Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

28 February 2013

The War On Guns

Father Of Newtown Victim: Ban Assault Weapons

So I guess the families of the victims of the December shooting at that school in Connecticut are determining our country's gun policy now. Every time a misguided, misinformed sobbing parent testifies somewhere he or she gets paraded in front of a national audience by the liberal, anti-gun media in an attempt to garner sympathy and get our anti-gun juices flowing.

Just such a sobbing parent was the focus of that Associated Press article linked at the top of this post.

Okay, I get it. Really. You lost a child. It is a horrible, unbearably painful thing. You have my deepest, most sincere sympathies. I am sorry for your loss. I cannot even imagine how you must feel.

During his inauguration speech, President Obama mentioned gun control. “Gabby” Giffords should have a vote, he said. The families of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting victims should have a vote, he said.

Well...why only them? What about me? Don’t I get a vote? I and the other millions of NRA members…don’t *we* get a vote? What about all the millions of gun owners in the country who don't happen to be NRA members...don't they get a vote?

How come it seems that the only people the president wants to have a vote are those who oppose guns? How come the president wants us to think that every American now considers guns to be bad and that “it’s time” to change the laws on what guns the American public can…or should…own?

Not all of us do.

Not all of us think that guns are evil. Not all of us want to see them banned. Or even restricted. Not all of us live in cities full of sophisticated, snooty, highly-educated people with lot of police around to enforce the law…you know, places like New York City, and Washington D.C., and Chicago.

Wait - hang on. Don’t those cities already have some of the strictest gun laws in the country? How come the rate of gun violence is so high there? Oh right, because CRIMINALS DON’T OBEY LAWS. Heh, silly me.

Gun violence is no higher now than it’s ever been. It’s just that every single shooting anywhere in the country gets on the national news networks faster than you can say Adam Lanza, making us all think that these shooting are becoming rampant.

The shooting in Newtown, Connecticut is not a “tipping point” as far as I’m concerned. We do not have an “epidemic” of school shootings…or even mass shootings (in which more than four people are killed). We do not need to change any laws; we have enough of them, thank you very much.

And we continue to hear calls for the government to ban “assault weapons” even though this is an incredibly dumb concept. Many, many rifles that do not qualify as an “assault weapon” have the EXACT SAME semi-automatic characteristics, shoot the EXACT SAME bullets and have the EXACT SAME (or higher) magazine capacity. The “assault weapon” classification is arbitrary at best. Basically, the government wants to ban the evil AR-15…presumably because it’s so scary-looking but not because it is any deadlier than any other rifle that shoots the tiny .22 caliber bullet.

Are you people really that stupid? Really?

19 February 2013

My Walmart/Old People Rant

Dear Mr. or Mrs. Old Person in front of me in line at Walmart:

You’re going to pay by check. I know it just by looking at you. We both know that you don’t trust these newfangled electronic credit cards and ATM cards that every bank issues with every checking account. Too easy for someone to steal your identity, you think. You prefer to pay by a good old-fashioned paper check. Okay, I get it. Pay by check if you like.

But if you know you’re going to pay by check, and presumably you do, then why in God’s name do you wait until the last item has been scanned and the cashier has given you the total before you even pull out said checkbook? Is it too much to ask that instead of standing around oblivious to the world that you get your fucking checkbook out ahead of time and start filling in some information…like the date and putting “Walmart” in the payee line? And could you maybe sign it? Am I out of line for suggesting these little time saving techniques that will help speed of the line of losers impatiently waiting behind you? Walmart even gives you a little platform right there (next to the credit card scanner) for such a purpose!

See, that way all you need to do is put the total amount down and then hand the check to the cashier. And you’d be gone…out of my life! Instead, you scrutinize the total, making sure no mistakes were made, and only THEN do you pull out the checkbook and start writing. It’s as if actually paying for the crap comes as a total surprise to you. Thanks a fucking bunch, gramps.

Alternatively, if an old person does use plastic to pay at Walmart, when the prompt comes for their signature they write as slowly and carefully as if they’re in a penmanship competition. Hey people, here’s a clue: WALMART DOESN’T CARE WHAT YOU WRITE. Your bank doesn’t care what you write! Nobody at Walmart headquarters monitors each of the millions of purchases made on those things every day, making sure your signature with that little stylus pen matches the one your bank has on file for your account. Nobody cares. Really. Walmart only makes you sign so that if there ever is a dispute about somebody using your card after the fact you can look at the chicken-scratch and go, “Yep, I signed it!” or, “Nope, wasn’t me!” You could put a big “X” there. I just put a big “B” and leave it at that.

One story that made the rounds on the internet was about a guy who, over the course of six months, whenever he’d use his credit card he’d put various things that were not his name (most of them were profane) in the box. It backfired on him one day when he drew a picture of a penis. End result? Everyone had a laugh, then they voided it and made him sign again. No big deal. They didn't even check his ID! They just made sure the signature on the card reader was similar to the one on the card.

Moral of the story? Your signature on the machine doesn’t need to match anything. Just scribble something recognizable on there (just don't draw a penis) and get the hell moving before I follow you out into the parking lot and bash your headlights with my shopping cart.

Here’s what I do - really: As the Walmart cashier starts scanning my stuff, I swipe my card. I hit “Debit” and then enter my PIN. I hit “No” on the cashback option and then I wait. As the bags fill up I stick them in my cart. As soon as the cashier hits the "Total" key the screen flashes "Approved!" She tears the receipt off the machine, hands it to me and I’m outta there. See? So easy even an oldster can do it!

14 February 2013

DeWayne Wickham Is A Big Black Racist

If you need any proof that racism is alive and well in this country, you need only read the idiotic scribbling of newspaper columnists like this DeWayne Wickham who is published by USA Today and syndicated into our local birdcage liner, the Pensacola News Journal.

In his column on Wednesday, February 13th, Mr. Wickham addressed the issue of “gun violence.” He writes:

Only a nation impaired by selfish individualism can long ignore the bloody carnage that links Trayvon Martin to Hadiya Pendleton.

Let's leave out the fact that this nation was built by rugged individualists not effete newspaper columnists whose only real work involves their dainty fingers tap-tap-tapping on a computer keyboard.  And, “bloody carnage?” Okay, we’ll leave that little tidbit alone for the time being too.

Ms. Pendleton was a 15 year-old girl who lived in Chicago and was shot and killed in a neighborhood park, the victim of apparent gang violence. A case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, evidently.

Of Trayvon Martin, Wickham writes:

Martin was killed a year ago as he walked the streets of a gated community in Sanford, with the hood of his sweatshirt pulled over his head during a light rain. George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watchman who was armed with a 9-mm handgun, thought the black teenager looked suspicious and followed him. During a brief struggle, Zimmerman pumped a single bullet into Martin’s chest.

Do you see what Wickham did there? By calling Zimmerman a “self-appointed” neighborhood watch guy, he gives the impression that Zimmerman was just some sort of random vigilante. Wickham makes it very clear that he believes it was Zimmerman who initiated the confrontation that lead to the struggle/fight with Martin.

According to the taped 911 call that Zimmerman made to the police, it is not at all clear who initiated that fight. Just before Zimmerman terminated his call to the cops, he said that he’d lost sight of the boy as he went down a pedestrian path on which Zimmerman could not drive. As I have suggested before, perhaps Martin circled back and confronted Zimmerman. We don’t know. What we do know from witnesses is that the two men ended up on the ground with the teenager on top of Zimmerman. We do know from the extent of Zimmerman’s injuries that it was he who was taking the brunt of the beat-down.

But many people…especially many black people have accepted the false-reality that this white, racist, lone-wolf, Rambo-wannabe faux-security guard hunted down a pure and innocent, unarmed black kid and shot him dead in cold blood for no good reason. People get this impression from reading bullshit like that written and published by DeWayne Wickham.

Wickham goes on in his column to decry gun violence without addressing the real problem. In other words, he continues to blame the gun.

This slaughter…is inextricably tied to the members of Congress who kowtow to the National Rifle Association even as the epidemic of school shootings proves that there is no haven for any of our children from unchecked gun violence…

Uh-huh. “Epidemic of school shootings.” School shootings have reached “epidemic” proportions now? Does Wickham himself really believe this crap? Speaking of gun violence in general and that “bloody carnage” that Wickham sees happening in epidemic proportions around the country, he concludes:

...this bloodshed is a cancer that – if left unchecked – will spread to the cul-de-sacs and bedroom communities into which those who think this is not their problem have retreated.

In other words, lookout, you white honky, guns are comin’ to yo’ 'hood!

Oh please. Where do they find jerks like DeWayne Wickham? If I were USA Today I’d fire his ass. Not for being racist (which he so obviously is) but just for being stupid...and for presenting as fact something that has not yet been established or determined but happens to fit into his racist agenda.

09 February 2013

Doritos Super Bowl 2013 Commercial: "Goat 4 Sale"

You know how I am about television commercials. And if you don’t, I’m crazy about them…well, the good ones, anyway. When you think about it, how difficult must it be to come up with a short little blurb to sell your product? It has to grab the viewers attention and convey a memorable message. The poor ones are awful (but ironically memorable in a bad way sometimes). When done right, they can be awesome. In the past I’ve highlighted a few of the really good ones in this blog.

Each year the Super Bowl brings a passel of new commercials. Advertisers know they have a humongous captive market, and they try to capitalize on it. They pay dearly for commercial time during the game, and so they want each second to count.

There are plenty of websites on which you can view the best and the worst Super Bowl commercials. The usual suspects populate “the best” list: Volkswagen, Chrysler, Budweiser…and of course, Doritos, all of whom have consistently given us little 30 and 60-second works of art. And oh yes, I do believe these are works of art!

Take Doritos. They always make fun, memorable spots. This year they held a competition to see who could come up with the best commercial for their product. Of all the entries received, the winner is called, “Goat 4 Sale.” If you saw it during the game you probably laughed - it is "laugh out loud" funny. But you probably missed a lot of it. For it is only after repeated viewing that one can appreciate all the talent and work that went into this incredible spot.

Obviously the commercial is about a goat. For the humor in the commercial to work, one must know in advance that goats can make some very human-like sounds. A quick YouTube search of “screaming goats” will turn up some hilarious clips. Like this one… (Relax, it’s only 7 seconds long.)

Now to the Doritos commercial.

It starts with a bearded man walking down the street eating a bag of Doritos. He comes upon a guy sitting in a chair in his front lawn with a goat next to him and a handmade sign propped up beside him that says, “Goat 4 Sale.” We notice that the goat seller is in a neckbrace and there’s a crutch laying on the grass next to his chair. The goat is also eating from a bag of Doritos. In the very next shot we see the bearded man sitting at his kitchen table with the goat; both of them are enjoying a bag of Doritos. The man opens the pantry, showing the goat shelves stocked chock-full of bags of Doritos. Cut to a night shot: The man is building a balsa wood or popsicle stick bridge – the goat is with him, still eating Doritos, up to bag number 42. Next we see the man lying in bed, trying to get to sleep with the goat working his way through bag number 156. The camera then zooms in on the man’s annoyed face as the sound of incessant Doritos chomping grows louder and louder and louder…

Black screen with the message: “The Next Day.”

We see a close up of the goat as it screams. Camera angle switches to reveal a completely empty pantry. The goat screams again, louder and longer. Cut to a framed picture of the goat’s new owner – a goat hoof smashes the glass. The then angry goat jumps on the popsicle stick bridge, destroying it. From inside the man’s bedroom, the door is flung open…kicked open by the goat. Switch to a shot of the startled man in his pajamas, holding a bag of Doritos. In fact, the bedroom is full of them. We see that he’s also in the process of making a sign that says, “Goat 4 Sale.” The goat slowly enters the room and they cut to a shot of the just the goats legs. One of his hind legs kicks the door shut…from the inside. Then they cut to a shot is of the man’s very frightened face as the commercial fades to the Doritos logo.

Some fun details: When the goat realizes that the pantry is empty, watch his eyes during his second scream. Also, pause the video on the picture of the man just before the goat hoof smashes it. You can see the reflection of the goat’s face in the glass. When the goat kicks the man’s bedroom door open, watch how the Doritos fly out of the bag he’s holding as he jumps. Finally, notice that the camera’s point-of-view is outside of the bedroom as the door closes, preventing us from seeing what happens next, which is left up to our imagination. But we know! Because we remember the first scene…the guy with the neck brace and crutch.

For me, it all works exquisitely. It’s a hilarious, creative, memorable commercial that I watch over and over…and laugh at each time. I appreciate the work that went into dreaming it up and making it. I wish all advertisers put as much effort and care into selling their stuff. Because when I’m standing in front of a vending machine, trying to decide what to select, you can bet that if there’s a bag of Doritos in there, I’m going to remember the goat, chuckle and buy it (unless I’m having a huge craving for something chocolate).

Here's the commercial! (X-out the little "vote" popup thingee and restart the commercial for full effect.)

08 February 2013

And Then There's Kai

In this crazy, mixed-up world we sometimes get thrown into the strangest situations! Take the case of the young hatchet-wielding hitchhiker named “Kai,” the latest YouTube internet sensation. In a previous time we might have called Kai a “drifter” or a “hobo.” He claims to have no family, no relatives. So he rides the freight trains and hitchhikes around the country looking for places to surf and skateboard, or maybe just to chill and play the guitar and sing his songs. Oh, apparently Kai is a songwriter too.

From what we can tell, Kai had just left “Dogtown” (i.e. Venice, California). He was 220 miles north in the city of Fresno, which is quite inland and which has no surf, looking for a ride. Somehow he hooked up with a 300-pound guy. Before even getting in the car, the 300-pound guy admitted that some time previously he raped a 14 year-old in the Virgin Islands. The guy then gave Kai a big ol’ bear hug. This did not deter Kai from accepting a ride with him. Shortly after they started driving, the 300-pound former rapist started getting kind of crazy. He began ranting that he was Jesus Christ, and then rammed his car into a utility truck, pinning a black power company employee in between the bumpers.

The rapist/racist then gets out of the car and grabs ahold of and bear hugs a woman that had come over to help. The quick-thinking Kai grabs his camping hatchet and begins repeatedly hitting the big guy over the head. Oddly, this does not disable the guy, but at that point everyone kind of runs away from him. Then the cops arrive.

Well, no good or bad deed ever goes unaired anymore, and sure enough there was a reporter for the local Fox television station. Stick a camera and a microphone in someone’s face and look out! Our Kai surely rose to the occasion.

Before the reporter can even get the interview started, Kai launches into a serious speech. He stares right into the camera and says, “Before I say anything else, I want to say no matter what you’ve done you deserve respect. Even if you make mistakes you’re lovable. And it doesn’t matter your looks, skills, your age…your size, your anything…you’re worthwhile. No one can ever take that away from you.”

It’s an odd little affirmation. Immediately the viewer gets a sense of why this frizzie-haired kid is homeless and on the road. It’s not hard to figure out that he had some sort of “family issue.” They probably threw him out for being an unproductive, lazy stoner. And obviously he’s still sensitive about it. Hey, we can’t all be the CEO of GM, am I right?

Once his little, “You’re worthwhile” speech is over, then the fun starts! Kai gets into telling his story.

I must warn you. Kai’s favorite word begins with the letter “F.” He uses it liberally in its various permutations and figures of speech. Sadly, it is how “kids these days” speak. If you are easily offended by such language you might not want to watch the video of the interview. But you should watch anyway.

In the spirit of "Double Rainbow Guy,” and Antoine Dodson and Sweet Brown, the Autotune remixes of Kai’s funny little interview are already up on the YouTube. Especially that, “Smash…smash…SUH-MASH!” part.

Kai says in the video that he has no last name and that he’s from Sophia, West Virginia although he says that with a very obvious wink. His shifting accent is clearly Canadian, and other YouTube videos seem to indicate that he’s from Vancouver. In other videos we discover that his name is Caleb “Kai Lawrence” Stormberg (or perhaps Steinberg). We’ll just call him Kai because it seems to fit him.

Kai has become something of a folk hero to young boys and girls who see his counter-culture, happy-go-lucky, hippy/stoner/wandering minstrel lifestyle as something to be admired and emulated. How romantic! Girls want to bed him and marry him. Guys want to hang with him and get high. (English teachers across the country are presumably not so enamored. Daniel Webster is surely whirling in his grave.) The feedback and comments in the various YouTube videos out there have been nearly all positive. The YouTube audience seems to buy into the feel-good “Loser homeless kid saves the day!” aspect of this story. He didn’t just witness something and then comment on it; Kai actually did something! Something to be proud of – even I have to admit that.

At the end of the day, we wonder what will become of Kai? He will undoubtedly be able to enjoy some fame…for a while. Daniel Tosh (of Comedy Central's “Tosh.0”) will have a field day with him. I suspect Kai will also show up on Letterman or Leno. But you can’t always capitalize on celebrity status. The long-term “…and fortune” does not necessarily come with the short-term fame. The American public has a way of chewing up and spitting out these sort of “instant celebrities.” Eventually (and probably quickly) Kai’s notoriety will fade and some new internet sensation will take his place. I suspect that he’ll go back to bumming around the country with the occasional, “Ohhhh, you’re that YouTube hatchet hitchhiker guy!!” recognition.

Which is a shame. He seems like a genuinely good guy. Maybe he deserves a break. And maybe the universe will see that he gets one.

Edited (clean) KMPH News Story On Kai

Kai Singing His Own Song