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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Legal Sex in Public

Some people like dancing, others enjoy overdosing on pain meds.  I belong to neither group.  The reasoning behind this is at the same time very clear, and very muddled.  Well, the dancing part.  Overdosing is a given, unless of course, Christmas music is involved.

I’ve never really been a dancer.  I don’t take pleasure watching people look like fools on the dance floor, and I myself don’t enjoy looking foolish.

This isn’t to say that all dancing is stupid.  Certainly, there’s an art to it.  The Tango, really well done, is nothing to scoff at. Nor is a Waltz or a Two Step.  I do not take issue with dancing done well, just as I don’t take issue with a classically trained musician playing the violin or a seasoned and practiced artist playing the fiddle.  That which I despise though, is dancing bastardized into a barely legal humpfest.   I don’t want to participate in that any more than I want to participate in listening to someone play the violin when they’ve got absolutely no clue what they’re doing.  They’ll make nothing but noise, and that’s just annoying.

Sadly, most “dance” songs do not facilitate a quality dance.  They tend to be overtly sexual, hardcore.  They qualify as “songs” in the same way “Beautiful Big Assed Babes” or “Two Girls One Cup” qualify as Oscar worthy films.  Perhaps my disdain for dancing stems from this fact.

Would I be willing to take dancing lessons?  Sure.   I won’t seek them out.  I wouldn’t seek out a Neil Diamond concert either, but if I’ve got the time, and I’m not “out” anything, I’d be happy to show up.  Just to say that I did it.  Maybe I’d find I’d really enjoy it.  Don’t knock it if you’ve never tried it, isn’t that what they always say?   I can think of a few things I’ll contest prior to trying them.  Like prison love.  I’ll go ahead and knock that, since I’m pretty positive I won’t enjoy it. And herpes.  Or AIDS.  Or eating babies.

But if someone provided me with lessons for swing or ballroom dancing, I would attend (as long as it didn’t interfere with my work or overtime schedule).  I might have fun.  I might find in those lessons a new passion.  Or I might hate it. But I’d at least try to learn to dance before I seriously go and hump complete strangers on the dance floor.   That way, I wouldn’t bastardize someones life work, and I won’t be viewed as an absolute tool who goes to clubs to “hook up”.

So maybe dance lessons are in my future, as I’m sure that I’ll be expected to dance at my own wedding.  I don’t really want to go out in front of anyone at the reception to dance and end up looking like an epileptic.  But then, if I did that, perhaps I wouldn’t have to dance anyway.

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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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Like Many Twenty-Somethings, Cooking Has Become a Hobby of Mine.

Growing up, I was not truly allowed to cook.  My mother and father were from a past generation (my father was born in 1929 and my mother was born in 1936).  In my household, my father and I were not to even approach the stove; And with good reason: we were men, and that meant we were outside doing manly things like killing bears with our bare hands, biting the heads off deer and fabricating turrets that shot fireballs at our neighboring enemies instead of the dainty chores like cooking and weaving baskets.  Sure, we men knew how to char a hunk of meat over an open fire, but the question always remained:  “How do we combine this meat with the objects our food eats, like vegetables and herbs?” 

When I moved to college at KU in 2001, I was left with my knowledge of how to take the life of an animal (either with my bare hands, a katana or a rocket launcher), but without the knowledge of how to properly prepare the newly deceased animal carcass for human consumption.  Like many in my generation, I believe that television can actually be used to learn something assuming the correct channel is selected (this means a channel other than MTV or the Lifetime Network).  When not doing homework, going to class, working, or guzzling vast amounts of fermented grains, I watched the Food Network.
On this channel, I learned two things.  The first concept blew me away.  I learned that it is OK for men to cook.  There do exist many men who (apparently when they’re not wrestling wild animals and skinning baby seals with their teeth), go into the kitchen and prepare meals.  The second concept also intrigued me: cooking is edible science. 

I always enjoyed science, because I was taught that “manly” things come from it:  cars, explosions, new mood altering substances and rockets.  Now I also knew that food can come from science.  So I took to food as a young child takes to a kitten.  Only, I cooked the kitten with a mixture of teriyaki sauce and stir-fry vegetables.   It was delicious! 

From that point on, cooking was a way of life for me.  I would venture into the vast, dark heart of the nearest grocery market, find a pre-dispatched animal (I also learned that one does not need to always kill their own food, as other people do that for a living.), heave it into my grocery basket, and drag it home to my cave.  I was delighted to find that those good people who rendered the creature lifeless had gone to the trouble of cleaning it as well!  I would then prepare the animal with the gusto of the chefs on the food network and serve it to an attractive female in hopes that she would be so delighted with my hunting and cooking skills that she might find in me a man capable of providing for a family and respond in a positive manner to my mating rituals.

Since those days, my cooking skill has vastly improved.  Few people in the world exist with the same experience in learning to cook as I.  I am now able to invent new dishes, and am “the cook” in my household.  I have gone from someone who could burn water to someone who is more than capable of inserting a quail into a chicken, the chicken into a duck, the duck into a turkey, the turkey into a pig, the pig into a cow and then injecting the whole of the meal with melted, pasteurized cheese product and deep frying the combination of animals in a giant vat of boiling vegetable oil. 

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Filed under General, Personal Experience

I’m Not a Grinch and I Don’t Wish to Steal Christmas

Rarely do I ever have uncontrollable urges to kill myself, bleach my eyeballs or stick ice picks in my ears.  This, I feel is normal.  Most people do not want to do these things.  Most people want to keep their lives, their vision and their hearing.  I do too.  Most of the time.  There is one time of the year however, that the concept of chewing ones own ears off while injecting an IV of turpentine seems completely natural. 

I am certain that human beings are the only animal that has the dreary notion of committing suicide.  Sure, animals are stupid; deer don’t seem to think twice before jumping in the path of a Mack truck and exploding all over the roadway, robins don’t double check their decent before flying face first into a newly washed window to break their necks and shove their brains into their rear ends, and Prius drivers don’t understand that while they’re diddling around in their stupid cars worrying about what the temperature will be a million years from now, they’ll be driven off the road by someone who has more important things to do than worry about than trees.  I hardly believe these animals make a conscious effort to end their own lives.  Mostly, humans don’t seem to think suicide is a good idea either.

So what is it about the Christmas season that drives me absolutely bonkers?  It’s not that I actually hate Christmas.  I have many fond memories of Christmas’ past.  I always enjoyed seeing my siblings and family, the build up to Christmas in school, where we’d open a new door on the Advent calendars each day, the chore of setting up the Christmas Tree and adorning it with nine thousand tons of gingerbread men and cheap glass ornaments, the cookies we’d bake for the fat communist who would crash down our chimney on Christmas Eve… I even enjoyed waiting to open the vast expanse of presents that reached out for miles from under the tree.

And not a whole lot has changed for me since then.  I still enjoy the winter time, with the lights on the houses, the dusting of snow on the ground, how it never actually gets dark because of the snow and the big, toothy grins on the chubby faces of passersby as they wish one another a wonderfully merry holiday season.  Good will toward all men may be dead throughout the course of the year, but during the holiday season, it’s alive and breathing.

Except it really isn’t.  Sure, people seem to be nicer to one another during the holidays, but they aren’t.  I think people are actually worse.  Gandhi said that one should never smile sarcastically, because that action takes a thing of love and beauty and distorts it into something evil and sinister.  This is what the holidays do to people.  Around their family, the people are all good and fine, happy and cheerful.  But if you’re not in their circle of family or friends, to hell with you.  You’re in the way. You can clearly see this when you’re between them and the flat screen lcd TV they’ve chosen as a family Christmas present.  You’re liable to get stabbed.  Especially if you live in Detroit, since that TV is the only Christmas present this year.

After you’ve left the store, you’re not out of the woods yet.  You’ve got to make it to your car.  And that is dangerous.  Because you’re either carrying thirteen million shopping bags or towing thirty carts, you are inevitably going to hold up traffic.  Christmas shoppers don’t like being held up.  Especially the last minute ones.  So they mow you down with their Navigators and Suburbans.  The biggest problem in being mowed down by an SUV is that all the items you just purchased will break.  And because you have just cleaned out your bank account to purchase those items, you can’t drag yourself like a land mine victim back into the store to purchase unbroken ones.  Therefore, because you have gone shopping during this time, two things have happened:  your family doesn’t get a Christmas and you now have a collapsed lung.

If you’ve managed to make it to your car with your legs intact and still attached to your torso, you are lucky.  And you are free to go.  Unless you’re pulling out of a parking spot at the mall.  Because if you’re at the mall, you can’t leave.  There are nine hundred cars behind you, stalking you like a pack of wolves, each one positioning themselves for your parking space.  None of them realize that they can’t actually have your parking space unless you can vacate it.  So you’re stuck in your car, bleeding out until after the stores close and the wolves go else where.  The worst thing about bleeding out in your car (other than messing up the upholstery)?  The Christmas music you have to listen to while you do it.

It is precisely the music and the movies that have caused all of these problems with an otherwise magical time of the year.  Throughout the course of the year we watch movies with unrealistic plots and this does not affect us because we know that they are unrealistic.  The guy with the big nose will not ever have the pleasure of sleeping with Angelina Jolie in real life.  The idiot girl will never actually get a position as partner at the biggest law firm in history.  We know this, and we accept this.  But something happens to us as humans during the holiday season.  We put all of our logic aside, and expect that life for the rest of the year will be spectacular.  Maybe throughout the course of the year we use up our logic banks and end up with nothing.  Either way, we listen to the mindless drivel on the radio, songs about a fat guy flying around in a sleigh pulled by talking reindeer and other such nonsense, and expect it to happen.  We watch these movies, created by simpletons, about family holidays that end absolutely perfectly, with the in-laws blowing up inside their camper.  And because these fallacies never actually occur to the “normal” person during this magical time of the year, we all get pissed off and hateful toward one another.

The little merry jingles get stuck in your head too, wedging themselves into the soundtrack of your life somewhere between Mozart, Brahms and Tool.  One minute your brain is swimming in the masterworks of real musicians, the next minute there’s a song about a fat guy who effectively stalks you over the course of the year coming to town.

And it says in your head until after Easter.

Then you have the more “traditional” songs.  Dreary, solemn hymns that sound more akin to funeral music than cheerful holiday music.  Silent Night come to mind.  Silent Night is one of the saddest sounding songs I’ve ever been forced to hear.  The title itself reminds me of a dark assassin coming in the night to dispatch you and your family while you sleep.  The tune fits the title as well, sounding of a funeral dirge, its effect making my heart heavy and bringing tears to my eyes.

Which seems to happen most Christmas’.  Because even though I fight the fake cheeriness of people, hate the music and feel put out when I have to do something decoration orientated (like putting up the stupid tree), I like feeling the kinship of humanity during this time of year.  As long as you’re not out fighting the crowds, people can be great.  And charitable.

One of the local radio stations does “Help for the Holidays”, in which people who need a hand up but cannot get help from the Government during this season send letters explaining their situation, and the city calls in to donate money to help the families.  I like hearing the stories and the reactions of the callers.  I like that people donate money to complete strangers they’ll most likely never meet.  I like that these actions touch something deep inside my cynical heart.  I like knowing that humanity is still alive.  It brings tears of happiness to my eyes.

There is so much about the holidays for me to despise.  The music, the movies, the shoppers, the story of the fatty in the red suit… But all of this is overshadowed by the rebirth of humanity.  And that’s what the Christmas story is all about:  Being human. 

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Filed under General Grievances

The TSA Wants to See Your Naughty Bits

Say hello to the holiday season! It’s a merry time of the year when people all around the world follow tradition and come together to spend their vacations stranded in airports sleeping next to complete strangers. This means then, that there will be hordes of people queuing up to walk through security machines designed to make certain that the travelers don’t have plans to make a mess of themselves by exploding in public.

Depending on the size of the airport, and the city in which the airport is located, the lines to get through these machines can range from a wait time of just a few moments to hours of mindless mulling around in stocking feet. At some airports, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll have grown a beard and gone grey by the time you actually get pulled out of the line by the TSA agent, pushed though a machine to the side, and thoroughly frisked.

Being frisked is an interesting experience. First they’ll start with a wand, to make sure you don’t have any metal objects capable of piercing the delicate skin of the TSA agent who is about to feel you up. As soon as they’ve given you the once over with the wand, they begin to grope, running their hands up and down your torso, then your legs. Normally, if a man touched me anywhere near the gentleman’s vegetables, I’d put him down. In this instance, though, slugging the agent in the Adam’s apple is not allowed… it’s frowned upon, even.

The most interesting thing about this experience is that it is done in plain sight of everyone around you. Therefore, not only do you have to submit to an authorized groping, you will have it done in public.

Most travelers would agree that these machines and public gropings are a necessary evil. They’ll tell you that even though the queues can be a nuisance, they’ll submit to the machines and the gropings rather than go swimming after their planes have come to a sudden, fiery stop somewhere above the Atlantic ocean.

This year, though, the TSA agents have a new gizmo. This machine has been coined a “body scanner”. I’m fairly certain the name was contrived by one of those mustachioed men who shoot dirty movies in the San Fernando Valley and that the TSA stole the machine from the CIA or some other sort of black operations agency. Not only will this machine allow the agents to see the massive amount of guns, knives, swords, bombs and nuclear warheads the average person carries with them, but (as the media would have you believe), it is also capable of showing to the agents your wife’s naughty bits, in all their bedroom glory.

As one can imagine, the media has gotten a hold of this gem and will not let it go. They’ve convinced a group of idiots that the TSA won’t be looking for weapons at all. These dumb asses believe that instead of agents, the TSA now employs pervert mouth breathers who will be more concerned with which man’s wife has the most shapely areolas than the safety of the plane’s inhabitants. What’s worse, is that they have decided to protest the use of the “body scanner” and refuse to submit to the scans. In doing so, they think they’ll make a difference. They think they’ll hold up the flights. And they might, for a short while. Until the airline companies decide that they’re fed up with dealing with these tools and decide to let the planes take off without them, refuse to refund their money because they’re being difficult and tell them to shove off.

Which is what they should do.

I think that any person worth their weight would agree that a few moments disruption is worth making sure terrorist wackjobs don’t end up making life miserable for everyone else. I also maintain that the embarrassment caused by walking through a “body scanner” is worth keeping the public safe. This means that the people who are protesting are not only inconsiderate, selfish and rude, but they can also be said to have little respect for human life.

What about the application of some law that demands airline travelers submit to these scans? There are laws in place for people traveling in cars. Refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test and your vehicle gets impounded, you get a free ride in the back of a squad car, and you have the pleasure of spending the night in the county’s own version of the Hilton. It’s like admitting you’re in the wrong, without ever actually incriminating yourself. Why can’t we do that here? Why can’t the TSA say that if you refuse a body scan, you get labeled a terrorist and arrested. Just for the night. Long enough to make you miss your plane so that you have to shell out the money for a new ticket. (Unless, of course, you are found to really be a terrorist, in which case we should remove your skin and bathe you in saltwater). Of course, the airline should be allowed to keep the money from the ticket you forfeited.

Who are these protesters anyway?

I caught a glimpse of an interview with a couple of these protesters and have decided that the people who actually are protesting should not only be embarrassed of their nude bodies, they should be absolutely ashamed. These people shouldn’t even be allowed in public, let alone an airline. I can honestly say that if I were the TSA agent assigned to look at the pictures of these people, I would sue for mistreatment of employees. They should employ the sub-human prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to monitor these pictures. It’d be a better torture treatment than waterboarding. Maybe that’s why the machine was developed in the first place though. Physically touching these people to frisk them would be so grotesque that scanning them for weapons really is the better choice.

What’s more is that I don’t even want these people on the same airplane as me, because chances are I will, at some point, be forced to at least look at one of them. And I want to that as much as I want to fist fight a polar bear that’s been dipped in kerosene and ignited.

Then there’s the off chance that I’d have to sit next to one of them. I take issue with that, because of the problem created by their blubber spilling over into my lap and the fact that they’d probably want to converse with me. I would become personally offended by the entire experience. They’d want to tell me all about where they’re going, who they’re visiting and then show me pictures of their ugly children who should be killed with fire. I would not be able to handle it.

My head would explode. And that’s exactly what the airlines are trying to prevent in the first place.

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Filed under In the News