Friday, July 19, 2013

Well, if Jimmy Carter thinks so....

Hello loyal readers.  I apologize for my extended absence.  I have been dealing with some "life" issues that have had me not feeling like writing much.  Many people may use writing as a catharsis, but I have found that when I am stressed, my urge and ability to write seems to totally shut down.  Anyway, on to more important matters. 

So I read Jimmy Carter is saying that the George Zimmerman jury got it right.  Excuse me for disagreeing with a former President and apparent negotiation specialist but I disagree.  I basically outlined my case in a previous blog, pre-trial, and my opinion hasn't changed much.  I'll admit I didn't watch hardly any of the trial but from the news items and such that I read, I saw nothing that would change my opinion.  I think this individual was an overzealous vigilante who went far beyond the bounds of what is required or expected from an average citizen and deprived a seventeen year old of the rest of his life.  I'm not sure that his crime rose to the level of second degree murder but I do believe that a conviction on manslaughter was warranted.  I'm not here to offend anyone.  I am certain there are those of you among my readers who would disagree with me.  This trial seems much more divided in terms of the perceived correct disposition than the Jodi Arias case, where the people who supported her are many fries short of a Happy Meal.  I understand there are many intelligent, perfectly sane individuals in this country who believe George Zimmerman's actions were warranted and that the correct outcome resulted.  I respect those opinions as I hope that others will respect mine that differs.  I believe Zimmerman was guilty of manslaughter and I believe his acquittal sends a dangerous message. 

While I would never advocate or take part in any retribution, I do believe that Mr. Zimmerman will be "free" only in the sense that he will not be behind steel bars.  Much like Casey Anthony, he will be looking over his shoulder the rest of his entire life.  Welcome to life in the new social media age, where a defendant may be exonerated in the courtroom but still has a sentence to serve. 

I hear the Feds are considering filing civil rights charges.  While we're on the subject, allow me to address this aspect of the law.  I believe when our forefathers wrote prohibitions in the Constitution against double jeopardy, I don't think they wished that overzealous lawmen would someday use the separation of state and federal powers as an excuse to twice subject someone to the loss of life or liberty.  I have seen this tactic used in many high profile cases going back many years and I believe it is just wrong.  While I disagree with the jury's decision in the Zimmerman case, I respect it and our system of justice and I don't believe that he should be tried again in some federal loophole.  He faced a jury of his peers and has been exonerated.  Just because there is a racial element to the disgust within some factions of the population does not mean that our government should somehow go searching for ways to try him again.  The jury spoke, it's over, let's move on. 

Thanks to those of you who have stuck with me over these past several weeks.  I am dealing and continue to deal with issues but I don't plan to be gone so long this time.  Until next time.......ta ta for now!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The End Is Near

Happy Saturday to you, loyal readers.  Today, I will offer another motion picture review but first I'd like to share with you one of the random thoughts that often invades my mind.  I'm really glad that my oldest son is peeing regularly in the toilet now.  If I happen to misfire from time to time, I can just blame it on him.  That is all. 

Now for the main event.  Today, I will offer you a review of the film This Is The End.  It stars Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and Jay Baruchel (whoever the heck he is) as themselves in what is basically an end of the world disaster flick.  After a few minutes of interaction between Seth and Jay, the action moves to a Hollywood party at the newly constructed home of James Franco.  Among the stars who make cameos at the party are Michael Cera, Rhianna, and Emma Watson (of  Harry Potter fame). 

Let me just be upfront with you and say that I am very demanding of my movie entertainment.  The word some would use would be "anal" but nevertheless I am very discerning when it comes to such.  There is a high bar when it comes to me and what is shown on the big screen.  More often than not, I walk away disappointed as I leave a theater. 

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by This Is The End.  To be sure, this film is not for those who are easily offended.  If your idea of a good time is to sip tea, eat crumpets and admire an old Clark Gable movie, then this is probably not the picture for you.  It is full of the kind of sophomoric humor that inundates the majority of the movies in which Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and the rest of the cast (except for that Jay guy.  I don't even know what he's been in) typically star in.  That being said, there are laughs and quite a few of them.  And more than just a handful of the laugh out loud kind that I rarely, if ever, seem to find in today's comedies.  If you can look past the noticeably teenaged nature of most of the jokes like I did, I think you will find yourself pleasantly entertained. 

As I said, this is what amounts to an end of the world disaster flick.  After a few introductory minutes of chit chat at the aforementioned party, all hell (pardon the pun) breaks loose, explosions begin to occur and beams of blue light begin to drag some citizens skyward.  After several of their compatriots are killed in various disgusting ways, Franco and gang retreat to what's left of his house to try and wait out whatever may be happening until their rescuers arrive.  Beware, this flick is billed as a horror comedy and it has its share of blood and gore.  Also quite surprisingly (I write horror, so very little scares me), there are a couple of genuinely scary moments, not so much due to the actual events but rather due to their shocking timing on the screen and the blaring theater speakers that amplify their sound.  As far as the horror part, it is mainly the campy variety, with largely laughable demons and other creatures and corny reactions by the cast to happenings.  But then I never went to see it for its horror qualities. 

This movie works, at least for me, despite its adolescent humor and its corny attempts at establishing an ominous tone.  It's been awhile since I had the sort of laughs in a theater that I had while I was watching the latest offering from Seth Rogen and pals.  Again, not for the prudish or easily offended, but an overall entertaining night on the town nonetheless.  I give it three Fleeves out of four. 

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!  Until next time.....       

Friday, June 28, 2013

Of Accountability and Double Standards

Hello friends!  Your favorite blogger is back, itching to chime in on what has been one of the main news stories over the past week or so. 

I'm speaking of course of the Paula Deen situation.  Apparently, this woman admitted to saying a disparaging word many, many years ago and is now a pariah.  Her show has dropped her, those with whom she had endorsements have dropped her and even the mighty Walmart has deemed her too controversial for their tastes.  Target is said to still be "evaluating" the situation. 

First, just let me tell you I couldn't give a fig less about Paula Deen.  Although my wife and my father-in-law love the cooking channel and watch those programs regularly, I have never and would never watch any of their programming.  It is only thoughts of sleeping in a rickety old shed that have kept me from deleting it from my favorite channels on DirectTV and if my satellite provider dropped the Food Network tomorrow, there'd be no tear in my......drink (Sorry for the lack of rhyming but I hate beer).  Suffice it to say, sans the current controversy, Paula Deen would be just another stranger to me. 

However, I can't help but to comment for the speech and civil libertarian issues involved.  I mean, come on, she confessed to saying she used the "N" word 27 years ago?  Really?  That's what all the fuss is about?  I haven't Googled her so I don't know her exact age, but she would appear to be several years older than me.  Twenty seven years ago, I was a young sixteen years of age.  I KNOW I did and said many stupid things then and for years to come.  I will admit I have said the "N" word myself as well as many other either inflammatory or politically incorrect things.  It kinda goes with the territory.  I'm guessing that Ms. Deen would probably have been around 40ish those many years ago.  Probably outside of the realm of stupid youth but I am currently in my early 40s and I'm inclined to say stupid, inflammatory or politically incorrect things from time to time (in fact, I kinda have a personal vendetta against anything politically correct).  I personally can't believe that Ms. Deen, however useless I may think her show is or how undeserved her celebrity, is being held to the fire for such. 

Some say, "Well, she's a celebrity and such scrutiny comes with territory".  Well, yes, if the issue was what she said yesterday, or the day before or two weeks ago.  But we're talking about what she uttered TWENTY SEVEN YEARS ago.  I highly doubt that Ms. Deen had any idea back then that she would be in the public eye.  Are we really gonna expect our celebrities to be angelic from the time they're born just so an issue doesn't surface many years down the road that derails their career?  If so, I guess I better start praying that my sitcom never sells, or that my book never sells or that all of you quit reading so my blog doesn't become overly popular (hey, a guy can dream, can't he?).  To sum it all up in one word, I think this is all ridiculous. 

This would be different if Ms. Deen had set up a podium in a mall somewhere and started spewing racial epithets at the top of her lungs.  My understanding is that this was something she said to a friend or other close individual.  "Friends" and close relatives are supposed to be people with whom we can share anything with the reasonable expectation that it won't come back to haunt us.  I bet if each us sat and thought about it for a minute, there'd be one or two or ten or twelve secrets we wouldn't like aired either. 

And let's consider for a moment how this all came to light.  It was because Paula HONESTLY answered a question.  It would've been very easy for her to lie, to say that she had NEVER uttered such an atrocious statement.  But she didn't.  She told the truth (about something she probably considered not a big deal) and now she is being crucified for it.  I just don't think that the punishment here fits the crime. 

Undoubtedly, someone out there has read my musings to this point and thinks I must be okay with this because I'm a rabid racist.  Though true that the circumstances around my growing up would've definitely lent themselves to such sentiment (not my parents-I went to parochial school all my life where there were few, if any, minorities), I am most definitely not.  I have a good black friend (he calls me "counselor" by the way) a good friend who is from Jordan, an Indian friend, etc, etc, etc.  My favorite city in the world is Seattle and one of the biggest reasons is because of the diversity there. I judge people on who they are and not based on any group or ethnicity to which they belong. 

What strikes me about this whole incident is what appears to be a double standard.  Again, though I have no ill feelings against such groups, I often lament that if I was to start a white expo or the National Association for the Advancement of White People or have a Straight Pride parade, that I would be run out of the country.  I believe that everyone deserves the same rights but why is it that we allow some groups to demonstrate their "pride" and it's okay but when the white people do it, it's racist and reminiscent of the days of the Ku Klux Klan?  It seems to me that I ought to be able to celebrate my pride in my heritage as much as anyone else. 

"But Steve!  What she admitted to saying was one of the most despicable, racist words that one can utter!"  Well, perhaps that it was.  But I'm sure we are all familiar with fact that rap songs (written and sung by mostly African American individuals) routinely say the "N" word and it doesn't seem to matter.  As a young lad still in my teens, I listened to a lot of that music.  I can tell you that some of the songs said the "N" word more than the word "the".  I guess I just don't understand how a word uttered by members of your own race can be okay but somehow morph into the most derogatory word ever when uttered by someone of a different race. 

In conclusion (Thank God!, eh?), I just think this whole situation has been grossly blown out of proportion.  Ms. Deen didn't go on National Television and scream the "N" word last week.  She said it to a friend 27 years ago.  I'll admit it's not the smartest strategy to admit to such, but at least she was honest.  I have said many, many things, in the company of friends, that could be considered worse.  It's not that I hold beliefs discriminatory towards this group or that. It's that I sometimes joke and I'm also human.  We all have said things in our past that we'd rather not have others know about.  I don't think that someone should lose their career or livelihood for such an admission. 

Take care, dear readers.  I would say to tell your friends about my little blog here but then I don't want to someday be in Ms. Deen's shoes.  Peace out. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

It's your standard, everyday, all purpose blog

My offering to you today is a movie review.  On Friday evening, I had the occasion to partake in the newest installment in the Monsters Inc. franchise with the family (sans almost two year old) and a family friend.  This movie is entitled Monsters University. 

In one sentence, I can pretty much sum up what this movie is all about.  It is Revenge of the Nerds Meets Monsters Inc.  It has all the stereotyped characters (the dumb jocks, the band of misfits, etc, etc), clich├ęs, and virtually the same storyline as one of the Revenge of the Nerds movies (exactly which one escapes me at the moment) with the characters from the original Monsters Inc. characters inserted in that story.  As an adult, I found it to be hackneyed and unoriginal.  There were a few laughs to be had, but in general, it lacked the clever and delightful nature of the original Monsters movie.

But, that's an adult view and this is a film aimed at entertaining children.  In that respect, I can tell you that my nine year old stepdaughter seemed to enjoy it with her friend.  I heard them chuckling further down the row a few times and the post viewing meal at Subway contained numerous replays of the movie's events.  My four year old, however, seemed less enthralled and more interested in frequently touching the aisle lights on the wall next to our seats.  As the movie moved towards its totally foreseeable climax, he did seem to take a bit more interest in the happenings on the screen. 

Overall, I'd say this flick would probably represent decent entertainment for the younger crowd.  The familiarity (and likability) of the characters should provide ample amusement for its intended audience.  As for adults, however, this comes off as a lame attempt at a sequel and, as stated previously, basically involves plucking the storyline from one film and the characters from another and merging them into an all too familiar "geeks overcome their limitations to steal the spotlight from the cool kids" saga.  Given the time since the release of the first movie, I thought the project's creators could've done much better with this sequel.  I eagerly wished to go next door to check out the new zombie flick starring Brad Pitt but the times didn't work out and my wife seemed to think that some transgression against family togetherness.  So, I suffered through a boring and stale retread for the sake of my children's entertainment.  There are worse things in the world. 

If you're an adult, I'd give this movie one Fleeve on a scale of four.  For children, I'll be a little more generous and give it 2.5. 

Until next time, this is Steve, over and out. 

Friday, June 21, 2013


Jodi the Ho-Bag (to the tune of Frosty the Snowman)

Jodi the Ho-Bag is an evil, soulless gal,
With art-i-fic-ial tits and two nitwits,
De-fending her at trial.

Jodi the Ho-Bag murdered Travis one June day,
Then got AL and Dick to make up some shit
To explain it all away

There must've been some magic in that ole sex tape she made.
For when it came time to give her death,
The foreman was not swayed

Jodi the Ho-Bag spent a whole month on the stand,
Trying hard to cry so she wouldn't fry
And she'd be with Donovan

Humpety hump hump, humpety hump hump
Look at that big Ho
Humpety hump hump, humpety hump hump
Who is she gonna blow?

Jodi the Ho-Bag said that Travis was a jerk
Called her whore and skank, said her three holes stank,
But her bullshit didn't work

Fat man Kirk Nurmi, said "Let me ask you this"
"How'd that make you feel?", the favorite spiel,
While he questioned a witness

Juan made his case, and laid to waste,
The stories the Ho told,
Ripping new ones for the hired guns,
Taxpayers had bankrolled

Jodi the Ho-bag, found guilty of murder one,
Spends her days alone, no visits or phone,
And no tweets by woman/man.

Humpety Hump Hump, Humpety Hump Hump,
Juan got that big Ho,
Humpety Hump Hump, Humpety Hump Hump,
Off for life she goes!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Conventional wisdom be damned

I have devoted a substantial portion of my posts to subjects related to a demon (Jodi Arias), so I thought I'd give her opposite number some print.  The old saying goes that you should never discuss religion and politics unless your intention is to flare nostrils.  I have never been one to follow old sayings (or much of anything else) so prepare for some nostril flaring. 

I'd like to bend your ear (or I suppose it's really your eyes) today about "religion".  In order to properly do that, allow me to provide you some background on my religion.  I was born and raised Catholic.  I attended church every Sunday and on every fancy day the Catholic Church likes to call a Holy Day of Obligation.  I ate fish every Friday during lent.  In addition, I also attended Catholic school every day from first grade until the time I graduated from high school.  For those of you unaware of the curriculum in such schools, this meant (on top of Sundays), that I attended mass (that's the formal Catholic word for it) either two or three days during the week, depending on what grad I was in, through the eighth grade (as if having to deal with nuns as teachers wasn't enough).

Now some of you may have already gleaned this little nugget from the sarcasm in my previous paragraph but, suffice it to say, I am no longer a practicing Catholic.  As a young boy, I was under the oppressive thumb of nuns who hadn't had sex in 60 years and my devout mother, but once I became an adult and began to do my own thinking, I found I did not agree with all that the Catholic church teaches.  In fact, I have pretty much come to the conclusion (prepare your nostrils) that organized religion as a whole is a SHAM.

Much more on that in a moment but first, lest anyone get the wrong idea about me, let me say that I believe there is a distinct difference in being "religious" and in being "spiritual".  I am very little of the former but very much of the latter.  I believe very deeply in God, have seen His work in my life on many occasions, pray often, etc, etc, etc.  In fact, (public service message) should any of you dear readers have doubts about Him, feel free to hit me up.  I can tell you some stories that may help reconcile your misgivings.  Anyway, the point is that I am definitely NOT an atheist or such.  I just believe that what we think of as "organized religion" is nothing but a misguided, money-making scam.  Allow me to expound. 

There are many reasons I hold this opinion.  For the first, let's revisit my Catholic upbringing.  As I said, I attended Mass nearly every Sunday (I tried feigning stomach aches but it rarely worked) and then again either two or three times during the week at school.  Once in high school, there was no regular Mass at school but we did have it on special occasions.  As an adult, my Mass attendance has been largely non-existent, except for a few short term periods where I attended regularly.

So, what has all this church going made me?  Holy as a bus full of priests at the Vatican?  A sinner with an express pass through the Pearly Gates?  For reasons you will learn later, I don't believe it has made me either of these.  What it made me was a well-conditioned robot, who, to this day, despite many years of sparse church attendance, can still recite the Catholic Mass backwards and forwards, in my sleep and with both of my arms tied behind my back.  I'm pretty sure a populace of robots is not what the Almighty had in mind.  If he did, he wouldn't have given us free will.

My grandmother (God rest her soul) was the epitome of a devout Catholic.   Until health circumstances dictated otherwise a few years before her death, she attended Mass EVERY day.  She regularly prayed the rosary (for those of you not in the know, the rosary is a circular collection of beads and a cross on which you say prayers mostly to the Virgin Mary, mother of God), subscribed to the Criterion (a Catholic newspaper), and even said Novenas (nine straight days of prayer).  My grandmother once called me during my college years and asked me if I had been going to church.  My reply was "Once in a while" to which she replied "Twice in a while is better".  Her entire life revolved around the church.

So, my grandmother had to be one of the most highly admired people in her community right?  Full of warmth and goodness with a halo that required the use of sunglasses in her presence, eh?  Semi-annual parades in her honor?  A key to the city?  Bridge club pals with the priest?  Sadly, no.  While I owe my grandmother a huge debt of gratitude for teaching me how to play numerous card and board games, she was largely not someone I liked to spend a lot of time with.  (There goes my express pass through the Gates).  In fact, she was one of the most bitter, manipulative and hateful people I have ever known.  Everyone has been to a funeral in their life.  Usually, they are testaments to a life lived well.  Speakers detail a virtuous existence, even when most times the truth is far less immaculate.  The PRIEST at my grandmother's funeral (and I swear I am not making this up!) stuttered and stammered to find good things to say, finally acknowledging how difficult she was to deal with.  But she went to church every day of the week and said enough prayers to save the entire population of China. 

Then there were the years I spent in retail.  While working on my undergrad degree and then for four years in management afterward, I slaved as a gopher for Kmart Corporation.  We can discuss my mental state to have endeavored to do such later, but my experience there also provided some of the basis for my opinion about religion.  You see, every Sunday I worked, I watched as families and couples strolled in, all decked out in their best clothes after performing their weekly ritual to be saved.  And every Sunday I worked, I witnessed a conglomeration of some of the worst behaviors in which human beings can so partake.  Yes, after singing a few hymns, saying a few amens! and repenting for their sins, these well dressed church goers invaded our Kmart and proceeded to berate employees, beat their kids and otherwise make asses (and not very good Christians) of themselves.  Apparently, there are those among us who still prescribe to the theory that weekly attendance at a worship session gives you a pass to be an a-hole the rest of the week.  I'd say that's a outright perversion of all that Jesus stood for and taught us.

I'm sure by now that some of you have already begun to poke holes in my arguments.  This is America and it is surely your right to do so.  "The Catholic Mass is not like most church services" you'll say.  "Church serves a variety of functions, i.e social".   "It makes me feel good to go to Church".  "I just don't like you and won't agree with your opinion no matter what you say".  All of these are good arguments (save the last) on the surface.  Indeed, were my argument to rest here, it'd be one more of opinion than something based in fact.  But, I've saved the best of my ammunition for last. 

I have asked several people I know who attend church regularly to explain the following to me.  It is a Bible verse and not just any old Bible verse, but from one of the Gospels.  That is to say, these are reputed to be the very words of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.  I must say that I came to my opinion about organized religion quite a long while before I happened upon this particular nugget.  While I read the Bible occasionally and am familiar with all the well known verses, I am not in any way a Bible scholar.  Throughout my many years of Catholic education and later just as an adult who had these conversations from time to time, I have heard many scriptures quoted as the reason that we need to go to church every Sunday. (Keep holy the Sabbath is the one I most often hear)  And then I happened along the following pearl and wondered why in the world I had never heard this read in all my time in Mass.  In Matthew 6: 5-6, Jesus says,

                              "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray
                                in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them.  Amen,
                                I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go to your
                                inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret.  And your father
                                who sees in secret will repay you."

When confronted with this, most of the devout worshippers whom I have asked to reconcile this passage with the idea of church going usually say that worship is not what Jesus meant.  That somehow this only pertains to praying.  Well, isn't worship, in reality, just one big prayer?  Not only that, but Jesus specifically says "synagogues" which is the Jewish equivalent of a church.  "But the ten commandments say to "Keep Holy the Sabbath".  Well, indeed it does.  But what exactly does keeping holy the Sabbath mean?  For all I know, it could mean not to kill grasshoppers on that day.  How can one offer "Keep Holy the Sabbath", a general and non-specific statement in response to the above quoted passage which IS very specific?  In my mind, there is no doubt what Jesus meant and that is that worship is an activity to be done in the privacy of one's home and in the privacy of one's mind.  Sure, Jesus and others mention the church many times in the Bible.  But if you read carefully, you will see those are references to a body of people and not to a building. 

I must say I was absolutely both floored and tickled when I first read this scripture.  Floored, because for years and years I'd been told that weekly church attendance was necessary to avoid hell.  Tickled, because a belief I had held for years had finally been validated by the only being that really matters.  I've heard the Gospel of Thomas, which was suspiciously left out of the Bible, champions these very concepts. 

So why isn't this passage a part of regular religious celebration everywhere?  Well, it's quite simple.  If you were to read and believe this, you'd stop going to church.  If you stop going to church, they stop making money.  A preacher true to the word would tell you to stay home and conduct your business with God in private. But then he'd have no job and the church would have no reason for being. 

Are there preachers, evangelists and churches out there sincere in their efforts who truly want to teach the word of God?  Sure there are.  But Jesus didn't say "go to church if you want to".  He specifically stated that you should not worship in public and that's all that church services really are.  I, for one, am not here to try and argue with Him.  I realize of course that such a drastic change in lifestyle will probably never happen.  However, I believe that each individual's relationship with God is private, personal and none of anyone else's business.  Jesus tells us so in the Gospel. 

That's it for now, loyal readers.  Until next time, I'll be praying hard in private for the balls to walk in a church service and ask the preacher to explain this verse to me.  Ta ta for now!


The Top 3 Fallacies of All Time

1.  The world is flat.
2.  Pluto is the 9th planet in our solar system.
3.  Jodi Arias is not a danger to society.