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Just when you thought the drama in Boston was over—as Americans breathed a little easier given all the crazy events of this past week—new information about the bombing suspects continues to surface. And with each development, another piece of this mysterious puzzle falls into place.
I know this situation is terrible and a lot of people are suffering after Monday’s deadly attack, but the facts surrounding this case are undeniably interesting and I find myself anxiously waiting for the next media nugget to drop. Like many of you, I have questions, suspicions, concerns and—as much as I hate to admit it—even a few conspiracy theories. Now all that’s missing are answers, but here is what we know so far.
And yes, my two cents’ worth will be tossed in for good measure. It’s too hard to resist when attacks take place on American soil… my home soil.
Authorities apprehended bombing suspect two—Dzhokar Tsarnaev—on Friday night and rushed him to the hospital, where he remains intubated and in serious condition, unable to speak and thus, incapable of providing any answers. Rumor has it that despite his condition, he may be formally charged at his bedside on Sunday. Since federal charges will likely be leveled against the young suspect—in this case terrorism charges—they usually come within 48 hours of an arrest. Dzhokar may also face murder charges in Massachusetts. And though this state does not have the death penalty, he may still be executed by the feds. Either way, things are not looking good for the surviving Tsarnaev brother, and rightfully so.
PARTY ALL THE TIME
I heard something interesting about Dzhokar earlier. And if I harbored any sympathy at all for this guy—primarily for being a pawn with his brother calling the shots—this tidbit erased it from memory. After bombing the Boston Marathon, and while a huge manhunt was under way and the city shut down in fear, Dzhokar went to the campus of the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and simply went about his business. He attended classes, hung out with friends and even went to a party with some soccer teammates. One student who saw him described the new terrorist as “relaxed,” even as the dragnet tightened around him. Dzhokar split on Thursday—and we know what happened after that—but students in his dorm still couldn’t accept he may have been involved in the bombing. Even after seeing images of Dzhokar on the news, they “made a joke like, that could be Dzhokar… never.” Unfortunately, they were wrong.
What kind of cold-blooded sociopath kills innocent people, calmly returns to his everyday life and even goes to parties, seemingly unaware of his actions or their consequences?
Never mind. The question and its answer are one and the same.
New information about the eldest bomber—Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the suspect killed in the shootout on Thursday night—now seems to link him to an extremist Islamic group in the north Caucasus region, which includes his homeland of Chechnya. Authorities still believe that the brothers acted alone, mind you, but some of these new puzzle pieces have me raising an eyebrow:
- Imarat Kavkaz is an organization that formed after the Chechen insurgency of the 1990s and pulled together a number of jihadist groups by the mid 2000s. Their leader Doku Umarov was apparently involved in the bombing of a Moscow airport, but claimed to have no interest in attacking the United States. Their enemy appears to be Russia.
- The Tsarnaev brothers fled Chechnya for the U.S. and were granted asylum here. They later became naturalized citizens. This isn’t really new information, but it is definitely relevant in what’s to come.
- In 2011, Tamerlan was planning to visit Russia, but was first detained and interviewed by the FBI. As it turns out, the Russian government requested this interview and believed Tamerlan to be a radical Islamist and “true believer.” Not only that, but they claimed his personality had changed dramatically in only a year’s time. Sadly, none of this mattered and Tamerlan was allowed to travel abroad.
- During his six-month trip to Russia in 2012, Tamerlan is believed to have radicalized even more, and Homeland Security even believes that he received special training there.
- For the last several years—as evidenced by his social media presence—Tamerlan grew increasingly radical. When he returned from Russia, he set up a YouTube channel and even posted some videos under the heading “Terrorists,” but they were deleted. Fortunately, most of us know that deleting something doesn’t always remove it from your computer, so authorities were able to recover a screen grab. It showed members of the radical Imarat Kavkaz group and bam! There’s your link.
Whether or not this radical Islamist connection proves true, the fact that there could be a connection is quite troubling. The last thing anyone needs is for this to be identified as a real terrorist attack with international ties, which would in turn launch some kind of global investigation and likely result in more attacks later. At this point, it seems as if every extremist group in the Muslim world wants America dead, so no use fueling the fire, right?
I should also mention how this information about Tamerlan has me forming my own conspiracy theory, much to my chagrin. I share it only for the sake of documenting what I hope is not proven true later.
Picture this: Tamerlan and his younger brother are caught in the Chechen conflict and need a way out. America provides this, never knowing that Tamerlan already has radical views and beliefs. Granted, he may not yet be organized or belong to a specific group, but the foundation is there. And given his influence over the younger Dzhokar, it is only a matter of time before he is converted, as well. For years—allegedly—Tamerlan travels to Russia and is enlisted by the most radical group in the region, Imarat Kavkaz. They don’t give him any specific plans for an attack—only the tools and knowledge needed to plan one when the time is right—but send him home to further integrate himself into America. As time passes, Tamerlan becomes more and more disillusioned with his adopted country—perhaps in some way due to post-9/11 paranoia or the economic recession—and looks for a way to lash out. Since he’s already in Boston and knows how popular the upcoming marathon is—not to mention how well attended—he formulates a plan, convinces his brother to help and the rest is history.
This isn’t an earth-shattering or ground-breaking theory, of course, but it is very possible. And when you consider that the FBI questioned Tamerlan in 2011, knew he could have been an extremist and still let him go, it becomes even more feasible. After all, American intelligence officers received early warnings about the September 11th attacks and never acted on them. Why should this be any different?
Of course, I’m not suggesting that the federal government had anything to do with this vicious attack, but there are some who believe this to be true. And if you ask me, this is an extremely dangerous—not to mention paranoid—belief to have. Yes, the government makes a lot of mistakes and sometimes does things “We the People” cannot understand—like their recent decision to reject universal background checks with regard to gun purchases. But to think they could arrange something so complex and so heinous… something that took and changed the lives of so many innocent Americans… just doesn’t seem right. And don’t you think someone in the government would blow the whistle on something like this anyway? After all, this isn’t some evil entity we’re talking about here; it’s a conglomeration of offices, departments and organizations consisting of American citizens.
You have to assume that someone in there has a conscience.
SHOOTOUTS AND DRIVEAWAYS
I realize this is quickly becoming another very long post, but a few details about Thursday night’s shootout between the Tsarnaev brothers and police are too bizarre to ignore. The first is pretty simple: one of the bombs tossed at authorities during the high-speed chase was a pressure cooker bomb, similar to the ones used at the Boston Marathon. This obviously connects the suspects to the crime, but few doubted the police had found their men.
At one point during the chase, the brothers came to a stop, leaped from the vehicle and unloaded on the pursuing cops. Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau estimated that more than “200 shots were fired in a five- to ten-minute period,” but that isn’t the craziest part. From what I’ve heard, Tamerlan ran out of ammo and was tackled by several officers while he was still alive. Meanwhile, Dzhokar ran back to the stolen Mercedes, got behind the wheel and sped off in the direction of his brother. Officers were barely able to escape before Dzhokar ran over his brother and dragged him down the street.
If Tamerlan wasn’t dead at that point, he certainly was once he arrived at the hospital a short time later.
How someone could do such a thing to his own brother is beside me. At first, I though Dzhokar was simply ensuring his brother was dead so he couldn’t be forced to reveal any information to authorities later. Terrorists have been known to commit suicide or murder one another for this very reason, so why not expect the same here?
Then it occurred to me: Dzhokar was taken alive. Granted, he’s hurt badly and could still die from his wounds, but many expect him to recover and, hopefully, to provide answers to all our questions. If killing Tamerlan was necessary to protect their secrets, though, then why didn’t Dzhokar try to end things while hiding in that boat? I believe he had some explosives on him, so he could have easily detonated one and left our questions unanswered indefinitely. There’s something fishy going on, I think.
Or the opposite could be true: Dzhokar is simply insane and cares only for himself and his survival, even at the expense of his own flesh-and-blood. And though he should be placed under suicide watch immediately—and likely has already—I wouldn’t be surprised if Dzhokar finds a way to end his life. Either that or he will go to the other extreme: he will cooperate completely and “spill his guts” about everything… maybe for notoriety, maybe for sympathy… who knows?
As long as justice is served, though, I don’t particularly care what happens to him. But I will be waiting to hear more.
I had an idea for a story, novel or maybe even a film earlier today. It came out of nowhere and caught me completely off guard since it happened on the way to a tee-ball game, of all places. But when inspiration comes, you have to grab it, right? And that’s exactly what I’m hoping to do.
The title of this post obviously gives away one of the secrets. Yes, the idea is for a zombie story. What can I say? I love them and never miss The Walking Dead, Dawn of the Dead or even a George Romero marathon on late-night television.
I just can’t get enough.
At the same time, I am normally very critical of my ideas and spend a great deal of time trying to “flesh them out,” pun intended. Few result in anything very interesting, but there are a few that seem to have a little something extra. You know what I mean? Those ideas that get you thinking about book tours, film sets and televised award ceremonies?
This idea belongs in that second category. At least it could if done correctly. The only problem is its subject matter, which is certain to cause backlash, controversy and everything in between.
Isn’t that what normally happens when someone satirizes a religion or religious figure? It certainly did when The Innocence of Muslims hit YouTube last year. And I wouldn’t want anything like that to happen again.
I just can’t ignore the muse, you know? And by writing this post and sharing this idea with all of you, I am hoping to hear if something like this has potential or is too offensive to even consider pursuing. You won’t hurt my feelings if you leave a comment to express your displeasure, but first keep these things in mind:
- I am not a heretic or some kind of blasphemer
- This is not a criticism of or attack on religion, in this case Christianity
- My idea is nothing more than fiction and is not intended to offend or insult anyone
That being said, here’s the thought I had in the car earlier—the premise upon which this story will be built—the question this tale will seek to answer: What if Jesus Christ was the first zombie?
Fire and brimstone! Sacrilege! Did he just say that? You’re going straight to Hell for that one? Eternal damnation!
Now that we have that out of the way—and trust me when I say these are responses I wouldn’t really expect to get from something so harmless—focus on the basic idea. The way I see it—and if I end up really writing this thing—there are a few different approaches I could take.
Here’s the first.
You have Jesus, the Son of God: born in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph; raised as a carpenter in Nazareth; minister and teacher beginning around age 30. Only instead of following his normal path—which we all know ended with his crucifixion several years later—Jesus’ trajectory is changed by something unexpected: a mysterious virus.
He becomes a zombie.
So instead of spreading “The Word” and enlisting the aid of twelve disciples, Zombie Jesus spreads the virus and turns twelve followers into the first pack of flesh-eating zombies ever. Ironically enough, that’s kind of what they would have done anyway, given the symbolic eating of Jesus’ flesh during the Last Supper.
Approach two does little more than fast forward to the time Jesus is crucified and placed in his tomb. Only the Resurrection is when he returns as a zombie, subsequently appearing to everyone not to reinforce their faith, but to make communion out of them!
I know, I know. Blasphemy.
This is actually as far as I’ve gotten on this idea, and there are a lot of other things to consider. For instance, transforming JC and the Boys into zombies may inadvertently turn the Romans into the “good guys,” unless I can find a way to prevent something even I find rather tasteless from happening. I guess they could also be transformed into the undead, given this story need not run concurrent to religious history. And that would provide some justice after the horror of Jesus’ crucifixion, which the Romans surely deserved.
Still kind of a touchy subject, though?
Although I enjoy writing about controversial subjects—not for attention or financial gain, mind you—I can’t help feeling that this idea may be a little too edgy. On the other hand, it could be quite lucrative for the same reason. Yes, a lot of people would get pissed and there could potentially be all sorts of protests, but only after everyone read the book or saw the movie. An uproar like this would undoubtedly attract the media and before you know it, this thing would be everywhere.
Wishful thinking, I know, but stranger things have happened. And delusions of grandeur never hurt anyone… much.
So there you go: one story idea that could be good or bad depending on how you look at it. All it’s missing now is YOU. If you read this post and notice any kind of reaction within yourself—interest, disgust, joy, hunger, completeness, arousal, nausea—please consider leaving a few comments. And if you happen to think this could make a decent story, I would love some suggestion as to its genre. Horror? Comedy? Thriller? I have no idea which is best.
Thanks in advance for your help and please remember that none of this was intended to offend or insult Christians, Christianity or any other believer or religion on this spinning ball of mud we all call home. But if I did offend someone—especially to the point they feel I deserve no forgiveness—I ask first that they answer this question and act accordingly: What would Jesus do?
And I think we all know the answer to that.
“Guys, you know you better watch out. Some girls, some girls are only about that thing, that thing, that thing.”
These words appeared in Lauryn Hill’s 1998 R&B hit “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and helped launch the solo career of this former Fugees lead singer. The song is intended as a plea to young African-American men and women caught in “the struggle” and warns guys not to let “that thing” (between their legs) ruin their lives. Of course, they could also apply to the challenges men of all races face today, especially when it comes to the internet.
I am, of course, referring to the upswing in online sex scams. And yes, they affect men as much as they do women, maybe even more.
Let me paint you a picture.
Jim Williams was a 35-year-old man whose marriage was falling apart and heading for divorce. As such, he and his wife rarely communicated verbally, much less physically. And Jim was lonely.
He was also horny.
One night as Jim was cruising around his Facebook account, a friend request arrived from a beautiful young woman he had never met. Her name was Lynn and according to her profile, she and Jim shared several mutual friends. Although he normally wouldn’t accept a request from a stranger—especially a young woman—Jim trusted his friends and reluctantly added Lynn to his list. Within minutes, he received a message from her and the two began chatting on a regular basis.
At first, their exchanges were innocent: What’s your favorite film? How long have you worked in your current field? Where did you grow up? Eventually—and quickly—the two got closer and their questions became more personal: What do you look for in a woman? How much sex do you normally have in a week? What’s your favorite position?
Every time Jim communicated with Lynn, she mentioned some kinky interest or sexual need that aroused the sleeping giant in his pants. He knew that he wasn’t a cheater and hadn’t done anything wrong, but deep down he still felt a little guilty.
Fortunately, the feeling quickly passed.
The next day, Jim got a message from Lynn asking if he would meet her on Skype that night. She even provided her number and told him to call anytime, day or night, even collect if necessary. A week passed before Jim finally summoned the strength to do so, but eventually curiosity took hold and he couldn’t resist. Jim told himself that a little video chatting never hurt anyone. And since he would be single in a few months anyway, this could be a fun warm-up before he finally dove back into the dating pool.
So Jim logged into his Skype account, dialed Lynn’s number, took a deep breath and waited. Lynn answered quickly and a moment later, the two laid eyes on each other for the first time, alive and in person.
And they were both pleased.
Some great conversations followed, but so did some flirting. This quickly turned in to sex talk and within a few days, things started to get pretty graphic. Each time Jim logged in and contacted Lynn, she was wearing an outfit more revealing than the last. The more skin she showed, the more Jim’s pants rose to the occasion. And though he still felt a little guilty at times, he figured “What the hell?” So he kept on talking dirty and even encouraged Lynn to reveal more of herself, which she soon did.
The next time they Skyped, she was completely naked and extremely compliant. Whatever Jim asked her to do—regardless of how demented it might be—she did without question. There were oils, lotions, toys and even a few vegetables depending on their mood. In a short time, Jim had seen so much of Lynn that if asked to pick her out of a lineup, he could identify her from any angle or using any square inch of her body.
He had a flexible webcam to thank for that.
Then came the inevitable request from Jim’s new and naked friend: “I showed you mine, so show me yours.”
Jim was hesitant at first. After all, by law he was still a married man. Sure, he suspected his wife of cheating on him in the past—maybe with several different men—but he couldn’t prove anything and certainly didn’t want revenge. This would just be an entertaining way to get his rocks off, not all that different from whacking off to a porn site or live sex show, both of which cost money. This was free and since he didn’t know Lynn—and she didn’t even know his last name—Jim knew he was safe.
So he dropped his pants, allowed Lynn to seduce him through his computer screen, played to the camera and ended his “show” with a finale so explosive it nearly shorted out his keyboard.
Seconds later, the call disconnected and Lynn’s screen went dark. Assuming it was nothing more than a bad connection, Jim spent a few minutes straightening up, pulled himself together and called Lynn to thank her for the “favor.”
There was no answer.
She was probably washing up, too, he thought to himself. So he made himself a drink, fed his dog, did a few other mundane chores and tried to call her again.
Still there was no answer, but Jim did receive an email. And he just knew that it had to be Lynn.
The message came from some anonymous source at an address Jim had never seen before. It was completely devoid of text except for the title of its only attachment, a video file labeled simply “Jim Williams.”
His heart sank, but he reluctantly scanned the file and opened it. And there he was in all his glory: recorded by Lynn while he “rubbed one out” in front of her.
Then the phone rang. Jim didn’t recognize the number on his caller ID, but answered it since it had to be Lynn this time.
On the other end was a man with a high-pitched voice who sounded Asian to Jim, but he wasn’t interested in accents. He was interested in what the man just told him: that unless he paid him $10,000, his video would be sent to all of his Facebook friends and family members.
One of whom was his wife.
Jim’s story is a tragic one because, for most of us, coming up with $10K quickly and then trusting some stranger to delete your naughty video—the same stranger who made the video and is now extorting money from you—would be extremely difficult. And with no real laws governing the internet, you couldn’t count on the authorities to help. Short of being tight with a skilled computer hacker—maybe one that owes you a favor—you would be screwed.
Just like poor Jim Williams.
Online sex scamming is a growing problem all over the world, and it’s only going to get worse. In 2012, fifty such cases were reported in Singapore alone, and even that was eleven more than the year before. And we’re talking about Singapore, a small island nation. Imagine how widespread this problem is in the United States or even Europe!
Incidentally, police in Singapore just busted a ring of scam artists who do precisely what I described in the cautionary tale of Jim Williams. And Graham Cluley of the web security firm Sophos points out that in cases like Jim’s, there is another danger.
“You can imagine how a man, believing he is being seduced online by a sexy woman, might be all too eager to click on a link she suggests or run a malicious program on his computer,” Cluley posted to his blog. “Before he knows it, his computer could be under the control of a hacker.”
And if that happens, a video of your wiener won’t be your biggest problem; identity theft will.
So the next time you get a friend request from a sexy young woman you don’t know, gentlemen, please think twice about accepting it. The same goes for exposing yourself to strangers online. It may seem fun and dangerous and erotic and thrilling—especially if you engage in true “cyber sex” (which doesn’t mean putting something in your computer’s USB port that’s more flesh drive than flash drive)—but the consequences could be devastating. Either keep your face and all distinguishing features, objects or furnishings hidden, or don’t do it at all.
You just never know who’s liable to see it.
Last night was the mid-season premiere of the AMC hit television series “The Walking Dead” and boy, was it awesome. I will avoid the usual spoilers since some of you may not have seen the episode yet, but suffice it to say that the rest of the season should be pretty entertaining and eventful. I can hardly wait!
For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it focuses primarily on a small group of survivors struggling to live in a world populated by zombies. The apocalypse stems from a virus that infects everyone and causes those who die (or get bitten) to become reanimated corpses with a taste for flesh. It’s not unlike most zombie productions with two notable exceptions: this is a weekly series—which means zombie lovers like me can get a regular fix—and it is largely character-driven—which used to be the norm until computer-generated effects came along.
If you haven’t seen “The Walking Dead,” then I strongly suggest you take a look. Just be sure to tuck the kids into their beds first because it can get a little graphic at times.
As I was watching last night, I started thinking about the challenges we would face if the zombie apocalypse actually occurred. We all know the dead won’t start rising from the grave—at least I hope they won’t—but it is possible for a virus to produce the effects normally associated with zombie behavior. Heck, I even think some scientist proved it could happen, even if the chances are remote.
And last year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated its website with tips on “Zombie Preparedness”—check it out here. Granted, it was meant to be humorous and to appeal to zombie lovers everywhere, but is it possible there could be more to it?
In the past, my answer would be a resounding “no,” but these days I’m not so sure. I’ve always had this theory that the government knows more than they tell the public—which I’m sure most of us have felt at one time or another—but release only enough to prevent panic and chaos. For instance, there is no doubt in my mind that an alien spacecraft has been recovered, perhaps in Roswell, New Mexico. At the very least, I believe our government has proof that aliens exist. They just can’t release that information because doing so could make “War of the Worlds” seem like a love-in.
People will simply freak out.
My theory also involves popular culture and the media since I feel these are the vehicles our government uses to condition us to the unknown and to prepare us for what lies ahead. Where a film like ET: The Extra-Terrestrial softens us up so we will be nice to any kind aliens who land here, one like Independence Day prepares us for aliens who are intent on humankind’s destruction.
So when the CDC offers tips on preparing for the zombie apocalypse, I take notice. And I hope to be ready once the dead walk the earth.
Of course, surviving the zombie apocalypse won’t be easy. You will have to be alert, resilient and, most importantly, resourceful. Basic necessities like food and shelter won’t be easy to come by. And other luxuries—like power, for instance—may disappear altogether. We simply won’t know until it happens.
The good news is that while I was watching last night’s episode of “The Walking Dead” and thinking about my own chances of survival during a zombie apocalypse, I believe I found a solution to the question of power. And while it may seem a little far-fetched, don’t forget that we’re talking about zombies here. They’re pretty far-fetched themselves.
The idea came to me as I was brainstorming ways of producing power once the grid went down. My first thought was an obvious one: hydroelectric power. I’m sure we’ve all seen those old water wheels that were once used to generate electricity. Okay, some of us may have only seen pictures of them, but I’m sure most of you know they existed.
Keep this in mind for a second and I promise to put all the pieces together soon.
I also started thinking about those fake rabbits they use in dog racing to keep the competitors moving around the track. The dogs focus on chasing the rabbit—ignoring the other canines also in hot pursuit—and eventually finish the race. This little tidbit helped bring my whole idea together.
If the zombie apocalypse does occur, then there will be one very hot commodity humans struggling for survival might overlook: the zombies themselves! Here you have an endless supply of undead energy, all of it focused on hunting down and eating humans. Why not channel this energy into something useful? And what could be more useful than power?
Check it out.
My idea is to build some kind of basic power station that includes a fenced-in area where zombies can be safely contained. Within this enclosure would be bars connected to a turbine, each of which could be pushed by “walkers” to generate kinetic energy and, therefore, electricity. Dangled in front of the walkers could be a delicious human—protected from attack by some kind of barrier—or even a bucket full of fresh meat to tantalize the them and keep them moving forward. The energy they produce could be fed into a battery array, providing almost endless power and likely enough to sustain a small community.
And if your zombies ever decompose or decay enough to prevent further use, all you have to do is round up some more. The world should be full of them by then.
So there you have it: one very specific way to keep the lights on once zombies populate the earth. It may never happen, of course, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare for the worst, right?
And I don’t know about you, but life without television—even one that only plays DVDs—would be more of an apocalypse than even zombies could cause!
It consumed me.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I wouldn’t get angry every time I drove. And my particular strain of road rage varied in intensity based on each situation.
People who followed the rules of the road and showed at least basic consideration for others had nothing to fear. As long as they drove the speed limit, used their turn signals and didn’t slam on brakes for no reason, they would escape my wrath.
On the other hand, drivers who clearly had no business behind the wheel of an automobile—especially those who endangered my life or the lives of others—saw a different side of me. And yes, it involved lots of screaming, flailing about and presenting of a very specific finger.
I think you know the one I’m talking about.
Given all the anger I’ve unleashed on bad drivers over the years, it’s a wonder I haven’t been shot or had my ass kicked by now. But I was never the type to follow people home, accost them once they parked or drive by screaming obscenities out the window. I just did some cursing, some flipping off and lots of complaining, both during each incident and for hours to follow.
It wasn’t healthy, as you can imagine.
Fortunately, I just had an epiphany that changed my whole perspective on bad drivers. And since I’ve been so mean to them for so long, I feel it necessary to repent by defending them in this forum. Kind of like a reformed alcoholic in a 12-step program who apologizes to everyone he wronged while he was “on the sauce,” only to a lesser degree.
After all, most of these people have no idea that I was bitching at them out on the roads. And even if they did, I’m sure they’ve forgotten about it by now.
Nevertheless, this is for you, bad drivers. I hope that I make you proud.
If my earlier description of road rage struck a chord with you—and if you currently suffer from the “disease” with which I was afflicted—I implore you to set your anger aside and to forgive bad drivers. It really isn’t their fault and the sooner you accept this, the sooner you can relax and start to enjoy the ride again.
Driving is hard. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I mean, think about it. You have to work the pedals, turn the wheel, check your mirrors, adjust your seat, tune the radio, control the climate and do a host of other things, often at the same time. Toss in the occasional phone call, text message, cigarette or sip of a drink and the situation gets even hairier.
It’s a lot to keep up with, so cut bad drivers some slack.
When they lose focus and slow down to a turtle’s pace because of a phone call, let it slide. I’m sure the call had to be important or why would they bother?
If they pull out in front of you and cut you off, don’t sweat it. They probably had something more important to do anyway.
And if you endure an hour-long traffic jam simply because bad drivers won’t let others merge onto the highway, big deal. It’s like I said before: these people are important and deserve special treatment. Please do us all a favor and get out of their way, would you?
At this time, I would like to recognize a group commonly slapped with the “bad driver” moniker: the elderly.
I admit. If someone can’t see because of their advanced age, I don’t think they should be driving. It simply isn’t safe. But if spectacles make decent driving at least possible—regardless of how thick the lenses have to be to make this happen—then who are we to complain when they creep along in front of us, slow down to a complete stop before every turn and ignore the traffic light that just turned green in front of them?
Some of these folks are military veterans, for goodness sake. And if you know anything about history, you know that the Civil War was no picnic. Show them the respect they deserve.
What it all boils down to is this: bad drivers are people, too. Special people. It’s time they were treated as such.
Sure, they may lack the small motor skills needed to engage a turn signal, or the awareness of every obscure traffic rule—like right of way or the speed limit—but they have other talents. Important talents.
I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but that’s only because I don’t know any bad drivers yet. The epiphany just happened today, after all. Dang.
So the next time you’re out cruising and some “jackass” (one of my old words for them) steals your parking spot, slows you down or bumps you in traffic, take a deep breath and remember: that very same jackass could be rushing to some lab to complete a cure for cancer.
Do you really want to be responsible for depriving human kind of that?
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 71,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Christmas in the United States is pretty predictable, for the most part. There are lights, wreaths and other typical decorations. Retailers start piping in holiday music in November, hoping a store filled with music will soon result in a store full of holiday shoppers. And eventually it does as people search high and low for the perfect gifts, all the while spending obscene amounts of money on a holiday that grows more commercial with every passing year.
Thank goodness the true spirit of Christmas is always there or things would be completely unbearable, at least around here.
Fortunately, the Christmas spirit transcends America and people all over the world find interesting, unique and even freaky ways to celebrate it—freaky by American standards, that is. Traditions abound and this Christmas, I want to recognize some of our more creative brothers and sisters in the world. Here is what Christmas means to some of them.
In early December, our Austrian friends make sure all the children who misbehaved during the year learn the error of their ways on Krampus Night. Men dress up as the scariest demons imaginable and run through the towns smacking people with switches and sticks. And judging from some of the masks they wear, I’m sure these guys make quite an impression, and not only on the children.
Spain, Portugal and Italy
Nativity scenes of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in the manger are traditional Christmas decorations in every Christian nation. But in the holiday traditions of Italy, Spain and Portugal, another figurine is placed among the Wise Men: a Caganer, better known as a “Shitter” in English. That’s right. Somewhere in that Nativity scene is a statue of a well-known person crouching down and crapping. And part of the fun is trying to find him, kind of like a pooped-out version of “Where’s Waldo.” The Caganer is supposed to symbolize hope, prosperity and fertilization, but to me it just screams freaky!
If you’re like me, then you can probably stomach almost any holiday delicacy, with the exception of maybe fruitcake. I haven’t found anyone who actually likes eating that. Of course, I would welcome a dense chunk of the green maraschino cherry laced dessert if it meant missing out on Kiviak, a Christmas dish in Greenland.
Kiviak is made from roughly 200 local birds with their feathers, beaks and all. Basically, the birds are stuffed and sewn into a seal skin, covered with grease, buried under a rock and left to sit for months. During the holidays, the skin is opened to reveal fermented birds that apparently smell like cheese and taste pretty good. I’ll never know because I would never eat the disgusting creatures. Yuck!
If you think Americans are too reliant on fast food, consider the role of Kentucky Fried Chicken in the Christmas celebrations of Japan. Given the lack of turkeys and other “traditional” Christmas fare, KFC used marketing magic to position itself as the main dish of the holiday. Instead of cutting into a juicy ham, many Japanese order a bucket of KFC chicken, sometimes even weeks in advance given its popularity. Kudos to KFC for making fast food so festive!
The Spanish are so strange and interesting that I simply could not resist including another of their freaky Christmas traditions. Caga Tio is a pooping log that is propped up on legs and covered with a blanket to keep him warm. Every night beginning on December 8, the log is “fed” and then put to sleep. Then on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, Caga Tio is put into the fireplace. The children sing songs, beat the log with sticks and order it to poop. When it does, out pours candy and nuts for all the kids to enjoy, followed at the end by a head of garlic, onion or even a salt herring. Bizarre…
The Dutch have taken some heat for their traditional holiday character Zwarte Piet, better known as Black Peter, who presents the dark side of Christmas in more ways than one. As Santa’s slave, Black Peter is responsible for abducting children who were naughty or misbehaved and taking them to Spain, where he and Santa kick back during the off-season. The controversy of Black Peter revolves around his appearance, which involves full black face and a rather large afro—in other words, he looks like a black slave and lots of people find him to be a racist symbol. It doesn’t seem like that big a deal to me, though.
Christmas Eve in Norway means hiding your brooms so witches and evil spirits cannot use them to travel the skies and spread mischief. Seems a little dark, but to each his or her own.
In the deep south—South America—Venezuelans celebrate from December 16-24 by closing off the streets every morning and attending morning mass on roller skates! I think roller blades are acceptable, too.
There’s a folk tale in the Ukraine about a family too poor to decorate their tree that awaken on Christmas morning to find it adorned with colorful spider webs. In honor of their eight-legged friends, they now place spiders and webs on their trees. I’m not a big fan of spiders, mind you, but this does seem like a nice gesture in a season known for giving and generosity.
In the five or six months since I started this blog, I have been fortunate enough to interact with readers from all over the world. At last count, my work has been viewed by people in more than 200 different countries… some of which I have never even heard of! I’m not bragging, mind you, but I am constantly amazed by how connected we all are. The lines between “local” and “global” certainly have faded.
So this Christmas, I want to extend my warmest holiday wishes to all of you regardless of your location, religion, race, socioeconomic status, sexual preference or freaky Christmas traditions. In the spirit of my idol Bob Marley, remember that we are “one people” and that all that really matters in this world is the “one love” we share with each other. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and wish you nothing but good tidings in the coming year.
Ho, ho, ho!
Yesterday was extremely eventful for US Olympic athletes, many of whom will be bringing home medals in a variety of different events. A few even managed to make history in the process. Here are the achievements that impressed the hell out of me.
Gabby Douglas won the gold in the all-around gymnastics final and is the first African-American to take this title. I admit that even I got teary-eyed during her performance. Way to make history, Gabby!
Swimmer Michael Phelps added to his record-setting medal count by dominating the Men’s 200m Individual Medley and grabbing his 20th medal, another gold. And he’ll have a chance for another when he competes in the finals of the 100m Butterfly today!
Kayla Harrison brought the USA its first gold medal in Judo and, if you know what she went through to make it to the podium stand, Kayla’s achievement is even more amazing. At 13 years old, Kayla was sexually abused by her judo coach at the time, Daniel Doyle. But rather than giving up on her dreams, Kayla partnered with coach Jimmy Pedro, a former two-time Olympic judo bronze medalist for the U.S. It’s an incredible story and Kayla truly is something special. She will serve as a great role model not only for other athletes and females, but also for anyone trying to cope with and recover from sexual abuse. Thanks for inspiring us, Kayla!
The US national basketball team made Olympic history by delivering the most devastating defeat ever to Nigeria, who lost to the red-white-and-blue 156-73. I’m not sure this one surprised me much, but it is an incredible achievement. Nice going, fellas!
I wonder what today will bring!
Today marks the two-week anniversary of my first blog and I could not be happier with the progress I’ve been making. Correction: A hundred email subscriptions or thousands of views would make me happier, but you have to start somewhere, right?
Blogging is definitely a challenge and I find myself reading article after article about how to do it effectively. I started off a little rough because like many potential bloggers, I struggled with a topic or direction for my blog. Focusing on one specific area just didn’t seem feasible. After all, finding something to blog about is tough, but finding something so specific to write about would be even worse. For now, I simply started with a personal blog, one that I classify as “stream of consciousness” because I want to be able to blog about anything that comes to mind.
This doesn’t really make things easier, though. And I still find myself searching for blog post topics on a daily basis.
I know that I’m no blog master and have very little experience in this medium. Nevertheless, I have picked up a few things along the way worth sharing.
With each new day comes endless possibilities and this in itself can be quite scary. Article after article offers tips on where to find ideas for new blog posts. They suggest you mine your personal experiences, respond to news stories, write “how to” articles or do a multitude of different things to unleash your muse. And some of them work from time to time.
Just not all the time.
I mean, how often do people really want to read an article on how to make French toast or change your own motor oil? Not only that, but there seem to be infinite tips on how to do almost anything, so I don’t feel the need to inundate readers even more.
Whenever I get blocked, all I really do is put my computer away, get up and take a walk. I take note of things I see, allow my mind to drift through its memories and observe everything. And by the time I return to my keyboard, I normally have at least a basic idea of what to write. Granted, it isn’t always the kind of topic that attracts a lot of readers, but it does get me writing again. And to me, that’s clearly the most important feature of blogging.
We’ve all heard that “writers write”, so simple logic would dictate that “bloggers blog”. And that’s exactly what I’m hoping to do both consistently and well.
Learning the ropes
When I first considered starting a blog, I assumed it was nothing more than an online journal: someplace I could simply share my thoughts, ideas and opinions with others. I never thought about things like search engine optimization (SEO), tags, attribution licenses or all the other baggage that came with it.
There is definitely a learning curve.
And since my goal is to someday create a blog that can be monetized—provided I come up with some products worth selling—I have even more to learn. I am thankful to everyone who offers blogging advice and, as I mentioned, there is no shortage of information out there. And I’m not just trying to drum up more comments when I ask that anyone reading this should please feel free to offer their own advice about blogging or comments about my progress to date. I would certainly welcome any feedback that might help me improve.
Read, read, read
The best piece of blogging advice I’ve encountered so far is the same you hear from many writing coaches: readers often make the best writers. After all, you have to understand what appeals to readers before you can reach them through your own writing. And where blogging is concerned, reading becomes even more important.
I spend a lot of time checking out other people’s blogs, especially those featured on Freshly Pressed—someplace I hope to end up eventually. Since I’m such a beginner, and since I often rely on stock photography to make my blogs more visual, I’m fairly certain I won’t be featured anytime soon. However, reading the blogs there gives me all sorts of insight into what I need to do in the future to accomplish this goal.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m certain some of my own posts have been far superior to some I’ve read. This isn’t bragging, mind you—I’m incredibly humble about my work. It’s just an observation that gives me at least a little hope of blog success.
On some days—and today certainly counts—I fill my time with activities other than blogging because I can’t think of anything to write, or I didn’t get enough views yesterday, or no one has posted a comment in the last week. Procrastination is one thing, but self-doubt is another animal altogether.
Why didn’t people like my post about college that was so widely praised by my friends and family members? How can they miss all my insight into life and the world around us?
Keep plugging away and remember that old adage that “good things come to those who wait”. The more persistent you are, the better your chances of achieving all your blogging goals. I know it can be hard and depressing and disheartening and even downright sad. But it can also be rewarding and engaging and creative and, above all, inspiring. You’ll never discover this if you simply give up.
I have to keep telling myself this very thing, by the way.
So my promise is this: I will continue blogging on a host of different subjects, hoping to connect with readers in some meaningful way while working hard to hone my skills. And I will take every suggestion, comment and view for what it truly is: a step in the right direction.
My name is Scott and I am a blogger. At least I think I am…
gnos·tic (n s t k) adj.
Of, relating to, or possessing intellectual or spiritual knowledge, esp. esoteric mystical knowledge.
bent (b nt) noun
A natural talent or inclination: “a man of religious bent.”
Taken literally, the title of my first blog could be interpreted as “a natural talent or inclination of, or relating to, intellectual or spiritual—especially esoteric mystical—knowledge.”
But what does that really mean?
I suppose someone visiting my blog for the first time might wonder if I’m some kind of religious or spiritual guru. Or if I possess some magical knowledge of the future. Maybe some tea leaves or crystals. A prognostication or two? Am I the second coming of Nostradamus?
Not even close. I just thought it sounded cool.
And to be perfectly honest, all the really good names were pretty much taken. I’m new to blogging, but blogging is certainly nothing new.
As always, I am late to the party.
Nevertheless, I feel the title is appropriate because (a) I do value knowledge of any kind, (b) I am naturally inclined to pursue knowledge, and not always in academic ways, and (c) in religious terms, I am ag-GNOSTIC. See? Most of this word is mentioned in my title.
And again, I just thought it sounded cool.
As for what I hope to address in this, my first truly public forum, I honestly can’t be sure. After racking my brain for weeks, trying to determine the best possible topic for a blog—perhaps one that could be monetized in the future—I finally realized something.
None of that really matters. After all, this is my first attempt at a blog and the important thing is to write… a lot. Find your voice. Follow your bliss. Let it all hang out.
You know… all that stuff the “blog masters” and writing coaches tell you to do (and you know who you are).
Actually, though, I completely agree. Writers write. And I’m definitely not a writer.
At least not yet.
As an English major in college, I eventually collected two degrees, a BA in English/Journalism and an MA in English/Creative Writing. I’m not bragging, of course, but I eventually found myself teaching freshman composition at a small, private college. It only took a semester or two for me to grow weary of reading terrible writing, much less writing my own. Eventually, you correct errors with their and there so much that any creativity you have is completely sapped. At least that’s what happened to me.
So this blog serves another important purpose: it gets me writing again. And that’s something I feel I sorely need at this point in my life.
Besides, everyone knows that I have a rather deranged sense of humor, very little shame and absolutely no tact—not always in a bad way—which simply must be unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. Well, you suspect it now, but only because I let it slip.
And there’s no guarantee that anyone will ever read this, either. I mean, I’ll probably tell some close friends and family members about it. Maybe some people at work. Or on Facebook or Twitter. I normally post very little on either site, but I suppose it’s within the realm of possibility. And a few of them might actually check it out, but not because they enjoy it.
Because they feel obligated. I certainly hope this doesn’t apply to you, but if it does, thanks.
And if I am lucky and interesting enough to attract some regular readers, or to interact with some stimulating characters, all the better. Yes, I would love to have one of those monetized blogs that generate tons of monthly revenue, but the sharing of ideas and opinions with others is obviously the most important outcome. Next to actually writing again, of course.
So as this blog grows, I promise to be as entertaining, thought-provoking, unfiltered, merciless, welcoming, friendly, obnoxious, respectful, unwavering, punctual, laid-back, ambitious, upstanding, unusual, ridiculous… yadda yadda… as you want me to be.
In the meantime, if this blog must be defined, I certainly prefer this:
WELCOME TO MY STREAM-OF-CONSCIOUSNESS BLOG!
It’s a journey, baby. And we’re not taking a map. Buckle up. It’s sure to be a bumpy ride…