Snowed Over by the Beards?

I have a confession to make. I watch ‘reality’ TV. I watch Duck Dynasty. I find the show to be entertaining, and even though I’m not a religious person, I’m not offended by the fact that they put their religious beliefs out there on the show. Most times I feel like the message brought across is that we should keep our families close, appreciate what we have, and basically try to do the right things. Notice that I emphasized try there. I believe we live in a world where as much as we’d like to think the rules of right and wrong and good or bad are fully formed and written in stone. If you really look around though, can you find any proof that this is true? People’s beliefs and environments will always blur the lines of what’s right and wrong. Do I agree with what Phil Robertson said? No, I don’t. Do I believe that he has a right to express his opinion? Yes he does. Does it make sense to me that A&E would react the way they did? Yes and no. A&E has a responsibility to advertisers and shareholders. In our overly litigious, ‘politically correct’ country anything that could stand out as controversial tends to be dealt with in the strictest manner possible in order to keep from offending any of our fragile sensibilities. God forbid anyone ever be offended, and if I am offended I will sue your ass off! No large corporation or small mom and pop business wants to be embroiled in controversy that could hurt the bottom line. With all that being said, I wonder if there’s not something more to this story though. Rumor has it that Phil was reluctant to even be a part of Duck Dynasty from the start and has wanted to remove himself for the last year. Anyone who has walked into a Walmart, Walgreen’s, Target, or just about any retailer in the last year would have trouble missing the fact that Willie Robertson, or someone he’s working with, is a marketing genius. For all of the ‘aww shucks’ redneck comedy of Duck Dynasty, there is serious marketing going on in every episode. Willie has a business degree and was able to turn a small regional niche company into a multi-million dollar juggernaut, and that was before A&E and Walmart joined the fold. Is letting Phil, who has reportedly bashed gays in his church and the public for awhile, talk to a reporter from GQ Magazine, who should be assumed would broach the subject of Phil’s feelings about gays, (Why in the Hell is GQ talking to the Robertsons anyway?) a way to keep Duck Dynasty in the news while on hiatus, as well as let Phil have a reason to leave the show? The Robertsons have come out and stated that they can’t imagine continuing the A&E show without Phil as a part of it. Is this a bargaining tool for Willie to make a more lucrative deal with a competing network? I’m reasonably sure that A&E knows what a valuable commodity Duck Dynasty is (reportedly the highest rated cable series in history), but pretty much every company is going to try to negotiate the best deal for their side, it’s just good business. Did A&E try to lowball Willie and the gang into a new, less than favorable contract while they still had some leverage? We may never know the whole story here, but my feeling is that Willie is a shrewd business man who knows a little bit about marketing a product to the rest of the country that isn’t LA or NYC, meaning the rest of us who’s lives aren’t glamorous and champagne filled. He has been able to sell an idea that any good ‘ol redneck can be a captain of industry if you just work hard, love your family, and love God. Seems like he knows how to touch the right chords with most of America. I predict this is far from the last time we’ll be talking about Duck Dynasty.

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Free Friendly Friday Driving Tip

Hey people! I know most of you on the roads barely passed driver’s ed, or were taught to drive from Grand Theft Auto games, so here’s a tip. When you’re behind the wheel, you don’t get ALL FUCKING DAY to make decisions! Things happen quick out there on the roads of the real world. That means that you need to decide to change lanes after making sure it’s clear, and then FUCKING DO IT! When you’re in a parking lot and ready to back out of your spot and it’s clear, FUCKING DO IT! Use of these tips will probably make everyone on the roads’ days much easier, and maybe clear some of the damn traffic jams.

Thanks, from those of us who know how to drive.

I AM A LIAR

I’ve had something weighing on my mind for my whole life. Something that has eaten away at me every day. Something that has ruined relationships with friends, family, and significant others. This thing is not easy to talk or write about. It’s not something that I generally do with any ill will towards anyone. It’s something that I often don’t realize I’ve done until later. It’s something I’ve done to probably everyone I’ve ever come in contact with. It’s doesn’t always start as a big thing,  but often snowballs out of control before I know it. It’s often hard to keep track of all of it. It weighs on my mind all of the time. I am a liar. If you know me, I’ve lied to you. You may or may not have realized it. You may have known and just didn’t care. You may have been hurt and never spoke to me again, or it was strained and hard to talk to me again. You probably don’t trust me, and I’ve given you no reason why you should. You may hate me. You may feel sorry for me. You almost certainly don’t understand why I lie. Hell, I don’t understand why I do it most of the time. It is a problem, my problem, and I’m working to fix it. If I could make it up to the people I’ve hurt, I would. Not that you have any reason to believe me.

Power of Music

I’m really not sure why, but I am still amazed at the power of music. In my 30 some years, music has been the main constant. Almost any memory I have has a bit of a soundtrack associated with it, whether it’s just one song, a whole album, an artist’s entire catalog, or a commercial jingle. I think I will always be in awe of how just hearing the beginning notes of some songs can instantly change my mood for the better or worse. Today, I started listening to the album Don’t Tell a Soul by The Replacements and I could smell the interior of my old 1979 Ford Granada, I could remember the anxiety of not having my homework done, and the pain of getting shot down for a date. Listening to Sugar’s Copper Blue last week brought me back to summer nights riding around in my 1986 Escort with my best friend. I could feel the warm breeze, and smell the remnants of a rain storm, as well as feel the heartache of a fight with my high school girlfriend. Hearing an old Pink Floyd or Zeppelin song puts me back in the passenger seat of my dad’s lime green Mustang and him saying “Josh, close your eyes, feel the music, and we’ll be where we are going before you know it.” The opening notes of In the Mood by Glenn Miller will always take me back to a time of my Grandma bopping around the kitchen humming along and my usually reserved Grandpa swooping in from the other room to take her in his arms for an impromptu dance. Then there is the music that often holds no good memories, but can still grab me by the throat and almost take my breath away. Songs that remind me of lost love, friendships, and innocence. I think I could go on for days writing about all of the music that has power over me. I often wonder if all humans have this type of connection to music or not. I really feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t.

Autumn 2011 – End of an Era

Yes folks, something most people who know me well thought would never happen actually did happen on October 22nd 2011. This guy got married. It’s not that I was the consumate bachelor, always out getting the ladies and partying all the time, it’s more that no one really thought anyone could stand me long enough to actually marry me. 🙂 Anyway, on October 16th, my beautiful bride and I set off for Las Vegas for a week, culminating in our wedding ceremony. We were joined by a handful of family and close friends who were able to spend some time with us in Sin City. It was a short, sweet little ceremony in front of a waterfall inside one of the resorts. My baby looked ravishing, while I looked like a troll. 🙂 I joke, but she really did look amazing that night. After the ceremony, we had some dinner with our family and friends, and then took some pictures. We were exhausted from the week leading up to our nuptuals, so we did the only thing logical the next day, we embarked on a 10+ hour drive in a rented Mustang convertible to San Francisco. My wife had always wanted to go there, so of course, I obliged. We spent about 3 days in San Fran, and I can definitely say that it is a beautiful city, but I did not leave my heart there like Tony Bennett did. I’m not sure I could ever see myself living in SF. The drivers are horrible, service industry workers are rude, parking sucks, and having to pay a toll every time you turn around got ridiculous. We did take in Alcatraz, which was extremely cool to see, and we got a ton of pictures. The next stop on our trip was a quick one in San Jose to visit the Winchester Mystery House. What an insane place this was. Long story short, the former owner was the heir to the 20 million dollar Winchester Firearms fortune. She moved into a small 8 room farm house in San Jose in the late 1800’s after the death of her husband. She visited a psychic and was told that in order to not be haunted by all of the souls that had been taken by Winchester firearms, she would need to begin building onto her house, but never finish. She had carpenters working on the house 24 hours a day for almost 20 years. The house was never ‘finished’, but grew from 8 rooms to 160 rooms. There are many odd features to the home such as doors and stairways that lead to nowhere, windows in odd places, and hidden rooms. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any pictures inside, but if you are ever in San Jose I suggest checking it out. After San Jose, our journey took us to Southern California. We stayed in a swanky hotel in Beverly Hills called the SLS. It was a gorgeous, very modern hotel, and we really didn’t fit in. 🙂 First off, the hotel only allowed valet parking, which was fine, and easy to get used to. The valet attendant offered to have our things taken up to our room, and we accepted, not remembering that we had stuffed many of our accumulated belongings into plastic Walmart bags. After checking into our room, there was knock at the door, and a bell-man was standing there holding a couple of our Walmart bags, a half empty case of Miller Lite left over from our condo in Vegas, and a cart with our luggage and several more Walmart bags hanging on it. Talk about feeling like hillbillies! The bell-man was very nice, and brought our things into the room while offering directions to any attractions we were interested in the LA area and asking where we were from. We told him we were from Kansas City, and headed out for the TMZ Tour of Hollywood (HILLBILLIES!!) and he said that the TMZ van went right past his place on Hollywood Blvd. I tipped him and he left, I’m sure he told everyone in the hotel about the yokels he had just helped out. 🙂 With all of our ‘luggage’ in the room, we headed down to Hollywood to hop on the TMZ Tour. We were greeted on the bus by Van, a guy I recognized from TMZ’s daily show. Pretty cool to have a tour guide who is actually part of the TMZ organization, and not just some jackass off the street. The 2+ hour tour took us all around Hollywood and Beverly Hills and showed us the things we wanted to see, like where Hugh Grant picked up a hooker to end his career, and where Britney Spears rubbed her ass on the window of a restaurant for the paparazzi. It was a fun and interactive tour, made better by Van, our guide who was down to earth, funny, and very personable. I highly recommend taking the tour if you are in LA, and obsessed with pop culture like me. The next couple days of our trip included spending some time in Orange County (mainly Huntington Beach) and walking and driving around Beverly Hills and Hollywood. On Saturday, we headed back to Kansas City. While I loved being in SOCAL, and could definitely see myself retiring to Huntington Beach or Newport Beach after we win Powerball, I was very glad to be heading home to our pups, and sleep in our own bed. Unfortunately, we walked into a nightmare upon arrival at home, but that’s another story…

 

All in all, I’m glad to be married, loved our vacation, but glad to be home. More to come soon…

Unemployment, losing people, and oh yeah, Judgement Day…

So, as of today, I have been out of work for 3 weeks. This is the second longest stretch of being without a job I have gone through in my working life and it’s really starting to get to me. I go through phases of enjoying the time off, sleeping in, staying home with the dogs, and I absolutely hated my job and boss. But then I look at my bank account, or think of something fun to do, and I get depressed since I have no money to do those ‘fun’ things right now. I’m stressed out about my fiancée paying for everything right now, and it sucks. I REALLY hope something comes along soon.

In other news, I’ve lost my grandmother and a good friend in the last couple months. I feel terrible about not seeing either of them as much as I should have before they were gone. Luckily, I was able to take some time and see my grandma before she passed, even if the Alzheimer’s made it so she didn’t even realize it was me. My friend on the other hand called me last week to go out, and I kind of blew it off. Little did I know that would have been my last chance to see him alive and laugh with him. He was the kind of guy that no matter what was going on he could make you crack up. I hope if there is a heaven that he’s found my grandma and told her a couple good jokes. She loved to laugh. I miss them both, and really hope they are in a better place.

So tomorrow is supposed to be ‘Judgement Day’. I guess tomorrow we’ll find out who was naughty and who was nice according to some higher power’s list. I’m pretty sure I’ll still be here after the ‘rapture’ goes down. Im not a terrible evil person, never killed anyone, really don’t try to intentionally hurt people, but I have definitely committed a few sins in my time. I really think that the mass majority of humans will still be here if or when this whole Judgement Day scenario plays out. I mean really, what human being is completely innocent? Sure, kids are innocent, but everyone I know has committed at least a few sins in their time. The only beings on this earth that I could see suddenly disappearing tomorrow are small children and animals. I guess maybe that’s part of the ‘torture’ part for us sinners. I can’t imagine a day without my pets to keep me sane. I can’t imagine a week going by without seeing my ‘niece and nephew’ either. Without those things in my life,  it really would be hell on earth. Plus, I don’t think traffic is going to get any better since we’ll all still be here. Either way, I’m going t get ready to go looting in Leawood, just in case. Be safe my friends!

Book Rant: Jesse Ventura’s ‘American Conspiracies’

I’ve just finished reading American Conspiracies by Jesse Ventura. Let me preface the following by stating that I do think of myself as a bit of a conspiracy theorist. I’m not running around in a foil hat paranoid that people are following me like Mel Gibson in that movie, but I do believe that there are lot of things in the world that just don’t fit the ‘official’ explanations. Ventura’s book delves into some of the more popular conspiracy theories in American history and also points out a couple that most people probably have no idea of, I didn’t. The book starts out with an investigation of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. We all know the ‘official’ story, Lincoln was shot in the back of the head at Ford’s Theater by lone gunman John Wilkes Booth. Did you know that there were actually quite a few more people involved, and that no one truly knows what actually happened to Booth’s body? The book then moves on to talk about an attempted ‘corporate takeover’ of the US Government during FDR’s presidency, the assassinations of Malcom X, Martin Luther King, and the Kennedy brothers. Ventura points out how strange it is that every time there is an assassination in the US, the media always picks up on the shooter’s first, middle, and last name, John Wilkes Booth, James Earl Ray, Lee Harvey Oswald. We’ve seen this again recently with Jared Lee Loughner and the shootings in Tucson, AZ. I learned quite a bit about these assassinations from this book. JFK’s assassination was really the only one I had any prior knowledge of. Another thing Ventura points out throughout the book is that a lot of the same names seem to pop up surrounding all of these situations. Many of the same political players are still around and in power to this day. Guys like Henry Kissinger, the Bush’s, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney have been involved in many questionable acts in modern American history, and many have aspirations of starting a ‘New World Order’. Ventura’s book then takes a look at Nixon’s Watergate scandal, the Iran Contra affair, and the ‘October Surprise’ surrounding the release of hostages in Iran coinciding with Ronald Reagan’s first Presidential term. Ventura points out many questionable acts and policies surrounding our government, the intelligence community that violate of our civil rights and ultimately throw out the Constitution in the name of Homeland Security. Ventura doesn’t distinguish between political parties with his points and criticisms, he basically lets us know that our government is corrupt, and is beholden to nothing but the almighty (though almost worthless) dollar. Ventura talks about multiple discrepancies between the ‘official’ 9/11 Commission Report and the findings of multiple scientists, engineers, scholars, and eye witnesses to what happened on that fateful day. 9/11 was a ‘false flag’ operation to justify Bush’s war mongering in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are too many pieces that do not fit the ‘official’ story for it to be true. (I also suggest watching ‘Loose Change’ if you also feel there is something not right about what we were told about 9/11.) Ventura also talks about the stealing of elections by the Bush administration, and what really is behind the financial crisis the United States is in the midst of.

American Conspiracies is a book that I feel most people should read. Most may not agree with the content of most of the book, but hopefully many would get enough out of it to realize that we need to start asking questions about what goes on in this country. We also need to start holding our government responsible for its actions. Watching what is going on in Egypt right now with their government shutting down all internet and SMS communications makes me scared of how easy it was for them to just turn these things off. Granted, Egypt is a much smaller country with nowhere near the complexities of their internet backbone as the US has, but is it really that farfetched to think it could happen here? Ever since 9/11 our government has tried harder and harder to make it easier to track, see and hear everything we do. The US government and intelligence agencies have suspended many of our privacy rights in the name of security, and to stop the threat of terrorism. The plans are in place for the government to suspend the Constitution and install martial law any time they see fit, whether it’s a chemical attack, disease outbreak, or civil unrest. People need to wake up and start asking questions. Jesse Ventura’s American Conspiracies is a great place to start the conversation.

 

American Conspiracies

Jesse Ventura with Dick Russel

2008, Skyhorse Publishing

Jesseventura.net

 

Skins Outrage… seriously?

While I have admittedly not seen an episode of MTV’s Americanized version of the British show Skins, I can honestly say I’m outraged by all of the outrage it’s causing. For those who do not know, Skins is a scripted TV show following the lives of a handful of diverse teens growing up in suburban America. The show is being criticized for it’s content, including sexual, drug, and alcohol related themes. In a form of passive censorship, companies at the urging of ‘The Parents Television Council‘, such as H&R Block, Taco Bell, Subway, Wrigley’s, and GM have been pulling their ads so as not to offend America’s tender sensibilities and push MTV to cancel Skins for not getting enough ad revenue. I watched the first 2 seasons of Skins on BBC America and felt it to be a pretty accurate depiction of teen life. While the clothes, music and setting were quite different from my own teen years, the old stories and situations were much the same. Here’s a NEWS FLASH folks, teens experiment with sex, drugs and rock and roll! I did it, I know my parents did it. This experimentation is very healthy in my opinion, it teaches life lessons. Not all of these lessons are easy, and not everyone passes the tests. If we did, then there could be nothing learned. From my viewings of the BBC version of Skins, I felt that many of the characters learned a great deal from their experiences. While there were some who may not have learned anything, those are the people we come across in life who never learn, and usually become rich and powerful and try to get shows like Skins off the air. The people out there who are so worried about what their kids are seeing on TV should realize that the kids are THEIR KIDS, and they are responsible for controlling what THEIR KIDS see on TV. Parents nowadays are way too quick to point blame at society, rather than admit their shortfalls as parents. The government SHOULD NOT be babysitting your children for you. Look at the what the government does and prioritizes, someone needs to babysit them. Our country has so many problems right now that take a backseat to the agendas of the Neo-Cons, and the Religious Right. People like Sarah Palin, with her pregnant out of wedlock teen daughter is the exact kind of person who would rather spend time and energy getting a show that employs people, and creates and economy, than actually take a look at her own parenting skills and spend time PARENTING her children. With our economy, and wars, and the beginnings of social unrest in the US, you would think that our elected officials would spend more time answering the requests of the citizens, and stop trying to force conservatism on us. I find it extremely ironic that out forefathers left England all those many years ago to escape tyranny. England, the country where a show like the original Skins, with it’s foul language and mild nudity intact, is on the air, and has been for a few years. Our country needs to spend more time focusing on what truly is wrong with the US. Energy needs to be spent on truly investigating the causes of our economic downfall, who really runs the government, and a FULL independent investigation of what really happened in the 9/11 attacks. We are a country of people who seem to just believe what the talking heads on TV tell us, and take it as the only possible story. We are a country that finds it easier and more acceptable to let someone else do our thinking, and just want to be spoon fed. We are a country that never wants to take responsibility for our wrongs and always needs a scapegoat. Our government does it, so why shouldn’t we? We need to wake up, take responsibility, and get over all of our Puritanical issues. This country was founded on the idea that people were free. Free to create, free to express, free to consume. What real freedom do we have when our government tries to censor and listen to everything we say and do? Wake up America, your collective eyes have been closed for WAY too long. Skins is far from the problem.