Friday, February 05, 2016

Straight Outta Trashcan

“In 1988, a groundbreaking new group revolutionizes music and pop culture, changing and influencing hip-hop forever. N.W.A's first studio album, "Straight Outta Compton," stirs controversy with its brutally honest depiction of life in Southern Los Angeles.” Wikipedia

I have 18 books in my library on black history which I have read. I probably know more about black history than the people who made the movie “Straight Outta Compton” and I have lived there also. As an 8 year old kid I used to walk down Long Beach Boulevard into Compton and we would buy tacos there. My usual approach to becoming acquainted with a subject is to immerse myself in it until I have a good grasp and this is how my journey into the slave trade began maybe 20 years ago.

Many of the books I own or have read were written by black scholars and depict the truth about the slave trade and the ransacking of Africa by… Africans. It’s not a pleasing picture and it is far easier to simply believe that non-black people raped the country instead of the truth – it was a joint effort. Like the X-file heading, the truth is out there.  We just have to go find it.

Ice Cube (in both photos) wrote the filthiest raunchiest lyrics for N.W.A.
So in search of the facts, I watched the gritty movie, “Straight Outta Compton” and I did find it fascinating. It depicts the struggle of a number of currently popular millionaires who hobnob with the Commander in Chief at White house galas, do commercials for major brands, make kids/family movies, and are quoted by church going folk. They host award shows and everyone there wants to be associated with them and giggle when they talk.

Straight Outta Compton’s group was N.W.A., and in a silly twist of the rules, I can’t spell out in this column what that acronym stands for. Talk about a travesty; that’s one for the books. In fact, I, being a white person could not repeat a large portion of the movie’s dialogue or I would be labeled as racist. All through the movie, the main characters are portrayed as being victims and this message is pushed to the nth degree from front to back.

Today, they are hailed as heroes for breaking down the language barrier in music. Wow, what a legacy. It’s not just the f-word that is now allowed, it is the rankest, raunchiest, filthiest, and violent-laden lyrics that they have propelled into modern mainstream music. Let’s back up to 1967 and The Doors appearing on the vaunted Ed Sullivan Show.
The Ed Sullivan Show was the grandest accomplishment a music group could attain.  After all, 3 years prior, the Beatles were introduced to America on this really big show. A few minutes before the doors were to sing their smash hit, “Light my fire,” they were informed that they had to change the lyrics from, “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher,” to “Girl, we couldn’t get much better.”

The leader of the band, Jim Morrison refused to compromise and the band was banned from the show. This normally would kill the band, but The Doors were just too big and the only thing that stopped them was Morrison’s self-destructive drug and alcohol usage. Straight Outta Compton portrays the victorious struggle of Ice Cube, Easy-E, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, and MC Ren for the most part, but you get to see Snoop Dogg, and Tupac on occasion. Just like most successful rock and roll groups, fame brings lots of drugs, parties, hookers, and strife and I understand how that works and this didn’t affect me as a negative per say. What I mean, is that is pretty common and has nothing to do with the bent of this column. There was also some infighting and I suspect that was fairly accurate.

What I do draw exception to is the line of dialogue early on in the movie where Easy-E, a rich drug dealer, is brought into backing his peeps by using the logic that there is no difference in selling dope, than selling music. This is a monstrous message to young people. It effectively blurs the lines between right and wrong. Do this? You get rich. Do that? You get rich. There is no difference.

There’s a gigantic difference; simply gigantic. The message of this movie is blurry, but some of it advocates getting the lion’s share by hook or crook. You can do whatever you want as long as you succeed and you will get rich. It is another bizarre twist that these thug rappers, who openly advocated doing violence to the police are now respectable citizens who people appear to adore.

Dr. Dre sells uber-expensive headphones and every gym has fifty people inside wearing them.  He’s worth about 550 million bucks.  Ice Cube is not doing too shabby at 140 million, and poor DJ Yella and MC Ren only have a measly 1 million dollars each. They don’t have headphone and movie deals – poor guys. Easy-E, the Godfather of Gangsta Rap died of A.I.D.S. in 1995.

Hey!  I might have this all wrong. They may have actually done a good thing by tearing down the censorship barrier of music and this may be an Oscar worthy movie, but you’ll have to watch it and make that call for yourself, won’t you?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Give the people what they want!

Here we go again, yet another sports figure being investigated for using a banned substance. It makes me shake my head in absolute wonder. When will the sports governing bodies realize that the average Joe sitting on the sidelines simply doesn’t care if the athlete is a roid-enhanced machine? They simply want to see the athlete perform in such a manner that is amazing.

DENVER (AP) -- The NFL says it is conducting a comprehensive review of allegations that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning had human growth hormone delivered to his house.

When football players collide, those of us watching want to hear our guy smash the bones of the other guy, Dick Butkus style. Of course, after the Sports Medicine people finally get the guy on his feet, we want to cheer their bravery with giddy abandon. Geeze, we don’t want the guy to die, you know what I mean? We just want him out of the game and if he’s on the other team and really a threat to us winning, we want him out for the season… unless he’s one of our fantasy footballers!

“I'm not so mean. I wouldn't ever go out to hurt anybody deliberately - unless it was, you know, important, like a league game or something.” Dick Butkus

To me the real issue with Peyton Manning isn’t his (supposed) human growth hormone use; it’s the threat of him losing his lucrative advertisement deals. Talk about a hit below the belt! Geeze, that could be catastrophic! What? You didn’t know all these organized sporting events are about money for investors?

All of it is money driven, so why not give the audience what they want? Bigger, faster athletes who hit harder, jump further, throw longer, and can do feats worthy of our dollars, because that is what we want to see. We crave icons to worship and discuss our heroes ad nauseum at work and in the sports bars. As a sidebar, I used to listen to the guys at work spew out their intimate knowledge of players, games, and strategies and wonder why they were wasting their time only making a hundred thousand dollars a year at a chemical plant.

I say level the playing field and reinstall the 300 plus world class athletes who have been banned for “performance-enhancing drugs” that many of us take every day. Yea, that nose-inhaler you must have every day would bump you onto this list. That over the counter drug you bought last week to help open up your lungs so you can breath? Blam! You’re out and… disgraced!

Here it is and it has disqualified a number of athletes: Pseudoephedrine is a sympathomimetic drug of the phenethylamine and amphetamine chemical classes. It may be used as a nasal/sinus decongestant, as a stimulant, or as a wakefulness-promoting agent. 

When Lance Armstrong was dethroned, I asked my cousin in law, who is a Nordic cycler from Denmark about it and he told me straight-up that “they all do it in one form or another, or they can’t remain competitive at that level.” I say open it up.  Let them all do it. Of course, that would put many people out of business, as sports is a big business – but –it would open up new avenues to make money and just think about the toy industry action figures that would come out of this new phenomenon!

Mixed martial arts and Wrestle Mania type venues have proved that people want to see monsters in sports. They don’t care if they are good people; nope, not one bit. They want to see violence and in excessive amounts. That’s why the program America’s Funniest Home Videos is so popular. People doing stupid things in such an excessive manner that they get hurt. The more violent they fall, the higher the pleasure meter goes it seems.

Take the recent K/O of Rhonda Rousey as an example. There she was, queen of the Mixed Martial Arts Octagon until she got her hiney handed to her by Holly Holm in about 15 seconds. All the Rousey worshipers dropped her faster than Holm’s did. People don’t care about these athletes when they fail; they just want to see dramatic action. If steroids will bump up this action, bring it on!

The day when JJ Watt can no longer perform, he will be just another failed athlete and folks will be looking at the next super hero. Would it make a dimes worth of difference if all these athletes were using performance-enhancing drugs for the last 3 years? I say no. Not a dimes worth. As long as they can amaze people with their athletic skill, people wouldn’t care.

All these disqualifying substances are so last century anyway and doomed when neural implants begin to be introduced into athletes and the general population. Remember when The Matrix’s Neo learned karate, kung-fu, jujitsu, boxing, etc in about ten seconds? All he really needed was the conditioning to pull it off. When a baseball batter knows every pitch that is coming at him and can calculate his reaction, the idea of a performance-enhancing drug giving him an advantage sounds pretty silly and antiquated.

The truth is we are drug obsessed in this country. This latest news of Peyton Manning is just one more example of how out of touch with reality we are. Probably 75% of us would be banned from organized sports for something we are taking, either from the doctor, or over the counter. I say let em have em. The time has come.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Keep on keepin’on? Nope, not me.

Is this your idea of retirement?

 The easy road.  Man, I wish the easy road was reality…  I really do.  It would make life less complicated – or maybe not. The easy road. What a wonderful concept! Roll on, oh silver lining. I guess there really is a silver lining in every dark dirty cloud we accept as our life. Seeing your life as a dark cloud of misfortunes is strictly a matter of choice.

Taunting yourself that everyone seems to have it easier or better than you is self-flagellation at its worst. Poor pitiful Pearl.

I’m a senior citizen.  Yea, I know.  I don’t feel like one.  I feel like life is really opening up opportunities. Of course, real opportunities don’t come to us by winning the lottery, or Publishers Clearing House winnings. Opportunities come with sweat, blood, and often tears. Real opportunities require that four letter word – work and let’s not forget that other bad word, sacrifice.

That peaceful easy feeling Glenn Frey wrote about is not so peaceful or easy when it comes to getting something worth having.  It’s a struggle brother. It’s suffragette city.  Its sunrise on the wrong side of the city, sky high, and six thousand miles away. Yes, it’s real work and there is no easy living. You want it? You work for it, or wait a lifetime for something that will most likely never happen.

I’m retired. Life should be the life of Riley, right? Wrong. Life is a battlefield sister. Let someone else have that hammock and glass of ice tea. You watch that fellow run a marathon in Houston and think you could never do that. Wrong. You can do it, just not in the time they did it. You have to get your buns off the couch and start moving those gams. Get a plan and stick to it.

Jimmy Buffet has it all wrong for the most part. Lying around on the beach drinking tequila and thumping lime slices into the Gulf all the time is for delusional slackers and drunks. All you will end up with is perpetual sunburn and parrot poop on your clothes. Anything worth having is worth working for, remember? That sandy island retreat is a reward and should be a very short one - not a long term existence.

I read an obituary of a man of 86. His 60-something son wrote it and was extolling the work ethic virtues of his father. In the Obit he said his dad was learning Chinese at the time of his death. The list of disciplines he had subjected himself to over the years was amazing. He never let up. To me he is an example of what I should attempt, not that I have a history of taking it easy or anything. I just think there is more and I want it and am willing to work for it.

Sure I play the lotto now and again, but like my youngest brother told me the other day, “Even if you won the Powerball, you would find a way to go back to work”. What he meant was that I would find another discipline to tackle, not go back into the chemical plants. I took this as a compliment.

Physically, there is nothing I am doing harder than the Group X classes at the gym named after the clock.  Boot Camp Monday, cycling (Spin) Tuesday, Les Mills Body Pump Wednesday, cycling again on Thursday, and finishing up with another Body Pump on Saturday. It is hard exhausting work and like my Tuesday Spin instructor Page Morton said the other day, “If this was easy, the place would be packed.”

Do we who push so hard do it because we like to abuse ourselves? Maybe, but the truth is we want short and long term benefits and results and we can’t get them by watching TV or videos of people playing sports. You can’t become a millionaire by watching poker players on TV either. How many times have we said, “Boy, I sure wish I could…” but we are not willing to go the extra mile to make it happen? I know I am guilty.

That silver lining is unreachable for us simply because we are not motivated enough to go after it.  It hurts to admit that to ourselves, but it’s true. Living below our potential is a lifestyle choice. Complacency is the result of those choices. Accepting these low standards becomes what we are. If you don’t like where you are – change it.

That forest full of trees can be cut down one tree at a time, so telling yourself the problem is too large is simply getting back on the hamster wheel you have allowed yourself to traverse. To be honest, I don’t always write such uplifting motivational stuff as this, but we all have areas in our lives that need to be visited now and again. Remember folks, your life is what you make it, so make it or keep dreaming.

Friday, January 15, 2016

An apple a day for a snob.

I am an apple snob and it is not entirely my fault.  It is because I spent my early pre-teen and a few later years living in Ohio and Michigan. Up in that part of the USA, apples grow everywhere and some trees have so many large apples on them, they break the limbs due to the extra weight.

Apples are like people in that there are many varieties and some are sweeter, larger, crisper, sourer, disgusting… etcetera. Recently an ex-councilman decided because he knows me that I would be a prime target to buy apples from him and a whole case at that. I think it is noble that one of the many clubs he belongs to sells apples to raise money for whatever they raise money for, but like I told him, “I don’t like the apples they sell because I am an apple snob.”

I know this was a direct, honest, and possibly unwanted answer, but what in the world am I going to do with all those apples I don’t like… give them away? I reckon that would have been a kinder gesture than my straight forward answer. Let me explain about why I am an apple snob. In the Buckeye State when I was a child, kids carried salt shakers in their pockets and after about 3 baseball games, we would ride our bikes to the orchards, climb up in the trees and eat green apples.

If you’ve seen the movie “Sandlot”, this was my childhood. Now, if you think we were putting a dent in the number of apples on these trees, you’ve never seen apple trees loaded with fruit. It’s practically impossible to exaggerate their numbers. Imagine a Granny Smith apple (not one that was picked two weeks before it was ready to be picked so it could be shipped to a grocery store) that is a just about ready to begin sweetening, but still sour and sprinkle salt on it until it has just the right amount.

The salt makes it bearable to eat without your jaws contracting (you know what I mean) and is so delicious that you eat the entire apple, core, *seeds, and all tossing the stem to the ground. It is so juicy and delicious; it’s like eating meat, sweets, and juice in each bite. After about 6 or 7 big fat juicy apples, you lick your fingers and carefully place the small patch of wax paper over the top of the shaker, and screw the lid back on it. Now you have had lunch and can resume the game.

Fuji Apples
I can’t remember ever going home for lunch when playing baseball in Ohio. We always ate apples. I loved to eat pears and cherries too, but let me tell you something about wild cherry trees you may not know. Most non-nursery trees are large and dangerous to climb and each cherry you can reach, you do so at risk of breaking your arms, legs, and maybe your neck, as gravity is not your friend.

Pear trees are finicky and the same tree, depending on the rain it gets and when it gets it, can bear a wide variation in the quality of the fruit. Just when you think you have found the perfect tree, the next year it is tasteless, too hard, or yucky. In Hillsdale, Michigan, we had (if I remember right) 12 apple trees and a cloned apple/pear tree. This particular tree would grow one fruit one ear and the next, the other, but it always had some of both.

These days I don’t eat many apples and it’s mainly because I don’t have enough teeth left to chew them up completely, but if I did, I would buy the Fuji and the Honey crisp varieties because they taste real good and are crisp.  Because I know the difference, I would be willing to bet they would be many times better if I could get them off the tree. When I lived in Southeast Asia, I would eat the pineapple right after it ripened on the bush and it was like eating candy. It was non-acidic and totally pleasing. The same went for the watermelon and the indigenous fruit.

Honey Crisp
Our measly selection of bananas is due to what holds up the best when shipped. I remember finger bananas right off the tree that although they were white-meated, they were buttery and sweet like sugar. We get about 3 of the over 1000 varieties of bananas in our stores. Can you imagine trying even 100 different bananas to see which ones you liked the most?

In my high school years in Georgia we would wade in the creeks and pick black berries which were larger than a big man’s thumb. That red clay soil and the water made them so big that a couple dozen was all you needed to make a small pie. Of course each berry was picked knowing the plentiful snakes also eat berries.

When I lived in Utah, we ate enough wild plumbs to feed a small army of chiren. In California, we again ate bananas and tangerines off the many trees and occasionally lemons. Now days, we eat what the grocery stores sell and that is one poor substitute for tree-ripened fruit.

I don’t know what got me on this subject today, but I do miss those Ohio apple orchards.

Note: Yes, we ate the seeds and lots of them.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Is owning a gun really a bad thing?

Come and take it.

I grew up in a gun-owning family.  As far as I know, I am the only one of us 7 who has ever pointed a real gun at someone with the intention of pulling the trigger. My first firearm was a single shot 12 gauge Savage shotgun my Dad or Mom won at a turkey shoot in Woodstock, Georgia.  I was 14. My brother Gordon was one year younger than me and they bought him one identical to the one I got.

At the onset I want to clarify something. If you are anti-gun and agree that Americans shouldn’t have the Constitutional right to own a firearm or form a militia, then this column won’t change your mind. However, if you sit on that one inch of board and could fall to one side of the voting fence or the other, then read on.

Owning a firearm is an amazing right. It is not something that should be taken lightly.  A right by definition is a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.

It’s a privilege also, which by definition is a special advantage, immunity or benefit not enjoyed by all. You see, if you are a convicted felon, you cannot own a firearm, albeit with a few exceptions. But for the most part, you have lost that right and that privilege.

But let’s say for arguments sake that for the most part you are a law-abiding citizen. Occasionally you drive faster than the speed limit or jaywalk, but within the scope of this line of thought, you are not a criminal. Our constitution allows you to own a firearm and this is in the second amendment: A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the Right of the People to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

The amazing thing about this amendment is how it addresses our future government’s possible ability to try and nullify it. "Any and all laws, rules, regulations, proclamations, etc., Pro or Con, which may be entered in the record, addressing these freedoms are unconstitutional". This was put into our constitution to protect us from a tyrannical government. What?

Indeed. We have finally arrived at a place where the government does not represent the bulk of voting America. Once in office, they do everything in their power to support the party they are affiliated with, regardless of what their voter’s desire may be. Donald Trump is gaining velocity because he will not align himself with this self-serving single party nonsense.
Hillary protected by men with guns, but is anti-gun for you and I.
On January 5th, he is quoted as telling Hillary Clinton that if she feels so strongly against citizens having guns, then she should dismiss her bevy of secret service agents. She won’t do it because her life matters, but according to her, yours apparently don’t. I have stressed this same logic many times over.

Now here’s the real kicker.  All of this talk about gun ownership and whether law-abiding citizens can own and carry guns has no effect whatsoever on organized crime, common violent criminals, and people who are just angry bat crazy.  Tightening gun laws will have no effect on them and only serve to disarm those of us who want a first line of defense to protect our families and ourselves.

But let’s back up a bit.  As a long time martial artist, I want to bring out a point about resisting an attacker.  Owning a gun and having a permit to carry it is only half of the equation and the second half can’t be purchased or tested in a classroom.  This is the terrible truth of carrying a legal firearm or having it for home defense when confronted by an attacker.

The time may just come when someone will call your bluff and break into the house you’ve told everyone you will defend with a gun.  “I’ll blow them away!” may just be put to the ultimate test of taking another human’s life and folks; this is not something you ever want to have happen to you.  But if that time comes, you better make danged sure you can pull that trigger, or put that gun away right now and get a Rottweiler.

This cannot be taught and tested in a open carry, boxing, mixed martial art, or karate class.  You can either do it, or you can’t and waiting to find out when you need to do it is a might weak strategy.  Most of us live under a moral code of conduct which a crazed person or a criminal does not. In my mind’s eye I have envisioned bracing this kind of person so many times I cannot number them and I believe I can pass that horrifying test, but maybe not. I have before, but what about next time, or the time after that?

However, I still want the constitutional right and privilege to decide if I can own and carry a firearm. I do not want the Federal government making that decision for me. In the meantime I can keep my firearm safely on my hip or in my home and no one is harmed by my possession of the gun and it will stay that way.

*Quote from Wikipedia

Monday, January 04, 2016

Stupid Facebook challenges

It seems like everyday, someone will post a rustic cabin in the woods photo or maybe one on a tropical paradise and it will "challenge" all their friends by asking if they could stay there for one year without the Internet, television, cable, or their smartphones.  Here is an actual screen grab to back up my statement.
You have to stay in this cabin for the entire month of January. You have all the food and water you'll need. You have enough firewood to keep a fire going until the 31st. You have no access to Internet , cell phones or TV. On the 31st of January, you walk out of the door with $100,000. Would you do it?
Can you believe that 1,947, 882 idiots all "liked" this nonsense?  On top of that, 244, 655 morons shared it. 
Here is another one.
 I have a challenge that makes a wee bit more sense.
You have to stay in this hole for the entire month of January. You have all the food and water you'll need. You will be naked. You have total access to Internet , cell phones and tv. On the 31st of January, you will be water-boarded by trained CIA agents.  You will then be given $100,000 in unmarked $20 bills.  Will you accept a real challenge??

So far, not a single like or share?

Friday, January 01, 2016

I want to believe

I remember being fifteen years old and carefree like it was yesterday. I can still see it in my mind’s eye. I was living in Woodstock, Georgia with my family and at an age where I still liked playing cars in the dirt and shooting squirrels with my Savage 12-guage shotgun. I didn’t want to grow up – that would come a year later when I got a driver’s license and began pursuing girls and listening to the news about Vietnam. 

The year was 1967 and it was a tumultuous time, as I’ve mentioned numerous times in other columns. Half of me knew it and half of me was happy to let other people worry about it. Like now I was optimistic about a new year and a new beginning and I really believed times would get better. Now, I’m not so sure, but an ember of hope still shines.

I always heard that the future is what you make it and on an individual level, I still believe this, at least to a certain extent. I want to believe. Please Lord, make it so. I’m a news junkie, again as I’ve stated before. I don’t listen to any political pundits for my take on current events, but troll Drudge and Google News, mainly to get feeds. I read and read and read. The news I hear sounds down right scary. A panacea to the plethora of bad news is I also pay attention to another plane of existence.

I believe in God and believe he was manifested in the man Jesus the Christ. I also believe that God in all his omniscience and omnipotence is fully capable of having a firm grip on everything, or he wouldn’t be God, right? This isn’t probably a universal dogma, but I can’t and won’t limit my God to a place of finite capabilities. I believe in miracles.

My future is dictated by my beliefs, but also my free will and I choose to direct as much of it as I can. I believe a whole lot of it is in a spiritual realm I am only slightly aware of, but what I can see and control is important and I want to direct it as positively as possible – and have fun along the way.

So, I geocache, do community service by picking up litter, and write for the newspaper. I exercise and teach classes and try to give back to my community by donating blood and helping those I can. I attend religious services and truly be nice to people I care about. I win, I fail, and I try to do well. I want to believe I am making a difference. I want to believe I am leaving a legacy I can be proud of.

I want to believe that this next year is going to be the greatest positive experience of my life, even better than when I was 15 years old. However, experience and years like 2009 are always looming in the back of my mind, overshadowing that optimism. All of us live one second from falling to our knees and crying out to whichever god we choose to follow. I want to fall to my knees voluntarily, not by being knocked on them by happenstance, bad judgment, inconsiderate behavior, or accident.

When I was 15 I just knew everything would miraculously fall into place for me. At my current advanced age, I wonder every day when something bad is going to be suddenly revealed. I’m told the sharpened skill of worrying comes with age and I am experiencing it daily to back that up.

Until that final day comes, I want to look at the future like it’s my box of chocolates and every one of them is good in some way or other. This new year I want to have a major paradigm shift from the past and try to see people the same way as those chocolates. I’ve became cynical toward strangers over the years as people have been rude and uncaring especially while driving. This may be one of my greatest challenges, as daily I am exposed to this inconsiderate behavior.

Outside of their cars, I’ve found most everyone to be rational and friendly and this is my hope. I want to work on myself this next year, because I can’t change that person’s attitude positively in the cars I encounter. I can however be more understanding when driving and less critical.

2016 might just be the best year I’ve ever experienced.  I want to believe.

Friday, December 25, 2015

An unexpected Christmas gift

I head down below the tree line and into the deeper snow. I’m not really a snow type person, loving the sunshine of the Gulf Coast of Texas, but up here the wind keeps it to a minimum. The old stone-strewn trail is barely visible and the snowshoe rabbit tracks are the only indication that anything can live in this wasteland.

It was decided last night that seeing I have the lowest position, I would be the one to find a Christmas tree. I chuckle to myself wondering if this country has anything resembling a real “Christmas” type tree. My heavy coat soon becomes almost too hot and I unzip it to let some sub-zero dry air inside. To sweat out here could be fatal, or so I have been warned.

It’s my first Christmas away from my home town and my forgiving family. I chuckle again looking at my gloved hands. 3 years ago, no one at home would believe that the town hellion would be so far from his home town. 3 years ago, most everyone thought I would be in prison.

“I need to find a Christmas tree,” I mumble and shift my burden to my shoulders. It is bitterly cold and they said there wasn’t much chance I would encounter trouble, but they are back at base camp and safe and I am out here by myself.

It’s one thing to talk tough on the street, but when it is for real and the bad guy would just as soon hang your head on a trophy pole, it brings it into perspective. I hear a stick crack and at this altitude it sounds like a gunshot. I drop down on one knee and feel the adrenaline shoot through me like a hemi-powered hotrod. Totally unaware of my presence a white fox dashes out from under a scrub bush and chases a white rabbit past me.

I slowly exhale, not realizing I was holding my breath. Yea, my homies should see me now. Out here thousands of miles from home looking for a Christmas tree has a whole new meaning to being tough.  I’m not tough – I’m scared. I was tough, or thought I was, but I really had no clue. Being tough has nothing to do with a person’s ability to fight. Being tough is more of a spiritual battle than what can be done with your fists.

That’s really why I am out here by myself. Because of my faith in God, I wanted a tree to express his birthday and finally I was granted my wish. “If you want one so bad young fella, go out and get one.” The guys are all seasoned men and I guess, religious to an extent and what he said wasn’t a command. I know that. One by one they nod at me and I realize they too would like to see a tree. They just don’t want to possibly risk their life or go out in the cold to get one.

We’ve been on this lonely mountain for 3 long weeks and the weather has us socked in or we would have been extracted by now. We are simply waiting it out. I read the small Bible each night and our team leader ignores me, as we are under strict guidelines to not have one in-country. I just couldn’t live without it and I guess he knows that.

I chuckle again thinking about what the judge told me 3 years ago. “Son, you better turn your life around, because the next time you are here will be the last time I am lenient.” I was 17 and soon to have a birthday. Becoming 18 years old makes me accountable and the 11 times I have been arrested already made me known to every cop in town. Now I am getting colder by the minute and every little noise has me almost jumping out of my skin.

Who knew being with this outfit would mean I would be on a mountaintop thousands of miles from home on Christmas looking for a tree? There! I see it! I work my way over a small ridge to a copse of boulders. There in the middle is a small evergreen type bush about 3 feet tall. Removing my gloves, I extract my serrated blade and begin to saw at the base. As I work on it, I spy a slight movement across the narrow gorge.

There, seated by a very small fire is a foreign soldier with his rifle pointed directly at me. I freeze, as my rifle is on the ground beside me. The young man is about my age and his beard is scraggly and bare, as is mine. Being in Special Forces allows me the privilege of not shaving – just like this guy. I’d be lying if I said I’m not scared, but the look on his face is the same as the one on mine.

He stares at me and I at him. We are not more than a hundred feet apart and then – he smiles. He leans forward setting the rifle down and holds a skewer of meat over his small fire and I ever so slowly return to getting my small tree cut down. He points at the sky and then at me and I nod. I stand very slowly letting out my breath and carefully sling my rifle over my shoulder. Grabbing my tree, I take one last look at the young enemy soldier and pointing at the sky, I point at him. Seeing him nod, I head back to camp to observe the birth of the Christ child with my fellow Christian soldiers.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Please show me a real hero

When my son was about 16 he put up a poster of Che Guevara on his bedroom wall. Being a cold warrior who served 4 years in the Strategic Air Command, I was naturally alarmed, but hid it to inquire about his reason for this objectionable show of admiration.

“Che was cool!” was his retort and he punched the stapler in the bottom left corner to finish the installation. I was careful to inquire how much he knew about the man and of course it was very little and honestly, he thought the guy simply looked cool with his wavy black hair.

I gave him a piece of advice I picked up somewhere and it has been a mantra of mine for years. “Be careful who you make into a hero.” In wartime, the difference between a hero and a coward is one solitary action and it may swap the very next day. On top of that, hero status can change drastically.

Take the modern day hero Ronald Reagan for instance. Reagan is often cited as an example of what a real president should be, but I well remember back 30 years ago, people hated that guy. I hated him.  I was laid off from Arco Chemical because of him and I had a “for life” job. Over the years he has become a symbol of doing everything right.

Mahatma Gandhi is another person people love to sing his laurels, but according to the Bible, he was worse than an infidel because he would not care for his own family. His wife would beg him to keep just enough donations that they could eat, but he gave it all away and refused his own children an education. Please don’t take my word for it.  Research it for yourself.

Al Gore was lauded as a hero for bringing to light global warming and Barack Obama for giving the world hope to the point that they were both awarded Nobel Peace prizes.  Both were major failures on nearly everything they promised.

I am not insinuating that there are not real heroes. We are surrounded by them and don’t realize it. No, they don’t sell millions of records, play professional sports, or win Academy Awards. They are those of us that awaken to an alarm clock and get up and go to work every day when we hate every second of it.

It is that mom or dad that corrects their kids when they do wrong and teach them how to behave properly in society. They parent their children by “imposing restrictions” so their kid isn’t a jailbird by the time they can drive. Heroes sacrifice their own lives so others may succeed. If you get nothing more out of this column than that last statement, I have made my point.

Men and women who work 60 plus hours a week so their family can have a few extras and do it year after year are real heroes to me. They change stinky poopie diapers, or tend the sick, or “drag them kids” to the dentist on a regular basis. They dog their children at school and refuse to let them drop out. They set standards and enforce them.

No, a hero isn’t that big guy that can bench press 500 pounds or the woman who wins a national title in a bathing suit. It isn’t the comedian who can make millions laugh or the musical artist with the raunchiest lyrics. Its guys like my friend Don Cunningham who puts his heart into writing daily parables to lift up those around him. It’s Ken Pridgeon who paints with a labor of love all those military heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Unfortunately it has become politically correct to erase the history of some heroes of our country and it is a scary path I hope we do not continue to go down.  A hero of mine is Ben Franklin and in a lot of ways, old Ben was not a hero, but we live a better life because of his scientific experiments.  Did you know Ben Franklin is regarded as the greatest scientist of the 18th century?

Ren Fitts is a hero to me. He is an advocate for Veterans and an unselfish one too. Although battling 100% disability from the things he suffered in Vietnam, he is quick to help any veteran obtain their benefits. He has enough ailments for ten people due to the war, but is so encouraging that I see him as an example of how people should be.

I recently had construction work done at my house by Duane Peterson and his crew. This is the second time I’ve hired him and his attention to detail in a time when no one wants to give you a smidgeon of service bumps him up to near hero status. Is it just me or does anyone else want at least what we are paying for?

Be careful who you elevate to hero status especially in front of your kiddos. Some of these folks stink worse than poopie diapers. It just takes time for them to ferment.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Goodbye Concealed Handgun Permit

Come January 1st, anyone with a concealed handgun permit can walk down the street with the holstered weapon in plain sight. This sounds like the Wild West, right? Visions of wild-eyed Tea party radicals swaggering around daring anyone to challenge them is one image that some may conjure up. Another is a mom grabbing her child up by the arm and running from the store because “that man has a gun, mommy”.

I will share my thoughts on the first scenario. It’s scary and I hope I don’t see that fellar.  No one wants to see someone walking around with a gun on their hip acting like an ego starving lunatic. I know a whole slew of people who legally carry and I don’t think any of us plan on carrying any differently that we are right now.

Over many years I have repeated that no time in my history have I seen a time of turmoil to match the 1960’s… until now. In case you are unsure of what I am referring to, I’ll point it out in easy to understand terms and I am not inferring you are incapable of understanding big words like verisimilitude.

The Vietnam War, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr., the emerging drug culture, race riots, the Yuppie movement, and the list goes on. I was a kid who witnessed the racial tension and the war on the nightly news. I was soon to enter the fray upon graduation from high school and I should have been carefree.

The truth is I felt the anxiety many years before I graduated, but being an optimistic kid, I knew I would get through it. Many years have passed between 1970 and 2015 and that old anxiety has came back. I think it slowly began to slip back in about 3 years ago.  Before I write anything else, I want to make it very clear I am not trying specifically to target and bash Obama, even though I think many of his decisions are taking us dangerously close to anarchy, but it is what it is.

I think our government has lost contact with the very people who voted them into a position of choosing what we need. They are no longer a group who is doing the will of the people. The partisan squabbling and resistance to work things out has led us to a President who appears to do whatever he wants and a Secretary of State who is above the law… and no one can or will do anything about it.

I’m not 100% sure here, but I think a great many Vietnam Veterans cringe when they think about John Kerry as the chief foreign affairs adviser. The Obama’s administrations total focus on climate change while ignoring domestic terrorism is a perfect example of the cat chasing its own tail while ignoring the rats creeping in through open holes.

Mr. Obama is predictably going after the guns while him and his family are guarded and will be guarded for the rest of their lives by men with guns. His life matters, but yours evidently does not. It is the most preposterous paradox I have ever seen. Why is it that they cannot see this? They are surrounded by people with guns protecting them, but Mr. Obama and all his cronies want us to give up our right to carry a firearm and protect our families. The bad guys have machine guns and travel in packs and we can only have a long gun that shoots 5 bullets? What? The President’s guys have machine guns and 30 round magazines under their coats. Our lives don’t matter.

It reminds me of the English officer in Last of the Mohicans wondering why Hawkeye can call himself a loyal subject of England and not fight for the king. Hawkeye flat told the officer he didn’t see himself as a subject to any man and that is the direction we are heading. Obama and Hillary are above the very laws they expect us to obey and I am far from being alone in this observation.  Hillary should be in jail right now.

As head of the CIA, General David Petraeus was having an affair. This, as far as I know is not a crime. His crime was that he didn’t tell anyone and this put him in a position of compromise and possibly being blackmailed. For this he was bounced out and disgraced.  “Eventually, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information Petraeus allegedly provided to his mistress and biographer.”

On the other hand, righteous Hillary has violated so many laws concerning classified material and yet is a front runner for President of the United Sates? Really? Seriously?  As an ex-First Lady, she is protected by Secret Service agents for the rest of her life and she’s going after the guns also? The idiocy of her hypocrisy is only hidden to those who blindly disregard her illegal transgressions and will giddily punch her ticket at the voting booth. I swear, the woman could come out saying she killed and ate a baby seal every morning for breakfast and folks would excuse her.

One reason the Second Amendment keeps getting so much attention is veterans of foreign wars know that arming ourselves is no fantasy strategy. War and terrorism on our soil is not only a possibility, but probably coming to our streets. Burying our heads in the sand is not only unrealistic, but living a Utopian dream. No, I will not open carry, but I won’t go out without my usual.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Geocachers, The New Outdoorsmen

Geocachers on the Lone Star Trail

When I was a kid living in Michigan, my dad always had a copy of Herter’s catalog.  Inside it was every kind of outdoor gear you can imagine.  If you fished, there was every kind of lure made and components to build your own.  I looked at as much as I looked at the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

By the way, as a young farm boy, the Sears catalog was of special interest due to the fact that it had grown women posing in under clothes, but it also had a huge Christmas section at the end of the year.  I can’t really recall which was more interesting, but I digress.

My dad was in my eyes a true hunter who was woods savvy.  I saw him shoot a flying crow with a .22 rifle one time and he was at home when in the woods.  He never got lost and would often trick my brothers and I by quizzing us about where we were or what we were looking at.  I’ve written about this before, so I will not weary you by repeating.

Suffice it to say, my whole family grew up doing outdoorsy things most people only see on TV or in movies.  We learned more by doing than by actual teaching.  My dad was an awesome man with a lot of book and real life experience, but he was definitely not a teacher in the conventional sense.  He taught by doing and we learned without realizing we were being taught.

Maybe this is the reason I am so passionate about explaining things and this brings me to the subject.  I, as many of my readers know, am a geocacher.  Not to take away from any other hobby especially fishing and hunting, but geocachers are the new outdoors people.  To prove my point, we spend more time in the woods and trails than the other groups combined.  I don’t have hard facts on that, but I’m pretty sure I’m dead on.

Geocachers on Cedar Bayou
The purpose of this argument is not to place one group over the other or to compete, but to make a point.  We have reached an evolution where kids pay more attention to electronic devices than they do the great outdoors.  No wonder so many are overweight and out of shape, right?  Well, guess what?  Geocachers use electronic devices to find hidden geocaches located in city parks, wooded areas, old cemeteries, and hiking trails.

I have a web page set up to explain how it works.  It might be a good idea to stop reading right now and see what this geocaching thingy is before you read further.  I am on the board of the Texas Geocaching Association and represent our area.  I teach free geocaching 101 classes at either the EddieV Gray Wetlands Center or the Baytown Nature Center twice a year.  Everyone is invited to attend and bring your kids. 

It might just save them and you.  You see, there are probably more seniors playing this game than young people and it’s a great way to walk off those holiday pounds.

There are a lot of things vying for our attention and much of it is bad. I can’t think of anything better in the secular world than this game to introduce people to the great big wonderful world out there. I also have a confession here and it’s embarrassing a bit. Geocachers almost to the person are nerdish. I know.  Like I said, it’s embarrassing. We tend to like to read, do math, study statistics, love learning new things – all the things most people hate.  But… there is a treasure hunt here and who doesn’t like to find treasure? 

I know I do and it drives me to go on this geocaching adventure like a person looking for gold.  The gold is nothing more than a piece of paper inside the container that I will sign the date and my geocaching name.  It’s crazy.  Then I will go online to and write a story about the adventure called “a log”. This records my visit and verifies I’ve been to the container. I often post a funny selfie too. 

Register a free account at and download a free App for your phone and you are ready to begin the adventure.  If you get a group together, I will be happy to conduct a free class in how to play the game.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Muslim Eye Opener

Peshwar Church bombing by Muslims

Here is a perspective by Dr. Peter Hammond.  He was born in Capetown in 1960, grew up in Rhodesia and converted to Christianity. Adapted from Dr. Peter Hammond's book: Slavery, Terrorism and Islam:

     The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat:

     Islam is not a religion, nor is it a cult.  In its fullest form, it is a complete,
     total, 100% system of life.

     Islam has religious, legal, political, economic, social, and military components.  The religious component is a beard for all of the other components.

     Islamization begins when there are sufficient Muslims in a country to agitate
     for their religious privileges.  When politically correct, tolerant, and culturally diverse societies agree to Muslim demands for their religious privileges, some of the other components tend to creep in as well..

     Here's how it works:

     As long as the Muslim population remains around or under 2% in any given
     country, they will be for the most part be regarded as a peace-loving minority and not as a threat to other citizens. This is the case in:

     United States -- Muslim 0..6%
     Australia -- Muslim 1.5%
     Canada -- Muslim 1.9%
     China -- Muslim 1.8%
     Italy -- Muslim 1.5%
     Norway -- Muslim 1.8%

     At 2% to 5%, they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and
     disaffected groups, often with major recruiting from the jails and among
     street gangs.  This is happening in:

     Denmark -- Muslim 2%
     Germany -- Muslim 3.7%
     United Kingdom -- Muslim 2.7%
     Spain -- Muslim 4%
     Thailand -- Muslim 4.6%

     From 5% on, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their
     percentage of the population.  For example, they will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims.

     They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature halal on their
     shelves -- along with threats for failure to comply.  This is occurring in:

     France -- Muslim 8%
     Philippines -- 5%
     Sweden -- Muslim 5%
     Switzerland -- Muslim 4.3%
     The Netherlands -- Muslim 5.5%
     Trinidad & Tobago -- Muslim 5.8%

     At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves (within their ghettos) under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islamists is to establish Sharia law over the entire world.

     When Muslims approach 10% of the population, they tend to increase
     lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions.  In Paris , we are already seeing car-burnings. Any non-Muslim action offends Islam, and results in uprisings and threats, such as in Amsterdam , with opposition to Mohammed cartoons and films about Islam.  Such tensions are seen daily, particularly in Muslim sections, in:

     Guyana -- Muslim 10%
     India -- Muslim 13.4%
     Israel -- Muslim 16%
     Kenya -- Muslim 10%
     Russia -- Muslim 15%

     After reaching 20%, nations can expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations, sporadic killings, and the burnings of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, such as in Ethiopia -- Muslim 32.8%

     At 40%, nations experience widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks, and ongoing militia warfare, such as in:

     Bosnia -- Muslim 40%
     Chad -- Muslim 53.1%
     Lebanon -- Muslim 59.7%

     From 60%, nations experience unfettered persecution of non-believers of all other religions (including non-conforming Muslims), sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon, and Jizya, the tax placed on infidels, such as in:

     Albania -- Muslim 70%
     Malaysia -- Muslim 60.4%
     Qatar -- Muslim 77.5%
     Sudan -- Muslim 70%

     After 80%, expect daily intimidation and violent jihad, some State-run ethnic cleansing, and even some genocide, as these nations drive out the infidels, and move toward 100% Muslim, such as has been experienced and in some ways is on-going in:

     Bangladesh -- Muslim 83%
     Egypt -- Muslim 90%
     Gaza -- Muslim 98.7%
     Indonesia -- Muslim 86.1%
     Iran -- Muslim 98%
     Iraq -- Muslim 97%
     Jordan -- Muslim 92%
     Morocco -- Muslim 98.7%
     Pakistan -- Muslim 97%
     Palestine -- Muslim 99%
     Syria -- Muslim 90%
     Tajikistan -- Muslim 90%
     Turkey -- Muslim 99.8%
     United Arab Emirates -- Muslim 96%

     100% will usher in the peace of 'Dar-es-Salaam' -- the Islamic House of peace. Here there's supposed to be peace because everybody is a Muslim, the Madrasses are the only schools, and the Koran is the only word, such as in:

     Afghanistan -- Muslim 100%
     Saudi Arabia -- Muslim 100%
     Somalia -- Muslim 100%
     Yemen -- Muslim 100%

     Unfortunately, peace is never achieved, as in these 100% states the most radical Muslims intimidate and spew hatred, and satisfy their blood lust by killing less radical Muslims, for a variety of reasons.

     'Before I was nine I had learned the basic canon of Arab life. It was me against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against my cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; the tribe against the world, and all of us against the infidel. -- Leon Uris, 'The Haj'

     It is important to understand that in some countries, with well under 100% Muslim populations, such as France, the minority Muslim populations live in ghettos, within which they are 100% Muslim, and within which they live by Sharia Law.

     The national police do not even enter these ghettos. There are no national courts, nor schools, nor non-Muslim religious facilities.  In such situations, Muslims do not integrate in to the community at large. The children attend madrasses. They learn only the Koran.  To even associate with an infidel is a crime punishable with death.

     Therefore, in some areas of certain nations, Muslim Imams and extremists exercise more power than the national average would indicate.  Today's 1.5 billion Muslims make up 22% of the world's population.  But their birth rates dwarf the birth rates of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and all other believers.  Muslims will exceed 50% of the world's population by the end of this century.

     Adapted from Dr. Peter Hammond's book: Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: