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.

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.

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!

Misappropriation

Your tax dollars at work (SIGAR)

Although it comes as no surprise, I just read how the Department of Defense spent roughly $43 million to build a compressed natural gas station in Afghanistan that would have cost less than $500,000 to build anywhere in the world. Apparently, this was one project of many for the Pentagon’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, which had a 2010-2014 budget of more than $800 million for projects in Afghanistan alone.

Meanwhile—back in the United States—people were out of work, struggling to make a decent wage, paying tons of money for overpriced health care and generally feeling like complete shit.

Of course, many of them likely felt their government was doing all it could to make life better for its citizens—when in actuality, that simply wasn’t the case.

I realize that criticizing our government is likely a waste of time—since nothing ever seems to change—but does anyone else feel as if $800 million spent stateside could have done some actual good? The $43 million gas station in Afghanistan isn’t even operational, for goodness sake!

These days, people seem to be focusing their attention on the 2016 presidential race and candidates like Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Don’t they realize that it doesn’t matter who is elected or who controls Congress or the House when the whole damned system is screwed up? Is one person or one group of overpaid, vindictive, partisan assholes really going to change things for the better—or are they simply going to give in to the corruption in Washington and line their own coffers at the expense of everyone else in our beloved country?

People always tell you to get out and vote. If this political bullshit and government abuse continues, however, I fear more people will opt for the former rather than the latter.

Better tighten your border security, Canada!

Remembering 9/11

Remember those we lost and those they left behind (McDonald and Osborne)

For my parents, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a pivotal moment in American history. And everyone from their generation remembers exactly where they were when the news of his death was released.

For me and those like me, however, the pivotal moment occurred on September 11, 2001 when terrorists hijacked passenger planes and unleashed hell upon the American people. Nearly 3,000 people died on that fateful day and 14 years later, the memory of what happened is as strong as it ever was.

The morning of September 11, I was working as a manager at a Mexican restaurant. Just before the attacks, I went to the bank to make a deposit and ran a few other errands. When I returned, I noticed a crowd of people standing in the bar and watching the television, their eyes glued to the screen.

My first reaction was typical of my early morning grumpiness, which would normally melt away after several cups of coffee and a handful of cigarettes. “Don’t these assholes know we open at ten?” I asked myself. “I haven’t even wiped the bar down yet.”

Of course, my demeanor changed dramatically once I saw what was unfolding on television. The first plane had hit the Twin Towers and like everyone there, I assumed it was some sort of accident. Then the unthinkable happened: a second plane crashed into the other tower.

That’s when we all knew this was no accident; it was terrorism, plain and simple. And at that moment, we all knew nothing would ever be the same.

More than a decade has passed since that horrible day—and life has pretty much returned to normal—but we should never forget those we lost on September 11. Please take a moment not to reflect on the horror of that day, but to remember those we lost.

I know that I will.

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!

GTA Saves the Day!

One of the best video games ever made… and helpful, too! (Rockstar Games)

All you ever hear about the popular Rockstar video game series Grand Theft Auto is how it glorifies violence, celebrates death and turns average, everyday kids into mindless zombies intent on destruction in their real lives. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth—since the evening news can be just as violent and disturbing as any video game—and now we have proof.

Charley Cullen is an 11-year-old boy from Slane, Ireland who recently found himself in a potentially deadly situation. He and his 79-year-old grandfather were driving home from a drama class—traveling roughly 70 mph—when his grandfather suddenly blacked out behind the wheel… with his foot still on the accelerator!

Fortunately, Charley acted quickly, grabbed the wheel with one hand and used the other to try and revive his “papa.” He steered the car away from busy roads and eventually crashed sideways into the gates of a building, fracturing his skull in the process. Despite his injury, though, Charley was still able to pull his grandfather from the car and carry him more than 50 yards to their home.

“We got to my Papa’s house and my Nana didn’t know what was happening or anything like that,” Charley explained in an interview on Ireland’s RTE Radio. “I opened the door and I can just remember the screams at the back of my head.”

An ambulance arrived a short time later and, thankfully, both Charley and his grandfather are doing fine. However, when asked how he was able to react so quickly—and to drive an automobile at all, given his lack of formal training—Charley scored one for GTA lovers everywhere when he responded, “The only way I had any experience was the Grand Theft Auto game.”

In other words, GTA didn’t turn this kid into a psychopathic school shooter; it turned him into a hero and actually saved lives.

Take that, GTA haters!

“O” My Goodness!

Beware! Sex stuff ahead! (Washington Post)

Beware! Sex stuff ahead! (Washington Post)

WARNING! Mature subject matter ahead! Proceed at your own risk!

The female orgasm is not something I discuss—or even achieve—very often, but I have no doubt that it exists. Of course, the proof is in the proverbial pudding, so here are a few examples I hope will support the existence of The Big O.

That or they will prove the natural proclivity of females for drama and deception. And trust me when I tell you this statement carries no judgment on my part. Again, I’m a believer in the female orgasm, so we’re really on the same side.

My first example comes from the Dutch dance music trio ADAM, who just released a new VIDEO for their single “Go to Go.” It’s rather minimalist—both visually and musically—but there is one major difference that makes it absolutely delightful: the women are using vibrators to achieve orgasm as they sing!

Their vibrating friends are off-screen, of course, and—as you might imagine—the song kind of falls apart towards the end… in a very good way. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it… and watching it… and watching it… and I hope you enjoy it, too.

Be right back. I just watched it again and I need a quick cigarette. Talk amongst yourselves.

Wow. That music video will be hard to top. We’ll give it a try anyway and move to Venice Beach, California for our second example.

These guys crack me up! (Simple Pickup/YouTube)

These guys crack me up! (Simple Pickup/YouTube)

Simple Pickup is an all-male group known for their outrageous videos and stunts, all designed to inform their fellow men on a range of topics. And their latest endeavor has some people up-in-arms once again.

Last week, SP took a Sybian to Venice Beach. For the uninitiated—which included me until recently—a Sybian is a vibrating pleasure saddle for women. I can draw you a diagram, if you like, but that description should suffice. It paints quite a picture, don’t you think?

In support of the Orchid Project—a nonprofit that seeks to end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM)—Simple Pickup planned to donate $5 for every second a woman remained on the Sybian. They also pledged another $100 for every 100,000 views their video received online. You can see it for yourself by going HERE.

Although numerous women stopped to enjoy the vibrating toy—in plain view of passersby and even cops, who didn’t seem to mind—some have criticized SP for being insensitive to the consequences of FGM, which is practiced as a way to reduce a woman’s sexual pleasure.

Sorry, but I disagree.

If the goal is to end FGM, then one of the intended results is to allow women more sexual pleasure. In this way, I don’t believe that showing American women coming close to—or even having—an orgasm is insensitive. Instead, it might make American women more aware of what their FGM sisters are missing, more sensitive to their plight and more likely to donate to their cause. Tell me again how that’s a bad thing?

Plus it’s an awesome video to watch… and it might be time to bring a Sybian into my neighborhood, too!

The “White” Stuff

You know this can really happen, right? (Carlson)

You know this can really happen, right? (Carlson)

Less than a week has passed since our first significant snowfall of the year here in North Carolina—and now it appears as if we’re getting hit again. Only this time, winter will be arriving in full force, much like it has for our northern brothers and sisters all season.

Right now, roughly 140 million Americans in 34 different states are under some kind of winter weather advisory or warning. Where I am, there’s definitely a warning since the system scheduled to arrive this afternoon could dump as much as half a foot of snow on me and my neighbors… maybe more!

I love the snow, especially as seen from the comfort of my cozy, warm home. Being out in the snow has always been enjoyable, too, and skiing used to be one of my favorite pastimes—when my knees and back could handle it, I mean. The mountain beat the hell out of me the last time I went, so my days as a skier are clearly behind me. I do enjoying watching it on television, though.

The forecast in my area (WRAL-TV)

The forecast in my area (WRAL-TV)

What sucks about the wintry weather—even though it really can’t help itself—is when it leads to power outages. Unfortunately, I don’t have a fireplace, kerosene heater or any other device capable of producing heat if this happens. My only recourse will be to wrap myself in blankets from head-to-toe and, when all is said in done, I’m sure I’ll resemble some kind of overdressed, retail store Bedouin.

No offense to any Bedouin readers, of course.

It also sucks that the instant a snowflake touches down here, people forget how to drive properly. Granted, they were never very good to begin with, but adding the slightest precipitation makes getting from point A to point B nearly unbearable… even more so than usual.

These are the kinds of drivers I mean (Bangor Daily News)

These are the kinds of drivers I mean (Bangor Daily News)

Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to seeing some of the white stuff—a lot of it actually, if the forecasts are to be believed. Yet it’s just after 1 p.m. and not a flake has fallen. You know what that means, right?

This storm is about to sneak up and knock us on our asses. Brace yourselves, fellow Southerners.

And by all means, stay off the damn roads.

Snow Day!

The white stuff finally fell! Rejoice and be cold in it! (Red Vines & Red Wine)

The white stuff finally fell! Rejoice and be cold in it! (Red Vines & Red Wine)

It finally happened.

After watching the entire eastern seaboard of the U.S. experience blizzards and record low temperatures for weeks on end, snow has finally come to my state.

And I could not be happier.

Like a giddy schoolboy, I sat up until the wee hours of the morning waiting for word of school closings—both mine and my son’s. He wanted to stay up with me—as I did with my siblings when I was young and the forecast called for snow—but ended up crashing around 11 p.m.

It was easily 3 a.m. before I finally passed out, and with only a two-hour delay to speak of. Fortunately, a pee break around 6 a.m. led to one last news check and, lo and behold, both of our schools were closed.

This is not my kid, but he looks like he's having a blast! (Popsugar)

This is not my kid, but he looks like he’s having a blast! (Popsugar)

Woohoo!

So here we sit in the midst of a snow day—the first in at least a few years. Granted, the snow’s already melting, there are large patches of muddy grass starting to appear and the roads seem fine, but for the next five or six hours, it will still feel like a wintry vacation.

Time to make a few snowballs, so I’ll catch up with you good people again tomorrow!

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