Calling All MoBros!

Greetings my MoBros and MoSistas! Movember is upon us once again! For those of you that don’t know what I’m talking about, Movember (formally known as November) is the month long celebration of men’s health education and awareness. Breast cancer has a pink ribbon, AIDS awareness has a red ribbon, Autism awareness has a puzzle piece. But Movember is about men. We don’t need no stinkin’ ribbons! We have hair! Yes, that’s right hair, more specifically, facial hair. Participants — known as MoBros – give up shaving for 30 days, saying goodbye to naked chins, and hello to moustaches, goatees and Van Dykes. Let the facial hair flow!

Of course it’s an equal opportunity event so woman can take part as well. Those that choose to grow beards and mustaches are welcome to do so, but most take the easy road and choose instead to spread the Movember message of health awareness while encouraging and supporting the men in their lives through 30 days of itching and scratching. These brave woman are known as MoSistas.

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Movember started as a small gathering in Australia and has grown into an international event. You can support MoBros by donating money, tracking their progress with pictures and videos, or just giving them a pat on the back for their commitment to improving awareness of men’s health issues.

I will be taking part this year as a I do every year since learning about Movember. Last year I started with a clean face — I looked like a chubby 10 year old and got carded everywhere I went. So, this year I’m starting with about a week’s worth of growth. A small cheat, I know, but it is what it is.

For more information visit the website. Register, or not. Donate, or not. For the right Mo, there are parties to attend and prizes to be won! So, arise my MoBros (and MoSistas)! Movember calls! Will you answer?

 

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For the Love of God, Please Get Out and Vote!

Please! If you value your lives, get out and vote! Everywhere you look there are stories about the weird, wild and ridiculous escapades of people in public office. This country is in crisis and the only way to start fixing what’s wrong is for us to get off our collective asses, head down to the local polling place and vote out the crazies and hypocrites that have made their way into office.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know that politicians are people too and that they are just as likely to find themselves in the same wacky situations that can befall any “regular” person. However, there needs to be a line. If a man or woman is going to pursue a life of public service, they need to be more careful than the average citizen about the decisions they make and the lives they lead. Like it or not, public office has put them in the public eye (that’s where the word “public” kicks in) — in a role of leadership and responsibility. They need to be able to inspire some level of confidence. If they can’t do that, they should resign or be voted out. That’s not too much to ask is it? Sometimes I feel like I’m one of the few people who can see the epidemic of idiocy that has enveloped this country – me, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and a scattering of clear-eyed citizens.

This isn’t just a crazy political rant on my part. I have evidence to back my claims. Let’s take a look at people America has chosen to place in positions of power and influence (full disclosure, some of this information comes from Real Time with Bill Maher):

New York: Incumbent Congressman Michael Grimm (R), publicly threatened to throw a reporter over a balcony and has been indicted on 20 counts of tax fraud, but as of mid-September he was leading in the polls and on track to be re-elected. His trial has been scheduled for late November.

Tennessee: Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R) is a self-declared Pro-Life candidate, even though he made his (now ex) wife have two abortions and his mistress to have one. DesJarlais is a medical doctor who was reprimanded for sleeping with at least two of his patients.

** Just so there’s no suspicion of bias, I tried to find a Democrat with a wacky story but could not. If you know of one please feel free to tell me in a comment.

 

The Re-Edumacation Of America

What are we teaching (or trying to teach) our kids? Schools are supposed to be havens for learning — for opening minds, sharing ideas, creating a brighter future. But, politics and religion and just plain idiocy are slowly but surely doing away with any of that.

Today I read about Pam Manzanec of the Colorado State Board of Education. She has a problem with the high school history course curriculum – more specifically the Advanced Placement U.S. History test — because it doesn’t teach that the U.S. voluntarily ended slavery. Take a minute and let it sink in. A woman who can influence educational standards said, in a public meeting, that the U.S. voluntarily ended slavery:

“Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today! Shouldn’t our students be provided that viewpoint? This is part of the argument that America is exceptional. Does our APUSH (AP U.S. History) framework support or denigrate that position?”

When she says “at great sacrifice,” does she mean that pesky Civil War thing? Or is she referring to something important? Well, no matter. Go, America! We’re exceptional!

How do people like this get into places where their idiocy can have a real effect on important issues? (I call this the Bachmann Effect) I had to know more, so I kept digging. Where it led should have surprised me but really didn’t. The Republican Party, Fox News and Fox News contributor Ben Carson. The Republican National Committee is sponsoring a resolution opposing the country’s AP History Curriculum and Carson (who by the way is toying with the idea of running for president in 2016) went on record and on camera to complain about the AP History curriculum saying that it is too anti-American and will make children want to become terrorists. Yes, terrorists — I’m not making this stuff up!

“There’s only two paragraphs in there about George Washington … little or nothing about Martin Luther King, a whole section on slavery and how evil we are, a whole section on Japanese internment camps and how we slaughtered millions of Japanese with our bombs … I think most people when they finish that course, they’d be ready to go sign up for ISIS … We have got to stop this silliness crucifying ourselves.”

See? I told you I wasn’t making it up! Our history is full of tragic events, which should be taught, discussed and analyzed so that we learn what we can from them and hopefully not repeat them in the future. Greatness — for America and for people in general — isn’t about the wrongs we have done — it’s about how we accept those wrongs, learn from them and try our best not to repeat them.

Carson needs to understand that life is about balance. There is so much more to America than the evils we have done. Our history has a lot of great things as well. We’re not just George Washington and Martin Luther King. We’re also Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Frederick Douglas and Rosa Parks. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison. The Wright Brothers and Neil Armstrong. Harry Houdini and Penn and Teller. Marion Anderson and Aretha Franklin.

Of course we are also William Stoughton and Joe McCarthy. John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald. Belle Gunness and Genene Jones. Al Capone and Charles Manson. Balance.

We’re supposed to be educating our children, arming them with a knowledge of history — the plain truth about the country they live in and the place it holds in the world around them. If the children are our future, then unless something changes our future is in real jeopardy.

How The Mighty Have Fallen

I was going through the news today, getting more and more disgusted with what makes headlines these days. This isn’t a new clip* — I’m sure many of you have seen it before — but it’s important and it’s awesome. Why? Because it makes you think. It makes you stop and say, “Hmm, yeah.” Yes, it is from a television show but that doesn’t make it any less real or true.

Maybe if more people paid attention to things that really matter and understood our place in the world, we might be able to make some real changes and get back to the days when we could say “We’re number 1!” and not be so far off the mark.

* This is an excerpt from HBO’s The Newsroom.

Happy Birthday To Me! Here We Go Again.

Birthday-Cake-With-Candles-4Last week I celebrated my 44th birthday. I had a great time. We went to dinner, shared some laughs and got a cat. Yes, a cat. Birthdays always make me think about my life — the choices I’ve made, the people I’ve met, etc., etc., etc. Birthdays also make me think about life in general. Where is the world going? What’s it going to be like in 50 years? 100? 200? Will I be able to use technology to survive that long? I totally can see myself as a brain in a robot body. . .But I digress.

I look out at the world and I am afraid. I’m afraid for my family. I’m afraid for my fellow human beings. Every day it seems like technology is advancing us towards some (hopefully) utopian future. I am all about high tech gizmos like brain/computer interfaces, smart watches, smart clothes and smart houses. Unfortunately, in so many ways, we also seem to be moving backwards as people, as a society. Don’t believe me? Just look at the evening news. Our government is a joke. Fake scandals, lies and political posturing have become the norm. Republicans are chomping at the bit to undo the little bit of good Obama has managed to accomplish. Our economy is on the brink of something — I’m not even sure what anymore. We’ve committed ourselves to yet another war across the sea and it will be interesting to see if this time we actually give a shit about the welfare of our troops after they come home — those that do get to come home. Cops are running wild, gunning down citizens (sometimes innocent, almost always unarmed) and most of the time getting nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Public beheadings. Kidnapped child brides. Hate crimes. The world has become a scary (scarier) place.

But here’s the thing. I don’t like living in fear. I’ve spent too many years doing it. In the immortal words of Popeye the Sailor, “I’ve had all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!” I refuse to keep doing it. I’m not living, I’m existing. So here is where I will wage my battle with all of the things that go bump in the night, clunk in the day, and squish in the twilight. I’m talking about the crappy news, the scary policemen, the weird tales and the wild storms. I will face them head on with my observations and my words, topped off with (hopefully) a funny quip or two, a bit of imagination, poetry, music, books and all sorts of things that help cast light into the dark places.

This time I’m really going to try to keep my personal wackiness from getting in my way. I’ve started this blog many different times and always end up letting it fade away. I don’t want to do that anymore.

So, here’s to new beginnings. . .

 

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Mr. Rogers: Destroyer of Children?!

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Earlier this year Fox News aired a report that declared Fred Rogers, the beloved host of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, an enemy of children. The report claimed that he ruined a generation of children because he told them that they were special but didn’t tell them that they had to work to be special. Now, those kids have grown to believe that everything is owed to them without any work or effort on their part. This is how they explain the rampant “something for nothing” attitude plaguing the American people, an attitude that leads to welfare abuse and a desire for government handouts of all kinds.

After careful analysis I have come to the conclusion that this report is total bullshit! First I don’t believe that the American people have a sense of entitlement. As with any society there will be those that abuse the social systems, but the whole concept of the “American Dream” is the belief that anyone can work hard, save their pennies and earn their house, two car garage and 2.5 kids.

Second, in my opinion, Fred Rogers was a giant in the field of children’s education and development. His simple style kept children entertained and educated without overwhelming them. He wrote most of the songs performed on his show and more than 36 books to help kids with issues that mattered to them like going to the doctor, making friends and dealing with a new baby in the house, And, his testimony in front of the U.S. Senate in 1969 left them so impressed that they more than doubled government funding for public education television (1971 PBS budget raised from $9 to 22 million).

I grew up watching Mr. Rogers. He taught me what it meant to be part of a neighborhood. He taught me that it was OK to play make-believe and that it was OK to dream of faraway places and cool adventures with interesting characters. He taught me about sharing and about being nice to people. He taught me that it was OK to be me, no matter what “me” was. I don’t remember being taught that I didn’t have to work for the things I want in life. I certainly don’t remember being taught the world owed me things.

I would suggest that the problem isn’t with Mr. Rogers. As great as he was, at the end of the day he was still just the host of a kids’ tv show. I would suggest the blame for this “the world owes me” attitude should be placed squarely in the lap of the parents and other adults who for one reason or another did not supplement Mr. Rogers’ teachings with lessons of their own. it was (and is) up to parents and elders to educate children about life.

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood ran from 1968 – 2001. Fred Rogers died of stomach cancer in September 2003 at age 74. RIP Mr. Rogers.

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American Terrorism

I’ve been thinking about terrorism. Al Qaeda. Hezbollah. Al Shabaab. The Haqqani Network. These are known terrorist groups as defined by the U.S. State Department. These are groups of people who are unhappy with their current political situations and use threats, intimidation and violence to affect change.US Flag

The more time I spend watching the news the more I realize that there is a terrorist group operating here in the U.S. They don’t wear masks or use aliases to hide their identities. They work in the open and their main goal is to destroy the U.S. government. Who is this brazen group of anti-American operatives? They call themselves the Republican Party.

Obviously I don’t believe that all Republicans are terrorists, but there’s no denying that some big name politicians are openly and actively working to undermine our legally elected (twice!) president, are openly and actively trying to recruit others to their way of thinking (lies, imagined scandals and fanning the flames of crazy) and are openly threatening to shut down the government if they don’t get what they want. Call me crazy, but that sounds a lot like threats and intimidation to bring about political change.

I understand that political competition can be cutthroat, but at the end of the day shouldn’t the main goal be to govern the people who have chosen you to represent them? For example, how much time and money will be wasted trying to repeal Obamacare? At the moment it’s up to 40 or 41 with each vote costing about $40 million dollars (according to my internet research). It may not be perfect but it works well in the states that take the time to fully implement it instead of going out of their way to make sure it fails.

It saddens me to think about the thousands of men and women we send around the world to fight terror and spread democracy — not to mention the billions of dollars we spend doing it — when we can’t get it done in our own backyard.

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Flash Fiction #1: “Track 10″

In a previous post I used a photo as the inspiration for a piece of short fiction. This time I used a writing prompt from CreativeWritingPrompts.com. The only rule is that the story must contain a few specific words, in this case I used Prompt #345, the required words were: college student, crumpled paper, train and laptopThe accompanying image I chose because it fit the story.

Enjoy…

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Commuter Train

Before leaving his office he read his email and responded to the ones marked urgent. He made some notes regarding lesson plans for the following weeks and left them in his assistant’s mailbox. He checked his schedule for the following week.  He shut down his laptop and stowed it in his bag for the trip home. His usual end of the week routine. Only one thing was different.

“Hi honey, I had to schedule a late meeting. Don’t wait up.”

As he entered Grand Central Terminal his eyes were drawn to the big board displaying the arrivals and departures, more out of habit than need. Years of commuting to and from the city had burned the schedule into his brain – Train 57 to Westport, Track 10, departing every 45 minutes.

The bar at Cipriani’s overlooked the Main Concourse. The note left on his desk said she would be there waiting for him. The note, that smelled faintly of jasmine, bearing a not so subtle invitation for drinks and much, much more. Her note, now just a piece of crumpled paper left in his desk drawer.

He headed towards the bar, his pulse quickening, his body tensing. His eyes scanned the bar, looking for a familiar silhouette, his ears straining for that familiar voice. He had imagined this moment so many times before. He would see her through the crowd, her back to him. He would quietly step up behind her and say her name. Slowly she would turn and acknowledge him with a chaste kiss on the cheek and smile. It would all seem so innocent, but the way she would touch his hand — the slow movement of her fingers along the back of his hand and down his fingers — would make her intentions crystal clear.

And now, after all this time, fantasy was about to become reality. He saw her standing at the bar, her back to him, a glass of wine sitting on the bar in front of her. She almost looked out-of-place, a college student dressed up and trying to look more adult among the middle-aged business types. He approached her slowly, deliberately. All he had to do was say her name and she would turn and see him. Taking a deep breath he caught the scent of jasmine…. then slowly turned and walked back the way he came.

He was almost out the door when he heard a voice, “Professor?”

His feet were lead weights as he walked out of the bar and headed towards Track 10.

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Picture It & Write! #1

I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head and sometimes I have trouble focusing enough to choose a good blog topic. Fortunately there are a number of resources out there for people like me that need a little help keeping the creative juices flowing. One such resource is Ermilia, a WordPress blog featuring “Picture It & Write!” a section that encourages creativity by posting an image and asking people to craft short pieces of fiction based on the image.

It seems like a cool idea so I’m giving it a try. In the spirit of full disclosure, I didn’t like this week’s image so I’m using the one posted for the week of June 9th.

As always comments are encouraged and appreciated.

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JRipper By the time they see the danger it is already too late. A quick embrace, a push of the knife, that slow, sweet exhalation — like a lover’s whisper — and then it is done. Another painted doll for my collection.

The police try their best but they continue to stumble about looking for the dangerous man who preys on what they now call “ladies of the evening.” They say that he steps from the shadows to force his evil will upon them, dragging them off into the dark before carving them up like so much meat.

I’m sure such colorful language sells newspapers but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ve never had to use force of any kind to attract my dolls. There is so much more power in a kind word and a smile. “My isn’t it chilly out tonight? Come along, my dear, and we’ll get you a nice cup of tea to warm your bones.”

And so my dolls follow me willingly into the night where I have all the time in the world to do what must be done. Sometimes I regret having to leave them as I do — it does such a number on my clothing, but it creates so much excitement among the police when they find them. I would hate to rob them of that.

But still, I must admit that I am getting a little bored with life here in Whitechapel. I walk in plain sight, but no one sees me for what I am. Day after day, night after night they pass me by with barely a second glance, just a tip of the hat or a “Good evening, ma’am.”

Perhaps I’ll move on soon. There is a big world out there to explore, and my collection could use a little variety.

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