Blog Archives

We Could Be Heroes, Vol. I

Jordan gave her life for her students (Wish TV)

In the spirit of recently deceased music icon David Bowie—whose song “Heroes” has become something of an anthem for many—I decided to start a blog series that focuses on regular people doing heroic and selfless deeds.

Most of the time, it seems as if only those serving in the military are labeled as heroes, which they certainly are. We just need to remember that regular, non-military folks can also earn this esteemed moniker. And it’s about time they got their time in the sun, too.

Today’s hero is Susan Jordan, principal of the Amy Beverland Elementary School in Indianapolis, Indiana. Yesterday afternoon, while buses were loading students to return home, one bus mysteriously lurched forward and jumped a curb. It started moving towards several children when Jordan leapt into action. She immediately tossed several kids out of harm’s way—none of whom were seriously injured—but sadly, she was killed in the process.

Jordan was a beloved principal and served for 22 years. And her sacrifice shows how much she loved those around her, as well.

“This is a great example of an educational leader in our state and our city. … Just a phenomenal individual that truly cared about children,” said Lawrence Township Schools Superintendent Shawn Smith. “This is a tragic situation that we have. This loss is going to ripple across our district of 15,000 students.”

Susan Jordan was a true hero… and one the community will never forget. May she rest in peace.

The Eagle Has Landed

Frey was notoriously cool (The Smoking Gun)

The New Year is still relatively fresh, but 2016 has thus far been deadly for music icons.

To date, we have lost David Bowie, Natalie Cole, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and now founding Eagles’ guitarist Glenn Frey, who died Monday from complications related to Rheumatoid Arthritis and Pneumonia. He was 67 years old.

Frey burst onto the music scene in 1971 when he, Don Henley, Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon formed The Eagles, a band known for producing radio-saturating hits like “Hotel California”, “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Desperado”. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Like many music lovers of my generation, I grew up listening to The Eagles on AM and FM radio—long before I ever knew the names of the band members. In fact, I first learned who Glenn Frey was in the 1980s when he released “The Heat is On” as part of the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. I always recognized the talent, though, and I assure you that he will be missed.

Enjoy that peaceful, easy feeling, my man. Always.

Golden Years

Cool as cool could be (Slimpaley)

I’m stepping through the door

And I’m floating in a most peculiar way

And the stars look very different today…

             “Space Oddity” (1969)

Growing up in America during the 1970s and 80s was an experience that I will never forget. And memories of those eras are as fresh in my mind today as they were when I was a child and teenager living through them. Of course, nothing takes me back there more than the music I love and the artists who created it. And one of my favorite artists of the era was none other than David Robert Jones, otherwise known as David Bowie.

Unfortunately, Bowie passed yesterday after battling cancer for the last 18 months. He was 69 years old.

Bowie as alter-ego Ziggy Stardust (Sukita)

The first David Bowie song I remember hearing is the same one I quoted at the beginning of this post: Space Oddity. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I heard it for the first time, but I know it was on the radio of my mother’s station wagon when I was a “wee lad” of only six or seven years. I eventually heard many of his other 1970s hits—like Young Americans, Rebel Rebel, Jean Genie and, of course, Golden Years—but my love for Bowie really took hold in the 80s.

During a decade famous for hair metal, teased bangs, friendship bracelets and denim coats, Bowie truly found his place in pop culture. And thanks to MTV—a cable station that once focused on playing music videos, if you can believe that—Bowie and his songs quickly became part of the zeitgeist. I still remember seeing the video for Blue Jean for the first time, slow dancing to Let’s Dance at a teenybopper birthday party and driving my first car down the highway with Modern Love blasting from the cassette player. Those certainly were the days.

Sadly, I lost track of David Bowie a little during college and beyond—at least in terms of his newer material—but my love for the man and his music never waned. In fact, I was excited to hear he was releasing a new album, Blackstar, and plan to purchase it later today. I’m sure it will be awesome, but there’s one thing that would make it better, and that’s having its creator around to enjoy it with his fans. That obviously isn’t going to happen—at least not in the physical realm—but I know Bowie will always be with us in spirit. And for fans like me, he will always have a special place in our hearts and minds.

Farewell, my friend. And thanks for making weirdness and eccentricity hurt so good…

You Say You Want a Resolution

Sad but true (someecards.com)

I know more than a week of the New Year has passed—and that theoretically, resolutions are supposed to start on day one—but sometimes it isn’t that easy to decide what to change about yourself or your approach to life. This is especially true when you finally quit smoking and complete an ongoing resolution you have never been able to complete before, as I did last year. To be honest, this is probably the first resolution I have ever completed, which makes this year’s list a bit more challenging… but not by much since I have loads of things upon which to focus in 2016.

So without further ado, this year I resolve to…

Celebrate the end of the 2016 presidential campaign. The election won’t happen until November, but at least there is a finish line in sight. And I’ll be happy when the news outlets stop reporting on every dumbass thing the GOP says and instead return to important news—like what Kanye and the Kardashians have been up to lately.

The cast of “Rogue One” (Disney)

Look forward to the next Star Wars-themed film without letting it control my life. Like most nerds from a galaxy not so far away, I awaited the latest installment of the famous sci-fi epic by reading nearly everything published about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And I’m not even talking about mainstream reports, like casting decisions and potential plotlines. I’m referring instead to every rumor, set photo, fan theory and possible spoiler that ever dropped online about the J.J. Abrams-directed film. Now I have Rogue One to look forward to next December, only this time I’ll try to ignore all the hype and simply enjoy the final product once it’s released.

Exercise and start eating better. This is little more than the obligatory resolution I always include but never complete. Sure, I normally start off well, but my motivation fades with each new PS4 video game release or Netflix binge. Will 2016 be different? Only time will tell, but I’m certainly making no promises.

Time to get stress out in 2016 (mybodytutor.com)

Live in the present. Stress is obviously a killer. And each year, I find myself stressing more and more about things I can’t control, like the future and, in many ways, even the past. It’s time to face the fact that life will never be what it once was—and none of us truly know how life will be years or even decades from now (provided we make it that far). Living in the present and letting stress roll off our backs is basically all we can do, so that’s what I’ll strive for this year, as well.

Spend more time with friends. Actually, this should read “make friends with whom I can spend time,” but there’s no point in splitting hairs. We all know how busy life can be. Once you get up, go to work, leave work, run errands, return home, cook dinner, clean up and unwind, there really isn’t a lot of free time left—at least not during the work week. And although my favorite weekend routine is to lay around wearing sweatpants, watching television and playing video games, I understand how important human interaction can be. It’s time to get me some of that!

Olivia Wilde would be a good match (acelebritymag.com)

Reinvigorate the passion for my career. Like many of you, I began my work life as kind of an idealist—ready to make a difference in the world by helping college students achieve their goals and dreams. I still do this, of course, but the wide-eyed optimism of my youth has been replaced by a darker, more pessimistic nature. And the last thing I want to become is one of those “toxic people” you read about on Facebook—the ones positive people are encouraged to kick to the curb in order to improve their own lives. I may be older and wiser—in some ways more than others—but that doesn’t mean I have to give in to all the negativity. It’s time to take a more positive approach and to remember that life is what you make it.

Find a good woman. Former girlfriends should not read this as a criticism since I’ve been fortunate enough to date some really good women in the past. Sadly, though, this hasn’t been the case recently since I haven’t been dating at all. After my marriage fell apart, the last thing I wanted was to embroil myself in another relationship, but now I’m getting tired of being alone—and being my own romantic partner. Perhaps Match.com can help me find a suitable replacement for my right hand (and sometimes my left, since variety is the spice of life).

Get creative. Writing has always been one of my greatest pleasures. Unfortunately, I just haven’t felt very creative for the past few years, so the only writing I’ve done has been here on Gnostic Bent. This year, though, I hope to branch out and start writing fiction, film treatments and screenplays again. Perhaps nothing will come of them, but at least I’ll feel like I’m accomplishing something once more.

I’m sure that I could go on and on—since there are so many things I would like to change about myself in 2016—but I have bored you enough with my New Year’s resolutions. Now it’s time for action. And with any luck, my end-of-the-year post will focus on how much I actually accomplished this year, rather than how many of my resolutions again went unfulfilled. Only time will tell, I guess, but at least I have something that I haven’t had in a long time: hope. And right now, that is good enough for me.

Happy New Year, peeps!

Never Forget

Rescuers pull the baby elephant out of danger (Facebook/The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)

Despite returning from a long beach vacation and having plenty of other subjects to write about—including all the hypocrisy surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to legalize same-sex marriage (some people apparently don’t think we all deserve to be happy)—I choose instead to write about a heartwarming story I just found during my daily perusal of the headlines.

The story involves a baby elephant in Kenya who was recently trapped in a muddy watering hole. A herd of elephants stood by helplessly as one of their own started to drown—the embankment was far too muddy and slippery for them to manage, so all they could basically do was watch and panic.

Fortunately, members of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Voi Elephant Keepers were contacted and quickly came to help. The herd was upset and seemed ready to charge any time, but luckily these good Samaritans were able to approach the muddy ditch and attempt a rescue.

“The rescue proved extremely challenging with two wild elephant herds highly charged and remaining at the scene trying their level best to protect their baby, and by doing so inhibiting the rescue team from approaching,” it said on the group’s Facebook page. “They just want to protect their babies, not knowing whether you are there to help or hurt.”

The herd welcomes the baby back (Facebook/The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)

Thankfully, rescuers were able to cordon of the area, attach straps to the young elephant and pull her to safety. She immediately rushed back to the herd, which quickly surrounded her and ushered her back into the fold.

The old adage is that elephants never forget. And research has shown that strong recall powers play a significant role in how they survive.

I guarantee the members of this particular herd remember that on this day, humans didn’t attempt to hurt or kill them; they helped. And to me, that’s as heartwarming as it can get.

Imagine

Imagine_colors

“Imagine” by John Lennon (cartoon by Pablo Stanley)

 

Good Cop, Better Cop

Cops can help Santa spread joy at Christmas (Thomas Nedzbala/Law Enforcement Today)

Given the recent killings of unarmed African-Americans by police—as well as the lack of indictments in these cases—it should come as no surprise that law enforcement officers are not very popular right now. Of course, we should all remember that for every bad cop, there is a good cop doing his job correctly and for the right reasons.

Don’t believe me? Then consider these stories of cops doing right by the people they serve—and spreading some Christmas joy in the meantime.

Last Saturday, officers in Boynton Beach, Florida responded to an emergency hang-up that turned out to be little girl playing with the phone in her home. While they were speaking with the girl’s mother, they learned she was a single parent who was struggling so much that she couldn’t even afford a Christmas tree. So what did they do?

They went out the next day, bought a tree with all the trimmings and delivered it to the family for Christmas. And after the little girl’s reaction “melted their hearts,” they decided to take things one step further: they plan to return with gifts, too!

Now if that doesn’t show the true meaning of Christmas, I don’t know what will… except maybe this next story!

For the past three years—as part of their Cops for Kids program—Pantego police officers in Texas have allowed drivers to get out of traffic citations not with cash, but with gift donations for Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. Here’s what drivers receive instead of a ticket:

Much better than a ticket, don't you think? (Pantego Police Department)

Much better than a ticket, don’t you think? (Pantego Police Department)

How’s that for Christmas spirit?

Both of these stories should have warmed your heart, but I saved the best for last. Here’s a story that would even bring a smile to Scrooge’s face.

For several days in November, the police department in Lowell, Michigan did something completely unexpected. After pulling drivers over for minor infractions, officers made small talk with people and asked what they or their children wanted for Christmas. Little did they know that while they were speaking, a group of Santa’s helpers were standing by at a local store to purchase gifts for them, which were then delivered car-side by the very officers who pulled them!

Check out the video for yourself by going HERE. I promise it will make your day.

Yes, there are cops who break the law, abuse their power and harm—or even kill—people. However, we all need to understand that police officers are human, too. And for every bad cop, there are tens, hundreds or even thousands of officers who genuinely serve and protect us the right way—like the officers in these stories.

This Christmas, I hope we will remember them as much as we do those we lost to bad cops this year. After all, a few bad apples shouldn’t spoil the bunch, especially during the holidays!

Pick-Me-UPS

Carson is the cutest delivery guy around! (UPS)

I am a sucker for good, heartwarming advertising—especially during the holidays. Anything that can save me from “he went to Jared” or “every kiss begins with Kay” is great in my book. Unfortunately, I am unable to embed video on my blog, but that doesn’t mean I can’t link to one.

Need something to make you smile during this stressful holiday season? Then check out this COMMERCIAL from the people at UPS. It’ll warm your heart faster than a stiff egg nog or hot toddy, I assure you.

Merry Christmas!

Restored Faith

I know how you feel, Mr. President (Stress Management Tips)

Have you ever had one of those days when you felt like selling everything you owned, leaving your unsatisfying life behind and disappearing to start fresh somewhere else, most likely as a completely different person?

I have. And it’s happened almost daily since I quit smoking nearly two weeks ago.

Granted, I know the nicotine withdrawal my body is experiencing has something to do with it. I was a smoker for almost three decades, so I knew the physical effects would be pretty intense. And I honestly don’t miss cigarettes at all. They’re nothing more than little white and brown devils that make me feel terrible the moment I light them up, so what’s to miss?

No, the real problem is the effect non-smoking has had on my tolerance level for bullshit. I mean, I always had road rage. Only now I get so annoyed by bad drivers that I’m tempted to run them off the road every time they pull out in front of me, travel slower than the posted speed limit or focus more attention on their cell phones than the road ahead. Sure, they may receive a one-finger greeting or an expletive-filled “how-de-do,” but I still fantasize about doing something more serious in nature.

Of course, the recent mid-term elections didn’t help my outlook much, either. After years of gridlock and partisan posturing in Washington, we can now look forward to even more political bullshit in the next few years. To me, a Republican-run House and Senate mean nothing significant will be accomplished… and more people will get screwed in the process. Take Obamacare, for instance, which the GOP hopes to repeal. I know it isn’t perfect, but now we can look forward to insurance companies sticking it to people once again. And as long as big companies and corporations get paid—along with Republicans themselves—it’s all good, right?

Wrong. Politics are a joke and Washington seems like little more than a bad comedy club.

Yes, things seemed pretty grim earlier today. Fortunately, though, I read a story that lifted my spirits and restored my faith in humanity… at least for now.

SIEGEL POURNAZARIAN

Dylan and his buddy Jonah (David Siegel)

The story was about Dylan Siegel, an 8-year-old boy from Los Angeles who published a book entitled Chocolate Bar. To date, his book has sold more than 21,000 copies, which in itself is quite a feat, especially for someone so young. What touched me was the fact that Dylan hasn’t made one penny off his book sales. Instead, all of the proceeds are going towards a University of Florida fund to support research on glycogen storage disease, otherwise known as GSD.

Glycogen storage disease affects how people process sugars and, believe it or not, Dylan’s best friend Jonah suffers from the affliction. Jonah’s body cannot process sugars, so his parents have to feed him a special diet… and through a tube in his stomach, no less. To help his friend—and to hopefully find a cure for the disease—Dylan donated his book earnings to the cause and launched a fundraising campaign that has almost reached $1 million. Support has poured in from more than 60 countries around the globe and, with any luck, even more donations are forthcoming.

And Dylan could not be happier.

“I am so, so, so excited to be able to help my friend,” the young author said recently. “I am thankful to people everywhere for letting me share my story and inspire kids to change the world.”

Maybe there’s hope for the human race yet…and for non-smokers like me, as well. Thanks for the inspiration, Dylan!

I Quit!

Easy for you to say! (spiritedpsych.com)

I remember the day as clearly now as I did when it first happened. I was 15 years old, walking down a suburban street on my way to toilet paper a house with friends, when my buddy Jon turned to me and offered me something that would change my life forever: a cigarette.

There wasn’t any real peer pressure to accept his offer, but being the rebellious teen, I did. My first smoke was a Merit and, from what I recall, it was good enough for me to bum a second cigarette, then a third.

The next day, I purchased my first pack. And the rest, as they say, is history.

For nearly three decades, I smoked cigarettes like they were going out of style. At my worst, I smoked two packs of Marlboro Lights a day. Sure, there was occasional hacking and the frequent coughing up of nasty goo, but I persisted. I smoked in the car, in the house and in groups exiled outdoors by employers or non-smokers. There were daily trips to the store for more packs and I even took up buying cartons to make things a little cheaper.

In other words, I was a smoker in every possible sense. And I was proud of it, too, especially when all the holier-than-thou non-smokers started preaching about the dangers of tobacco. I lived in North Carolina, for goodness sake. Smoking tobacco helped support our state economy, so what I was really doing was “giving back” to my local community, right?

Wrong.

Bye bye, butts! (Huffington Post)

No matter what my excuse was for smoking—and for continuing to smoke—the sad fact is that I smoked because I was weak. Sure, I started to be cool, to fit in with friends and to rebel against the so-called establishment, but it didn’t take long for smoking to become little more than a bad habit. There was the oral fixation, the constant need to do something with my hands, the physical reliance on nicotine and all the other addictive shit cigarette manufacturers added to their products. I was hooked and kept on being hooked for 28 years.

Today—with luck—my smoking journey will end.

It won’t be easy, of course. There’s likely as much nicotine coursing through my veins as blood by now. And I have attempted to quit twice before, but neither attempt lasted more than six months. I tried nicotine patches, but found myself smoking while wearing them. Then there was Chantix, the smoking cessation medicine that replaced cigarettes with migraine headaches and nearly killed me. I suppose I could try nicotine gum, lozenges or even electronic cigarettes, but let’s face it. Those things provide nothing but a crutch, and I need to quit for real this time.

I hate to admit it, but my mother was right: cold turkey is the only way to quit effectively. She always said that when I was ready to quit—and when I finally convinced myself I was ready—then I would quit and never return. Well, it seems that time is now. I’m tired of having breathing problems and needing an inhaler to catch my breath. I’m tired of freezing my ass off in the winter by being forced to smoke outside. And most of all, I’m tired of bringing death closer and closer with every puff.

Today, I am a non-smoker. And here’s hoping my third attempt at quitting will be my last.

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