our actions but you better damn well be responsible for yours or we will fuck ya real slow, cause "whatever-ism" is real and you cannot deny! To deny is to comply you "whatever-ist" and we are sick of being held to any and all reasonable standards.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Welfare Sucks

For those who may not know, I've been working in workforce development for about two-and-a-half
years of my adult life.  And for the even less initiated, workforce development (WFD) is sort of a branch of social work.  As the name suggests, WFD deals in helping people who are unemployed--many of whom have found themselves unemployed because of some barrier in their lives--find employment and to attain/regain self-sufficiency.

For a year and some change, I was a job coach for people with disabilities.  Las year, I left that position to return to working with TANF recipients.  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, is more commonly known as "welfare."  It refers specifically to monthly cash assistance given to families who meet certain income requirements.  Before we continue, readers must understand that TANF has nothing to do with food stamps or medicaid.

I truly believe in the importance of my work because, presently, we are faced with a very serious problem that not many Americans think about: third and fourth generation poverty.  We're talking about young adults whose parents were on welfare, their parents' parents were on welfare, and their great-grandparents were on welfare.  For these families, welfare is as much a way of life as the idea of getting a job, working your ass off, and supporting your family by the sweat of your brow is a way of life for most Americans.

It would seem that those who defend welfare and welfare recipients believe that most welfare recipients are just honest, hard-working Americans who are down on their luck.  But those are people who have never worked with the TANF population, and I am not one of those people.

While it's true that many of my clients have very real barriers that make it difficult for them to secure long-term employment, for most of my clients the only thing truly holding them back is themselves.  Their attitudes towards work, responsibility, and how to conduct oneself in public make it nearly impossible for many of them to land a decent job, especially since most of them are unwilling to change.

Believe it or not, this is how many of my male
clients would dress if I didn't tell them how to
dress appropriately for the workplace.
What attitudes do I speak of?  Well, for starters, I've heard this one on several occasions:  "This is not enough money!  I shouldn't have to work for only $400 a month."  Another variation of that is their response when we tell them their cash will be cut off because they didn't participate in their monthly work hours: "I don't understand why I have to do this."  I'm not exaggerating, either--these are true stories.  Many of my clients truly believe that they do not, and should not, have to work for their benefits.  Some of them even call it "slavery."

Many of my clients do not even possess a basic concept of responsibility, or what it means to be a responsible adult.  Just last week, two of my clients found out that they are pregnant again.  Both of them already have one child each, and since they are my clients that means they can't afford to take care of the children they already have.  Despite the fact that they know that they can get birth control for free at Planned Parenthood, they simply don't bother.  But that's okay, because the system will help them take care of their children.

Lastly, some of them can't even conduct themselves in an adult manner when they're out in public.  Many of them act like petulant children when their cash assistance is cut off due to their intransigence.  Often times they will try to pull on your heart strings in order to sucker you in to giving them a break.  Then when they discover that I don't give anyone a break, they become angry.  That anger is quickly met with scolding from me. 

Yes, I have to scold them like children--because they act like children.  They don't know any better.  Growing up, no one taught them a lick about treating others with respect.  They were only taught that they themselves are deserving of respect regardless of how they treat others.  It's no wonder that these clients of mine have never held a job for more than a year.  Hell, some of them can't even hold a job for more than a few months.

So why does welfare suck?  It's because of the people.  Welfare itself is a good program for those who fall on hard times.  But the problem is that an overwhelming majority of welfare recipients are serving a lifetime of hard times, and for whatever reason, they're totally fine with it.  They live in squalor, they raise their children like animals, they can't even muster the strength to be polite for 15 consecutive minutes, and guess what: they're all totally fine with all of that.

Some people think that welfare provides a disincentive to work.  I can tell you right now that is not the case.  Where I work, we tell every client that comes through the door that even a minimum wage, full-time job will triple their monthly income, and they can still receive food stamps and medicaid until they find a job that earns them more money.  Even knowing that, they're still content to stay on welfare until time runs out (Fact: TANF has a 5 year lifetime maximum).

They're a whole different breed.  They simply do not care about anything, and they bring down the whole system.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Case In Point: Hypocrisy about Race and Movie Casting

Orphan Annie was a white character.  Heimdall was a white character in the Thor comics.  Johnny
Storm was white in the Fantastic Four comics.  In Spider-Man, the villain Electro is white.  What do all of these characters have in common?

They've all had African-American actors cast in these roles, despite the fact that the characters are white, and everyone is told that we're supposed to be okay with that.

Okay, so maybe race doesn't really matter all that much when it comes to characters.  Afterall, being white is not really essential to their identity, so it's okay to cast non-white actors in these roles.

Well here's an interesting little factoid for you.  In the upcoming movie Pan--which is based on the story of Peter Pan--the role of the Indian princes Tiger Lilly has been cast to Rooney Mara.  Rooney Mara is most known for her role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Here's the kicker: she's white, and people have a problem with that.

Check this out.

So, let me get this straight.  Although it's totally fine to cast people of color in the roles of white characters, it's not okay to cast white people in the roles of people of color.  Do I have it right?

You see, in my article from the other day where I griped about Johnny Storm being retconned as black, I made the assertion that people would make a big fuss if a white person was cast in the role of a black character.  Some people disagreed with me on that.  But here we are, a white woman cast in the role of a person of color (mind you, a FICTIONAL character), and that's simply not okay.

I heard somewhere--maybe it was one of the commenters here on CFGM--that it's okay to cast people of color in the roles of traditionally white characters, because those characters' identities are not really based on their race.  Do we see the implication here?  If you're black, Asian, Native American, or whatever, race is a big part of your identity and therefore should not be meddled with.  But if you're white, then that means nothing.

I understand that people of color historically have been marginalized by white people, but do we honestly think that racial pride, and the supression of racial pride, is the appropriate solution to greater harmony?

For the most part, it has already been ingrained in the minds of most white people.  Speaking for myself, the notion of being proud of being white is a foreign thought.  It makes no sense to me, because, well, I'm white.  I didn't choose to be white, I was just born that way.  I suppose that there are certain cultural things particular to being white, but I don't really see it that way.

What's more is that under no circumstances would I ever be permitted to say "I'm proud to be white," in a public forum, lest I be branded a racist and a hatemonger.  My entire life, society has taught me that being proud of my race is offensive and racist.  I've been taught that the color of my skin doesn't make me special.  If anything, the color of my skin should make me feel ashamed for the transgressions of my like-skinned ancestors.

A friend of mine, who happens to be black, said to me once in reference to women "dude, we're men.  Women blame us for everything."  I said to him, "well, how do you think I feel?  I'm a white man.  Everyone blames me for everything.  I'm blamed for sexism, slavery, white supremacy, racism in general.  And as luck would have it, I'm also Catholic.  So I get blamed for the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Conquistadors, and pedophilic clergymen."

"Because I am a white, Catholic male, I'm blamed for over one-and-a-half thousand years of sexism, and brutal oppression of everyone not white.  Even though I've spent a good portion of my life fighting for social justice, none of that matters.  Because of the color of my skin, everyone's suffering is ultimately all my fault."

My friend thought that was pretty funny, because of course I was being facetious, but the sad part about it is that this is actually going on.  People of color are taught to be proud of the color of their skin, and white people are taught to be ashamed of it.  This goes to show you that when given the opportunity, most humans will do their damndest to marginalize "the other."

To anyone who is a person of color, I have one bit of advice for you.  If you truly desire social equality, if you want to stop being discriminated against because of the color of your skin, then you need to stop believing that the color of your skin makes you special.  If I'm not special because I'm white, then you're not special because you're not white.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Big Data" bigger than NSA let on, no one with a brain surprised

When Ed Snowden originally leaked the classified documents that exposed the NSA's "meta data"
collection program--the NSA insisted that the collection did not include recorded phone conversations.  The claim was that "meta data" just provided call information such as when the call was made, on what carrier, and to what country that call went to.  They balked when nearly everyone on the planet accused them of recording the phone calls of innocent American citizens which, by the way, is 150,000% illegal.

But today, the fears of any American with a brain were substantiated.  Through NSA's MYSTIC and RETRO programs, the NSA is able to retrieve and listen to a recorded phone conversation made by any person in the U.S. up to one month in the past.  Essentially, 100% of American citizen phone calls are recorded and kept in data storage for a month.  I just have one question:

When will all of the charges against Snowden be dropped so he can return to the US unaccosted?

I find it absolutely baffling that there are still people out there who actually believe Snowden to be a traitor who deserves punishment.  I've heard it all.  "Well, he technically broke the law, and there are committees and processes that handle this sort of thing."  The problem with that is the fact that despite the "committees" and the "processes" in place to handle the malfeasance of the US intelligence community, these illegal programs still came to fruition.

There are two conclusions that we can draw from these revelations.

1.  Congress has completely lost their grip on these agencies, and the folks at the NSA and CIA are essentially allowed to run amok and do whatever they want.  The intelligence oversight committee is so uninterested in anything, that it has unknowingly allowed the NSA to spy on American citizens at-large, an action that is in violation of so many laws that it should make anyone's head spin.

2.  Congress is in on it.  They are fully aware of the illegal activity going on in the NSA, and they're fine with it.  Not only are they fine with it, they are complicit as they have failed to prosecute and punish those who have willfully broken the law.  Their complicity also must run much deeper, because programs like RETRO and MYSTIC don't just spring up over night, and "big data" certainly didn't just manifest itself out of the ether.  It has taken years to develop these programs, and Congress has bankrolled these illegal actions.

Sadly, scenario #2 is more likely to be the truth, and that is precisely why Ed Snowden was justified in doing what he did.  The "secret courts" and the "committees" and the "processes" would never have stopped these programs, and they never would have prosecuted those involved.  One can argue that if these processes truly worked, then these programs would never have existed in the first place.  But Ed Snowden knew--as anyone who has ever worked in intelligence knows--that the secret courts and the committees are just puppet shows.

So what do we do?  Well, let's start with a simple list:

Dianne Feinstein,

Saxby Chambliss,

John D. Rockefeller IV,
West Virginia

Richard Burr,
North Carolina

Ron Wyden,

Barbara A. Mikulski,

James E. Risch,

Mark Udall,

Daniel Coats,

Mark Warner,

Martin Heinrich,
New Mexico

Angus King,

Marco Rubio,

Susan Collins,

Tom Coburn,

These are the members of the Senate Select Committe on Intelligence.  If justice is to be served, then those who failed to identify and punish the perpetrators should be held accountable.  Not one of these fools stopped what happened, and so far I've not heard a peep out of any of them about working to scrap the illegal programs.

Write letters, make phone calls.  Demand from our representatives that something be done about this assault on American citizens.  And, should you reside in one of these states, for the love of God: Don't Vote for Them!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

News Flash: Johnny Storm Is Not Black

Why didn't we get Denzel
to play him?
I was reading around a week ago or so, and I saw that a new cast for the Fantastic Four reboot was  revealed.  I've never really been a fan of the characters, but something bothered me with the new cast:  the actor playing Johnny Storm is black . . .

Now, at first many of you might be inclined to say "woah!  Jack, do you have a problem with black actors?!  That's incredibly racist of you!"  First: no, I don't have a problem with black actors--or black people for that matter.  And secondly: no, it is not racist of me, and here's why.

I have a serious problem with the new trend of casting actors who do not match the race/ethnicity of the characters from the original source material in some cases.  Let's consider this particular case.  For those who don't know, the story behind Johnny Storm, a.k.a. Human Torch, is that he is the biological brother of the Invisible Girl.  If you notice in the article, the actress playing Invisible Girl is as white as the driven snow.

So now, the writers have to make up some shenaniganry about them being half-siblings, or maybe siblings through adoption.  They could go with some sort of mixed race idea, but it is rare that a mixed child takes the traits entirely of one parent.  I suppose it doesn't really make a difference, but this underscores a serious problem with post-modern American thought.  They don't really care about making a compelling story:  they just didn't want an all-white cast.

I know there's no way to prove that, but what other explanation can there be?  I watched the Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert a couple years ago, and the actor playing the role of Javert was black.  I think the woman playing Fantine was Asian.  Both actors were very talented (especially the actress playing Fantine--amazing voice), but the problem is that the characters themselves are supposed to be white.  In 19th century France, it would have been virtually impossible for a man of African descent being a high-level police inspector in the capital city.  But more importantly, Victor Hugo's character was white.

I've contemplated this for some time now.  I wanted to be sure that my thinking was straight before I voiced this opinion.  I considered the idea that perhaps there is some sort of artistic reasoning behind it.  But more than likely, it's more about diversity and inclusion than it is about art.  Considering the Fantastic Four film will likely have a terrible script and will probably fare no better than the previous F4 attempt, I highly doubt the decision to cast a black Johnny Storm had anything to do with art.  A majority of Hollywood writers churn out steaming piles of garbage on a regular basis, so forgive me if I have little faith in the artistic integrity of modern film writing.

It is not about art: it is about agenda.  Liberalmerica wants to send a message: people of color are allowed to play characters that are traditionally white.  It's sort of like the whole "Black Jesus," thing.  For a while, many people were saying "Jesus was black."  I understand what they were trying to say, that the common depiction of Jesus being a white man is historically inaccurate, but Jesus was not black, either.  Jesus was of Middle Eastern descent, so if anything, Jesus would have looked more Arab than anything.

He would make a great Jim!  Or maybe
we could cast him as Shaft!
If you don't believe this is about agenda, then consider this: would it be socially acceptable for a white actor to play a traditionally black character?  What if we got Benedict Cumberbatch to play Jim in an adaptation of Huckleberry Finn?  Or how about casting Michael Fassbender as Black Panther?  We know what the public outcry would be:  "These characters are supposed to be black!"

Here's the deal: Jesus was Middle Eastern, Jim in Huckleberry Finn is black, and Johnny Storm is white.  If you can convince me that any of that can or should be changed in the name of art, then I'll take it all back.  But don't be fooled if you think a black Human Torch has *anything* to do with art.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Is Being Offensive Really All That Bad?

Lucky for me, blogs have a function that sends the comments made by readers to your email.  From
time-to-time, little gems of wonder come floating through my inbox, notifying me that an old article of mine has received a fresh comment.

Usually, it's comments on the article about Americans being dumbasses (see 80% of Americans Are Functionally Retarded); and because the universe has a sense of humor, the commenters on that article always tell me that the plugs in the picture are European.  It always gives me a chuckle.

But just yesterday, I received a comment from a user on my article "Jesus Digs My Style."  In the article, I featured the picture to the right.  It's one of my all-time favorites: Jesus flipping the bird.  I know that a lot of people find it offensive, and this user did not disappoint.  Here is what she said:

"Every right entails responsibility. I am very ashamed for having seen this image. You may call it anything you want, but for me, this is plain disrespect for anyone's belief and faith. You could have at least keep it to yourself. I did not read amything you have to say in your blog, the picture says it all. I'm not trying to be righteous here but seeing this, I feel ashamed how cruel men can be, and I have, in many ways, disappointed my God and i am very sorry for that. If there is one thing I want to ask from you, use your right to speak, for a cause. The world will be a lot better when people are sensitive enough not to harm and insult others. May my God, Jesus, bless you."
The people who know me personally know that I rarely shy from the opportunity to express my true feelings on important matters.  Many people find some of the things I say to be offensive, but fortunately my friends give me the chance to at least explain myself.  Sure, I offended this woman, but this particular line was most salient to me:

 "I did not read amything you have to say in your blog, the picture says it all."
Yes, words can be hurtful, and one should not ignore the feelings of others.  But too often do we shy away from saying things that need to be said all for the sake of avoiding offense.


For starters, we don't want people to think that we are insensitive assholes.  I, for one, do not relish legitimately offending someone I really care about.  Actually, when a friend of mine tells me that he or she is legitimately offended by something I've said, I immediately apologize because I don't like feeling as though I've done wrong to someone close to me.  I understand the desire to avoid being offensive--at least, I understand my own desire to avoid being deeply and truly offensive.

What I also understand about myself is that I do not enjoy being censored in any way.  There is a difference between self-censorship--fighting the urge to say something edgy because I don't want to actually hurt anyone's feelings--and being censored by others, being told that I'm not allowed to say something because it is "offensive."  When I am told that I can't or shouldn't say something, my immediate response is to ask "why?"

I should probably start posing a different question to people, because simply asking them "why" never elicits the response I'm looking for.  Instead, I should ask people this:  if someone you loved was engaging in incredibly destructive behavior--like drugs or dog fighting--would you not tell them that they have a problem simply because you don't want to hurt their feelings?  I would hope that any good friend would tell that person what they need to hear: stop using drugs, because you're destroying yourself and taking down your loved ones with you.

All opinions--even the crazy ones--have some truth to them.  I'm not suggesting that all opinions are "right."  The truth may be that the expression reveals something about the person who said it.  Shows like Family Guy and South Park go to great lengths to be offensive in the name of comedy, but you know what?  Sometimes, there really is something to some of their "offensive" humor.

So is it really all that bad to be offensive?  I think not, but that's because I see it as a matter of personal freedom and an exercise in discovering truth.  The most critical error in all of human history is that we humans consistently fail to listen to each other.  If that commenter had actually taken the time to read some of my writing, she would have seen that I do use my voice for a cause.  Perhaps it's my own cause, but I think increased self-awareness and fostering honest, open dialogue are worthy pursuits.

She couldn't bear to set her feelings aside and make an attempt to get to the heart of my message.  As a result, she's missed out on an alternative perspective on life--perhaps a way of thinking that she has not been exposed to.  She has given up on the pursuit of truth.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Recent(ish) Games that are Well Worth the Money

If Valve's Steam client were a woman, it would nag me about how much of my life I've wasted playing video games.  I don't consider it to be a waste seeing as how it's a form of entertainment like any other.  I could easily say that some people are "wasting time" by watching movie or television, but honestly, who cares how we choose to entertain ourselves?

There are a few games that have been released in the past 5 years that offer hundreds of hours of replay value and, thus, are worth more than you actually pay for them (especially if you buy them on sale).  So for anyone who just wants a great game to play--a game that is truly worth the money--here is a short list of some of the games that have sucked away my attention in the recent past.

Fallout 3/Fallout New Vegas

Arguably two of the best games of our generation, both of these titles--developed by Bethesda and Obsidian respectively--are set in a post-nuclear war America.  The cultural theme is 1950's sci-fi, and when that is blended in with vast open worlds, you have a recipe for awesome.  The gameplay is a first person shooter mixed with elements of RPG with a level-up system that is engaging and extremely dynamic.  Probably the best thing about the games is the variety in play styles available to the player.

Are you a crazy-ass bastard who likes to rush into a group of asshats, smashing in their heads with a sledge hammer?  Are you more the careful, stealthy type who likes to pick off his enemies before they even knew what hit them?  Or maybe you just enjoy firing mini-nukes in the middle of a town.  Whatever your flavor, these games have it.  Although the wastes of post-apocalyptic Washington DC is a surprisingly breath-taking setting (Fallout 3), I prefer fallout New Vegas for the simple fact that you can actually ally yourself with the "bad guys."

Both of these games offer hundreds of hours of gameplay.  Just to give you an idea, one playthrough typically takes me about 80 hours.  Be warned: the humor is dark, and you can be really, really evil if you so choose, so these games are not for the faint of heart.

Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition and Fallout New Vegas: Ultimate Edition can be purchased on Steam for $19.99 each.  Each of these includes all of the DLC packs.

Civilization V

A turn based strategy game, Civilization V lets you build up a civilization from the stone age all the way into a futuristic era.  You can play as a whole host of historical civilizations (I always opt for Rome).  Throughout the game you direct your scientific discoveries, you choose your forms of government, and you even decide what your religion is like.

As time progresses, you meet other civilizations vying for precious resources.  You can either befriend them or crush them.  Are you more into economics?  Well then you can focus on being a trade hub.  Want to conquer the world?  Build an army worthy of your glory!  Or maybe you just like being all diplomatic--that works too!  With the infinite variations and directions you can take, and with 6 different ways to win the game based on play style, this title offers limitless replay value.

Sid Meyer's Civilization V: Complete Edition can be purchased on steam for $49.99.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Honestly, any Elder Scrolls title is more than worth the money, but Skyrim is just the latest entry in this stellar series.  From developers Bethesda, Skyrim offers just about anything the heart could desire.  With a plethora of different classes/play styles, tons of quest content, and an awe-inspiring, winder landscape open world, this game is truly one of the great gaming masterpieces of our time.

Steam tells me that I have sunk 356 hours into the game since I bought it in 2011.  To add to that, there are several DLC packs that add more quest lines, loots, and the like for even more content.  The graphics are solid.  The AI is decent.  And the leveling system is a good mix between classic Elder Scrolls and the perks system common to the Fallout games.

As with many Bethesda games, if you take the time to understand how the game works, you can truly forge a hero of legend who has no problem one-shotting even the most hardened of dragons.  The game offers a very hard setting and a legendary setting.  Legendary is like a nightmare mode in which the game becomes insanely difficult.  This is recommended for players who have already progressed quite far into the game.

Just like in Fallout, a single playthrough can take up to 80 hours assuming you tackle 90% of the content.

The Elder Scrolls V: Legendary Edition can be purchased on Steam for $59.00.  This edition includes all of the DLC packs.  The original game can be purchased for $29.99 on Steam.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman: Dead at 46

The actor Philip Seymour Hoffman--known for his breakout role in Twister, and later for some of his truly remarkable performances in films such as Doubt and Capote--was found dead this morning in his NY apartment due to an apparent drug overdose.

Insiders say that heroin was found at the scene, and a needle was stuck in his arm.

It is always a tragedy when one so bright and so promising--a soul who truly brings joy and inspiration to so many--falls to the frailty of the flawed human character.  I, for one, will miss his truly stellar performances.

In the words of Pink Floyd, shine on you crazy diamond.

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Lesser of Two Evils: Enough is Enough

I am fairly critical of both the Democrat and Republican parties.  I have said before that the only difference between the two parties is that the Democrats will at least buy you dinner before they screw you.  Of course, that's not to say that the parties are ideologically identical (or even similar for that matter), but I'm focusing more on the end results: neither party is truly concerned with the welfare of the American people.

What I find interesting is that whenever I discuss the problems that plague one of the parties, the party supporters will often agree with me.  Take the GOP for example.  I know many Republicans who admit to me that the GOP has lost its way.  It parades its Constitutional principles like Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but when the chips are down, the GOP leadership cares not for such passe notions as "freedom of thought," or "minimal government."  Afterall, how can you rightly say that all Americans should enjoy the same rights, but then in the very next breath say that gay Americans should not have the right to marry each other?

Even in the face of the admittedly deep philosophical confusion, GOP supporters still get mad when I present the inevitable conclusion that the GOP is ineffective.

"Well Jack, what do you suppose I do?  Vote Democrat?!  The GOP isn't perfect, but it's the lesser of the two evils."  Somehow, I get the feeling that both GOP and Dem leadership start foaming at the mouth at such an utterance.  It's sort of like It's a Wonderful Life rules: teacher says that every time someone chooses the lesser of two evils, a Political Party hopeful gets his wings.

I want to be clear with my readers in that I understand that sometimes we have to choose between a giant douche and a shit sandwich (in the parlents of a very funny episode of South Park).  I'm about as Machiavellian as it gets because I understand that in an imperfect world, we often deal with scenarios that involve only imperfect choices.

But because I'm a Machiavellian, I also believe that it is up to us to break free of fortuna's opressive wheel and forge a new path to success--a more perfect union, to quote a great man.  How long have we been using the "lesser of two evils" excuse to avoid the truth--the truth that our political parties no longer function to serve the people, but they function to serve themselves?

In reality, there is very little we can do.  Perhaps there are many Americans out there who are fed up with the GOP and the Dems, but I don't think it's enough to effect any real change.  Men like me, who insist upon realizing a vision of America that lives up to the highest standards of goodness, are often called "idealists," because we tell people to stop settling.  What many don't understand is that in order to be an idealist, you have to be an unrelenting realist.  Afterall, how can one rightly postulate the conditions of an ideal world if he does not understand the present conditions of the world in which he lives?

How can you know what's better for you if you don't realize how bad off you are?  Yes, we have to work within the system if we want to change it, but too often do we forget about change and end up becoming part of the system?

In 2012, I was tired of settling.  So what did I do?  I voted thrid party.  Did it change anything?  No, but at least I can say that I voted my conscience.  At least I can say that I rejected the notion that I must vote for the candidate who will do the least damage to America.  I'm not optimistic, but I'll always hold on to the hope that one day, more Americans will wake up and stop feeding their fat party overlords.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Captain Always Goes Down with His Ship, Unless You're Captain Obama

As if the American people needed any more evidence of blatant hypocrisy in Liberalmerica, many must be his fault.  Because as Liberals are apt to say, it's ultimately the leader's responsibility.
Liberals are placing the blame for the GW Bridge fiasco on Chris Christie.  Apparently, Christie's control over his minions should be so absolute that they cannot think for themselves, and therefore they should be unable to commit wrong-doing.  And so the logic goes, the wrong-doing

Unless that leader happens to be a Democrat.

Liberalmerica did the same thing when word got out about the horrific treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.  As soon as those photos surfaced, Liberals were calling for George W. Bush's head as if he personally ordered the mistreatment of the prisoners.  When confronted with the notion that GWB's involvement was highly unlikely, Liberals replied "he's the president, so it's ultimately his fault."

The problem I have is that Liberals do not apply this captain-goes-down-with-his-ship mentality to leaders from their party, specifically President Obama.  It's more infuriating when you consider that there have been plenty of scandals that have come out of the Obama Administration.

The most prominent in my mind is the Secret Service scandal.  Why wasn't it Obama's fault?  (Hint: it's the same reason Abu Ghraib wasn't GWB's fault).  How about Operation Fast and Furious?  The Benghazi attack?  The NSA's blatantly illegal domestic spying programs?  Oh, well the NSA's malfeasance isn't nearly as bad as the Patriot Act (which was originally supported by Democrats as well as Republicans), despite the fact that Obama has called for the extension of the Patriot Act.  So, why won't Liberals blame Obama for these things?

"Well Jack, Obama clearly didn't know about any of these things."  That poses an interesting thought.  The general consensus in Liberalmerica was that George W. Bush was a nitwit.  He was constantly chided as being an imbicile puppet controlled by nefarious puppet masters like Dick Cheney and Karl Rove . . . until it came to a scandal.  Whenever something controversial came up, GWB went from being hopelessly idiotic in the eyes of his opponents to being a maniacal, evil mastermind who was plotting to destroy liberty and Muslims.

Now, with President Obama, the opposite seems to be true.  Liberalmerica hails him as intelligent, educated, and involved in the leadership process . . . until it comes to a scandal.  When a scandal hits, Obama goes from being a capable and aware leader to being some dunce, hopelessly ignorant to the nefarious misdeeds of, apparently, everyone else around him.  One would have to be delusional to not see the blatant hypocrisy in these attitudes.

So what does this teach us?  It is another example of how many Liberals are just as petty, hypocritical, and unintelligent as their Conservative counterparts.  I find it endlessly hilarious that Liberals claim to have some intellectual superiority over their Conservative opponents, but at the end of the day they're just as logically inconsistent as the next average American.

So if you're a Liberal and you truly believe that Chris Christie should suffer for the malfeasance of the idiots under him, then you also need to stop acting like Obama is the second coming of Christ and hold the President accountable for everything that has gone horribly wrong during his administration.  Otherwise, you need to stop acting like petulent children and realize that a man cannot control the actions of others, and thus hold those responsible for the malfeasance accountable for their actions.

Simple, right?