Friday, November 9, 2012

Onward Christian Soldier

Most of us here in the U.S. know that Tuesday was a big night. Barack Obama was re-elected in a decisive victory over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as the 44th President of the United States. However, the fact that the Democrats came out on top isn't the topic of this post. What this post is about is the Republican response to their defeat. Specifically, Facebook Republicans. In deference to inoffensive Republicans everywhere (I'm sure there are some, somewhere), I'm giving Facebook Republicans their own category.

Within moments of the decision, angry Republicans were posting hateful rants on Facebook. Bad losers are nothing new. What struck me was how many of them were self-professed Christians. One of my "friends" posted this on her Facebook Wall: "I had no idea I lived with so many uneducated people. (We) are considering MOVING out of this F*CKED up place." (It should be noted that many respondents to her post inquired as to where she planned on moving.) She claims to be a Christian. And what I thought was, if these are the kind of Christian values Romney and Ryan were fighting to protect and preserve, thank goodness they lost.

Christians were calling their friends "stupid", "dumb" and "uneducated" if they voted for President Obama. Ironically, most of the vitriolic rants I read were stupid and dumb and appeared to have been written by uneducated people. And this is a generalization, but it didn't surprise me a whole lot that so many of the rabid Romney ranters didn't seem that bright given the states that many of them hail from. It seems to me that the hypocrisy of so many so-called Christians was part of the reason that their candidate lost the election so badly.

Things have changed in the United States over the last several years. As Al Cardenas, the head of the American Conservative Union and a longtime GOP leader, stated on pro-Obama cable news channel MSNBC, the Republican Party " too old and too white and too male". I thought that was an interesting observation. When the demographics were sliced, diced and digested, President Obama simply appealed to a wider group of Americans. Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in this country and the Republicans didn't take that into consideration. It appeared that Romney's message was almost exclusively aimed at rich white men and, oddly, working class white men. Well, it's not 1980 any more. America of 2012 is more of a melting pot than ever before. Our leaders need to acknowledge and address that. And at least one leader is.

I was going to post the following before the election, but I didn't get around to it. I'm going to post it now, after the fact, so take it for what it's worth. If Mitt Romney had become the President of this country, I would've been mortified. I'd have been outraged, disappointed, scared, and just plain sad. But I would've supported him and given him my loyalty freely because I'm a patriot and that's what patriots do. I most certainly wouldn't have called my friends stupid or dumb or uneducated if they hadn't voted for Obama. I have plenty of friends who didn't vote for him, and they're all bright people. (They're wrong! But bright.)

This campaign seemed endless and was filled with half-truths, out-and-out lies and no small amount of drama. Election night was exciting, boring, frustrating, interesting and, ultimately, amazing. Romney gave a short, eloquent concession speech (albeit, about two hours later than he should've given it), and President Obama's acceptance speech was heartfelt and inspiring. After so much hand-wringing and angst, it was indeed a joy to emerge from the morass of campaign ads victorious.

Facebook Republicans that are out there licking their wounds need to revisit what being a patriot is all about. In this country, patriotism isn't about ethnicity or gender or economic standing or sexual preference. It's about being an American. And, right now, I'm proud to be one.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Hey everybody! Long time, no see. My blog has been idle for a couple of months now, but rest assured, my mind has not been.

Most of what I'm going to share here today isn't particularly revelatory; it ain't anything you haven't read or heard or thought of before. But it's been swirling around in my head for a while and I wanted to bang this out before the election.

What I've noticed over the last several months is the television ads the various candidates have run. The fact that they're confusing, contradictory and misleading is a given. What bothers me most is that the majority of the candidates seem to be running ads about their opponent. And these ads invariably pull out some sound-bite, half-truth or bald-faced falsehood, and play it off as truth in order to make their opponent look weak, dishonest or plain ol' stupid. Which leaves it up to us to waste copious amounts of time trying to figure what's true and what's not.

The people who run these campaigns seem to think this strategy is a good thing. Like we'll all just believe what we see in these commercials and will therefore be more likely to make an informed decision when it comes time to vote. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think these "attack-ads" and campaigns of misinformation make the candidates look cheap and petty. Instead of campaigning on their own merits, they resort to mudslinging to make themselves look good by comparison. It's the old "I'm not really good for much of anything but at least I didn't kill anybody" strategy. And I think it sucks. It seems to me the candidate's ad dollars would be better spent letting us know what they've done right rather than what their opponent has done wrong.

Most of us have heard talk of campaign reform at some point. My understanding is that it usually has to do with how funds are raised to finance campaigns. Well, I have a campaign reform suggestion of my own.

Self-promotion: Candidates may only run ads – tv and/or print – about themselves. They may not mention their opponent in any way, shape, or form. If an ad breaking this rule airs or appears in print, the campaign will be fined and will be required to print and/or air a retraction and/or apology.

Ad Cap: A set, limited number of television and print ads may appear during a campaign. If it is discovered that a candidate has run more than the allotted number of ads, the campaign will be fined and lose one advertising slot.

Truth in Advertising: All advertising will feature only truthful statements. An independent fact-checking committee will be formed to confirm the veracity of all claims made in advertising and if a falsehood is knowingly presented, the campaign will be fined and will be required to air or print a retraction.

Money Cap: A set amount of money shall be spent by both campaigns, and said amount will be far less than what candidates have been accustomed to. Once a campaign has raised the maximum amount of financing allowed, they will not be allowed to raise more. If it is determined that a candidate has raised more that the allotted amount, they will be fined double what the overage was.

This reform may or not ever happen, but I surely wish it would. I'm sick to death of having to slog through lies and innuendo in order to try to get to the truth of what the candidates stand for. This kind of campaigning may make the candidates feel better, but it doesn't serve the people at all. And isn't that what this all supposed to be about? Serving the people? It seems to me, most politicians spend far more time serving themselves.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Idiocy Bandwagon

Wow. I think I finally figured out why our country is such a mess right now. So many of our elected officials are idiots. I don't know why it took so long for me to draw that conclusion with so much proof swirling around.

First off, anyone who's visited here a few times probably knows that I'd have to weigh in on this. I've railed about civil rights, gay rights, human rights, right of way, what have you. But this is probably the biggest 'right' (so far). It should also be noted that I'm usually way left of right.

Of all the issues that have piqued the public curiosity, first and foremost the economy, I would've thought rape was fairly far down on the list because it's so obviously wrong, period-end-of-story. But Senate hopeful Congressman Todd Aiken (R-Mo.) brought it to the fore. Here's what numbnuts said:

"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," said Akin said of pregnancy caused by rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist."

And this man is married? To a woman? By the way, according to studies, pregnancy from rape occurs about 5% of the time, the same frequency as pregnancy occurs from consensual sex.

Aiken's comments made it clear that he doesn't have clue one about women, biology, psychology or what's involved in winning an election against a female incumbent. (She could be Cruella Deville on crack and still beat him.) But before we get into his mind-bending faux pas, I want to state my views clearly and for the record. I believe rape has no qualifier. Just like one can't be almost pregnant, or sort of black, rape doesn't come in degrees. A person is either raped or not. There's no such thing as "legitimate" or "forcible" rape. Rape is rape. Rape is defined as sexual intercourse by one or more individuals with another party against their will. There's no legal or moral distinction between "date rape" and "anonymous rape". Rape has been classified as a "crime against humanity" and a "war crime" in certain circumstances. The way a woman dresses or behaves has no bearing on whether unwanted sex perpetrated upon her is "justified" or her fault. That's it. No gray area.

I guess one has to admire the Republican party for their sorta-kinda support of Aiken. Republican Vice Presidential wannabe Paul Ryan distanced himself from Aiken immediately and then was called to task when it was revealed that he and Aiken co-sponsored legislation that would allow abortion only in the case of "forcible rape". Forcible rape. I thought to myself, "As opposed to what?" Ryan also referred to rape as "another method of conception". Let the backpedaling begin, Mr. Ryan.

Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate Tom Smith also distanced himself from Aiken but stepped in his own pile when he affirmed that abortion should be illegal across the board, even for rape victims. Then he planted his other foot when he said pregnancy by rape is comparable to getting pregnant out of wedlock, as his daughter had done.

Apparently Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tx.) believes that women are more interested in important issues like economic prosperity and jobs. Rape and abortion rights? Bah! And lest we forget Mike "Chick-fil-A Day" Huckabee, who rallied Baptist clergy to remind us that "(...)Congressman Akin represents the mainstream of our values. He is the mainstream of our values." Um, not mine.

Then there's the political action committee Republican National Coalition for Life which endorses GOP candidates who advocate a strict no-abortion platform and are "unconditionally pro-life". So far, 40 House and Senate candidates have been endorsed by the group and, with months until the election, that number could go up. Akin-defender Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) made the list, though he admitted he'd never personally known a rape victim, pregnant or not. But way to support the cause, Steve!

On the other side of the road, former Republican Florida Governor Charlie Crist supports, and has even joined in, the backlash against Aiken's comments. And, of course, the Republican party has vilified him as being "self-serving and overly ambitious". Toe the party line, bully for you. Step on it, and you're screwed.

Like so many other powerful terms in the English language, the word "rape" has been usurped by the public consciousness and used in ways that diminish it. Sports: "Omigod, he was safe! He was so raped." Business: "Dude, your bonus sucked! You were so raped!" Environment: "People, this land has been raped." (Yes, even green-minded people are guilty of misusing 'rape' to further their agenda.)

But in the context of humanity and civil rights, rape has but one meaning. There's no "well, let's look at the circumstances" issue here. Men can be raped too, but for the purposes of this blog post, I'm talking about women. Women can only be raped one way. I don't have enough room in this blog to explain to the likes of Todd Aiken and Paul Ryan – and those who blindly and ignorantly support them – what that means. It just shocks and disturbs me that men – MEN, young and old – who were lawfully elected to public office are so dense that they could take the stance that they have. And it shocks and disappoints me that there are women out there – regardless of religious or political affiliation – that either support these neanderthals or are seemingly indifferent to the ramifications of these views. (Apologies to neanderthals.)

Aiken is an idiot. That's obvious. Ryan is a somewhat smarter idiot because he's done everything he can to distance himself from Aiken and the "forcible rape" legislation that they co-wrote. Smith and Huckabee are just plain scary. And Kay Bailey Hutchison? You're a woman. How is any of this okay with you? And my female Facebook friends – how are you okay with this?

There's been an uproar ever since Aiken's comments went viral. What frightens me is that there's nearly as much support as there is outrage for the things he said. He claims he "misspoke", but people continue to support his allegedly misstated point of view. What does that say about us as a nation of humans? We Americans, as a philosophy, are still convinced that we're somehow superior to pretty much everyone in pretty much every way. Our economy is in the crapper and we're no longer a true super power. As inconvenient as those things are, they're recoverable. But what about our moral fiber?

I'll speak out to the Republicans because they're the ones who have freely put their heads on the chopping block (the smartest dumb thing they've done in a long time). Have any of you thought about the individual as opposed to your political rhetoric? Do any of you know a rape victim who had to struggle with not only her attack, but the far-reaching physical and emotional consequences? I haven't. I've known women who have been raped, but as far as I know none of them got pregnant as a result. I can't think of any circumstance that would allow me to feel comfortable or righteous enough to tell them what to do with their unborn baby if they were pregnant. Like abortion in general, I think it's too personal a decision to be left up to a mostly male government whose goals are increasingly self-serving.

If a woman is raped, she should be allowed to have a legal abortion. Congressman Aiken and Vice Presidential hopeful Ryan, I ask you: What is forcible rape? And what isn't? And how are women supposed to live with your interpretation?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Don't Wait for the Weight

Call this a cross-promotion. (TV shows do it all the time -- Magnum appeared on Simon & Simon and vice versa. They weren't super-great episodes, but it was still fun to watch Rick and A.J. duke it out with Thomas.)

My girlfriend Christy and I are trying to lose weight, and we're gonna do it. And it's not just about weight-loss, it's about eating and living better. We started a heart-healthy lifestyle last year but sort of, um, slacked. So we're re-doubling our efforts. I think it's a good thing and it's not as difficult or as restrictive as you might think.

So, to that end, I'm actively inviting (read: encouraging) you to visit Christy's blog – and take a gander. A few of us have vowed to make a difference in our own lives and, hopefully, in yours too.

Take a look, set a goal, and see if you can achieve your New Year's Resolution before New Years. Hey, it's a win-win. If you lose a little weight by Dec. 31, you can actually have fun on Dec. 31! And you won't have the pressure of setting a resolution on that penultimate day of the year that you're going to feel guilty about not keeping come Jan. 1!

Come on, it's a blog. If you cheat or choose not to do it, who's gonna know? But if you accept the challenge, you've got bragging rights in, like, August!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Yep. Here we go again...

I've come to realize that I question how many people actually understand the true definition of prejudice and discrimination. Through repeated exposure to images and ideas of discrimination, have we become desensitized to what it actually is? I realized that of all the people I've ever known in my life, I've known very few who were overtly prejudiced or discriminated against in any way. Chick-fil-A chief executive Dan Cathy's recent Christian-based anti-gay comments at first pissed me off in a there-they-go-again kind of way. The resultant furor over his comments encouraged me at first. Yay! This is pissing a lot of people off! And then I was appalled at the support he, and the restaurant chain, have received. Appalled and plain old disappointed. I'm disappointed in how narrow-minded and intolerant so many people in this country still remain. People seem to cling to ignorance (and stupidity) with a fierce determination that, to me, lacks explanation.

I discovered that many people I liked and respected are, in fact, hate-mongers with as little tolerance, compassion and sense as Nazi Germany at the height of its power and influence. Perhaps I've indulged in a little self-delusion because the reactions I've seen, on Facebook for example, took me a bit by surprise. The comments people have made made me think that they really have no idea what it's like to be discriminated against, or been a victim of bigotry or prejudice. I wondered how honest, God-fearing Christians could think it was okay to jail somebody because of their sexual preference? Granted, the Catholics had their Spanish Inquisition, and the Nazis had the Final Solution, Americans had slavery because blacks were inferior, women weren't allowed to vote; and hell, everyone was dumped on in this country during the Industrial Revolution. So, yeah, there's a history of egregious wrong-doing that was eventually righted. The Catholics got screwed in the U.S. right up until the 60s, and then a bunch of sick priests further sullied their reputation. Hitler lost, the slaves were freed, and women can vote. And Italians, Jews, Russians, Albanians and the Irish continue to fight amongst themselves (but they all seem to balance one another out in a sort circle-of-life thing).

So how is it, in this day and age, that we still haven't learned tolerance? How is it that so many seem to have forgotten the past and have no foresight toward the future? People continue to foist their twisted belief systems on others and hide under the white hood of free speech and the First Amendment. The First Amendment doesn't absolve you from having to think about what you say. Having the right to espouse bigotry doesn't make it right. And having the right to say whatever you want isn't the same as having the right to take action. When are people going to learn to be as respectful of other people's beliefs as they would have them be of theirs? When I read about either the gleefully ignorant ("Go Chick-fil-A!"), or the ignorantly apathetic ("I don't agree with their views, but I like their food. Go Chick-fil-A!"), I wanted to puke. It made me realize it's a lot cooler to be known as an American than to actually be one.

I don't think a lot of these people even know what the hell they're supporting. They're just jumping on the bandwagon like good little sheep and not even thinking about the actual, real-world ramifications of the words and actions that they're supporting. They're thinking of actual, flesh'n'blood human beings that their actions are affecting in a strictly abstract, academic sense. "These are other people who deserve what's comin' to them. But I don't know any of them."

History will demonstrate, as it has time and again, that the put upon and downtrodden will prevail and that their persecutors will be seen as the ignorant, provincial thugs that they are.

If all the groups that have been targeted for hate in our nation's history received the sanctions their persecutors sought, there wouldn't be anybody left.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Ella Mae

Ella Mae Blount 1912-2012
My grandma passed away yesterday. She was 99-and-a-half years old and died peacefully while asleep in her own bed. She was healthy and happy and clear of mind and spirit when she died.

After my mom called and told me Grandma had died, I unpaused the TV show I was watching and continued. I thought it might distract me from the news I'd just gotten. But it didn't. (Big surprise.) So I turned it off and I just...sat. My grandma and I weren't close, but neither were we distant. We simply lived across the country from each other and didn't communicate often. But I loved her dearly and I like to think that I was a decent grandson, especially during the last few years of her life.

As I sat on my couch, what I thought about was her life and her death. She was nearly a century old. A century! She was born just 9 years after Orville and Wilbur learned to fly. She witnessed the birth of commercial aviation and saw Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. She was around when a telephone still weighed about 4 pounds, only came in one color and didn't have a prayer of fitting into a handbag or a pocket. She had a typewriter and sent letters and didn't have a computer and never sent an email. She heard movies go from silent to sound and saw them go from black and white to color. She listened to radio and then watched television. She sang to herself and then got a phonograph and then a cassette player and then a CD player. (No iPod for Grandma, though.)

My grandma lived through World Wars I and II. She lived through Korea and Vietnam. She survived every disease known to modern man either because she never caught it or simply kicked its ass. She wasn't killed by a mugger or a drunk driver or a heart attack or a stroke. She was born in a time when it was nearly unlivable to be black in America and she saw the modern civil rights movement make life a bit better.

She raised 2 sons who then raised children of their own, who then raised children of their own. She was all of 5'-2", had a thick silver braid down to her butt, and I can't pull up a mental image of her face without a smile on it. She said her trick to keeping a clean house was to put things down where they belong. And she said that every disagreement isn't worth arguing about.

When I think about death, the idea of dying doesn't bother me that much. I think what frightens me is how I'll die. Will it be painful? Will I be alone? Will it take long? Will it be after a protracted illness while I'm lying in a hospital bed attached to machines and surrounded by strangers?

My grandmother died peacefully and painlessly while asleep in her own bed. That's how I could go. So for today, I'm not quite as frightened as I was.

Thanks, Grandma.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Beyond - A Short Story

This post is a companion piece to my previous post. It's a short story that @Christy ( wrote after I showed her two pieces of science-fiction art that I did. I think it's a wonderful story (in my unbiased opinion) and I hope you'll give it a read.


The Beyond
The Beyond
For years we lived in the peace of our world, content with the knowledge that had been handed down from father and mother to son and daughter. In the darkness of night, we gathered with families, heard tales of the Ancients, and learned that when one ceased to exist on this plane, the other world awaited. In the day, we went about our business, living our lives. When the skies were clear, one could look up and see the red stillness that was and had always been. It was simply, The Beyond.

The Beyond was a place the Ancients believed the essence of our being went once we ceased to exist physically on our planet. Another was The Traverse. The Beyond was preferable. It could be seen. We knew when we looked at it that perhaps our loved ones were there. The Traverse was frightening. What did it look like? Why could we not see it? As the ancients explained it, it was what was just past The Beyond, and only a select few were chosen to go.

We became curious and began to wonder what was inside, or even on the other side, of The Beyond. Did one truly go there when one ceased to exist? If we could somehow build a craft that could take us there, would we see our loved ones? And if we could go farther, would we find out who went to The Traverse and why?

And so began the journey to build crafts that would take us into The Beyond and perhaps to the Traverse. It took years of failed experiments. We worked as one, those on the long side of the world and those on mine. It became a universal goal. What was already a functioning global community became more so. Then the day came when one of the test launches of a craft lifted off, hovered and moved higher toward The Beyond. We were ready.

The world rejoiced! Soon we would have answers. More tests were done, crafts were built, and teams were chosen to go on the first journey. Training was intense, but all knew it was worth it. Those who were chosen would find answers, bring them back to our world, and perhaps become the new Ancients with new answers.

When the day arrived for the four crafts to depart, everyone was there to witness it in person, those from our side and the long side of the world. The crowds were large and the mood was high.We who were chosen boarded with pride and an intense emotion we had never before felt. Finally, we would see The Beyond. Finally we might see loved ones long passed.

All went well with lift off. We made it through several layers of atmosphere and neared our first destination: The Beyond. The red glow that had been so comforting was now slightly frightening. We were worried. As we entered the brightness of The Beyond, our crafts tilted and alarms sounded. We did our best to keep control, and watched as our three sister craft did the same. Finally we broke through.

The Traverse
Surrounded by the warm red glow, we marveled at the wisps of vapor that seemed to dance. Desperately we searched for signs of what the ancients had told us. Where were our loved ones? We continue to explore The Beyond, but there was no sign of life. There was no sign of a planet where we could land. There was no sign of familiar faces. With deep sorrow, we sent images back to our world with the message that we were continuing on to The Traverse.

Again, we struggled to maintain control as we moved from the red atmosphere of The Beyond to the mysterious unknown of The Traverse. It took such concentration, that none of us noticed what it looked like until we were through and steady.

Finally, we were on the other side of The Beyond and instead of the brilliant red we had known all our lives, we saw a peaceful blue that hypnotized us. This was The Traverse. The vastness was almost overwhelming. Our small imaginations had never envisioned this. We no longer believed we would find our loved ones, but we did believe we would find others, and we wanted to experience their beauty.

V I S U A L S v.2

I was sitting here trying to think of something new to talk/rant about, and – apparently – the world is now perfect, because I can't think of anything to bitch about right now. But I did realize I'd done a bit of artwork since the last time I posted some of my stuff.

So until something pisses me off or otherwise strikes my fancy, here's some new-ish artwork to keep you busy for a little while. Click on the images to see an enlarged view.


Mouthful of Mic [Illustrator and Photoshop] I guess I don't really need an explanation for this one. Except that was misleadingly difficult to do. It kept looking like a bean, which was frustrating. It didn't start looking like a microphone until I shaded it and chromed it up.

The Beyond [Photoshop] I was in a sci-fi/geeky mood for a while and did this along with The Traverse. I didn't come up with these titles either; Christy did. And she wrote a really cool short story to go with them.

Guardian [Illustrator and Photoshop] Yay! An actual paying piece! This is...I'm not actually sure what this thing is. I call it the warp drive.

Hitachi [Illustrator and Photoshop] When I was first starting to get into using the computer to do illustration instead of the airbrush, I used to collect photos I found of cool looking stuff. I found this in a magazine and thought it would be a good exercise to keep honing my Photoshop skills.

CK-650 [Illustrator and Photoshop] This was a blast to do. Sometimes I'll just go on Google and look for images of cars or motorcycles – anything that seems like it'd be fun to draw. This piqued my curiosity so – voila!

Sentinels [Illustrator and Photoshop] Sci-fi/geek mode again. I drew one of these...things and then decided to dupe them and put them in orbit around an earth-like planet. I think of them as guardians of the world below, impersonal but also unthreatening.

The Traverse [Illustrator and Photoshop] This is the companion piece to The Beyond (the second piece in this collection). This started as a doodle in Illustrator and sort of got out of hand. lol I don't really know what these things are though. Stargates maybe? Portals to regions unknown?

U.S.S. Venture [Illustrator] I was a major Star Trek: The Next Generation fan and I loved the graphics that visual artist Mike Okuda did for the show. I first drew this in pen and ink when I was just a wee one and wanted to re-do it in the style of ST:TNG's graphics.

Enday [Photoshop] This was kind've a joke for Christy's mom. I think she saw another planet thingy I'd done and thought the lights of the city were explosions. So now we have our end-of-days world.

The Chrysler Building [Illustrator and Photoshop] This is a work-in-progress (you may have noticed that the Chrysler building isn't actually there yet), but I thought I'd show it here and then post the finished piece eventually.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cops Aren't Idiots, They're Just Written That Way

But I'm stylin'!
This is not a cop-bash. It's a TV cop bash. Reality shows may still be all the rage, but give me a police procedural and I'm glued to the boob tube. But why? Why, why, why are the cops so stupid? I don't know much about real police procedure, but I've gotta believe that TV cops are way dumber than real ones.

I understand that a certain amount of artistic license may be necessary for dramatic purposes, but do writers have to make TV cops short-bus stupid? Surely there are real cops across America that are rolling their eyes, pissed off that TV portrays them as clichéd numbskulls. Don't get me wrong; there are a few smart cops out there. Detective Kate Beckett on "Castle" is smart, pretty, and tough. Detective Robert Goren on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" is brilliant. And Detective Jane Timoney (the brilliantly acerbic Maria Bello), late of "Prime Suspect", was the coolest, most realistic female TV cop since Cagney and Lacey (probably why she was canceled). If I was murdered, I'd want any of these top cops on the case.

But most of them are just dumber than a bag of rocks. For example:

Should Be Working Vice
Why are the male detectives all balding, middle-aged, non-descript gray suits while the female detectives are hot and sassy? Carrie Wells on "Unforgettable" (see photo) wears tops cut down to her navel and 5-inch stiletto boots (along with an annoying, ever-present smirk). If I was a suspect and I saw her coming after me, I'd run. Why? Because she can't catch me if she's wearing 5-inch stiletto boots. With her long, bright red hair, sleeveless low-cut tops and heels, she should be working vice, not homicide.

Sharing is Good For the Soul
Why do cops discuss ongoing investigations in front of, well, everyone? They interview a shop-owner in his store, and then reveal details of the case while he listens on. What if he was involved in the crime? Good thing for him that they're kind enough to let him know exactly how off-track they are.

Mr. Manson, Meet the Parents
Why do cops parade families of victims through the squad room, in plain view of the suspects? "Right this way, Mr. Smith." "Hey...hey...! Is that the scumbag who raped and murdered my daughter?" Always eager to help out, some hapless cop has a firearm handy for the victim's dad to snatch and shoot the suspect. The suspect who turns out to be innocent.

Always Give Fair Warning
This is one of my favorites. Our intrepid detectives are searching for a suspect. They spot him on the street and shout, "Hey, you! FREEZE!" from either a) a block away, b) across a crowded room, or c) when the suspect is within easy reach of a potential hostage. Naturally, the suspect always gets away in the ensuing chaos. If I was a cop, I'd casually saunter up to the suspect, put my gun in his ear, and shout FREEZE! That way, he wouldn't get away and I'd have the added benefit of scaring the shit out of him.

Nah, He'll Never Use the Fire Escape
The entire detective squad is decked out in riot gear, the S.W.A.T. team is present with battering rams, shotguns, and automatic rifles. They bust into the suspect's lair, a gunfight breaks out and...the suspect gets away through a secret tunnel, onto the roof, down a fire escape, etc. Did it not occur to anyone to check the building's blueprint before mounting the assault? (The suspect did.)

It Could Be Ketchup
Why do detectives always have to dip their fingers in a pool of blood and then rub their fingertips together to discover that it is, indeed, blood? Haven't they seen enough blood to know what it looks like? And hello? Blood-borne pathogens? Hepatitis? AIDS? ("Dude, did that paper cut heal yet?")

It Could Be Powdered Sugar
If I was a badass drug dealer and wanted to bump off the entire narcotics division, I'd plant a brick of arsenic-laced cocaine in plain view because I could rest assured that all the cops would whip out their switchblade (they all have one), poke a hole in the pack, and taste the product. A product that could be...PCP perhaps? Or Drano? Or rat poison? And how on earth do they pass a department mandated drug test after they've been sampling smack all week?

No, No, Really – I'm Fine
Det. Curtis shoots a kid by mistake. Later, he slams a suspect against a wall during an interrogation and snarls, "You think I'm done with you? Huh? Well, do ya? Punk!" His captain says, "Um, ok. That's enough, Det. By the way, how's the counseling going?" Is there a TV cop out there who actually welcomes counseling after a traumatic event? And is there a lieutenant or captain who would let their detective carry a gun after seeing him/her go uncharacteristically medieval on some perp's ass?

Better Let 'Em Know We're Here
After an episode's worth of searching, our heroes have finally discovered the location of the mad bomber's hideout. So they head over with sirens blaring and tires screeching to a halt, thus alerting the suspect that the police have arrived. While the team is preparing to bust in the door, the perp is setting a booby-trap bomb and effecting his escape. Which leads us to...

No, it's not! Busting into a house, quickly sweeping a room with a flashlight and declaring a room "clear" is just stupid. Did they check the closets, under the bed, the attic, the crawlspace under the house? If I was a bad guy, I wouldn't come out, guns blazing. I'd just hide in the bathtub, because they didn't check there either.

If I Look at You Hard Enough, You'll Confess
If you suspect, but as yet have no proof, that someone's guilty of something, why would you stare them down, thus alerting them that they're under suspicion. "Hmmm... Clearly she knows I'm up to something. So while they're continuing their investigation, I'll eliminate all of the evidence that could possibly implicate me. That way, I'll escape and they can bring me back all season long to not get caught again and again and again and..."

A Few Honorable Mentions...
- Empty threats made against suspects during heated, yet fruitless interrogations
- Insubordinate cops that wouldn't just get fired, they'd be shot
- Unmarked cop cars that look like cop cars ("Hey Vinnie? You think that's a couple of cops in the black Crown Victoria with no hubcaps that's been parked across the street for the past 7 hours?")
- Serial killers that don't get caught
- Unsolved murders of our hero's loved ones (Kate Beckett's mom on "Castle", Patrick Jane's family on "The Mentalist", Carrie Wells' sister on "Unforgettable")

I don't know if it's something in the Police Procedural Writer's Rulebook that says every show has to have this crap, but enough already. Let's get some smart TV cop who wear sensible shoes.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I Now Pronounce You Gay

Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,
New York, Vermont, and Washington  – 8 states down, 42 to go!

Women weren't allowed to vote until about 90 years ago. A lot of people thought slavery was OK until it was abolished nearly 150 years ago because it wasn't OK. Hitler thought it was OK to eliminate 10 million Jews and Gypsies until we decided it was actually genocide. After our nation's – and the world in general's – tumultuous history, it shouldn't still take decades to learn from our mistakes. Yet there are people out there who think 8 states allowing gay marriage is 8 states too many. The Republican party is even making the ban on gay marriage a key issue in the upcoming election. Apparently the economy, housing crisis and continued healthcare reform aren't really that big a deal.

Where I live, lawmakers just passed a bill for same-sex marriage. Not to sound overly naïve, but when I heard that I remember thinking, "They had to pass a law for people to get married? I thought they did that already."

Many of the proponents of the bill at the government level are gay, as are many across the country who have campaigned to have similar legislation made into law in their own home states. I'm not gay, and I don't think you have to be to recognize an individual's right to marry anyone they choose. Similarly, you don't have to be black or a woman to appreciate their right to equal civil liberties.

What I've never understood is why groups of people feel the need to curtail the rights and privileges of other groups of people for arbitrary reasons. And yes, they're arbitrary. A person's sexual preference has no bearing on their ability to be an effective firefighter, or teacher, or police officer, or ditchdigger. (There are plenty of straight people who suck at those jobs.)

I dated a woman who thought gays shouldn't be allowed in the military or in law enforcement. This was back during the early days of President Clinton's liberal gay rights policies which eventually morphed into "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". I asked her why she felt this way. Her response was that gays in the military would weaken the military's morale and, thus, their readiness because the straight members would be so uncomfortable sharing barracks or showers with the gays. And my response was that that's the straight guys' problem. The gays aren't uncomfortable, so why should they be penalized because a bunch of backward-thinking homophobes don't know how to man up? If G.I. Joe is weirded out by G.I. Joey, get G.I. Joe some sensitivity training. And hey, if you're worried about being hit on by a gay bunk mate, just say no. (Straight soldiers have a history of raping and abusing women in the military already. Sounds like a personal problem...)

I wish I was a trained social psychologist because maybe then I'd have some insight into why homosexuality makes so many people so uncomfortable, even afraid. And I don't say that so I'll look ultra-progressive and cool. I say that because I'd honestly like to know. I understand that homosexuality scares many straight people. I just don't understand why.

Being gay doesn't make you smarter or dumber, stronger or weaker, taller or shorter, fatter or skinnier. Gay people are old and young, black and white, yellow and brown. They're rich and poor, have great jobs and are unemployed. They're less likely to be rapists, serial killers and child molesters. Homosexuality isn't contagious, it doesn't smell funny, it doesn't look funny (most of the time), and it doesn't breed promiscuity. It doesn't affect anyone else in any way, save for an individual's chosen response to it. It's interesting that gays have never sought to compromise the rights and privileges of, or otherwise sanction, straight people. Maybe they would if they were the majority. Maybe if there were more of "them" than "us", I'd have to kiss Christy in private. And maybe I'd read more news stories about straight-bashing and "Herpes: The Straight Disease!" I'd hear more pundits twisting arcane bible scripture to justify their warped interpretation of God's word.

Bottom line, who among us has the right to say who should and shouldn't be allowed to marry? Common sense dictates that you can't marry your sibling or your dog. But short of the obvious, I don't see the problem. Until someone comes along and can prove they're an expert on love and marriage, I think we should all be allowed to make our own decision when it comes to a spouse. Love isn't gay or straight.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Civil Rights 2.0 Redux

Some of you may notice that I posted this back in the wee days of my blog last February. A few people mentioned that it might be cool if I re-posted it in honor of Black History Month. My intention was to post this at the beginning of the month, so naturally, I procrastinated until the middle of the month.

I re-read this and decided that there was nothing I wanted to change. I still feel exactly the same as I did last year, and will probably feel the same next year.

So read up, if you care to. And share your thoughts, if you're so inclined. Thanks! - Steven

* * *

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X
I was a kid living overseas during the height of the civil rights movement in the late sixties and early seventies. I'm still not sure whether I consider myself lucky to have been away during that tumultuous period, or that I somehow missed out. I consider myself a progressive, even brave person and I'd like to believe that if the need had presented itself, I would've been right out there, waving a sign and doing my best to stick it to The Man with all the other angry, idealistic people.

Civil rights, or rather the idea of civil rights, seems so basic, so much of a no-brainer, that it shouldn't even still be an issue. But, of course, it is. We've all heard a variation of the story about how someone's cousin's best friend's wife's sister didn't get a job someplace doing some-such-thing because they were white and a minority quota had to be met because of Affirmative Action. That may be so. And it's unfortunate. No one should be denied employment because of their color. (I almost used the word 'race', but we're all one race, right? Anyone out there not human?) Truth be told, Affirmative Action is tantamount to reverse discrimination. But at that time in this country, discrimination was so pervasive that bigots had to be forced, by law, not to engage in racist practices, at least in the workplace. Rocky Redneck had to hire black folk whether he wanted to or not, sometimes to the detriment of his company (too bad, Rock).

That was then. And this is now.

Reading, listening, watching, thinking. As I've gotten older and experienced more, something has continued to bug me. How equal is equal? And what exactly do pundits mean when they claim they seek equality? Black civil rights activists have fought being singled out in a negative way in favor of being singled out in a positive way. But why be singled out at all? In an effort to foment inclusion, activism has perpetuated exclusion, even separatism. There was a time when the black community in this country had to band together and toot their own horn because no one else would. But in this day and age, why is it okay to have 'black' colleges, or 'black' night clubs, or 'black' TV shows? If an institution openly touted itself as being 'white', they'd be considered racist. When blacks do it, it's socially acceptable as 'black pride'.

I'm not saying that prejudice doesn't still exist. I'm not saying that there isn't still work to be done. But how long does the current generation of white people need to be held accountable for what their great-great-great-great ancestors did? How long should black people feel that they're still "owed" something? At some point, a generation needs to say, "Enough."  

Enough with the separatism. Enough with the sense of entitlement. If blacks want to be truly integrated into all aspects of mainstream society, the exclusivity needs to stop. To be clear, my opinion is as an observer and participant, not as an authority. I'm not a journalist or a cultural anthropologist, I'm just a guy who believes a little modernization of the civil rights dogma is overdue. Just as the U.S. Constitution was written nearly 250 years ago and has since been amended dozens of times to address changing times, the thinking of the 60s needs to progress wholly into the current millennium. It's not okay for any group to continue to spout they're own ethnocentric rhetoric in the name of civil rights. Rule of thumb: If any group would be considered racist for saying something, no one else should say it either.

Rosa Parks fought for her own seat, not her own bus.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Happy One-Year Anniversary!

Hey everybody! I realized that January 15 is the one-year anniversary of me starting this thing.

I just wanted to say that the experience has been, for me, amazing. When my girlfriend Christy suggested I start a blog, I was skeptical, dubious. I mean, I've got no shortage of stuff to say, but I didn't really think anybody would read it. I have no idea how many blogs already existed by the time I launched mine, but it was inconceivable to me that anyone would find mine outside of family and a few FB friends. I'm glad I was wrong.

I've met some amazing new people since I started this thing. I was going to list all the people that have really touched me over this past year, but there have been so many that I'm afraid I'd leave somebody out and then I'd feel guilty and that would ruin everything. So I'm not going to name names. Okay. Maybe a few: Denise, Sarah, Shay (out from under her invisibility cloak), Tammy, Michelle and sorei – you ladies rock! I'm so glad I've gotten to meet you and share a part of your lives. (sorei, I knew you before, but it's still cool that you're here.) There are even a few guys I've missed of late: Sushi Lover, Night Owl, Grey Goose (I know you're still out there, Grey, hanging out with the Missus, but I still miss you).

(And Amanda and Betty Lou, where are you?)

There's been a little controversy, a little drama and lots of laughs. Most of all, it's gotten me thinking about so many things in a different light. I had/have strong opinions about a few things, but many of you got me to expand my views, and I'm better for it.

So, thank you. Thank you all for visiting, commenting, making me think, and making me laugh. You all – the ones who stop by regularly, the lurkers, the fly-bys – make me very grateful I started doing this.

I look forward to seeing you all throughout 2012! Happy belated New Year!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Yep, Mr. Clean is a Nazi

I'm here to make the world white!
I was in the shower the other day thinking about...stuff. (Great place for stuff-thinking.) I was thinking how cool it would be if companies started running some of their old TV ads from way back when. "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz..." (Speedy); "Where's the beef?" (Clara Peller); "Please don't squeeze the Charmin!" (Mr. George Whipple, played by Dick Wilson); "Motor-mouth" John Moschita from the FedEx ads. And I wondered what happened to the Jolly Green Giant and Mr. Clean.

Well, I can't speak about most of them because I have no idea what machinations twist and turn in corporate marketing departments. But Mr. Clean? Yeah, I've got his number.

A bald, tshirt-clad white guy? Nazi. There, I said it. The other "N" word. Or a white supremacist. Or a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. It doesn't really matter, does it? I guess in 1957, no one had a problem with skinheads cleaning their house. But in today's continued politically-correct climate, a Nazi spokesperson is simply unacceptable. So I understand why he's not on TV so much anymore.

Come to think of it, didn't the Jolly Green Giant hang out with a little boy named Sprout? A grown – and we're talking grown – man hanging out with a kid. Freshly canned and frozen food for thought...

So. Are there any other advertising miscreants that give you pause? (For example, they probably wouldn't let Mr. Whipple squeeze the Charmin ever-so-creepily on TV anymore either. Now we get to watch bears wipe their furry little bear-butts.)