Pages

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Miracle Happened There

Let me tell you a story. One you may have heard before, but bears retelling none the less..

It is a story of Oppressing Armies, rebels, determination, the will to survive and perseverance.


Once upon a time there were some people who lived in a tight little community; they lived together, they worked together, and they all shared a belief passed to them through blood and through teaching.

They had a massive Temple , built for them with instructions of their God as passed through man.

It was a hard time in the world, and though they tried to simply hold on to what they had, they were overrun. Their temple was seized, and it was converted to the worship of the conqueror's God. This upset the local people, and though they wanted to fight and regain it, many felt the chance for reprisals too strong; the penalty for insurrection to harsh; in time the army made it punishable by death to even cling to the old religion.

Slowly, a small band of resistance fighters did emerge however - and the invading army gathered up the leaders of the community and told them " Worship our God!" and " Here, dine upon this swine" - both of which were strictly forbidden by their faith. One man, Matthias, was one of the high priests and he refused. It angered the invading army, and when a local villager said " I will do it for him" it angered Matthias so much that he drew a sword and slew him. Matthias then killed the man who had made the demands, and Matthias's sons and others from the village were emboldened enough to kill the remaining squadron of the invading soldiers.

They took to the hills, where others with the same desire to regain what they had lost banned with them. At some point they became known as Hasmoneans, or more commonly as "Maccabees".

The Maccabees were fierce fighters; they had both the will of their God with them, and a desire to see things set back as they had been. Matthias the Maccabee did not live to see it; most of his son's did including Judah, whose fierce fighting earned him the name "Judah the Hammer".They recaptured their sacred Temple, but it had been defiled with the worship of a false God as well as the sacrificing of swine. It was not fit for the service of their God, and needed to be purified and rededicated. To do so would require the burning of sacred oil, for eight days. They searched and searched the Temple, and were dismayed to find only enough oil for one day - one lonely day when eight were needed to prepare more. But with faith and determination they lit the Menorah with it's one day of oil, and it burned for 8 nights.

It was a miracle that happened there.


I love this little story - it speaks to parts of me I cannot explain - the firm determination of the Maccabees ; their faith that they could , would, and did see the retaking of that which was theirs; and the simple yet miraculous event that surrounded the one day's oil burning for 8 nights.

One thing I never understood growing up, in a Christian household - was why we did not celebrate Hanukkah too - we heard the tale each year in church, and these Maccabees were the Jews who from whom our Faith soon grew - to not celebrate such an amazing event baffled me.

Now, older, I have no field of religion upon which I pitch my tent; but so far as stories of hope, determination, faith and reward go, the story of Matthias and the Maccabees is one of the few that finds resonance in my bones.

Happy Hanukkah my friends, and remember - A miracle happened there...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Iraq : War is Over

In a moment of rare seriousness I want to say : I am overjoyed at the end of military action in Iraq. Too many dead among the military on both sides; way to many dead among the civilian population of Iraq , numbering so high as to equal the Rwandan genocidal killing fields ; we saw the worst of ourselves at Abu Ghraib; we went on lies; we shattered and forever mangled the minds and bodies of young men who were told they were "Doing the right thing" and quickly learned they were not but had no choice but to follow orders; billions and billions of wasted dollars on a war that served no purpose.

But none of that is what brings me the most joy. What brings me joy is that this evening, for the first time in their memory, I can put my children to sleep knowing that one war has ended.

Now, let's get the boys and girls out of Afghanistan, and let our small ones go to bed knowing that we have no war at all.

Please remember today those who have lost their sons; their daughters. Look the young men with mangled legs and arms and plates in their skulls in their eyes and blame them not for the war; they were but part of the machine, not the ones who invented it; and take a moment today to reflect, or pray, or meditate about how awesome that ideal is , that ideal of peace; that ideal of not running off rattling sabers and firing muskets; and then take a moment to remember the over 1 million dead on both sides , and ask yourself was it all worth it?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Free Market vs. Free Speech

Stop. Before you even read this - you need to do your homework. Unless your live in a cave or under a bridge, You are probably aware of the Lowe's Home Improvement decision to pull it's advertising support from TLC's "All American Muslim" program.

And unless you just woke up from a coma, or are one of the seven people in the world without Facebook or Twitter, you have probably seen either a whirl wind of indignation, or support, or both, depending on the leanings of the folks you socialize with.


OK, now that you have done your homework, here is my thoughts.

I have in the past , when made aware of the financial support by one Corporation to a cause or charity I did not agree with, decided to "fight back with my wallet" - by boycotting / avoiding them.

A great example is of McDonald's. I learned in a Sociology class that McDonald's was a major supporter of a charity that , at the time, I did not approve of. And for 8 years I did not spend my money at a McDonald's. In the spirit of total transparency, I will admit I did eat McDonald's food - so long as someone else paid for it. I had no problem with the food you see - just with my money going to folks I would not give my money to willingly.

Let's step away for a second, but we will come back.

It is an ideal that it is my money, and thus my control is excised upon its use - but really - it is not. It is money in a cycle - I work for a corporation, and they pay me ( and the last thing I want is them to boycott me over my choice of causes ) then it is my oney for a minute and I decide how to spend it either on food or lumber or to a charity, Once I spend it - on a cheeseburger, a piece of lumber, whatever - it ceases to be my money. And if McDonald's wanted to support a scholarship program I felt unfairly supported folks at the expense of others - then well, at that point, it was their money. It is a cycle.

So Back to my personal Anti-McDonald's campaign. I grew up. I realized that their support was not racist; rather my non-support was - and I dealt with my own inner problem.

The fact is McDonald's is a huge ass corporation and it can spend its monies how it wants - and really - if it spends some to educate people, that is kinda awesome.

Now to today - Lowe's got some heat from an Ultra Conservative group and the pulled ad dollars from a show about Muslims.

DO I agree? Hell no.

Do I understand? Grudgingly.

Lowe's is a business; it can spend it's money on advertising where it wants. The point of advertising is to encourage customers to come in the door and spend more moeny; the purpose of advertising is not to prop up and support a program. That's the local charity event form of advertising - let's get a name on a poster for 3 hours!

No, fact is, someone at Lowe's had to make a decision - do we continue to spend money on ads for a second tier low exposure TV show and risk a potential public relations disaster, or do we pull it and risk a public relations disaster?

A hard choice, isn't it? The Lady or The Tiger seems like a cake walk in comparison.

In an age where Rick Perry posts a video like this, and where there are people who still think that the President Of The United States is a Muslim despite the fact he attends Christian Services and was a member of the same Christian congregation for over 20 years , such a choice would be a nightmare to discuss in a board room.

I am sure at some point, the dollars boiled down to : who can we afford to piss off the most? And a decision was made.

I will say this about Lowe's. In April of 2011 the Lowe's that is local to me was destroyed in the middle of a shopping day by a tornado. Within days , it is my understanding (from word of mouth, not from news reports) that Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR Driver sponsored by Lowe's had reached out to provide some relief to the workers of that store; ( from my personal witnessing ) the workers were spread out to other stores to work and keep their jobs, ( and from my real life career ) the old store removed and construction rushed to get it back in place.

I have friends who work there. I have shopped there for years, and since it reopened I have enjoyed shopping in the new store. They may always seem to be out of at least one item I need, but they have decent service.

I do not see myself boycotting Lowe's over this - they pretty much were painted into a corner, and had to make a hard call. But I find a big difference in boycotting a group because they FUND something you oppose, versus boycotting a company that decides to not spend their ad dollars where they decide not to.

When you step back and look, you can find a reason to pretty much boycott just about any business - Chik Fil A pops to mind as a popular target. And then you can look at all of the brouhaha surrounding the Tourism boycotts of South Carolina; the whole Boycott B.P. ruckus after the Deep water Horizon episode; Amazon; Sony, Gillette; General Electric - if you have a name, someone probably wants to boycott you.

None of these boycotts seem to go any farter than " Don't spend a few dollars with so and so - because they support/don't support such and such." And honestly, a lot of these boycotts seem more about getting attention for the ones doing the boycotting, and not to their platform or agenda.

We have , in our history, witnessed amazingly successful boycotts : The Montgomery Bus Boycott is the prototypical success and lesson to learn from. But it was successful in it's simplicity - the bus lines were confined to Montgomery, and the impact was direct. While there were several tens of buses, cabs cut rates to support the protesters and there was a myriad of other functions that fueled the overall protest - it was more than just " don't ride the bus".

Now - Lowe's had 1,749 stores in January 2011. They are spread across the United States - an organized boycott would mean be possible only if the needs of those boycotting can be filled by another provider - like the cabs for those boycotting the buses. But not every town has an alternative. But even if they did - you have to then factor in at what cost? Do yu want Lowe's to suffer to the point that people you know lose jobs? Do you wnat to see a store that an entire community rallied around to resurrect close?

I don't.

What i would like is for Lowe's to step up and say " Oops. We did not think that through - we want to renew our contract". But you know what would happen - folks who feel just as strongly that they did the correct thing would then start their boycott.

it is a never ending cycle.

Lowe's ( and Chik Fil A, and G.E. and Disney, et. al ) are not the real problem - we are.

So long as we remain so polemic that we have to make folks choose side, and make folks define every little detail, we will never be able to satisfy everyone.

So as for me, no, I will not be boycotting Lowe's. I will be using them to get the things I need. I will however, try to direct the things I want, and cannot live without, to stores that are small, and local, and support causes I agree with.

In the short run - it is the Free Market versus Free Speech, as applied by your money.

But in the long run, it's not my money after all - I'm just holding it for a minute.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Quit feeding The Copy / Paste Trolls - or - You Should Know Better


Here in the past week the "Copy and Paste" Trolls have been busy as shit on Facebook.

I can tell you, the posts that keep popping up again and again, and folks seem to endlessly report these blatant untruths.

Just a few days ago, I encountered ( for about the 100th time - clue #1 ) a post along the lines of " Do not join the group I love being a parent - it's a bunch of children raping perverts who are gonna steal your kids pictures and then hunt them down and rape the shit out of them. It has to be true - it was on Foxxy News!! Copy and paste this to all the world!!!"

Ok, here's the deal - this is false. As would be easily verified with, of I don't know - a visit to the Foxxy news website? Maybe Google? A trip to Snopes? But no - you can see this thread ( I have seen it going on for over a YEAR now mind you ) yet it always claims it was on the news just yesterday.

SO, thinking that most folks would not want o be part of 1 ) spreading an obvious lie or 2 ) maligning a real group by posting a status that is not true about it, I joking mentioned to the current offender to not feed the trolls - and included a link. what did I get? An indignant response that " I don't have time to check out everything - rather be safe than sorry!" and a deletion. Really? You would rather spread a lie about children being fucked by a group that does not do that, then take a few minutes to verify something? Just toss it out there with your name beside it as fact? Amazing.


Another one that seems to be getting a lot of traction is that old standby " In 4 days Facebook will start charging you One Million Spanish Pesetas to use it - we will not pay ! Post this to tell Facebook to fuck themselves!!" Really? You know what? I wish Facebook WOULD start charging for it's use. Look, it is hands down THE social invention of the past 25 years. I use it constantly - private chat, private messaging, sharing of photos, an almost unending database of old friends and information - and it is free? Holy fuck - whoever made that decision is a total dumbass - they are sitting on a gold mine. And if you charged - maybe some of the folks that constantly spam my wall with their dumb shit will go back to Myspace - good riddance. ( Oh - and you do know Justin Timberlake , along with some others, just bought Myspace, right? Remember that whole Google thing I told you about? Use it... )


Another one is the endless and senseless posting about Obama and the National Day of Prayer. But thankfully that one only comes around in seasons - so maybe, just maybe, next year folks will see it and go "Oh yeah, I saw this last year - and it was not true then ......"


One other thing I cannot stand are the "Invites" to "events" that make no real sense - these things are armchair activism at it's most fat-lazy-assed-ness. "Hey - I'm going to go put an orange ribbon on my wall to support the lower 4th circuit courts decision to stop frog licking"... Umm. Ok. Wow. you know who benefits from that? The makers of little orange ribbons, and that is about it. I got one concerning the kid in Florida - sure it is sad - but it had over 2 million attending - to turn on their front porch lights. For what? What a waste of electricity. Like the 12 jurors are gonna ride around the country and go " Oh fuck! We messed up - we shoulda roasted that bitch, EVEN IF WE DID THINK SHE WAS NOT GUILTY.."


And you know - sometimes folks mean well. Like I can see how, a couple of outraged folks would start a movement like that - but it gets nothing accomplished, and it ends up being a time suck when sent to folks to whom it has no application. Unlike the first two examples that are the work of Trolls who find delight in the misleading of innocent ( and too lazy to fact check ) people, the third on just lulls the user into a feeling of "accomplishment" for something that really has zero life impact. At all.


What about the original post trolls? Nah - feed them bastards. You wanna start an original thread with something abrasive, coy, or slightly inflamatory? Rock on! That leads to discussion - it's these " I'm to infantile in my thinking processess to come up with my own shit" posts that drive me nuts. And if you like that, you can copy and paste it all you want. ( Sheeple )

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The HP rings up year number 36


The HP’s “State of The HP” Annual Birthday Address
Year 36


So, last year , and the year before, on various forums, I have written some entries or notes that pretty much chronicle where I am in life on my birthday.

2011 finds me looking at 36 years in the mirror – though were they went, I do not know. Sure, there are days I feel like I am 50, but many days I feel like I just walked out of High School over at Western Harnett ( Go Eagles!).

First the numbers: As of today, on the first day toward 37, as I celebrate completing year 36, I am a little lighter in my shoes that a year ago. I am ringing the scales at 227 as of this morning. I have in the past year participated in three 5k events, and have re-joined a fitness club, though here of late my work schedule has kept me away from it ( more on this in a bit ) . I have also addressed my desire to quit smoking, trying unsuccessfully back in March of this year, but I have cut back. This is no victory, but it is a step forward.

I have, on this day , a six year old ( he shares my birthday in fact ) a ten year old, and a young man who will be sixteen in just under a week. All three are fine young men who love their Momma and Daddy, and are often referred to by others as being well behaved and good mannered; despite the way we see them at home. They are boys , so it will pass, and their at home tom-foolery is easily accepted given the fact that they all do well academically and pretty much stay out of any real trouble.

My step may have slowed a slightest bit, and my ears give me troubles ( I harbor a real fear I will lose my hearing in coming years ) , but one thing that improves for me daily is my love for my Sweetums. We are growing old, no matter how young we try to stay , but just months shy of 18 years of marriage I love her madly, deeply, wholly and purely. She is my true better half, often much more tender and caring, always trying to teach me to be a better person. I have several times written about how a partner is not your best friend; that you need to be able to have a mate and a life to live of your own, but she completes me in a way that if not magical or scientific, is cosmic and pure.

This year has seen me away from home more than any in my life – I have spent almost 3 months worth of nights in Hotel rooms in towns both boring and fun. It is all for work, and I have a great job with great folks. Sure, I bitch about work – who does not? – but I do love my job. I have a great boss, I have great coworkers, and we get the job done. I like pulling into a gas station and a stranger coming up to tell you what a great job the company did near their home or job; I may not have been on that project – but we all work together – and it is nice to be part of something good.

The economy has hit us just like everyone else – I have made some adjustments around the house, and have fine tuned the art of paying a bill at the very very very last second. We don’t go out much, if at all, but we manage too have fun. We recently went to a weekend away, and I spent more than I should have, less than I wanted to, but we had a blast. It has affected my chicken farm; this year I pretty much shuttered the whole deal except for a very few birds, and those were either presold or birds I wanted to keep for myself.

In the little bit of spare time I do have, I began this past year in learning to “home brew” – make my own beer. This has been a real fun and rewarding hobby, introducing me to new folks, getting me out of my comfort zone and into a few public social settings, and hey – it is beer. What else do you need to know – it is beer!

I managed to get two tales published this past year, in the small Literary Magazine the Red Clay Review, though I have not gotten a copy yet. This was a big deal to me. I could not have done it without the help and support of my friends, most especially Gabrielle.

I also learned a little more about myself this year – I like to fundraise. Seriously – I like to beat the bushes and ask for money to help with causes. I had a great campaign with the St. Baldric’s event in the spring, and am about to get real serious about raising money for the MS Bike Ride in Historic New Bern this coming September. ( So get out those debit cards and donate dammit! )

Lost a friend this spring; life actually does come to an end, no matter who idyllically we prattle about, living like gods and monsters in a fairy tale. The reality slams home as you stand looking into a casket at a man who you knew as a boy, who you played with, sang with, double dated with, drank beer and whisky, smoked a joint – everything you do – and then, like a puff of wind from an open sash against a candle flame it is over.

On the flip side of that , new life , babies – in the arms of friends and running around the feet of friends – babies everywhere – new life, new hope – a future.

All of these things, and many more, are what The HP lived through this year.

I would like to take a moment and thank everyone of you for reading my little ramblings, for the arguments, the comments, the fun and the support. But most of all I want to thank you for that gist that gold cannot buy and a knife cannot sever – I want to thank you for your friendship, and to wish you, each and everyone, that in the coming year until I meet the 37th head on, that we continue to laugh, love and lean upon one another, and know that if you ever need me, all you have to do is ask – I will always do what I can to help any person who is my friend.

The HP loves you all, and wishes you all a good day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The HP 2012 - Your Choice For President


So I look at the state of affairs in our Country and I have decided that what this country needs is someone to fix it. Someone who does not give a fuck what you think, and will fucking just do the job, and tell all the cry babies to get over it and move on.

SO yeah, The HP is here to do that. I'm gonna run for President.

I do not see the point in raising a lot of money - folks will naturally gravitate to my down-home problem solving skills and earthy mentality when looking at an issue. SO I am not asking for your money.

I do not see the point in asking you for your support, as i know you are going to vote for me anyhow - that wastes my time and makes you feel awkward when responding to my plea.

So here are the first 5 planks in the platform:

1) All people need to leave other people the fuck alone. This is a multifacted platform - it means leave your pay cheak alone ( like that don't you conservatives?) It means leave your life style alone ( hello gay vote! ) It means leave your religion alone ( Muslims, Christians and everyone else, welcome to the fold ). And it means I will not , under any circumstance invade a foreign country. ( North Korea, you can start sending me some graft right about now ).

2) You don't fuck with family. And we are all family. So all you "Defend our borders" folks, thank you in advance for your vote. Because we are bringing the soldiers home to defend our land, on our soil.

3) I don't give a shit about marijuana. Seriously - don't care. You wanna toke up? Vote for me. You think it is a gateway drug and needs to be banned? Vote for me. See, I am not gonna get in your way - you can bitch and argue for my 8 years ( cause you know your gonna re-elect me ) all you want. I don't care. And for the record - yes - I did smoke, I did inhale, and you know wht? Meh - not a big thing to me. SO no, I just don't care.

4) Guns. You want'em - you can have them. Don't care if you are a non-violent felon. Don't care if you are 13. The only way you lose the right to bear arms will be to commit a crime with a gun. Then we cut off your arms. Because you lost the right to bear your arms. If, as an armless citizen, you learn to use a gun with your feet, good for you.

5) Everyone is entitles to free health care. At the same time, everyone who accesses free health care , and is not employed an thus funding it, will be required to run errands for those who cannot. Cut thier grass. Wash thier houses. Clean the gutters. Give handjobs to nursing home patients. Whatever. We all pitch in for the greater good.

As it stands, it is pretty hard to get on a ballot. Even to be a write in , in some states you have to be registered. So I have formed an exploratory committee to locate the easiest state to get upon a ballot. That one state is all we need. We can make an impact.

Also, think about it. If you are passionate about politics, I am sure you know 3 or 4 people who will vote the opposite of you - so you guys cancel each other out. Need proof? 2004. So why cancell each other out - why not make a statement. Vote a vote that says " This is all such bullshit, I'm going to give a bullshit vote."

That's me - your Bullshit Candidate.

Vote for the HP in 2012.

PS: Vice President consideration is currently open for hire. EOE Employer.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Don’t believe the Hype – 10 things that are grossly overrated

It’s been a while since I popped in here with a new entry, so figured best thing I could do would be piss off everyone. Joking. But not really.

The concept is simple : Here are ten things that I currently think are way overrated, and why.

Enjoy.

10. The NBA Draft Lottery. This has got to be the stupidest, next to nothing event ever. I mean it could be took care of in 2 minutes flat. Throw the eligible names in a hat. Pull one out. Thank you, turn out the lights, let’s go get a beer. But no – a month’s TV commercials, newpaper ads, then a 2 hour show – for nothing. They already have the winner in the envelope. A bunch of hype for nothing.

9. American Idol. Ok, it was novel when it came out. But at this point, I think we get it – here are some good singers singing karaoke style, shortened to strip club dance routine length, semi popular songs. Fine. But it has gotten so ugly – the first 5 or 6 shows seem to be auditions and “bad singing” – and folks act so devestaed when they cannot sing. I watched the finals this time – and they had a montage basically picking on the lame and tone deaf. Kinda dumb. ( But in fairness, I feel sorry for those folks – seems like no one wanted to hurt their feelings growing up and they blindly make fools of themselves on TV. But that is a whole different article for later, methinks. )

8. The Office of The President of The United States. Yes, you read that right. I like President Obama, most of my friends know that. I did not like George Bush, also common knowledge. But the office itself seems a lot overhyped – because in reality there is not a whole lot the Office can accomplish on it’s own. It’s more like a trophy for the winning party, and getting claims of “winning”. Am I letting G.W. off the hook for what happened under his watch? No. Am I saying Obama is a golden child who does no wrong? No. But I think we have past the days of “Great Men” as president, because we do not respect the office – rather we polarize it to the point that honestly I have no idea why anyone sane would want it.

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ok, I am not going to bash the guy. I am not going to make fun of what I think is an honest to goodness lack of social skills. I am going to point out that no matter how big a fan you are, you have to admit it’s a damn shame he has not won in over 100 races, that his recent record is so poor he had to be voted into the All Star race ( and those were Sr. loyalists who voted him in ) . The fact is, the kid has been given a cursed future – either be as good as his Dad, and earn the fans he has, or have the loyalty of fan who are starting to admit that they are backing a driver not on his ability to win, or perform, but out of blind loyalty to his father. Which is sad – should SR. be alive, I *think* he would have retired by now – and Jr. would not have that fan base – because his Dad would hold him accountable in a way no one else seems to. I wish he would do better. I will gladly retract any criticism I have of him when he starts doing what he should do – win.

6. Fullsteam Brewery Beer. I know, I know, some folks just passed out. But I’m just calling it like I see it – of the beers I have had so far – they were between “O.K.” and “Good”. I like the guys there – have been in back and talked to the brewers a couple of times. I have taken a beer to give them , and the brewer told me through a shared friend later that “ he really liked it” – so I feel like an ass. But I think there is better, more consistent beer in the Triangle right now – and I really want them to do better. They know what they are doing – no doubt – and maybe I am not their “target customer” – but to me, the beer does not meet the hype.

5. NASCAR Drama. Now I know those left standing after number 7 are passed out, too. But seriously – it’s a little silly. I love to pick and play and joke – that is fine. But the TV announcers, the endless columns of gossip – whatever – it makes me get closer to the public opinion that NASCAR is a lot like Pro Wrestling, i.e. scripted. Hey, they wreck – cool. They want to fight? Fine. But NASCAR is to me the embodiment of Sport Racing – and if they want to remain National and increase global appeal, they have to get the pissed off redneck culture toned back down, or gone. I have to admit, I go on Youtube and watch Rally Car racing from overseas – those guys know how to race – wide open, great passing, skillful handling – and are professional. I’m even looking forward to the Indy 500 more than the Coke 600 – and it’s the driver drama bullshit that makes that so.

4. The making every holiday into a “Support the Troops” moment. Sorry, but we have plenty of historical and military themed holidays. I cannot stand that every damn holiday now has to become a “Support The Troops” Hallmark moment. And then we even gloss over some of the meaning of some of the already military holidays and change them to fit the current needs. Memorial Day? It was started as a somber day of reflection and appreciation of those who fell in battle during our darkest hour as a nation, the Civil War. It’s a day to pause, and appreciate their sacrifice, and when made a National holiday it was intended to help heal the broken bonds of the country. And guess what – it follows Armed Forces day, which is for honoring the current enrolled fighting men. Then there is Veterans Day. I particularly hate honoring those in action on a day that those who have served are to honored – to me, the active duty man owes this day to his predecessor. Christmas? Easter? Thanksgiving? Yes – it sucks to be away from your family, but hey – lots of non military folks are to. I don’t see any “ Support the Truckers this Holiday Season” commercials, or “ Keep the family of the Retail Clerk in You Hearts and Minds” on Black Friday. OK, we get it – they are fighting a war – but at least leave some of my Holidays alone.

3. The price of gold. For the last time, the US currency market is not based on the Gold Standard. It has not been since 1933 when Roosevelt took the dollar off of Gold, except for international trade. And then Nixon unilaterally cancelled all ties in 1971. Folks argue that this is a reason for our weak dollar; that I do not know. But I do know that the US Dollar is the most exchanged international currency on the planet – so it seems to me the US Dollar, no matter how weak, has replaced gold as the standard. Kind of strange, huh?

2. Earning a Degree. OK, I started school, part time, after my first son was born. I did not finish. I am now in a good job, making double what I was making then, and for my region a respectable if not insanely ludicris salary. But I know literally a hundred people who went to school, got degrees – and they are useless to them. They do not have a job, or they have a job in a field totally unrelated. Or they hated what they spent 4 , 5 or even 6 years getting a degree to do. Now, I am no fool – I know I am lucky to have what I do, and that I worked my ass off to get it – but hey – they told us in school if you did not get a degree you would end up digging ditches for a living. Know what they did not tell us? That digging ditched pays pretty fucking good .

The Number one most over hyped thing I can think of right now is:

1. Britts Donuts, Carolina Beach, NC. Jesus I get so tired of hearing about these damn things. They are good – but only right from the oil hot and fast. They are greasy, doughy knotted wads of hardened artery clogging fodder if allowed to cool. I don’t get it, past the novelty factor. When at the beach, it is inevitable that you have to get the damn things. The line is long, they smell great but lets be honest they do not taste remotely superior to any other donut in the world. And they have zero shelf life. I know I keep coming back to that, but bakeries all over the world can make a donut that tastes good in the afternoon after it was made in the middle of the night. Hey – I get it – their real business is in the tourist / novelty sector – good for them. They might know a little something P.T. barnum once said about suckers and the birthrate thereof. But reality is – don’t belive the hype. Save the time you stand in line, go get some Krispey Kremes, and enjoy an extra hour on the sands of Carolina Beach.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

“High Lonesome”

***
I wrote this article for A Picture Worth 1000 Words the day before I wrote the entry here at this blog entitled " The HP on Death ".
***



Just recently I lost a friend. As a matter of fact, a large percentage of those who offer up comments and content over at A Picture Worth 1000 all lost a friend. I took a few moments after visiting the funeral parlor to pen down my thoughts of death in general.

It seems I write about death a lot, either in a romantic or frustrating sense as myself or in a violent and fantasy world in collaboration with my nom de plume, Hilton Stiles. But this picture evokes in me a memory of another death – one that shattered my heart and made me grow up all in a moment.

My best pal Randy and I had a great love for the outdoors, and the Cape Fear River in general. Along with other friends we would camp at some cabins up between Lillington and Fuquay Varina, and fish all night, and drink all day and night. We sand songs, some of us better than others, we cooked bream fresh from the water, we ate pickled eggs, told off color jokes, and just generally do the things that guys do.

We never thought it would end. See that’s the point – the day you realize that yes, it can end, and yes, as a fact it WILL end, that’s when you lose your innocence. It’s not the first time you cop a feel, or even when you got laid in a heart wreckingly embarrassing encounter, nor is it the first time you see your parents for people and not Gods – it’s that moment, that clear understanding that no matter what the indoctrination or lesson, time ends for all men.

Losing my best friend at the age of 24 was devastating – it pretty much made me address questions I had always held quiet, except now out load and in front of the world. I questioned the idea of a Loving God, when one so young and good would be taken. I questioned the logic of a conservative lifestyle, saving frugally for a retirement that one might die 30 years before reaching. It just made me question.

And so angry. Damn I was angry at the world. And depressed, and out of control mentally. I did harmful things to my body; I begged ineffectively to a God I eventually come to realize did not exist to fix it all and make it back the way it was.

Now, more than 10 years later it is hard to address, or even try to mentally recreate that anger and loneliness.

But you know what I can still do? I can still go to the River and smell bacon cooking. And I can remember how when he had just enough to drink to feel tipsy he would take out his contacts and put on his glasses. And I can sit on the porch and listen to a bluegrass CD and know for a fact that he could play that song.

It’s the good things I still have, you see. It’s like the River takes the bad away, and with it flows away the anger, and the hurt. I’m almost afraid to know just how many broken hearts and lonely friend have spilled tears into that River over the hundreds of years – maybe that is why the seas are salty – the tears from those left behind washing out to the oceans.

He would have liked that thought. He always said I had a hell of a way with words.

I miss my buddy.

Happiness ( Orig posted on Pict Worth 1000 Words )

Happiness

Happiness is a kiss on the forehead,
Holding hands in the parking lot,
And the smell of wood smoke on a fall day.

Happiness is the sound of laughter,
The taste of fresh coffee,
And a favorite work shirt hung out in the sun and breeze.

Happiness is knowing without asking,
Hoping with out worry,
Dancing and not caring who sees.

Happiness in you.
And me.
Us.

Happiness.

Beers I have Loved ( Orig to Pict. worth 1000 words )

“Beers I have loved”

Beer, glorious beer. How I love thee. The pint in the picture up there quickens my heart; I can feel the beads of condensation as I touch the glass. I bet it is at proper serving temp too, so that all the intimate secrets hidden within it are roaming free and easy, just waiting on y to savor the labor o the brewer. I’d love to have that beer.

Here are a few of my favorite beers ever:

Best surprise beer: A buddy and I and our oldest sons were standing knee deep in the Cape Fear River after a 2 mile hike across state and private lands. It was hot, and we were joking abut how we should have brought a cooler. About an hour later three guys in a canoe come by, stop and portage their canoe over the falls, and give us a beer before moving on. Best surprise ever.

Best surprise beer, runner up: After working all day in the dry arid hay fields picking up hay and then loading it into the barn, a Miller High Life pony bottle passed to me without a word by my Dad. It was teeth crackingly cold, and I sipped it and made it last. It was delicious, both to drink and to share that moment with my Dad

Fastest beer I ever drank without a funnel – Had just left the 1998 fall Busch Series race in Charlotte with a couple of friends. The husband has his wife pull into a Food Lion and we get a 12 pack of Natural Light. Upon getting in the car he passes me one, which I slammed. I mean I killed it. I gently passed the can back BEFORE WIFE EVER PULLS OUT OF THE PARKING SPOT and say “ Here’s the problem – the don’t put enough in these cans…” Wife was NOT amused. Husband laughed for minutes. ( And fed me another beer, too. )

Fastest beers I ever drank with a funnel – In the small town outside the slightly bigger small town I grew up in there is a University. There were years ago (maybe still, I don’t know ) an “illicit” fraternity known as the Mad Dogs. I was hanging out at one of their houses one night playing darts, and missed the board completely. Guess what hous rule they had? Miss the board, funnel a beer. It went down hill from there….

Wish I could do it again beer : At the outer banks as a young couple, Sweetum’s and I go to a restaurant and get Newcastle Brown Ale for the first time. It was amazing, but interestingly, like cocaine, I have never had one that equaled the first time. I still drink Newcastle, and I brew browns too, but I wish I could go back to that day, sit in that chair, and drink from that keg one more time.

Beer I regret and don’t regret the most –July 4th 1994. Yes, I got on the road. Yes I had been drinking. Yes I was underage. And Yes, I went through a traffic stop. Luckily the officer knew both 1) where I was coming from 2) whom I was going to see and where I was going and 3) That I was not over the limit. He did lecture me, he scared the shit out of me actually, he did threaten to come check and see that I was where I claimed to be going, but let me slide. Scared me enough for a lifetime. Now, more than one, hey, you drive, or I’m staying here. But I ain’t driving nowhere. Taught me a lifetime’s lesson sitting in the back of that car, blowing into that alco-sensor.

Beer I wish I could have back to drink again – The last one I had with my best friend Randy before he died. I’d draw it out for hours, days if I could. All I’m going to say about that.

Most extroverted beer I ever drank – ok, it was Neer Beer, so technically, I don’t know if it counts. I took a can to school and drank it with my lunch when I was a sophomore, right in the middle of the lunch room. It was stupid – a hey look at me thing – that went totally un noticed outside of my table.

Best Budweiser I ever had – Atlanta, October 1994 at the race. I was employed by Ford Motor, and went to the races with pit passes and infield credentials. Budweiser gave us free little disposable coolers and filled them with beer. It was so good under that Atlanta sun, crisp, and clean. I’m no huge Bud fan, but they saved the good stuff for us that day.

Beer mass produced once but gone now beer that I miss : The “Red” Miller. It was out in 1994-1995. Had a red label with an eagle. I loved it. Apparently though I was the only one. It disappeared after about 18 months.

Best Malt Liquor in the world – Champlae. And you cannot get it here in the south. Still looking for a connection in Chicago or Maryland who can hook me up on a semi regular basis.

Best beer I have brewed thus far- I think my Imperial Pale Ale, which was a kit from Brewer’s Best. It is just dammit tasty.

And lastly, the beer I look forward to th most – The next one. But just like tomorrow never gets here, the next one does not either, because while I may love and savor the one at hand, I know, somewhere out there, is one just a little bit colder. Or warmer. Or hoppier. Or maltier. And that my friends, is a great thing to know.

Cheers – I think I’m going to go grab me one right now.

Other Blogs

So, you come here and you read my ramblings and insane leanings, but maybe you just want some fiction.

Remember to check out WASTED TYPEFACE , my fiction blog.

And there is BLUE COLLAR FOOD CRITIC, which gets sporadic postings of my views on solitary dining experiences around the state.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Charity Work - It makes you feel good

This year, on new years day, I made only one resolution - to live my life in a way that parralleled the Jason Mraz song "Live High". I hope Mr. Mraz will not be too upset if I quote a bit of it here:

Glory God, oh God is peeking through the blinds
Are we all here standing naked
Taking guesses at the actual date and time
Oh my, justifying reasons why
Is an absolutely insane resolution to live by

Live high
Live mighty
Live righteously
Taking it easy
Live high, live mighty
Live righteously

Try to picture the man
To always have an open hand
See him as a giving tree
See him as matter
Matter fact he's not a beast
No not the devil either
Always a good deed doer
And it's laughter that we're making after all

The call of the wild is still an ordination why
And the order of the primates
All our politics are too late
Oh my, the congregation in my mind
Is this assembly singing gratitude
Practicing their loving for you


Now, I am a publically avowed agnostic, but I do want to live life as a good person. I decided upon reflection that while I was not a "bad" person, I was not doing enough to be a "good" person. I had made a personal decision to do more charity work, for groups with causes I could relate to or empathize with.

Then Gabrielle, our lovely and eccentric leader at A Picture Worth 1000 Words had a small social and said " Let's raise funds for St. Baldric's Foundation - a research foundation that battles children's cancer issues." This was EXACTLY what I needed! Motivated to do good, and to raise money for faceless kids, I threw myself into it - raising $3,600 in 60 days. Should there be pride in charity work? Probably not - but if I did not tell you how proud I was of our team, I would be a liar. We raised more than any other team, and a quarter of the overall total for the entire event. You can watch Gabby and Me get our heads shaved on YouTube.
It brought me much joy.
RIght on the heels of that, on the spur of the moment I commited to walk in the MS Walk in Raleigh, and did not "solicit" donations - rather I posted my team mates links - I don't know if it helped them or not, but Ashley won a "Gold Ring" prize for her Donations, and Nick and Chris both did very respectable amounts as well. I simply posted this morning that I was at $0 and if folks could contibute please do. Three hours later and $185 for MS - wow. I walked in honor of Nick's mom, who has MS. It was a great day to walk 5 miles ( the longer of three choices ) and turnout was great. I plan to make sure that next year we knock the bottom out of that one!

SO now, I want you to get in on the action. A Picture Worth 1000 Words will soon be forming a Bike Team to ride in the 2011 Bike MS event - a two day bike ride in New Bern NC. I have been blessed with a bike from a rider in NY who basically gave it to me due to the charitable nature of my needs.

I want to put together a big enough team that we can ride in each class - 30, 50, 75 and 100 miles. We're gonna need riders. We're gonna need donations. And I am going to try to team www.thehillbillyphilosopher.com with A Picture Worth 1000 Words for some team products. So please, if you are interested in riding, let us know. If you have a business and would like to sponsor the team and get your name on our shirts, let us know. If you want to donate, let us know.

We will have a team tent with water and a few snacks as a place to decompress. I will make sure that there is a keg of celebratory hand crafted ale for the evening bull sessions.

We will expect riders to provide their own bikes, and required safety and assundry materials. We will try as a group to secure a low priced accommodations arrangement, that ( unless a sponsor picks up the tab ) each member will be responsible for.

I promise you - it will make you feel good. Feeling good helping people - nothing better in this crazy old world - The HP guarantees it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The HP on Death

A heart can beat hundreds, thousands, millions of beats - but when it stops - when it cannot be revived, Death enters.

I am no stranger to Death. We met when I was a grade schooler; my great grandmother , a sweet little lady I recall visiting in her high rise assisted living building, died. To be honest, I felt nothing - for her loss that is. I did not see her enough to feel a bond, and was not old or mature enough to imbue any false feelings of familiar grief over her loss. I do recall crying because I saw my mother cry - something that always makes me cry - but not over the loss of great gramma. ( I also remember my cousin David doing his damnedest to drink all the coffee in the urn - I think maybe we were in third grade. To say he was wired on caffeine and sugar would be abashedly understated. )

I met Death again , when at the age of 16 my grandmother, often sick and pain crippled by arthritis, passed away. I did cry, it hurt like hell. She, along with my Papa, looked after my sister and me after school; we stayed at their house on alternating weekends; they were our neighbors, and I was at her house just about every day. Everything I did not feel as a younger child crushed in upon me at 16, and I hurt for my Dad, and my sister , but I was selfish and hurt for myself too.

Death visited through the years - my Grandfather a few months after I married, my other grandmother after a very protracted and brutal spiral in health. I mourned, yes, but I did not hurt. I had let death hurt me once - I fought it every time Death returned.

One night, several years ago, I had Chili for dinner and played cards with a coworker and my best friend. Three weeks later the coworker committed suicide with a pistol. I was not close to him - our friendship was new - and I was able to observe the customs of the dead with the detached point of view of a spectator at a play. I did feel awful for his children, but felt nothing for his spouse. Odd.

But within a year and a half, the other party to our card game, my best friend, was also met by Death. It hurt more than ever. I could not function. I remember thinking that I wish it we me gone, and him a chance to return. I went to his grave almost nightly for weeks. I sat in the dark some mornings before work and talked to the mending sod they had placed over his casket. I drank too much. I escaped reality when possible with under the counter pills. I was shaken out of my depression by the birth of our second son, who shares the name of my best friend. And to be gut wrenchingly honest - I swear there is some of him in my son. They possess the same shrewed penny pinching trait; the wry sense of humor , the quick temper, and a smile that will outshine any in the room.

Let us walk away from Death a moment, and look at death. Some folks manage death; others wallow in it. I admire the hell out of the calm approach and manner in which my father handles death. After the death of my best friend, I have managed to remain stoic when faced with all that have followed. My wife lost grandparents, I lost my grandfather, My wife's sister - I hurt for everyone - but I felt that something inside of me was broken - because death - and Death - had lost it's grip on me. I could , and do feel, but I cannot "break" , I internalize, and just let it fester and infect until it slowly dissipates.

Lately, when Death strikes, I find myself more angry more than mournful - when a schoolmate lost a battle to cancer I was so mad, so angry, so royally pissed off at the world, that I could not mourn until days later. I hurt - but I was so damn angry. There is no fairness; there is no equilibrium. Death it seems hunts as randomly as a swallow poaching mayflies - it just swoops in, makes a kill, and moves on.

And so now another classmate is being lain out for the final viewing, and tomorrow will be eternally laid to rest. There is no rhyme nor reason - just Death paying another call; eternity it seems is just on the other side of a heartbeat.

I have said a few things in the past days I would like to flesh out. One was that the most amazing ability of the human spirit is the ability to both hang on and let go at the same time - Friends and relatives are referred to as "survivors" because we live on to both carry memories and to forge ahead. Today I added the observation that the dead feel no pain; rather it is the living who are the sufferers.

Think about that. The dead, those touched by Death - they have no pain. It is over - the pain is in the hearts of those that they leave. The living must find a way to move on, to find a new shoulder to cry on, a new buddy to fish with, a new source of inspiration and love. It is not the dead who turn and talk to a loved one recently departed, forgetting for just a second that they are not there, like they always have been - it is the living who live with their ghosts and shimmering memories. It is not the dead that lay in bed, crying, remembering the forgotten apologies, the lost time due to arguments, the good times shared or the envy never revealed - the dead feel none of those - it is the living that suffer with the results of the life left finished when Death made it's call.

Something else that fascinates me about Death , or rather death - is that we do not value all Life the same. What is Death but the ending of life - and is not life , Life itself - the very most amazing and important thing to cherish? So why do some get mourned with long wakes and hundreds of following crying devotees - and no one mourns the homeless? Why is it right to decry the death of one fighting for your country - and rare to see someone who respects the lost life of the enemy? Is not all life worth at least the equanimity of being life?

I do not find solace in Scripture, be it Christian, nor from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Rather I just like to think that each person serves his purpose - and no more. There is a reason some live to ninety seven - and for some cosmic reason there is a reason some do not make it past five. It is, in the scope of the universe - the mystical balance - the balance of life - and death - of Life and Death.

Oddly enough, if there is any text I find calming in death, it is sadly the one which I have applied in the past few days to the most recent loss to Death - the winding story of The Dark Tower, by Stephen King. In it The Gunslinger, Roland of Gilead - pursues a lifelong obsession - only to find in the end that upon reaching his goal he has but to start over exactly where he began before. In one scene Jake, a boy from New York and another Dimension - tell him ' Go Then! - There are other worlds than these!".

I'd like to believe that - more than I can conceptualize a Heaven and a Hell, I can almost feel that other world-ness- the other worlds than these. Worlds where addictions are cured, and worlds where all are addicted. Worlds where love is as foreign a concept as microanalytic policy making, and a world where all that one is is a floating orb of energy, glowing with love and life and flashing bright like fireflies. Worlds where one day , I can walk up to a familiar looking guy with black framed glasses, introduce myself , and he drops me a wink and asks me do I remember the address of that house where the two girls we dated lived? And I'll tell him 802 South Mason Street, and he will laugh, turn and walk away - into another world - - because Go Then! There are other worlds than these..

I am realistic - I know there will come a day when I will have to bury my parents - or a child. I know that the odds are half and half that I will have to live a life without my Sweetums beside me. Death comes. And then there is always the cosmic roulette wheel that within a week from now, maybe some fate finds Death upon me, and my parents and children have to say goodbye to me.

There is nothing I can think if that will stop Death. Nothing that will buy or bargain or purchase an single extra second. If there is a God and life is his plan then he will take you when he wants you. If not and it is all the fickle finger of fate, then fate will be.

Think - every person who reads this - ONE person will outlive all the others. One and one alone - because Death comes, and when that hundredth, that thousandth, that millionth heatbeat strikes and the stills - Death is there.


*****

To the family of Scott E. Dawson, I offer my deepest and honest condolences. I cannot fathom your pain - I have not lost a child , nor a sibling - though I have watched my wife and her family deal with it. I offer you peace if you will have it, and any aide you may call upon me for that I can meet.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The HP and The 5k ( Shamrock Run For Hope )

6:57 am - March 12 2011

I'm sitting in a parking lot, my nerves about shot. It has been an interesting week to say the least, and somehow it all leads to here, a 5k run through the quaint little town of Pittsboro.

Let's get something straight from the beginning - I HAVE NOT TRAINED FOR THIS AT ALL. AT. FREAKING. ALL.

OK, better to start at the beginning....

A week ago yesterday I went to the Doctor and got told " Stop your two pack a day smoking habit or else." That was on a Friday. I greatly reduced my smoking that weekend.

I had my last cigarette ( more later ) on Tuesday. Wednesday of this week, thursday - Friday until about 5 pm - NONE.

That part most of you knew about. I was very public about my desire to quit.

What I was private about was that I also rejoined the health club, and have been going each morning. I have a real desire to get my weight and health where they need to be. My plan this time is the reverse of last time - this time it is 1) Stop smoking 2) Get in an excercise habit and THEN 3) Diet.

OK, back to the smoking. Yesterday I lost an old friend. I took some medication for my nerves ( yes I have a perscription before you lecture me ) and my nerves were still shot. I smoked. I'll not lie. SO my "quitting" has to start fresh with todays date. The great news is so far this morning I have ZERO cravings - go figure.

So back to now - I had intended, upon learning of the 5k, to have a buddy come along, and I was going to run my guts out, literally pushing myself to fainting / puking / quitting - whatever - for an internet comedy video. The oney still goes to Relay for life - I just wanted to have fun. But as the days went by, the more important it became to me.

After yesterday, this means alot to me. Losing a 35 year old friend to a heart attack is mindfuckingly insane. I GOT to get my ass in shape and in gear.

SO - here I am, in a parking lot, scared I'm going to fall , or trip , or piss on myself, or god forbid puke my guts out in front of folks - something that a few days ago was funny and now is mortifying. I could call staying out drinking past midnight as carbing up, but that joke feels hollow right now as my stomach boils.

I KNOW my time will be aweful. I KNOW I will probably be last. But I gotta do it - for me.

So here goes nothing.

Signed,

Bib Number 2977

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The HP is a mere mortal, after all - Please Read

At the age of thirteen I smoked my first cigarette, a Marlboro light - and thought - "Well, that was kinda gross".

Two years later I was casually smoking at High School - I can remember most clearly smoking Winstons in Kent Smith's old 3 series BMW riding around Angier before bacnd practice....

I was able to pickem up and putem down for a while when young - I don't think I ever had a pack that did not last me 2 days , until I graduated and went into construction work. Stanidng outdoors for hours at a time, with nothing to do but shovel and bitch, or listen to someone else bitch, smoking was a diversion. It was what all the older dudes were doing. Seriously - I cannot think of a SINGLE coworker back almost 20 years ago on my crew that did not smoke - hell, I can remember most of their brands to this day, having as the new guy being often sent to the store for smokes and snacks.

Now let's time warp a little bit. A little over a year ago I got concerned about my health, and I lost some weight. I did good too - but I stopped short of my quitting goal when it came to cigarrettes. After a hellish year last year my weight is back where it was then.

Plus I am now a two and a half a pack a day smoker.

Damn - saying it out load is shameful - but yes - two and a half packs a day.

I blame some of the increase on my driving so much and simle tactile boredom - I mean I have lit cigarrettes only to find that I already had one going in the ashtray.

The other is stress. Smoking is a hiding place in a way. If you smoke, or have , you may understnad.

But it has finally caught up with me - I have been having some intense discomfort breathing, and have no extended physical stamina. I went to a doctor, I will be honest - scared to death that I had ruined my lungs at 35.

The good news - He said my lungs were great - that despite my best efforts to destroy them , i had not- and I should be ashamed.

The bad / good / bad news - I have to quit. NOW.

SO, I am "tapering off " this week - going from 50 cigarettes to zero in one day he advised against - but I am "rationing" myself, as well as trying better living through science and chemicals.

So we will see. But if you see me around, and I am smoking, you have my permission to come over, tap me on the cheast - and say " You should be ashamed".

Here's hoping.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Note from The HP

Just wanted to share some good news - two of my recent writings - "Either cut bait or fish!" and " The FlowerPot Man" have been selected to be in the 2011 Edition of the Red Clay Review, a literary magazine sponsored by the Central Carolina Community College System.

Details of availability will be forthcoming.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The HP's Rules of Life, VOL I

My dad has a list of "rules of life" and they are pretty damn spot on. I do not know weather he wrote them, or found them, or someone told them to him - whatever - but they are his rules, so I will not relay them here.

However, I decided that I am going to start my own elastic, mailable project of creating some Rules of life. Here is a starting list, in rough draft.

1) Most anything you do is more fun if you do it naked. Except run a chain saw, cook bacon, or play slap fight with a cat. Or anything involving chickens. It may be more fun, but people will talk.

2) If you drink alcohol, never drink when angry. Drink when you can enjoy your libation - drinking angry just makes you drunk, and that's kinda pointless.

3) If you travel out of town for work, always pack an extra day's clothes, and two extra days underwear, and three extra days socks. You may have to stay later, you might eat some stomach distressingly rancid Mexican food, and sometimes a fresh pair of socks will often change your whole day.

4) Never , under any circumstances, tell someone that they have bad breath. They will never forget it. Rather, feign a cold and ask them to keep a distance, so you do not get them sick. And then suggest you go eat something spicy and garlicky - then you're both stinky mouths.

5) If you ever get the chance to ride in any of the following, you have to, or you will regret it forever : An Italian sports car, a helicopter, a hot air balloon, and / or Eddie Murphy's limo. Ok, you can skip Eddie Murphy's limo - that might be kind of sad, having to listen to him cry about having to make shitty family comedies as penance for that whole transvestite hooker thing.

6) Hugh Hefner is actually one smooth daddy o. This is not a rule, just an observation.

7) It is ok to try and educate someone who is ignorant, but impossible to help someone who is indignant. Wisdom is knowing the difference when dealing with folks on the fly.

8) Being a friend is harder than being a family. Yet folks say blood is thicker than water. I think that's bullshit - you cannot help being related to someone. You can choose who you identify with. And siding with someone who is family when you disagree with them against someone you identify and agree with just because blood id thicker than water is just fucking stupid.

9) Never ever say no to trying a new food. Not some kind of gross " I dare you to eat this" dare, but if someone , somewhere in the world eats it as a meal or snack. then you should try it if offered.

10) You always need a pet - a cat, a dog, a chicken, a fish - hell, a stuffed teddy bear even. You just need something to take care of, that loves you just for being there, and does not talk back. It's god-like in a simplistic form.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

St. Baldric's needs you

Please take a moment to visit my donar page for St. Baldric's, and if you can help me raise money to fight cancer in infants, children and young adults.

The HP's St. Baldric's Page



www.StBaldricks.org • 888.899.BALD
Where the Money Goes

Funding

• The Foundation has committed more than $56.9 million to life-saving research since 2005.
• St. Baldrick’s donors and volunteers made possible more than $14 million in funding for childhood cancer research in 2010.
• A total of 106 grant awards are currently being funded.
• In addition to funding the research of pediatric cancer experts, St. Baldrick’s also helps make it possible for the best and brightest young doctors to pursue childhood cancer research.
• The Foundation funds local institutions as well as cooperative research on a national scale to help doctors work together to develop the best treatments for all children with cancer.

Grant Review Process

Applications from childhood cancer researchers are reviewed and rated by the Foundation’s panel of expert scientific advisors, who make funding recommendations. Final decisions are made by the Foundation’s board of directors.

Grant Types

Cooperative research grants fund the clinical trials and laboratories of the 230 member Children’s Oncology Group. Through this grant, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation funds virtually every institution in North America with the expertise to treat childhood cancers.

St. Baldrick’s Fellows are new doctors training to specialize in pediatric oncology research, funded for two to three years. From 2005 to 2010, 46 St. Baldrick’s Fellows have been funded.

St. Baldrick’s Scholars are young professionals pursuing exciting research, funded for three years or more.

Because grant funds are so scarce, it is difficult for those early in their careers to compete with more established researchers. These grants keep new researchers focused on childhood cancer. From 2008 to 2010, 30 St. Baldrick’s Scholars have been funded.

Research grants are focused on finding new and better cures for childhood cancer. Some focus on a single type of disease, and others will help children and teens with all types of cancer.

Infrastructure grants help institutions treat more kids on clinical trials (their best hope for a cure), or provide resources to make more research possible.

Foreign beneficiaries receive funds raised by St. Baldrick’s events held in their countries.

New: St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellows work in a pediatric oncology research lab for the summer after their first year of medical school. Students accomplish a research project and the experience may encourage them to choose childhood cancer research as a specialty. Six St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellows have been funded.

New: Supportive Care Research grants will lead to the improvement of the quality of life for patients and survivors. This research addresses the side effects of treatment, long-term effects faced by survivors, psychosocial aspects of childhood cancer and more.

Fundraising Accountability

• The Foundation remains committed to complete transparency, accountability and efficiency, adhering to the Donor Bill of Rights and accepted standards for top-rated charities.
• The Foundation’s board of directors has implemented policies to ensure the highest possible ratings.
• Charity rating agencies recommend that overall fundraising costs per dollar raised be kept to less than 35 percent; special events often cost as much as 50 percent of funds raised. Our fundraising cost in this fiscal
year was a healthy 19 percent, and we strive to be more efficient each year.
• The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. Federal ID #20-1173824.
• Fundraising expenses include:
o The continued development of the website, without which the St. Baldrick’s foundation could not operate or continue to grow.
o Equipping the ever-increasing numbers of events and shavees (t-shirts, posters, telephones, postage for shavee kits, etc.).
o The processing of more than 365,000 donations (data entry, credit card fees, banking fees, postage, etc.).
o Staff to support and serve the Foundation’s volunteers and more.
• St. Baldrick’s takes very seriously its responsibility to be efficient and good stewards of every dollar donated and to fund the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long and healthy lives.
*The Foundation’s audited financials are for a fiscal year of July 1 – June 30 and are available at www.StBaldricks.org.

Media Contact

For interview opportunities with research recipients please contact Traci Shirk, Media & Public Relations Specialist, at media@StBaldricks.org or 626.792.8247 x50

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hard questions with no awswers

OK, I have had a lot on my mind lately, and I have held my tongue, or rather have held my hands off of the keyboard.

See, what is rattling in my head like a loose marble is one of those subjects that I would rather shy away from. I don't want to write about it, because I do not want to hurt others. My writing is supposed to be a therapy for me, and if it entertains others then it is a bonus. But never is it supposed to hurt anyone. That is not my style. I am trying to be a better person - and the writing help me with that as a vent.

Sure, I am a bit of an attention whore - more folks I know who are creative are, weather they admit or even realize it or not. But this thing just will not go away. So, in rough, free flowing form, in an attempt to settle my psyche and maybe clear my mind, here is my current conflicting thoughts; it may get disjointed - I'm flying by the seat of my pants here.

Ah, one more warning and / or disclaimer. This is about religion. It is not an attack on any singular person or faith, or sect. If you would rather skip it, PLEASE DO. I am not looking for debate. I do not want to hear argument, Or be recruited, witnessed to , testified to, whatever. Please, if you know me, and know how I can be, and think that maybe our friendship would be better served by your not reading this, then skip it. Really. Just as I cannot help writing it, I can ask you not to read it. Think of it as an open diary laying on my living room table - it is up to you to look into my thoughts, but you know up front you may not like what is contained.

OK - religion. I'm a take it or leave it guy. No big shock there. I do not see the need in my life for it, but if others want to go to a church and worship, so be it. It's their free time.

But I am so tired of those who do worship aggravating the shit out of me. I swear, Christians in particular in this area have no damn idea how annoying they are to non-Christians. nor how self righteous they often come across. It's like "Well, if you don't think like me - sing like me - go to this church _ I'mma aggravate the ever living fuck out of you and try to make you feel bad because we are the only way to get to heaven" ok ok ok.

Guess what - I don't care. Really. I do not care. I have no notion or interest in your idea of heaven, or salvation.

And prayer. Damn. I cannot even go to work related functions without a Christian prayer having to be said before a meal. Guess what? - I do not worship your god. i do not care if my food is blessed. You know what I do when they have prayer? I start repeating this in my head until it is over " This copywrited communication is owned and broadcast by Major League Baseball and any rebroadcast, retransmission, or account of this game, without the express written consent of Major League Baseball, is prohibited.".

And then we have to pray for each other? Why? For health? But you are praying to your creator, correct? So who created the poor health? Satan? Proctor and Gamble? I mean, it is kinda selfish to have a congregation praying for this guy because he has lupus and not his neighbor that is an alcoholic that no one goes to see ( but they do love to talk and gossip about him in his absence). How selfish to ask the entity that you give credit for creating everything to take back something they created when it affects one of his other creations.

And then I see people who pray for money. Or jobs. Or to see a team win. Really? Jesus is a sports fan? With all of the Muslims in professional sports, why have I not seen a NFL player after a touchdown thanking Allah for the ability to break two tackles and find the end zone?

It also pisses me off that if you say you are not a Christian, or to excuse yourself from a conversation because in truth you don't want to start a fuss or argue with folks you like, then you are hounded and repeatedly invited to go somewhere you have no interest in. It's like if I found out you were against strip clubs and I asked you every Friday , repeatedly, if you wanted to go to Pure Gold. No dammit, I do not want to go. I know where the place is. If I wanted to be there, I would be there already.

And I love the way that anything you want to campaign for , someone can twist the Bible into supporting it. Slavery - yep. Race hatred - yep. War - yep. Polygamy - yep. Fratricide and Patricide - yep. Conservative ideals like self sufficiency and independence - yep. Liberal agendas like communal food supplies, welcoming of travelers and other different from you - yep. Jesus paradoxically can be portrayed as a hippie rebel, or a regent for strict discipline.


And then you get the excuse - it's my DUTY to try and save you. Guess what - it may be my duty to enlighten you - to show you that the weekly ritual and silly practices you are conduction reek of pre-renaissance superstition.

I cannot grasp this thought as even being accepted on face value - we have a heavenly father, who killed his son, so that we do not go to hell, because he made us and loved us, but we have to fear and worship him to get that love, and those who do not go to hell even though he killed that son. So you admit you worship an idea of a creator who created you for the purpose of worshiping him? What? That's odd. Apply it to todays time - if I built an army of robots whose whole purpose was to change the minds of the world to understand that as their creator I am the all being, all powerful, I would be a mad man, yet change robots to Christians, or Muslims, and me to God, or Allah, and it is acceptable?

Christians rail against the Muslims and the idea of conversion by the sword, preferring to take the high road of salvation by free will, but then some harass the shit out of you to the point you wish you had a damn sword to ward them off with.

The chain emails of "inspirational tales", two of which I swear were TV show plots when I was a kid, they annoy me. The status updates on Sunday by the folks who were posting ribald or crude status during the week - nice testimony there, no? I know I post odd and vulgar things - but I do not fake who I am later. I've lost friends on Facebook and realize for pointing out historical FACT concerning the founding fathers and their Deist writings to misinformed bible thumping Christians that want to return the country to it's Christian roots. ( Use Google kids, or better yet, the library. )

If there is any religion I do find appealing, or interesting, or that I see as a correct path to self improvement, I have to admit that the teachings of Buddha are good, peaceful lessons. But i will freely admit even the full commitment to me is impractical in todays times.

Do I think there is a higher power? I do not know. But I also do not spend my time worrying about it - it could be. Maybe it is God. Or Allah. Or space Aliens. Or G.W. Bush. But whoever/whatever/wherever it is - I don't care. It really boils down to that. So please please please stop trying to get me to. You wanna talk religion - FINE - but you make the choice - you want crow all about yours but not to hear an opinion other than yours? Then fuck off. You want me to listen to you , and then you reciprocate - I'm game.

But I do want to say there are the good guys too. I said I will not call out any one individually, so i will not, but I know several members of Clergy who TALK to me, or message me, or debate in an even handed manner with me, and I respect them. They are devoted to their faith, they are learned, and I respect what they do.

Sometimes though, the message of the Shepard gets drowned out by the bleeting of the sheep they watch.

Rant over. Now maybe I can get some sleep.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Moment of Honesty ( Orig Post pictureworth1000words )

*** From The HP -

This was posted during "week 9" of the A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words project. It references a picture YOU CAN FIND LINKED HERE.


Let’s talk a moment, you and me. This web site, A Picture Worth 1000 Words, has been a great deal of fun for me. I have always enjoyed writing quick little one off pieces, as they suit my style of just tossing out some words with little or no research needed, and that kind of writing is a special kind of therapy for me. I am the first and loudest critic I have, and admit most of what I write is not going to be pressed into textbooks a hundred years from now – I do not paint literary masterpieces to hang up in a gallery of significant prose, rather cave drawings that the fire smoke will eventually obliterate.
I have to admit it is kind of daunting once in a while – a picture may make me feel one way , but I want to keep that feeling to myself, so I go another. This image above is a great example. This image makes me sad, for some reason I could not admit for quite a while. So, earlier in the week you got a story of hope and reformative redemption. I took it another way.
Now however I want to simply talk about the image – and lay naked my emotions about it.
Some of you have met me recently, others never, and few of you have known e for quite a long time. It may surprise any of you in either group that I, despite my online presence and postings am a bit of a socially phobic person. While I love to give speeches or lead a discussion on an area that I either know well or have some authority in, I have as I have aged gotten to like meeting folks , especially n public, less and less. One doctor called it social anxiety. I took some maintenance medications for this, along as to treat some mild depression, on different occasions. I also had a legit prescription for Valium as a “rescue me” device for when I just got too tense or could not slow my racing thoughts, fears and emotions.
Now, on the whole other end of the spectrum, I love to entertain folks at my home. I like big crowds of people, bellies full of food, cold beverages in hand, telling stories of exploits of the past and discussing the winds of politics of the day. But that is on MY turf – that makes it more acceptable to me.
So, while I do not wish to be a hermit, I have times when a crowd is simply the last thing I want to be a part of. Sure, most folks do. But my times far outweigh the times I do not. My Sweetums jokes we are like the President and Vice President – you rarely see us travel to events together. This is for a real simple reason – when I get edy, and ready to leave – I HAVE to leave. The longer I stay, to wait on someone else, to get something done, for whatever reason – the more it eats in me like rats. I often show up late for the same reason – because I know when I have to go, I have to go – so if I am late, then most everyone will be there already, will have made it past the obnoxious ( to me at least ) greeting rituals – and I can glide in from the side, act as if I have already greeted everyone and go to visiting until my internal alarm starts screaming.
And that, dear friends and new alike, is why I hate this picture. It is like someone exposed me in it. The figure out front, faceless and anonymous – that is me. Away from the crowd, but happy none the less. You can see the cars in the background – a group is somewhere – but except for the photographer (whom we cannot see and there for we can edit out into a role of omnipotent observer) the figure is alone.
I see myself in that image – and ask a million questions – Is it before the gathering and the person needs time to get ready to be a part of the group? Did they have to walk away to get the monster under control? Maybe they are waffling – they do not know if they can even face a crowd today.
For the image – I do not know. For me this image is more than the image you see – it is a mirror of my face cast upon that of a stranger in a strange place, one that I recognize all too well.
All that being said, I have to say here as we close the ninth week that this site has helped me a lot. It lets me have my written therapy; it seems to provide some enjoyment to those who read it. It lets me feel like I am making those cave paintings, and atleast someone is seeing them as the smoke creeps down from the ceiling and starts to ossify the walls.
Thank you each and every one who come here to read, and especially those of you who have contributed with images and written work. Thank you to Gabrielle, who maintains it and is the cruise director on this crazy little ship. And most of all thank you to those who have made a purchase or donation, turning this little niche corner in the huge whole world wide web into a place where a little bit of good can come from something so simple.

Either cut Bait or Fish! ( Orig to Pictureworth1000words )

*** Note from Hannable - This is one of the A Picture Is Worth 1000 words essays. In it I reference directly the picture used that week for inspiration. You can find a link to it HERE.

Also, this piece was edited and submitted to the Central Carolina Community College Red Brick Review for consideration for use in their Spring 2011 edition.


Like the roadside fruit stands of my youth, the small family owned tackle shops are all fading away, or more so have become shells of dreams that stand watch over highways and river banks. You find them often, likes the ones in the photo above, with weathered siding and faded signs, hanging over an OPEN sign that someone forgot to take down years ago, forever lying to any who can plainly see that they are CLOSED, have been for a long time, and likely forever will remain so.

There used to be magic in these little shops – rows upon rows of shiny lacquered cane poles, bins of weights from those so light you did not know why anyone would bother up to large chunks of lead that would hold a minnow in place in the fastest waters the Cape Fear could challenge you with.

There were corks, made from real cork, and plastic bobbers; there were hooks so fine they seemed smaller than the fishing line tied to them, to the always present treble hook so large that a “ gonna catch me a shark “ joke was all but mandatory. Jigs, spoons, spinners, beetle spins, rooster tails – a sheer cornucopia of fishing treasure, all laid out where you could hold it, examine it, debate it’s merits.

There were more spools of filament and fishing line here than there were spools of thread at the fabric store. And a small shelf, with shotgun shells, and a few boxes of .30-06 and 30-30 rifle bullets – always Winchester – you don’t even have to ask.

There was that smell, too. That bait shop smell – they all smelled the same – a mixture of cigarette smoke, the occasional earthiness of a cigar or pipe, the dank rotted wood smell of the live cricket bin. And minnows- that aquarium fog of pond water that was so thick but pleasant. Of course, if you were on the coast, there was a slight salt twist in the air, and if you were real lucky the bait shop also had fish for sale for the unlucky , or lazy – spots, pompano, and always shrimp.

It was a Man’s place – a place where little boys went and felt like Men too – with dreams of record breaking smallmouths, or of furtive river trips were beer was plentiful and fishing was nil.

Occasionally a woman did darken the threshold – and these quickly fell into one of three categories – there were those who were being drug along against their wishes by an excited husband or son, and clearly would rather be elsewhere. Better than those were the Mother or Wife, who while knowing nothing of the art of fishing was on a clandestine trip to pick up a birthday or anniversary gift. These ladies got very special treatment, as any and every man was more than willing to help another man out by making sure his wife picked out something of quality.

And then there were the “Fishers of women” – those special but rare divine creations that loved to fish, knew how to fish – and probably caught more fish in a year than most men would in a lifetime. These rare creatures were always viewed in awe, if perchance distrusted by those with bruised egos of “getting beat by a girl”.

My favorite aspect though was always the pictures and photos. You could gauge how successful and popular the shop was by the photos of men slightly drunk and smiling like it was their wedding night, all the while holding up a bass or crappie. Little kids sitting on the ground with a huge fan of shell cracker bream spread around them – and grins large enough to park a boat in. The stoic old timer standing by his tailgate hounds in the box and rabbits laid out like cordwood. The little gap toothed girl, orange hat on the head, holding the tines of a nice whitetail buck, rifle lying in the leaves in front. These photos were the testament to the veracity of a good store.

Times change, people change. Larger stores and huge catalogue companies drove the market down. Now you can go to a Wal-Mart, and get your groceries, your oil filters, a pair of shoes and your fishing tackle. While the Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shop were a godsend to rural folks with no access to fancy equipment and high end gear, and filled many an evening for guys sitting on the john, they sadly lent a helping hand to the closing of those very small shops that their colorful ads reminded folks of.

There are a few of these small shops left – and I try to frequent the ones I know. I’ll stop by sometimes to get a drink and a honey bun, and maybe a pack of rubber worms, just to chip in. But I can ride past 5, within a half hour of my home, which are no more.

I do not know where the one from the photo is from; I have no idea if it is even still standing. But I feel its loss just as much as those who lived close by – and I hope after reading this, you do too.