Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Miss Radio Peking

Way back in the mists of ancient history (the 1970's, to be precise) I saved my money from an after-school job and bought a shortwave radio. It was a beautiful Panasonic portable with a large speaker and warm tone (and which still works... Hmmm...Now that I think of it, I kind of miss it. I should "borrow" it back from my mom).
Anyhoo, back in those pre-Internet-access days, one of the best ways to get international news was through international broadcasting. And many governments - especially those in the Eastern bloc (you know... the Commies) used shortwave's propaganda value to its fullest. Radio Moscow was omnipresent on the airwaves and other stations of the pinko variety (Radio Prague, Radio Tirana, Radio Kiev, etc.) were constantly blaring the party line to all who cared to listen. Among the stations putting forth their hardline socialist doctrine was Radio Peking. Before the beginning of their broadcasts, they would play an interval signal based on the song "The East is Red". (For those of you not familiar with shortwave listening, an interval signal is an audio cue distinctive to each station - usually in the form of a short musical snippet - to let you know you were listening to the right station and to allow you to adjust the tuning. In the days of analog tuners, this was a helpful device.)
Anyway, the years have passed, Radio Peking is now Radio Beijing and the once fierce Communist propaganda has been replaced by insipid imitations of Western-style morning chat shows more fitting what has become the manufacturing arm of Wal-Mart, Apple, Caterpillar and - well, hell, damn near every corporation in the West. While I certainly don't condone the past repression of the Chinese people by the Communist party, I'm not certain what has replaced it is all that great either.
To me, the collaboration between the new Chinese Communists and Western Capitalists seems like an "understanding" between rival gangs one might see in a mafia movie. Differences are put aside in the interest of making more money for those at the apex of both organizations. Why the fuck should Apple give a shit about internet censorship (and that of other media - e.g. - China's jamming of foreign radio broadcasts) as long as their workers make iPhones for cheap? Freedom? Naw... think different.
I know. I'm rambling. And since I'm being honest about that fact, I may as well ramble back to "The East is Red" for no particular reason. That particular tune, I'm told, is a traditional Chinese song which was repurposed for the glorification of Chairman Mao in the 1960's as part of a musical production of that title. The musical is awesomely, breathtakingly, over-the-fucking-top, horrible propaganda. Naturally, I love it. The opening sequence is by far the best. In the filmed version of the production, a choir of about 80-zillion singers belts out inspiring lyrics such as:

Red in the East rises the sun
China has brought forth a Mao Tsetung
He works for the people's welfare
He is the people's savior

(I'd like to point out as an aside that lyrics such as these seem to bear out the contention made by the so-called "new atheists" that these Communist nations were less atheistic than they were secular religions. God wasn't dead, he had simply adopted a new name and address. Okay, now back to the musical...)
As if things couldn't get any more drastic, bombastic and propagandic, hundreds of wholesome-looking fan-bearing Commie dancing girls swirl around the stage as the music reaches an orgasmic climax with lyrics such as:

The Communist Party is like the sun
Wherever it shines there is light
Wherever the Communist Party goes
There the people are liberated

The happy Commiegirls look dreamily off into the distance where they can see the bright future which awaits their offspring (their progeny making crappy Happy Meal toys in a shitty sweatshop in the outskirts of Shanghai perhaps wasn't what they were expecting, though).
Compared to this iron-fisted slab o'propaganda, anything Broadway has done since the history of forever is complete shit. THIS is a REAL musical, dammit! True, anything after the first six minutes is disposable crap, but that opening number redeems it a thousandfold. Watch it. Be amazed.
And that, I suppose, is why I miss Radio Peking. Back then, China was... you know... CHINA. Something different. Exotic. Even strange, in a way. Not the place name stamped on countless pieces of cheap plastic crap. Not the place to where all our manufacturing jobs made a long march. Maybe someday China will be truly free and not merely a source of cheap labor. In the meantime, though, we can always look back on these relics of the past. I mean, after all, if you're going to live in a repressive totalitarian nation, you may as well do the propaganda right.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Yep. It Was THAT Bad!

Yesterday at work, I was cleaning patient rooms. The day started off with two of the patients - uh - let's just say they were mobility impaired and didn't quite reach the restroom facilities in time. Yours truly got to clean it up. And it wasn't just urine. (I'll keep it at that to keep from getting TOO graphic.)
While cleaning it up, I couldn't help but think the following: here I am, cleaning filth off bathroom floors after driving to Ann Arbor to work. And I'm STILL far happier than I was working at that commercial TV station!!!
At least working at the hospital I get compliments, positive feedback and nice words from the people there. I'm actually treated as a human being and not some worthless cog in some remorseless money-making behemoth.
Oh... and I finally got my work uniform. It's more functional than stylish, but DAMN... do I ever look blue-collar-union in that blue shirt and navy work pants!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Working in a hospital is different from anything I've ever done before. I'm doing custodial work, which I've done earlier in my life, but in a hospital, things are more extreme. When cleaning an elementary school, a screw-up will merely mean things will be aesthetically unappealing for awhile. In a hospital, doing a sloppy job could mean a resistant germ could literally kill the next person who ends up in a given room. But hey, no pressure.
Actually, I like to try to do a good job in any position I work, so I don't mind the challenge. In the few days I've been working so far, I have received unsolicited positive comments from nurses and receptionists telling me they thought I was doing a good job and that they liked my work ethic. After three months of getting nearly constant crap from the management at my previous job, that did some good for my wounded self-esteem.
Another thing that makes working at a hospital different is the need to monitor one's health - both for the sake of the patients (so they don't catch anything from you in their often immuno-compromised state) and for you (so you don't catch any germies from a sick patient). Rubber gloves and oceans of Purel help to some extent, but I also had to have a health screening and shots.
It's strange going from a situation where I was concerned about losing all health coverage to being pampered in that department. It is in the interest both of my employer and myself for me to be immunized. And so yesterday, I became a human pincushion. Five needle pokes. And then I worked my shift. Today, my arms are sore. But I don't mind. I will now be safe from the flu, diphtheria, hepatitis B, whooping cough and probably rabies, distemper and heartworms.
As a 32-hour employee, I'm now enjoying my three days off. Not bad. I work hard while I'm at work, but I'm a slacker at heart. I have a long list of things I'm supposed to be doing on this day off. Typing in my blog was not one of them.
Oh, well...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What a Strange Year!

I certainly hope 2011 will be far less eventful than 2010 has been.
As those of you who have been following my scribblings for the past few months will know, I lost my job at the end of January. I was unemployed until early August, at which time I landed a job with a local commercial television station. The three months I worked there were probably the most miserable 90 days in my entire life. The management there treated me like dirt. They were, to put it bluntly, complete assholes. I was able to secure employment as a Unit Custodian at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor and was therefore able to resign from the TV station. I have only worked at this new position for a few days, but I think once I "learn the ropes" and figure out how the job goes I will do well. The commute is a bit long, but when the weather is good I actually find it relaxing. I can listen to audio books on CD and to NPR which makes the drive rather enjoyable. Also, I am now a member of AFSCME, which doesn't hurt salary-wise. I'm making more per hour than at the TV station, am treated better and enjoy the work. After sitting behind a desk for 26 years I think doing some actual physical labor will likely do me some good.
I do hope to eventually be able to find something at University of Michigan-Flint so that the commute won't be quite as long, (and the parking situation not so insane) but for the time being, I think I'll get by. Some good things: my retirement account will be reactivated, my health insurance will resume and my vacation accrual will start again.
I hope to be able to resume writing on a more regular basis. No job is perfect, but this one certainly can't be worse than my last one!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

$ecularism Win$

Here in Michigan, it is currently illegal to purchase alcohol on Sunday mornings or on December 25. This antiquated temporal prohibition has its roots in a time when this nation fancied itself as more religious. At least when it came to those religions that just happened to celebrate their services on Sunday mornings and the birth of their savior on December 25.
It seems, however, these relics of a simpler, more monocultural (and repressive) time are about to go the way of the unicorn and cockatrice. (Both are animals mentioned in the Bible. And if they're in the Bible, they MUST have been real, right?)
From what I'm hearing on news reports, our state's legislators, faced with shrinking revenues and budget difficulties, have realized that more time for liquor sales will mean more tax dollars for the state and more potential sales for retailers. Yep. It's one thing to preach piety, but when it gets in the way of the almighty greenback, the Lord will just have to be content with having "In God we trust" graffiti-ed on the crinkled dollars used to purchase six packs of Blatz at 9:00am on the Sabbath. And so, if the pundits are correct, we Michiganders will soon be able to go to high midnight mass and stop for some Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill on the drive home.
Yet another small quiet win for secularism.
And I'll happily drink to that!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"That's One Small Penis for a Man; One Giant Penis for Mankind"

I am currently reading the fascinating book "Packing for Mars" by Mary Roach. This book is particularly interesting for me both because it deals with human spaceflight -a particular interest of mine - and because Ms. Roach combines great science writing with a humorous skewed-to-just-this-side-of-demented take on things.
Among the fascinating trivia contained in this book is a discussion of the urine-collection devices used by male space-walkers on the Space Shuttle flights. These devices consist of a condom-like attachment connected to a tube and a urine collection bag. (Restrooms being a scarce commodity outside a spacecraft in low Earth orbit.) These devices come in three sizes. Small, medium and large, you may presume? If so, you presume incorrectly. The three size options are Large, Extra Large and Extra-Extra Large. And, in anticipation of the next question, the answer is no. Astronauts are not more stallion-like than their Earthbound brethren. The reason for the king-sized nomenclature was a concern that those who - for anatomical reasons - required a size "small" would be unwilling to admit that fact and order a larger and thus ill-fitting size with leaky and unpleasant results.
This, however, wasn't always the case. During project Apollo, they did indeed have small, medium and large sized urine collection devices.
In addition, NASA had a seemingly compulsive need to document everything related to the Apollo missions. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Like this list of items left behind on the moon by the Apollo 11 crew. Pay particular attention to items 50 and 51. Four urine collection assemblies were left behind on the lunar surface. Two were large. Two were small. Which leaves one with the obvious speculation. Two astronauts walked on the moon on that lunar morning in July 1969: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. One, apparently, was "one giant step" larger in the manhood department than the other. But who was the one with more of the "right stuff"? And how would anyone find out? I suppose someone could simply ask the men involved, but aside from the world-class awkwardness such a query would pose, I doubt either would 'fess up to wearing the size small.
I guess this is one piece of space trivia which must forever remain in the realm of conjecture and debate.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

HDTV + Computer = GuyCool

One of the true ironies of my life is that, as a PBS employee, I was up-to-date on the whole HDTV-thing for years before most people had ever heard of it. I had to be. It was my job and the ability to do it depended on knowing all about that stuff. I attended seminars, meetings, showcases and read books and articles all about the new birth of digital television.
But, since my existing analog TV's were still working, I couldn't justify the expense (to myself and CERTAINLY not my farthing-pinching wife) of buying one. Besides, when it finally came time to plunk down the ca$h to buy one, I wanted a GOOD one. That was one of the downsides to knowing so much about the digital TV world... I knew what I wanted but also knew how much it would cost.
Then, as anyone who has read my scribblings in the past will know, I lost my job. Getting an HDTV was the last thing on my agenda at that point.
We managed to save up a bit of "safety-net" money from my vacation payout to use if/when my unemployment money ran dry. My wife, however, perhaps in an attempt to keep my spirits up and give me something to look forward to, declared that if I managed to find employment before we had to dip into the reserve fund, I could use some of that money to purchase an HDTV of my choice.
Long story short, the local Fox affiliate decided to live up to their environmentalist "Green Team" hype and recycle an old PBS retread.
And I got my HDTV. Not just ANY HDTV... a ginormous one with 1080p, 120Hz screen refresh, 100,000:1 contrast ratio, etc., etc., etc. And it was even on sale! In short, it's damned awesome! It seems somehow right and just that - since, like the mafia, once someone starts in television one never seems to be able to leave - I should have a decent TV. Fer Chrissakes, there had been people living in trailer parks with better TV's than I had! It was no less than a blot on the natural order of things, I tells ya!
One thing I can't wait to see in hi-def is hockey! My beloved Red Wings in full 1080p 16x9 glory! Of course, the first time I'd have a chance to do that is 5pm tomorrow. Fate, of course, decided to spit in my eye due to the fact that I have to leave for band practice at 5:10pm. Wrong. Just wrong.
Today, having a small bit of extra cash from some unexpected overtime, I decided to stimulate the local economy by buying a 15-pin male-to-male (stop snickering... it's a perfectly legitimate electronics term! Look it up, you pervs!) cable so I could hook up my laptop to the big honkin' HDTV.
When I announced my intentions in that regard my wife simply asked "Why would you want to do THAT?"
My teenage son and I merely stared back at her incredulously... as though she asked why we like to breathe and consume nutrients.
Call it gender misunderstanding and miscommunication if you will. I just call it "Chicks just don't GET it!"
Come on: Computer. Big HDTV. Connector Cable. BIG computer picture! I mean, DUH! For guys this is nothing less than a complete syllogism; an entire self-contained system of values, philosophy and logic.
Anyway, I got the cable and, tonight, after some setup adjustments and (I'm almost ashamed to admit it but some valuable assistance from the aforementioned teenage son... it HAD to happen someday) I managed to get big computer stuff on the HD monitor.
I thought it was cool. My son thought it was cool. My wife? "When are you going to be done playing with that thing? I want to watch the Christmas stuff on QVC!"
And so I had to relinquish the HDTV for the time being. But one thing I can tell you for certain. There's no way ANYTHING from the Bethlehem Light Company could EVER be as cool as a laptop hooked up to an HDTV!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Settling In

Just a few quick words to update anyone who may possibly care...

I finally feel as though I'm getting the rhythm of the workplace. I'm getting to the point where I feel like I'm getting the right amount of work done in a given day and learning to keep up with things. What were for the first few weeks slow deliberate keystrokes are now becoming almost automatic. Hopefully, this situation will only improve. I remember when I was given the boot at WFUM I was able to whiz through ProTrack routines at an insanely rapid (yet accurate) pace. I'm also becoming better acquainted with my new co-workers... some of whom are actually quite helpful and nice.

In other news, I'm finally able to relax at home now. (i.e., when I get home, I can think about things other than work.) In short, I may actually learn to adjust to this new job and settle into some semblance of contentment.

I feel especially lucky to have a job at all here in Michigan in 2010. The latest Michigan employment figures showed no change in the unemployment rate during the past month... but that's rather deceptive. According to an analysis of the data, Michigan actually lost 50,000 jobs last month, but that this was offset by an even greater number of people simply giving up on looking for work. So I guess half my old salary is better than nothing!

So, with things settling down and the dust clearing, I hope to be able to return to posting to this blog on a more frequent and regular basis.

You've been warned.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Glass

Much of the last eighteen months have been an excruciating mindfuck for me. From the announcement of my impending job loss to the agonizing uncertainty of when, precisely, I would be joining the ranks of the unemployed, to adjustment to a life collecting unemployment insurance (or "Jennifer Granholm Party Ca$h" as I liked to call it) to fruitless months searching for employment to - finally, in the past month - finding a job and starting over. I'm not saying I've been miserable every moment of the last year and a half; indeed, I have had many wonderful days with family and friends. It's just that there was always, nagging in the background, the constant worry about what would happen if I was unable to find a job before the unemployment benefits ran out. Like a leaky faucet, it would always be there. Sometimes other sounds would drown it out for a bit, but when things quieted down there it would be: drip... drip... drip... Will we have to move? drip... drip... drip... How will we afford healthcare? drip... drip... drip... What if our house or one of our cars has a major problem? drip... drip... drip Will we be able to properly provide for our children? drip... drip... drip...
Sure, the dripping would get annoying, but I also knew that - given enough time - dripping water can erode even the hardest granite. I could put on a brave face in the short term, but sooner or later one of two things would inevitably happen: either I would find a new job or my unemployment benefits would run out. The future course of my life would hinge on which of these was to happen.
And that's why I was thrilled to finally be offered a job in early August. True, the pay was half my old salary, but from my perspective I wasn't in any position to complain. It would be like miraculously finding a life raft as you were about to drown but then complaining that the raft wasn't as nice as the boat that sank in the first place. At that point, you're just happy you won't drown. And that's the key to this entire situation. How do you spin it in your mind? One can choose to dwell on the fact that your salary is much lower and you'll lose the benefits for which you had worked over 20 years hoping to secure. Or one can be grateful that you will avoid such calamities as foreclosure, raiding the retirement account just to pay bills or having to move your kids out of the school district they've grown to love. Me? I've been unemployed and searching for a job for so long that my old job now seems like something from a previous life. There's a recession and Genesee County is more "recessed" than nearly anywhere else in the nation. I was lucky to find anything.
Even so, however, there was the reality that I now had to start over. I was going from a position in which I had worked over two decades and had some degree of seniority to a position where I was definitely the" low guy on the totem pole" who had to learn a new job from scratch.
It wasn't fun.
Although I had lots of experience in television, when it got down to this position I was a rank beginner. The software and procedures were entirely new. The workload seemed overwhelming and there were seemingly zillions of details I had to learn. The first couple weeks were a stress-filled nightmare. It was one thing having lots of work to do. It was quite another to have lots of work to do but not being entirely sure how to DO it! The person training me, however, was not only highly competent, but was also patient. I slowly gained confidence in my ability to master the job. While I certainly know I will make some mistakes in the coming weeks, I'm now in a position where I'm learning enough about my responsibilities that I will be able to learn from them and keep improving.
I also am re-adjusting to a "work mode" schedule. Despite my best efforts to prevent it, I have to admit that six months of down-time, while good for my blood pressure, caused a bit of mental atrophy. At first, it was difficult to get used to having someone else's schedule imposed on you for much of the week. But, as with anything else, one learns to accommodate oneself to the realities of a new job.
So now my big question is: how do I handle this "new normal"? Do I curse the fact I must start over again at age 48 through no fault of my own for much lower wages or should I feel relief that I managed to find ANY sort of a job in the middle of a recession in one of the most economically depressed areas of the nation (let alone a job in a field I must grudging admit I enjoy)? In other words, is my glass half empty or half full?
After some careful consideration, on the optimism/pessimism scale, I choose to cop-out and merely state my life now is a glass in which liquid occupies 50% of the available volume. And, for now, I'm okay with that. Cursing the loss of "what might have been" will do me no good. Did I get screwed over and lied to by my former employer? Yes. Will it do me any good now to dwell on it? No. Spending time looking in the rearview mirror only makes sense if you're going backward. I choose to move forward.
Besides, if my glass was entirely full, it would mean there was no room for more. And isn't anticipation of future happiness one of the things that makes life interesting? True, my life is far from perfect, but for now I have adequate food, shelter, a happy marriage and two wonderful, smart, healthy children. And most importantly, I have gained some hope for the future. And for now, that is more than enough.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August Haiku

Cool breeze at dusk. With
Nothing left to prove, summer
Ages gracefully.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Just a quick note to let you know I'm not dead. The last week or so has been very intense at my new job. There are lots of new things to learn and I'm trying my best to cram all that new information into my tiny brain. When I get home at night I'm generally too pooped to do much else. Hopefully, as I get the hang of the new job I'll settle down enough to start writing regularly again. In the meantime, please be patient...

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Hooray! My six months in the economic wilderness are over! I'll be working at a local commercial TV station starting August 9. (Well, pending the passing of a drug test. And let's face it. I'm not exactly Keith Richards in that regard, so that will be no problem.)
The pay isn't nearly what I was once making, but combined with my wife's salary we should be able to pay the bills... and that was my biggest concern.
So new adventures await. This should be interesting!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Please Stand By...

Maybe things weren't as grim as I had thought yesterday. That commercial station called back today. They have upped the salary offer to what I was asking. They asked if I was still interested. When I replied that I was, they said they would call back tomorrow. We'll see what happens...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back to Reality

Thanks to the generosity of one of my wife's co-workers, the family and I were able to spend a long weekend at a cottage in Lexington, MI. The cottage itself was wonderful and its location - a mere block away from the sandy beaches of Lake Huron - was even more so.
The kids and I spent hours in the Lake. I even spent one afternoon splashing around in the whitecaps as though my 48 years didn't matter. I may as well have been 10 for all the fun I was having.
And then, yesterday, we returned home.
There was a phone message for me from a local commercial television station at which I had applied. I set up an appointment for an interview.
And so today, I had the interview. The station manager seemed very impressed with my qualifications. When asked what salary I was looking for, I gave them a figure that was less than half my previous salary. It was too much for them. By several thousand dollars. They wouldn't budge in the least. In fact, for the salary they were offering, I could flip burgers at McDonald's. It appears they value cheap labor more than actual experience. Then, when I returned home, there was a letter in the mail informing me that I didn't get a job I had interviewed for a few weeks ago. There's something soul-crushing about giving your all in an interview and it - and the glowing recommendations you provided - not being good enough.
I am depressed, discouraged and frustrated. I don't mean to be self-pitying, but at times like these it's difficult to put on a brave face and keep going. But keep going I will. Not because I have any optimism left, but because I simply have no alternative. Maybe someday a decent job opportunity will present itself. Maybe not.
I hope one day I will be able to look back upon this posting and smile with relief that I made it through these hard times. But then again, I fear I may look back at these times as the "good old days" when I still had unemployment insurance and subsidized health coverage.
I'm torn between wanting to simply give up and wanting to grit my teeth and persevere. I know this recession is affecting millions of people. I know I'm not alone. But I keep thinking of the words attributed to Josef Stalin. Something like "If one person is affected, it's a tragedy. When millions are affected, it's a statistic."
Maybe that's my real problem. I'm tired of being a statistic. I am a person with a life story, intelligence, talents, hopes, quirks and dreams. I'm tired of being a percentage or a mere potential source of desperate cheap labor. I'm tired of daily fruitless job searches. I'm tired of endless applications and resumes that fly off unanswered into the vastness of cyberspace. I'm tired of wondering when my unemployment insurance will end. I'm tired of wondering when I'll lose the healthcare subsidies that are the only thing enabling coverage for my family and me. I'm tired of being labelled "lazy" or a "drug user" by some simply because I lost my job through no fault of my own. (Are you listening, Sen. Hatch?)
But most of all... I'm just... tired.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Blog: Now Featuring Optional Noise

Hi all!
Just for the halibut I've added a little gizmo to the right side of this blog where those of you so inclined may listen to some sonic dandelion fluff by Ice Halo, the band for which I vocalize and occasionally scribble some songs fer.
You don't have to click on it, of course, but it's there if you want to. There are only a few songs there as I type this, but I plan to add more in the coming days.
Don't expect much, though!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Kind of Stuff I Think About

I was watching a commercial for a skin cream which promised to make you look five years younger. Which made me wonder... what would happen if you put it on a three-year-old?
Yep. This is one of those days where I will do ANYTHING to keep from having to mow the lawn. Even post dumb stuff on blogger.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

48 By the Numbers

Today is my 48th birthday. Unlike some people who would spend such an occasion waxing philosophical about the grand journey of life, I’m more of a “facts & figures” sort of guy. I will, therefore, put this kilometerstone into perspective by use of the following statistics, courtesy of the Social Security Actuarial Tables:

As a male living in the United States turning 48, my chances of dying before my next birthday are 0.4% (or, to make it sound more positive, I have a 99.6% chance of living until age 49).

In a randomly chosen group of 100,000 people born at or near the same time I was, roughly 92,958 of them are still alive. In other words, I’ve outlived about 7.1% of my peers so far.

Statistically, I can expect to live another 30.49 years.

I’ve been around for 17,532 days. That’s equivalent to 2,504 weeks, 420,768 hours, 25,246,080 minutes or 1,514,764,800 seconds.

No wonder I feel old!

Monday, June 28, 2010


In the midst of the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare of the 1980’s, certain Christian preachers wanted us to believe there was a Satanic Cult in every Podunk burg in the nation just waiting for you to turn your back on your toddler long enough for them to snatch him or her up and butcher them as a sacrifice to their Dark Lord. I was always suspicious of these claims for many reasons, not least of which if these Satanic cults were murdering kiddies at the rate these fundamentalists claimed it would have been impossible to walk through a park without stepping over the dismembered remains of the entire student body of the nearest elementary school.
Not to be so easily deterred, these folks vainly offered “evidence” that these cults were real. And sadly, these holy harlequins were actually taken seriously enough by some local law enforcement folks to have these hacks make presentations detailing “how to tell if your town is overrun by Devil-worshippers”. Among the telltale signs: graffiti. Yep. It seemed that, according to these “experts” graffiti and the devil went together like secularism and casual abortions. Seems if there was graffiti on your town’s dumpsters with pentagrams, "666" and the names of MTV hair bands, your town was infested with demon-lovin’ child killers.
It is, for that reason, I found it especially and delightfully ironic that decades later it’s now the Christians who are breaking out the spray paint in order to advance their particular supernatural viewpoint.
The story is this: the North Carolina Secular Association put up a billboard quoting from the original Pledge of Allegiance: “One Nation Indivisible”. Almost predictably, within a week, Christian vandals – taking their cue from the 1954 act of Congress that altered this original version of the Pledge– broke out their navy blue Krylon cans and inserted “Under God” on the billboard indicating it was to be placed between “nation” and “indivisible”.
There’s so much irony here I don’t know where to begin. First, there’s the incongruity between the Christians’ self-professed law-abiding nature and the use of vandalism and defacing of others’ property to promote their agenda. Next, there’s strangeness in their using a medium that mere decades before they themselves had condemned as being associated with them damned devil worshippers. Third, this act of vandalism has given the North Carolina Secular Association far more publicity than they otherwise would have had. But finally, and perhaps most significantly, the morons who defaced the billboard MADE THE SECULARISTS' POINT!!! The secularists were arguing that the insertion of religion into patriotism was – in itself – divisive. So much so that the mere expression of an admirable sentiment from the original pledge can no longer be safely stated in public without some religio-drones vandalizing it!
This is typical of how the religious right works:
1. Hijack a perfectly good secular national motto / pledge / whatever and alter it into a religious one.
2. Pretend the religious one was the one that had always been there.
3. When someone who knows history points out that it was the Christians who subverted the original intent of these statements, accuse them of not being true patriots, despite the fact that it is the secularists who are the ones who are promoting the original intent of the founders.
Those who vandalized the billboard in North Carolina proved yet again that religion is a divisive force in our nation. If you want to be religious: fine. But when you try to entangle your beliefs with government to make your point, you’re doing nothing more than causing unnecessary division within the land you claim to love so much.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Applying Myself

Yesterday, for Father’s Day, my kids got me “The Complete Peanuts: 1975-1976”. Having been a Peanuts freak since I was at least their age, it was a much appreciated present.
While thumbing through its pages, I came across a couple instances of the now-classic strips where Charlie Brown runs to kick the football only to have Lucy snatch it away at the last second, with the inevitable result of Charlie Brown slamming into the ground with a subsonic thump.
I couldn’t help thinking I was a lot like Charlie Brown in that instance. Instead of kicking a football, though, my Quixotic quest is sending out job applications. I keep sending them out, only to have them rebuffed or ignored. The rejections keep coming; I keep submitting applications.
Like Charlie Brown’s vain attempt to kick the football, my attempt to find a job is equal parts admirable persistence and pathetic unwillingness to apply inductive reasoning.
So despite repeated failures, Charlie Brown kept trying to kick the football and kept ending up flat on his back.
And I’ll keep filling out application forms and sending out resumes…

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tea-ming With Bad Puns!

On this Juneteenth it's only fitting I made a horrible pun appropriate to the occasion.
This is how it happened:
My ever-dramatic daughter noticed I was reading "The Book of Tea" by Kakuzo Okakura. (This is a classic among tea-freaks like me... just trust me on that one.)
Anyway, my female offspring asked "'The Book of Tea'? What the heck is that?"
"I'll have you know this is a very famous book!" I replied. "In fact, it was very influential among the African-American community!"
"Is that for real?" she asked, skeptically.
"You bet!" I replied. "Haven't you ever heard of "Book o'Tea" Washington?"

(blogger pauses for hilarity to ensue... hears sound of distant crickets)



I can only hope that somewhere there's a planet harboring a more advanced civilization that appreciates my puns!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Take Me to Your Liter

This won't be much of a post. It's more a squirreling away of words for the future... but I want to put it here on the blog - in public - for the sole and egotistical purpose of being able to gloat at some future date.
I'm not usually one for making predictions, but in this case I will make an exception. And the prediction is as follows: by the end of the decade (2020), the scientific consensus will be that there is life on Mars.
I realize all current evidence in that regard is circumstantial, sketchy and inconclusive, but lately there is so much of it coming together that it is starting to look like there may be something to it.
So, should life indeed be discovered on Mars, I will now be able to claim to be a visionary.
And if Mars is found to be desolate and dead, I'll merely delete this post and claim your archived version is a forgery.
Either way, I win! :-)

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Novel Way to Commit Suicide

Now that Dr. Kevorkian is no longer able to provide his needed services, I would like to propose the following simple method for committing suicide:
1. Listen to an Ave Maria (Catholic Radio) station.
2. Take a shot of whiskey every time they mention the word "abortion".
I estimate an average person would last about 45 minutes before succumbing to fatal alcohol poisoning.

Smells Like Wha...?

I had once heard the single biggest correlative factor in a man's choice of deodorant was the brand his father wore. My case would seem to support that theory. My dad wore Old Spice original scent and dammit so do I.
And it looks as though the Old Spice tradition will be passed down to a third generation since my son - now that he's of an age where such things are becoming important - is also using Old Spice. Ian, however, is putting his personal stamp on things by choosing to use, instead of original scent, a variant called "Denali". Denali, according to the product label, is supposed to smell like "Wilderness, Open Air and Freedom". While I suppose something smelling vaguely of salmon innards and pine trees could pass for "wilderness and open air" what, pray tell, does "freedom" smell like? I've been gravitationally bound to this planet for nearly 50 years and this is the first I knew about freedom even having an olfactory component!
What the hell, did Harriet Tubman give this stuff to fugitive slaves after they successfully crossed the Ohio River?
"Use this! You can smell like FREEDOM now!"
The older I get the less I know.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Crime Pays! (In Michigan, at Least)

Recent press reports have indicated the Michigan unemployment rate is 14.0%. As someone who has been seeking work without success for months, this comes as no surprise.
There are, of course, things one can do to improve one's chances of gaining employment. Polishing one's resume, attending job fairs, networking, etc. are high on the list of suggested tips for job seekers.
There is, however, one tip that apparently has been overlooked. It seems there are programs to provide employment to convicts in Michigan prisons in hopes of rehabilitating them. As a result, the current rate of unemployment among the prison population is under 10%! That's right! In Michigan, it's literally easier to get a job if you're in prison than if you obey the law.
I didn't realize one of the keys to employment in this state was knocking over a liquor store, but if that's what it takes...
It appears while I've been wasting time polishing my resume when I should have been polishing a Saturday Night Special.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

21-derful Years!

Thanks to my wonderful wife Leanne for putting up with me for 21 years!
It's hard to believe I've been married since 1989. To put things in perspective, here are a couple statistics -
Number of dogs in the United States in 1989: roughly 70,000,000.
Number of those dogs still alive: 0.
So, in canine terms at least, ours is a love that has lasted forever!
Here's to many more!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Stormy Weather

Saw this sign today at the Detroit Zoo. It seems to me that by the time any Spanish- speaking folks get done reading the sign either it will be too late or the storm will be over.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In Defense of Bees

A great slander is frequently committed in our great nation and I'm here to do my part in clearing the name of an unfairly maligned species.
Namely, whenever anyone is stung by an insect and said insect is yellow & black, it is almost invariably said that the victim was stung by "a bee".
Most of the time, this is the result of mistaken identity and the poor bee is innocent. I would wager that in most cases, the offending insect is a yellow jacket. (Pictured below.)

Although I'm not exactly a master of the apiary sciences, I feel I can speak with a degree of authority on this subject since my father raised honeybees for years. I was surrounded by beehives and their residents flew around me constantly. Honey bees are relatively docile (unless you threaten the queen, in which case all bets are off). In all those years, I was stung by bees precisely ZERO times. Yellow jackets, however, have probably stung me about a dozen times.
(See below for a picture of a honeybee for comparison.)

Please note the duller coloration and somewhat "fuzzy" look to the thorax.

So next time you get stung, please don't unfairly blame a bee. Chances are a bee is not to blame.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rand Paul's America

Flint, MI. The year 2018…

The local outlet of the seafood restaurant chain Red Flounder has announced a new dining option made possible by the repeal of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That law, recently terminated after pressure was placed on Congress by President Rand Paul, had prevented discrimination based on race by privately-owned places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, hotels and theatres.

This new experimental dining arrangement will be called “White Wednesdays", during which only white patrons will be served in the restaurant on that day.

Restaurant manager Biff Fratboy explained the new program.

“We had done some market research and focus group studies which found some interesting opportunities for expanding our business. Ironically, our great success among the African-American community was preventing expansion among the white customer base,” Fratboy said. “We had comments that many potential white customers referred to our restaurant as ‘Black Flounder’ and were less likely to eat here because of that. We have instituted ‘White Wednesdays’ in an attempt to broaden our appeal to that consumer segment.”

Fratboy was careful to counter charges that the White Wednesday program, while now legal, could be perceived as racist.

“Red Flounder abhors racism in all its forms,” explained Fratboy. “The White Wednesday program isn’t racist; it is simply a means by which Red Flounder can better accommodate those customers who have expressed a preference for a more homogeneous dining experience. Red Flounder is merely exercising its liberty as a privately-owned company to better serve the needs of its customers in a capitalist economy. If our business declines on White Wednesdays, we will stop having them, since continuing it in that circumstance would hurt our bottom line. It’s the free market in action! Who could be against THAT? Socialists, perhaps?”

Fratboy explained that Red Flounder would continue to serve its non-white customers: “Red Flounder is committed to serving the seafood needs of our non-white customers. They are welcome to eat in our establishment from Thursday through Tuesday. In addition, we are spending $30,000 to install a special drive-through window which will serve all races on Wednesdays. That’s right! We’re spending $30,000 in order to specially serve our non-white customers! Does that sound like something a racist company would do?”

Fratboy noted that the program, if successful, may be expanded.

“We might even pay tribute to the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King for a society based on racial unity by serving blacks only on the King Holiday,” said Fratboy.

“Provided King Day doesn’t fall on a Wednesday, of course.”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Reality Check

We were eating at Taco Bell this afternoon. The PA system started playing the song "Come Dancing" by The Kinks. For those of you who might not be too familiar with the song, it's a about an old ballroom dance hall and the music is done in a style reminiscent of that era.
"Is that an old song?" asked my 12-year-old daughter.
"No," replied my wife. "It was done to sound old, but it's actually from the 1980's."
"The 1980's!" said my daughter, incredulous. "But that IS old!"


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Zen... or Something Like It

For about five minutes early this evening, I experienced something wonderful. I had just finished grilling out for the first time this year. I was hot and sort of tired, so I put on the headphones of my MP3 player, turned on the fan and plopped myself down on the bed.

The day was warm and the skies blue and beautiful. The cool air from the fan gently caressed me. The song on the MP3 player (“Secret Friend” by Paul McCartney) fit the mood, as it was one of his less “serious” songs… it’s essentially Sir Paul having a bit of fun in the studio.

For a few minutes, I experienced what I imagine those who quest for Nirvana are seeking. My thoughts ceased. My experiences no longer were translated into words which I then thought about. The sensory experiences seemed to bypass the words and thoughts and plugged themselves directly into my consciousness. It was bliss.

I now think I know why people have trouble explaining Zen. It is born of direct experience. Words can’t really explain it because it can only “happen” when you put the words away. When it comes to Zen, words simply clog things up. Then, when you later try to explain it, you find yourself retroactively trying to – in a metaphorical sense - duct tape words onto the experience but the tape won’t stick. And this sloppy mess of words just makes you seem like a babbling idiot. Like, f’rinstance, this stuff I just wrote.

No, I haven’t seen “god”. I’m still the same hardcore atheist I’ve always been. And I wouldn’t describe it as a “spiritual” experience, either. To me, that mushy word implies finding something outside one’s experience. But what I felt was the direct opposite… an “enhanced” experience of reality. It was the precise opposite of what I expected Zen to be. Instead of “other-worldly” it was more “hyper-worldly”… as though the physical world was more “real” than usual.

I’m really digging myself into a hole, here, aren’t I?

Forget all the shit I wrote above. Let’s just say I plopped myself on the bed for about five minutes and it was really nice, okay? Okay.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Reaping the Whirlwind

I was born on a muggy July morning in Flint, Michigan back in 1962. As the day of my birth drew to a close, the skies darkened and a thunderstorm approached. This storm was so severe the curtains blew into the room at a 90-degree angle to the windows. The nurses started talking about evacuating some of the patients, but before they could make a firm decision in that regard, the storm had blown through.

If my life were a work of fiction, this would have been a perfect bit of foreshadowing. It was perhaps inevitable, therefore, that I would have a lifelong fascination with severe weather in general and with tornadoes in particular. Perhaps some of the excitement was picked up from the adults around me. The Beecher Tornado, the last single tornado to kill over 100 people in the United States, was still fresh in their memories. When there was a tornado watch or warning, I could sense the adults getting extra wary, which, for a young child, is sort of exhilarating.
I also remember the annual springtime ritual of seeing those tornado preparedness films in elementary school. I loved every somber, serious, cheesy second of them!

Despite my desire to see a tornado, I have been unsuccessful in that regard. I came close once on a canoe trip on the Rifle River in the early 1980’s. The sky got hellaciously dark and a powerful gust front whipped through snapping fully grown trees like dominoes. I didn’t see a tornado, though I later found out one was sighted mere miles from my location.
Another time, fittingly on my birthday, there was a severe storm outbreak in Michigan the likes of which occurs “once every 500 years” according to one news story. But did I see anything? Of course not!
Then, a couple years ago, nature seemingly extended its middle finger my way when an EF-2 tornado damaged the house in which I grew up. But could it have happened in all the years I lived there? NOOOOO!

I would love to go on one of those storm chasing tours. Some have warned me they might actually be rather dull. I know, however, that I would thrive on it. The thought of driving for hours through places like Nebraska, rather than discouraging me, makes the entire scenario all the more tempting. For me, stopping for a pizza in, say, Tulsa while monitoring the latest convective outlook smacks of true Americana. I know I would revel in every minute of it. What some would find boring, I would find delightful. And to see an actual tornado would be an excellent payoff. (Actually, I would enjoy the experience even if I didn’t see a tornado, but let’s face it; I’d still like to have the image of a whirlwind tickle my corneas before I shed this mortal coil.)

I wouldn’t, though, want “my” tornado I see do any real damage. The thought of it destroying lives or property would be a downer, despite its magnificence. If it could maybe just toss around a few random tumbleweeds in an empty field, I’d be happy.

Maybe someday…

Friday, May 14, 2010

Shameless, Unsolicited, Annoying (but Unapologetic) Parental Bragging

Congratulations to my son Ian for managing something his father couldn't have imagined doing in his wildest dreams: he was awarded a varsity letter from Davison High School. In this week's award ceremony, he not only got awards for his scholastic achievement and for consistently following the "Cardinal Code" (i.e., he was well-behaved and that sorta thing) but, most impressive to me, he got the coveted Maroon and Gold letter for his participation in the Davison High Quiz Bowl team.
Ian usually gets all "A"s, but I think this is one time he's happy to be awarded a "D"!
Knowing Ian, if he sees this he will be horribly embarrassed and will hope like hell his friends don't stumble onto my blog. Oh well, our generation started the freakin' internet so he can just deal with it!
Anyway, great job! Way to go, Ian! Yer aging punker dad is proud of you!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Job for Me

Having spent over a year looking for a job, I was beginning to wonder if the only job for which I am qualified is price checker at a dollar store.
"How much for this picture frame?"
"One dollar."
"How much for these potato chips?"
"One dollar."
Until today, that is. I think I've found a second job at which I would be amazingly good. That job? God.
No, that wasn't some sort of exclamation. I mean "God" as in the job title. You know... I could be God. I just don't know where to apply or when the current holder of that position will be applying for retirement. He must, after all, be getting quite old and I would assume he would be eligible for Social Security benefits soon even under the new guidelines.
I got this brilliant idea while reading this morning's paper. There was a quote from an Anglican archbishop regarding a plane crash that occurred in Libya. There were 104 passengers. 103 died. The archbishop was quoted as saying "We thank God for the sole survivor."
Really? Can you imagine any other job in which one is metaphysically responsible for the lives of 104 people and - after 103 of them die - you still end up getting thanked? Talk about a job where the bar is set low! I can just imagine the performance evaluations: "Displayed a success rate of less than 1% on the recent Libyan air crash. Excellent work!"
Hell, I could do that! Time to work on my cover letter!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Epiphany of Logic

While many people pay lip-service to the idea of logic, very few actually seem to apply the concept to their everyday lives. It may be argued that logic is spiffy for figuring out science and engineering-type things, but that it is not helpful in solving the stickier emotional problems one might encounter in everyday life. I would like to humbly submit a personal anecdote as a data point to provide evidence to the contrary.
First, a bit of background will be necessary. On Christmas Eve, 1963, I was a passenger in a car involved in a serious car accident. I was a young toddler at the time and these were the days before child restraints and safety glass. I was thrown through the windshield and received severe facial cuts which left some rather visible scars. As I've gotten older, these scars, while still noticeable, are somewhat less prominent than they were when I was younger.
As a typical teenager, I was self-conscious about my looks and was certain that some people would reject me because of my face. This bothered me for years.
One day, however, I had what I will call an "epiphany of logic". In other words, I applied logic to the problem and solved it. It went like this:
1. It is possible some people will, in fact, reject others simply because they have scars on their face.
2. Such people are superficial jerks.
3. Superficial jerks aren't worth having as friends anyway.
4. Therefore, not only are you not missing out on anything because they may reject you, it is of a positive benefit since it serves, in a sense, as a type of "filter". You can be assured that your friends aren't superficial jerks.
And the scars haven't bothered me since.
Logic. It works. Try some today!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Checking Out

"May I help you?"
The librarian looked at Jack, who was holding a book in his hand. Jack placed the book on the counter and the librarian started scanning it into the computer.
"'Deke', huh? That's a great book!" the librarian said.
"Yeah, I'd heard a lot about it, but I'd never actually gotten around to reading it." Jack replied.
"Yeah, Deke Slayton knew all the behind-the-scenes stuff at NASA. If you're a space buff, you'll really enjoy it."
"'Space buff' would be putting it mildly. It's more an obsession with me."
"Really? Me too! Say, I have a question for you! Everyone knows Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon. But who was the LAST man on the moon?"
A smile crossed Jack's face.
"That would depend on how you define 'last'. If you're basing it on the order in which they exited the LM, the answer would be Harrison Schmitt. If you base it on the order in which the returned to the LM, it would be Gene Cernan."
The librarian responded with an even bigger smile. The smile of a hardcore space nerd recognizing one of his kindred.
"That's pretty good! You know the controversy!"
"Yeah, and I'm not about to attempt to resolve it, either", Jack laughed.
The librarian ripped the due date slip off the printer and placed it inside the book.
“Okay. Here’s another one for you,” said the librarian. “Can you name the only person to be buried on the moon?”
“BURIED on the moon?” Jack’s brow furrowed in thought as he took the book from the librarian. “You’ve got me on that one!” he finally conceded.
“Astronomer Eugene Shoemaker. A vial of his ashes was placed on the Lunar Prospector spacecraft in the 1990’s. When the mission ended, it was intentionally crashed onto the lunar surface. Thus he’s the only person buried on the moon.”
“That’s fascinating!” replied Jack. “I know a lot of space trivia, but even I didn’t know that one!”
“Yeah. Not many people do. I guess some Native Americans were quite upset by it, though.”
“Upset? Isn’t that rather hypocritical of them?”
“Hypocritical? How so?”
“Well, around these parts you can’t even dig a foundation for a parking garage without inadvertently exhuming a half-dozen Indians! And they’re upset over one guy buried on the moon?”
The librarian seemed taken aback. “I think it was merely because some Native peoples view the moon as sacred.”
“Maybe to us palefaces parking garages are sacred! After all, if there’s anything white people worship it’s commerce and urban sprawl! But dammit, if a backhoe happens to nick the skull of some Ojibwa who's been moldering in the ground for the past 3,000 years we have to stop digging, call in an army of archaeologists and get some overweight guy with an Italian last name and one-sixteenth Cherokee blood to hold some ceremony where he flings about some corn silk and burns some alfalfa seeds or some shit like that while the white folks have to stand around somberly and pretend they give a flying fuck! In the meantime, the building of the parking garage is held up two years! Give me a goddamned break! We’re expected to kiss their asses just because they were careless in disposing of their dead and THEY’RE ticked off because we put one dead guy on the moon? I say they should just cut us some fucking slack!” At that, Jack spun around and headed for the library exit.
“I'm sorry you're having a bad day," said the librarian. "Your book is due back in a month.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


For anyone who grew up in Michigan from 1960 on, the news of the death of broadcast legend Ernie Harwell is first on their minds today. While certainly not unexpected, it is nevertheless a sad event for those of us who have loved (and occasionally loathed) the Detroit Tigers. Harwell's voice was an omnipresence in the Michigan summer. No matter how bad things were in the world, just hearing Ernie's voice was a comforting reassurance that somewhere, something was happening the way it was supposed to.
Far better writers than I will sing the inevitable and much-deserved hosannas to Mr. Harwell and I don't suppose there is much I could do to improve upon their words.
I do, however, feel compelled to add a few modest lines to the appreciation of his life and work.
When Harwell spoke, he described the happenings on the diamond with a clarity and emotion that rendered any television screen a mere gadget of inferior quality. But what really impressed me about Harwell's broadcast style was his use of silence. As composer Claude Debussy was credited with saying, "Music is the space between the notes." It can also be argued that great broadcasting is the use of the space between the words. Harwell, to put it plainly, not only knew how to talk effectively, but also knew when to keep quiet. He had an intuitive sense of the rhythm and cadence of the game and, unlike some of today's announcers, wasn't afraid to let the ambient sounds of the baseball diamond project their own eloquence. And by so doing, he increased the effectiveness of his words.
Like many people in the area, I have my own story of meeting Ernie personally. Like many of life's best moments, it was a random and unplanned event. It was 1991. My wife was a travel agent at the time and she would occasionally get free stays at hotels as a perk. We had one such night at the Holiday Inn in Livonia. We were getting hungry and had some time to kill and there was a shopping mall nearby. So we wandered through it looking for a place to eat. While there, we passed a nearly empty bookstore in which a sign announced Ernie Harwell would be signing his new book "Diamond Gems". And sure enough, there he was, sitting alone behind a folding table near the bookstore entrance. There was no way, of course, I was going to let this opportunity pass. I bought a copy of the book, which he graciously signed for me. Having him shake my hand and hearing him say "Thanks so much, John. I hope you enjoy the book!" in THAT voice was a thrill only a Tiger fan could appreciate. He smiled and spoke with such warmth it seemed he'd known me all my life. Heck... as if he'd known me all HIS life! He was truly a class act. Summers will never be quite the same.
And I feel sorry for my children. They may have their Wii and their computer and their MP3 players... but they will never experience a childhood summer infused with that voice. And they are poorer for it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Things Daughters Say

My wife, daughter and I were walking Lily the Special Maltipoo today and were talking about an acquaintance who was a vegetarian.
"Why is she a vegetarian?" my daughter asked.
"I think she really loves animals and doesn't want to hurt them." replied my wife.
"Well... I don't want to hurt animals, either..." said my daughter thoughtfully, before adding "but they're so darned tasty!"

Points for honesty, I guess!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Commie Pinko... North Dakota?

The ever-vigilant ever-paranoid Teabaggers keep warning us about the dire fate awaiting us should the creeping menace of socialism latch its tentacles around our economy. Such hyperbole makes me wonder what the effect of having a truly socialist economic entity in America would be.
Well, my wondering is over. A short but interesting and informative article in the latest issue of Newsweek points out that there IS such an entity. The Bank of North Dakota, founded in 1919, is unique in that it is a 100% state-owned bank.
And the effect of this devastating socialism on that state's economy?
North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation and has a $1 Billion budget SURPLUS which goes back into the state's coffers thus funding social programs while keeping down the tax rate!
All I can say is if that's socialism, sign me up!!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Completely Full of Crop

Just over a year ago, I discovered I was going to lose my job. For that reason, I was too upset to plant last year’s garden. Today, however, in a gesture of returning optimism, I have resurrected the overgrown patch of grass in the backyard in order to commit myself to new growth and new life.

Lest I start sounding too “new age” for ya, it should be noted that my extreme enjoyment in beginning this year’s installment of the backyard garden had little to do with plants and everything to do with “man toys”. I was able to borrow my brother’s rototiller (thanks Paul!) and start tearing up some topsoil. There’s something about standing behind a noisy soil-shredding machine that’s very satisfying. It’s wonderful to see the transformation of a sorry piece of weedy grass into a lush dark loam. The first smell of fresh earth brings a satisfaction seldom equalled the rest of the year. Besides, if I’d have had to use a garden hoe and rake, it would have taken forever… if I could have done it at all without my 47-year-old ticker giving out.

I think this year I will once again plant cornstalks. Yes, cornstalks. I know better than to say I’m "planting corn" because my success in that endeavor is dismal to say the least. In all my years of attempted corn cultivation, I think my total yield has literally been about half an edible ear. In my defense, though, that half-an-ear did taste quite good! I now resign myself to the fact that the only useful result of my corn planting will be to provide my wife with nice seasonal yard decorations. Weathered cornstalks look quite attractive in the fall.
Actually, though, the real reason I keep planting corn is the summer thundershowers wouldn’t be the same without it. There’s something about the papery slap of raindrops on the leaves of a corn plant that reminds me this world is a nice place after all. And seeing the green cornstalks swaying gently in the rain-infused breeze is more comforting than all the Zoloft I gulp down in a year. So if I should happen to get any edible ears of corn this season, I’ll just consider it a bonus.

I also plan to plant my specialty: grape tomatoes. Everyone who has tried them raves about my grape tomatoes. For some reason, I manage to do an exceptional job growing that particular crop, producing bumper harvests of very high quality. Ironically, I can’t stand the taste of grape tomatoes. I just like growing them. Go figure.

Another crop I don’t like is cucumbers. I grow those well, too. Why is it I do a good job growing things I don’t like while the corn, which I love, doesn’t grow worth a damn?

Oh, well… at least I like potatoes and I usually do well growing those.

And so work on the garden has started for the year. It’s my way of voting “yes” for the future. And as I watch the fragile plantlets slowly grow into mature and thriving veggie factories, I’ll be reminded of the value of patience, hard work and optimism.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Anyone who has been watching the news lately may have noticed a recent spate of seismic activity around the globe. As a science nerd, I had assumed this was all due to geological forces such as the movement of tectonic plates. But it appears there’s another theory. According to a Muslim cleric in Teheran named Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, these earthquakes were actually caused by immodestly dressed women!

One scientifically minded female blogger, thinking as any good science geek would in such a circumstance, decided rather than simply brush aside this geogynistic theory, it should be subjected to strict scientific scrutiny. She has therefore proposed a bold experiment: on Monday, April 26, she has called on women volunteers to wear their most immodest cleavage-exposing clothes in order to see if this mass immodesty will provoke the Earth’s crust into spasms of seismic activity.

Should this unprecedented display of mass mammary power prove awesome enough to trigger a large “Boobquake”, geology textbooks may need to be completely re-written!

So should any women out there feel so inclined, now is your chance to help out the cause of science and critical thinking! Sadly, according to the cleric, I lack the anatomy required to affect the fault lines of our planet, so I cannot actively participate. But for those of you who can spare your breasts for a day for the cause of science, this coming Monday should provide an opportunity to help us learn more about the forces that shape our world.

It’ll be a good day to be a geek!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Human Cruelty; Divine Justice. Or Vice-Versa.

I realize this posting will touch on a very sensitive issue and there is a high likelihood of it causing offense. I believe, however, the issues involved are serious enough to warrant serious contemplation and consequently I believe I should say what I'm thinking and await the proverbial excrement to strike the mechanical cooling device.

Nearly any sentient being inside Genesee County Michigan now knows the story of 4-year-old Dominick Calhoun, who was horribly tortured and eventually beaten to death, allegedly by the boyfriend of the boy’s mother. According to details in press reports, Dominick had been severely kicked in the head and groin, had all his teeth knocked out, had burn marks on his feet and had even been dragged unconscious out of bed as the beatings continued.

As human beings who aspire to some semblance of civilized behavior, it is difficult if not impossible to understand how someone could carry out such a deranged, savage and horrific assault on a defenseless child. That Dominick suffered horribly is beyond dispute. Even thinking about the facts of the case objectively is difficult. In an attempt to assuage our own psyches, some of us imagine this somehow has a happy ending. Many people posting on a “Justice for Dominick Calhoun” page on Facebook, for example, attempt to comfort themselves by saying Dominick is now in a “better place” or that he is now “in the arms of the Lord”. The pastor at Dominick’s funeral was quoted as saying that Dominick closed his eyes in this world and opened them to gaze at “the loving face of Jesus”.

My first response was: where the hell was Jesus when little Dominick was being tortured? Was Jesus busy? Did he not care? Was there some perverted “divine plan” that required Dominick to suffer and die in this way?
My second response was: if little Dominick is now in such a wonderful place and his entry into it was said to have been caused by his mother’s boyfriend, shouldn’t we thank the boyfriend for doing this wonderful thing for him? Okay, obviously, I’m being darkly sarcastic there, but if you follow this logic to its conclusion, there IS a kernel of truth to it. I think all this Jesus & Heaven speak is nothing more than celestial sugar-coating which detract from the most horrible aspects of the crime.

My personal thoughts as to Dominick’s ultimate fate are clear: as an atheist, I believe he is dead. Period. There is no loving God to cradle him in his arms, no paradise to welcome a soul that outlives his physical body. If that seems harsh, I maintain that relatively speaking, it isn’t. If you want harsh, let’s look at the other side of religion… the one that’s being conveniently ignored. I know nothing of Dominick’s upbringing so I don’t know whether he had any religious rituals performed on him. But what if he had not been baptized? Or, if he WAS baptized, what if he was baptized by the “wrong” sect of Christianity? Or baptized in the “wrong” way? (Sprinkling with Holy Water on the forehead versus full immersion, say.) Or what if Allah is the One True God? Or Vishnu? What if, to counter the comforting image invoked by the funeral pastor, Dominick closed his eyes in this world only to open them in even greater agony in the eternal fires of hell?

I realize some people reading this will brand me a world-class asshole for even suggesting something so vile. But before condemning me further, I would like to ask one thing: can anyone point out to me a verse in the Bible that explicitly states unbaptized children get a free pass into heaven if they’re brutally murdered? I’ll be waiting.
In fact, there are some Christians who flatly state that an unbaptized child WILL go to hell. Harold Camping, head of Family Radio and a Biblical scholar who has a syndicated radio program called “Open Forum” once fielded a question from an obviously distraught mother whose infant child had recently died. The weeping mother asked whether, since the child had died before being baptized, he would still be able to enter Heaven. Camping, much to my surprise, unflinchingly said that the Bible was very clear on the issue: one MUST be baptized to enter Heaven and that the child was now and forever in Hell.
(Of course, Mr. Camping also predicted the world would end in September, 1994. If it has, I haven’t noticed.)
Upon hearing Camping’s exchange with the mother, my first reaction was shock that he could so blunt to the point of cruelty. But I also have to confess that, in a rather convoluted way, I admired his honesty. After all, in our society faith and honesty are supposed to be virtues. Here was a man who REALLY had faith in his beliefs and is honest about it to the point of misanthropy.

At this point I should state that this is one time where I sincerely wish I am completely wrong in my views. If anyone deserves a cosmic break and a Heavenly vacation, it would be Dominick.

But as Carl Sagan frequently said: “Wishing does not make it so.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Benjamin and Me

Lately, it seems as though I have something in common with Benjamin Franklin. No, I don’t share his sage wisdom… and I CERTAINLY don’t have his knack for making money from the written word.

What we do have in common, however, is the fact that we both started memoirs. The key word is “started”. Franklin’s memoirs, not published until after his death, are considered a milestone in American literature. My memoirs, I fear, aren’t destined for such a hallowed reception, but I started ‘em nevertheless and they will burden me until I either finish them or croak. And although I currently seem to be in fairly good health for my age, I still don’t know which of these will happen first.

The good Dr. Franklin had, I must admit, much better source material for his memoirs, being a celebrated printer, philanthropist, inventor, Founding Father, diplomat, etc., etc., etc. In my case, the analogous literary work is merely the memoirs of my years with the loud Flint punk band the Guilty Bystanders. I certainly have no illusions that my writing is anywhere near the quality of Franklin’s, but our authorship does share at least one common trait: procrastination. Franklin began his memoirs thinking nobody other than perhaps his son or close friends would ever actually read it. He completed the first part in 1771 and set it aside. Then, however, the manuscript started making the rounds and against all expectations people seemed to enjoy it and they started asking him when he would continue working on it. Well, in the early 1780’s he started writing a second section. After which his friends asked for even more. In the late 1780’s, he wrote a third section and he was working on a fourth part at the time of his death in 1790. So, in short, Franklin procrastinated on & off for 19 years working on memoirs that were never completed.

And me? My unfinished work has been nagging at the back of my mind every so often. And every so often, people have asked me when I would write more. I didn’t really have an answer. But I suppose the fact that I have a bit more free time than I used to should be something of which I should take advantage.

And so, if my word means anything, I pledge to begin doing some more writing of the Guilty Bystander saga… at least my version of it. I don’t claim that my version of events is definitive, objective or even necessarily very accurate… but if there are some people out there who are actually interested in my continuing the tale, I shall do my best to comply.

I have no idea how long this next installment may take, but I suppose if it’s worth doing, I should try to reduce its suckage quotient as much as I am able. If, therefore, my regular postings are a bit sparser for awhile, that will likely be why. When the next installment is completed, you blog folks will be the first to know. But please be patient… the fact that the first Guilty Bystanders song to ever get airplay was entitled “Apathy Song” wasn’t a coincidence!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Diplomats and Soldiers

Recently, there has been some debate in the atheist movement over what strategy should be adopted in relations with religious organizations. On one end of the debate, there are those who think atheists should be polite and accommodating toward those religious people who may treat atheists with respect and who may share common goals such as concern for the environment, social justice (NB: Fuck you Glenn Beck!) and the teaching of evolution in science classrooms. (Contrary to common belief, a majority of religious organizations have no problem accepting the evidence for evolution. Or, to paint a verbal Venn diagram, not all religious people are creationists, though nearly all creationists are religious.)
The counter to this viewpoint is that atheists should not make any compromise with religion. Though not all religions are openly hostile to atheists, even the most benign religions provide the cover under which the more radical religions are allowed to thrive. It might be argued, for example, that even though most religious people condemn the 9/11 attacks, the fact remains that the attacks were motivated by fanatical religious belief. To say otherwise is nothing short of a denial of documented fact. Many people downplayed this aspect of the attacks, however, for fear of offending more moderate religious movements. This timidity to criticize the religious aspect of the attacks, it was argued, made it more difficult to expose the links between terrorism and religion and without this exposure, effective countermeasures would be blunted.
So where do I stand in this debate? At risk of seeming like a copout, I think I'm somewhere in the middle. If the atheist movement is to continue to grow, it will need the ability to adopt varied and flexible strategies depending on the situation. Just as a large nation needs both diplomats and soldiers, the atheist movement will need to adopt both "accommodationist" strategies where they would work best while reserving the option of adopting a more militant stance in situations where they are needed.
To go back to the large nation analogy, it is certainly preferable to maintain civil discourse with other nations even when full agreement is not possible. In such situations, diplomacy is the best course for ensuring peaceful mutual co-existence. In cases, however, where others take actions that threaten our rights and security, we need to stop being polite and start defending those rights.
So that's what I think. Atheists should try to get along with non-atheists if and when possible but should be ready and able to boldly stand up for their rights when necessary. To put things simply: when religious people treat atheists with respect, we should reciprocate. When they take actions to infringe upon our rights, we should not hesitate to fight back - even at the risk of "offending" the more mainstream religionists.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Shameless Catholic Bashing from an Ex-Catholic

I was raised Roman Catholic. I worked for five years at a Catholic church when I was younger. It was mostly landscaping and janitorial stuff, but what I saw behind the scenes while there was a real eye-opener. There was a lot of alcoholism and homosexual behavior among the clergy. (Nothing, to my knowledge, involving minors, but to a teenager who had been taught to respect the church, it was still quite a revelation.)

What I observed and the public hypocrisy being displayed made me disillusioned with the church so I left. Although I later became an atheist, that, for me, was not caused by my bad experiences with Catholicism; it was simply a matter of reading, studying and thinking about the philosophy of theistic belief and discarding it later in life.

One would have to be willfully avoiding all media not to know about the allegations of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. (I was going to write “recent” allegations, but that would be incorrect. These allegations have been around for decades. It’s simply a matter of the evidence for it recently becoming so overwhelming that it can no longer be explained away as a series of misunderstandings or isolated incidents.)

Some have claimed that instances of pedophilia among the Catholic priesthood are not significantly higher than they are among the general population. I’m not certain that's accurate, but for the sake of argument, I will concede that point for the present. This pedophilia, as horrible as it is, is only part of the problem. The more sinister aspect of the sex abuse scandal, in my opinion, is what increasingly appears to be a concerted effort to place the reputation of the church above the well-being of the young sexual abuse victims.

Some have raised the point that it is perhaps unfair to single out the Catholic Church as an institution for these incidents since the people who committed these horrible deeds and those complicit in their cover-up and of the enabling of these child predators to strike again were merely human and that their behavior – reprehensible as is was – should not reflect upon the Church as a whole. I wholeheartedly disagree. Here’s why:

If you call a plumbing service, you expect the people there to be better than the average person when it comes to fixing showerheads and drains. If you go to a mechanic, you should expect them to know how to change a spark plug or a head gasket better than the average person. If, therefore, an institution claims to be a beacon of moral behavior, I would reasonably expect their representatives to excel in moral behavior! Simple as that. Claims that the Catholic clergy molest children at a rate equal to that of the general population simply doesn’t cut it for me. I would expect an institution claiming to instill moral behavior in others to have a rate far LOWER than that in the general population! If it didn’t, I would – like a plumbing service that employed people who knew diddly-squat about plumbing – have to question the reason for such an institution’s existence.

If there could possibly be any positive outcome to this tragic situation, it would be that this systematic abuse and cover-up is finally being exposed and the evidence is now out there for all to see. In the past, there were people who respected the clergy so much that anyone making claims of less-than-holy behavior on their part simply would not be believed. I know this for a fact since, when I told others about what I knew to be going on at the local parish, I was surprised at the number of people who simply refused to believe me, even though they knew me to be trustworthy and truthful in my communications with them otherwise. Now that the light of truth has entered the darkened corridors of the rectories, perhaps those who are abused in the future will be more readily believed… at least to the point that further investigation takes place when an allegation is made and swift and proper punitive action takes place in instances where the allegations are verified.

Worth Checking Out...

For those few of you out there who may read this blog from time to time, I would like to suggest another blog that is definitely worth reading on a regular basis:


I may be a bit biased since it is written by a good friend of mine, but I think I can honestly say that I would enjoy it even if that weren't the case. It's updated frequently and always contains delicious electrifying brain candy!

Go there! NOW!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Thought for the Day

ZEN: It's not a matter of whether a god really exists; it's whether the existence of a god really matters.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spoiled and Lazy?

Much has been made of the results of a recent survey of the so-called “Millennial” generation: defined as those between the ages of 18 and 29, in which they did not claim a strong work ethic was a defining trait of their generation.

Some commentators have slammed the Millennials for being “spoiled and lazy” as a result. I am not among them. Despite the temptation, as a middle-aged codger, to do what every generation since at least the Ancient Greeks has done by bad mouthing the younger folks, I must admit that I admire the honesty and perceptiveness of these young ‘uns.

Those older folks who decry the lack of enthusiasm for the 9-to-5 routine among these new members of the workforce are, in my opinion, making the mistake of looking at things based on their own perceptions of reality rather than what these Millennials have observed.

Think about it: when I was growing up, the narrative was if you do well in school, work hard and are loyal to your employer, you will be rewarded with a good income and financial security. And let’s face it, when my generation was growing up, our observations seemed to bear this out. People would work for decades on the shop floor and if they were fortunate enough not to die before retirement, they pretty well had it made. A nice pension, health insurance, a paid-off mortgage… It seemed like a good deal.

But think of what the Millennials are seeing: people who have done well in school and who have worked loyally and hard for their employers for decades are simply shunted aside just shy of retirement age and are left with no financial security and no job prospects. If I were in their place, working my ass off for some ungrateful employer would be the LAST damned thing I’d want to spend my life doing.

I spoke with people even older than me (yes, they do exist) who slammed these younger workers for their lack of loyalty to a company and their tendency to move from job to job whenever a better prospect would arise. They viewed this as a negative trait, but from the viewpoint of the Millennials, it was a rational decision. Why be “loyal” when such loyalty won’t bring any rewards in the long run? From their perspective, it makes sense for them not to get too involved in a job. They’re actually making shrewd observations of economic reality and are making their decisions and adjusting their values accordingly. In the past, people busted their asses for the boss because it would be worth it in the long run. Now, however, that the stick no longer has a carrot attached, why pull the bossman’s cart?

Perhaps these Millennials will be pioneers in formulating a new lifestyle which strikes a more healthy balance between the stresses of work and the joys of living. Perhaps they will learn to work to live rather than live to work.

So, to all you 18-29 year olds out there: more power to you. Learn from our mistakes and find your own path. You’re more than just a paycheck and a job description.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


For many married couples, the holidays sometimes present scenarios which need to be dealt with using the greatest tact and diplomacy. This Easter might have been one such instance. Should we spend the holiday with my wife’s sibling or with mine?

If we were to choose her sibling, we would spend a few days being spoiled shamelessly at a house within walking distance of the sandy beaches of Grand Traverse Bay dining on – among other delicacies – a standing rib roast and genuine Tiramisu. (Not to mention ample breakfasts featuring bacon cooked to sublime crispness by the only woman whose bacon-making talents have approached the perfection achieved by my late grandmother.) If we were to spend Easter with my sibling, however, we would spend it in the company of some creepy fundamentalist Christian in-laws and an equally creepy extended network of their friends and co-workers and siblings of co-workers…
And the cuisine? Let’s just say that one year we were treated to lukewarm instant mashed potatoes reconstituted with – nay – bathed in tepid soy milk.

Screw tact and diplomacy! Going to Traverse City was a no-brainer!

And so, on Saturday morning, the four of us and Lily the “Special” Maltipoo piled into the Toyota and commenced our trek northward. Unlike past excursions, we actually managed to leave at our planned departure time. Apparently the kids getting older combined with our experience packing for such trips have combined to make our travelling much more efficient than in previous years.
And so the humans involved were doing well. The canine traveler, though, wasn’t. When Lily noticed us packing up the leash and doggie bed, she started to freak out: separation anxiety without the separation, I suppose. She whined and hyperventilated in the back seat for the first half hour of the trip before finally settling down.

We decided to stop for lunch in Cadillac. Leanne saw a sign indicating an unnamed lake was ahead.
“I wonder what lake that is?” she asked.
“I dunno… Lake Cadillac?” was my smartass reply.
About a minute later we encountered a sign informing us that we were in the presence of… Lake Cadillac.
Damn! Even when I’m being intentionally stupid, I’m smart!
One thing a visitor cannot help but notice in the vicinity of Cadillac are all the anti-abortion signs. Lots of pictures of fetuses and babies and slogans such as “Take my hand, not my life.” Yep. Someone in Cadillac really, really, really hates abortion. I fantasized about wearing a T-shirt around town sporting the slogan “I (heart) abortions!” just to piss these people off. But I suspect anyone actually doing so would probably get a lethal dose of “Christian Love”.
I'm guessing all the infatuation with the unborn is somehow connected with the Catholic Church. You know, the folks who believe human life should be protected from the moment of conception until the moment of birth. After that, fuck ‘em. Figuratively and – in some horrific situations – literally.
(Okay, I realize this is supposed to be a lighthearted account of our recent trip to Traverse City, but you really couldn’t expect me to get through several paragraphs without a gratuitous slam against religion, could you? Besides, this is MY blog. If you want a more polite and civil blog, write your own!)
Anyway, we soon arrived at the sister-in-law’s without incident. The pantry was well stocked and our hostess was not about to let us leave weighing less than we did upon arrival.
Everything was wonderful… except the weather. This, however, was not as unfortunate as it may seem. I had long heard of the fine public library in Traverse City and since we couldn’t do much else, it was a perfect opportunity to… uh… “check it out”. (Sorry… I couldn’t resist the bad library pun.)
The Traverse City Library is wonderful! It’s a large, beautiful architecturally appealing building located on a scenic parcel of land near Boardman Lake with convenient access to the TART Trail. In Flint, such a parcel of land would most likely be occupied by condominiums.
Not only does the TC library boast excellent wireless internet access, but I was informed that Traverse City is planning to implement a free community wifi service later this year. Yep… the powers that be in the TC community view internet access as an essential public service and are willing to take steps to make it happen. I couldn’t help but contrast this with the situation in Flint where cuts in public services and a rash of arsons are plaguing the community. I kept wondering: why does Traverse City work while Flint seems broken? Maybe someday…
We spent that evening eating some delicious pizza and watching MSU lose in the Final Four basketball game against whoever-the-hell-they-were-playing-against. I was once a diehard U of M fan, but that all changed when they thumbed their noses at Flint by shit-canning WFUM. So now… it’s Go Green!
We spent a quiet Easter Sunday eating like royalty… from the aforementioned awesome bacon & eggs for breakfast to the juicy standing rib roast for dinner.
Sample dinner conversation:
“What’s in the bowl?”
“That’s the au jus.”
Au jus? I didn’t think they celebrated Easter.” (You get one guess who couldn’t help say THAT!)
After the delicious roast - some divine Tiramisu for dessert. Damn! This was the life!
And since the weather was clear, the kids & I walked to the beach where I read, my son looked for fossils and my daughter took pictures of every animal that passed within a hundred yards.
The next day, the downtown shops were open. Used book stores, gift shops, food stores… Leanne actually had pity on me and allowed me to purchase a container of excellent Cherry-flavored loose leaf tea from one of the local vendors. Mmmmmm!
For lunch, we ate at a place I insist on calling – much to everyone’s annoyance – SlapChop. Actually, it’s called Slabtown (after the old name of the neighborhood in which it’s located). My wife once kept mistakenly calling it “Slaptown” and from that I morphed the name into the infamous product hawked by the ever-trustworthy “Vince” of TV infomercial fame.
SlapChop… uh… Slabtown is an incredible burger place. How good? I realize this may be speaking blasphemy, but it ranks with the best burger joints in Flint. I think I’m gaining weight just thinking about it!
Finally, no trip to Traverse City would be complete without a trip to Moomer’s, voted the best ice cream place in America by some TV show awhile back. (Yeah, I could do some basic research to look up the specifics, but then again, so can you. That’s what Google is for.)
Not only did I have some delicious German Chocolate ice cream, but we purchased a new product: Moomer’s milk. It’s not homogenized and is processed to get from the cow to the consumer as quickly as possible. And unlike most store-bought milk which could pass for opaque water, this milk has an actual… taste! (Imagine that!) It’s hard to describe, but it reminded me vaguely of tasting like the liquid one would encounter in cottage cheese. Kinda. Anyway, it was quite good and worth checking out.
While at Moomer’s, my sister-in-law was telling me about research where dairy cows were being raised in a stress-free environment and could be milked when they wanted to be and were exposed to soothing music.
“Great. My next CD will be ‘Music for Cows’” I quipped.
I spent that night awake in bed… seriously wondering what kind of music cows would enjoy.

And so, on Tuesday, we returned home. It was a nice break from the incessant job search and likely as close to a vacation we’re going to get this year.
It was fun.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dei Gratia

It happens with surprising frequency: a self-righteous sack of human fertilizer pounds pulpit or podium spewing words like napalm: homosexuality is SINFUL and IMMORAL! Gays are EVIL! Their agenda must be STOPPED!
And it’s usually just a matter of time before that person is exposed as a pathetic self-loathing gay man himself. (Do the names Ted Haggard or Republican California Senator Roy Ashburn ring a bell?)

I get somewhat that same feeling when I hear those teabaggers and militia-types harangue about the evils of tyranny and government intervention in one’s personal affairs. Sure, they certainly fling invective against tyranny and oppression, but I suspect, like the most vocal anti-gay activists, they actually harbor a deep and hidden lust for the very thing they rail against.
They fancy themselves the philosophical heirs to the American patriot movement of the 1770’s. Strangely, however, many of these tea party conservatives also state we should bring God back into government. (And in the case of Christian militia movements such as the Hutarees, they want to implement this civic piety by force.)
Which brings us back to the American Revolution. Look at a British coin from the colonial period. You’ll see a picture of King George III and the legend “Dei Gratia Rex” (“By the grace of God, King”). Now THERE’S a government based on the Lord! Right there on the coins it states that civil authority is derived by the grace of God. The American patriots, though, once they achieved independence from those who minted that coin and established a stable government, stated proudly it derived its authority from “We the People”. Damned secular rabble!

So despite all their posturing and attempts to assimilate the external trappings of the patriot movement, the fact is their ideology is more closely aligned with the British colonial authorities! In other words, if these guys somehow found themselves transported back to 1775, they’d be fighting for the Tories!
While you might think I’m merely indulging in a bit of rhetorical exaggeration in saying that, I assure you I mean it quite seriously. In defense of this proposition, may I submit for your consideration the recent actions by the conservative-dominated Texas School Board. In formulating new history standards, they are actually proposing the removal of Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum in favor of Thomas Aquinas (who argued the truth of the proposition on that British coin - that civil power is justly derived from the Almighty) and John Calvin (who actually set up a rather bloody, nasty and repressive theocracy in Geneva)! It seems the Hutarees would have been right at home there. Noodle on THAT for a bit!
(As an amusing aside, this same school board removed the children’s classic “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?” from a list of approved elementary school texts. The reason? Its author, Bill Martin, was accused of writing a book on Marxism. It turns out, however, they had the wrong Bill Martin. The one who wrote the book on Marxism is a philosopher in Chicago and – aside from sharing a common name - has no connection to the children’s book author. Upon being informed of this, the embarrassed board reinstated the book. Yep. THIS is the caliber of intellect we’re dealing with!)

These people may TALK a lot about freedom, but I think freedom is what these people really can’t stand. Their flags may be emblazoned with the words “Don’t Tread on Me”, but I'm guessing if they had the chance they wouldn’t hesitate a minute to tread on US!