The dream has been with me from an early age, as I’m sure it has for many of you. Sure, the features have changed with time—the inevitable consequence of an ever-changing life—but the fantasy remains. And if circumstances ever permit it, I will not hesitate to make this dream a reality.
I am referring, of course, to the house of my dreams.
As a boy—and one hell of a comic book freak—my dream home mirrored the secret, subterranean headquarters of my favorite hero, the Batman himself. There was the requisite mansion sitting atop it, with endless bedrooms and limitless excess, but the real fantasy lay beneath. Caves filled with the latest computer technology would connect me to the world outside; equipment manufactured in secret would leave no paper trail to be discovered later; and like my hero, I would be a force to be reckoned with in the world of crime fighting and vigilante justice.
Fortunately, I grew out of this and realized that (a) there can be only one Batman and (b) it takes a lot of cash to sustain such a lifestyle. And let’s face it: I am no Bruce Wayne.
Future incarnations of my dream home—the evolving blueprints of which existed only in my mind—changed in architecture, style, size, dimension and nearly every other measurable category. However, other features remained consistent through the years: secret passages, a hidden underground lair—complete with an escape tunnel—ergonomic design, self-sustaining life support systems, greenhouses and extensive gardens… you know, the basics.
The sad thing about all this is that no matter how badly I want it—how desperately I want my dream home to become a reality—the fact is that it probably won’t happen. Pulling something like this off takes funding… significant funding. And I’m not talking about the kind you get from a bank or rich investor—someone with a legitimate claim to the property who could cause problems later. I need the kind of cash that only I control, like lottery winnings or a Publisher’s Clearing House jackpot.
Not bloody likely, I know, but a boy can dream.
It is in this spirit that I now share some ideas about my Dream House, the home that exists in my mind at this particular moment in time. It differs from those that came before it and will undoubtedly change in the future, but for now this represents the house I wish for in my dreams and waking life. The details are a little fuzzy and for now only certain features have taken form. That will change if the dream ever becomes a reality, though, so I pray I live to see it.
For now, however, a slide show will have to do.
It had to happen eventually.
After blogging daily for more than eight months, I finally hit a day when publishing a post seemed unlikely.
Granted, by virtue of writing this post, I will still publish something. It’s just not what I expected and, as you can see, it isn’t very long, either.
I realize that size supposedly doesn’t matter—whether I choose to believe it or not—but length does. At least that’s what I’ve always been told.
Also, this blogging every day thing is hardly easy, as I’m sure any bloggers in the crowd already know. Life always gets in the way, so sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
Take today, for instance.
I was hoping to post something last night—which is my usual routine—but a combination of allergy problems and lack of sleep sealed that deal. I passed out on the sofa and missed that opportunity.
My work schedule had some gaps in it and I was hoping to blog earlier today, but once again I managed to fill them all with other tasks and unexpected meetings. So once again, blogging fell by the wayside.
Fortunately, my iPhone is awesome and despite being at my son’s tee ball practice, I was able to churn this out. All the bells and whistles may be missing—namely pictures (which you now see since I had a chance to update this post, thank goodness)—but those can always be added later. I don’t know anyone who visits blogs just for pictures anyway, at least not many of them.
So even though this post is kind of a let-down, for me as well, it definitely served its purpose. And since a new WordPress day begins in just under two hours—most likely to accommodate our international friends—a new and hopefully more interesting post will be heading your way soon.
Unless, of course, life gets in the way again. And we all know that’s apt to happen at any time.
Today is a testament to that.
If you have seen the 1994 Tom Hanks‘ film Forrest Gump, then you likely recognize my title as a piece of advice given to the simple-minded protagonist by his mother, played expertly by renowned actress Sally Field.
And let’s face it: Who hasn’t seen this film? It won all sorts of Oscars, for goodness sake, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director, among others.
It was a cultural phenomenon. Or at the very least, a pop cultural phenomenon.
At any rate, the basic idea behind Ms. Gump’s advice is sound: stupid people are only viewed as such because they do stupid things. And please know that I don’t toss around the word “stupid” very often and have been teaching my son that calling someone stupid is wrong.
That doesn’t change the fact that stupidity exists, though. And these days, it seems to be spreading faster than venereal disease in a whorehouse, for lack of a better expression. Just scan the news and you will see examples of stupidity everywhere.
Actually, don’t worry about it because, true to form, I scanned the news myself and found plenty of evidence to substantiate my claim. Here are some of the stories that caught my attention and that prove no matter where you go or how far from home you travel, the odds of encountering someone who makes stupid decisions are always high.
Just remember this: you don’t have to be stupid to make a dumb decision. In all of these cases, flexing that muscle between their ears a little more could have yielded different—and even more favorable—results for the individuals mentioned here. And at the very least, it would have kept me from blogging about them at all.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as if that will happen. So here you go: four stories that prove “stupid is as stupid does.” Thanks to Ms. Gump for articulating this so well, by the way.
Sergeant Ron King, a firearms instructor for the Port Canaveral Police Department, was fired last Friday for possessing and using silhouette targets with a familiar figure on them, and one that has caused quite an uproar.
The targets looked like Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old shot in 2012 by George Zimmerman, a community watch captain who is currently awaiting trial on second-degree murder charges.
According to King—who was fired for this incident—the targets were being used to train officers in “no shoot” scenarios. In other words, they were like the alien targets Will Smith faced in the original Men in Black film: some were threats, some weren’t… and it was up to the officers to determine which ones to shoot.
While I can understand King’s motivation for using “no shoot” targets, the way he handled it was unacceptable and completely insensitive. Why, you ask?
The figure on each target was wearing a dark hoody, holding a can of iced tea and had a bag of Skittles candy in his pocket. All of these mirror Trayvon Martin on the night he was shot and killed.
Unfortunately, it seems as if King disagrees. And in his mind, using the targets wasn’t even the problem.
“The only stupid act I performed was to believe that some of my co-workers would be mature enough and care enough to use a bad situation as a learning tool,” he said later. And when he finally summoned up the courage to apologize for his actions, even his apology seemed to shift the blame from himself.
“To the Martin family, I would like to apologize for those law enforcement officials that chose to use your son’s death as an element for their personal and political gains,” King had the nerve to say. “I assure you that the use of these targets that are in question is to prevent a tragedy from taking place.”
Little does he know that in using these targets, he caused yet another tragedy, at least for the family who lost their son last year and now have to relive that horror even further in the media.
Way to rub salt in that wound, my man. And thanks for doing something stupid when just a little forethought could have prevented all of this, and probably saved your job, too!
Our next story keeps the “brainless law enforcement” train rolling and this time involves someone who should certainly know better: Danville Police Chief Wade Parsons.
On Friday, Parsons was cited for an incident that occurred at his home last month. Basically, he left his service weapon—a .40-caliber Glock 22 pistol—loaded and lying on top of a safe in his bedroom closet. Then he left to run some errands.
Little did he know, but the 15-year-old son of his girlfriend, a boy never known for depression or any other serious psychological issues, found the pistol and used it to commit suicide.
Parsons discovered the boy’s body when he returned home a short time later.
Oddly enough, this irresponsible police chief will face no serious charges related to the boy’s suicide. Instead, he was charged with violating a state law that requires the secure storage of any firearm that could be accessed by a minor without parental consent. And get ready for this: the maximum fine for such a transgression is $1000.
Honestly, I’m not really sure what to say aside from this: Is a young man’s life really only worth $1000? Or better yet, should law enforcement officials “get off the hook” for making mistakes that cost others their lives?
I bet the same punishment wouldn’t apply if Parsons had accidentally shot the kid himself while on duty. Or maybe it would. Neither situation makes this punishment very easy to stomach, especially for the mother who lost her child in this unfortunate turn-of-events.
For our next example of stupidity in action, we jump “across the pond” to America’s surrogate mother, Great Britain. And believe me: this example takes stupid to a whole new level—and on a more global stage than it should likely be.
John Sweeney is a BBC reporter also known for his investigative journalism on the network’s primetime current-affairs program Panorama. Last month, he decided to try to obtain the scoop of a lifetime—or at least a pretty good story based on current events: a behind-the-scenes look at North Korea from inside the country itself.
Well, if you have been following the news lately—and few of us can escape it anymore—then you likely know that Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s latest and most ridiculous dictator, has been acting very strangely these past few months. Out of nowhere—and please excuse the fact that I am American and as such, quite biased—he started amassing weapons, testing missiles and threatening a nuclear attack against the U.S. and its allies around the world. Annual military tests in South Korea—which occur every year around this time—have been viewed as an act of aggression. And despite sending our most capable diplomatic emissary there to consult with him—I am speaking, of course, of the skilled negotiator, former NBA coattail rider Dennis Rodman—Kim Jong Un continues to “amp up” his rhetoric along with his most prominent character trait: paranoia.
In other words, he isn’t the type of guy who normally welcomes journalists—especially Western journalists—into his isolated nation. Remember what happened to those two American journalists who were arrested in 2009 and sentenced to outrageous prison terms? They were only on the border between China and North Korea. Imagine what would have happened if they were discovered “in country.” Not even ex-President Bill Clinton could have saved them then!
Incidentally—and for those unfamiliar with this story—it took Bill to get these guys out of trouble. And even that took some doing.
So booking a trip and visiting the northern part of this split peninsula—just for some sightseeing on “holiday”—was never an option for Sweeney. He needed to infiltrate the country. And last month, he found the perfect cover.
A group of students from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) were headed to North Korea for academic purposes, so Sweeney falsely claimed to be one of the doctoral students, completed an application for entry into the country and simply told the others he was a journalist and would be joining them. Sweeney’s wife and a cameraman came along and, for all intents and purposes, the trip went off without a hitch.
Only recently did anyone “clue in” to the fact that what Sweeney did wasn’t only stupid; it was also quite dangerous, at least to the students he used as camouflage.
“The students were not given enough information to enable informed consent,” the LSE said in their most recent statement. “Yet [they] were given enough to put them in serious danger if the subterfuge had been uncovered prior to their departure from North Korea.”
This brings up a good point: Why didn’t Sweeney conceal everything so the students would know nothing? I’m sure that he and his companions could have all posed as students, especially since Sweeney lied on his application and got away with it. Security obviously wasn’t as tight, at least not for those travelling as scholars and academics. That way, if his cover was blown, everyone was arrested and people were questioned, they could all respond with something best described in the film Independence Day: plausible deniability.
Wouldn’t that have been at least a little safer, not to mention far less stupid? I think so.
Now think about this. And again, this is the American coming out in me.
How do you think Kim Jong Un is going to feel about someone sneaking in to spy on his country? Sweeney already said that the North Korean government was “very angry” about what happened. In other words, Kim Jong Un is very angry. And since he isn’t thinking straight—given all the craziness I mentioned earlier—pissing him off further really isn’t the best idea.
Not that Sweeney sees anything wrong with it.
“We go in and we tell a lie to the North Koreans,” he told reporters recently. “And I believe that’s journalistically fine and proper.”
Easy for him to say! We’re the ones Kim Jong wants to nuke into oblivion! Sure, he mentioned our “allies”—which obviously includes the UK—but who do you think he’s coming after first?
The good news is that everyone got out of North Korea, no one was hurt and the footage Sweeney collected is safe. Of course, Craig Calhoun—Director of the LSE—mentioned that the Panorama program “seems to have found no new information and only [showed] what North Korea wants tourists to see.”
Glad to see it was all worth it. And rather than calling Sweeney a jackass—a truly American term, I think—I instead award him a moniker that my British brothers and sisters undoubtedly prefer. Because if ever there was a wanker, he would probably be it.
The final stop on the Stupidity Tour 2013 is stateside in New York, more specifically at Albany High School in the city of the same name.
A teacher at the school is in hot water after giving students a writing assignment about everyone’s favorite mass-murdering regime, the Nazis. Only this wasn’t some book report or reflection paper on the horrors of the Holocaust; it was something much darker and—to many students, parents and even administrators—extremely offensive.
The assignment asked students to prove their loyalty to the “Motherland”—namely Nazi Germany—by arguing that Jews are “evil” and causing more problems to the country and its government than they’re worth. Here’s what it said on the actual assignment sheet:
“You must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!” The me in this statement is supposed to be some kind of educator within the Nazi government.
Needless to say, people made quite a stink over this—including almost a third of the students asked to complete it (out of three classes)—and the school is considering disciplinary action against the insensitive teacher, who I believe has been removed from the classroom pending an investigation. Odds are that he or she will eventually be fired over this anyway.
While I can understand what this teacher was trying to do—and have always found Nazi propaganda to be very interesting, given all these guys turned out to be complete psychos—it strikes me as somewhat stupid (again with that word) that he or she didn’t first consider the potential consequences. To be honest, I kind of like the assignment because it forces students to think about the reasons something as horrific as the Holocaust could have occurred, not to mention the importance of preventing something similar from ever happening again. And it shows how information, art, advertising and deception can all be utilized to mislead not just one person, but a whole nation of people.
However, there is a better way to present it. And simply handing it out in some of your classes—knowing those kids will be returning home to discuss it with their parents (most likely)—isn’t what I would recommend. Instead, why not send a letter or email to parents asking them to critique the assignment first? Or treat it as a kind of permission slip where students select one of a few controversial assignments and secure parental approval before returning to school? Hell, just running it by some other teachers could have prevented this backlash!
I hate to call any educator stupid, but what this person did—or at least how he or she went about it—certainly qualifies. I guess there won’t be any “Teacher of the Year” awards in their future, huh?
As the train of stupidity finally pulls into the station, I find myself wondering about another story I heard just before leaving work. Earlier today—and at the time I’m writing this it is Monday evening—several bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Massachusetts. If I remember correctly, several people were confirmed dead and another dozen or two were injured. And this was at a sporting event visited by people—and competitors—from all over the world, which proves my point even further.
Stupid people are all around us. And worse, some of them are extremely dangerous and may even try to hurt us. Just look at those poor people in Boston. Wouldn’t someone capable of injuring and killing innocent people have to be stupid anyway?
Be good to each other. And by all means, watch your back… or each others’ backs. Whatever the case may be.
In the mid-to-late 1990’s, comedian Bill Cosby starred in a television special and short-lived series called Kids Say the Darndest Things. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it focused on the outrageous responses children of all ages gave to questions they were asked. The show even linked up with Art Linkletter’s House Party, which aired from 1945 to the late 1960’s on both television and radio and included a “Kids Say the Darndest Things” segment. It was pretty cute, as you can see from classic exchanges like this one:
COSBY: How would you make a marriage work?
RICKY (Age 8): Tell your wife that she looks pretty even if she looks like a truck.
Or even this one:
COSBY: I have a cut on my finger. What should I do for it?
KEMETT (Age 5): You have to put some Neosporin on it and a band-aid so it’ll go away.
COSBY: Where does it go?
KEMETT: It goes down here in your blood.
COSBY: Then where does it go?
KEMETT: Then it’ll go… in another country.
While it is true that kids say the darndest things, I argue that adults take it one step further and do the darndest things. Just open your newspaper, turn on your television or scan any online news website and you’ll see evidence of people all over the world doing some crazy, unbelievable, inexcusable, offensive, confusing, sick, disgusting and downright ridiculous shit.
Hell, throw a rock and you’re likely to hit someone in the middle of doing some such thing. They are literally everywhere.
Remember that I’m not talking about your normal, everyday activities or behaviors, either. I’m talking about the people who go to extremes, do things we may never understand and keep the rest of us on our toes. And the things they do? Well, they never cease to amaze or alarm… sometimes both. Such is the case with each of these stories, all of them from the recent news and involving people most of us hope we never have to meet.
Judge for yourself, though.
WILLIAMSTON, NORTH CAROLINA
There’s nothing like a freaky story from my home state to kick things off. It makes me so proud… not.
A few Saturdays ago, deputies in Martin County responded to a call from the home of Carla Jean Baggett and her boyfriend, Randall Edward Johnson. Also living in the house were Baggett’s mother, sister and nephew, Jeremy Bogle.
When authorities arrived, they immediately smelled a funky odor and knew something was wrong. Bogle told them no one had seen Baggett for several days, but that Johnson had claimed she was lying in bed. Only every time someone asked to see her, Johnson would claim she was busy smoking a cigarette or sleeping.
That was reason enough for deputies to enter the bedroom. And Johnson wasn’t lying, either. Baggett was indeed in her bed and had been the entire time.
She was dead. And yes, she had been decomposing pretty well, too. That obviously didn’t matter much to Johnson, because he had been sleeping with her corpse for days.
Although it seems Baggett died of natural causes and foul play is not suspected, Johnson was arrested and charged with felony concealment of a death from law enforcement. And we can only hope he gets some treatment for either having trouble coping with his loss—which I hope is to blame—or the other thing: his desire to sleep with a dead body.
Let’s also hope sleep is all he planned to do with her.
Move over, Mike Tyson!
In true “Iron Mike” style, Ashley Plato of Lorain, Ohio—no relation to doomed Diff’rent Strokes star Dana Plato—was recently arrested for attempting to bite off her boyfriend’s ear. The attack came during a card game when Plato and Shawn Lane started arguing. Things quickly became physical, according to witness Tom Stone, who watched as Plato leapt onto his friend and targeted his ear. Stone also sprung into action.
“I grabbed her and pulled her off of him… and told her to get out of my apartment,” Stone said later. And he remembered first seeing the injury to Lane. “It was terrible. Part of his ear was split open and the skin was broken… it was bleeding real bad.”
Plato is being held in jail and is set to appear in court next week—and she has been ordered to stay away from Lane—but people in her community won’t soon forget about her behavior.
“Just the fact, the extreme, that she used her own body to do some damage to another individual,” Elyria resident Mirian Burks explained. “He will be damaged for life.”
None said it better than neighbor Michael Robinson, though.
“That’s not normal human behavior, you know? We don’t bite; DOGS do.”
I think he has a point, don’t you?
When you read this next story, please don’t expect to understand how someone could be so cold and callous. And waste no time trying to determine a motive because, honestly, I can’t imagine how one could ever justify this kind of behavior.
The so-called human in question is Kisha Carter, a resident of the Crystal Inn Motel on Tulane Avenue.
Last week, the local SPCA got a call from a guest at the same motel that saw two puppies being tossed out of a third-floor window. The guest immediately gathered up the injured animals and rushed them to a nearby clinic. One puppy died on the way and, sadly, the other passed a short time later.
The SPCA investigated the animal cruelty allegations and checked the motel’s surveillance video, which led them straight to Kisha Carter. She was arrested on the spot, taken to jail and charged with aggravated cruelty to animals.
If you ask me, this comes as close to pure evil as any crime could, even those specific to humans. Killing sweet, defenseless puppies? I’d vote for the death penalty in a case like this any day of the week. It is truly reprehensible.
Our last stop is in Manning, Oregon, where Tony Hall-Rivas was recently arraigned on five counts of burglary. Of course, that’s not the real reason he’s in trouble. If you want to know the truth, his actual crime was less against humans and more against Mother Nature.
Hall-Rivas sexually molested horses.
For roughly eight months, this crop-swinging Casanova would sneak into a neighbor’s barn, have his way with the sexiest colts and mares around (I guess) and skedaddle before the horses’ owner could catch him. The neighbor did get close on one occasion, though, when he saw Hall-Rivas running through the back gate early one morning doing something very unusual.
He was pulling up his pants. Gross.
The neighbor contacted the authorities and shared his suspicions, which led them to install all sorts of monitoring and surveillance equipment in the barn. And it didn’t take long for them to collect all the evidence they needed. Yes, Hall-Rivas had been breaking in regularly. And yes, he was fondling the foals and doing some other things I dare not mention here.
As if video evidence weren’t enough, though, the authorities also submitted to a lab the hat they found at the scene—which presumably belonged to Hall-Rivas—as well as other evidence they collected after witnessing the horse rapist’s escape… fluids, hairs and things like that. A few DNA tests erased any lingering doubts once and for all: Halls-Rivas was indeed enamored with equines.
And you know what they say: Once you go Black (Beauty), you never go back. Long live the Horse-Fucker!
Pardon my French.
Jim Morrison and the Doors were right: People are Strange. And they are getting even stranger by the day. Just wait until tomorrow and I’m sure you will see what I mean. Or better yet, check back here again soon.
You know I love writing about them!
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.
Crime, murder, war, death, dismemberment, corruption, hate, discrimination, violence.
These are obviously examples of the evil to be found in the world around us. No matter how positive or upbeat a person is, watching newscasts and reading stories of darkness and depravity is enough to turn anyone’s half-full glass into a half-empty one.
And I am certainly no exception.
Fortunately, there are some stories that have the opposite effect and bring light into an otherwise darkening world. They may be few and far between, mind you, but they are out there.
As proof, I offer the following snippets from recent news stories that should serve to inspire rather than depress. They all focus on people who aren’t satisfied to simply live their lives at the expense of others. Instead, they see opportunities to help their fellow man and jump at the chance.
And believe me. We could all learn something from the examples they set.
In March, 21-year-old Ryan Cornelissen was driving to the bank when he was flagged down by another driver near the town of Garfield. He immediately pulled over to see what the problem was and discovered that the man’s wife had just given birth.
And the baby wasn’t breathing.
Since the couple didn’t speak much English, Cornelissen called 911 and the dispatcher walked him through the correct procedure for infant CPR. Moments later, the newborn gasped for air and started to breathe normally. He is now being kept in the hospital for a few weeks, but by all accounts should be fine.
Not bad for a community college student, huh? Even better is the career path Cornelissen is pursuing: law enforcement.
It seems to be that if anyone would make a great cop, it would be him!
This next story doesn’t involve a single individual, but a group of people who moved quickly to save someone from certain death.
It happened last week when a woman driving through a busy intersection started to have a seizure. Kristin Martin and Zachery Green were sitting in their cars when it happened and didn’t hesitate to react. They immediately jumped out of their vehicles and ran after her.
When they realized they wouldn’t be able to stop the out-of-control car, Martin and Green flagged down Don Grimshaw, a high school principal who was driving a huge Ford truck. With no concern for himself or his own vehicle, Grimshaw took action.
“I got in front of her and just tried to match up speeds and stop the car with the truck,” he said later. “The car kind of went back up on two wheels and went back down for a second. I thought it was going to go over the [guard] rail but fortunately it didn’t.”
The car eventually came to a stop as first responders arrived on the scene. And it looks as if the woman who had the seizure is going to be fine.
When asked why he chose to step in, Green put it best and answered simply, “It’s just the right thing to do.”
Amen to that, my brother. I only wish everyone felt the same way.
Several weeks ago, Officer John Moss was on patrol when he received an emergency call from his dispatcher. Officials at a nearby high school reported that a 15-year-old student had left school and was headed for the Clark Street bridge, presumably to commit suicide.
When Moss arrived on the scene, he saw the young man climb over the rail and hang there, possibly trying to summon up the courage to jump. The officer tried to talk him down, but he just wasn’t going for it. Instead, he simply said “bye” and let go.
With reflexes like a jungle cat, Moss quickly grabbed the boy‘s arm and held him until backup arrived in the form of Officer Joe Kramer. He rushed over and helped Moss pull the boy over the rail to safety. And thanks to their quick thinking—and even quicker reaction time—it appears the disturbed young man will get the psychological help he needs.
The Stevens Point Police Department is planning to honor Moss and Kramer in a ceremony soon and many consider the men to be heroes. Only Moss isn’t one of them.
“Anyone in our department would do the same thing,” he said later. “We were just the ones that were there at the time.”
And thank goodness they were. Otherwise I would probably be writing about the teen’s suicide instead of his rescue. And there is no inspiration to be drawn from that.
EAST GREENWICH TOWNSHIP, NEW JERSEY
Rescuing anyone from a perilous and potentially deadly situation is amazing enough, but saving a child—especially one with obvious challenges—borders on the spectacular, if it doesn’t blow right past it.
Such a situation occurred recently in New Jersey when a 9-year-old autistic boy wandered away from his home and was reported missing. Officers soon arrived on the scene and joined family members and neighbors as they searched the area.
Eventually, the trail led them to Mantua Creek, a muddy mess on the other side of the trees behind the boy’s home. And when they found the boy’s shoes on the shore, things got even more desperate.
“In front of the sneakers all we saw were maybe seven or eight footprints that led out to the waterway,” explained Officer Phil Owens, one of the first responders. “And at that point my heart sunk.”
The boy’s father immediately started to call his name and within minutes, they heard him screaming. Almost two hours had passed since he first wandered off, but at least now they knew the boy was alive.
How long that would be the case was another story. Owens scanned the creek and fortunately, he caught sight of the missing child.
“All we saw at one point was just a small head bobbing back and forth and screaming,” Owens recounted later. “He was up to his neck in mud.”
And the tide was rising quickly.
Without hesitation, Owens and a colleague, Canine Officer Adam Ziegler, threw caution to the wind and jumped into the muddy water, uniforms, guns and all. Moments later some additional officers arrived and, working together, they were able to pull the autistic boy free.
It was a challenge to get him to shore—the officers started sinking into the same mud that trapped the boy—but they eventually made it. The boy was rushed to the hospital as a precaution, but was cleared and released a short time later. And the residents of this small township couldn’t be more grateful.
“I think it’s great to know that we have people around here that’ll do stuff like that,” neighbor Adam Pitz said of his local police force.
I couldn’t agree more, Adam. And it’s nice to hear something positive about law enforcement for a change. The media focuses far too much on the few bad apples that give all cops a bad name. The truth is that most of them choose the profession for one very clear reason: to help.
Just ask Officers Owens and Ziegler if you don’t believe me.
So there you have it: four examples of good people coming to the rescue of total strangers in need. It brings to mind a quote I heard more than a decade ago: “Don’t leave for tomorrow the love you can give today.” This may not seem to apply until you consider the one thing that connects all of the heroes mentioned here: love for their fellow man.
And if you don’t have love, what do you have?
“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.
This past weekend, my wife was returning from her sister’s house and noticed an unusual amount of activity one block from our home. An unusual amount of police activity.
Basically, there were cops everywhere.
As she crept by in her Subaru, one of the officers flagged her down and checked her license and registration. She asked what the problem was and without being too informative—Heaven forbid—he told her there had been a shooting.
Moments later, she told me about it.
After locking the doors and turning out a number of lights—precautionary measures in case some maniac was still on the loose in our neighborhood—we moved like cat burglars from one window to another, keeping an eye out and looking for suspicious activity despite all the blue lights reflected on the surrounding houses. I was confident no criminal would be stupid enough to hide near the scene of his crime, but you can never be sure.
After all, crime seemed like a good idea and you see how well that worked out.
The next morning, I received a text message from my brother asking if we were alright. He didn’t have any details, but the grapevine in our small town ensured that he heard about the shooting. I told him everything was fine and that it was probably some jackass who accidentally discharged a weapon in his home. We live in a good neighborhood and the surrounding area is rural-suburban—to coin a phrase—so I was sure it couldn’t be serious.
I was wrong.
A buddy of mine has friends who live in my neighborhood and one of them was close to the action that night. In fact, he arrived on the scene just before the police and recounted the story to my friend shortly thereafter. To protect his anonymity, I’ll call him Sam.
Several houses down from Sam lived Jim, a relatively young man who just went through a nasty divorce. His ex-wife (Linda) and her daughter (Tina) had moved out long ago and without wasting any time, Jim had started dating again. Not only that, but he quickly found a girlfriend who looked exactly like Linda and welcomed her into his home instead.
For a while, Jim was happy and life seemed to be back to normal. Then came this past weekend and it all turned to shit.
Saturday evening, Jim received a call from his former stepdaughter, Tina. She was coming over to pick up the last of her mother’s things and wanted to make sure he was home, which he was. Jim and his girlfriend Mary were spending a quiet night at home and honestly, she wanted Linda’s stuff gone as much as Jim did, maybe even more.
Jim told Tina it would be fine and a half hour later, she arrived. While Jim and Mary sat in the living room and watched television, Tina collected her mother’s knick-knacks. Then for some unknown reason, an argument broke out.
Jim and Tina got into it—probably because she was planning to take something that really belonged to him, or that he and Linda had purchased together (at least that’s my theory)—and eventually, Jim wandered off towards his bedroom.
When Jim reappeared, he was holding his pistol and aiming it at Tina’s head.
Two shots and Tina dropped to the floor dead.
She was followed a moment later by Jim, who put the gun to his own head and exercised his constitutional second amendment right for the last time (as many spontaneous gunmen are apt to do).
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: a murder-suicide one street over from my own home.
What in the hell is this country coming to?
I suppose it could be worse. Poor Sam was walking home from a friend’s that night, passed Jim’s house and saw a woman vomiting in the bushes. As he approached her—actually Jim’s girlfriend, Mary—he glanced through the still-open front door and saw blood everywhere: on the walls, on the ceiling… everywhere. Then Sam realized who the woman was.
“Is everything okay, Mary?” he asked her with genuine concern in his voice. She struggled to respond through all the convulsing and dry heaving, but managed to speak.
“He killed her,” she told Sam. “He killed her.”
Sam immediately feared the crime may still be in progress and quickly asked for clarification.
“Who killed her, Mary? Was it Jim?”
Mary lowered her head, nodded and vomited again at the very thought of what she witnessed. Sam, on the other hand, was getting worried.
“Where is Jim now?” he asked the barfing woman, his eyes never leaving the door. “Does he still have the gun?”
Mary shook her head. “He’s dead, too. Jim shot himself.”
Around that time, the first responding officers arrived and quickly shuffled Sam away from the scene. He answered some questions, went home and called to tell my buddy. And today my buddy told me.
Although I am never surprised by violence—and have probably been desensitized to it in many ways—I must say it is shocking to have something so tragic and gruesome happen within 100 yards of my home, the same home where I live with my wife and child. These kinds of things are supposed to happen in bad neighborhoods, not good ones. At least that’s what we would all like to think, but it’s not the truth.
The truth is that crime and violence can happen anywhere. Even worse, it can be perpetrated by anyone, even people you know and trust. One minute you’re having a cookout with that nice older man from next door; the next minute, you’re calling the fire department because that same neighbor tried to burn your house down. And if you’re like most victims, you probably never saw it coming.
Jim, the murder-suicide guy, was like that. Sam could always sense that something wasn’t quite right with him—or so he said after the fact, which is easy to do since as they say, “retrospect is 20/20”—but the fact is that even Sam had no idea what Jim was capable of. He came and went each day, interacted with people from the block, did yard work on the weekends (weather permitting, of course) and basically seemed normal.
Now that I think about it, maybe that was the tip-off: he seemed normal. And in today’s society, normalcy just isn’t an option. These days it’s all about survival.
Be good to each other, dear readers. And for goodness sake, watch your backs. You never know where the next “Jim” will strike, so please don’t take any chances.
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?
Honestly, it’s almost as if Sandburg wrote the poem today. And the English major within impels me to share it with others.
So here you are: “Revolver” by the great and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg.
Here is a revolver.
It has an amazing language all its own.
It delivers unmistakable ultimatums.
It is the last word.
A simple, little human forefinger can tell a terrible story with it.
Hunger, fear, revenge, robbery hide behind it.
It is the claw of the jungle made quick and powerful.
It is the club of the savage turned to magnificent precision.
It is more rapid than any judge or court of law.
It is less subtle and treacherous than any one lawyer or ten.
When it has spoken, the case can not be appealed to the supreme court, nor any mandamus nor any injunction nor any stay of execution come in and interfere with the original purpose.
And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the old belief that God is always on the side of those who have the most revolvers.
Not hard to see where he stood on gun control, is it?
Thank you, Mr. Sandburg. I literally could not have said it better myself.