Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Obligatory 2009 Year-In-Review and Lyric Post Title Post

365 days. Counting this one, 72 posts. 73 if you count one I deleted out of pity. Who knows how many words, because I'm too lazy to count. So many rants, so many raves, no ROM reviews (sorry, Earthbound Zero fans, still no ROM either), yet so few posts overall. Yes, it's been a rather insane year for the ol' Lost Kid. Of course, there will be the listing of lyrical titles, but first, a look back at a very crazy year in the life of a foul-mouthed wannabe citizen journalist and entertainer with a soapbox and nearly zero self-censorship.

It started like a lot of the previous years have, and it will end just the same: Absolutely bone-chilling. Bloody weather (+1 self high five of Python-ness). All the talk about Environment this and Global Warming that and blah blah blah hippie nonsense - coupled by the equally ignorant yet closer-to-correct opposition - madness. If you just sit back and look at all the data we've collected since the dawn of modern meteorology, it's not hard to figure out what's happening to this ball of dirt floating in a giant vacuum we call home.

This year, we lost Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett - ON THE SAME DAY. First the pin-up queen, and then the king of freak pop. We all know who got more coverage. Farrah went out with quiet dignity, yet she was damn-near ignored by the mainstream media given the circumstances surrounding Wacko Jacko's death. I remember that day well: Stuck in a dually with Justin, who insisted on having the Sirius tuned solid to, of all networks, Faux News, so he could listen to the wall-to-wall Jacko coverage and say "Man, that's a shame" over and over and over and over...

Yeah, I wanted to strangle him by the time we got to Hermitage, believe you me. It took all my willpower and a walk to the local Sheetz to keep me from smacking him upside the head for that shit.

I've finally struck back out on my own again, thank whatever fairy tale figure floats your boat. The new apartment is nice, albeit a bit poor in the heat retention department. All in all, though, it's worth the work and the worry. Between the DJ gigs and Buck-It booking more shows (we have five or six coming up in the next two months, already well more than I ever did with Tempered Edge in the same timespan), it's a livable situation, and I couldn't be happier.

Well, I could, but one new thing does make up for it...

OMG DROID! Yes, I got myself an HTC Droid Eris for Xmas (thank you, Mom, you RULE!), and holy shit, I'm in love with this little gadget. I haven't really gotten balls deep in apps yet, but the ones I do have are both fun and incredibly nifty. And now, I will type this next paragraph - using my Droid as a wireless keyboard:

So yeah. Basically how it works is the phone app connects to a server program running on the computer you want to control. Then once it connects, it uses the touch screen to emulate a touch pad mouse. It also makes use of the phones virtual keyboard, obviously.
Tada! I know, it doesn't look any different. But being able to use the Droid as not only a keyboard, but a wireless touchpad mouse as well, has become the ultimate in lazy geekery for me. I'm able to start videos from my couch now, nearly completing my in-house on demand setup. All I need now is a workable front-end and I have it made. If you're curious about the app, click here.

Sadly, Electric Avenue is no more. The last show was at the end of January (with Buck-It, of course), and the restaurant closed its doors a few months later after just barely hanging on. Sad to see the place go. It really was the nicest bar in the entire region, it just had some off-color customers that really put people off to the place. Otherwise, the food was good, and the fun was even better. I'll never forget my five years there, the times we all had, the cuties that worked the day shift, and the nights stuck in that little DJ booth at the corner of the stage. Farewell, Electric Avenue! So many memories, so little time to cram them all into this not-so-quick post. I may have to stop and make a sandwich, though...

2009 was spent completely in bachelor mode, and quite honestly, it was time well-deserved. Although I do miss the company of the opposite sex on a regular basis. That, I'll have to resolve to work on in 2010...

I broke down and signed up for both Twitter and Facebook. Yay, right? Just like everybody else. Does that mean I sold out? Well, sort-of. All I'm doing is whoring my stupid little blog and getting into fun discussions with interesting people. And also making my family feel uneasy, which is always fun. If you all want, you can add me on either service (and if you came here from either service, welcome) and follow my boring little life, tweet to status update to blog post to naps in the early afternoon. The joys of growing old geeky...

Old chapters concluded, new chapters begun. I'll have a little bit more on that next year (snicker snicker), but for now, I'd like to get on to the music. And speaking of music, please imagine a little proper snack time music - perhaps "Let's All Go To The Lobby" or the parody from ATHF:MFFT - as I go make myself a sammich. Yes, that should do nicely...

~( :: Some Time Passes :: )~

There we go, much better. Now then, on to the lyrical entries from this year! Did you spot them all? Well, here's you're year-end checklist!
1. Newt Sensation - If you loved the 80s, then you should recognize one of INXS' bigger hits indeed, here adjusted for political funny.
2. Deny Your Maker - From Alice in Chains' "Man in the Box," and good advice for any religious believer.
3. All Alone, Or In Twos - The greatest band in history: Pink Floyd's "Outside the Wall"
4. The Evil of the Thriller - Duh. Click and be amazed.
5. Cuts Like a Knife - Bryan Adams: Canada owes us a big one for that guy. Double sad, he shares my birthday... From his song of the same name.
6. Hey, Kids, Rock and Roll - Depending on your age or preference in music, this is from "Rock On", originally by David Essex, but covered by such names as Def Leppard, 80s soap star Michael Damian, and Silverifsh...
7. Do You Really Want To Know? - A semi-whispered line (and only words at all) from the DJ Dado techno mix of the X-Files theme song.
8. After The Rain - The title of an album and song by Ricky Nelson's kids: pretty boy rockers Matt and Gunner, AKA Nelson.
9. Spelled G-Double-E-K... - Genius rhyme from nerdcore sensation mc chris' anthem for the rest of us, simply titled "Geek."
10. So I Looked At The Bartender... - Classic blues rock track "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" is the song, but most people know this Rudy Toombs-penned ode to getting wasted as heard from the legendary George Thorogood and the Destoryers
11. And finally, If Only In My Dreams - "I'll Be Home For Christmas." You pick your artist. That is all.
Right on. Good tunes that fit the mood. You can never go wrong with an awesome soundtrack for life. Just too bad that this year's soundtrack was so bloody short, at least as far as post titles go. Oh well. Maybe a New Years resolution to blog more? Where have I heard that before...

Oh well. The sammiches have been eaten, the songs revealed, and the year has been reviewed. It's now time for me to get some sleep. I have a long day tomorrow doing two things: having a wonderful New Year with my friends and tweeting this blog post occasionally.

I hope you all have a safe and wonderful New Year as well. Find a DD, and have a good time, responsibly. You all have to stay alive - I have yet to convince you all to write comments!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

If Only In My Dreams

For the first time in a very, very long (and long-overdue) time, I'll be spending Christmas alone. And you know what?

That is fucking awesome.

Now, granted, I wouldn't mind some female company for the holidays (and beyond), and I'd certainly like to know if I really am a father so I can celebrate with my (potential) son. But all in all, a Christmas alone, in my case, isn't that terrible a prospect. Allow me to explain.

First of all, there's the whole "reason for the season" argument. As an Atheist, of course, I'm rather opposed to the Christian definition of the modern Christmas: To celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (even though he is clearly of Bethlehem according to the ol' yarn). How many things are wrong with that? Well, if the calendar is truly "the year of our lord," then Jesus' birth would have had to occour at Midnight between 1BC and 1AD. In January. Not December. The December celebration is actually a Pagan holiday which celebrates the Solstice; it was annexed by Christianity in order to get the Pagan folk to join the club.

Of course, this is a major point of contention between myself and my family. It's of great embarrassment to me that:

A) My family actually buys into this Mother Goose horseshit, and

B) Some of them are entirely too forward (read: evangelical) about it.
It's a wonder how I stayed sane during the Holidays for so long. Maybe it was the gifts in my selfish youth, or maybe the vain hope that I might plan the seed of doubt in one of their minds. The desire to get your parents to take the red pill can give you quite a bit of willpower, but not enough to last not-quite-half a lifetime.

To counter the above sources of much facepalming, and to ease the sting of being here by myself this Christmas, I have these two rather comforting thoughts:
A) The fact that I'm away from my family means no possible arguments. Having two iron wills collide in a discussion of faith and folly is both taxing and loud, and

B) The fact that I see the seeds of rationality and free-thought in the next generation of Marie and Walter's descendants.
Silent Night indeed. Holy Night, not so much.

No, here - alone in my little box that can't hold heat worth a damn - I will sit and celebrate the Christmas of the Godless. Upon my fellow men and women of all kinds, godless or not, I wish peace and goodwill, and the hope that we can all sit down, shut the fuck up about stupid shit, and get along for a change. We're all on this rock together, and fighting over it for silly second grade reasons isn't doing us any good, so we might as well drop the bullshit and try to move forward.

Forward is the only direction you can go, but it's a difficult journey indeed when you're stuck so far back in the distant, primitive past.

This Holiday Season, I hope that Mankind - all of Mankind - can put away the grown-up Santa Claus fantasies that it clings to and matures into the species that nature meant us to be.

Monday, December 14, 2009

So I Looked At The Bartender...

Pennsylvania. Literally, Penn's Woods. One of the original 13 colonies in America. Known as the Keystone State. Population: roughly 12,500,000. Home of Gettysburg, the Horseshoe Curve, the Drake Oil Well, and the City of Champions: Pittsburgh.

And home of the most archaic alcohol regulatory laws outside of the Islamic world and Utah. Ain't that like two fucking alien worlds, right?

So, here's the deal: You have to get different kinds of alcohol at different places. The only way to get a case of beer or keg in Pennsylvania is to go to a distributor. Can't get one at a bar or six-pack, unless you take a friend or make two trips into the building. Why? Because the biggest package of beer a bar/six-pack can sell is indeed a six-pack, and you're only allowed to carry two six-packs of alcohol out of a bar at a time, per person. If you want hard liquor to go, there's only one way to get it: At a State Store. State stores have the most atrocious hours - some are open six days a week in one town or another, yet some are open only on certain days. You can get wine at a state store, too, but nowadays wineries themselves have licensed outlets. But they can only sell wine, not hard liquor, and not beer. Alcohol cannot be sold on Sundays in Pennsylvania, unless that establishment is also an operating restaurant or has enough of its income come from food sales. Distributors, state stores, bars and six packs that don't offer food are all closed on Sunday, even 24 hour beer distributors. Despite having food, grocery and convenience stores are prohibited from selling alcohol, period.

Still with me? If you are, congratulations, because that is a summary of what amounts to some of the most absurd liquor control law systems in the world.

Now, from exit 120 (Clearfield) on Interstate 80, drive a little under two hours west to our neighbor, Ohio. Go to any grocery store, quick stop, whatever, any day of the week. Guess what? You can buy BEER. You can buy BOOZE. Bars are OPEN on SUNDAY. So are six packs and liquor stores - which aren't run by the government. And you know what else? There's no real difference in the frequency of alcohol-related problems. It's pretty much the same. No better, yet certainly no worse.

In other words, it's not godless chaos and rampant drunken anarchy. People still manage to go about their daily lives, remaining good, responsible people, despite being able to get themselves some sin-in-a-bottle on a whim.

So, why is Pennsylvania still living in a post-prohibition world? Two reasons. And you know what's funny? Our national Constitution says they should be separate entities: Church and State.

We'll start out with the State. Pennsylvania has a lockdown on any sort of alcohol sales, and they make quite a pretty penny off of it no matter how it's sold. The State Store system is inherently a legal monopoly - it is the ONLY place you can buy bottles of hard liquor, period. While I don't have any prices available for comparison (I don't feel like surfing Google at 5:30am, honestly), I assume that they're a bit inflated, as there's an 18% tax on it system- and state-wide. All other alcohol not sold in State Stores is taxed, too - heavily. In short, it's all about the income. And since Pennsylvanians love their booze, the money keeps rolling in, so they have no reason to change the current system in that respect.

And yet, we can't fix our budget problems. Amazing, isn't it. All that income from the Stalinist control of the booze industry, and yet Rendell and company can't pay the fucking bills. Astonishing.

The other reason is the Church. Long has the Church sought to control the lives of their followers in the name of God. Alcohol? Yeah, unless its sacramental wine, they'd rather you not drink it. Granted, quite a number of religions are more or less lax about the drink these days, some still seek to return to their halcyon days of prohibition, when you couldn't drink at all. Instead, they found a compromise: Alright, you can have your booze, but not on Sunday. Sunday is for the Magic Sky Pixie and his Zombie Offspring. Holy day. Not yours.

Well, the Church's influence has been further hampered, since restaurants and can serve booze on Sunday with a separate license. But they still bitch and moan and complain - and try to assert their false authority over humanity.

We're starting to come around, though. Sheetz, based in Altoona, PA, has been trying like hell to get the law amended to allow them to sell beer at certain stores. Petitions are popping up everywhere to have the Communist laws repealed, or at least relaxed. Will it happen? I once sent a note on Twitter to John Scalzi, who was trying to think of new novel ideas. I'd mentioned a distant future (23something, I think) where Pennsylvania had finally allowed normal liquor sales. His reply?

Pretty much "Like that will ever happen."

Well, maybe we can prove Scalzi wrong, eh?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Go Cry, Emo Vampire Kid

Twilight. Bah.

What the fuck do you kids see in this fluff? Honestly! I seriously doubt that this is what Bram Stoker had in mind when he created the modern vampire novel with the ultra-classic "Dracula." Where do you people get the idea to romanticize this stuff? And why is it breaking all sorts of box office records?

I suppose it should be noted that record-breaking box office films, quite frequently, are driven to such heights by women. And not just any women, either. We're talking over-emotional, love-struck, curiously-hyphenated tweens, teens and young adults. Think I'm bullshitting? Look at the giant sinking heap of chick flick that was Titanic. Ugh. Top grossing movie of all time, though. Yes, even higher than any Star Wars film, E.T., Gone with the Wind, The Godfather, Plan 9 from Outer Space, you name it. Titanic is number one. Why? Same reason New Moon currently rules the box office.

Well, I hate to do it to you, kids, but here's yet another smug blog post about how the Twilight Saga sucks, and how Stephenie Meyer is nowhere near an author of any worthy note whatsoever.

Get out your razor blades, emo kids, because this is going to be brutal and honest. Here are six Fantasy authors who make Stephenie Meyer look like a third-rate Theodore Geisel (with absolutely no disrespect to the legendary Seuss) wannabe.

1. J. K. Rowling - Oh yeah, I'm going there. Why does she come first? Because Jo Rowling is the one author that Meyer is commonly compared to. Which is better? Harry Potter or Twilight? Well, for my money (and yes, I've spent the money) it's boy wizard for the win. Case in point: There's far more believable character development in Rowling's legendary series. Despite the fantasy setting, Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest of the Hogwarts students are easier to connect with, because they go through real life problems. Rowling's books also have the wonderful habit of growing with the reader: As they age, so do Harry and his friends, and the problems that come at each stage roll right along with it. Kids can find kindred spirits in nearly any of the plethora of personalities that exist within the walls of Hogwarts, whether you're a Colin Creavey or a Dean Thomas or a Lavender Brown or a Ginny Weasley or even a Vincent Crabbe. Wizards and witches or not, Rowling's kids are just that: nearly real, very believable kids. IMHO, that's a very good thing if you're hoping for a young reader to develop a love of books...

2. Trudi Canavan - I know, most of you are probably asking "Who?" Well, I'm pleased to inform you that Trudi Canavan is indeed a very real author, with a couple very real fantasy series that you should all check out! I was introduced to her through an advert in the back of a book by the next author on my list, and I was most certainly not disappointed with the portion of her work I've read so far! So, why is Trudi Canavan better than Stephenie Meyer? On this level, I think she writes a damn good female lead, as is evident in her Black Magician trilogy. A lot of people don't seem to buy females as lead characters in fantasy novels, but Canavan gives us a very real heroine to tag along with as she learns to live with rogue powers in a realm of magic dominated by men. There are love story undertones here and there, but Canavan herself has stated that she's not much of a "shipper," and leaves that to fanfiction writers. In other words, she can weave a side love story, but she doesn't get all emo about it.

3. Raymond E. Feist - Wow-wee-wow-wow-WOW! What started out as a group of friends playing in a custom old-school RPG world turned into a series of sword and sorcery novels that have got some serious teeth! Written while killing time as a campus security guard, Feist's "Magician" brought Midkemia to life, introducing us to the Riftwar Saga that would grow to span two more core novels, three subsequent sagas, and then expand into one of the first attempts at a multimedia franchise. It has grown to pretty much take up the most space by any one author on my bookshelf. So, where does Ray Feist beat Stephenie Meyer? One should rather ask themselves where he doesn't. Because yes, even in a world like that of the Riftwar, there are love stories to be told, battles of good versus evil, and all the stuff that the Twilight saga only wishes it could scratch the surface of.

4. Ursula K. Le Guin - Don't let the SciFi (now SyFy) Channel's adaptation, or even Miyazaki Goro's anime adaptation Gedo Senki, fool you. The EarthSea Cycle is one of the most imaginative fantasy series you'll ever read, hands down, bar none. While relatively short compared to some of its literary counterparts, it's most certainly not short on mythos or legend, nor is it afraid to write a bit of its own legend as you read. Think of the world of EarthSea as a planet dominated by ocean, and land comes in the form of island chains and mini-continents. There's a lot less sword and a bunch more sorcery, and an interesting tale of love and family along the way. Not your everyday fantasy fare, it stands on its own as a unique and engaging story. Whereas Meyer is like Anne Rice in Middle School. Eww.

5. C. S. Lewis - So, the Atheist is going with the Jesus Allegory Lion, is he? Yep, he is. Allegory aside, The Chronicles of Narnia still stand to this day as a near-perfect example of what a children's fantasy series could and should be. The story of four children - torn from their home and family by the Battle of Britain and the bombing of London - who take a magical journey through a peculiar wardrobe into a world of talking animals and everlasting winter is a fairy tale for kids of any age. While love stories might not be at the heart of the series, that doesn't really matter much at all, because the pure narrative keeps you too occupied to worry about such drivel. Every child should read this book. It's that simple. It's their first step into a much larger world of imagination and creativity.

6. J. R. R. Tolkien - Professor Lewis' contemporary, and the author of the single most legendary fantasy series of all time. The creator of Middle-earth, of Dark Lords and Wizards, Humans and Elves, Dwarves and Talking Trees, and the smallest of creatures doing the biggest of things. From the first pages of The Silmarillion to the last Appendices of Return of the King, Professor Tolkien took an idea scribbled on a napkin, coupled it with his love of linguistics, and wove the single greatest fantasy tale ever told. Steeped in mythology, language, lore and legend, The Chronicles of Arda (as the whole world is called by the Elves) stand in literary history as the Colossus - The Great Grand Pappy of them all. There is no way in hell Stephenie Meyer could ever dream of coming anywhere near the heights of the men who made up The Inklings.

So yeah. Anytime some emo Twilight freak asks you to name five authors who are better than Stephenie Meyer? Smile and say "I can name six." You kids need to get over your little sparkly vampire fluff. Quite frankly, there's a certain boy wizard and a certain dark lord who themselves have a final battle to fight, and something tells me that the opening weekend for Potter 8 (Deathly Hallows part 2) is going to make New Moon look like Leonard Part 6.

Enjoy your box office success. It won't last long. And there's absolutely no way that the Twilight Saga can even bother to try and hold a candle next to the above, in any form. You're officially on Fad notice, and can join Where's Waldo and Dick & Jane when your time comes.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Art School 101: In The Beginning...

So, as I move into a new place and reclaim my stake here on the web, I decided to start writing about happier memories. My Atheist rants are surely wearing on some people, and all the talk of the more depressing parts of my life can't be good, either. So, here now is a snippet from my 'college' days, when I began my life with a clean slate in the City of Champions.

After my acceptance to the Art Institute in Pittsburgh, I began to gather my stuff together and get ready to move on from my rural existence and into a faster-paced life in Pittsburgh. I'd visited the city several times before: Once, I went with the Boy Scouts to my first Pirates game at the old Three Rivers Stadium, as well as a day tour of the city which included Point Park and Allegheny Center's Buhl Planetarium. There, I ran around in a fountain that I would become very familiar with just six years later.

That day came when I discovered that the school-sponsored apartments for AIP were provided by the very same Allegheny Center. That fountain? Walked past it every day I went to class while I lived there. Even went down there to hang out quite a bit. It's always fun to have a previous connection to something that becomes a big part of your life.

Anyway, Allegheny Center also played host to the old Pittsburgh Public Theater building (PPT is now located downtown), where AIP decided that it would hold a "Roommate Orientation Day" of sorts. They would gather our incoming class into the theater, and have us sort ourselves out based on similarities and differences in order to find ourselves roommates.

The first division came from the obvious big problem: smokers vs. non-smokers. This was the funniest part of the whole ordeal, as the better majority of the incoming students (including myself) were indeed smokers. It was like a lopsided parting of the Red Sea, if you believe in such feats of engineering in ancient history: A large mass headed for the west side of the theater (and occupied a good majority of the south side as well), while the smaller mass of non-smokers took to the east side seats. Once we all got seated, I found myself next to a student named Jacob (Jake).

To be perfectly honest with you, I don't remember what the second division was. It was probably by major, but we never got that far. Jake turned to me and said "Look, I don't really want to go through all this bullshit. You look alright, wanna room up now and go have a cigarette?"

Aha. Someone thinking like me. "Sounds like a plan." With that, we stood up and left there rest of our future classmates to continue dividing amongst the chaos of Resident Life's valiant-but-futile effort at an easy solution. Our plan was better.

As we stood on the theater steps slowly killing ourselves with cancer sticks, we hashed out our similarities and differences. Jacob and I were both musicians - he plays multiple instruments with his best by far being the saxophone. We both loved rock music, especially Classic Rock and good old fashioned Heavy Rock, so there would be no conflicts with genres on any level, really. Jake was less of a geek than I am, but still nerdy enough to get what I was saying and enjoy the kinds of TV and movies I dug, too. As I recall, he was a decent Star Trek fan as well.

To be quite honest, Jake was probably the best choice of roommate I could have made out of the whole crowd, as I would come to know many of them in the next few months. For our first three days, though, Jake's friend Richard came to stay with us and experience our first time out in Pittsburgh. It was during those days that a stupid little ditty was written with me on guitar, Jake on harmonica and Richard as a James Brown wannabe. Ahh, musicians in college dorms...

Within the first few hours of move-in, Jake and I found ourselves easily making new friends, mostly by sticking our heads out of our 9th floor window (oddly, we found ourselves in apartment 911) and seeing who else was poking their heads out. It was in this manner that we met Amy and Anna, who were on the 10th floor. Mind you, even though both were attractive, they remained just our friends as we decided to venture out into the neighborhood in search of the elusive "something to do."

Jake found a cajun restaurant on James St. which also doubled as a Jazz club. While these days my stomach can't take the spice, back then, that was absolutely perfect. It was a Thursday when we went, and the club was featuring a open jazz jam hosted by local musician Leroy Wofford. I'm not much of an improv Jazz musician, but Jake of course brought both his sax and his harmonica.

Before he got on stage, we were surprised to learn about the arrival of Pittsburgh's then-mayor, Tom Murphy. Bonus! Not bad for our first week in the city if I do say so myself. Leroy was joined on stage by another popular local musician, sax player Kenny Blake, making it even more exciting once Jake took the stage, called out a tempo, and hit the first note. The rest of the band caught on in a hurry, and pretty soon, people were up and dancing as a high energy free-form song unfolded from the front of the room. Even the mayor was digging it!

Some days later, I found myself using Jake's copy of Dennis Leary's "No Cure for Cancer" album to make sound clips for a Windows sound scheme.

And then came the Great American Smoke-Out 1996. Our favorite radio station, WRRK (then a classic rock station, but last time I checked it's now "Bob FM," where they play "anything"), and the DJ at the time was giving away a gift certificate for a carton of smokes and yelling "smoke 'em if you got 'em" on the air during the afternoon drive. Coincidentally, the DJ on the air was Jude Sheets, who is actually from DuBois, PA, not that that's awesome or anything...

His contest for the carton? Well, Deep Purple (the original Mark II lineup, sans Blackmoore) was coming to do a show at Duquense Universitiy's A.J. Palumbo Center, so he wanted four callers to sing "Smoke on the Water" in their best smokers' voices. When the contest was announced, I called in and became contestant number three, and cued up some of the sound clips I had made from Jake's CD just a few days earlier.

I recorded my bit, sticking in a few clips of Dennis Leary saying how he smokes "seven THOUSAND packs a day, OK" and declaring "I love to smoke." Once that was done, I remained on the line while Jude went live with the contest recordings from the other three contestants and myself in the third slot.

But the carton of smokes on Smoke-Out day? No, that wasn't enough for this crazy DJ. He talked to the prize people, and upped the ante after we had recorded our segments. Now included with the carton of smokes was a copy of Deep Purple's new CD at the time, "Purpendicular," as well as two tickets to see them live at the Palumbo Center.

Score! Excited, Jake and I listened on as the contest began.

The first contestant was a female, and sang it in her normal voice, declaring it her smoker's voice. FAIL. Jude then proceeded to the next contestant, who must have rode the short bus to school as a child, because he couldn't figure out what he had been asked to do. ULTRAFAIL. And then came my recording.

Live, on the air, Jude completely blew off the fourth caller and declared me the winner. In the background, you could hear him rushing about the air studio, trying to kill the contest recording and cue up some contest winner sounds, which came seconds later as he was screaming "Dude, you're the winner, buddy! He comes with his own sound effects, I love it!"

Of course, Jake and I went to the show, where we met up with Jude before the opening act. It was an awesome night, both bands were spot-on, and it pretty much capped what would become some of my fondest memories of my time at AIP.

I'm hoping I can dredge up some more memories from that time to share here on the LP blog, and turn "Art School 101" into a series. It's about time I talked about some positive stuff for a change...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Simple Question

So yeah, we all had lots of fun with my previous encounter with an evangelical Mormon, didn't we. Well, you all know me, I can't resist a good laugh at religion's expense, so when @DenyReligion tossed this link my way around the same time I found this link on Fark (FT), I couldn't say no.

The Conversational Atheist link is thus quoted:

Rule 1: Do not let your argument hinge on asking a Christian to explain something he could conceivably say, “I don’t know” as a legitimate answer to an argument. So, how do you tweak the question to ask essentially the same thing, but to close the “I don’t know” loophole? Ask the slightly improved question:

Atheist: “Why do you worship a God that allows suffering?”

It’s still not great, but notice that answering, ‘why should I know why I do that’ is not a legitimate answer to the question. You may still hear that answer, but even the Christian will feel uncomfortable about such a lame answer.
Not a bad method, so when the Fark link came in, I decided to put it to the test. Today, we meet Gordon James Klingenschmitt. He's being sued for what pretty much amounts to thinly veiled threats in the form of prayers. Who's he threatening? Not ironically, it's the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Mikey Weinstein. Here, watch the video that has Weinstein so rightfully pissed off:

Yeah. This guy is actually praying that Weinstein not only experiences personal and professional ruin, but he's actually praying that his life gets cut short! What the fuck kind of prayer is that?!? Weinstein has every right to be angry at this guy: It's outright threats!

And yet, this man thinks what he's saying and doing is perfectly OK because it's in the context of prayer, and by extension, the seemingly-unassailable bastion of Religion. Wrong.

So, I took it upon myself to visit this douchenozzle's website, and found my way to the contact page to see about getting a hold of this big, tough, macho man of God, who can go around threatening people just because they see things differently than he does. What a pious, righteous person this man must be!

And what a perfect candidate for CA's question, in slightly modified form: Why do you believe in a God who allows so much suffering?

As the conversation unfolded, I realized that I was most assuredly on to another spectacular blog post, similar to my little run-in with Christopher the Doubting Black Mormon. After I'd made Cap'n Dogma (as I came to call him) aware of the fact that I'd be publishing his emails, he made one request of me, which you'll see later, that I'm more than happy to follow. And now, away we go! First, I fire the opening salvo:
You, sir, are a sorry human being. You have your facts all mixed up, and your mind is clouded with theistic nonsense, making the whole mess worse.

Do the human race a favor, and go away.
This is pretty much my opinion of his praying for someone else's life to be rendered shitty and short. At the very least, as opposed to his methods, His response is typical of any hyper-Christian:
"If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha."
Paul's New Testament prayer in 1 Cor 16:22
Scripture, scripture, scripture. Always scripture with these people. Ugh. He can't answer me like a human being with a mind of his own, he instead does the very Christian thing and becomes a Bible-quoting robot. If I had a nickel for every time my Aunt Judy alone did this to me...

I hate to tell him this, but scripture isn't a cure-all. And so it came to pass that I asked the question of him:
Let me ask you something.

How can you believe in a God who allows so much suffering?
His response?
Satan is the author of suffering, not God. You blame the wrong spirit.

God opposes suffering, and has compassion for those under the devil's oppression.

When you look at Mother Theresa, do you see God working through her, to end suffering?

Jesus can be your best friend against death, disease, sin, and all kinds of suffering.
Yep, nowhere in there is a direct answer to what is obviously a direct and unoffensive question. Instead, he uses the Satan excuse to say that God is not the source of suffering. Sorry, but that logic doesn't work, and we still don't have an answer as to why he believes in this failure of a deity.

Just to make sure he's aware of the question's exact wording, and my dissatisfaction with his non-answer, I sent him this reply:
You didn't answer my question.

How can you believe in a God who allows so much suffering?

Leave the rhetoric and BS out for a minute. Quit quoting scripture. Talk to me like a human being, not like one of Pat Robertson's robots. I'm asking YOU, not your STORY BOOK.
It's no giant secret that I think the Bible is on par with Aesop, Mother Goose, and the Brothers Grimm. So yeah, I'm gonna call it that. Rude? I don't really much care, because this guy was already well beyond rude when he prayed for other men's lives to be cut short. Yeah, when you do something stupid like that, you tend to get an equally crude response. Welcome to Human Nature 101. Anyway, here comes his next nugget of joy:
It is our sin that causes suffering, not God's permission.

We never have God's permission to sin.

God does not allow it, in fact he forbids it.
God also has the power to end it, according to your belief that he's all-powerful. And being omnipotent, he most certainly has the knowledge that he has this ability. And yet he knowingly chooses not to use that power to destroy human suffering. This is my point: He's obviously choosing to let you suffer, so why the fuck do you believe in and have absolute faith in such a monster?

Obviously, we still have no answer to my original question. This, coupled with the fact that I've already had an incredibly shitty day at the hands of my Jesus-freak family, makes for a very cranky Lost Boy at this point. But again, since he used prayer to wish suffering on his fellow man (I thought God forbade that?), any hope he had of being treated nicely went straight out the window. Next volley's on me:
Seriously, are you that retarded? I asked you a simple question:


And you have answered with nothing but rhetoric and scripture.

For the last time, Cap'n Dogma: Answer me with YOUR OWN WORDS, YOUR OWN OPINION, AND YOUR OWN EXPLAINATION.

I don't care to hear what your Magic Sky Pixie and his bastard zombie son have to say.

I want to know how YOU, as a mortal, imperfect human being, rationalize your belief in a so-called benevolent deity who allows so much suffering to continue.

You know, your explanations make it look like Satan is superior to God. So, here's another question:

If God is more powerful than Satan (not to mention Satan's creator), why doesn't he just wipe him out and end all the suffering you claim comes from the Magic Underground Pixie?

Once again, the rules are: NO SCRIPTURE, NO DOGMA, NO RHETORIC, NO BULLSHIT. I want your words and your words alone, not those of the Cap'n Dogma character you've created for yourself to sell to small-minded old bitties who are worried about some fantastical afterlife that doesn't exist.

Answer me like a Man.
Oh yeah, I went there, and I had FUN doing it. And, of course, he still really doesn't at any point in this conversation answer the question he was asked. All he does is drone on with his dogma like a good little Christian Lapdog:
I've answered you twice, in my own words, without quoting scripture.

God does not allow sin, he forbids it.

The cause of suffering, disease, death, is sin, which God forbids.

You cannot blame good for the existence of evil. Good is not to blame.

God is on your side, He's for you not against you, He loves you and shares your suffering.

In fact, if any human suffered more than any other, it was Jesus himself.
God suffered the same way we do, and therefore has more compassion for we who suffer than any other false god.

Do you think Islam cares one bit for those who suffer, when they teach Muslims to make others suffer?

Do you think Hinduism cares one bit for those who suffer, when they teach "let it be" and don't help the sick?

Do you think Atheist communist care one bit for the millions of people killed by Stalin?

Jesus alone taught us to care for the sick, visit the imprisoned, feed the hungry, clothe the naked.

Suffering exists, wherever it came from.

If you really care about ending suffering, you should follow the teachings of Jesus, and care for those who suffer.

But I suspect you really don't care about helping people who suffer.

You just want to argue, and walk away from your duty to love your neighbor.

You just want to say, "God isn't real, God is to blame, so I don't have to lift a finger to end suffering."

You're wrong. YOU are responsible for your failure to end suffering in the world.
Prove me wrong. Take up your duty, and try, just try, to end suffering, like Jesus commanded you to do.

In Jesus, Chaps
Do you see why he believes in God up there? Nope, neither do I. And I would also like to take this time to point out that I actually HAVE DONE MANY THINGS to end suffering. I've mentioned them quite a number of times on this blog, including This Post. Go ahead, Gordie. Read it. See what evil that a lack of a God can do. I dare you.

Also: The cause of disease is microbial infections. The cause of suffering is ignorance. And the vast majority of Atheists - myself included - have nothing to do with and want nothing to do with Stalinism or any other nutbar thing like that.

But somehow, I'm wrong. Oh well. By this point, I've had it, and the gloves come all the way off:
Nope, still haven't told me why you believe in a God who allows so much suffering.

You see, if your Magic Sky Pixie is as omnipotent and all-powerful as you so blindly and adamantly claim, then he has the power to end all suffering in one stroke.

And yet he doesn't.

So, I'll ask you one more time: Why do you believe in a God that allows so much suffering?

And by the way, you broke the rules. This private conversation is about to go very public, and your stupidity revealed to the world.


The public option might be my only chance at getting medical coverage. It's not a Socialist takeover: It's human compassion.
I took particular offense to him having the gall to imply that Jesus would have any right - let alone the ability - to command me to do anything, illustrated in this after-the-fact post script message I sent:
PS: Jesus didn't command me to do anything. He lived in 1-33 CE. I live now, from 1977 CE to the present.

You show me where Jesus specifically states that "Eric is to take up his duty to end suffering."

Oh, I'm sorry. You can't. All you have is a storybook full of fables, half-truths, and is filled in the rest of the way with things that no rational human being could ever possibly believe.
And now, as you can see, Gordie makes his request:

Feel free to make my emails public, since I'm not embarrassed by them. Just be sure to include your own emails between mine, and don't truncate.

I'm not ashamed of the compassion that Jesus offers the world through the church by voluntary generosity (not through the atheist government who steals from the rich and spends it on bureaucrats, not on the poor). Socialism is not voluntary compassion. Socialism is involuntary theft. There's a difference.

Why don't you call me sometime? I'd be glad to get to know you personally.

In Jesus, Chaps
Which I have obviously very much obliged and indulged him in. I point this fact out to him in my forthcoming response, which you'll all get to see first right here, just before I send it. The link mentioned in the first line is to my conversation with Christopher from last week:
Truncating these emails or omitting my own side of the conversation isn't what I'm about, sir. Please refer to This Link to see what I mean.

As for your phone call, perhaps, once you answer my question.

As for Socialism, did you know that we already have "socialist" programs here in America? Yeah, how about that! Medicare? Yeah, that's government run! Social Security? It's right there in the name! And how about the Welfare that allows so many members of your congregation to simply be able to feed, clothe, and shelter their families and keep them coming to your houses of worship?

You calling it Socialism and evoking images of Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin and Mao Ze Dong is nothing more than a blatant attempt to frighten people into your ideological camp. That, sir, is tantamount to yelling "FIRE!" in a crowded theater. Your birther contemporaries focus on our President's middle name simply to evoke fear, same thing.

You, sir, have quite a bit to learn about reality.
So, he wants me to call him. Sure! And hey, he just said 'sometime,' didn't he? Keep that in mind, kids, because I think I might build my first podcast around just such a phone call.

And yes, that means I'll be recording it, Gordie. You've been officially warned.

So, in the end, what do we have? Five emails from this sorry excuse for a good human being, and five blown chances to answer a single, simple question. At no time has he made even the slightest effort to justify his faith in such a fallacy. All he did was spew the rhetoric that all Christians spew, the same old tired argument that we're so sick of hearing.

Come on, Gordie, man up and answer from your own mind, not the mind you were programmed to have by such an outdated and malicious organization...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

R2-D2 in Star Trek

The contest is long over, but people still ask and argue about it, so here's the last word, and the picture to prove it. Our beloved little astro-droid makes his appearance at the 47 minute, 40 second mark, just after the Enterprise comes out of warp over Vulcan and takes evasive action to avoid debris:

Yep, there he is, plain as day, helpfully highlighted by Jester. Debate over? I think so!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Hey, kids. Guess what? I have the cure for all our economic woes. You might not like it, but you have to admit it in the end: This would absolutely cure America's financial woes and bring everything back to the level.

The problem is, nobody wants to hear it. Nobody wants to even think it. It's almost unheard of throughout human history. And by simply saying it, I could be setting off quite a bit of an angry mob. But still, it needs saying.

To fix the financial problems this nation has, we should tax the Church. Which one? All of them, and tax them retroactive to their founding in this nation, or existence at the time the modern tax code was established.

Say it with me now: Tax. The. Church.

For far too long, the Church (as a generic, organized concept as opposed to specific religion) has enjoyed a Cinderella deal: They have never, ever paid their share of property, inheritance, or income tax. Ever. In the history of this once-great nation, no mainstream Church has ever paid a single red cent to the United States Internal Revenue Service.

They get tax breaks for everything: They get tax breaks for Clown Ministries designed to fool children into indoctrination by way of using clowns and humor. Tax breaks for running faith-based activities that, in the end, simply serve as a platform for more indoctrination of people of all ages. They don't pay a dime on the donated income that people cough up every service, either. From hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars per Church every go-around, and the Church keeps it all.

Granted, they do get tax breaks for their credible charity work, and they rightly should as all charities do. But enough is enough.

I bet dimes to dollars that, if you taxed each and every single Church in the United States retroactive to either its founding or the founding of the modern tax codes (whichever came first), you'd have your budget woes sewed up in a heartbeat, be able to provide the public option for heath care to all Americans, AND have enough room left to actually lower taxes for lower and middle class Americans.

There are a number of tax codes that would easily apply to each Church, too. Property taxes for one would be a BIG one. How much land to Churches have? Quite a bit, from just my experience here in the Northeast. Suddenly having that land back on the tax rolls would most certainly jumpstart local education budgets, municipal authorities' ability to deal with crime and emergencies would increase (local police departments would make a comeback - I'm looking at you Philipsburg and Houtzdale)... You could almost stop right there and fix most of the financial problems we're in on local and state levels - The federal problems would mellow out without the added pressures of state and local fallout.

Ahhh, Income Tax. The bane of each and every lower- and middle-class American. The money from this portion of the tax code, when retroactively calculated and paid by the Churches, would be the final nail in the financial woes coffin. Can you just imagine what would get paid off? The National Debt? Gone, I bet. And with plenty left over to finance quite a few federal programs that matter, like research in both medicine and space exploration would be nice.

Ahh, the joys of the so-called "Death Tax," which Bush II tried to eliminate in order to protect himself and his fellow trust-fund brats from losing money once mommy and daddy died. Idiot. If you applied that to every last bit of money willed to Churches, you'd begin to create a budget surplus like no other in history.

Do I really need to go on? Seriously: Tax the Church, and tax it hardcore back to the beginning of whatever. Watch our financial problems become silly memories from a time when we had our heads up our asses.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Christopher Problem

Hindsight is always 20-20, or so they say. Of course, "they" also say quite a few far-fetched things, don't "they." But in this case, they're right, because looking back on my conversation with my new Mormon friend Christopher (cross-posted here), I've noticed a few new things. Christopher said:

Well, the Church started from the ground up and didn't have a lot of resources and if they did, they wouldn't have photographed the plates anyway.
His assertion that Smith and his followers started with nothing is kind of silly in its own right: Having moved out west towards Utah, they would have had to have the money for such a journey to begin with. The Oregon Trail and inflation can teach us that. What gets me here is his clam that Smith and his followers wouldn't have photographed the plates.

Wait, what? You have a chance at actual, physical proof of the existence of such a find, and you think they wouldn't have photographed it, given the technology available at the time? Golden Tablets inscribed with the words of a man who was never known to have otherwise even known of the EXISTANCE of North America, let alone visited it - forget the spiritual importance of something like that for a moment, and ponder alone the archaeological value of something like this! Why WOULDN'T you want proof of its existance?

Probably because it was all bullshit. But I missed my chance to open that line of questioning with poor Christopher, and may never know how he intended to reason declining to photograph something obviously central to their whole core belief system.

And I wouldn't honestly be able to go back and criticize if I weren't able to do so of myself, so here's a bit of history behind this mean-spirited zinger that I hit him with:
So, when I sign up for the LDS church, do I get three wives straight off? Or do I have to work at that...
Truth be told, this is my proven, 100% effective method for getting Mormon Missionaries off of my front porch and ensuring that they never return. You see, whether they like it or not, The Fundamentalist LDS Church - which does indeed practice polygamy, those true pimps and playas, holla! - is forever linked with them. And in the court of public opinion, that link won't ever, ever go away. Mentioning it instantly makes the conversation both uncomfortable and undesirable for them, so they make the most graceful exit they can, get on their bikes, and go bother someone else.

If you think that's mean, you should see my method for the door-to-door Baptists. It involves nudity and a very, very, VERY upbeat and chipper me...

But the real do-over I'd like to touch on is the contradiction that is him being a Black man in what is quite clearly a majority-white religion. Without coming out and saying he was Black, he made it very easy for him to identify himself as such:
It's kind of hard to be a biggot when you're a minority race and everyone jokes about lynching you. :)
Not hard to tell what he's talking about, is it. But the problem here is obvious: Everyone jokes about lynching you?!? And you put a smiley emote next to that statement?!?

On what planet is this not only OK, but not worthy of complaint or action?

Either Christopher is retarded, or he has overridden his tolerance of blatant racial bigotry with the insane notion that, somehow, because the people mocking him are of the same faith as he is, that this is perfectly fine and not worth any further attention.

What. The. Fuck?!?

As an American of purely Irish descent, I really don't know what it's like to be Black in this country. But given the stories I've heard, it's not a very easy thing to do, especially when you have people being complete assholes to you just because your skin color is different. In my world, that's just fucked up.

And yet, because this man is obviously fooled into thinking that these people actually consider him an equal on a faith-based level, he ignores the obvious wrong being done to him.

In a business environment, there'd be lawsuits flying by now. Why not within the Mormon church?

Well, because Bigotry is their forte, really. It was the LDS church that was behind the abhorrent piece of ballot legislation that was Proposition 8 in California, taking away the rights that the LGBT community had fought long and hard to win for themselves.

Why would a person from a minority that has experienced so much hatred and bigotry themselves willfully join an organization so dedicated to similar hatred and bigotry?

Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and countless thousands of Black Americans didn't stand up against bigotry because they wanted their shot at being bigots themselves. They stood up because they saw something wrong and fought to correct it, so that no future generations would have to suffer under it.

That wrong? Racial Hatred and Bigotry.

Christopher's attitude towards and involvement in the LDS church stands out, at least to me, as a direct contradiction of what Dr. King, Ms. Parks stood for. Just because it's Sexual Orientation-based Hatred and Bigotry doesn't make it any less wrong. And nobody's God can justify it, either.

And of course, at the end of this conversation, the seed of doubt was clearly planted in his mind. His infallible faith in God quickly degraded to uncertainty. Now, he was seeing things from a human perspective, instead of an immortal soul perspective. And while I can't claim any sort of victory for "our side," I'm fairly certain he's going to be thinking long and hard about his situation.

This has probably created a problem for him. Oops.

Well, what's one life inconvenienced temporarily compared to the millions of lives that Prop. 8 inconvenienced on a greater scale?

It's not about revenge for me, even though that last sentence may indeed sound like I'm gloating. It's about the same basic idea that Rosa Parks and MLK stood for: righting a wrong. What was done in California to the LGBT community was wrong, and if winning back a soul from the Mormon ranks does anything, it'll guarantee one less voice in favor of hatred and bigotry like that. And the fewer voices there are for wrong, the closer we get to right.

Of Golden Plates and Lynchings

UPDATE 4:50PM: Because I've somehow developed the ability to see into the future (cue mystic shaman music), I can tell you that this entry will be cross-posted on Godless Fellowship soon! Oooo, cryptic and heretical! Welcome to readers who may yet visit from there! Also, there's more commentary on the whole thing in this New Post...

So today, while cruising Fark looking for goofy news (what else do you find on Fark?), I saw that Drew had sold ad space to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, AKA the Mormons. The link in question was to a chat where you could talk to a real live Mormon missionary. Of course, the Godless heathen in me (wait, the godless heathen IS me, not just IN me...) couldn't resist an oppertunity like this!

And so, knowing that clicking the link would bring revenue to my favorite news site, I proceeded without too much guilt (or disdain) and awaited the arrival of my own personal Mormon Missionary - An apparently Black gentleman named Christopher. What follows is the full transcript of the chat, edited only to make dialogue line up properly, and a few italics where I've inserted commentary after the fact. Otherwise, each and every word is the same:

Christopher: Hi! This is Chris from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. How can I help you today?

Lost Boy: Explain to me the logic behind the Golden Tablets, please.

(Apparently, the Golden Tablets were given to Native Americans by Jesus not long after his ascension. Then these native Americans kept them around just long enough for Joseph Smith (an exciting name to be sure) to find and translate them (somehow), after which they disappeared forever. Convenient...)

Christopher: Well, what do you want to know about the Gold Plates?

Lost Boy: For starters, how you could possibly believe a fantastic fable like that. Usually, when someone says something to the effect of "I found this, but only I can see it," that person would be locked away.

Lost Boy: The way I see it, without the "God" excuse, it's all just mental illness...

(I welcome any chance to paraphrase Russel Brand...)

Christopher: Well, Joseph Smith was not the only one who saw them; there were at least 11 witnesses of the Plates.

Lost Boy: Ahhh, at least. So you're not sure of the number.

Lost Boy: So, when I sign up for the LDS church, do I get three wives straight off? Or do I have to work at that...

(Admittedly, this is harsh and uncool on my part. But hot damn, is it funny...)

Christopher: Well, there's a testimony of the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses.

Lost Boy: But no pictures, right?

(As we say on Fark: PICS! Or it didn't happen!)

Christopher: And then there were a select few who also were allowed to see the plates.

Christopher: The Church does not practice polygamy.

(Yes, it does, but only the nutter fringe sects. Otherwise, you're just denying your church's history, much as you deny the history of the planet Earth...)

Lost Boy: Photography did exist in a rudementary form back then. You'd think that something that important would be photographed...

Christopher: There's not even photos of Joseph Smith...

Lost Boy: But you'd think things and people of such importance would be photographed and preserved for History...

Lost Boy: It's not like a church doesn't have the money to afford such high technology back then...

(Joseph Smith, Jr. - December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844. (on Wikipedia) -- Photography - Described as early as the 5th Century BCE, developed as usable in the 1820s, (on Wikipedia) extant to Smith's time and supposed discovery of the plates, so photographs were possible.)

Lost Boy: I mean, you do get donations week in and week out, and have never paid a dime in taxes, even though you should.

Lost Boy: You'd think you can afford to back up your nonsense with evidence...

Christopher: Well, the Church started from the ground up and didn't have a lot of resources and if they did, they wouldn't have photographed the plates anyway.

Lost Boy: OK, how about this.

Lost Boy: Is God above his own laws? Because he violated several, blatantly.

Christopher: The Book of Mormon is evidence enough of the Plates. If we had the plates in front of us you wouldn't know it's any more true than the Book of Mormon is.

(A typical response from any religion, that their holy book is evidence enough. Nothing new here, and I call him on it straight off.)

Lost Boy: The Book of Mormon is one book. Where are your other sources of Evidence?

Lost Boy: And in case you haven't noticed, even the Bible isn't keen on having the book of Mormon as part of it...

(I have yet to see a version of the mainstream Bible that includes the Book of Mormon, and although I'm sure copies exist as such, they're rare compared to, say, the KJV...)

Lost Boy: Do ya think that maybe, just maybe, it's all nuttery and lunacy?

Christopher: How has God violated His own laws?

Lost Boy: The supposed creation of Jesus violated two commandments.

Lost Boy: Thal shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, and thou shalt not commit adultry: Both violated.

(Mary was Joseph's "companion." In those times, the word "companion" was taken to mean, literally, spouse or betrothed. So yes, God coveted Joseph's wife, and got her preggers, which means some form of fucking was going on, AKA Adultry. And he's lucky I didn't get started on "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and the results of the supposed worldwide flood...)

Christopher: Well. There's one way you can find out for yourself, and that is to read the Book of Mormon.

(Actually, by this reasoning, I'm being told that there's only one factual source. Narrow-sighted much?)

Lost Boy: I've read the Book of Mormon, Christopher.

Lost Boy: As I've read the rest of the Bible.

(Both true claims: One of the first rules of any war is to Know Thy Enemy.)

Lost Boy: And you know what?

Lost Boy: I find it no different than a Mother Goose or Brothers Grimm tome.

Christopher: Alright. Did you pray about it with faith and with real intent?

Lost Boy: I've read your so-called "evidence," and find it to be absolute rubbish.

Lost Boy: You haven't figured it out yet?

(Time to drop the A-Bomb!)

Lost Boy: I'm an Atheist, Christopher. A godless heathen, as you like to put it.

Christopher: Or did you simply read it to contradict it as best you can?

Lost Boy: No, I read it simply to read it.

Lost Boy: The bible itself showed me that it's nothing but garbage.

Christopher: Because you can't receive your witness if you read it without the intent of finding Truth.

(If there were more than just vague moral truths in the Bible, maybe. But sadly for you...)

Lost Boy: It contradicts itself.

Lost Boy: And your precious book of Mormon just adds to the lunacy.

Lost Boy: Try this, Christopher: Ask your Vicar or Priest or Reverend or whatever you call him one question, and see if he can come up with a good answer.

Christopher: Alright then. So... why are you bothering to get on this chat?

Lost Boy: Ask him "WHY?"

Lost Boy: And do not accept "God's word" as an infallible answer.

(Well, he wanted to know why I was bothering, he just had to wait for me to make my "Ask Why" point first.)

Lost Boy: Because I'm doing the same thing you're trying to do: Evangelize. Only the thing I'm preaching is Logic and Reason, not fallacy and fairy tales.

Lost Boy: Free country, we can both do this, right?

Christopher: Eh, I'm not too keen on calling people heathen.

(Wow, that took a while to answer. I'm amazed he even remembered that I said it.)

Lost Boy: Well then, you're falling away from your faith. Because those of your faith LOVE to call us heathens, even though we're just as human as you are.\

(Oh yes, we're called heathens everyday. Just turn on the 700 Club.)

Christopher: Mhm. Again, you can't find the truthfulness in it unless you have faith that God will show it to you.

Christopher: Where?

Lost Boy: Oh yes, but you can find Truth without God. I have.

(What I can't seem to find is this "God" entity. Everyone says they know him personally, yet I have yet to see, meet, or talk to this entity.)

Lost Boy: Turn on the 700 club if you want to see people of your faith being idiots and calling us heathens.

Lost Boy: It's right there on your TV. You don't even have to read!

Lost Boy: Imagine that!

Lost Boy: Remember this truth, Christopher: "Where there is doubt, there is freedom."

(Truer words...)

Christopher: Well, the purpose of the chat here is for people to find out about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I invite you to learn about it.

Lost Boy: You're not the first to invite me to that, and you won't be the last. But the answer is always the same: Sorry, but I'll pass.

Christopher: Why? Why what? Why we have the Book of Mormon? Why we proclaim to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth in its entirety as revealed to Joseph Smith?

Lost Boy: Why would I want to become a hateful biggot?

(Joining a Christian faith would probably mean having to denounce homosexuality, and thus become a bigot. I'll pass, since I have plenty of LGBT friends, and you know what? They're pretty fucking cool people! I couldn't hate them!)

Lost Boy: Just "Why," Christopher. And don't stop asking it, even after they've exhausted of telling you "God, that's why."

Lost Boy: You might find more enlightenment than your silly Magic Sky Pixie could ever grant you.

(Christian arrogance in 3... 2... 1...)

Christopher: Pretty much. We claim the privilege of worshipping the Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all others to worship how, where, or what they may.

(Atheist Shinanigans Calling in 3... 2... 1...)

Lost Boy: Ahhh, the arrogance of religion. What if you're wrong, Christopher?

(Bill Maher FTW!)

Christopher: Perhaps for some things in this life but only through the Gospel can we find the fulness of the truth as to where we came from, why we are here, and where we're going.

Lost Boy: What if you're wrong, Christopher?

Lost Boy: Have you ever considered that?

Lost Boy: What if everything you've been taught as fact is just plain wrong?

Christopher: Well. I'd love to share the Gospel with you. If you're willing to listen.

Christopher: Are you?

(The problem here is, I HAVE listened. I was forced to listen from Birth to age 13, and you know what I heard? Just like any grown-up in a Charlie Brown Cartoon: WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WAAAAAAAAH.)

Lost Boy: You see, that which I have been taught as fact has evidence and proof. All you have are a couple of story books.

Lost Boy: So, what if you're wrong?

Christopher: Haha, alright. well. I hope you have a nice day.

Lost Boy: Question, and they run.

Lost Boy: Way to keep that stereotype going, Christopher.

Lost Boy: Remember: WHY?

Christopher: I'm not sure. I'm fairly certain I'm not.

Lost Boy: See? God doesn't give you the 100% assurance!

Lost Boy: Where there is doubt, my boy, there is freedom.

Christopher: It's kind of hard to be a biggot when you're a minority race and everyone jokes about lynching you. :)

(Here's where I figured out he is Black. People make jokes about lynching this poor guy? Bad form! A God of love wouldn't allow that, would it? Christopher has problems: the first of which is being a Black man in what is arguably the Whitest state in the Union. He needs to get out and go where people accept him for who he is and can refrain from making stupid, racist jokes at his expense. Which pretty much rules out the Southern US...)

Lost Boy: Freedom of mind, of body, and yes, of spirit.

Lost Boy:That's just wrong, Christopher.

Lost Boy: Noone should make jokes about who or what you are.

Christopher: Good day.

Christopher: Good day.
Wow. The minute I got him to express doubt, and by extension his own admission of how they treat him as a minority, he cut the chat off.

Maybe I struck a nerve...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spelled G Double-E K

My car stereo display, the other night:

All kinds of WIN. Click here for musical inspiration.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Promise Mended

A little exposition on my For Teh Boobies post from earlier this week...

When I was 11 years old, my Godmother, Mardine Zazworsky, lost a long fight with breast cancer.

Aunt Mardine was one of those people who just personified what good is. She was kind, generous, loving, open, honest, friendly, compassionate, empathic (but not in a Marina Sirtis c.1987 way), and she always had a smile on her face. Everyone who knew her, by default, pretty much became a better person themselves in a small way. She had that effect on people, which only served to add to just how genuinely awesome she really was.

But then, of course, she came down with breast cancer.

Now there's a disease (along with cancers of all types) that no one should ever have to suffer from. Your own body effectively turns against itself: Cells mutate and grow, sucking bodily resources, crowding out and killing off healthy cells. It's a nightmare. And the treatment options aren't much better: Radiation, chemo, drug after drug after drug.

Back then, in the late 80s, cancer treatment was nowhere near what it is today, but even though we've come along a bit, watching a cancer victim suffer isn't pretty. Aunt Mardine was in a hospital bed that sat in her living room for the last few months of her life. For 11 year old Me, that was hard to see. It tore me apart that here was one of the most wonderful women in the world, saddled with the worst disease mankind has ever come to know.

Before she died, she told my mother that she had one request for me: That I get closer to God. She'd hoped her dying wish would turn me closer to the Church.

It feels kind of shitty, but when my mom told me that, I looked at her and said, "I'm sorry, Mom, but I can't do that. I just watched one of the most awesome people on this Earth suffer through this Earth's worst disease. There is no way I can believe in a God that would allow that to happen." I had no choice - My Aunt's suffering was the final nail in religion's coffin for me.

For the first few months after she died, that conflict made me a wreck. All the evidence in front of me was taking me in the opposite direction from where Aunt Mardine wanted me to go. My disenchantment with religion was too strong for me to accept the wishes of someone I loved and cared about very much. This would be the first real conflict I would face as an Atheist, and it took me a while to come up with a way to make it work in my own mind.

Instead of heeding my Aunt Mardine's wishes to get closer to God, I would skirt God altogether and decide for a more direct approach: I would honor my Aunt Mardine's life and struggle in any way I could. Thus began my involvement with charity organizations like Relay for Life.

Since then, I've participated in several Relay events, and donated time for others. For me, it keeps my Aunt Mardine's memory alive in my heart and mind in a vivid and very real way. I've talked with sufferers and survivors about her life and what kind of Godmother she was to me. I've found that, even through simply talking about her life, she still has that same effect on folks that she did during the better years of her life.

Even today, as Aunt Mardine's daughter Janine emerges as a breast cancer survivor, I continue to support any cause aimed at eradicating this horrible illness. If I walk, their names are on my wristband. If I donate, it is in their names. And if I speak out, their names are never far from my lips as I tell their stories of tragedy and triumph in the hopes that it will help inspire the end of the nightmare that is cancer.

And imagine that: My commitment to a secular mode of thinking and living actually drove me to do good things. Maybe we're not such heathens after all if we can do such things in someone's memory, and do them out of pure, real, unbridled love...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

After The Rain

So, the whole thing is over. At round 10:30 this morning, Michael Rodriguez - escaped Clearfield County Jail inmate and fugitive for a little over 18 hours - blew through a roadblock in a stolen pick-up, busted his tires over spike strips, and crashed into an embankment.


The media is only reporting that Rodriguez was injured, but able to walk to the staging area for LifeFlight. This is nothing compared to what I've heard: Rodriguez was indeed injured. I've heard broken legs and broken ankles, but in either case, something's broken.

Now, if Rodriguez is suffering from even one broken leg/ankle, he's also been through a pretty nerve-racking ordeal, and probably would have not been in any condition to put up any resistance.

And yet, I've been told that Rodriguez was forcibly removed from the pick-up, slammed to the ground face first - hard - and a boot was put into his neck - right after he was in a fairly nasty crash. Any emergency services worker on the planet will tell you that just moving an accident victim is tricky business and shouldn't be done lightly.

Furthermore, I've also been told that they spent a moment beating Rodriguez up a bit, probably to "teach him to not run again." After all, he had the gall to break out of jail and cause them to do their jobs! Oh noes!

After all that, he was then forced to walk UP A HILL to the extraction area where LifeFlight would take him to the hospital. So that's a reported two broken legs/ankles, one rough trip out of the vehicle, one rough meeting between ground and face, one boot to the neck to hold him down, a bit of the old Rodney King treatment, and then a Green Mile march up a fucking hill to the landing zone.

Something is seriously wrong here, people.

For the folks coming to this site from Buffalo: Obviously, you either know or know of Rodriguez, otherwise you wouldn't be searching for him. Whatever you do, don't stay quiet. Don't let Bill Shaw and the local authorities bully you. Speak up. Demand an investigation.

While Rodriguez was a sick puppy (burglary and assaulting his ex-girlfriend, among a probable laundry list of other violent crimes), no person deserves to be fucked with like that, especially after an accident. Seriously: What if Rodriguez died as a result of direct police action AFTER the crash? This place would make national news in a heartbeat if that had happened.

Thankfully, he's still alive as of yet, and the national eye can still be turned this way. If there's even a hint of possible police brutality, fan that motherfucker until the flames grow too high to not be noticed.

Clearfield County has long been in need of a good housecleaning: The corrupt elements here would surprise you. This is the second escape in three years from Clearfield County Jail: Sam Lombardo's job is in trouble, as are those of whatever COs were on duty at the time. And if local and State police are involved in any brutality, that creates a seperate fire. If the two meet and begin burning as one, then you just might see comissioners, attorneys, and judges in the other public eye: the one that doesn't like you or what you're doing very much at all.

As local residents, we have the right to know just what the hell is going on with the people we trust to protect us. If they're doing stuff that made national pariahs out of so many before them, then we need to know about it, and we need to make it stop. We need to weed out the corrupt and arrogant elements of our own local government if we even think we have a chance at making it as a community.

Otherwise, we'll still be overseen by incompetent fools who think it's all just a popularity contest and an easy paycheck at the expense of the "little people..."

CCJ Escapee: The Story Thus Far + Local Media Commentary

If you're here for just the story and not the commentary, scroll down to the big orange OK. Otherwise, some commentary:

Well well well. It looks like, apart from WQYX/WCPA (who originally reported the story locally over the air but not online) and WOKW (who first reported the inmate's capture), everybody's late to the party. Boy, it's a good thing SOMEONE was covering this story as it unfolded! Because then everyone would have to wait for these lame fuckers to get with the program and tell them what's going on.

From WJAC 6 in Johnstown, PA - who hadn't even heard this story until I called them - comes this little blurb on their website, including some of their news video. Yesterday, it was reported that WJAC's crew on the scene was pissing authorities off by not remaining in the designated press staging area. We figure that, since they were late to the game, they were trying to play catch-up by bending the rules and trying for a scoop. They're reporting that Rodriguez was injured but able to walk to the ambulance, which conflicts with my reports of Rodriguez's legs being barely able to bend correctly, let alone carry him up a hill. They also give the new location of Lecontes Mills, where the police began chasing him towards his fate on 879.

WTAJ 10 out of Altoona, PA has an article on their big advertising behemoth of a shit-tastic website, confirming that Rodriguez is, in fact, from Buffalo, NY (which would explain the big influx of traffic to my site from that area via Google searches), and reports that the time of capture as 10:30am. WTAJ was aware of the story when I called, and had dispatched reporter Danielle Kraut to the scene, who filed reports via phone on last evening's newscast.

Also on deck is the "blog" (another Blogger account, no less) of a so-called News Radio station, WESB 1490AM out of Bradford, PA (greetings to my friends there). Hahaha. Like WTAJ, they have a main Website that's totally ad-saturated, and doesn't have much content of interest at all.

One of my Twitter rivals, the Centre Daily Times (news rag out of State College, PA), has pretty much been silent on the whole story. That's some fine reporting there, Lou. Not one single tweet of theirs had anything to do with this story: They were more concerned about the tragic accidental death of a Penn State student (alcohol was a factor) and more bullshit Homeland Security nonsense about those ever-so-scary turr'sts.

(Note: I am in no way trying to marginalize the tragedy befalling Joseph Dado. It is a sad story indeed, and my sympathies are with his family and friends.)

What's the point of all this ranting? To illustrate the absolute and utter failure of the local news media - including affiliates from all the major networks - to inform the people in a timely manner. They failed to take advantage of the technology they obviously spend lots of money on, just to make look nice and generate ad revenue, apparently. They failed to use the Internet - the ultimate 24 hour, up-to-the-nanosecond communications tool - to inform people of updates. Instead, rumor and hearsay most likely dominated the conversations of people not looking to THIS FUCKING STUPID BLOG for their information.

How the hell did one kid, whom quite a number of people think of as innocuous and somewhat incapable of much, beat the absolute snot out of you when it came to coverage? That's a question I'd like answered, really. Why is it that you all have so much money and so many resources, yet one guy with a few friends and tools available cheaply to the common citizen beat you to the punch and DID YOUR JOB FOR YOU?!? Today, the local news media - if they can be called that, receives a big fat red F- for their absolute FAIL at keeping residents informed of what was obviously a very dangerous situation. You people should just resign and let a whole new team in now. Shame on you.


OK, here we go, piecing together the whole story from start to finish. The source for this info is by way of both PSP and Lawrence Township police departments:

Around 2pm yesterday, Michael Rodriguez escaped Clearfield County Jail (CCJ) by crawling under the frist yard fence, then climbing over the second. After a brief run-around, he stole the truck you saw in the previous photos from Megan and Missy, from some New York area workers who were running into a Cogos for a second, leaving their keys in the truck and allowing Rodriguez to nab it.

At some point, Rodriguez contacted a girlfriend he had in the DuBois area and was trying to get to her place. Unbeknowest to him, she was on the horn with PSP, telling them where he was and what his intentions were.

PSP and LTPD set up a roadblack with spike strips along the Shawville-Croft Highway, or State Route 879, north of Clearfield in front of the home of Sean Owens. Owens stated that you could hear the truck coming up the highway, and he had to have been doing at least 120. He hit the spike strips, lost control, and crashed at the turn shown in the photos Missy sent.

Due to the crash, Rodriguez is reported to have broken both of his legs (reports have also stated ankles). Despite this, PSP and LTPD forcibly removed him from the vehicle, slammed his face onto the ground, and someone put a boot on his neck while he was down. After this, despite the broken legs, police forced him to walk up the hill, where he was later airlifted to an unknown hospital.

Police are still searching the area along the chase route for a reported firearm, as well as impounding and searching the truck that Rodriguez stole.
Crazy, eh? A wee bit of police brutality? I think so! Even though this guy was clearly a dangerous and incredibly stupid individual, having two broken legs after a roadblock crash will certainly diminish your ability to do any sort of fighting back, thus eliminating the need for excessive force.

If these reports are true, PSP and LTPD - as well as any other agencies involved - could be in some serious trouble. Stay tuned. As I learn more, I'll be sure to post it here for all of you.

Escapee Wakeup Update - SUSPECT CAUGHT

UPDATE 11:55AM: More pictures from the accident scene from my EMS-related source:

I'm also gathering more of the complete story from the scene, I'll have that as soon as I compile it! Thanks to both Missy and Megan for contributions! You ladies ROCK!

UPDATE 11:45AM: Contacted WOKW about the press conference, which is apparently not open to the public. Crap.

The bigger news is the update coming in from the scene: Rodriguez was indeed in the accident: He stole the truck from a local resident who went into CoGos for a soda. He broke both of his ankles in the accident and was LifeFlighted to a hospital (unknown which one, probably Altoona). He also put his head through the windshield.

There's also talk of his Girlfriend (identity unknown) ratting him out to police, telling them where he was and what his plans were.

But the biggest update of all is a report, however unsubstantiated, that police (unsure as to which agency) beat the heck out of Rodriguez prior to him receiving medical treatment.

That's right: After the guy got into a wreck smashing through a roadblock, putting his head through the windshield and broke both ankles requiring an airlift to a hospital, Police kicked the crap out of him, probably out of frustration.

More coming, this isn't over yet. Pics in a few!

: Late-to-the-game local joke-of-a-radio station WOKW (102.9FM) is reporting that this accident was indeed CCJ Escapee Michael Rodriguez, and that PSP has in fact apprehended him as a result:

The search has ended for the inmate that escaped from the Clearfield County Jail Tuesday afternoon, Michael Rodriguez was taken into custody earlier this morning. Earlier today the escapee, Michael Rodriguez was being pursued by authorities as he was driving a stolen heavy duty pickup truck heading back towards Clearfield along State Route 879. Law enforcement officials deployed spike strips and the Rodriguez vehicle hit the strips and crashed into an embankment a short distance later. Michael Rodriguez was apprehended and flown to an area hospital for treatment of injuries sustained in the crash. A press conference will be held this afternoon so keep it tuned to OK 102.9 for updates.
Now, first of all, WOKW needs to get into the 21st century and come up with a better web page. Secondly, this should bring to a close the events of the last 24 hours. It's been a wild ride. Kudos to the Pennsylvania State Police for their hard work in bringing this dangerous fugitive back into custody.

I wish I could say the same to Sam Lombardo... Wait, no I don't. This is the second escape from CCJ in three years, and quite frankly, I think Lombardo should be fired and replaced (and not from within). I think I might head to this press conference that OK102.9 is talking about, take my video camera, and ask a few questions of my own.

Yep, might have press video and clips that the 'majors' won't let you see. Stay tuned, kids!

UPDATE 11:12AM: Another picture from Missy, this time showing the truck involved in the accident. As you can see, it matches the report of the gray truck that Rodriguez reportedly stole and used to try and flee the area. Still nothing solid on him, though, so stay with us for updates.

This has been an interesting story to cover so far, especially given the failure of even the local media - let alone the 'majors' - to cover this story with any depth and timliness. Sad.

UPDATE 11:05AM: The first picture from the 879 Accident Scene, from Missy. She can't get too close, but just around the corner is where the action is. Still no confirmations as of yet on any information regarding Rodriguez, but we'll keep you posted as soon as we know what's what!

: I've just been informed that a friend of the site is headed to the accident scene now, and will be providing photos soon. Granted, they'll be mobile phone photos, but in the age of cell phone journalism, that will be gold. Also, still no real confirmation on the previous report, although it did come from the same source headed to the scene, and I trust her quite well. Stay tuned, folks, this thing could have an ending very soon...

: I've just recieved word that PSP has caught up with Rodriguez on the Shawville-Croft Highway (SR 879 north of Clearfield). A report has just come in from a source close to emergency crews who were just called to an accident there. Apparently, a roadblock was set up, and someone believed to be Rodriguez crashed through it, initiating the accident. There's also a report that Rodriguez is in custody, and at some point, was shot. This is all just early stuff, so don't take it as fact just yet. I'm working on confirming everything as fast as I can...

Well, it's morning, and apart from Missy waking me up with one of the stupidest forwards ever, she also sent along word that PSP is chasing a stolen gray pickup (I'm noticing a theme here, maybe he's a Counting Crows fan). The person driving is reported to be armed, and police do believe that it could be Clearfield County Jail escapee Michael Rodriguez. I can't really confirm this right now, since my scanner source isn't quite with it yet this morning.

Gant Daily has a basic update, with pretty much a recap of what the "majors" have been reporting. According to them, Rodriguez is still on the loose and possibly looking for transportation. I'll see what I can dig up (now that I'm awake, thanks Missy :P) and update as the day goes along...