Shouting Into Darkness

It’s Not Easy Being Green (Goblin)

Posted in Comic Books, Kooky Observations by Chris W. on July 19, 2011

Being a New Yorker (or at least someone who lives here and likes to call himself a “New Yorker” because it scores points with chicks out of town) and a comic book geek, there is a lot to get excited about. The Big Apple is home to several pillars of the comic book world, most of them coming from Marvel. Stark Tower is located in Manhattan (don’t believe that hack movie; Iron Man lives in NYC, damnit!) and is home to the Fantastic Four. Matt Murdock has his practice in Hell’s Kitchen, where he also patrols the alleys as Daredevil. And, of course, there is the hero that Marvel and the rest of the world associates most with New York City, a teenager from Queens. Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.

Spider-Man is synonymous with New York City. He came from a suburb in the outer boroughs, swings around famous landmarks, and was the character Marvel chose to represent them when tackling the attacks on 9/11. In Spidey’s 40+ years in our culture, he’s touched every bit of media you could think imaginable, including the subject of the video above: Broadway.

I’m not going to give you a detailed history of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’s” troubles, as I’m sure you’re well familiar with them. Cast changes, skyrocketing budget, shitty reviews, and a few high-profile injuries to stuntmen. People who saw the show in this state say it was an unmitigated disaster, and if it ever saw Opening Night, it probably wouldn’t last long out of the gate.

Theater people, as far as I know, are a superstitious lot. Makes me wonder why the whole cast didn’t just walk and “Spider-Man” would become as feared a name amongst theater actors as “Macbeth.”

But the show went back to the drawing board, retooled, and relaunched. The result still wasn’t a critical darling, but people are going. This being the tourist season and all, they’re probably enjoying a bit of a bump due to all the people who want to see it just to say they were there. While I’m normally a cynical asshole and am quick to point the Finger of Doom at a project that doesn’t immediately take off and soar, I want “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” to be at least a financial success. Can’t really put my finger on “why,” though. I don’t have a personal stake in the production, nor do I know anyone in the show or working for it. Could be the fact that it’s Spider-Man and the comic book fan in me is rallying behind one of my demigods. Could be the fact that the show got beaten up in the press and I feel bad that it’s got such a deep hole to dig out of.

Or it could just be this song.

This is video from last night’s “Late Show with David Letterman.” The number features Patrick Page as the Green Goblin singing “A Freak Like Me Needs Company”, the opening song of the second act and far and away the best song on the soundtrack. Now, your musical and artistic tastes may vary from mine, but I gotta say, the song is awesome and seeing the Green Goblin costume/make-up move with the actor lessens some of the fanboy disgust I had with the design. I love the chorus melody, especially when a dozen people are singing and putting everything into it. “A Freak Like Me” is the big villain song in the show, Green Goblin stating his plan to turn everyone in New York into mutant freaks like him, and it helps when the villain’s manifesto sounds like it has a pair of Spaldings. To me, the whole show is worth it for the three minutes of that song.

Now, before you start commenting, yes I’m aware that there’s a lot about that number that can be criticized, especially from a comic book fan’s perspective. While I’m okay with how the Green Goblin looks (and Carnage for that matter, too), there is absolutely no excuse for what they did to the Lizard. They took the villain that fans will come to fear in the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man movie and turned him into Nega-Barney. The choreography can be a little weak at times, but my expertise does not include being able to critique dance. Besides, I’m listening to the dancers, but my eyes are on Green Goblin, strutting around the stage like an evil marriage of Gene Simmons and a pickle.

I hope to see the show sometime soon and have a full opinion. From what I see now, putting my fandom aside, there are the makings for an okay musical here. The soundtrack has some decent moments (other highlights are “Pull the Trigger”, “DIY World”, and “If the World Should End”), the visuals can be both goofy and really cool, and it carries the same tried-and-true Spider-Man themes that carried three top-grossing movies. Plus, the tickets for a really good seat are still less than the crappiest “Book of Mormon” seat.

For the full song, edited to footage from the Spider-Man films, click below:

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The Birther Phenomenon

Posted in Kooky Observations, Political by Chris W. on April 29, 2011

I try not to get too political on people these days, because I’m of the mindset that my opinions on politics, religion and other lofty topics are interesting only to me. Doesn’t help that I also clash with the usual “left vs. right” dichotomy, but really, I think that people who come here want to be entertained. I do that to the best of my abilities, but every now and then, I have a few thoughts on a subject beyond video games and defunct comic books that I think needs to be recorded. This is one of those times.

A few days ago, President Barack Obama released a PDF file of his birth certificate to the media, along with a much-needed plea that the nation simply drop the subject and get on with more important matters. This was in response to a nagging question that never went answered (primarily because most of the world thought it was a dumb question to begin with) regarding the President’s status as a US citizen. Believe it or not, there is a segment of the American population that thinks the entire country has been bamboozled, that the current president was ineligible to be a candidate due to the fact that he was not born in the US. I know a lot of wacked-out conspiracy nutjobs in my personal life, and even they thought that these people needed to get in touch with reality.

The “Birther” movement, as it became known as, reached critical mass when real-estate mogul and reality show personality Donald Trump publicly stated his distrust of the President’s citizenship. You’d never think Donald Trump to be the one to lend credibility to an argument, but there it was. If one of the richest and well-known men in America joins your movement, you’ve just gotten called up to the Major Leagues.

So, the President – begrudgingly, might I add – showed his birth certificate and tried to put the matter to bed. Trump suffered a backlash of mocking in the media and online. (Honestly, if I have to see one more person post “Trump demands to know what country Latifah is the Queen of” and slap their knee, I may have to quit the Internet.) But of course, it still festers on. Some people still aren’t buying Obama’s birth certificate, and it just makes your head hurt. Why, after all this time, is this still a fucking issue?

To most people, it’s not, and that’s the good news. The majority of the country considers Obama just like they would any other president: a man with policies you either agree or disagree with. Even Obama’s staunchest political rivals have to distance themselves from the “Birthers”. Hey, maybe we’ve finally found some common ground to work from! Perhaps the healing can begin…

But to the people who still buy into this conspiracy theory, there are several explanations why. Most of the people I follow on Twitter (read: entertainers and other creative people) try to tie the Birther movement to deep-seated ignorance, gullibility, or even racism. I’m sure there are some who’s distrust in this President’s eligibility is based around one or more of those three things, but for the rest of the Birther movement, I think it goes beyond simple, quantifiable motives.

To me, the Birther movement is no different from the “NASA Faked the Moon Landing” or the “9/11 Truther” conspiracies. They are all conspiracy theories, born out of paranoia and reinforced by how “juicy” the story is. Think of the Obama story as it is now: Man born in Hawaii to poor parents rises up through the ranks of politics, gaining the trust of his fellow man before being bestowed the office of President. Not a bad story, but it’s even better if re-written to read: Man backed by either personal motivation or possibly foreign political influence infiltrates the office of President to pull a giant hoax on the Nation and the World. One of those stories is a feel-good; the other is a summer blockbuster.

I also place some of the blame for this whole Birther phenomenon at the feet of the Watergate scandal. I wasn’t around during Watergate, but I recently got through reading “All the President’s Men,” which is a fascinating account of how the President of the United States could be aware of wrongdoing in his name and try to use campaign funds to cover it all up. Prior to Watergate, it would be inconceivable that someone who possessed the moral core to become President would also be capable of something so underhanded. After Watergate, all bets were off. It was shown that the President could not only be a crook, but he could lie to the entire nation about it and stand a very good chance of getting away with it just because “He’s the President.” The Clinton scandal reinforced this for my generation. The President of the United States could – and did – screw around on his wife while in office and commit perjury to try and cover it up.

If you follow that line of thinking, it’s easy to see how someone with ambitions of being President could be not always forthcoming with the truth.

But what the Watergate and Lewinsky scandals had that the Birther movement doesn’t have is solid evidence to back up the claim. If the Nixon tapes never came to light, Watergate may have ended with H.R. Haldemann and never touched Nixon himself. Without Clinton’s DNA that he lovingly deposited all over the place, his extramarital affair would’ve been a private matter between him and his wife. The Birther Movement have their birth certificate. Unless there’s real evidence to discredit this document, the case is closed in the minds of the greater public. But, as with any conspiracy, you can bet that there will be a steady supply of people ready to buy into it.

So why, in light of near damning evidence to the contrary, do people still believe this hokum? Because they’re delusional, that’s why. The textbook definition of a “delusion” is a belief held in the absence of or in spite of evidence to the contrary. To the delusional person, and this fits for almost all conspiracy theorists, the pre-conceived idea is more important than the truth. Perhaps a big chunk of the individual’s identity rides upon that notion (as is the case with the ultra-religious), perhaps the individual wants to feel a part of the collective, or perhaps he or she just wants to think “alternatively.” There is no penalty for thinking outside the box in this world, but there is a penalty for thinking outside the plane of reality the box exists on.

In conclusion, the Birthers that stick with it after being shown Obama’s birth certificate will probably never let up until Obama is no longer in office and the point becomes moot. But if there are some out there that still are interested in the truth and evidence, the smoking gun (to pull another term from Watergate) is the President’s birth certificate, and you now have it. If you have any better information, we’d all like to hear it, but if not, let’s please drop this silly conspiracy and get down to the real issues at hand. And just so this doesn’t sound like a left-wing attack of the right-wing, I will point out that I’m not a Democrat by any stretch of the imagination, but I won’t do my credibility any good by joining up with the lunatic fringe. There is enough to criticize the President about other than the circumstances of his birth.

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UFC 113: Totally Amateur Predictions w/ Post-Fight Thoughts

Posted in Kooky Observations by Chris W. on May 8, 2010

It’s a few minutes before UFC 113: Machida v. Shogun 2 from Montreal, Canada. So, as is my not-yet decided custom, I want to post some quick predictions, even though I admittedly know jack shit about MMA.

  1. I really don’t care about who wins the title in Machida v. Shogun. All I want to see with this is a more decisive fight than last time. It easily could’ve gone either way at UFC 104, with many of the MMA community thinking that Shogun got robbed by the judges. UFC President Dana White has often said, “Never leave it in the hands of the judges,” and both fighters need to have learned that lesson this time. If Shogun wants that title, he has to earn it by showing everyone that he is the better fighter and take that belt from Lyoto Machida.
  2. I’m a Kimbo fan, even though I know he doesn’t show a lot of the same prowess as Michael Bisping, Brock Lesnar, or most other fighters. Most fans believe that he is just a face that can throw a few big punches and put on a show for the crowd, but doesn’t possess the talent to really be in mixed martial arts. He’s a street fighter, plain and simple. He’ll bash your face in with his fist, but he doesn’t know how to escape holds and submissions. I hope that Kimbo can build on his Ultimate Fighter finale performance and show that he does belong in the UFC and didn’t win the fight over Houston Alexander because of Alexander’s faulty gameplan.
  3. Koscheck v. Daley: I’m leaning towards Koscheck purely on the fact that he’s an Ultimate Fighter graduate, and I’m not sure how Daly fights. Both have been talking trash, so for this one, I just want a good, exciting fight. Plus, the winner will probably have a shot at GSP, so I’m watching this fight as a prelim to see if anyone can stop the Canadian Apocalypse.

I’m off to watch UFC 113 now. If you want to, you can follow me on Twitter and follow my thoughts as they happen. Either way, enjoy your night!

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What I’ll Do When I’m Rich

Posted in Kooky Observations by Chris W. on April 28, 2010

Like most people, I wonder what I’d do if I had a vast supply of personal wealth. The details of exactly how all this cash found its way into my hands are unimportant to the thought experiment (but assume it happened through some completely legitimate stroke of luck if that soothes your conscience), what matters more is what you’d do with it. Try it at home, right now. If you were given one trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) and told you would not receive another penny for the rest of your life, what would you do?

(Before we get too far down the rabbit hole, let’s clarify a few things. First, the biggest rule of this thought experiment is that you will not invest one penny of it or otherwise turn the money around in any way to generate greater wealth (invest in the stock market, buy a share in a successful business or start your own, become a loan shark, etc.), the only exception being you can save money in a bank and collect the interest. You can quit your job if you’d like, or continue working, your choice. We can also assume for the sake of standardization that this sudden influx of wealth will occur on your 40th birthday or nearest birthday if you’re over the age of 40, as teenagers have more to think about than people who have hit mid-life. Other than that, it’s all fair game. And the best part is that no one in the fantasy world will judge you based on what you do/acquire.)

Your answers will probably vary depending on pre-existing wealth, children or other dependent family members, living conditions of your environment, and so on. Another certainty is that a few themes will probably pop up amongst most people (more on that later). So, just to get the ball rolling, here’s what I’d do with a cool trillion:

Apart from my living conditions and my fetishistic love of technology, both of which would probably be satisfied first, I think that the biggest spend of my money would be in quasi-philanthropic endeavors that would serve only to advance my own agenda. I’d probably give a lot of money to the Libertarian Party, probably enough to be given some type of symbolic status within the organization, but I’m a little worried that, even with my generous donation, the unknown player in a well-established play might get swallowed up, especially in a divisive political climate with tensions between two political superpowers. It’d be like giving a lot of money to New Zealand during the Cold War: nobody really cares what they think and there’s a good chance they’ll just get annihilated in the fallout, anyway. After that, I’ll probably donate a lot of money to a local public school or library that desperately needed it, just to show that the private sector can be encouraged to pick up public utilities off the government’s hands. A lot of money would probably go to scientific research, such as evolutionary biology, stem cell research, and debilitating diseases like HIV/AIDS or cancer. I’m not trying to ring the sympathy bell or paint myself as holier than thou; I’m admitting that my seemingly philanthropic endeavors are selfishly motivated, but in a world that cares more about ends than means, I doubt anyone will really care.

Finally, I’d save the biggest for last: I’d want to advance the political lobby of non-religious people. The numbers that everyone seems to quote (most recently in Bill Maher’s Religulous) is that 20 percent of America considers themselves non-religious. This includes atheists, agnostics, humanists, and all people who don’t buy into a super-natural presence that created or interacts with the world. 20 percent. That outnumbers gays, blacks, Mormons, and even religious Jews. However, the political pull of non-religious folk is almost naught. Nobody cares what the heathens have to say basically, even when so many great members of society (thinkers, entertainers, writers, artists, scientists) think of God as alien a concept as the Smurfs. Richard Dawkins even proposes that, with 20 percent of the population of America non-religious, at least some politician somewhere must harbor some non-religious beliefs that would surprise their constituents if found out. Maybe he or she is a state senator, or a comptroller, or a district attorney, or maybe even has advanced to the level of federal government! Wherever they are, they are hiding very well. So, my biggest contribution to society (apart from this blog, of course) will be to set up a James Randi-esque prize for the first politician to come on national television and worldwide telecast and claim to the world that he or she does not believe in God. Not just Jesus, or Abraham, or Moses, or Mohammed, but God itself. Some steps would have to be taken to ensure authenticity and seriousness (no crossed fingers behind the back allowed). The goal of this exercise would be multi-fold. First, it’d show to the world that non-religion is not a personality trait that instantly causes anti-social symptoms or an unfulfilling life. It would show to the world that a person with no shred of belief in God can even advance to public office and be a (hopefully) effective leader. Second, it’d give public face to the movement, someone previously unknown to be non-religious willing to stand up and declare their non-belief publicly. We aren’t plotting the moral overthrow of the Free World, or corrupting the lives of unbaptized children with Charles Darwin and Marilyn Manson. We’re people, just like you, and the only thing that separates us is a lack of religious faith, a trait that is not that easy to spot offhand. And finally, I believe that this would be the start of a dam bursting, involving people now being unafraid to declare their irreligiosity and start acting with some political authority. Or, it’ll showcase the amount of bigotry still befalling non-religious people around the world (especially in certain obvious areas) and the lobby may finally have the rallying cry it needs.

Your list will probably vary greatly to mine. But, I believe that if we all compared notes, a few things might start to show up as common. Student loans will be paid off, massive credit card debts will be erased (hopefully to not show up again), college educations will be paid for, and elder family members will be taken care of. I also believe that a lot of charities will see increased action for their causes as, try as I might, I can’t imagine such a colossal prick that, when given one trillion dollars to last the rest of his or her life, can’t break off a few thousand for a chosen beneficiary. And maybe that is the true reason for this exercise. Despite the news being filled with stories about greedy people who do bad things to the little guy and the idea that we have to be forced to be nice to each other or prop each other up gaining more and more traction in the public eye, the thought might occur that maybe, deep down, people aren’t as bad as we give them credit for.

Some Quick Thoughts on UFC 111

Posted in Kooky Observations by Chris W. on March 28, 2010

This night marked my first ever Ultimate Fighting Championship Pay-Per-View. UFC 111: St. Pierre vs. Hardy, Mir vs. Carwin in Newark, NJ. The hype building up to this event has been pretty substantial, what with Brock Lesner having to either face his old foe Frank Mir or the apocalyptic Shane Carwin to defend his belt, coupled with GSP having to defend his title yet again against Dan Hardy (unbeaten in the UFC before tonight). Added, all the press for this event took place in New York City, and for a new MMA fan, having Dana White and Co. come into your town is a pretty big fucking deal. When he mentioned his goal of bringing a UFC event to Madison Square Garden, mere blocks from where I work, you could just about balance a 2×4 on the rod in my pants.

Anyway…

I watched UFC 111 at the Clearview Cinema in Chelsea. (Could’ve watched it in Radio City Music Hall, but I pre-bought my tickets as soon as I could and didn’t know about the party. Darn.) I’d been looking forward to the event for weeks; I even wore my new favorite TapouT shirt to show that I knew what I was talking about (even though I clearly don’t). The fights were fun, for the most part, and the victories were pretty clearly deserved by the victors. Very little controversy, just enough to give the blogs something to write about, a fairly decent event. That being said, here are some points I walked away with as I filed 111 away in my mind and prepped for the upcoming 112:

  1. There was just about the perfect balance between finished fights and decision victories. I get the sense that most people prefer the submission or knock-out because (duh) it’s more exciting to see someone get knocked on their ass and pounded into the mat than watching two Ju-Jitsu grapplers squirm around each other for 15 minutes and have the judges score it. For this PPV, it was just about perfectly balanced. The fights that had to be finished early were, and the ones that could go the distance did.
  2. What’s with the new refs? I admit to being new to the sport, but during the Pahlares/Drwal fight, Tomasz Drwal was tapping for about a half hour before Pahlares let go of the leg lock. Anyone watching that fight could see the grimace of pain accompanying that leg lock, and the eventual limping out of the Octagon for a quick trip to the ER. MMA needs to have referees that know when a fighter has had enough and stop the contest so people don’t get horribly hurt. It’s how the sport keeps a good record of no serious injuries or deaths yet. And when I see a ref watch Shane Carwin beat Frank Mir’s head into hamburger meat and do nothing to save him, it worries me. Frank wasn’t hurt by the beating, but when someone’s out or not defending themselves, you stop the fight, plain and simple. You don’t wait around while the dominant fighter pounds the other dude further into Neverland.
  3. Lesnar is in trouble. Shane Carwin has finished all his 12 UFC fights within the first round, and always by knockout. As far as heavyweights go, there are few people who are scarier. Brock would’ve much preferred to fight Frank Mir, as it is both a storybook re-match and an opponent he’s already faced and has an idea of how to beat. Carwin has SCUD missiles for hands and may be the first in the UFC to knock out Brock Lesnar. We’ll have to wait until July to find out.
  4. Dan Hardy has a set of bollocks on him. UFC 111 was filled with impressive submission attempts in several fights, but no one watching the title match between Hardy and GSP could watch that fight and not cringe when Georges St. Pierre kept twisting Dan Hardy’s arm back in non-quite-natural positions. Not once, but twice. Twice the man almost had his arm ripped out of his socket by a Canadian phenom and he still didn’t tap out. Not only did he not tap, but he wasn’t saved by the clock; he squirmed his way out of those holds and came back to fight some more. Watching it, I wanted to run into the Octagon and tap out FOR Dan Hardy. It looked that painful.
  5. Who can stop GSP? There seems to be no real answer to this one, as he is perhaps the best fighter in the UFC today. He’s on an impressive win-streak as the Middleweight Champion and, as tonight showed, he has some of the best Takedowns in the game. By the end of the fight, Dan Hardy wasn’t even trying to avoid them, and that’s what lead to his defeat. GSP took him down every single time he tried, and there was nothing he could do to defend against such an attack. It’s becoming more and more likely that someone will either have to catch GSP with a lucky jab or hold, or GSP will have to give up the title in order for the belt to be on anyone else’s waist but his.

There are no words…

Posted in Kooky Observations by Chris W. on October 6, 2009

I know I might catch some shit for this, but I liked Green Day’s American Idiot album for a few reasons.

1) I’m queer for concept albums/rock operas (which to some could just be shortened to “I’m queer”) and American Idiot is one of the best examples of a modern rock opera.
2) I didn’t care about the band’s history so claims that they “sold out” or “aren’t punk anymore” bounced right off me.
3) The tunes were catchy. The first time that “Holiday” came on the radio, you were bobbing your head to it and if you can’t admit that, you’re only fooling yourself.

What amazed me most about the album was the story: a young man’s search for identity amongst various social groups that reject him. When they announced that a feature film was going to be made, done in the same style as the music videos supporting American Idiot, I was totally sold.

Then, the project quietly fizzled out and morphed into something a bit more sinister: a stage musical. My hopes were still high because American Idiot has been performed in concert by the band and it seemed okay…

…That all changed after this trailer dropped on the Internet like a bomb cluster.

I dare you to take a look at this video and not be thoroughly disgusted. Maybe you have to be a theater freak to really appreciate what they’re doing, but it seems like such a bad idea to have a theater chorus of golden-voiced Idol hopefuls singing songs that could even remotely be classified as “punk.” Remember Pat Boone’s heavy metal album?

Also, the strength of the music videos was that they had a stripped down, almost haphazard style that complimented the music. This looks a lot like… a musical. If the sound on the video wasn’t on, you could probably confuse it for Rent or even Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This trailer needs to be waaaayyyyy off the mark for the show to be any type of a faithful interpretation of the music.

Then again, I could just be hating. This is only two minutes of what must be a 90-minute show. Maybe when the real show hits the stage, it’ll have that special bland of anarchism and humor that music requires. But if this trailer is any indication of what’s to come, you might be better off staying home and recreating events from “Longview.”

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A Few Quick News Stories

Posted in Kooky Observations, Ranting and Raving by Chris W. on March 27, 2009

A few stories struck me today while I was reading my morning newspaper. Neither of them warrant a huge post for themselves, so I’ll do the economical thing and combine them.

They Can Never Take Our Freedom!

I’m going to assume that my readership (Hi Mom!) is familiar with what’s going on at Ground Zero in the years since the 9/11 attacks. The site has been through more development hell than the Watchmen film (nerdy joke), but it seems that our tax dollars are finally going towards something other than trimming the grass around the Footprints. In a few years, New York City will be home to the Freedom Tower, a return not only of 1 World Trade Center, but a red-blooded, American, “Fuck You, Terrorists!” statement to the world.

Or maybe not. It was revealed in today’s “AM New York” that the former 1 World Trade Center will, when it reopens, carry the name of… 1 World Trade Center. The reasoning behind this was to use the marketability of “World Trade Center” to attract tenants.

Personally, I think the reason is a bit bass-ackwards. Can you imagine how cool it would be to walk up during your High School Reunion and say, “I work in the Freedom Tower, bitches! Being in my crappy cubicle for 40 hours a week does more to keep the American Spirit alive than George W. Bush did in 8 fucking years! And we keep red-white-and-blue toilet paper in the Men’s Room!” Plus, a business card with the words “Freedom Tower” on it must be like turning on a faucet in a woman’s pants.

But beyond the tomfoolery, I’m not bothered by the switch. I always thought that a “Freedom Tower” was a bit chintzy and hollow. The cynic in me believes that the genesis of the Freedom Tower was rooted in it sounding good rather than any real thought. And while I like the idea of a center for commerce and capitalism being named the “Freedom Tower” (although it could be delivered with a pinch of irony, especially in Barack Obama’s America) I believe that the real, no-kidding Freedom Tower already exists. Even though it’s not a tower, technically. It’s a statue. It’s a statue that welcomes all people and ideas with open arms and shines an imaginary beacon symbolizing that no matter how dark it gets, we will always be alight.

In a few years, 1 World Trade Center will be open. I personally can’t wait to see what they do with it.

A Friend, Indeed!

And now, the latest in the saga that’s sweeping the nation (and one I wished I could’ve been a part of as a teenager) called “sexting.”

I’ve been very skeptical about the supposed wide-spread epidemic of sexting in America’s youth, but it seems that I may have to eat my words. The latest victim to be tossed into the mud is a 14-year-old girl from New Jersey. Apparently, she posted 30 or so nude photos of herself on Myspace.com. And, after having to deny Friend Requests from me for a few days, she was busted by the police. She’s now being brought up on child pornography charges and faces being labeled a sex offender.

Now, let’s get the practical stuff out of the way. No, I don’t believe it’s right for 14 year old girls to post nude photos of themselves on the Internet for any reason. I don’t want to see it, and a girl that young is too young to know exactly what the ramifications of sending out that kind of information into the pit of wild, horny dudes known as The Internet will have. I wouldn’t want that to happen to my daughter, your daughter, or anybody’s daughter for that matter.

That being said, is this a matter for law enforcement? If it’s been proven that the photos were posted by the alleged offender and of her own free will, where’s the victim in this crime? Can you be brought up on charges for harming yourself? And having to register as a sex offender for just being a naive teenager is the dictionary definition of “a bit much.” This girl will have to suffer at least until she’s 18 (and possibly for the rest of her life*) just for being stupid.

In my world, this is clearly a matter for the parents. Let the father and mother tell her why she shouldn’t do something like that. And this story, as well as every one like it, is a lesson for parents and would-be parents out there. If you have a child, you need to keep up with their technology and meet them on their level. I’d like to think that any girl with a brain between her ears will realize that it’s a bad thing to send her boyfriend nude photos of herself because the next one to get them will be the entire Varsity football team.

*I could be wrong on that fact. If I am, please enlighten me.

On Why I Will Never Be a Cop

Posted in Kooky Observations by Chris W. on September 18, 2008

My Uncle Joey in New Hampshire is a police officer, and he’s probably the one member of my extended family (vocationally speaking, at least) that I look up to. I’m not sure exactly how dangerous his daily job is or how close he is to being Lenny Briscoe on Law & Order, but I respect him for one reason that because abundantly clear to me today:

I will never be a police officer.

Not for lack of physical ability or the fact that I’m a lousy shot or the fact that my politics might interfere with my job performance. It’s because I’m one of those people who probably shouldn’t hold the power of arrest over others.

To demonstrate, I watch a lot of cop shows. Not just the fictional kind, but I’m really digging the “real-job” variety of reality shows that started with Dog the Bounty Hunter and has now expanded to A&E’s new series Jacked, about a Newark police force dedicated to stolen cars. After only seeing three episodes, I’m hooked. This show has it all: action, chases, fast cars, and scumbag thieves getting arrested. It’s awesome, but I’ve noticed something when I watch the best episodes of these cop shows; I find myself acting out the parts in some sort of weird power fantasy where not only can I manhandle perpetrators to the ground, but I scream the sort of stuff that would make R. Lee Ermey hand me a prescription for Zoloft.

The intellectual in me knows that any sort of exaggerated show of force in the process of an arrest would significantly undermine the case against the person being arrested. Also, on a purely common sense basis, nobody likes a swinging dick. Despite this notion being firmly chiseled into my head, I can’t help but think that the urge has to be there to just rub someone’s face in it when you catch them fleeing the scene of a crime. I’m not saying it’s right, or that everyone goes through that sort of mental process. All I can say is that it’s how I would handle it in the deepest recesses of my imagination. I picture myself with the bad guy on the ground, my mouth an inch away from his ear as if I were about to whisper sweet nothings to him but instead am saying some of the most demoralizing stuff ever conceived by Man laced with language that A&E censors would work overtime cutting out.

I think most people have this type of power fantasy, especially boys. Most young boys dig superheroes at one point or another simply because they’re big, powerful, domineering and witty, depending on your writer. We all have fantasized at one point or another being in a position where we could treat other people as nicely or as harshly as we desired, and not only that but get paid to bust up those thugs and mess with their egos. Not only that, but we, as a justice-minded people, like to see villains not only get busted, but get busted in totality! Busted to the point where a due trial by law is almost moot. If you want to know what I’m talking about, watch the ending of The Shawshank Redemption. Not only are the bad guys caught and punished like the kid with his hand in the cookie jar, but they are fully aware that Andy Dufresne lead to their downfall. The man who was wrongfully imprisoned got back at his prisoners.

If you’re American and under the age of 40 right now, I believe you have an inherent love of the “smoking gun” victory. It steams from Watergate. Nixon was perhaps one of the most criminal presidents we’ve ever had, and even a man as high up as the President of the United States can be caught dead to rights. It certainly does make one feel superior, doesn’t it?

However, the police are, at the core, public servants. They serve the good of the community, and no personal pride can come above the job itself. Police need self-righteous heroes like a bird needs an anvil tied to its foot.

And that’s why I can never be a policeman.

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Calendar Questions

Posted in Kooky Observations, Religion by Chris W. on September 3, 2008

I just today realized with full force, after reading a passage from Hey Rube by Hunter S. Thompson, that we are still using the Christian Calendar. We are In the Year of Our Lord 2008, and we don’t question it. For most of the world, this isn’t an issue because they’re already Christian, believe in Christ, etc. For them, this really is two thousand and eight years since the birth of their Messiah. I’d like to research what Muslim countries think this year is, and why, if they do call this 2008, they follow a calendar that celebrates a religious figure they do not buy?

The reason for the Christian Calendar is very obvious. The other 4,000 years that happened between Genesis and the birth of Christ are “not important.” Sure, some important stuff happened before then, but to Time, in the Christian sense, the world turns on Christ.

I often think it would be funny to live life by the Atheist Calendar. Science pegs the Earth at a few hundred million years old, so in conversation, I might start referring to that just to mess with people’s heads. Of course, the age of the earth doesn’t figure into “time” as we think of it now. We don’t know whether the Earth formed on a Tuesday in January or a Friday in August, or whether it was Daylight Savings Time. Maybe it was a Leap Year, too.

So, the Atheist Calendar would have to be approximate, not exact. The actual numbers don’t matter as much as the idea itself. I’d like to see the looks on people’s faces when I put the year 300,752,008 on a bank deposit notice. I figure the computer might do the same thing that the M5 did on that episode of “Star Trek”.

Fly Them To the Moon

Posted in Kooky Observations by Chris W. on August 29, 2008

I love conspiracy theories. Or should I say, I love conspiracy theorists. So tinged with paranoia and a near-religious conviction that they are right, you can get a lot of comedy out of them. And they’ll gladly put on the colorful monkey suit and dance for you because they think it’s part of bucking the system.

On Wednesday, my DVR caught the latest episode of MythBusters, one of my favorite shows. This week, the team took on Moon Landing Myths, or in general, Moon Landing Hoax Myths. In essence, Adam and Jamie tried to test several of the claims that conspiracy theorists tout as being proof that we couldn’t have gone to the moon. As usual, they set them up like bowling pins and knocked each of them down with a Magnum like they were Ted Nugent or somebody. At the time, I sorta disagreed with the arrogant tone they had toward their opponents – the same one I have right now – but I believe that this was necessary because we’re coming up on the 40th Anniversary of the Moon Landing, and there are still, if the show is to be believed, 20% of our population that thinks it was all a big scam. That’s 20, a 2 with a 0 at the end of it.

I’m sure that if you look up the statistics on what percentage of the population are clinically stupid, you’ll get a number close to 20%.

I really don’t mean to sound posh or elitist when I talk about conspiracy theorists. Really, I don’t, but the thing is that I have such contempt for someone who not only can’t change their mind in the face of damning evidence – seriously, how many of us can say we could do that? – but are so convinced of their theories that they’ll build up crackpot theories so outlandish that Hideo Kojima and M. Night Shamalayn couldn’t think them up. They pervert the spirit of skepticism, something I worship and hold really dear to me. Conspiracy nuts come up with stories and find the evidence to support them, asserting that everything else is wrong because these pieces all fit together in the way he or she thought they would. A skeptic demands that those making the claims deliver the goods in order to separate the gold from the bullshit. A conspiracy nut will always be a slave to his or her “gut feeling,” while a skeptic will follow the evidence wherever it takes him or her.

I figured this episode, which may not prove the moon landings to be genuine on its own but it does poke some very big holes in the conspiracy theorist’s story, to be a little controversial. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to that sort of knee-jerk reaction that comes whenever somebody has an alternate opinion. On Amazon.com, I counted 9 books written as “responses” to Richard Dawkins and The God Delusion in the “Top Results” and 6 books responding to Sam Harris’ “Letter to a Christian Nation.” (To be fair, some books do not address Dawkins or Harris’ work in the title. Two or three of them address the “new atheism,” which is a product of books like God Delusion and Christian Nation.) Naturally, I thought that this episode would draw the ire of those who scoff at the Moon Landing, but looking over the Internet, I don’t see a major rebuttal yet. Could it be that the conspiracy nuts are actually speechless?

Well… the episode’s only been out for two days, so I guess I can’t rush to throw up the “Mission Accomplished” banner yet. Maybe in a month or so, someone will post a point-by-point answer to the MythBusters episdoe. I’d like to see someone try to intelligently debate their case without resorting to resorting to arguments like “MythBusters/NASA purposefully influenced the results to further their agenda,” “Anything can be faked,” or “Shut up, dummie head!”

But please, let it be someone smart, because as it is right now, the discussion of this episode is left to the Internet Forums, and the only gem of information I could find on there is how they’d all like to bone Kari Byron.

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