Saturday, March 31, 2012


Like many of you, I have followed the online adventures of faceless collective “Anonymous” with some interest over the past few years. While the origin of the group is somewhat difficult to chronicle, most agree they began entering the public consciousness around 2007 when they participated in taking down a website belonging to white supremacist Hal Turner. Later that same year, it was later reported that the group had played a role in the arrest of accused Canadian sexual predator Chris Forcand.

Since that time they have been linked to attacks on the Church of Scientology, the Iranian Government, Sony, Koch Industries, the Vatican, and the CIA website amongst others. While they have not yet released their official mission statement, it appears that they dislike censorship, discrimination, oppression and Tom Cruise (in that order). While in general all these all seem to be admiral causes for action, what constitutes censorship has cast the group as both hero and villain depending on how you perceive their reasoning.
Perhaps even writing about them has placed my website in grave danger of being brought down by massive amounts of web traffic (I am certainly in no danger of that occurring solely on the merits of my writing). In many cases, I find myself applauding their stance on freedom of speech and feel that the media attention they bring to certain issues is constructive and unique. Other times it appears they arbitrarily select targets based on visibility of the attack rather than any adherence to a moral credo. At one point, they were linked to an attack on The Internet itself. Wouldn’t it be counterproductive for an organization to disable the very medium that makes its existence possible or necessary?

At any rate, I do enjoy the creative naming of their cyber-maneuvers. With names like Operation Mayhem, Operation Pharisee, and Operation Blitzkrieg who wouldn’t want to participate? T-shirt sales alone could keep the group in Taco Bell fourthmeals for the next three years. My favorite name would have to be 2010’s Australian campaign “Operation Titstorm.” Despite the nomenclature, it is not a meteorological phenomenon conjured by an enterprising frat, rather it was a coordinated effort to stop Australian government censorship of Internet pornography.

I suppose that as long as there is an Internet there will be Internet protestors, and I imagine it is difficult to amass a case against people identifiable only by vaguely militaristic handles like Commander X or General Pandemonium. It also appears that the very anonymity that shields participants can be the source of a public relations nightmare. After all, what is stopping some 14 year old kid in Wisconsin from posting a video as the group claiming responsibility for intermittent unavailability of Siri or Snooki’s pregnancy?

Since it appears that Anonymous is determined to continue their virtual exploits into the foreseeable future I do have a list of web presences I would like to see brought down:
1.      Courtney Stodden’s Twitter Account
2.      Banner Ad’s that promise a free iPad.
3.      Multiple Facebook posts of music videos with the caption “This is my JAM!!!”
4.      The company that keeps calling my cell phone at all hours of the night because I have been selected to “lower my credit card bills.”
5.      The promotional website for any horror film that promises “psychological damage” from repeated viewings.
6.      Both Paul Walker fan websites.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Easter Egg Hunting

Every year the residents of Old Colorado City, Colorado celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with a community-wide Easter egg hunt. The children-only event, held at Bancroft Park, features hundreds of plastic Easter eggs filled with candy, toys, and coupons from local vendors. Due to the topography of the area and the average age of the participants, most of the eggs reside in plain view and are visually accessible without moving any objects.

Traditionally, the parents stand behind the ropes separating the egg-hunt from the viewing area and all the children line up with their baskets. A master of ceremonies uses an air-horn to signal the commencement of the hunt and off the children go to the delight of all those in attendance. At least that was the way it was supposed to happen.

Unfortunately, the young offspring of one of the spectators was not locating their plastic eggs efficiently enough prompting the parent to jump the barrier and start gathering with the child. Since there was no way in Hell the other parents were just going to sit idly by as Timmy’s guardian gave him a leg-up on the competition, they began jumping the barriers as well. Within seconds it was chaos and the entire event was halted out of safety concerns.

The ordeal was so scarring that organizers have declined to hold the event this year leaving hundreds of overeager parents without a proper venue to sully spring’s most important Judeo-Christian holiday. When faced with the news, local resident Lenny Watkins indignantly replied, “You better believe I'm going to help my kid get one of those eggs. I promised my kid an Easter egg hunt, and I'd want to give him an even edge." Jennifer Rexford, another local parent, dismissed the phenomenon as “people just want the best for their kids.”

Other than the obvious symbolism of birth and new beginnings, I was never clear on how an abnormally large mammal distributing eggs and confectionary products to minors tied in with the resurrection of Christ. Since rabbits do not lay eggs, aren’t we essentially celebrating kidnapping and undocumented adoption? I understand that tradition does not always bow to logic, but if I were to suggest a magical hedgehog handing out tadpoles as the new face of Lent I doubt it would garner much support.

My favorite aspect of this story is the quote from Lenny likening storming a kid’s event to giving his child an edge. It’s not a college application. It isn’t as if your child will be sitting in the HR office at a big law firm twenty years from now being grilled on their lack of initiative during the 2011 Bancroft Park pre-school Easter egg hunt:

“Timothy, I see here that you acquired only 2 plastic eggs and one Cash Master’s ballpoint pen. Is that correct?”
“Yes sir, but keep in mind my nearsightedness was undiagnosed at that point and due to some internal politics I was denied a pole position.”
“Even so, I am not sure Gossard, Troundusky, and Smarm needs another “two egg” lawyer on the payroll.”

I have no issue with supportive parents, but perhaps we are placing too much emphasis on the Colorado City community Easter egg hunt when jumping a personnel barrier becomes a logical course of action rather than face the unfathomable horror of an egg-less child. I believe going home with an empty basket would be far less embarrassing that watching my dad single handedly shut down a local tradition because he thought me incapable of correctly gathering a plastic toy.

Even Mrs. Rexford, who declined to take her child that year due to overbearing parents, seems to accept these actions as people wanting the best for their children. I was always under the impression that wanting the best for your child involved emotional stability and educational opportunities not honoring the risen Lord by smoking the Franklin boy in a demonstration of fine motor skills. I would hate to see how that parent would react if their child was passed over for the lead in a live nativity….

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Big Game Hunting

While I myself have never been a hunter, I have many friends that enjoy the activity and I understand how participating in the timeless dance of predator and prey could make for a rewarding experience. It is in the pursuit of wild game we tap our most primitive instincts, assuring ourselves that with cunning (and a moderate line of credit at a sporting goods store) we can reclaim our position at the top of the food chain at any given moment. What I witnessed on The Outdoor Channel a few months ago involved neither.

A film crew was following an older Caucasian American we will call Dave. Dave was in Africa hunting hippopotamus, which are notoriously violent and territorial in aquatic settings but tend to be more docile on land. Nonetheless, hunting big game carries big risks and Dave did not strike me as a man who left things to chance in work or leisure. To that end, Dave was traveling with an entourage of local “guides” who chauffeured him to several known hippo hot spots. 
At each vantage point, Dave would extricate himself from the Land Rover and hold a short conference with the foreman concerning the movements of their elusive target. After several disappointing pit-stops, it appeared that a member of the crew was sent ahead to verify the location of hippos so that Dave would not suffer the inconvenience of muddying his boots unnecessarily.

Once the foreman had a confirmed hippo sighting Dave was rushed to a nearby thicket where his roadies constructed a rifle stand, aimed his weapon, and gently placed it on his shoulder. After being reassured by his guides that a single, well-placed shot between the beast’s ears would ferry it painlessly to the netherworld, Dave placed his finger on the trigger and fired. The hippo, apparently unprepared for said netherworld, bellowed with rage as Dave pumped two more shots into its skull until it finally succumbed to its wounds.

The guides quickly surrounded Dave and took turns complimenting him on his marksmanship and cunning. The camera then turned to Dave, who confessed that he had always wanted to have the head of a hippo on his wall and regretted that it had taken him so long to achieve it. For several minutes, the entourage jockeyed for the largest tip before Dave was loaded back into the SUV and presumably returned to his hotel. The segment ended with the following conservation tip, “It is important to make every shot count.”
While the program billed itself as “big game hunting” I could not shake the feeling that I was watching an exotic trophy delivery service for old white men. I am all about the thrill of pursuit, but this seemed more akin to a drive-by at a petting zoo than a contest of wits. In fact, the footage of the actual hippo was so truncated I was beginning to suspect that it was an animatronic decoy used by locals to relieve wealthy Americans of their retirement accounts. After each “kill”, the hippo is re-booted and the customer is shipped a mounted paper mache head a few weeks later via FedEx.

I can also understand the need for a guide, but Dave had enough men with him to staff an Applebees. In this case, the hunter did so little that he served simply as a surrogate finger when the time came to discharge the firearm. From the looks of things, the most dangerous part of Dave’s day was past him once he got the lid on his morning coffee.

I have no doubt that as the years wear on Dave will greatly embellish The Great Hippo Takedown of 2012. Scotch in hand, he will recall the animal bearing down upon him and his single companion Natoo (an elderly blind guide) as they sought shelter behind a fallen tree. Time after time he had fought the great mammal to a draw but now he was down to his last bullet and the massive herbivore showed no signs of stopping. Gripping Natoo’s shaking hand; he drew one long breath and stood to meet his destiny. As the bullet pierced the creature’s body, its legs gave out it slid to a stop not two inches from Dave’s feet.

The event so traumatized Natoo that the villagers claim he has not spoken since that day. Dave, having lost his knife in an altercation with a Cheetah, was forced to field dress the brute using only his Delta SkyMiles credit card. Out of charity, Dave chose to donate the meat and hide to Natoo’s family keeping only the head for himself.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Other John Goodman

Like many of you, I have been following the story of Florida millionaire John Goodman with some interest. In February of 2010, Mr. Goodman was involved in a fatal car accident that resulted in the death of a college student named Scott Wilson. Goodman’s Bentley ran through a stop sign and T-boned Wilson’s Hyundai pushing it into a drainage canal where the young man drowned. Goodman, who had been at a bar and whose blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit when arrested, left the scene on foot, and waited an hour before calling the authorities.

In addition to the criminal charges he is currently on trial for, Goodman undoubtedly faces a future fraught with expensive civil suits. A few months before his criminal trial began, Goodman made headlines by legally adopting his current girlfriend Heather Hutchins, a move seen as a way to protect his fortune from any civil judgments and ensure he always has a really creepy answer to, “Do you have a close relationship with your kids?”
Hutchins & Goodman
While the aforementioned events of that night are not in dispute, their causes differ slightly according to which side of courtroom you sit on. The prosecution alleges that Goodman got hammered, slid behind the wheel of his ridiculously expensive coupe, and directly caused the death of an innocent young man. Furthermore, they believe that Wilson would have survived if Goodman had only called the police or offered assistance instead of running away.

The defense contends that Goodman was simply the victim of poor engineering and that his Bentley accelerated on its own through the intersection. The impact disoriented Mr. Goodman who wandered into a nearby barn and discovered a cache of alcoholic beverages. Understandably distraught by his recent vehicular malfunction, Goodman began consuming said libations in an effort to anesthetize himself. Once he regained his composure, he immediately called the authorities and was devastated to learn of Mr. Wilson’s demise.

I must say, Goodman’s legal team presented a rather unique explanation for the accident and Goodman’s elevated blood alcohol level. I imagine law students will be analyzing the Possessed Bentley / Barn Scotch defense for years to come. While it might sound outlandish, perhaps the defense possesses ironclad evidence that Goodman’s Bentley indeed went into “Christine” mode at the most inopportune time thereby setting in motion a chain of events that resulted in the defendant wandering into the only central Florida barn stocking unguarded liquor.

What fascinates me is the implication of legally adopting your adult girlfriend. If they break up and he gets remarried would his new wife be his ex-girlfriend’s stepmother, because I could see that family dinner becoming rather awkward. Also, Goodman has other biological children so how does he diplomatically allocate budgets for Christmas gifts? Does Heather get a girlfriend share and a daughter share?

“Daddy, how come Heather got a Land Rover and a diamond bracelet and I just got an Old Navy giftcard?”
“We’ve talked about his sweetie, Heather gets two gifts because she has full legal control of Daddy’s assets and can leave us all destitute if she goes off the reservation.”

With all of the negative connotations associated with a man dating his own daughter, I suppose there are some upsides:

  • Popin’ & lockin’ is no longer off the table at the father/daughter dances.
  • As both her dad and current lover, you can easily justify being overprotective when other men hit on her.
  • By claiming her as a dependent of your taxes, it might be possible to deduct all the expensive jewelry you would have to buy her anyway.
  • It doesn’t seem quite as creepy when you tell her, “Sometimes I just look at you and imagine a little girl.”
  • Calling you “daddy” has officially been elevated from voluntary role play to a legally-binding agreement.
  • A non-Mississippi resident now has a reason to request that Facebook allow you to identify the same person under the “In a relationship with” and “Family” headings.
  • Dual veto status over her tattoo decisions.
  • As the father of her children you, would be eligible to eat with them at school on parent’s day and grandparent’s day.
  • Streamline the wedding ceremony having one “I do” cover multiple questions like, “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” and “Do you John, take Heather as your lawfully-wedded wife-child?”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Things I Have Noticed

  • I am fairly certain that it is illegal to operate a Mexican restaurant in the southeast without offering candy at the cash register. Furthermore, this candy must be purchased by placing change into a small, wicker basket.
  • I do not believe that People magazine has ever published an issue that does not feature at least one exclamation point on the cover. If the issue in question concerns dramatic celebrity weight-loss, this minimum is tripled.
  • There is an unsettling irony when people utilize their Facebook status updates to publicly announce their desire for a situation to remain private. This coy form of dissemination functions as a social “teaser” designed to elicit concerned responses so that information can be dispersed as the poster sees fit while maintaining the illusion that discretion was their intended goal. The resulting lines often read like:
“Why can’t people just understand that I don’t want to talk about my secret past in Norwegian erotic cinema?”
“How come these people are all up in my private business? As if I do not have enough to worry about with my recent demotion and abnormal pap-smear results.”
  • The less spoken dialogue a film utilizes, the more likely it will be to be nominated for Best Picture. This is especially true if the sparse dialogue is broken up by long shots of background scenery sound-tracked by indie bands or artists.
  • The placing of “awareness ribbons” on one’s car to convey a position statement has officially reached the tipping point. I dare say that the majority of the public old enough to drive is already aware of AIDS, War, and Cancer.
  • Perhaps instead of installing a cumbersome “sun screen” on the Redbox machine, you could just install it on the side of the building not facing the sun.
  • I truly believe that you can violate any traffic law as long as you are in possession of an orange hazard cone and are willing to place it within three feet of your vehicle.
  • There is no need for every musician/artist to create their own perfume/cologne. The public is perfectly capable of enjoying your body of work without smelling like you.
  • Having a nickname is endearing, having that nickname printed on your business cards is not.
  • How did we arrive at the place where I must specifically ask for my water to be served without lemon? Are we being conditioned by a powerful lemon conglomerate to believe that consuming water without bits of citrus pulp floating in it is a special request?
  • If you do not exercise you right to vote, please do not subject those of us who did to your political opinions.
  • Why do people find it necessary to pick off the armrest padding at movie theaters? Are there that many patrons afflicted by this compulsion? Why can’t they suffer from a disorder that compels them to throw away their nacho tray instead?
  • Why do textile manufactures feel it is necessary to embroider sayings on the inside of my pants? How does seeing “One leg at a time” while I am on the toilet improve brand loyalty? Are these messages size specific? Does the 58 waist come with “Gravy Milkshakes Are Bad” while the 22 waist reminds you that “Funyuns & Baby Aspirin Do Not Constitute a Meal”?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cigarette Labels

A few weeks ago, Federal District Judge Richard Leon ruled against the Food and Drug Administration’s new cigarette warning labels. In a statement, he dismissed the new FDA system as “crafted to evoke a strong emotional response calculated to provoke the viewer to quit or never start smoking.” Judge Leon felt that the proposed illustrations (depicting damaged internal organs, rotting teeth and a smoker’s dead body) infringed upon the free speech of the tobacco companies because they were an attempt by a government organization to prevent a consumer from purchasing a legal product.

For those of you who do not know, the United States has a unique relationship with cigarette warning labels. We were the first country to require them, and over the years they have evolved from statements of ambiguous medical speculation to a specific list of future maladies.  In the 1960’s, packages of cigarettes informed users that “smoking may be hazardous to your health.” Through the 70’s and early 80’s people were assured that the surgeon general “has determined that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health” and by 1985 Marlboro Red’s informed us that “smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and may complicate pregnancy.”

Certainly one could argue that forcing a company to place a full-color photo of a human cadaver on their packaging could negatively impact sales. Even funeral homes don’t do that and their profits are generated on a per-corpse basis. So I can agree that while a government agency does have the right to assist people in making informed decisions, it is disingenuous to legalize a product and then force the manufacturer to convince people not to buy it by. If anything, those types of heavy-handed tactics should only be used to make a real difference in people’s lives (like when I dropped $15 on the “Spaghetti Incident” CD that Guns N Roses put out).  

However, the real issue is that the labels are a pointless waste of time. People smoke because they haven’t come to a place in their lives to quit. I cannot name a single adult smoker who wakes up in the morning and asks themselves, “How can I insure I never live long enough to meet my grandchildren by spending $5 every time I stop at a Citgo?” What does the FDA envision happening if this system is implemented? Do they expect some roofer that has been sucking down Camels since he was fourteen to see discolored teeth on his cartoon and suddenly decide that a multivitamin is a better investment?

According to a 2009 CDC study, 80% of adult smokers began before they were legally old enough to purchase cigarettes. For those keeping score at home, that means that packaging designed to deter new smokers at the point of sale would, at best, have a 20% success rate. The same CDC study revealed that among high school students the largest percentage of youth smokers were Caucasian males with low “socioeconomic status, grades, and self-esteem” who were prone to “carrying weapons.” This means that taking away cigarettes from a poor white kid could be a dangerous proposition because they are all armed and have nothing to lose.

If the FDA continues down this path, I do have a few items that I feel need more graphic packaging:

  • Jose Ole’ Bean & Cheese Frozen Burritos – Box would feature a weeping silhouette on a toilet holding a rosary.
  • Keychain-Size Axe Body Spray – Bottle features an illustration of a man purchasing a Nickelback CD.
  • Nickelback CD – Packaging would feature a morose, goateed man dinning alone at a Carl’s Jr.
  •  Bowflex – On the box is a photo of the Bowflex beside your Ab Roller at a yard sale.
  • A “TapouT” Window Decal – The packaging would be the same, but the clerk would punch you in the face upon checkout.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Marked by Deception

Inspired by one-time collegiate entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg, two students at Arizona State University have started a unique website. The idea was to create an online community that allowed users to unburden themselves of their guilt and shame while remaining anonymous. The process is as follow: conscience-tortured souls can surf to and submit a brief summary of their misdeeds. Once these submissions have been screened by the site’s staff, they are published on the homepage where the public can leave comments and categorize each offense as “forgivable” or “unforgivable” based on the severity of the infraction. Based on this community rating, each confession is placed under a subcategory of “heaven” or “hell.” 

Site co-founder Lonny Rueben admits there are limits to what they will publish insisting that "any posts that are dealing with suicide, murder, rape, we wouldn't want any of those on our site." The goal is to create enough web traffic to allow for on-site advertising to provide a revenue stream. currently processes about 100 submitted confessions per day and averages 800 page views in that same time frame.
My curiosity peaked by such an unusual service, I spent a half-hour or so perusing the darkest secrets of the Internet populace. I began with Hell, which contained an impressive amount of sexual deviance and infidelity along with the occasional unique drug habit (one personal in particular admitted an addiction to his dog’s anti-seizure medication). However the offense with the distinction of generated the most unforgivable ratings involved none of the above. It was sordid tale of greed, deception, and euthanasia involving some guys who kicked his friend’s dog for eating his sneakers and then lying about the canine’s fatal injuries.

Heaven, while still boasting its fair share of carnal dalliances, features many more unique confessions than its counterpart. One young man laments that his girlfriend’s face reminds him of a squirrel, another involved an incident of church flatulence and still another details a bar fight over a difference of opinion concerning Michelle Bachman. As with the Hell distinction, there seems to be an inordinate amount of people urinating in other people’s shampoo…. 

Curious as to how the process worked, I created and submitted the following confession:

Several years ago I commissioned a very unique tattoo that was placed on my right shoulder. It is about 2 ½ inches in diameter and consists of a bespectacled eagle perched on a Golden Corral restaurant logo. The eagle is peering intently through a window pane at a weeping female silhouette cupping a partially consumed apple. The entire piece is encircled by a repeating series of numbers and set against a gradient grey background. I acquired the ink after being dumped by an ex (who was employed at the Golden Corral) and the eagle represents me looking toward a future of mutual fulfillment only to discover her secret unhappiness with our relationship which I ultimately blame on original sin. The repeating number sequence is actually the external IP address of her personal laptop which I utilize to clandestinely read her correspondence to this very day.  However, whenever my current fiancée asks me why I got the tattoo I just mumble something about the Bengals having a bad season and change the subject. Is this forgivable?
Unfortunately the site has a character limit so it was truncated:
I have a tattoo that consists of an eagle perched on a Golden Corral logo peering intently through a window at a weeping female silhouette cupping a partially consumed apple. The entire piece is encircled by a repeating series of numbers that represent my ex's IP address. My ex and I got them together before we broke up. However, whenever my fiancée asks me why I got the tattoo I just mumble something about the Bengals having a bad season and change the subject. Is this forgivable?
After only two days I was surprised to see my submission prominently-displayed on the homepage. As of this writing I have received fifty-three “Forgivable” votes compared to only nine “Unforgivable” placing me firmly within the realm of hypothetical salvation. I also received three supportive replies reassuring me that “we all have a past.”

Having glanced through the hundreds of submissions now on the page, I feel that the majority of the issue could be prevented by monogamy, integrity, and a renewed commitment to personal hygiene. The site’s founders readily admit that they have no way of determining which submissions constitute actual guilt and which are complete fabrications, which is somewhat comforting after taking in a few of the site’s more troubling posts. Perhaps some things are better left unsaid.