Blog Archives

Reacting to the Present

The struggle is real (Microweber)

Blogging can be difficult work, especially when you maintain a full-time job and serve as a single father to a great nine-year-old boy. You also tend to get caught up in the habitual routines of life: doing chores, running errands, hoping that some altruistic housekeeper will come and do all the cleaning you’ve been neglecting for so long… the usual things. And when all your home computers are on the fritz—and you’re relegated to blogging during lunch hours at work—it can be even more of a struggle.

If it seems as if I’m trying to justify more than a month of no blog posts, it’s because I feel guilty for letting it get to this point. Writing this makes me feel a little better, but I obviously have a long way to go.

Today’s post isn’t based on any single thought, opinion or idea. And it wasn’t intended as an apology to readers hoping for some new, original material, either. Instead, this is simply a way for me to reconnect not only with my subscribers, but also with the larger world around me. Granted, this may have the effect of seeming random, disjointed or even stream-of-consciousness, but so be it.

I have to do something to get the creative juices flowing again, right? May as well start with some observations and other assorted nonsense.

Oddly enough, my last post focused on Ted Cruz finally dropping out of the Republican presidential race (“Cruz Gets Trumped”), so the best place for me to start is on the circus that is U.S. politics. Although Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders continues to linger like a bad fart—and this comes from someone who initially felt the Bern—it seems our presumptive candidates will be the rather sketchy, ethically questionable Hillary Clinton and the hair-challenged, misogynistic and racist Donald Trump.

Like many others, I am concerned about these choices, neither of which appeals to me much, but what can you do? This is where we are and we have to deal with it, I suppose.

As a registered Democrat—and a previous fan of Bill Clinton—I will likely vote for Hillary since I find it important to “break the glass ceiling” and elect our first female president. Yes, I would prefer someone like Elizabeth Warren, but Hillary will simply have to do. And let’s face it, the president is more of a figurehead anyway. I’m not sure she can do as much damage as people think since most of the power lies with Congress and the House. Those are the places where serious changes need to be made.

It’s no coincidence that “Trump” rhymes with “chump” (Reuters/Dominick Reuter)

Trump has his moments, of course, but I cannot support someone who wants to backtrack to past eras when seclusion, racism, discrimination and hatred ruled our land. We used to take pride in being a “melting pot” for all people, so building walls and banning immigrants based on religion run contrary to what established us as such a great nation. And I don’t want anyone so unpredictable and misguided at the helm regardless of what little power they may actually possess.

After all, this individual will still have their finger on the proverbial button that could start World War III.

One news story that caught my eye—mostly because you can’t surf the web or turn on the television without hearing about it—was the rape case involving Stanford sex offender Brock Turner. Apparently, this 20-year-old loser who chose to rape an unconscious woman behind a dumpster was sentenced to only six months in jail and three years’ probation because Judge Aaron Persky of Santa Clara County was worried about the effects a longer jail sentence would have on this jackass. And I just read that he will likely serve only three months in jail as long as he behaves himself. Three months instead of a maximum of 14 years? WTF?

Turner’s father even made a ridiculous statement about his son suffering from a lack of appetite due to this incident. He called his rapist son’s conviction “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action,” even though those 20 minutes included sexually penetrating a drunk, passed out woman in the dirt behind some fucking trash bin. Three months of jail is a steep price for rape? I can see the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree because they should lock up both of these pieces of shit.

What bothers me most—and what seems to bother everyone outraged by this story—isn’t the unrealistic sentence this sorry judge imposed, which is indicative of just how broken our justice system truly is. It’s the fact that this poor woman is being mistreated and marginalized for something that will undoubtedly darken the rest of her days. Turner may have to register as a sex offender—and steak may not taste as good to him anymore—but his sentence will end after three months in jail; hers will continue until the day she dies.

My advice to Brock Turner? Grow eyes in the back of your head, asshole. And get used to traveling in groups because if someone meets you in a dark alley alone someday, you will get the punishment you deserve. I promise you that.

This is where I seem to be headed. Time for some ab work! (Adam Rifkin)

On a lighter note, the summer is finally upon us and vacations should be in full swing by now. My own break from the monotony of daily life will come later this month when I head to the beach with my family, an annual trip we all use to recharge our batteries and catch up on the year-that-was. There will be kids, good food, strong drinks, pools slightly warm and salty from excessive pee… everything normally associated with a trip to the coast. I may be grossly overweight and lacking a significant other to share this with, but I am still looking forward to it—even if it’s only for one week.

Wow. It looks as if I still have some writing left in me because this is much longer than I originally intended. Granted, I could ramble on more, but you have likely suffered enough. And I suppose this wasn’t as disorganized and random as I thought it would be. Perhaps the next post will be more chaotic. No promises, of course, but I appreciate you reading and hope you’ll tune in next time.

Until we meet again, enjoy your life and by all means, please be good to one another. That is what life is all about—or at least it should be.

Celebrating Pulp Fiction

Title screen from "Pulp Fiction" (A Band Apart/Miramax)

Title screen from “Pulp Fiction” (A Band Apart/Miramax)

As a glorified cinephile—basically a hardcore movie buff—I enjoy, appreciate and, in many ways, love more films than I care to count. My favorite movie of all time, though, is Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction.

It’s not even close, actually. And given how many great movies are out there, that’s saying something.

Explaining what I love most about Pulp Fiction is tough because this film has it all: violence, dark humor, a great cast—including John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel and Christopher Walken, to name a few—snappy dialogue, a nonlinear storyline, sex, drugs, rock & roll and my personal favorite, pop culture references “out the yin yang.”

"Pulp" as pulp (A Band Apart/Miramax)

“Pulp” as pulp (A Band Apart/Miramax)

Tarantino won an Oscar for the film (Best Original Screenplay) and even took home the Palme d’Or award at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival—the highest honor bestowed upon the director of the competition’s best cinematic feature. And I will never forget the first—and second—time I saw the movie that would soon take its place atop my favorites list—a position it will undoubtedly hold forever.

Pulp Fiction was due to be released in October of 1994—I was between my undergraduate and graduate degrees at that time, and loving every minute of it—but I stumbled across what I thought was a pirated version of the film a few months earlier. I was at the state fairgrounds for some kind of show—most likely guns, comic books, sporting equipment… who the hell knows. It was a big crowded place with horrible traffic and smelly people, to be sure.

In one of the main buildings were all the vendors—rows of booths loaded with any product imaginable, several of which were devoted to movies. And I’m not talking about DVDs, which themselves are being phased out today. I’m talking about VHS videotapes—“old school” flicks, you might call them.

As I was sifting through a stack of tapes at one of the booths—whose owner seemed trustworthy enough (as if I could judge from such a chance encounter)—I discovered one with a plain, white cover and only two words written on it in black magic marker: PULP FICTION.

“What the hell is this?” I immediately asked the vendor, expecting to hear some kind of bullshit story about how a “friend of a friend” knew the producer and managed to sneak out an advanced cut of the soon-to-be hit. Instead, something unexpected happened.

“That isn’t supposed to be in there,” he mumbled to his son, a lanky and presumably mute character lurking in the shadows—I swear the kid never said a word. “I’m sorry, sir. That tape isn’t for sale,” he said as he reached for it.

Amanda and Tim - Miramax - A Band Apart

Amanda Plummer and Tim Roth (A Band Apart/Miramax)

I know, I know. This was all part of the scam, and I fell for it “hook, line and sinker.” That much is clear to me now, but back then I was blinded by the excitement of Pulp Fiction. And I had waited long enough.

“If this really is a copy of Pulp Fiction, then how much would you take for it if it were for sale?” I asked, all the while leaning back and staying just out of range of the vendor’s extended hand. He supposedly wanted it back, after all. And his act was very believable, trust me.

I won’t recount the whole conversation—mostly because I don’t remember it all—but the final result was that I purchased the film for roughly $50 and rushed home to check it out a short time later.

What the vendor told me was true—it was Pulp Fiction and seemed to be filmed in a small cinema or screening room. Unfortunately, it’s what he didn’t tell me that completed the scam… and made me a sucker.

John and Bruce on set - Miramax - A Band Apart

Travolta and Willis joke around on set (A Band Apart/Miramax)

The movie was apparently filmed by someone with a video camera seated in the back of the room. And since HD and high-quality digital images didn’t exist back then—at least not for commoners like me—the picture quality was horrible. At times I could make out facial features or set details, but most of the movie was grainy and dark. Amorphous blobs replaced the actors in most of the scenes. And although I could make out most of the dialogue and music, the truth is that I didn’t really see Pulp Fiction; I just got a sense of it.

To use a rather disgusting analogy, the experience was like smelling a fart and recognizing exactly what the gassy perpetrator had for dinner. Instead of enjoying a delicious meal, I only caught a whiff. And man, was I disappointed.

Fortunately, October finally arrived and Pulp Fiction hit theaters, so I immediately made plans to see it. My real first time seeing the film was in a small, artsy theater that still served beer in paper cups. I went with a few friends, entered a room filled almost exclusively with other movie buffs and actually got to hear every word of dialogue that was spoken on the screen.

One of the reasons I avoid the theater now is that people never shut their mouths—or shut off their cell phones—and I end up missing half the movie. I just wait for films to appear on iTunes or Netflix—or pick up the DVD if it’s something I want to keep. Sorry, movie theaters, but your days are definitely numbered.

Since its release, I have seen Pulp Fiction hundreds of times and could probably come close to reproducing the screenplay from memory. I even developed an interest in that for which the movie is named: pulp magazines.

For those of you unfamiliar with the genre, pulp magazines were popular during the early to mid-20th century and often involved sharp dialogue, graphic violence and adult situations. The name was derived from the cheap wood pulp paper on which they were printed. And since they were cheaper than magazines printed on high-quality paper—the so-called glossies and slicks—pulp magazines quickly grew in popularity.

Jack Rabbit Slims - Miramax - A Band Apart

Uma Thurman and John Travolta (A Band Apart/Miramax)

With titles like Weird Tales, Adventure and Amazing Stories, “pulp fiction” magazines stretched the imagination of their readers and introduced them to different—often darker—worlds. They also hired writers who would eventually become famous and respected in the literary world—and their names are very recognizable: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Rudyard Kipling, Louis L’Amour, Elmore Leonard, H.P. Lovecraft, Jack London, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Agatha Christie, Arthur C. Clarke, Joseph Conrad, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zane Grey, Upton Sinclair, H.G. Wells and even Mark Twain!

In other words, pulp magazines were cool, man. And their covers were pretty kick ass, too. Here’s a little visual tribute to the genre—the perfect end to today’s post. Enjoy!

Self-Serve Justice

Katzenberger took the law into his own hands (WKRN-TV/ABC News)

Katzenberger took the law into his own hands (WKRN-TV/ABC News)

Vigilante justice is not something I normally endorse. After all, we have a system of law in the United States that is designed to dole out justice to those who deserve it. Granted, it can be very dysfunctional, but it is an important part of living in a civilized society… or so I’ve heard.

Occasionally, though—or perhaps more often than occasionally—things go horribly wrong and true justice is not served. When this happens, it is sometimes necessary for normal citizens like you and me to take more extreme action. No, I am not telling people to dress up as Batman and to start kicking criminals’ asses in their home towns and cities. I just know that the law can fail us and we all need to find ways to “pick up the slack” from time to time.

This is exactly what 25-year-old David Katzenberger of Giles County, Tennessee did recently. And though his actions may not qualify as true vigilante justice, they certainly aren’t that far off.

Rosacia and Griffis busted for theft! (WKRN-TV/ABC News)

Rosacia and Griffis busted for theft! (WKRN-TV/ABC News)

Last Thursday, Stacy Rosacia and her pal Christopher Griffis decided to start breaking into people’s cars to steal whatever they could find to support their drug habits. One car they robbed belonged to Katzenberger’s wife, who sells costume jewelry for a living. The criminals stole some of her jewelry and a few additional items before moving on to their next target.

Once Katzenberger realized what had happened, he called the police to report the crime. Of course, he didn’t stop there. Instead of relying on the authorities to track down the thieves, Katzenberger took pictures of the missing jewelry to store owners around town, hoping that one of them either knew the culprits or had seen them trying to sell the baubles they stole. And before he knew it, he had the lead he needed.

One local merchant reported that she saw Rosacia wearing some of the jewelry in Katzenberger’s photos. And then she “pointed him in the right direction,” as he put it later.

Katzenberger found Rosacia’s home, put on some gloves and started to dig through the suspected thief’s trash can, which was sitting by the curb at the time. There he found the pink jewelry bags his wife used to store her costume jewelry, as well as a note she had written. He immediately took this evidence to the cops, who arrested Rosacia and her partner a short time later.

“When I saw them, I knew that they had been caught,” Katzenberger said of his unofficial investigation. “They got them. I feel pretty good about that.”

After being apprehended, Rosacia confessed to her crimes and admitted to breaking into numerous vehicles around town.

“I have a drug addiction that caused me to make poor choices that landed me here,” she told authorities. “You do stupid stuff when you’re high.”

The evidence that led to the bust  (WKRN-TV/ABC News)

The evidence that led to the bust (WKRN-TV/ABC News)

Rosacia added that once she is released, she will make an effort to get clean and to be a better mother to her young children. I certainly hope this is the case and that one more evildoer finally comes back into the light.

Incidentally, Katzenberger is being praised by authorities since the information he provided helped solve as many as ten burglaries. Of course, they also recommend that citizens refrain from similar actions in the future, choosing instead to let law enforcement handle criminal investigations. Despite their flaws, I completely agree that the people who get paid to do this job should be allowed to do it without outside interference.

But what Katzenberger did was kind of cool, don’t you think? I just wonder what might have happened if the jewelry was real!

Pop-Up Post: The Poot Police

Bud bust by the butt (beforeitsnews.com)

The science and technology of law enforcement has evolved rapidly in the last twenty or thirty years. From the development of pepper spray and the widespread use of computers in the 1980s to the announcement from the National Academy of Sciences that DNA evidence was indeed reliable in the 1990s, law enforcement has changed and improved in an effort to keep pace with crime and more tech-savvy criminals. And personally, I think they’ve done a pretty good job.

The future of law enforcement—at least that bit the public is allowed to see—promises to be even more amazing: scent and sound-based deterrents (for some stinky crowd control); metabolic supplements to produce super-soldiers (think Captain America times thousands); unmanned drones; bullets that can perform “tricks,” like exploding above a target or tracking one from hundreds of meters away; lighter, more impenetrable body armor; microwave deterrent systems (to cook rioters from the inside until they quit raising hell); robotic exoskeletons (Robocop for real); nanotechnology (which should revolutionize almost everything); cloaking devices; and so much more.

Honestly, some of it seems like it’s straight out of a science fiction movie. And criminals better pay attention because these days—and for countless days and years to come—“getting away with it” won’t be as easy as it used to be. The cops have, or soon will have, the technology to sniff out even the most clandestine criminal activities.

Speaking of sniffing out crime, it is important to remember that sometimes nothing can compare to old-fashioned police work. Consider a recent case from Leicester, England—one that illustrates how a nose for crime can often be a cop’s most valuable piece of law enforcement equipment.

A “crack team” of three police officers were cruising around Leicester when one of them suddenly attacked his partners with an unlikely weapon: his ass. Due to a new high-protein diet designed to complement his exercise regime, the flatulent flatfoot unleashed a barrage of smelly farts upon his confined car mates, forcing them to open windows as they gasped for air. And that’s when a nose for crime finally paid off: they smelled cannabis.

It must have been a welcome change from all that “protein shake pooting” in the car, believe me.

The cops investigated and discovered a cannabis factory nearby with a crop worth almost $20,000. Not a bad bust considering it all started with a bad butt.

Any chance we can get more officers on this exercise regimen?

Reality Round-Up: Crime Never Sleeps

Crime is running rampant (courtesy of What’s the Word)

There’s a proverb that comes to mind every time I read about fellow humans doing evil deeds: crime never sleeps.

As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, you can always count on people to do dumb, mean, dangerous, unexplainable and unlawful things. And thanks to advances in technology, we all get to hear about their crimes moments after they occur—sometimes even as they are occurring. These days, there simply is nowhere to hide and if criminals ever hope to “get away with it,” they need to be especially crafty and—most of all—careful.

Given the globalization of technology and the establishment of a “one world” community, you would think that today’s criminals would be more savvy than their predecessors—planning crimes to the last detail, orchestrating them perfectly and covering their tracks in an effort to avoid detection at all costs. And without hard evidence, witnesses or suspects, police would have so little to go on that investigations would lead nowhere and many crimes would go unsolved.

Fortunately, most criminals are not evil masterminds and police almost always have something to help them track down offenders—a hair sample, surveillance camera footage, eyewitness accounts, suspicious social networking posts… something. And while some criminals do manage to get away with their crimes for years, decades or even indefinitely—as was the case for D.B. Cooper, an unidentified man who hijacked a plane in 1971, extorted more than $200,000 and famously parachuted into the wilderness of the American Northwest, never to be seen or heard from again—most of them end up right where they belong: behind bars.

At least I hope they do.

Of course, when it comes to blogging, crime can be useful because it always gives you something to write about. Anytime I lack inspiration or simply need a prompt to initiate a flurry of key-tapping on my computer, all I have to do is trawl the news sites, check the police blotters and, inevitably, I find plenty of jackass criminals to use as blog fodder.

Whoever said “crime doesn’t pay” obviously didn’t have blogging in mind!

Sadly, my muse must be on vacation today, so inspiration has once again been hard to find. The good news is that a quick web search revealed countless criminals and enough of their misdeeds to fill endless blog posts. I won’t subject you to them all—as if such a thing was even possible—but I did find what I needed to produce the latest edition of the Reality Round-Up. Something about crime just gets my creative juices flowing, so now I offer you the chance to have them trickle down to you, as well. Don’t worry, though. They shouldn’t leave a stain.

Someone should have asked Ferna to wipe her nose (courtesy of WPBF)

Someone should have asked Ferna to wipe her nose (courtesy of WPBF)

LAKE WORTH, FLORIDA

Ferna Quesner is a 34-year-old woman with an unidentified mental disability who lives with her mother near Palm Beach. On the anniversary of our great nation, however, her mysterious condition manifested itself in a shocking display of violence that ended with her being locked up and her mother being sent to the hospital, where she remains in critical condition.

According to the latest report, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous call from someone who claimed Quesner was “beating her mother with a white pole.” When deputies arrived at her home a short time later, they found the mentally disturbed woman “covered in blood” and her mother in desperate need of medical attention.

The probable cause affidavit indicated that “the victim’s eyes were discovered on the kitchen floor near a knife and a large pool of blood.” No one knows what prompted the attack—which Quesner later admitted to—but the end result is that she now faces a charge of aggravated domestic battery with a deadly weapon. Of course, that’s nothing compared to her poor mother who, if she lives, will never see again.

This also means that if Quesner decides to try again once she is finally released from jail, then her mother won’t see her coming. I, for one, hope this never happens because that poor woman has been through enough. Losing her sight is one thing, but knowing the perpetrator of the crime was her own daughter won’t make life any easier for her, to be sure. It is truly a shame when even our mothers aren’t safe from harm.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA

On occasion—and only in the last five or so years—friends have been known to call me a “dirty old man” because, as I’ve stated in numerous posts, I am a rabid heterosexual male who simply loves the ladies. Bear in mind that this label is always meant in jest, but there are certainly old men out there who would qualify—lots of them.

One such “dirty old man” is 73-year-old Bruce Miller, a resident of the Ahwatukee neighborhood in Phoenix.

Earlier this month, a group of young women ranging in age from 13 to 17—along with one 37-year-old woman (who I still consider young, of course)—were jogging through a neighborhood near Desert Vista High School when they each passed Miller, who was strolling down Chandler Boulevard. As each woman passed by, he groped or accosted them in one way or another—slapping their butts, touching their thighs or arms and, in one case, grabbing their breasts. And since most of the women were running together, a number of them witnessed Miller’s perverted assaults.

bruce-miller.jpg

Hands off the ladies, Bruce! (courtesy of MCSO)

One of the young women—a 14-year-old whose ass had just been slapped by the dirty old man—phoned the police and, when they arrived, they found 11 of the women waiting for them. The twelfth wasn’t interested and skedaddled before the cops could respond.

Miller claimed to have Alzheimer’s disease—as if that would excuse his perverted behavior—but the cops weren’t buying it. He has now been indicted by a grand jury and faces five felony charges and seven misdemeanors—all of which could have been avoided if Miller just hired a prostitute or enjoyed Internet porn like a normal person!

Crime in the Phoenix area must be getting worse because our next story comes from the very same city.

This past Wednesday, a 41-year-old man at Casa Mia Apartments was walking his dog in the courtyard when a neighbor on the second floor leaned over the railing and vomited all over his pet. Needless to say, an argument ensued and the barfing man started down the stairs to confront the angry dog-walker. Fearing for his safety, the man made a bee-line for his apartment and nearly made it before his neighbor pulled out a gun and shot him several times. The victim fell through the door into his living room and a few stray bullets even struck his young daughter and her even younger friend, who were playing in the apartment at the time.

Although the children’s wounds were not life-threatening and they should recover completely, the girl’s father is in critical condition at a local hospital. Meanwhile, the suspect—a tall, black man with dreadlocks who was apparently quite drunk at the time of the attack—remains at large.

If you happen to live in the Phoenix area, please keep an eye out for him. And if you do cross his path, be extremely careful. Vomit may not be the only weapon he turns on you.

JACINTO CITY, TEXAS

Apparently, last Wednesday was a very busy day for crime. Before that pet owner in Phoenix was subjected to barf and bullets—and much like the Lake Worth woman whose eyes were gouged out by her daughter—a woman in Texas lost her life at the hands of a family member—her 15-year-old son.

Police received a call early that morning from the sister of the victim, Laura Moreno. She told them that her nephew phoned around 3 a.m. to inform her that he stabbed his mother to death while she was sleeping. She was apparently a heavy drinker and had a tendency to be both verbally and physically abusive to him—and he obviously reached his breaking point.

Moreno and the son that killed her (courtesy of Moreno family)

“He just snapped,” Chief Joe Alaya of the Jacinto City Police said of the seemingly harmless teenager who suddenly became psychotic. “And the next thing he observed was that he had stabbed her and was removing the knife.”

According to police, they had responded to numerous calls involving Moreno in the past—usually when she was drunk and belligerent—which certainly supports the young man’s story. Neighbors even described him as a “great kid” and never even suspected that he was being abused.

“He was always very respectful,” Arthur Zuniga told authorities. “He never bad-mouthed her. He always did what he was told.”

It just goes to show you that no matter how normal people may seem on the surface, what lies beneath could be evil, ugly and—in cases like this—deadly. And now in addition to all the abuse and the death of his mother—which could be viewed as self-defense, in a way—this young man faces a murder charge. I don’t condone his actions, of course, but I hope he is treated as a juvenile so someday, he has a chance to live a normal, abuse-free life.

Everyone deserves that, after all.

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Mauricio Oscar Guerra, 35, was a man with a violent past.

In May, he came home drunk one night and allegedly beat his wife with a tire iron while she was holding their young son in her lap. This was followed the next month by an incident in which Guerra supposedly stabbed a man with a butcher knife, sending his 21-year-old Hispanic victim to the hospital in critical condition. Fortunately, he survived.

Despite being a suspect in both of these cases—and even though his wife remembers him leaving their home the night of the stabbing to “investigate a noise coming from an unoccupied apartment,” butcher knife in hand (he returned later with blood on his clothes)—Guerra was never charged.

carla-mauricio-guerra.jpg

Carla and Mauricio Guerra (courtesy of Facebook)

In other words, there were plenty of warning signs that this guy was unstable and very, very dangerous. Unfortunately, they were largely ignored by authorities and now, sadly, it’s too late to save Guerra’s latest victims: his 27-year-old wife Carla and their three-year-old son Mauricio.

On Saturday, police responded to an emergency call from someone on Tennessee Avenue, where Guerra lived with his family. They learned that the couple had been involved in some kind of physical confrontation and investigated, only to find Guerra, his wife and his child dead. According to the official incident report, Guerra shot and killed his family before turning the gun on himself. And now everyone who knew the family is left questioning why police didn’t act after Guerra’s first violent attack.

“We have a man that is totally out of control that is obviously homicidal,” family friend Lisa DiPaolo told reporters recently. “I just don’t understand it.”

Neither do I, Lisa.

If police had acted after Guerra’s first violent offense, Carla and Mauricio may still be alive. Instead, their surviving family members are left with one big “what if” question that will plague them for the rest of their days. I truly feel for them.

SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI

I promise this was unintentional, but the next story also comes from the great state of Missouri. It involves 51-year-old Diane Staudte, a Springfield resident who poisoned and killed her husband Mark, 61, and her son Shaun, 26, last year. She now stands accused of attempting to kill her daughter Sarah, 24, using the same method—adding anti-freeze to her food and drinks. And what’s worse is that her youngest daughter Rachel, 22, helped her do it!

It was May of 2012 when Mark passed away from what medical examiners deemed “natural causes.” Shaun followed in September—which to me would have raised an eyebrow—but his death was attributed to some “prior medical issues.”

diane-staudte.jpg

Diane Staudte (courtesy of the Riverfront Times)

In other words, Staudte got away scot-free and likely would have remained free if not for one incident: the admission of her daughter Sarah to the hospital last week for symptoms far too similar to her dead husband and son to be mere coincidence. Medical officials immediately called police not only due to the suspicious circumstances, but also because Staudte didn’t seem very upset by her daughter’s condition.

Staudte was questioned and eventually admitted to poisoning everyone but Rachel, the daughter that helped her research, plan and execute each crime. And when police asked her why she would do such a thing to family, the murderous mother had clear reasons for each murder or murder attempt: Shaun was a pest, she hated Mark and Sarah refused to get a job despite having school loans to pay.

I wonder if Rachel’s only chance of staying on her mom’s good side—alive—was to participate in the murders. Strange.

Oddly enough, Staudte sent all kinds of strange tweets while her daughter Sarah was suffering from antifreeze poisoning. Messages like “Sarah update: out of ICU and able to walk a little” and “Asking for prayers as my daughter Sarah is in critical condition in ICU tonight” seem as if they come from a loving mother, but are now being examined more closely since Staudte was the person who put her in the ICU to begin with. Rachel, too.

The good news is that Sarah will live while her mother and sister face first-degree murder charges. Actually, I guess that isn’t good news for Sarah. Yes, they deserve to pay for what they did to her—both for the poisoning and for killing her father and brother—but now she also loses the only real family she has left.

I know they’re psychopaths, but they’re still family.

So ends yet another edition of the Reality Round-Up. I hope we all learned some valuable lessons today, the most important of which I now present as today’s “rules to live by.” Thanks for reading and please—if at all possible—try to remember:

  • If you think that you’re completely safe with family, think again. Anyone can snap and lash out at those closest to them.
  • If you’re female and find yourself passing Bruce Miller on the street, either run away screaming or keep your hands over your private parts. You can never be sure which one he will be aiming for.
  • If someone barfs on your dog, LET IT GO.
  • If you abuse someone for years and years, expect retaliation someday. Seems like a no-brainer.
  • If someone commits a violent crime or, better yet, several violent crimes, recognize and deal with them then. Do people really have to die because you weren’t paying attention or simply got lazy?
  • And finally, if you believe that crime does sleep, take a nap on a park bench with a Benjamin taped to your chest and see what that gets you.

Be good to one another and watch your backs out there, peeps. It’s a mad, mad world and it’s getting crazier all the time!

An End to Sorcery

Cannibals in PNG eat witch doctor sorcerers (courtesy of The Telegraph UK)

Sorcery is real. And sorcerers must pay for their crimes.

No, this isn’t the beginning of some pathetic Harry Potter knock-off. It’s actually what many indigenous people in Papua New Guinea believe, especially in the more rural and remote areas. What’s more, it is this belief that prompted one of the strangest laws in history.

The Sorcery Act of 1971 was established on the poor island nation north of Australia to outlaw the use of black magic. In so doing, it also allowed citizens to take action—normally brutal and even fatal action—against those suspected of sorcery and witchcraft.

As you might imagine, most of the victims are women—as many as six out of every seven alleged sorcerers, actually.

Recently, though, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has been pushing to have the controversial law repealed, and it looks like he may have his way. If things go according to plan, killings associated with sorcery—which we all know is complete horse shit—will now be treated as murders, rapes will be treated as rapes—with the possibility of life in prison without parole for a first offender—and logic will return to the government again.

Thank goodness for that, because things in PNG have been shocking and downright gruesome lately. Check out a few low lights from its recent, sorcery-riddled past:

  • 2009: A young woman in Mount Hagen is accused of sorcery, stripped naked, gagged and burned alive.
  • 2011: A man is discovered during a sorcery initiation ceremony. He is trying to eat his newborn son.
  • February 2013: 20-year-old mother Kepari Leniata is accused of using sorcery to kill a 6-year-old boy. Villagers overpower the sparse police force, tie her up, torture her with a branding iron, toss some petrol on her and set her aflame. Leniata burns alive on a pile of trash and old tires.
  • April 2013: Former schoolteacher and women’s rights advocate Helen Rumbali, her sister and her two nieces are kidnapped, tortured with knives and axes for several days and, in the case of Rumbali, beheaded by the mob in the village square. She was, of course, suspected of being a sorceress.

Kepari Leniata (courtesy of http://www.omegabaphomet.com)

As terrible as these crimes are—and as good an idea as repealing the Sorcery Act is—it also helps that the courts are taking sorcery-related crime seriously now.

Just over a week ago, 21-year-old Saku Uki Aiya finished a two-day trial in the northern province of Enga and was sentenced to 30 years in jail. His crime: accusing his aunt of sorcery—in connection with his brother’s death—and then enlisting the help of two friends to hack her to pieces with axes and knives.

Leniata during her final moments (courtesy of http://www.omegabaphomet.com)

Aiya’s accomplices are still at large, but at least he’ll be going away for a long time.

It’s hard to believe there are people in this world who still believe in sorcery—or who claim to believe in sorcery to excuse their brutal acts and heinous crimes. Sure, steps are being taken to correct this in PNG, but real progress will take time.

Until then, the black magic will likely continue… and so will the slaughter of innocent people. I only hope O’Neill and his government can move quickly so future tragedies can be prevented.

Is there such a thing as white magicbecause that could work?

People Do the Darndest Things

Remember this show? (courtesy of Monty Brinton/CBS)

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.

Priceless.

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.

Dude, she was dead! (courtesy of Martin County Sheriff’s Dept.)

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.

Yuck.

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.

ELYRIA, OHIO

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?

Two puppies

How could someone hurt these little guys? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

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.

MANNING, OREGON

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.

Interested in a roll in the hay? (courtesy of Sjixxy/mlkshk.com)

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!

Zombie Freeway

“Hey, ghoul, get off of my truck!” (courtesy of sciencefiction.com)

Traffic jams, carpool lanes, construction crews, bad drivers, hitchhikers, highway patrolmen, emergency vehicles… these are all things you might expect to see as you cruise down the highway in Anytown, USA.

Zombies, on the other hand, are far less common, at least for people not tripping on acid, mushrooms or some other hallucinogenic drug.

Enter Jerimiah Clyde Hartline, a 19-year-old transient who apparently prefers to drive while under the influence of mind-altering substances. More on that in a moment.

Last weekend in Tennessee, Hartline got kicked out of the house and decided to hitch a ride on the first train out of town. Only he didn’t take a train; he hitched a ride with Daniel Martinez, a truck driver heading to California with an ass load of strawberries.

The trip was pretty uneventful until the pair arrived at an inspection site near Temecula, a small city in Riverside County, California. Martinez stepped out to do some paperwork and left his young passenger in the truck.

Bad idea.

A few moments later, Hartline hopped into the driver’s seat, shifted the truck into gear and took off for no apparent reason. Officer Nate Baer—one of the officers on the scene later—believes it occurred because Hartline was “under the influence of a substance that caused him to hallucinate.”

Semis and shrooms don’t mix (courtesy of ABC News)

Sounds reasonable enough to me, especially when you consider what happened next.

Hartline was cruising down the road—which I find very impressive since 18-wheelers are not easy to drive—when he suddenly lost control and began smashing into everything in sight.

First it was a Tacoma, which slammed into a 4Runner that in turn collided with a Mercedes. The driver of the 4Runner should be fine, but two of the Tacoma passengers were seriously injured and rushed to a local hospital.

Hartline’s next victims drove a Taurus and an Accord, respectively. And this time it was the Taurus people who were heading to the hospital.

Fortunately for everyone further down the freeway, the truck flipped over after impacting the Accord and could wreak no more havoc. Of course, that didn’t stop Hartline the Hallucinator, who crawled out, jumped into a nearby van and demanded its driver take him to some as-yet-unknown location.

Unfortunately—at least for Hartline—the driver would have nothing of it and instead restrained him until Baer and his fellow “boys in blue” arrived. And that’s when Baer learned the truth about what caused the accident, injured so many people and damaged so much property.

“He thought zombies were chasing him and clinging to the truck.”

I tell you what. Either Hartline has watched so many episodes of AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead that zombies have now become his reality, or the other thing is true.

He was just on some really good shit. Only it won’t seem so good when he’s behind bars. But Hartline will learn—and teach us all—a very valuable lesson: under no circumstances should you ever hallucinate and drive.

Seems like a no-brainer to me. And that’s exactly how I would describe poor Jerimiah Hartline, too.

Any chance the great and powerful Oz could hook him up scarecrow-style?

Terror at Lone Star

Quick didn’t live up to his name and got busted (courtesy of @CHEESIN365 via Instagram)

It has happened yet again.

After three people were shot and wounded at Lone Star College‘s North Harris campus in Houston last January, a second attack just occurred at the Cy-Fair campus northwest of the Texas city.

Only this time there was no gun; there was a knife or some other sharp instrument. Police are still trying to figure that one out.

The attack took place around 11 a.m. Tuesday morning when 20-year-old student Dylan Quick—currently being held by authorities—started stabbing people near the Health Science Center. By the time he was finally wrestled to the ground by another student, he had injured at least fifteen people, mostly in the head and neck areas.

Three of Quick’s victims suffered only minor lacerations and were treated at the scene. Twelve others were either driven or flown by helicopter to hospitals in the region. According to the latest reports, two of the stabbing victims are in critical condition, one was discharged and three others had their conditions upgraded to good.

Fortunately, no one has died, but we’re certainly not “out of the woods” yet.

Michelle Alvarez witnessed the attack and nearly became one of Quick’s victims: “He came running and swinging at my neck, as I tried to get out of the way.” Luckily, he only grazed her neck, leaving a faint red line down her windpipe.

Another student, Steven Maida, didn’t see the attack, but was there to witness its aftermath. There was blood on the stairs and victims running by with wounds to their heads, throats and even faces.

“I just took off downstairs running  and searching for the attacker,” he recounted later. And though the identity of the student who tackled Quick has not yet been confirmed, Maida claims it was him, or at least him and several other students.

Personally, I believe him. And I thank him for acting so quickly. There’s no telling how many other students would have been injured if he (and perhaps others) never intervened.

Of course, chasing down an attacker with a knife is much easier than one with a gun, but that shouldn’t detract from Maida’s act of heroism. It still takes courage.

Maida claims that he took Quick down (courtesy of @CHEESEIN365 via Instagram)

That afternoon, the campus was placed on lockdown until authorities completed their initial investigation, at which point everyone was sent home. With any luck, the campus will open as scheduled tomorrow.

At this point, Quick’s motive for stabbing so many of his classmates remains a mystery. I’m sure he’s being questioned thoroughly—maybe at this very moment—so perhaps we’ll know more soon.

One thing I do know, however, is that Lone Star often touts itself as the fastest-growing community college system in America and has six separate campuses to prove it. Of course, quick growth and expansion might mean less attention is being paid to the students they are admitting, as well. And based on the news of late, it might be time to focus a little more on this area, especially where mental illness is concerned.

Might I recommend adding some kind of psychological screening to your admission requirements, Lone Star? At this rate, it may someday be mandatory on all college campuses, so why not get a jump on the competition?

After all, you still have four safe campuses left.

Checkups, Fillings and HIV?

If you were here, get the test! (courtesy of CBS News)

I tell you what. If I were a former patient of Tulsa, Oklahoma dentist W. Scott Harrington, I would be meeting with my lawyer right about now.

On March 20th, 64-year-old Harrington—an oral surgeon with more than 35 years of experience—was forced to surrender his dental license after investigators found evidence of all sorts of infractions.

I use the word infractions because that’s the term being tossed around in the media. A more suitable word would likely be crimes.

At the top of the list is a word you should never hear in association with health care and the field of medicine: contamination. The state’s dental board discovered multiple sterilization and cross-contamination issues in Harrington’s office. And health investigators are contacting roughly 7,000 former patients who may have been exposed to hepatitis and even HIV.

Not what you expect when you go to have your teeth cleaned, is it?

Investigators also found problems with the medicine being stored and supplied by Harrington. For starters, there was no inventory log for any of the drugs he used. Some of the drugs in his cabinets were long expired—the earliest dating as far back as 1993.  And Harrington also administered morphine to patients through 2012, even though his last recorded delivery of the drug was 2009!

What a jackass. But there’s more.

From what I understand, none of the dental assistants working in Harrington’s office had permits, which must have been nice since they probably had free access to any drugs in the cabinet, too.

Aside from the whole “I might be infected with hepatitis or HIV” thing—which is certainly the most disturbing part of all of this—I was also shocked to hear an account from a teenage boy who once visited Harrington to have some molars removed.

At one point during the procedure, the boy awoke to find himself more-or-less covered in blood. He freaked out, but was told to “shut up” and to keep holding the gauze in place.

And that’s not even the worst of it.

The next time this young man awoke, he was tied up on the floor. The staff would later claim that he became a problem and had to be restrained, but he knew the truth.

“I felt when I got out of there and went through all I went through,” he recounted later. “I felt they didn’t know much of what they were doing at all.”

Harrington back in the day (courtesy of FOX 6 NOW)

This poor guy went through a lot, to be sure, and now he’s got this hepatitis-HIV scare to worry about, too. What luck. If I were him, Harrington would definitely be hearing from my lawyer, as I mentioned before.

Investigations are still underway and people all over the state are being tested, at the state’s expense, I might add. Harrington faces 17 violations and could have his license revoked as a result, but I don’t think that even comes close to being a suitable punishment.

If you ask me, Harrington should face criminal charges for knowingly and willingly endangering the lives of his patients. We’re talking about a dentist—albeit a very bad dentist—with over 35 years of experience. If anyone thinks he wasn’t aware of his out-of-date drugs, dirty equipment and hack-job procedures, think again. This man received his license and had it regularly renewed, for goodness sake!

I don’t know what will happen, of course. And in all likelihood, Harrington will get only a slap on the wrist, at least from the medical establishment. But I tell you this: I hope the civil lawsuits from patients—especially those who actually contracted hepatitis or HIV from his office—come raining down and help guarantee this man never practices dentistry again.

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