Category Archives: General

I did not write this. But it’s excellent.

If you follow college basketball, you may well hate the University of Kansas. Jeremy Stahl certainly does. Writing in Slate’s annual NCAA tournament “Teams We Hate” feature, Stahl called the Jayhawks “odious” and “contemptible.”

No big shock. Kansas—along with North Carolina, Kentucky, and Duke—is one of those teams that fans love to hate, like the Yankees, the Lakers, or Dallas Cowboys. KU is a high-dollar, high-pressure program, perennially in the top 20, usually in the top five, and always a threat to make the Final Four. Of course people root against the Jayhawks. Tonight, for example. Unless, like President Obama, you picked KU to win the National Championship, you will probably cheer against the Jayhawks tonight as they take on 12th-seeded Richmond. That’s only natural. As Kansas alum Wilt Chamberlain once famously said, “Nobody roots for Goliath.”

In this case though, that’s a real shame. It’s shame because hating on the Jayhawks means you hate the United States of America. Yes, you read that right.

The Jayhawk, a mythical mix of a blue jay’s cunning with the ferocity of a hawk, was born in pre-Civil war era “Bleeding Kansas,” when the strange bird was adopted as the mascot of abolitionist forces fighting for Kansas to enter the Union as free state. The Jayhawkers battled with Border Ruffians, many from Missouri, who wanted to bring slavery into the new territory, and who ultimately sparked a horrific, bloody war of secession. Surely, it’s more than mere coincidence that the pro-Union Jayhawks must face a team from the old capital of the Confederacy tonight, and could face another on Sunday.

If you root against KU basketball, then, you are actually rooting for slavery. You’re supporting the Confederacy over United States, cheering for racism, oppression, and war, and, not for nothing, you want President Obama to fail—all of which are certainly “odious” and “contemptible” by any reasonable definitions.

Or maybe Stahl just hates sports history.

Kansas basketball, certainly, has a history as rich as any team in the country, no matter what the sport, at any level of college or the pros. The first coach of KU basketball, after all, was the first coach of any basketball team, anywhere, ever. James A. Naismith brought his newly-invented sport to Lawrence in 1898, coaching for seven years before handing the reins to his heir and greatest pupil, Forrest C. “Phog” Allen.

Allen essentially created the game of basketball as we know it. He streamlined Naismith’s invention, creating a sleeker, faster sport, and he founded, through sheer force of his will, many of the college basketball institutions and traditions people like Jeremy Stahl enjoy today. For just a hint of Allen’s enormous influence, consider the history of two other college programs, North Carolina and Kentucky.

Both schools, as Stahl probably knows, play in buildings named for their greatest coaches. Just as KU plays in Allen Field House, the Kentucky Wildcats plays in Rupp Area, named after Adolph Rupp, while North Carolina’s Tarheels play in a dome named for the legendary Dean Smith.

Does Jeremy Stahl also know, however, that Rupp and Smith both played college ball, and learned coaching, under Phog Allen at Kansas? Because they did.

Allen also was the driving force behind basketball being made an Olympic event. Without that 1936 milestone, the game would never have gone global, there would never have been any Dream Teams, and today there wouldn’t be dozens of international players spicing up the NBA. If, Lord forbid, Phog Allen had never lived, Tony Parker and Pau Gasol would be playing soccer right now. While Yao Ming, meanwhile, would just be some very tall poor guy in China.

Really, if you think about it, it’s very cruel of Jeremy Stahl to hope that Yao Ming lives in poverty.

Oh, and this whole March Madness/Big Dance/Bracketology thing? The tournament of thrills the whole country goes mad for each spring? That was Phog’s idea, too. Allen founded the postseason tournament in 1939, through his National Association of Basketball Coaches, and handed off its management to the NCAA the following year.

Yep. As it turns out, Jeremy Stahl even hates the NCAA tournament. Can you believe this guy?

Stahl, however, is right about one thing. He was right to criticize some of the players on this year’s Jayhawk roster.

Like Mario Little, for instance, suspended earlier this season after his arrest in a late-night domestic disturbance. Or the twins, Marcus and Markieff Morris, who may be perfectly friendly young men off the court, but had to break an unfortunate habit of throwing elbows on it. Or what about point guard Tyshawn Taylor? He was suspended during conference play for being a self-described “bad kid,” which rumormongers claim was a dalliance with his girlfriend under the seats at Allen Field House.

Funny? Sure. But very, very against the rules, detrimental to the team, and really not the kind of thing you look for in a leader.

That kind of junk just isn’t what Kansas Basketball is supposed to represent. KU may not be all snooty like Duke, with delusions of Ivy grandeur, but Jayhawk fans do expect better than tawdry sexcapades and low-rent thuggery. The Jayhawk Faithful expect more than that—from any player who accepts the challenge of wearing the crimson and blue.

Like Tyrel Reed, for instance. A senior from little Burlington, Kansas, Reed is not only living a childhood dream of playing for Kansas, he will graduate early, in three and a half years, and was named as a first-team Academic All-American.

Surely Jeremy Stahl doesn’t root against kids who get good grades? Surely he also wouldn’t root against sophomore Thomas Robinson.

Robinson, at just 19 years old, endured more loss this season than most people could stand in a decade. In late December, his grandmother died. Less than two weeks later, his grandfather followed. Just days after that, in mid-January, Robinson’s mother Lisa passed away from an apparent heart attack at age 43—a brutal stretch for the young man. At least, though, he has had his teammates, coaches, and the whole KU community around him, and it’s been inspiring to see the support Robinson and his younger sister Jayla have received.

With due respect to Richmond Spider fans—some of whom, unlike Jeremy Stahl, may not actually be pro-slavery—basketball in Kansas isn’t a casual thing. For most fans around the country, of the average college hoops team, basketball is something that happens a couple of times a week, a few months a year, after football season is over.

Not for the Jayhawk Faithful, insanely committed and knowledgeable, who critique every shot, even in exhibition games, and follow every off-season recruiting rumor like national security is at stake. Show up on a game night at Allen sometime. A bad pass, a double-dribble, or silly foul will elicit genuine gasps of shock from the crowd—even if the ‘Hawks are up by 30. To grow up a Jayhawk is to grow up indoctrinated. It’s like being raised in a strict fundamentalist church—but the only fundamentals that matter are footwork, hustle, shot selection, and knowing how to guard the pick-and-roll.

So, go ahead, casual hoops fans. Root against the Jayhawks, if you must. Sure, it means that you show no love for passionate basketball fans, and have no respect for the history of the game. Sure, rooting against KU also means that you support slavery, hate America, and want the President of the United States to fail. Oh, well. At least you’ll have Jeremy Stahl on your side.

Hampton Stevens

HAMPTON STEVENS – Hampton Stevens writes for ESPN.com’s Page 2 and ESPN the Magazine, as well as The Atlantic and TheAtlantic.com.

 

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Beautiful Models Without Sexy-Bits

A number of beautiful models have been rolling around on the red carpet at shows around the world for a few months now.  Many, many photos have been snapped up close, showing the model’s most intricate parts.  All types of people line up to see each model’s offerings, lusting after the curves and drooling over the model’s body.  People walk around with towels, rubbing the models’ bodies to rid them of blemishes and bodily fluids.  The smell of wax and leather fills the air as people line up, one after the other for the opportunity to touch and feel the model’s interior.  I know what you’re thinking and you’d be wrong.  These shows have nothing to do with the adult film awards and they’re not set in the San Fernando Valley.  You don’t have to take an STD screen to go to the shows and participate.  Some of these models have bigger brains than your typical porn-star, and while some of them are just as dangerous as a sultry young vixen, most of these models are far more interesting to look at.  They’d also be more interesting to take for a spin, although doing that may cost you the same amount (or more) as a drug induced party spent “winning” with Charlie Sheen.

If you’re a car nut, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Whether you’re in Paris, Geneva or Detroit, you’ve had the opportunity to behold some of the most wonderful pieces of engineering to ever exist.  You’ve also, no doubt, been subjected to truly terrible pieces that are reserved for people so boring that they have nothing for which to live and look forward to dying because it will at least give them something to do.  Toyota, I’m looking at your stupid f***ing Prius line.  You’re ruining the joy of driving for normal people by giving the weirdos that live in yurts and make their clothes out of leaves something to drive.  Stop it.

On the up-side:  Alfa stole the show with the 3C concept car in Geneva.

Alfa Romeo 3C Concept

This isn’t really a surprise though, because Alfa’s been creating beautiful cars for quite a while (they’re known for it).  It’s rumored that Alfa will be bringing it to North America and more importantly, the States.  This fact makes my gentleman’s area feel a bit fizzy, if you know what I mean.

Not to be out done, a couple other Italian automakers have presented their new offerings…

…Lamborghini, an auto maker renown for creating cars full of madness and testosterone has presented their all new Aventador.

New Lambo

I’ll spare you the facts of the car, as there are plenty of other places for you to research its 0-60 time or it’s carbon fiber body. But because it’s the newest raging bull, it’s slightly crazier than anything offered previously.

…And Ferrari brought out madness of their own.  They made an all wheel drive machine capable of getting the kids to school and you to work in the same time as it takes a Prius owner to show their idiocy by explaining why everyone should live in yurts and drive terrible cars.  Ferrari’s new ride is called the FF.  Look it up and behold the beauty of Ferrari’s newest creation.  I’m pretty sure they stole the front from the 458 Italia.   I think it’s an answer to Porsche’s Panamera.

Ferrari FF: Create your own!

Sadly though, I didn’t get to go to Geneva’s Auto Show.  That would have cost me an arm and a leg, and I couldn’t afford to take the time off work.  Nor was I in Detroit for the show there.  I am in Kansas City.  So, naturally, I went to the Auto Show here at Bartle Hall.  It didn’t have Ferrari or Alfa or Lambo.  It was smaller.  It was full of cars that people can actually afford.  There were only two supercars.  Nonetheless, it was a good time.  And we did see some good-looking models.  The women presenting them weren’t so bad either.

Of course, Ford had their new Global line to show.  The Fiesta and the Focus were present, as was the Fusion in all it’s forms.  While these cars were slightly interesting, there was no mention of the Focus ST (and, not surprisingly, the RS) or Ford Racing in the rally bred lines.  (I was hoping to see a rally version of the new Fiesta).  So I was bored.  Until I saw the Boss.

Laguna Seca Mustang

It’s exciting to see a car that’s actually been around the Laguna Seca race track.  It’s even more exciting to see it up close.  The most exciting thing of all:  You can order one for yourself.

Now, I don’t typically like trucks.  I’m not a farmer or a rancher and I don’t really have any use for something that can haul a Prius owner’s yurt.  I do however, see the reasoning for owning something called the Ford Raptor.  This thing is huge.  It’s got a nice, big engine, and it’s built for off-road purposes.

Ford Raptor's Engine

This means you can run over Prius owners, their stupid cars and, if you can vault high enough using the incline of their cars, their yurts.  Top Gear America reviewed the Hennessey-upgraded Veloci-Raptor this past season.

Suspension so huge, Audrey's Head Fits in the wheel. Prius Owners: Bring it on.

If you had that, you could destroy the lives of every Prius owner in the world in record time.  Anyone can see that owning this monster would be great fun.  Someone should just gift me one and then give me world-wide diplomatic immunity.  I promise I’d make the world a better place.

It’s no secret that Ford is one of the few car companies that has had positive earnings reports, but they have had a drain on those earnings:  Lincoln. Lincoln has been dragging Ford down, year over year.  They just haven’t been able to offer the same quality as BMW, Mercedes or Audi.  These new Lincolns aim to change that.

With Ford noticeably increasing the quality of their offerings, I wouldn’t be too surprised to find that the increased quality extends to Lincoln as well.  Time (and reviews) will tell.

It’s rare that I get stupidly giddy around cars.  Most of them aren’t anything too special, so I don’t become annoyingly excited about them.  However; There were two at the Kansas City Auto show that made me feel rather childish:

The first was the new Mercedes SLS.  Based upon the fabled 300 SL Mercedes gull-wing, the SLS is pretty cool.

Merc SLS

At $250k, it better be.  It’s fast.  Very fast.  It sounds spectacular.  And it’s one of the two cars that were at the Kansas City Auto show that most people can’t afford.  This means it was exciting.  Of course it was roped off, but they were allowing people to sit inside the passenger side.  I for one, wasn’t that interested in being a passenger in this car, so I opted to drool over the engine instead.

There is a problem with showing cars like this.  They make the average person feel inadequate, as they’ll most likely never be able to afford them.

But I also think that’s the reason people are drawn to them.  Take the Bugatti Veyron or the Shelby Ultimate Areo, for example.  Just living in the same world as these cars makes me feel better.  I may never own one.  I may never even sit in one.  But I like waking up every morning and knowing that they exist.

Parked next to the Mercedes SLS was the Mercedes SL300 gull-wing.  At $500,000, this was the most expensive production car shown at the Kansas City Auto show.  It was also beautiful.

This car held records for years before being beaten on the race track.  This car also inspired multiple auto designers to up the ante and work to create the wonderful speed demons available today.  I can’t say this car “started it all”, but it is responsible, in part, for the creation of Merc’s in-house tuning firm, AMG. And that, if nothing else, makes this car absolutely incredible.

There were a number of cars that were available to sit in and dream about.  Mercedes showing of their “normal” production cars was quite large.  Aristocrat Motors of Kansas City provided the Mercs, Porsches, Maseratis and Land Rovers.

I was surprised by their Porsche choices though.  Of course they brought the Panamera and the Cayman.  They had a couple of options for the Cayenne.  There was a Targa.  And all this is well and good, but I had to ask:  Did they forget something? Where’s the 911 Turbo?

Because it was the Kansas City Auto show, I wasn’t surprised that Aston Martins weren’t featured.  Jags were.  Recently, I haven’t really enjoyed the look of Jaguar’s cars.  Their ride seems fine, they supposedly don’t suck to drive, but I don’t really want an ugly car.  These concerns went out the window when I looked upon Jag’s XK-R. If you can’t afford an Aston, buy this.  It’s almost as pretty.

Sitting in the car, you wouldn’t think you were in a Jag.  It didn’t feel huge.  It felt small.  It felt that it could be nimble. It felt like I could toss it around, weaving between cars on the highway.  And because it’s got a supercharged engine, it’ll be quick too.  This means it’s fun to drive, and because it’s not ugly,   you won’t be embarrassed when you receive a picture of yourself speeding from your local law enforcement agency.

Speaking of speeding, I mentioned that Maseratis were present.  The  Quattroporte was there (that’s the one Auds wants, because it’s fast but can also pass for a family car).  I like the name.  Quattroporte.  That’s the benefit that Italian auto makers have over the English-speaking companies.  Simple words just sound better:  Quattroporte.  Sounds spectacular.  In reality though, it means Fourdoors.  Now you know why they kept the Italian.

The Maserati GT was also there.  I was surprised to see the Gran Turismo, since it is in the same class as Aston Martin.  Of course, because it’s a $200k car, the doors were locked.  I have no shots of its interior.  Check out Topgear.com if you’d like to see more.

Between Maserati and Jaguar, I’d take the Maserati.  This is because the world-famous Pininfarina design firm is responsible for its Italian beauty and because it’s rare.  There exist two positive things that come from its rarity: 1.) I’d be less likely to see someone else driving the same car.  2.) Because it’s so rare, you won’t be labeled a twat for driving one.  According to all the reviews, Maserati’s aren’t really better than Jags or BMW’s.  Supposedly, the buttons are in all the wrong positions and the gear box has historically left much to be desired.  They are rare, however and their exhaust note is just as beautiful as the car.  And Ferrari has had its hand in their creation.  That makes them wonderful.

Hyundai and Kia both had pretty good showings. I’m surprised I’m saying this, but the Hyundai Genesis is a good looking coupe.  It’s got ample horsepower and a big brake kit in the form of Brembos. I’m interested, and I’d like a turbo-charged one for a test-drive, please.  Thank you.

Kia’s Optima was present in all it’s forms, and I must say that when I sat inside, I was pleasantly surprised.  It didn’t feel like a tin box at all, but rather, a solidly built car.

These two South Korean car companies are stepping up their game, and I’m glad to see it.  They know what American drivers want in their econo-boxes.  The first thing they noticed is that we Americans like to have reliability in our cars (which is why Alfa Romeo didn’t survive).  So they started standing behind their products with the best warranties on the market.  Then they found out that we cared about the interior of the car, so they began offering luxury options at a fraction of the price that you’d pay the “other guys”.  Finally they learned we want something “fun to drive”.  So they stiffened suspensions and began offering turbocharged, inter-cooled cars.  And now that South Korea is delivering just what America ordered, Honda and Toyota better look to create something interesting for a change.

Honda:  You’ve built a car company based upon one of the best, most reliable racing engines in all the world.  In the past, every single other car company scrambled to come up with an engine as good as your VTEC engine, yet the best you can come up with in recent years is the good but tired S2000 and a different looking but exactly same Accord?  This year’s Civic SI is SLOWER than the last model.  And it doesn’t handle as well.  And it costs more.  Epic fail.

And Toyota:  Your cars are boring.  All of them.  Except for your SUV’s, which are well-built and thoughtful.  General rule:  if it has a Toyota logo, it makes me yawn.  Or a Lexus logo, for that matter.  The LFA doesn’t count (it’s a supercar) and for that same amount of money, I’d have a 458 Italia anyway.  Your “BMW M3 killer”, the IS-F, looks good but it won’t actually kill an M3.  And you’re not fooling anyone:  We know that the top two tail-pipes are fake and aren’t connected to anything.  Hell, the best thing to come out of Toyota recently is engine for Lotus’ newest offering, the Evora.  But you can’t take credit for that car though.  It’s designed and assembled in Britain, which means that it has soul, which cannot be said about the Corolla.

Are you two even trying any more?  South Korea’s got you in her sights and she just might lap you.

Moving on…

I was happy to see a very good selection of Audi’s line.  No R8’s, sorry.  But they did have the newest TT.  And almost the entire A line.  And a couple Q’s.

The newest TT is so much more a sports car than the old one.  It handles correctly.  It no longer looks so much like a smashed VW Beetle, and it’s fast.  But it’s pretty expensive… and while you can get it in the “S” type, I’d have a used Porsche instead.

The Audi that really caught my eye was the A5 Coupe. And that’s a lie.  I don’t want an A5.  I want the S5.  But it’s basically the same car… except the S5 has the power I want need.

The car doesn’t feel big (there’s a trend here: I don’t like big cars).  The steering wheel felt plush but nimble in my fingers, and it had a nicely moving gearbox.

Because it’s a A5 (S5), there’s enough room for passengers and groceries, the trunk offers a good amount of space and it is equipped with Audi’s AWD system.  That AWD would’ve been nice to have this past winter.  I’ll take one, with a proper manual gear box in black, please.

GM was present as well, showing every car they’ve ever made.  They took up one whole side of Bartle Hall, with their Caddies, Chevys, GM trucks and Vans and the car built for golfers and old people:  Buick.

I think they should make Buicks illegal.  They’re big, they’re ugly, and they’re an un-addressed danger on our roads today.  I know that it’s dangerous to drive drunk or buzzed.  I know that it’s stupid to drive while texting.  But what about DWOs:  Driving while old?  A drunk teenager who is texting while driving will still have a better reaction time than a sober one-thousand year old.  Just this past week, I was driving in the left lane with a Buick ahead of me in the right lane.  With no blinker or warning whatsoever, the Buick driver suddenly decided that a left-hand turn from the right-most lane was a good idea.  Luckily, I know that there are only two types of people in the world who drive Buicks:  People who can’t afford to drive something else, and old people who shouldn’t be driving but are because their children don’t have the required gentleman’s apples to take away their aged parent’s car keys.  Because I know this, I’m very careful around Buicks, and I knew enough to give this old person the “right of way”  which is a nice way of saying I slammed on my breaks, coming to a stop from 45 mph.  Thank God the lady behind me wasn’t a tail-gater or I would’ve had a Chevy Yukon up my rear end.  I would have honked, but the person driving the Buick wouldn’t have heard me.  Needless to say, neither Audrey nor I wanted spend much time looking at the Buicks.  The smell of imminent death and nursing homes was just too much.

Chevy was pushing their new Volt, which reminds me of the color grey.  In fact, Chevy’s entire line reminds me of a cloudy day.  Sure the new Camaro looks good, and yes, they’ve finally come out with the SS version, but I’m generally not a fan of muscle cars… which is why I have nothing to say about the Corvette.  I know just about nothing about it, and I don’t care to.  I think they had a blue one and a red one.

Chrysler’s showing was pretty grey as well, but they didn’t really have much to show.  There was the typical 300 there, and the new 200, which is basically just a smaller 300.  (About 100 smaller, actually.)  When the styling first came out, the 300 was a pretty exciting looking car:  all G’ed up and S***.  But eventually one realizes that the car drives like rubbish and that being a gangster means you’ll need to begin hitting women and dealing cocaine.  I, for one, have no interest in becoming a “baby-daddy”, nor do I want to meet an untimely end while doing a drive-by.  Therefore, we moved on.

I was stupidly excited to see Fiat’s 500.  They had three to explore.  This little car makes me happy.  Look at it.  It just wants you to smile.  And, according to the multiple reviews available, it will make you smile.  The little Cinquecento is good.  It handles well, it rides well, and while it’s inexpensive, it doesn’t feel “cheap”.  Sounds like Fiat got it right with this one.  The most exciting thing is this:  if the little 500 sells well here in North America, Fiat might bring us Alfa.  As of right now, there are three options:  Lounge, Sport, and Pop.  Fans of manual transmissions will want to avoid the Lounge, as it’s Automatic only.  I’d go for the Sport version, myself, if I didn’t know that we’ll be getting the Abarth version next year.  I’ll wait.

So, while Ferrari, Lambo, Bugatti and Shelby were missing from the Kansas City Auto show, there were plenty of autos over which this car-nut could drool, and plenty of trash products to scorn.  (Picture the Prius Stretched Limo).

While the Auto industry has had its troubles the past couple years, I see a turn-around in the future.  We’ve already seen the tip:  Ford increasing build quality, GM pushing the hyper-miles, Jaguars becoming beautiful again, good warranties coming from companies NOT based in South Korea, and Chrysler joining forces with Fiat.  This next decade is going to be interesting to say the least.  I’ll be watching closely.  I think we’ll see some great cars and some very strange bed-fellows.

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Aged Infants

Picture this:

A tall and thin older gentleman, possibly of English decent, is walking around a department store, looking at the wears.  His hair is grey and is long enough to drape over his blue shirt collar.  He is wearing khaki pants and the cuffed hems of the pants fall over his ostrich-leather shoes.

He reaches a wrinkled hand to touch the soft fabric of a black and grey cashmere sweater hanging on a rack and pinches the fabric between the knuckle of his pointer finger and his thumb, is eyes gazing at the fabric from behind thick-rimmed spectacles.  His mouth turns down into a frown as he carefully inspects the sweater.

A woman’s voice comes from over the loud-speaker, slightly muffled, requesting a price check on women’s hosiery.

After inspecting the tag on the sweater, the man nods to himself and lifts the sweater off the rack.  He carefully folds it over his jacketed arm and turns to a display mannequin wearing the latest golf fashions.  He thoughtfully eyes the mannequin, turns, and walks down the tiled isle, past shelves of clothing and other shoppers.  He carefully steps on to the carpeted floor of the men’s suit department.

The smell of the wool suits reaches his nostrils, causing them to flair.

He works his way through the isles, weaving his way to the back of the department.  The scent of the wool is strong here.  His eyes settle upon a navy blue, two button suit.  He smiles and thinks to himself, “that’s almost exactly the same suit I wore on my wedding day.”

“May I help you?”, asks a store associate, behind him.

The man doesn’t reply at first, still lost in his wedding day memories.  The wedding was on a bright, sunny day in a beautiful (albeit small) church.  The sun’s light streamed though the stained-glass windows and reflected off the golden pillars holding the candles on either side of the altar.  His wedding was an intimate occasion, with only family and best of friends present.  Before them, on the altar, he took his fiancée’s hand, vowed to love her and only her for the rest of his life and slid a gold and silver wedding band upon her delicate finger.  That day was the beginning of the rest of his life.

“Sir?”, asks the store associate, jarring the older man awake, flinging him from his memory.  “May I help you?”

The older gentleman turns to look at the smiling associate who is wearing this season’s newest design.

“Yes.  I think you can”, says the older man with a slight smile, his English accent coming through only slightly.  Years of living in America had dulled the accent, making his voice register almost American.  “I like this suit,” he says, nodding toward the navy blue coat hanging on the wall before him.

A child in another department cries, begging it’s mother to leave the store so it can play outside.

“I’d be happy to help you try it on, if you’d like,” says the associate with a smile.

“Ok”, says the man.  “I’d like that.”

“What’s the special occasion?”, asks the associate as he pulls the coat down, off the hanger.

The older man smiles a sad smile.  After decades of sharing his life with the beautiful woman he married, he was now alone.  His wife became ill four years prior.  It was cancer, and though they both had hopes that she would beat it, eventually the cancer won out after the intense chemotherapy treatments.  She passed away in their house, hospice and her beloved husband by her side.

Looking up at the store clerk, the gentleman nods.  “My wife’s funeral”, he says quietly.

“I’m so sorry”, says the associate.

Another shopper walking through the suit department coughs, breaking the awkward silence.

The associate holds the coat up and open, offering the gentleman the opportunity to slide his arms into the sleeves in order to try the it on.

As he turns to try the coat on, the older man nods.  “We had a long life together.  She’s now in God’s hands”, the older man says.

Fast Forward a bit now…

As the older gentleman carries his items to the cash register, he remembers his store credit card is laying on the end table by his bed.

“Hello”, says the associate working the register.  She is a pretty woman, middle-aged.  The older man guesses that she must be in her late forty’s or early fifty’s.  Her glasses hang around her neck on a golden chain.  “How are you today?”

“Fine,” he smiles, ” but I’ve forgotten my card.  Could you please look the account up?”

“Sure”, says the associate.  May I have your name and address?”

The man reaches into his back wallet and grasps the smooth leather wallet.  Opening it, he works the weathered license out of its plastic sheath and hands it to the woman.

The associate notes the name and address on the license and enters the information into her register.  She pauses.  “There looks to be a minor issue with the account, sir.  This will only take a minute”, she says as she picks up the phone and dials a number.

“What’s the problem?”, asks the gentleman.  “Who are you calling?”

“The credit department”, she replies.  “It seems we have an incorrect address on the account.”

“Humph”, says the older man.  “Will this take long?”, he asks, bringing his wrist up to look at his watch.

“Not at all, sir”, says the clerk.  “We just need to get the address updated.  Oh, hello”, says the woman, turning toward her register.  “I have an account here that needs to have the address updated… sure, you may speak with him.”

The associate turns toward the man and offers him the phone’s handset.  “He needs to speak with you to update the address.”

“Oh, alright.”, says the older man as he takes the phone.  “Hello?… yes that’s me… Two-one-two, five-five-five, four-one-three-zero… forty-eight thirteen.”

The man pauses as a red flush begins to cover his face.  “What!?”, he demands into the phone.  “I’ve already told you my phone number and the last four numbers of my social, why do you need my birthday?!”  The man pauses to listen to the person on the other end of the phone.  “No.  I’ve already told you who I am.  I gave you my phone number, the last four of… No!  I’m not giving that to you.  Just close my account!…  Close it!”, the man says fuming, looking like a toddler who’s just been told no.  The man stomps on the ground.  “I AM NOT GIVING YOU THAT INFORMATION!”, he screams, attracting the attention of everyone in the store.

The register associate looks away and smiles to herself as the man throws his infantile fit.  This is a daily occurrence.  Well-to-do people who are normally logical and reserved are capable of acting more immature than newborns.

“CLOSE THE GOD-DAMN ACCOUNT, ASSHOLE!”, screams the man in a shrill voice into the phone.  Slamming the phone onto the register counter, he glares at the associate and shouts  “TAKE YOUR DAMN PHONE!”

The man turns, without the sweater and suit, to walk out the door.  “I’M NEVER SHOPPING HERE AGAIN!  YOU CAN KEEP YOUR SHITTY CLOTHES!”, he bellows at the associate, his bottom lip pushed out as he stomps toward the door.

What is it about a simple question regarding a credit transaction that makes a person de-evolve into mere shells of what they once were?  What goes through a person’s mind as they (embarrassingly) go into infantile rage in public?

These are people who have lived (what I would assume to be) fairly normal lives.  They get up in the morning like adults.  They plan their day while drinking their coffee in the morning, they shower, shave, get dressed, make sure their children are dressed and ready to go to school, and they go about their daily lives.  These people typically take responsibility for their actions and act logically.

At some point though, some of them become infants.  They rage about in public, embarrassing everyone around them.  Their own children probably don’t even have massive enough genitalia to create the scenes their parents do.

They lose so much control, that it’s a good job most stores don’t allow dogs inside.  These normally rational people would kick them, so keep your children out of their reach lest they be mistaken for a chihuahua.

These people act as if their store credit decides their fate.  They act as if the purchase they’re trying to make is a life or death situation.  They act like animals who should be taken out back and shot.  Of course, we can’t do this, because they’re shaped like humans, they talk like humans (unless of course, they’re so irate they’re speaking gibberish), they stand upright like humans and they even have opposable thumbs.

So instead of pumping them full of buckshot and mounting their heads above our mantles, we’re forced to endure this spectacle with straight faces and pretend we’re not noticing their internal child throwing a shit- fit.  I say we stop.  I say we call attention to these actions by pointing and laughing.  Make fun of them and their in-ability to maintain composure.  If anything, the fit-thrower will either become extremely embarrassed, blush and stop or we’ll piss them off so much they’ll collapse from an aneurysm or heart attack and they’ll stop.  Either way, they’ll stop and we’ll be saved the extended torture of hearing them bitch and moan.

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STFU, Nike.

At one point in the movie Empire Records, Lucas states, “I do not regret the things I have done, only the things I have failed to do”.

The other night I thought about this quote and how it applies to my life.  I suppose it’s normal to have a few “dark nights of the soul” and that through these “dark nights”, one can reflect inward and try to objectively understand from whence they came and observe the forward path they are to follow.  It also helps to have some sort of support in doing so.

And I do.  My fiancée is one of those people who is capable of speaking harsh truths in a gentle way.  So when I voiced my thoughts to her regarding “that which I’ve failed to do”, she asked me, with a puzzled look on her face, “So why don’t you just do it?”

In What About Bob?, there is a rather humorous scene regarding baby steps.  The point is that baby steps are just as important, if not more important than the “big picture”, as they’ll help to keep one on track toward one’s goals.  Audrey (my Fiancée), being the detail-oriented one in the relationship, told me to make a list of all that I’d like to do with my life, complete with the baby steps necessary to complete my goals.  The next step then, would be to do them.

Duh.  If it really were THAT easy.  And I suppose that it really is.  The only thing making goals hard to accomplish are the people who are trying to accomplish those goals.  Aside from the “self-talk” that occurs (which one can do something about by telling themselves to STFU), there really isn’t much standing in one’s way.

Sure, there will be the outside naysayers.  Be they family, friends, acquaintances or strangers, one doesn’t need to listen to them or be associated with them if they do nothing but demolish the dreams of the individual.

Sometimes one needs to take chances in order to complete one’s goals.  The chances might be risky.  Very risky in fact, if one’s goals include breaking the world speed record (Richard Hammond of Top Gear) or doing something incredibly stupid, like moving to Canada and living with Grizzly bears (Grizzly Man) to prove that Grizzly Bears are not man killers.  (By the way, they are).

My goals don’t involve testing the limits of drag racers equipped with jet engines (but that would be fun) or testing the food choices of wild animals, but certainly there exist risks that need to be addressed prior to taking the steps necessary to accomplish my goals and I realize that the effects of these risks will not only impact my life, but Audrey’s life as well, for better or worse.

And that, I think, is what is holding me back.  Well, that and fear.

To be honest, I don’t think that it’s fear of personal failure.  A wise man once said that one only fails when they give up, and I refuse to accept anything less than success in obtaining my goals.   I just don’t want to make life harder for Audrey and my future family than it needs to be, and my the goals I have set for myself are none too simple.  Let’s just say that I don’t set the bar too low and I don’t make things easy for myself.

One of the goals is to adventure.  To disappear for a while, maybe across the pond.  Pick up a language or two, whilst traveling and “obtaining some culture”.  To do so though, would I have to abandon the life I’ve set up here?  Certainly, I’d have to accept the unknown.  And I would have to ask Auds to do the same.  This then, brings me to some questions.  Is this fair to Audrey?  Would she be willing to do so?

Both answers (I know because I have asked) are yes.  (And, “Hurry up and do it, because I’ve set some goals on the back burner so yours can be accomplished.”)  But I still feel some consternation.

Fear of the unknown is, to me, one of the most annoying things in the world.  It’s annoying because there’s not really anything one can do about it.  It’s a problem that needs to be solved, but there’s nothing to fix.  It’s just there, silently prodding me like an invisible toddler who wants me to get out of bed before the sun comes up.  You can try to ignore it, but it’ll just prod harder.

And just picking up and leaving leaves a lot of unknowns.  There’s no algebraic equation to solve them either.  We’d be into calculus, which is not a subject I enjoyed very much.  I’ll just need to do it, and take the consequences in stride.  Accept them for what they are, and move on… which is what I normally do anyway.

The next step for that goal, then, would be to save a bit of money, buy some plane tickets and say Tschüss to american society for a while.  The question that action leaves me with then, is “when”.

That brings me to another couple of goals, because I’ll need a complete timeline, detailing the “due dates”, and organizing them in a manageable fashion.

As one can tell from my prior post, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life driving an econobox.  I want a supercar (even better: hypercar) for my daily driver.  That’s expensive.  (And maybe a bit childish, I admit– though I don’t care.)  I’m not just talking about just the initial purchase of $150k-$1.5mm.  I’m talking about the residuals: insurance on these things is higher than the astronomical maintenance costs.  Gas would become quite expensive too, especially when considering the car for use as a daily driver.  I really would pass everything except a gas station.

This means I’ll need a lot of money and a position at a job that pays better than the one I currently have.  That position will also have to be incredibly flexible, allowing me to travel the world while making money.  Sounds like a very well paid travel writer to me.  Or one better:  a job with Top Gear, driving stupidly fast and fun cars in order to write reviews for their magazine and website (pipe dreams…).  That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about the extraordinary costs of the cars.  I’d drive them for the day, give them back when the gas gauge reads empty and write about the exhilarating experience, detailing what it’s like to drive a car most people will never sit inside or even see in real life.  And I’d be paid for it.

Certainly, there are other goals I’ve got set for myself, but traveling the world, being paid to drive supercars in all types of exotic locales is the main one.  Whether it’s really a pipe dream or not, I don’t know.  I’ll just go about it the Nike way and find out.

Any tips, in the mean time, would be appreciated.

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Promising Cars Don’t Run Children Down

I love cars.  Most people who know me can verify that fact.  I’ve always enjoyed the styling of a beautiful car, the rumble of the engine, the interior feel and the layout of the cockpits.  There is just something about a beautiful car that draws me in and makes me weak in the knees.

The Ferrari 458 Italia is a great example.  Just look at it.  It’s car porn.  It’s almost naughty.  Jeremy Clarkson, England’s resident car nut, once criticized Ferrari for not designing a beautiful car since the F355.  I don’t necessarily agree, but I do contend that the 458 is just about the most beautiful car on the planet.

Powered by a 4.5 liter V8 engine, it’s capable of bringing itself and the driver from a dead stop to 62 mph in just 3.2 seconds.  Keep your foot on the gas and you’ll max out at 202 mph.  To my eyes, we’ve got a car that’s both as beautiful and dangerous as a sultry young vixen one meets at a hotel lounge during a business trip.  You’ll begin pumping adrenaline and testosterone when conversing with her, make a few bad decisions and find yourself laying in bed the next morning, alone and without any cash.  Either that, or she will have killed you during your sexual escapades in the night, when you were playing “David Carradine”.  This is the problem with supercars.  They’re a hell of a lot of fun until you find yourself broke and wrapped around a tree or a steel girder.

This is something I readily accept.

People who know me can also verify the seething anger I feel when I see and read about the cars that Europeans, Australians and Japanese people have available to them.  We as Americans tend to get the watered down versions of great cars, if we even get them at all.  I don’t like my drinks watered down and I sure as hell don’t like driving a retarded car.

Historically, car makers have felt that many of the wonderful cars they make wouldn’t sell well over here in America, so they never spent the money to have them imported, marketed and offered here.  I hate to admit it, but I don’t really blame them.  They’re concerned that we won’t buy their cars because we won’t see the value, because we’re too fat, because we like boring speed limits or because they can’t create a cup holder that both fits into the car and will accommodate a full gallon of diet coke.  Maybe they believe that we all think that the Airplane model plastic that lines the interior of American cars is acceptable.

American car manufacturers sure do.  Next time you ride in an average American car (by this I mean a car created by the big three), look around you.  Touch the dashboard and notice all the cheap plastic.  But look at the market they’re selling to.

Americans like to throw things away.  Look around, we do it all the time.  We are seen by the world as a consumer nation.  We make things to throw away.  We have throw away furniture.  It gets kicked to the curb on pack-rat day.  We have throw away clothing. (I’m looking at you, Old Navy.)  We have throw away silverware, glasses, pots, pans, and kitchen knives that get dumped into the trash bin two years after we buy them brand-new at Wal-Mart.  We throw away TV’s, cell phones and computers knowing that a “better one” will hit the market next year.  We even throw away houses (but not so much now that no one can get a loan).  People in this country are seen as cheapskates because Americans refuse to spend an extra dime to purchase something that will last.  They know they’ll just throw it away when something else comes along.  I know this as a fact because I am an American and I have done it.

Naturally, we as Americans buy throw away cars too.  The car companies know this.  That’s the reason car companies have decreased the quality of the cars they’ve given us Americans.

This can be seen by the existence of the American Ford Focus and the European Focus available to people who live across the pond.  They’re not the same car.  We as Americans received the Focus in 2000, a full two years after the Europeans had it.  The European Focus had a sport-tuned suspension not available to the Americans, and although the Focus we received here in America was good, the ones available in Europe were great.

This is still happening.  Take the Focus RS, for example.  This car is a work of genius.  It’s supposedly the best handling hatchback in the world.  Not that I’d know, since I’m American and haven’t driven it.   300 bph from a 2-liter engine.  The car jets from 0-62 mph in just under six seconds.  With a top speed of 160+, its a car that makes ones mouth water, and it’s not even a supercar.  The coolest thing?  All this power and handling and the car is still capable of getting 30 mpg.  Why didn’t they sell it here?  Because it costs the same as a Subaru WRX STI or a Mitsubishi Evo X, and Ford didn’t think they could sell enough of them to make the investment worth it.  The crowd that can afford this car was not the same crowd that bought the original focus.  So they sold it overseas.  One of the best cars they’ve ever made never even saw it’s home soil.

This tragedy occurs with imports too.

Look at the Mitsubishi Evo X.  This car will bend the laws of physics for its driver, it’s so good.  The all wheel drive system will rocket you to 0-62 in 5.6 seconds, it has an Active Center Differential, ABS, Active Yaw control (it’s cool, look it up), and a computer so smart that it wants to know if you’re driving on snow, gravel or tarmac. It’s also got a dual clutch transmission, making switching gears easy — even on the steepest inclines or during the worst of LA’s traffic jams.  This car is sweet.  It looks good and will drive literal donuts around Subaru’s hideous looking WRX STI.  So whats the problem? We get the watered down version of this legendary rally car.  (However, I still want one.)

Yep, no surprise here.  We Ami’s get two versions to choose from:  The EVO X GSR and the EVO X MR, each limited to 295 hp.  The Brits?  They get three.  They get to decide how much horsepower they want.  They can get the Evo X with 400 hp.  That car is faster than the BMW M3.  Or a Porsche 911.  To be honest, any boy racer here in America can drop $15k into an Evo to get this amount of power and acceleration, but the Brits get it shipped to them from the factory.

Nissan as done it too.  They created a wonderfully fast car, the Skyline R-32.  It was a tuner’s paradise.  We didn’t get it.  It wouldn’t have been fiscally responsible to repackage the engine bay to accommodate a left-hand drive vehicle.  So Japan and England got the car.  (To be completely fair, left-hand driving Europe didn’t get it either).

Did I hear someone say they wanted a TVR?  I’ll warn you.  They’re absolutely mad.  TVR is so crazy, they forgot to add the airbags.  (TVR’s response was “Well, don’t crash then).  You can’t have one, anyway.  They’re not sold in the states.

“Hmmm.  I’d like an Alfa. A real driver’s car.  Can I get one of those?”  No.  No, you can’t, because Alfa pulled out of America in the 90’s (the car was below standards in quality at the time… Alfa Romeo is now owned by Fiat, and quality is much better), and they haven’t been back…

…But the winds are changing…

The first glimmer of hope came in June of 2008, when Godzilla finally set foot on North American soil for the first time. The Nissan GT-R is the new iteration of the Nissan Skyline I mentioned above, complete with all wheel drive and 480 hp, the car lapped the Nürenburgring in Germany faster than the Porsche 911 Turbo.  This is a supercar that costs less than half a nicely optioned 911 Turbo.  Apparently someone over in Japan decided after god knows how many years of tuners’ bitching, that Americans should be able to drive the Skyline.  And we rejoiced.

And then the American economy bit the dust harder than a middle schooler’s self-esteem and faster than Obama’s success rate, effectively taking out the “Big Three”.  There are many downsides to this that I don’t feel the need to get into, suffice to say that Chrysler is no more and that many cars were stopped in production, including the Pontiac G8, which really showed some promise and might have been nothing short of a bad-ass monster.  (The Aussies got it under GM’s Holden brand instead).

On the upside:  The remaining car companies have learned that yes, we do want good cars.  Yes, we do want them to stop using inferior plastics and parts to construct them, and no, we Americans don’t really care about their profit margins.  We just want well made, dependable and reasonably priced cars…  Not rolling turds made of plastic.

And so, Ford has made a great decision.  In the past, looking at each year’s Focus, America has received the shaft.  Some years, Europe’s Focus received what amounts to nearly completely rehashed new cars, where as America ended up with only minor changes to old parts.  Not anymore.  Ford’s Focus line will now be international.  This means that we Americans will be allowed by the all-mighty car company to drive the same Focus the Europeans get.

Ford has also stated that they fully intend to release the Focus ST to Americans, and while it’s not quite the RS, it’s also not quite as bonkers either.  The engine is a turbocharged 2.0 Liter EcoBoost four banger which produces 247 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque.  That engine gets mated exclusively to a 6 speed manual tranny.  One can imagine that 247 horses driving through the front wheels might create a good amount of torque steer.  Nope.  Ford’s new torque-vectoring power control system, with which the car is equipped, should help to minimize the insanity.

Why couldn’t they have just done this in the first place, instead of giving the Americans  a really decent car and the Europeans a much better one?

While the Ford news is pretty exciting,  there’s even more good news, particularly with petrol-heads and driving enthusiasts all across America:  Fiat, the European car manufacturer responsible for creating the Fiat 500 (which is expected to be released in America in 2012) and buying Chrysler’s sorry ass has decided that they want a piece of the American market.  While the 500 is a nice answer to the annoyingly gimmicky Mini, the best thing is that Fiat owns Alfa Romeo (and Maserati, 85% of Ferrari, and Lancia) and they plan to re-introduce Alfa to Americans starting in 2012.  I’m praying that they’ll have the quality of Fiat, and not that of Chrysler.  If so, I need one.  As soon as possible.

I can hear the flag waivers now, screaming at me like infantile toddlers, claiming that I should buy only American cars to help our economy and therefore I shouldn’t care about the cars offered in other countries anyhow.  They say that I would be a traitor to drive a car built by an overseas company.  I will first say this:  I have nothing but contempt for you.  You are what’s wrong with American society.  You should be ashamed of yourselves, because that statement is the most un-American thing one can say.  You claim to be a citizen and a supporter of America, a nation that is built upon the supports of capitalism.  Capitalism is the engine that powers the wheels of American economy, and in the spirit of that engine, I refuse to buy an inferior product just because “it’s more patriotic”.  That’s like saying I should give up Chinese or Italian food because they aren’t American.  All that would be left to eat would be hamburgers, “patriot fries”, and soybeans.  I could live off that.  I could also chew on the barrel of a shotgun and pull the trigger.  I’m not about to do either.

Then there are those people out there that contend that I shouldn’t be bitching about the quality anyway, that as long as the car runs and gets me from point A to point B, I should be happy.   I’m sorry, but as an American, I will spend an average of 15 hours a week in my car.  That’s a lot of time.  Why would I want to endure those hours in a car that’s not up to standards?  That’s like marrying an abusive woman.  Who resembles a hippo.  And cheats.  Also, if the only concern those people have about driving cars is that the car gets them from point A to point B:  that’s what a bus is for.  Those people should sell their cars, buy a bus ticket, and quit adding to the congestion on America’s roads.  Their existence is ruining the pleasures of driving for the rest of us.  Not only are they always in the way, driving slowly in the left lane or puttering about when entering an on-ramp, but it is precisely because of these people that the manufacturers found it suitable to produce such low quality cars:  the idiots accepted the rubbish.

The best example of people who vigilantly support terrible cars are the Prius people.  These people, in an effort to “support mother nature” will readily accept driving a car that is notorious for its under-performance.  Face it, the Prius is a terrible car.  It costs as much as a BMW or a Merc.  It can’t handle properly.  It can’t accelerate to highway speeds in the time allotted, and it runs on batteries that will do more damage to the earth when the car finally putters out and dies than the most aggressively tuned Shelby Cobra will do during its entire lifetime.  I cannot for the life of me understand their viewpoint.  The only positive thing about the Prius that I see is it’s noise factor.  There isn’t one.  It’s quiet.  And that will only come in handy when sneaking up on and running down children playing in the street.

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Terrorists, Reckless Media and Thermoses

As one would expect, the FBI and Homeland Security have been very busy this season here in America.  With all the holiday travelers hopping into airports, train stations and bus stations to wait for delayed public transportation, the risk of getting blown up by some radical terrorist wack-job has increased.

But they won’t admit that.  They’re saying they don’t have any intelligence regarding a plot to attack Americans during the holiday season.  Sure.

They’re stepping up their controls, getting more man power on the ground, and are now disallowing double-walled thermos type containers onto public transport.  Apparently it’s a simple task, stuffing plastic explosive between the walls.  This is a new policy.  But, they say, this new rule is not based on any specific intel.  Really, now.  C’mon.  The general public may be stupid (and they’ve proven that time and time again by voting idiots into office), but they’re not THAT stupid.  More and more, people are learning that they can’t really trust our government.  And with good reason.  The government lies.  A lot.

I don’t really have a problem with this, however.  They’re the government.  And that means they’re supposed to lie.  Especially when it comes to acknowledging intelligence, because if they let on about all the things they know, people would go crazy.  They might commit mass suicide.  That would be messy and counterproductive.  So let them lie to the people about the info they have about the terrorists plans.

Of course, there’s a camp out there that thinks the government should be absolutely transparent.  They think the people of this country have the right to know everything our government is doing in the Middle East, in Asia and here within our own borders.  They’re wrong.  If the government was completely transparent, there would be a bunch of pussies bitching about the steps the government is taking to ensure the safety of the pubic.  They’d pitch a fit and demand the government go about it another way.  They’d demand that they have a say and request the ability to vote on it.  And then it would get tied up with Congress and the House and nothing would get done.  The terrorists would get in and blow everyone to smithereens.  And then they’d blame the government for the deaths.  These people are idiots.  They’re also the same people who think that terrorist assholes deserve anything bordering on human rights.  They’re wrong about that too.

There are a lot of people out there that want to see America fall.  They hate our capitalism.  They hate our success.  They hate our religion and they hate that they aren’t us.  Most of all, they hate that they’re incapable of creating a civilized society that isn’t run by radical religious groups who murder anyone who doesn’t agree to their doctrine.

So they threaten the western world with suicide bombers who shove bombs into (typically) off-limit orifices, strap themselves with C4 and create a mess of themselves in very public areas.  They’re capable of creating some of the worst travesties known to man-kind, and they’re happy to plan and commit these crimes.

Personally, I couldn’t care less that these people want to commit suicide.  I think it would do humanity good to get these tossers out of the gene-pool because I’m fairly certain that everyone would be better off without them.  But I don’t want them taking any innocents with them.  If they want to end their miserable, hate-filled lives, so be it.  I would be happy to oblige them.  Get a few black-ops people (who don’t legally exist) into their camp and let them sanitize the whole of them.  Hell, pay me and train me and I’d be happy to take care of the mess.

I also understand our need to acquire more intelligence regarding the plans that these sub-humans concoct.  Therefore we will need to keep a few of the most important ones around to see what information we can glean from them.  Most likely, the assholes won’t want to divulge much info.  That’s OK though.  It’s been clearly established that terrorists are incapable of being humane and that, by definition, means that they are not human.  Which also means that we can do anything and everything in our power to get them to talk.  So all the moral idiots out there can shut their mouths about how these “people” have human rights.  They don’t.  They’re not human.  They’re monsters.  If we need to remove their skin and bathe them in salt water to open their mouths and start talking, that’s perfectly fine with me.

There exist in the world two types of people.  You have your humans, for which there is one set of rules.  Then you have monsters.  The rules for dealing with the two types don’t mix.  You don’t perform capital punishment on someone who picks your pocket (even though you may feel they deserve a swift beheading), and you don’t allow murderers, rapists and terrorists to go free.  There are a number of unforgivable actions.  Murdering innocents and raping them are included.  We as humans should not be concerned with the welfare of monsters.  In fact, I believe that we should be concerned with making their lives as miserable as possible.

Luckily, there are people in our government who feel the same.  So while all the idiots up on capital hill were complaining about the injustices occurring at Guantanamo Bay, there were most likely black ops people on the ground in the terrorist camps creating a ruckus, kidnapping terrorists and dealing out death with extreme prejudice.  The jackasses complaining about human rights violations had no idea, and probably still don’t.

Unless of course, some traitor leaked the information.  If information gets leaked, it can create some serious damage.  Leaked information undermines the steps the American Government is taking to provide for the safety of its people.  It provides the monsters information regarding how to side-step our actions.  It puts clandestine agents and black-ops people needlessly in harm’s way.   Because of this, the punishment for traitors is death.  That law is still on the books.  And it’s more than deserved.

This brings me to Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of  Wikileaks.  This website provides information to the public, some classified, some not.  Whoever wants the info available on the site can have it… you, me, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah… it’s all public and available to everyone.  This is not really a good thing.

Mr. Assange has set the website up in Sweden, a country with very strict laws regarding ISP’s and their ability to shut websites down.  This means that Mr. Assange’s website is pretty well protected and America is unable to do a damn thing about it.

Should he watch his back?  Yes.  There are plenty of people in Washington who think he should be labeled a terrorist, treated as an enemy combatant and be added to the kill list (the kill list is  a list of terrorists that should be shot on sight, without a trial).

If I were a black operations operative and he put my life in danger by releasing classified information, I might think about making him disappear.  And I’d have no fear of retribution, because I wouldn’t legally exist.

Sure, people would look toward the CIA and America for his disappearance, but they could justifiably claim they knew nothing.  That’s the beautiful thing about black ops.  No one knows.  Everyone has plausible deniability.

Aside from the risks he takes by going outside, he could also end up in jail.  It would depend on the American lawyers and the judge’s interpretation of the Espionage Act.  At the very least, I would think he’ll either live the rest of his days being paranoid that someone who doesn’t exist is going to make him disappear or he’ll actually disappear and no one will know anything.

Now, I don’t really believe Julian Assange is a terrorist.  I think he’s a reckless journalist.  I think he’s going to cause some needless blood shed.  But I don’t think that’s his point.  I think he’s trying to make a point about freedom of speech, and trying to expose that which he sees as corrupt.

Whether or not he’s right is not for me to say, but I believe there are more than a few people in Washington who should be fired due to their excesses and abuses of power.

Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint chiefs of Staff said that “Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is, they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family.” Assange denies this has happened, and responded by saying, “…it’s really quite fantastic that Gates and Mullen…who have ordered assassinations every day, are trying to bring people on board to look at a speculative understanding of whether we might have blood on our hands. These two men arguably are wading in the blood from those wars.” 

I find his retort interesting, because it labels him as one of those goody-two-shoes.  He seems to believe that the monsters who cause terrorism and innocent deaths should continue to live.  He uses the word “assassination” in a negative connotation.  I do not agree that assassinating terrorists is a bad thing.  I think it’s a good thing.  This just goes to show that Mr. Assange is a juvenile newsman, pushing his own agenda and carelessly providing information to the public that really isn’t his to provide.

Needless to say, I do not want to be in his shoes.  You don’t just go and piss off one of the most powerful nations in the world without expecting some sort of retribution.

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Welcome to the World, Little One

There exist in the world a number of nut-jobs who believe that the end is near. According to them, because the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, the Anti-Christ will come and will cause numerous floods (buy flood insurance before then), wars (don’t sign up for the military), fireballs to fall from the sky (make sure your homeowners policy is current), famine (canned foods are available for purchase at most grocery stores) and Yellowstone to blow up in a magnificent eruption (this will only disrupt the lives of a few rangers and some bears). Because of this Anti-Christ, the plates of the earth will shift, so that those of us in North America will be in China (which is a problem because I don’t speak Chinese), the polar magnetism will reverse (which will be a problem for hikers and people who are so clueless they still use compasses to find their way around), and dragons from the depths of hell will come and eat all the virgins (I think most adults will be safe, as will most high schoolers, according to the media).

To attribute all of this mess to one human being is insane. Almost as insane as believing that driving stupid cars called Prius’ are going to stop the severely questionable concept of global warming or that at some point, the government of the United States will actually begin addressing the concerns of the people they claim to represent.

There are also pessimists that believe that the world is in such a state of affairs that they consider the concept of bringing babies into the world a recipe for disaster. They believe that with all the wars, injustices, poverty, pornography and politics, this world is not meant for newborns. These people should do the rest of us a favor and jump off the top of the tallest building they can find. Of course, it should be done on a rainy day, so as to make clean up as easy as possible. This would save them the trouble of bitching about everything in their life, and it would save the rest of us the trouble of hearing their baseless complaints.

These nut jobs would tell you that it’s pointless to have children now, because there will be no world in which to live.

Thankfully, people with some sense in their heads know that the people subscribing to the topics outlined above are idiots. Most people, even callous cynics such as myself, think babies are great. Most people cherish newborns and enjoy thinking about the possibilities that lay ahead for the young ones. Everyone feels a sense of pride for the parents as well as the child when witnessing the child’s first steps, the first words and the first day of riding a bike without training wheels. That sense of pride comes from the communal knowledge that there is yet another chance for humanity to rectify its self. The community around that child knows that this child could grow up to do something great and during the first years of that child’s life, the community of adults around that child bend over backwards to make sure that child has a supportive position from which to grow. Eventually, the child will learn to live the life he or she chooses. Until then (and even past that time, in some wonderful cases), the adult community will continue to nurture that child, intently watching and monitoring his or her growth.

So when my childhood friend and his wife told me that they were pregnant, I was absolutely ecstatic. It was shortly after I broke my ankle, and I was on a heavy dose of medication. This means that it took a minute for the news to set in. Once it finally did, I was unquestionably, absolutely, unabashedly proud of them. Because of the medication, and the fact that I am male, my reaction was subdued, but nonetheless, I was happy. They are a great couple and that child is lucky to have parents such as them.

I remember the first time I met my friend. My father was taking the training wheels off my bike, and the boy had just moved in up the street. Down the hill he came, soaring like the wind, uninhibited by the training wheels. We’ve been friends since that day. Our families have become so close that I was once actually grounded by his mother for misbehaving. And due to her call to my mother, I was grounded at home too.

I also remember meeting his wife. Remember her being exactly what I expected and absolutely not what I expected at the same time. She certainly has the beauty I would hope for my friend, and probably more than he deserves, but she also has the intelligence to back up that beauty. In short, I feel I can safely say she makes a perfect match for him. The child will certainly be attractive and smart, especially knowing that her genes are involved. Her genes will certainly make up for anything he lacks. Just kidding, bro.

It is fair to say that he and I truly are brothers from different mothers. I can only hope that their child will have a like experience in growing up. I am a firm believer that while parenting is important, parenting comes in many forms, often from the community surrounding the child, not just the child’s parents. It does take a community to raise a child, and I know that with the amount of friends and family surrounding this child, it will feel no shortage of love.

Unfortunately, I do not live in the same city as this developing family, so this child will have to receive love from my fiancée and I by post, which will be fine, because if we were any closer, we’d spoil the poor child (as if the child won’t be spoiled already). I expect that we’ll still try, but at least it will take a week to ten days for the spoils to arrive (if they even do, knowing the US postal system).

At any rate, yesterday morning, I received a text with a picture.  I would like to welcome a brand new baby girl into the world.  Nora, your parents are some of the best people who exist.  Consider yourself lucky that your parents aren’t idiots.

Now there is yet another chance for humanity to redeem itself, as well as another possible babysitter for when I have children.

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