On The Last Jedi

I have just returned from my second viewing of “The Last Jedi”.  The realization has hit me that we, the Original Trilogy Star Wars fans, are the citizens of Canto Bight.  We are rich with the wealth that “our” Star  Wars gave us and vile with the cynicism that the prequels left us.

These conflicting urges, to love all things old Star Wars and hate all things new Star Wars, have led to a disturbance in the fans of the force.  Millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror as if something terrible had happened.

Personally, after my first viewing of The Last Jedi I was underwhelmed.  There were enough Star Wars moments to keep me coming back but it lacked the wow factor that The Force Awakened gave me. The Force Awakens sparked the feelings I had in 77.  It had all the great nostalgia of a perfect cover song.  I recognize the tune but appreciate the new twist.

The rage around The Last Jedi mostly boils down to it not being nostalgic enough and feeling of being insulted by not having our questions from the previous film answered.

“You must unlearn what you have learned.”  Master Yoda.

Even the most jaded viewer can see what the writer/director was attempting to do.  Where The Force Awakens tried to be a cover song of Star Wars, The Last Jedi is a mash up of Empire and Return of the Jedi.  It was much more Empire because Jedi was, if we are honest, an empty shell of a Star Wars film.  Haters of the slow chase in Last Jedi bitch about the leaps in logic it forces you to make in both the First Order and Resistance motivation and strategies.  Really?  How much of a mess was the Jabba’s Palace Solo rescue plan?  Convoluted nonsense.  Sneaky mission to disable the bad guys systems to make them vulnerable to a good guys attack?  Are we talking about the bullshit on Endor or the search for Benicio del Toro doing his worst Goldblum?  The parts that people hate about The Last Jedi are the Return of the Jedi stale leftovers.

The best parts of Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s Throne room and the Dagobah scenes, are covered excellently in The Last Jedi.

“Oh no, Snoke went down like a sucker. “You say.

Really?  Vader picked up Pappa Palpatine and tossed him down a well.  Just straight walked up behind him, scooped the darkest Lord of the Sith up with one good hand and tossed him over the ledge.  At least Kylo used some deception and guile.

The Porgs were way less obnoxious than the Ewoks. Don’t even try to deny it.

Which leaves the parts of The Last Jedi that must live up to the greatest movie ever made, The Empire Strikes Back.  Empire is not perfect, but it works perfectly because at the time it was made it shocked the shit out of us and as Dante said, “It ends on such a down note. I mean, that’s what life is, a series of down endings.”  No serialized set of films that we knew of did that before.

Now try to remember Empire in reverse.  Luke has a touching reunion with Leia.  Luke has a showdown with his counterpoint in the force,  Darth Vader, and it did not go the way he thought.  A questionable amount of time passes on Dagobah, while Luke and Yoda train.  The wise Jedi Master Yoda giggles at his mischief and sweetly mocks Young Skywalker.  The Rebels flee to Hoth and hide behind massive blast doors as janky speeders and trench fighters try to take out the Imperial ground forces before they can blast their way in.

That is what The Last Jedi is, the few solid parts of Return of the Jedi with a backwards retelling of Empire Strikes Back.  The writer/director does not try to hide this but it is executed with no small amount of skill.

“But, all the questions set up by The Force Awakens were just thrown in the trash!” You holler.

Have you forgotten what the world felt like before the Luke/Vader reveal in Empire?  We did not live in a world of rampant fan theories and teaser trailer speculation.  Sure, we had our own ideas about who Boba Fett was under the helmet.  We were told in a few throw-away quotes what happened to Vader to make him more machine than man.

The fanbase had dozens of potential parents for Rey.  The only way to surprise us was by denying us the satisfaction of being right in our personal favorite parentage theory (mine was Palpatine) or shame of being way off base.  The non-twist was the only way to shock us.  Marvel fans will remember a similar feeling in Iron Man 3 with the Trevor/Mandarin reveal.

The Last Jedi desperately tries to tell us that The Force always seeks balance.  Had the Prequel Jedi not held so much power they would not have had the blind spot that allowed Palpatine to rise right under their noses.  The Emperor would not have been able to be defeated without his counterpart in the force, Yoda, fading away.  Luke could not go on without Snoke to balance him out.  Rey and Kylo need each other and their connection makes for one of the most intimate balances yet.

We, the original fans of the saga, must accept that balance also.    The prequels and our over hype before their release was our greatest failure.  The greatest teacher, failure is.

None of these new movies are going to be “my Star Wars”.  It will always be Lucas Star Wars and then Disney Star Wars.  We are what they grow beyond.

Luke would have never have done that.  He was always the pure hero.  Except when he had moments of doubt, lashed out in rage at his father, or was threatening to kill mobsters.  Strike this version of Luke down in anger and it will be with you forever.

“Star Wars is over!  My child hood is ruined!  When JJ Abrams comes back he’ll fix this.”  Amazing.  Every word you just said was wrong.

See you around, Kid.

Young Skywalker, miss you I have, and will (and hope you haunt the hell out of Kylo)






For reference my Star Wars order is (best to worst):

  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Star Wars
  • The Force Awakens
  • The Last Jedi
  • Revenge of the Sith
  • Rogue One
  • Return of the Jedi
  • The Phantom Menace
  • Attack of the Clones
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All about Class

See if this sounds familiar.  A government deeply in debt due to an inefficient tax system and numerous expensive wars.  Years of bad harvests and profits driving up the cost of living for the middle class, working poor and impoverished. Those of privilege vilified for their status and/or success while isolated and showing indifference the rising crisis.  Leaders of the political left pushing harder and harder for freedom and justice for all.  Leaders of the political right working to block political and social reform.  All while the executive branch showed indecision and backs down from strong opposition.

Funny how 2015 sounds very much like 1789.  We have pushed our United States to the brink of turning America into what it hates the most……France.

Just like the French Revolution the pain our cities are feeling is based on Class.  It is not race that should shoulder the blame.  The fact is the underclass in American cities is primarily black, which has fueled the fire of bigotry and the far worse crime of generalization.

Baltimore City Cops are Horrible Racist Thugs who take advantage of their position to abuse the good citizens of their jurisdiction.

Is just as invalid as…..

They are all Fucking Animals who are taking advantage of a horrible incident where a young man unnecessarily lost his life to get free liquor and burn their neighborhood down.

Just like any broad generalizations, there is a subset of the population that meets the above criteria.  Are there shithead racist cops?  Yep.  Are there Black jackasses who live to create chaos?  Of course.

As Sir Alfred Pennyworth once said. “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

We will never be free of the “world burners” whether they take a communities outrage as their excuse or a fucking sports team winning/losing a game.  They have always been there.  In the human genome there exists a chaotic rage switch that starts bar fights over spilled drinks or shouts fire in a crowded theater just for the hell of it.

So how do we minimize the opportunities for the worst of us to get the most attention?

Class is in.

Education is key.  Inner cities are famous for having the worst schools, but study after study shows education is the key to the American dream.  Even more important than the American dream (rags to riches) is the American Achievable Goal (one step further up the ladder than my parents).

The combination of a good education and hard work are the best ways to rise above the level of your birth, but they only work together.  I went to great schools in Anne Arundel County, MD but did not attend college.  I figure that got me 25% of the way to the Achievable Goal.  The remaining 75% (that math adds up, right?) was me busting my ass.

Now if you get a shit education from a shit inner city school, most likely you are not pursuing a degree.  According to the Walls Street Journal 9% of all lower income students pursue a degree compared to 77% of higher income families.  Of the ones that do only 1 of 5 complete the degree.  That is a lot of hard work that many will not put in, which succeeds in maintaining the status quo.

Hey Oprah, people are talking and I hear there are schools that need help a lot closer to your roots than the ones in Africa.

Class it up

We need and deserve a police force above reproach.  Our Police are struggling through the worst public relations crisis in recent memory and it is a self inflicted injury.

Too often we see a cellphone recording an officer violating the public trust. Body and car cameras are they only way the police currently have of telling their side of the story and even those are limited.  Every cruiser needs to be equipped with the Google street view camera.  A 360 view recording 24/7 on each cruiser.  That is a lot of data and accountability.  I bet it could even solve a few crimes.  Hey Google,  a strong protected police force is more important than self driving cars….get on that.

When one of the best and bravest shows anything other than the finest moral character show them the door.  Police Chiefs around the country must model themselves after Commissioner Reagan on Blue Bloods (TVSAT question: Reagan is to TV Cops as Bartlett is to _________).

We all work under risk thresholds.  If a bank teller is too far out of balance they don’t get to touch the money anymore.   The Police’s job is to important to make mistakes, if someone in your custody suffers unnecessarily and it is directly related to your action or inaction, you don’t get to protect and serve anymore.

Class-ify Parents

In the parlance of video game Gauntlet, “Thugs need parenting badly”.

Parenting is at an all time low in this country.  Kids need role models in the community showing them how to do right and parents at home holding them accountable to doing as such.

Modern parents you might want to close your ears for a moment. Hugs and time outs won’t cut it this time. Some kids need a whoopin’.  It is hard to hold on to your hands off parenting values when Junior his heading to the rally with a black mask and a backpack full of rocks.  Lock them in the house.  Guard the doors.  If they still escape go and find them.  Bring them home by any means necessary. If they live under your roof you are responsible for them.  It time to hold parents accountable for not doing their job.  If your kid get caught rampaging in the city, you get charged too.  If your parenting skills are found lacking welcome to the world of sterilization.

These are modest proposals at best but much better than the equivalent of “Let them eat cake” our leaders has been feeding us lately.

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White Meat, Dark Meat and Socio-Political reform

Thanksgiving.  Once the turkey is carved and the football is watched, it’s time to wait until someone feels comfortable enough to unleash the first incendiary comment of the afternoon.

At our gathering this outburst usually comes from the over 50, white middle class conservative demo.  This year’s opening salvo was “I just heard that if a company hires an illegal immigrant they get a $5000 tax credit and they don’t have to sign them up for Obamacare”

With the ignorance flood gates open the deluge began:

“What the unemployed blacks don’t understand is that every job an illegal takes is one they can’t do”

“Companies that hire illegals instead of Americans are doing the most un-American thing ever”

“Illegals can afford to work for peanuts because they live in multigenerational households and don’t pay taxes”

This year’s tirade was typical.  Past years have included claims that the black community would have been better if they accepted segregation, Muslim’s don’t value life like we do, and atheist parents are damning their children to hell.

Today, as is my tradition, I ejected myself before my self-righteousness overwhelmed my common sense.  You cannot combat ignorance with logic, facts or feelings.  Plus I have to see these same people at Christmas.

If you have read any of my other blogs, I think I have established myself as firmly independent in my allegiance.  I am fed-up with the “ultra-conservative-protect my stuff above all others- being white never helped me- my views on morals and family are the only valid ones-REPUBLIKLAN” viewpoint.  It is offends me to the bottom of my soul and I am fairly certain it is poison for my kids to hear.

Equally annoying are the “what can’t the government and regulation make better- we are all special snowflakes- corporations are evil and everyone else is a victim-DEMOGNATS”.  They are weak and will never solve anything while they try to solve everything.

Fuck you all.  Since you obviously didn’t listen the last time I fixed America, I guess I will try again (not that I expect you listen)


Whether you call them illegal or undocumented, immigrants are not the problem. They are the solution.  This country was built on the back of untrained immigrant and minority labor, whether they immigrated on their own or were forcibly relocated.  Our current immigrant workforce comes to this country by any means necessary and work jobs that 90% of the unemployed natural workforce will not do.

Let’s knock down some myths about Illegals while we are at it.  Most pay their taxes (sales, state and federal), they contribute to social security even though they cannot collect it, and a majority of them want to learn English (have you tried to learn another language? That is crazy difficult and gets worse the older you get, and English is stupid hard).

How do you fix it?  Do you want to be an American?  Can you prove who you are?  Can you prove where you came from?  Are you willing to take a comprehensive physical?  Are you willing to be immunized (that goes for current Americans.  We shouldn’t have to welcome back measles because you ignore science)?  Great, Welcome to America.  Make sure you tell your employer your social security number, taxes are due in April, and we shop from November to December.  Simple. Easy.

You get to be a provisional citizen for a term of one year.   If you pay your taxes, serve you civic duty (vote, jury duty and spend money) you get to stay.  If you commit a felony or don’t pay your taxes we escort you to the border.

Under my plan every American would be required to own proof of citizenship, as simple as a state driver’s license, identification card or passport.  We catch you breaking a law and you and/or your lawyer (court appointed if needed) can’t prove citizenship…..deported.

We agree that all employers will pay a minimum living wage based on the cost of living average of the state you reside in (it is cheaper to live in WY then MD).  States can compete for more tax paying residents by increasing minimum wages as needed.

Just a word of warning to prospective immigrants.  This country is full of people that forget they are not “from here” in a historic sense.  Racists and Nationalists abound.  Just remember that in 1917 there were 700 German language newspapers in the US. We got those German-Americans to learn English in a few generations and so it will suck for you but your kids and grand-kids will be okay.

Boom! Immigration solved.

Taxes and welfare

We all pay taxes.  None of us like it.  Yes Mitt Romney, I pay all the taxes I am legally obligated to, not a penny more.  Let’s all agree that the current tax and welfare codes are broken.  Flat tax and personal development/relief loans are the answer.

Let’s get some really smart economist and financial genius types in a room (I vote for Warren Buffet and the guys from the Freakonomics podcast).  We get them to come up with a percentage of the income it would take from all Americans to cover running the government, providing for the national defense and meeting our moral and financial world obligations.

We all agree that those folks are smarter than us.  We agree to pay that national flat tax rate.  Done.

Now the states can choose their own tax rate but I implore them to also use a flat rate.  They should not be denied the opportunity to attract market share of taxpayers to their state.  Marketing.  Incentives.  Basic economics.

So if a company is entitled to spend money, and that money is considered speech, then those companies are citizens.  McDonald’s pays the same flat federal tax rate that I pay.  All Citizens are equal under the tax code.

You make millions? You make thousands? You pay the same.  No breaks.  No discounts.  Unless you are a soldier.  You put your life on the line to protect me and mine……You pay no taxes and free education.

Are you unemployed and need help?  The Government bails you out.  No question asked.  You get back on your feet.  You pay the government back.  You cannot pay.  You work for the government at a reduced salary.

Wow.  That was easy.  Next!

Drugs and Prison

Prisons are over-crowded and their populations are under served.  Dostoevsky said. “You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners”.

Fix the problem by legalizing drugs.  All of them.  Pot.  Smack.  Uppers.  Downers.  Psychedelics.

Tax them.  Regulate the quality.  Disclose the risks.

Over half the prison population is there due to some drug related offense.  Done.  More room for the violent criminals and sex offenders that see the street because of over-crowding.  More room for corporate criminals.

Whatever your high is, handle it responsibly.  What about the 38 thousand drug overdose fatalities annually in this country?  I bet those go down by making the product better.  It might even go down to the level of the regulated and taxed Alcohol related death rate (about 25k annually).

What happens if you get busted working or driving under the influence?  You have to work at a hospital or prison (driving down the cost of both).  Kill somebody while you are DUI’ing?  We have plenty of new room in prison.

Easy Peasy.

Sadly, I know that none of this will happen.  Not as long as the REPUBLIKLANS and the DEMOGNATS continue strangle progress by arguing about who is more wrong.  Until then, pass the pumpkin pie.

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Sports v. Fiction

Football season is half way done and Baseball is drawing to a close. Baskeball and Hockey seasons are just starting and with them come the season of picking on people and making fun of the things they love. Historically this has been a one sided affair with the sports fans teasing the non-fans about their un-fan-ness. More and more I am witnessing a reversal of fortune, where the un-sport-affiliated are actively poking the athletic bears.

“I hope the sport team, THAT YOU DON’T PLAY FOR AND WHO’S OWNERSHIP ONLY WANTs YOUR MONEY, gets more point score units than the other team, WHO’S OWNERS AND PLAYERS ALSO COULD NOT CARE LESS ABOUT YOU OTHER THAN YOUR SPENDING POTENTIAL.” This is the flavor or snarky venom from an increasingly hip and empowered side to the entertainment spectrum.

I was raised with strong geek roots but experienced an early transplant when my two Star Wars playground friends moved out of the school that served as our surrogate Mos Isley. As kids do, I made new friends when a boy was pulling my sister’s hair on the bus. I thought, “You like pulling her hair too? We must be friends.”

My new friends like Football and Baseball. They played Soccer and Basketball. I connected with the idea of individuals drawn together from all corners of the world driven to perform incredible feats of physical skill in order to defeat equally determined and nigh-unbeatable foes. Sports Teams became equals to Super Heroes.

Being born into the geek world and raised by sports fans I am uniquely qualified to bring peace to these warring factions, Sports Geeks and Fiction Fans.

Sports Geek: Anyone who follows the exploits of professional or amateur athletics to an extent that it affects their social interactions and improves their memory and statistical skills.

Fiction Fans: Anyone who obsesses about fiction to an extent that reduces  his/her physicality to below 50% of their potential. This includes fiction in all media whether it be printed, projected, performed or any combination of the three.

History of the conflict:

Since the beginning of time humans have been social pack animals.  The first leaders of the packs were the ones strong and smart enough to protect us from competing groups. Once we figured out that getting our protectors dead from fighting other groups was a negative play, we discovered battle by proxy. This competition became spectacle and that spectacle became the basis of sports.

Developing as the same time but parallel were the story tellers. Originally reporting on actual events the story tellers learned more people listened if the details were embellished. Embellishment became creating stories out of whole cloth. Cultures were defined by the stories they told. Wars have been fought and religions created over the untrue histories we have concocted.

Sport being the arena of the strong and the natural reaction of the strong to the weak determined the path of Sport Geek and Fiction Fan relations for the next 28010 years (from the invention of the cave painting to the proliferation of the internet). For all this time Sport enjoyed a singular short hand among people of vast geographical separation. I may not know what it is like to live in Seattle but I know their hero was Steve Largent.

This all changed when the internet connected those with more specific tastes to those that shared their predilections. In the beginning the factions were able to become armies. Star Wars, Star Trek, Comic Fans, Movie Buffs and their ilk no longer needed to travel to meet up and share their passions at conventions. Fiction fans could now share news, notes, opinion and minutia with the same voracity the 24 hour sports networks allowed the sport geeks.  As the Fiction Fans were able to gather in greater numbers so their power grew.

Suddenly they had the socio-political mass to combat the 28 millennia of being stepped on, looked down at and generally shat upon.   Hipster backlash is especially harsh in the crowded social media arena.

“Football is populated by violent thugs playing a violent game, who turn around and beat their wives….and we are surprised why?”

“Wow, you get paid how much to hit a ball with a stick?”

Comments of this flavor fill my facebook timeline all year long. So I would like to address both groups individually now.

Sports Geeks:

‘Sup Bro! Dude, we totally had a good thing going for, like, forever. We were the big men (and ladies) on campus and reaped all the benefits that went with it, but you have to admit some of us were totally ass hats to the people that weren’t down with the team.

See what happened was, we forgot to do what our little league coach told us to do all along, be good sports. Everybody plays hard, everybody has fun. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Everybody gets a sno-cone and a post season pizza party.

These story dudes are just playing a different game than us. We don’t know the rules but we can still be totally impressed by it. Iron Man was DOPE! The Bat is BAD ASS! Dr Who….okay I don’t get that one, but it’s cool. I don’t understand the rules of rugby but it is completely SICK!

What we have to remember is, the guys we root for are just people.  Sometimes people do shitty things.  The key is not to try and defend people’s shitty actions because they run, catch or throw real good.

Fiction Fans:

Nerds and geeks of the world have been liberated by the web. Pop culture has come around and elevated our interests to money making goliath and put caricatures of our personalities on display in hit TV programs. Our time in the sun has come! How did that work out for Icarus?

As Stan Lee taught us, “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.” Didn’t we always say that if we were in power we would not be bullies? Hipster snark and banal irony are our main dialects but it still is the verbal equivalent of the wedgie and the swirly. Even the ever diverse and gentile Federation of Starfleet offered the brutal Klingons a seat at the table.

I don’t mean to cause any cognitive dissonance but try and think of sports as a tale told in the physical medium. The Greek tragedies can’t hold a candle to the suffering of Chicago Cubs fans who were once cursed by the owner of a malodorous goat. Oscar Wilde’s sense of comedic irony is best expressed by a defensive lineman ending his year by injuring his own knee while celebrating a tackle of the quarterback. The tension of the Walking Dead is matched by the battle against the ever clicking clock that John Elway defeated on “The Drive”.

As a group we are more fracking accepting of sub-genres of tentacle Hentai then we are of the sports world that has held us down for so long, but no longer. I suggest a new Prime Directive:

“Upon encountering any area of focused interest, no effort is to be made to interfere with those in its thrall. No judgment on the subject matter or stereotyping of its follows will be tolerated. “

Before we judge the “thugs and criminals” playing sports please remember the following people:

Woody Allen (suspected abuse of minor, confirmed creepy marriage), Matthew Broderick (vehicular homicide), Will Smith (Assault and Battery), Orson Scott Card (Homophobe) and Robert Downey Junior (Drugs and more drugs) just to name a few of our ne’er do wells.

A closing message to both sides:

In my home, we follow one rule so valuable it’s only equal would be a Lombardi trophy made of unobtainium. If followed 99.9% of all petty pissing contests between any 2 groups could be avoided.

Learn it, Live it, Love it!

“Don’t be a Jerk!”

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Palin, Putin and Gigi

In a world fraught with stress and misery, I have found an oasis of calm and joy.  Her name is Gigi and she works in the Wawa in Gambrills, MD.

Just two days ago, someone allowed Sarah Palin access to a microphone.  My eyes burned when I read that she told an National Rifle Association convention that, “If I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptise terrorists”

What the fuckety fuck fuck!  This she-beast bleeds out monthly sound bytes so rife with jingoistic blather that Uncle Sam has started using  baby Bald Eagle chicks as earmuffs to block out her nonsense .

Someone, Anyone needs to silence this half term Governor, who was a few million votes and an irregular heartbeat of a Vietnam POW away from being President of the Unites States.  What is wrong with American Politics?  Sarah Palin.  She is not helping anyone.  She is not making civil discourse and compromise easier in this country, which is the only way we are going to move from our current party-centric extremism that has derailed the function of our government.

She is not helping the Republican party with their much-needed image restructure going into the mid-term elections.  Are you a Republican running for election this cycle?  Do you want to attract moderate to left leaning voters?  Speak this to any microphone that will listen, “Sarah Palin does not speak for me, my values or my convictions.  She is as relevant as the Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp, Uncle Remus in the Song of the South, or the caricature  Indians in Peter Pan.  She is a cartoon representation of a Republican that should have her song deleted from our political sound track.”

I rolled my raging ass into the Wawa parking lot.  The combination of my anger-fueled-over-eating nature and a 2 for $2.00 special on Tastycake pies provided me a $4.00 distraction to the hate boiling in my heart.

But there was Gigi.  Standing her post at the register, I have never seen her without a wonderful smile as she welcoms everyone.  Regardless of how grumpy and undercaffinated the customer, Gigi is radiant in her projection of friendly joy.  The malevolence in my heart was immediately reduced to a safe two pie level (limited edition chocolate pudding and lemon for those keeping score).  Gigi doesn’t judge.  She just projects rainbows into the stormy hearts of everyone around her.

Then today, because Vladimir Putin has become a land grabbing dick hole, I had to hear this gem:

The  head of Russia’s defense industry Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin,  proposed to Reuters that “the United States delivers its astronauts to the ISS (International Space Station) with the help of a trampoline”

You see, back in 2011 President Obama’s budget cut funding to NASA, effectively ending our manned space program.  Can we ground the Space Shuttle?  Yes We Can!

But there is still an International Space Station that is doing real science and keeping pictures of weightless people alive in kid’s imaginations.  How will we get our American Astronauts there without a shuttle?  Oh hey Russia,  are you going that way?  Could maybe we hitch a ride with you?  We’ll pay half the gas and you can control the radio.  Deal?  Just don’t do anything douchey like try to steal a country with shady troop movements and lies that would be less transparent if Pinochio told them.

So Russia really wanted Crimea and Obama’s administration could only slap on some sanctions with out starting WWIII.  Some of these sanctions were against the Russian Space Federation.  Rogozin said, “The United States introduced sanctions against our space industry… We warned them, we will reply to statements with statements, to actions with actions,”  Looks like Russia is prepared to aerospace cock block us from their giant phallic engine of climactic lift off.

How can we be moving this far backwards?  Are we really relying on our cold war college roommate for rides even though we know he is bipolar and has a history of not taking his meds?  We need to put a power turbine in Kennedy’s grave , because with the rate he must be spinning in it we could power the next 100 space missions (I know the analogy doesn’t work because you don’t launch rockets with electric power…..but go fuck yourself.  I’m a pissed non-rocket scientist space flight fan).

Needing my own rocket fuel, I sloshed thought he torrential rain we are getting in Maryland to splashdown at the Wawa.  My thinking was, tall cool cup of Mello Yellow and a dash of cherry syrup is the cure for what ails me. Do you know what I really need?  I need the hope in the human race you can only get from genuine kindness from a complete stranger.

“Hi sweetie.  How is your day going?” Gigi asks as I present my 44 oz of  orangish go-go juice for payment.

“Better now Gigi.  Better now”  I tell her.

You can say that she is paid to be nice and that it is her job to be friendly.  You would not be wrong is saying so.  The mistake is in the assumption that everyone that is paid to be cordial to their fellow human beings can deliver the company line and  magically improve your day with their warmth, good spirit and cheer.

Gigi, if you ever read this, please know how much your smiles, kind words and good nature mean to those that pass by your way everyday.  You are the magic that makes dealing with the rest of the world bearable.

Yours in snacks,

The Mello Yello and Snack Pie Guy.


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Open Letter to Richard Sherman

Dear Mr. Sherman,

I’m tossing this letter in an internet bottle with the hope that if finds you in good health and spirit on your way to meeting the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. My oldest son was lucky enough to meet your quarterback Russell Wilson (along with Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan) at football camp this year. He has gradually become more and more of a Seahawk fan because Mr. Wilson was “the nicest guy ever”.

We are primarily a Bear household but are happy to let him spread his own wings and find the team that speaks to him (as long as that team is not Green Bay).

Last night I saw you perform at the highest level in your profession for 60 minutes of game time.  The demonstration of athletic dexterity and focus you managed in the end zone that lead to the game sealing interception was extraordinary.  What followed were a series of moments that were not your finest.   Specifically your choking gesture at the San Fran quarterback and your initial post-game interview.

See the interview here

I took the time to learn a little more about you today.  I don’t claim to “know you” but  I read the entry on Wikipedia about you. I also read the Forbes.com piece that popped up today. I watched the NFL films short piece about you and I read the rebuttal you wrote about the press and social media reaction to last night’s events in your Monday Morning Quarterback column on Sports Illustrated.com.

My initial reaction is, “How can you be so stupid?”

You said in your SI column “I don’t want to be a villain, because I’m not a villainous person.”  You know who wants you to be a villain?  The NFL does.  The NFL, in order to gain more interest in its games has to find ‘stories’ inside their games.  Most good stories need a protagonist and an antagonist…..guess which one you are being cast as?

Fox Sports needs a villain.  This whole thing gives them and every other sports outlet a talking point to charge you with a potential super bowl loss (“Was Sherman a distraction in the locker room?”)

American football is the closest thing to gladiator games we have (you could make an argument for boxing or MMA but they don’t draw the same epic number of viewers).  America is shocked when a 25 year old gladiator has a microphone put in front of his face right after the biggest play of his career and he bellows out a Maximus style “Are you not entertained!”

You know who should not be shocked by vilification of this gladiator?  Maybe somebody with a master’s degree in communication from Stanford?  Oh that would be you.  I guess that is why your SI column was a finely crafted piece of spin explaining your motivations and shaming the mob that beat down your twitter door.

The interviews you gave after the adrenaline settled down showed how bright, funny and charming you truly can be. That is who I assume you are off the field.

“Don’t judge a person’s character by what they do between the lines. Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.” You said in your SI column.  On this we disagree.

I know I am not supposed to judge people but since I do it anyway I include all information given.  You don’t get to have 2 lives, on and off the field.  You get to be one person and should be held accountable to all actions that you take.

You don’t want to be a villain?  Then don’t throw the choke sign at Colin Kaepernick, like a pro-wrestling heel before his finishing move.  Don’t call out a vanquished opponent and don’t expect him to congratulate you on your win until the final time is off the clock.

Falling into the trap Fox sports baited for you is as dumb as running a stutter corner route with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, against (arguably) the best cornerback in the league.  In your own words to Kaepernick, “Your better than that.” Control the narrative about you by doing the only thing you can, control yourself.  Now for a good portion of America the Super Bowl is about the Saint Payton vs That Trash Talking Cornerback.

Thank you for great discussions I got to have with my family about this.

We talked about the mistakes that you can make when you are young and naïve.  How people can take advantage of your emotions for their own gain if you let them.

We also talked about what being the best means and how you know you are the best.  As I explained to my son, there is a line between great players and legendary ones.  Great players tell you they are great.  Legends just know.

My boy will be pulling for you and the Seahawks on Feb 2nd.  We both will be looking forward to the point where you show us how great you are and stop having to tell us.

Good Luck,

A ‘Hawk fan Dad

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B. Marshall on Mental Health, Faith, Friendship and Marriage

Tonight made me an even bigger Brandon Marshall fan….and it had nothing to do with his 2 TD’s.  Brandon came to the Bears last year, reuniting with his Bronco’s teammate Jay Cutler.  His history of erratic behavior is well documented as is his diagnosis and journey back from borderline personality disorder.  

ESPN did a great piece on Brandon’s past and treatment on E:60 Brandon Marshall: Borderline

In the heat of Breast Cancer Awareness month the entire NFL has turned pink.  Brandon defied the league and wore his green cleats in support of mental health awareness. Knowing the league was going to fine him he decided to match the fine with a donation of his own.  He said in the post game interview, “With the green shoes, I’m not trying to be an individual but this is a platform that is so amazing that I just want to advocate mental health awareness.”  Well done young man.  Well done.

I am normally the first to knock organized religion, but in the same  interview Brandon said he found his way through his illness by finding God and treatment. Seeing Brandon so full of light and life after the dark times he suffered through makes me applaud what ever road he took to get there.  We tend to forget how powerful faith is when it is turned in the right direction.  “Jesus Christ is my lord and savior and with out him I wouldn’t be her, I’m nothing.  A few years ago I found that.  This journey is still a work in progress, but I can honestly say that today I’m sitting here leading a healthy effective life because of me sitting down, taking a step back and saying “What is going on?”  When I got the right help it was like, epiphany.  I just want the same for other people.  I’m just a living testemony, God is using me as a living sacrifice.  You have to be careful because a lot of guys may think it is about “you” but i found my purpose and that is to bridge the gap for the mental health community. “

The way he described his friend and Quarterback Jay Cutler was magic.  “Jay is a guy that is well read.  He is always reading about how to be a better husband.  About how to be a better man.  He is always searching for answers. How to be a better father.   He understands that he is not supposed to stay the same. There is some credit to Coach Trestman but Jay is probably the smartest man in any room.”  Oh if my friends only spoke so highly of me I could die happy.

When asked by Michael Irvin what is like to get the kind of positive reception Chicago fans have given him, Brandon said. “I have a chance to leave a legacy and it’s on me.  If I continue to stay on this track…..look at this (pointing to screaming fans).  When you walk into Halas Hall (the Bears headquarters) and you see all those Greats….it gives me chills.”  You are giving us chills too, Brandon.  

To top it all off, when Deon Sanders comments about how great it is to see Brandon out on the town with is his wife, “She’s really been the one that got me here.  If it wasn’t for her I would have lost everything.  I’m just so thankful to have a woman like that who would support me when we were at our lowest.  She’s awesome.”

Let me get this straight.  A football player with legit faith, that can articulate what impresses him about his quarterback (without using stats to back it up), appreciating his fans, acknowledging the history of his team, and praising his loving wife?  Some where Walter Payton is smiling down on Brandon Marshall.  

Support Brandon Marshall’s foundation and Mental Health Awareness here.

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Flipping Aisles

Let’s Fix Congress

At 12:01 this morning the United States shut down all non-essential jobs due to the inability of Congress to come to a compromise on funding the government.  Whatever side of the argument you are on, this is unacceptable.

At the heart of the issue is fact that the two parties have become extremist cults of ideology.  The left and right wings of the parties have become overfull and the middle is all but abandoned. This all needs to change.  They have become too polarized in the thought that they are “right” and the opposition can not be allowed to win at any cost. 

  My modest proposal is that everyone switch party allegiance.  If you normally vote Democrat, you are voting Republican in the next set of primaries and caucuses.  This serves 2 purposes. First and foremost it tells GOP and DEM’s that we are pissed off with how they have managed our affairs.  You don’t get to miss represent your constituents as fun house reflections of only a select few of their many convictions and keep them as voters year after year. 

Secondly if a steadfast Democrat is forced to vote for a Republican they will choose the one that is most like his or her own beliefs, forcibly moving the party to the center from the wings. This would only affect Primary voting.. Once the general election comes around you can use whatever logic you see fit in electing whomever best represents your world view. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am not a member of any political party.  I have been a registered “unaffiliated” since I was 18 (many moons ago).  Character and leadership ability carry more weight to me than political “beliefs”.  I will be registering myself as a Republican, as I see this as the party that needs the most help moving to the center.

If HBO’s Newsroom was a true picture of real life, I would be a “Will McElvoy” Republican and have a similar view of the current GOP to Will’s (as written by Aaron Sorkin in the 2nd season finale):

“I call myself a Republican because I am one. I believe in market solutions and I believe in common sense realities and necessity to defend itself against a dangerous world. The problem is now I have to be homophobic. I have to count the number of times people go to church. I have to deny facts and think scientific research is a long con. I have to think poor people are getting a sweet ride. And I have to have such a stunning inferiority complex that I fear education and intellect in the 21st Century. Most of all, the biggest new requirement – the only requirement – is that I have to hate Democrats.”

The fictional Mr. McElvoy’s beliefs are not exactly mine but I feel comfortable enough with them that I would vote for him over a Tea Party Conservative in a primary.  If we all did this, hell if even 10% of us did this, we could put an entirely new candidate on the ballots.  We could have the potential to fill the halls of Congress with representatives ideologically willing and socially able to reach across the aisle and make the compromises that grown ups have to make to keep the wheels of society rolling.

Otherwise, enjoy this shut down. 

I’ll be changing my affiliation today and will post the proof.  Will you flip aisles with me?

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40.  Mother Fucking 40.

Once again, I am celebrating my instinctual ability to not get myself dead.  I don’t begrudge the presents and well wishes, but I don’t feel I have earned them.  All I have done is be just smart and lucky enough to stay out of the Grim Reaper’s grasp.  There were times that it was a little closer than I would have liked.

In my mid-teens, at Kings Dominion when the lap-bar on the Rebel Yell gave way and I stood for the second half of the ride.  The next season the Shockwave (the east coast’s first stand up roller coaster) opened.  Coincidence?

When I was 11, I fell at least 30 feet out of a tree in my grandparent’s yard.  A nail, no doubt hammered into the tree by one of my aunts or uncles years before, caught me in the forearm and stopped me 10 feet from the ground.  After a quick lesson in the tensile strength of skin, I fell to the ground slightly bloody but unharmed. 

At 21 I caught a steel tipped boot to the temple, at a White Zombie show.  A bloodied and heavily concussed me then drove to a friend of my then girlfriends house.  If the boot didn’t kill me the impaired driving should have.

These and many other deaths by misadventure have been avoided.  Bullets have been dodged and I have leapt without looking on far too many occasions. 

But I am turning 40.  Mother Fucking 40.

I’m old.  Over the hill. Playing the back 9.  My fashion is out of date.  My music is on the oldies station.  I remember Beta Max, Cassette tapes, UHF, Underoos, Film Strips, 5 ¼” floppy computer discs, manual typewriters, rotary phones, pay telephones, boom boxes and calculator watches.

I was around for the birth of the internet, cable tv, cell phones, home computers, Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Microsoft and Apple.  I have owned a walkman, a discman, a VHS player, a game boy (non-color with tetris), Z Cavaricci pants, slap bracelets and a myriad other obsolete knick knacks.

I’ve had my heart broken and possibly broken a few through my action (or inaction).  I’ve found the love of a good woman and made 3 little half-me’s.  Someone casually stated that the only dreams and goals of people my age are the dreams and goals that I have for my children.  I calmly replied, “Fuck You.”

Sure, I wish the best for my kids and give them the majority of my time and energy, but the selfish desire to “be something” is not burnt out of me yet.  I am still yearning and working toward my better self.  I’m a big fan of myself but I’m not convinced that I am a finished product. 

At my best guess, I probably have 40 more years in me.  Another life time.  Plenty of time to finish the book I’m writing.  Plenty of time to have new ideas and flights of fancy.  The benefit of the second 40 will be I have a built in audience, and if they don’t like what I’m doing I can dock their allowance.  There is plenty of time but I am aware the window is closing.

The Jetson’s future is right around the corner.  I’m looking forward to my first bio-printed replacement organ.  Virgin Galactic may make a space hop a reality in my life time.  I will be driving a car without a combustion engine in a few years.  There are going to be invisibility cloaks, cybernetics,  bionics implants, exo-suits and a hundred other sci-fi gadgets made real and I will see them with my own eyes (except for the invisibility cloak, of course).

I’m happier than any other time in my life.  I’m happy, but not content. 

I’m over the hill. I’m not done, but I’m on the clock. 

I’m 40. Mother Fucking 40!

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Recovery and Retreat

I recently had my second spinal fusion in my neck in the last 2 years.  As I wrote about, last time I was really worried about the surgery itself.  My stress button this go-round is the recovery.  Recovery ain’t for pussies.

Just for starters I physically can’t do squat. Turns out in order for the bones in my neck to produce a Damon/Affleck level of bonding, I need to sit on my ass for 6 weeks.  No bending , reaching, twisting, or physical exertion what so ever.  The restricitons free me from daily chores and tasks I would normally put off, so that is not all bad.  After a week, not being able to do the dishes, rotate a load of laundry or change the sheets on the kid’s beds has taken my feelings of self-worth to a Mariana Trench low.

So, since I cannot do anything remotely active I get to plant my ass on the couch and watch TV and play Video Games.  With Netflix, On Demand, HBOgo, and the public library I have a Amazonian river of entertainment flowing into my eye and ear holes all day long.  A dream come true, right?  I thought so too, at first.

As it turns out, entertainment was not meant to be main course of your day.  It’s a great dessert but when it’s the only thing on the menu, Diabetes is sure to follow.  The pop culture levels in my blood are at a critical level.  I may have to go on a NPR pump to get my levels back to normal.

Since this is my second bite at the medical leave apple, I made some promises to myself.  I want to be productive this time.  I felt much better once I could get back to writing on my last leave.  For the first few weeks it is hard to type. The nerves in my left arm are sparking and whirring as they heal.  It makes typing a real bear (this blog entry has taken over a week to complete).

I estimate another week and I can really get rolling on a few projects I want to work on.  Cracked.com is paying for comedic articles.  I like to write funny things.  I like money.  I could become a Thousandiare a hundred bucks at a time.

The enemy of all creative people is time.  I never can find the time to really focus on projects that need to be worked on.  For the last 10 years I have been plugging away at a story.  I’m not sure what the final form it will take or if it will be any good but now I have the time to make a run at it.

Will this be the mythical “great American novel”?  The odds say it won’t be. I’m realistic that whatever I write, regardless of the quality, has a miniscule chance of ever being seen.  The only way forward is to do this for myself.  That is the way Then Carlin Said to Payton began and although it has not brought me fame and fortune it has been the most rewarding thing I have done for myself as an adult.

So if I don’t blast out a scathing indictment of the hypocrisy of our consumer culture via super bowl advertising ……sorry.  If a Republican led immigration reform initiative passes and I have nothing to say about it….ooops.  Boy Scouts of America reverses its stand on gays, atheists and gay atheist robots?  Okay, that one I’ll probably chime in on.

I don’t consider this the end my blogging days, but it will be an extended pause.  I will post any articles I submit here for all to share but a majority of my time will spent trying to pull this damn story out of my melon.


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