Merry Christmas! – And – Honor Our Officers

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First off, prior to getting into what finally inspired me to sit down and write something on this Christmas Eve, I want to be sure and wish a very Merry Christmas to everyone who may visit the site, their families, their friends, and their loved ones.  Sadly, I have not been in the Christmas spirit much this year due to a mix of several things, both internal and external, but beyond all of that I genuinely hope that everyone has a fantastic Christmas with their family.  The greatest gift we have is the love and support of our family and friends.  It inspires us, moves us, and lifts us up when we are down.  Please, be sure to take a moment and truly appreciate those people who have counted you worthy of their time.  Too often people do not see the value in someone until it is too late and what better time of year than Christmas to ensure you say all that needs to be said to those you love?  Family is a proper mix of love, devotion, humor, and just a dash of crazy – all coming together in just a way which melds everyone together.  Remember that the boxes under the tree are nothing compared to the people at your side.

So, again, Merry Christmas everyone.  May it be full of love and laughter – and to those who may be traveling this year – I wish you god speed.

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Moving on.

I don’t want to spend a great deal of time on this subject, so allow me to blunt.  We have all seen the rhetoric lately that men and women who proudly serve as police officers are being generalized and diminished into nothing more that hate-mongering racists who shoot black citizens first and then ask questions later.  To those who may share this point of view, if you cannot stand behind them, then please feel free to stand in front of them.  This is the same position I have when talking about our men and women in uniform serving the United States military.

Police officers are a very special breed of people, and at the end of the day, they are just that.  People.  Just like you and me.  They have families.  They have friends.  They choose to perform a duty that most people won’t do – and they rarely get any thanks for their services.  9 times out of 10 people talk negatively about police officers because of one simple reason – they were caught doing something wrong.  Now, this does not suggest that I don’t believe there are “bad cops” out there who abuse their power because I am sure this is true.  Once again, they are people just like us.  But, the ratio of good cops far outweighs the few bad eggs that may be out there.

Now, I am not going to get into the events that have happened recently (Ferguson, NY, and other places that have been put in the spotlight recently) because I refuse to allow a stage for more people to express their hatred – either for or against the police – but I will say that the political powers that be (and this is across the board) have failed miserably by stoking the racism in these situations rather than helping it  What I will say is that we have a great deal of people who are being led around by the nose because they are choosing to remain ignorant rather than thinking for themselves.  People in large numbers will tend to follow the lowest common denominator – and this has become more and more evident when viewing these situations.

Lastly, allow me to provide a few questions to consider the next time you see a police officer doing his job – or perhaps have first hand experience with an officer who may have come off as a little terse.  When was the last time your job asked you to save a child from parents who were abusing them – physically, sexually, perhaps even both?  When was the last time your job required you to report to a vehicle accident where several people may have been killed, including that child in the back seat?  What about the last time you had to walk into a domestic situation only to discover that the husband had killed his wife because she didn’t cook dinner the right way?  When was the last time you had someone draw a weapon on you because they were caught stealing from a store?  Or, when was the last time you had to face your day with the primary concern being whether or not you make it home to your family at the end of it?

Because both men and women who choose to become police officers are in a position of public authority, it is our duty and right to question their motives and scrutinize their decisions.  But until we have had first hand experience of their day to day lives, the tragedies they have had to witness, or the lives they have seen lost for no reason – we have absolutely no right to not take into consideration that their duty requires officers to deal with the worst of us.  One poor decision, or moment of indecision, could effectively mean the end of their entire existence.

One more thing I offer to consider before wrapping this up.  The next time you hear of an officer who is genuinely under scrutiny for making a poor decision – think about all of the stories that involve child molesters, rapists, assaults on the elderly, stealing from children, school shootings, serial killers, drunk driving, child abductions, murder.  Is one bad officer enough to disrespect the millions of others who are doing their job the right way?  Or, put thousands of others at risk based on political, and faux-racist, agendas?

If so, then again, please feel free to stand in front of them whenever you wish.  I am sure they would appreciate someone else standing on the frontlines for a change.

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The Nature of Things

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Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war. We meet at the post-office, and at the sociable, and about the fireside every night; we live thick and are in each other’s way, and stumble over one another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another.”
-= Henry David Thoreau

The above quote from Thoreau is one of my all-time favorites, especially the last portion of it – “we live thick and in each other’s way, and stumble over one another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another.

Think about it.  When was the last time you really enjoyed someone else’s presence? We seem to interact with others in a manner that is superficial and shallow, never taking the time to get to know a person other than to get the information that we need from them.  Or, saying just enough to someone so that they will shut up, move on, and leave us be.  We say “Hey, how’s it going?” when we meet people, yet never stop to listen to the answer.  We are constantly “in each other’s way“, focused on what we see as so important in the moment, and never learning anything new because we aren’t interested in doing so.

“That musty old cheese that we are.”

Remember when neighborhoods were communities of people who – may not have always gotten along and everyone of them had a few neighbors that were avoided – but were connected to each other?  That is – personally connected – with each other, not connected in the internet sense of things.  In fact, as I see it, the more connected to all things digital we have become as a society – the more disconnected we have become to each other.  How many times have we seen two people sitting at a restaurant and, instead of talking to each other, they are staring at the cell phone?  I know I am guilty of it.

We don’t seem to listen to each other anymore.  We hear noise.  Could this be a reason people are so hyper-sensitive these days?  They hear a few words and immediately jump on those without understanding the context in which they were spoken.  Active communication is a mixture of words, expression, body movement, and even eye contact.  If all of those elements are removed, other than the words, then it is no wonder people will say something and them immediately wonder just how in the hell things got so out of hand so quickly.  A quick review of ANY internet forum or open venue for discussion showcases this almost immediately.  A person types something, another person doesn’t perceive the context or true meaning behind it, and then raises the torches and pitch forks because they were offended.  They see the words, but don’t have a point of reference on how they were meant to be received.  And, for anyone well versed in sarcasm, this can lead to moments that are both hilariously “who’s on first” type of back and forth conversation – or moments that get blown WAY out of proportion.

We live thick and in each other’s way…we thus lose some respect for one another.” – and this was before all of this technology was available.  How much more so is this true today?

We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war.”

Speaking to each other with respect and understanding.  That used to be the rule of the day – but this notion of common respect has since been bastardized into what is now referred to as political correctness.  Instead of appreciating when someone has the gall to say it without sugar-coating it, plainly so that your meaning is fully understood without question – we are now saddled with self-imposed rules on what we can and cannot say for fear of offending someone.  Now, the meaning of things is so muddled by dancing around the topic with careful language and self-censorship that it is no wonder people have become so disconnected to each other.  We can’t understand a damn thing we are saying to each other anyway!

I had an interesting interaction with someone over Facebook the other day where the person justified his asshole-like means of communication over the internet by saying that, sometimes, the best way to be understood is to put it as plainly as possible regardless on how it may sound.  I respect that.  The internet affords a certain amount of anonymity with it that is inherent due to the fact that it is not face to face communication.  And, because of this, there are many, many times where people take advantage of this in order to be a person they are not able to be in the real world.  But, what does that say about us as a society when people are more prone to being honest with each other through a venue which is largely make-believe – rather than with each other on a day to day basis?  We can’t even step outside our own homes these days without putting on the mask of self-censorship because of fear that some hyper-sensitive person may hear something that wasn’t even aimed at them in the first place.

Society is commonly too cheap.  We meet at short intervals, not having had time to acquire and new value for each other.”

In a quote from the movie Fight Club, we have single serving friends.  The guy at the convenience store, who can likely play jump rope with his earlobes because they have been gauged so large, knows how we like our coffee and how many packs of cigarettes we will be purchasing.  Do we know anything about that guy?  No.  But, he may be one of the friendliest interactions we have all day.  He serves a purpose for our day, and we thus refer to him (or her) as a friend.  We judge people immediately, and often times without cause.  That person who cut us off on the freeway?  Well, we hope they rear-end the person in front of us because of this transgression.  Did it really affect our day whatsoever?  No; but because they had the audacity to cut us off we have placed them in the expendable pile.  When someone goes out the “In” door when we are walking in to shop, almost running into us in the process.  What an asshole!  They completely screwed up the natural order of things and although we have not been assaulted whatsoever, we spend at least the first few moments in that store secretly hoping they stepped into the parking lot and got struck by that person in the large SUV that let you cross the street a moment ago.  These are examples of the nature of our interactions with people these days.  Why?  Because our lives, no matter how tedious or inconsequential the task may be at the time, are seen as infinitely more important than anyone else around us.  We are a society of narcissists who are too busy taking “selfies” to recognize that there are other people in the background.  Unless they photobomb us – then we may as well be proclaiming a jihad on them because, how dare they!

Remember the movie Pay it Forward?  One child does something nice for someone else, and instead of accepting gratitude for that act, all he asks is that the person take that thanks and “pay it forward” to someone else.  Can you imagine how much better we as a society would be if that was a common-place practice?  Simple acts can bring about tremendous change, if only WE get out of the way and let them happen without expecting it to be reciprocated.  People refer to karma all of the time, normally under negative circumstances – as in “well, karma will get that SOB for what he did”.  I don’t subscribe to karma – I subscribe to human decency and compassion.  If we had more of that in today’s society, and less over-reaction to arbitrary situations, perhaps we would all see each other in a more positive light.  Less cheap, and more value.

In the spirit of Christmas (yes, Christmas.  Not x-mas, or holiday – Christmas!  If you are offended by a word, then you are one of those hyper-sensitive people I have been referring to), I am challenging myself to seek out opportunities to serve others – and I challenge others who may be like-minded to do the same.

Give ten bucks to the Salvation Army – then return after you are shopping and hand them the change you just got back as well.  Why?  Well, why not?
Buy $30 worth of food from the fast-food establishment of your choice, and then hand it out to those who may be holding signs on the side of the road.
Pick out 5 Christmas angel’s from the mall and fulfill those wishes for children.  You can be their Santa, and much like Santa, they will never know where or how that actually got under their tree.
Or, if money is tight – I know mine is – then offer up your time to a homeless shelter, community outreach program, or church neighborhood program.  Who cares if you are religious or not – that’s not the point.  It’s an opportunity to do something great for someone else because you have sacrificed a little bit of time on a day that would have likely been chewed up doing next to nothing anyway.

Don’t do it because you want people to recognize how magnanimous you are being, or because you want a reward.  Do it because, by showing others that they are valuable enough to get some of your time and that others care about them, it may have a profound affect on how much value they put in themselves.

Step off your own pedestal long enough to lift someone else up and you may wind up enjoying the view.  It’s difficult to see value in someone when you only see them over the tip of your nose.

So…it’s been a while

Life is what happens while you are making other plans.”

Yea… that has proven to be true time and time again.  Of course, when I started this blog I had set quite the bar for myself.  Updating every other day, doing different topics on news, entertainment, personal rants…etc.  Essentially, I structured the whole damn thing in such a way that it wasn’t “fun” anymore – but rather became just another chore that needed to be tended to.  So, in an effort to keep it fun, I am going to keep things simple.

When I have something to say, I will post it.

There, that isn’t so hard; right?  To those who have clicked on the little “follow” button, I greatly appreciate your patience and interest.  I hope that this continues and, hopefully, we can start some great back and forth communication together.

Off we go!

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It is official… my childhood, and the childhood of millions of people has been buried in the digital age only to suffer a long, slow, suffocating death.  This little tidbit passed under my radar without being recognized because it has been so long since I have tended to things from my childhood, so imagine my surprise when I learned that it happened over three months ago!  The era of Saturday morning cartoons is officially over.

Gone are the days when children who have had to deal with teachers and parents telling them what they can and cannot do all week, can find some brief respite through something as simple as filling up a cereal bowl and camping in front of the television set for the first few hours of any given Saturday.  I remember them well.  Darkwing Duck, Heathcliff, Garfield, Gargoyles, He-man, Shirttails, Smurfs, Voltron, Thundercats, GI Joe, Go Bots (yep, Go Bots – but Transformers deserves a mention as well I suppose) – the list goes on and on.  I even remember Ernest (Jim Varney’s iconic children’s character) coming on every weekend, “You know what I mean, Vern?”

We are slowly weeding out everything that made childhood great.

Saturday morning cartoons – Gone.
Schools are having trouble funding art and music programs.
Biking without a helmet – you just learned how to take a fall back then!
Being able to go out of the house ALL day with your friends without fear of some creep seeing an opportunity.
Meeting up with your friends required nothing more than a bike, and we actually talked with each other instead of texting.
Remembering telephone numbers required a mental rolodex that – every now and then – got the numbers transposed and was always immediately available.  These days, I barely remember my own number without looking it up!
Forts!

As I consider these things that have become nothing more than great memories, I find myself almost in mourning for a childhood that was more sunny days and tearing down dirt paths on a Huffy (or Schwinn)  – rather than staring into a digital screen, tapping on apps, and then claiming that they are bored and have nothing to do.  Texting is communicating – in as little words as possible, numerous misspellings, and so many combinations of various letters and numbers that it is difficult to determine if they are even using English anymore.  B4, U2, YOLO (apparently, this is the battle cry for stupidity). TLDR; too long, didn’t read – I had to look this one up and was both insulted and enlightened at the same time when I discovered its meaning. So, anything more than a paragraph, if you are lucky, is too much. No wonder so many young people are so misinformed these days.

Things may have gotten easier in some regard due to the changes brought on by this digital age we live in; but what has been the cost?  Have we successfully killed the innocent “playtime” of children, destroyed their sense of wonder, and instead created young people who believe that Google is the only source of all things true. It isn’t; and allowing them to believe that is a treacherous path all on its own – but beyond that it generates a lack of questioning and discovery that makes childhood so much fun!  Don’t know the answer?  Fine; guess I’ll use my imagination to fill in the gaps!

Then again; maybe this is what every generation goes through when looking at the generations that comes after them.  Sometimes, it’s “why didn’t we have that when WE were kids?!” – other times it’s simply a shaking of the head, followed by a muttering of the longer version of WTF?

We Didn’t Start The Fire

 Angels’ Cry

The eyes of the innocent open to observe the world.

We love, mainly ourselves.
We feel, nothing but what is expected.
We damn, not only others, but ourselves as well.
We act, but rarely do we know who we are.
We ask why, but then muddle the answer with our own expectations.
We live, in circles, and all too often in a world without touch.
We miss each other even though we are surrounded by life.
We are anti-socials, craving to be heard, and yet too deaf to hear the voice of others.

Scale back your perception, widen your gaze, and allow more than what you think you know.  In a world blinded by digital representations of who we wish to present to the outside world, we long for someone to understand who we are.  Someone to relate to what we are, who we were, and who we are trying to become.
We share ourselves with complete strangers, in as limited characters as we can… all while secretly longing for someone to talk to.  Someone to connect with and participate in the creation of a memory.  A history in digital form is one that can be erased.  Are we the software of the future, or the virus bringing about our downfall?  In a world of interconnectivity and information on demand, we have not only lost our connection with each other, but with ourselves as well.

Scale back.

The world’s view of peace is dependent on the ones holding the power; each power believing their peace is right and killing to protect it.  We are the very definition of irony; and yet too blind to recognize it.  The goal of self-preservation is capricious if we act only for ourselves.  It has been stated that, “All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing”, so, if we are victims, it is by our own hand.
The world burns with unsatisfied emotion.  The voices of seven billion people go unheard because no one is listening to what is being said.

Scale back.

The eyes of the innocent close to a world that has been observed; silent tears glimmer in the light as they fall.
The angels’ cry is not for herself, but for those who have been given the power to create life and seem to only be interested in condemning it.

Scale back.

Observe.

J.W. McNabb

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I wrote that quite a while back, and as I look around at the world today I feel it is more apt than ever.  On a long enough timeline, the life expectancy of everyone drops to zero.  If we were to put the fate of our world on a timeline representing our collective life expectancy, I believe we would have no other choice but to put ourselves towards the end of that timeline.  We seem bound and determined to create as much chaos around us as possible.  We see the wall, but instead of hitting the brakes and taking a moment to re-evaluate our current course, we instead hit the accelerator.

Missouri is tearing itself apart.
Iraq is in the middle of a civil war – genocide in the name of theocracy.  ISIS and the caliphate becoming a new and daunting challenge.
Israel is fighting for it’s right to survive in a part of the world that only seems to want it to die.
Ebola outbreaks.
Massive, and frequent, earthquakes.
Super-storms.
Iran is going nuclear.
North Korea is going nuclear.
Japan is, once again, embracing militarization.
China is strategically positioning itself as a world power.
Russia has re-emerged as a force to be reckoned with.
America, and it’s voice on the world stage, is becoming less and less powerful.

Lines are being drawn.  Political alliances are being tested, each one pointing the finger at the other.
It genuinely feels as if we are one incident away from tearing each other apart.  Like a tinderbox that is simply waiting for a spark.  What’s worse, is it also seems as if we just keep pouring more and more gasoline on the mix.  Whatever the spark may be is going to pull all of us down.

Talking with people, it is clear that a vast majority feel it coming.  Unfortunately, it is also clear that most people feel as if there is nothing that can be done to change things.  Is it apathy?  Hopelessness?  Or have we, as a whole, accepted our fate?

One person, standing without fear, can inspire change.  Edmund Burke is attributed with the quote above, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.”  And, as I have stated – in not only the piece I wrote above but in other posts I have made in the past – if we are to become victims, it is by our own hand.

We need to open our eyes.  Hit the brakes.  Take personal responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

We may not have started the fire; but we can either watch it burn – or put it out.  Either way, the course of the world is in our hands and we have no one else to blame for the outcome but ourselves.

Oh captain, my captain…

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Yesterday, the world was shocked when news came that one of the greatest actors and comedians of ANY time was found dead at his home from an apparent suicide – Robin Williams.

The man was a thematic powerhouse.  A comedy genius.  A powerful dramatic presence.  A source of laughter and joy for millions of people.  His loss is one that will continue to send shock-waves through many people for months to come.  Including myself.  I am sure there are many thousands of people who are paying tribute in different ways, and I hate to start my couple of week hiatus from writing on a sad note, but this was just a loss too great not to be vented.  I hope that you, dear readers, will bare with me as I get this off my chest.

From some of my earliest television memories, Robin Williams is there as a wacky alien who was attempting to live in a strange new world – Earth.  Mork and Mindy.

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Even though I was too young to understand most of the jokes, I remember loving the character Robin Williams had created and I would actively attempt to stay up as late as possible (it was on late nights, around 10pm on Nick at Night – I believe) just to watch the show.  It was goofy.  It was zany.  It was comedy gold.  And even at my age I knew there was something incredible about that man.  Just seeing him on the screen made you want to laugh.  And I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss a moment.

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Some of the best episodes of Mork and Mindy were the ones with Jonathan Winters.  In an amazing twist – well, amazing to me at the time – a full grown man burst out of an egg and was introduced as Mork’s new son.  Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters were absolutely fantastic when they were let loose on the set, and watching those two men banter back and forth in mostly improved scenes made me laugh so hard that they stuck with me throughout the years.  The two remained amazing friends for the rest of their lives, until Jonathan Winters passed just last year – April 2013.

I would like to think that Mr. Winters was there to greet Robin Williams as he crossed to the other side.  Showing him the ropes, and picking up the banter right where they had left off.

His brand of comedy continued to make people laugh all over the world.  Robin Williams just had the gift.  Even in television interviews, the host would ask him one simple question and he would go off for minutes at a time making up some of the funniest things I had ever heard.  Literally bringing me to tears and having to hold my stomach from laughing so hard.  Remarkably, Mr. Williams would show the world that this jester could hit us on deep emotional levels as well.

Enter the Dead Poets.

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Last night, while still being completely shocked at the news that he was now gone, this was the first movie I popped into the DVD player.  An unorthodox teacher takes a group of young men under his wing and teaches them to “suck the marrow out of life” while not “choking on the bone”.  It is a movie about finding your own voice in a world of conformity, and not being afraid to use it.  If anyone was more qualified to play the role of John Keating – I cannot think of one.  The final scene of the movie when the boys stand up on their desk in a show of solidarity and appreciation is one of the most powerful scenes in any movie ever.  This was only the beginning of Mr. Williams dramatic turn, and what a way to start.

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Awakenings.
Partnered with Robert De Niro, this movie continued to show us that Mr. Williams was more than just a one-trick pony.  He could not only make our stomachs hurt with laughter and bring us tears of joy, but he could make our hearts ache with deep emotional connections on-screen – and bring tears of sadness.  It was a whole new side to a man that we thought we all knew so well – and, as a collective audience, we began to sit even closer to his stage in order to see what he would come up with next.

Throughout the years, Robin Williams continued to impress us, make us laugh, bring to life new characters, and taking on new challenges.

The Fisher King.  Aladdin. Mrs. Doubtfire.  Jumanji.  Good Will Hunting.  What Dreams May Come.  Patch Adams.  Death to Smoochy (loved this role!).  He slipped into each role, personified the written work, and brought those characters to life in a way that no one else would have been able to do.  When you consider each one of those roles, it is nearly impossible to think of anyone else being able to bring them to life so convincingly.  Then he continued to throw us for a loop by taking on all-together different roles like Insomnia and One Hour Photo.  Showing us yet another layer of his skill – that not only could he be hilarious and dramatic, but he could also convincingly play a down right creepy villain!
We laughed.
We cried.
We felt that lump in our throat.
We connected.

We admired.

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In the realm of people taken too soon, Robin Williams certainly feels as if he is near the top of that list.  Like loosing a great friend who could light up any room, the world genuinely feels like a darker place now that he has passed on.  As I look outside the window here today, it is overcast and trying to rain – almost as if the very sky is feeling such a tremendous loss.

Goodbye, Mr. Williams.  And thank you, for everything.

Oh captain, my captain.

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