Monday, September 20, 2010

Interview with The Bane

File Under: Useless Information

"Information is a commodity. It can be traded, sold, and purchased. And in the end, credits are only as useful as the secrets they can buy." - Darth Bane
This is just an "interview" for one of my friends college essays. Sadly, this will not star Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, or a young Kirsten Dunst. In fact, you might even find this unforgivably boring. I however, do not care; I did entirely too much introspection and typing not to share this so you will have to suffer through it. Besides, are you not the least bit curious about the author behind all these twisting tales of wonder and woe? No snickering. You will read it and like it, or may you be cursed with a virulent rash in a tender location. Therefore, without much further ado, I offer you a rare vista into the mind of Bane (that is I for anyone who has not been paying attention).

How old are you?

How old am I? Well a true gentlemen never tells his age. However, I will say I am precariously close to middle-aged and in grave danger of tipping over the edge, but which way I will topple I will not say. I will say that you are only as old as you feel, and I feel like I should be on Medicare and collecting retirement already.

Where are you from?

I am from the great city of Cleveland, Ohio. I do not have much to say about Cleveland. It is one of the reasons I am the paragon of human perfection I am today. As far as cities go, Cleveland is not the pinnacle of human creation and society. It could definitely be better however, it could be worse, it could be Detroit, or God forbid – Pittsburgh. Just kidding, I love all the other cities on the Great Lakes (or at least anyone from there who reads this).

How would you describe yourself?

I would not describe myself. That would be pretentious; instead, I let other people sing my praises. “Me” is one of my least favorite subjects. I prefer you, them, him, her, it, us, or we. I would not describe myself as one of those inane people overly obsessed with themselves and their small me-centric universes. Other people interest me a lot more than I interest myself. Nevertheless, I suppose that does not help this exercise so I will say that I am an incredibly curious individual. I like to question and analyze things. I consider myself very patient, logical, and well grounded, which allows me to get wonderful glimpses into some very amazing places.

How would you say your personality developed?

My personality is the product of much trial-and-error, a considerable amount of mentoring, and extensive analysis of more burned bridges than I can count. I think my environment was definitely crucial. Cleveland will make you hard, brittle, or firm. If you have good family, friends, and other icons, you will be the latter. Without positive influences to temper your development you will be so hard to be unusable as a human being or so easily broken that the smallest trials crush you without effort. The other important thing about Cleveland is that you have to leave it; you have to seek out new people and experiences to achieve meaningful growth and development.

Who are your role models? Why?

My most prolific role model is myself. At the end of the day I amaze myself so much at all the things I am able to accomplish, and the degree of excellence to which I accomplish them. Such magnificence makes me want to get up each day to see if I can outdo the previous day’s performance. Some days I do, most days I fail miserably, but even my failings have such brilliance, style, and savoir-faire that it is a beautiful, poetic thing to behold. I endeavor to be like my father and brother: honest, hardworking, loyal, and dignified. However, if I had to pick a historic figure that I admire deeply, it would be Abraham Lincoln. He was self-taught (and quite intelligent), successful, inspirational, and remained true to his principles while trying simultaneously to do what was right and beneficial. If when I die people would say, “Bane was a loyal, self-made, well-principled, and inspirational person,” then I would consider my life a success (so long as I inspired people to do good things).

What are some of your goals (short and long-term)?

My long-term goals are to live forever, find life on other planets, and find a second home for humanity. To me these are more important than our energy crisis, the war on terror, or our fragile socioeconomic condition. If I had to guess, I would imagine these questions have frustrated humanity since early in humanity's existence: Why do we die? Are we alone in the Universe? What else is out there? Moreover, without finding a second home the human race is doomed to eventually one day die out (or be wiped out), and it would be awesome to be involved in saving humanity. In the short-term, I would like to finish my JD in Criminal Justice and pursue a doctorate in Psychology. I would like to become a published editorial writer or some other journalistic commentator. I also want a vineyard and horse ranch in northern California, three German Shepherds, and a boat, which I will sail around the world.

Are there any political or economic issues that you feel have or may hinder your goals? Explain.

I think international temperature and an increase of piracy in certain regions might hamper my plans on world travel. In addition, financing a boat, a ranch, or a vineyard would also be a problem without a serious upgrade in financial status. Scientific research and progress does not seem to have the same prominence it once enjoyed, and political obstacles to things such as embryonic stem cell research and human cloning further frustrate quantitative and qualitative advancement. Corporations have placed a stranglehold on key technologies that should be maturing but remain theoretical. Moreover, vital human resources remain untapped and undeveloped because of political oppression (communist Asia) or societal neglect (sub-Saharan Africa).

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

The ultimate question. Ten years ago, I did not see myself here, and twenty years ago, I was again wrong about where I was going to be in ten years. So hopefully the third time is the charm, and the Universe is listening. Ten years from now, I will be a lawyer fighting against corruption, bureaucracy, and sociopolitical lethargy. I will be instrumental in substantively reforming our judicial and corrections system, and successfully combating cyber, corporate, and environmental crime. I will be preparing to publish my first book, while shopping for a good pair of Andalusian horses for my farm.

All right, for sitting through that you deserve a good lead-out video so…Have some.

Monday, August 2, 2010

An Ounce of Despair, a Ton of Awesome

File Under: Hearing is Believing

It is a historical fact that amazingly engineered things come out of Japan. The Katana, the World-War II Era Zero Fighter, consumer electronics, and automobiles are among some of this island-nation’s many claims to fame. Recent automotive manufacturing faux-pas’ aside, when it comes to putting thing one with thing two to make an efficient, purposeful product Japanese scientists and industrialists have, for the most part, definitely showed the rest of the world how to walk this way. However, today I discovered a Japanese export that took me completely by surprise – industrial metal.

I am talking about D’espairsRay and this band holds its own musically. The musicianship and synthesizing are fresh and edgy, a case study in hard-driving metal and artfully orchestrated industrial sounds. The group blends well a mélange of goth, electronic, hard rock, and even alternative pop influences. The resultant sound is a refreshing addition to the new breed of metal characterized by such groups as Killswitch Engage, but this group truly forges their own unique sub category of metal. However, the true beauty of this group is their ability and almost affinity to be style flexible, almost style neutral. Each song is as good as the last and a new experience unto itself.

The music is enough to recommend this band wholeheartedly. However, the group does not rest on its substantial instrumental ability. Where other bands fall flat to my ear this band shines. The vocal presence of the lead vocalist is amazing. Hizumi can belt out blood screams and death growls with the best of the metal maestros of Europe or North America. I could say more about this band, but I am sure you get the point. If you like metal and all of its illegitimate offspring, listen to D'espairsRay - they are good.

May 16, 2010, music in general and metal in specific received an egregious blow with the passing of a an icon and heavy metal legend. I never truly properly eulogized Ronnie James Dio, but truly what else could I possibly add? Dio was, is, and always will be awesome. Therefore, for this metal edition of Hearing is Believing it is only appropriate I leave you with the group that started my love affair with heavy metal. From August in the Year of the Bane, off the debut album of the heavy metal group Dio, here is Ronnie James Dio singing "Holy Diver." R.I.P. Ronnie, if there is a Heavy Metal Heaven it has one Hell of a band...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

To America, Whom I Love

File Under: America, The Beautiful

Copyright (c) 2010 Phill Petrovic

Two hundred thirty-four years ago, a bold experiment in democracy began. Fed up with the tyranny of a crown that demanded remittances from afar yet refused to include its loyal subjects in the determination of their own fates, a handful of lawyers, doctors, farmers, and various businessmen came together under the idea that a country should be governed by a body accountable to and representative of its people. These idealistic individuals initiated and successfully fought one of the most important rebellions in history. This rebellion would be the first ringing of the death knell for oligarchies, imperialism, and political oppression. From the fires of freedom and liberty, forged on the anvil of justice, and quenched in the waters of self-determination would come one of the most illustrious republics in history – the United States of America.

For all her experiences, America is yet a young nation.
For all her accomplishments, she has only scratched the surface.
For all her majesty, she is still flawed.
For all her progress, she has yet far to go.
For all her wealth, her citizens are still impoverished.
For all her wisdom, she still has much to learn.
For all her strength, she still has moments of weakness.
For all her leadership, she still follows.
For all her unity, she is yet divided.
For all her clarity, she still has turmoil.
America you are wonderfully, beautifully, magnificently imperfect,
And for this reason, we your faithful, grateful sons and daughters love you.

Happy Birthday America, and may we all be blessed.

Is a protest song supposed to make you feel patriotic? Perhaps. This song always made me feel proud of the mistakes and struggles America has made as a nation because we never give in to the forces that conspire to destroy freedom and democracy - no matter if those forces are from within or without. This is a true anthem for the modern American experience, from a monolithic singer-songwriter and lover of America.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Was Civil Rights Legislation Passed In Error and Does It Matter in 2010?

File Under: Convoluted Theories of BS

"There's not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches." – Future U.S. Senator from South Carolina (who notoriously filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for over 24 hours), James Strom Thurmond in 1948.

All right, here is another Facebook spillover. I apologize sometimes I can be over-zealous when commenting on wall posts. Essentially the original took umbrage with Maddow’s slanted-seeming “gotcha” attempt at a fresh, juicy target on her show in the above clip. Some comments felt the interview was an attack that Paul successfully countered; others felt that this was an interrogation showing Paul to be a dangerous choice for a legislator. I do not perceive Maddow as being better or worse than other shows on primetime cable network "news.” She pressed her guest for an answer, he gave it, and she disagreed. I think around the 9:00, 12:00-13:00, and again at the 14:30 minute mark Paul succinctly addressed the question. He thinks discrimination is bad, he believes in 80-90% of the articles in the Civil rights Act of 1964, and he believes that businesses should determine how they do business where public interests are not concerned. The interview was straightforward and Paul's position sounds perfectly defensible to me.

I agree with Paul's argument that a) the government should not police social issues but b) sometimes, it has no other choice. This country has been equivocating on racial equality issues since before the signing of the Declaration of Independence - mainly to preserve some sort of a union wherein future generations can find solutions that confound current generations. The problem is that we do not actually do that - definitively. Civil Rights laws were another set of slapdash "no duh" laws crafted to stop the country from tearing its insides out and get us out of a turbulent era whole. You cannot cure stupidity with a law, you can only add layer upon layer of bandages on it until the burden of bandages outweighs the problem they were covering up in the first place. That said, I also agree with Maddow that without such laws there is nothing to stop these "institutions" from returning. I think as a nation we are backsliding from the stances we took in the 50s and 60s. However, I do not think that another piece of civil rights legislation as important as the Civil Rights legislation of the 50s and 60s will come before Paul or anyone elected this year. Therefore, this question is in fact the first salvo of red herrings, straw men, and other diversionary tactics to come this year.

I will however say what Paul and no other politician conscious of his or her career would say. If I genuinely believed a tenant of the Civil Rights Act violated the Constitution I would have voted against the act in totality if I could not get the offending piece removed or modified. I would have been a starving, rabid wolverine with a sore tooth in my pursuit of passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 WITHOUT the offending Articles. I think what Paul might be quibbling over is Titles II and VII. On the surface, they do overstep based upon capitalist and democratic philosophy. Nevertheless, what people who adhere to Paul's philosophy do not understand is that private organizations are only private in so much as they are funded and operated by private citizens. Every resource, product, and service, harvested, manufactured, or delivered in this country belongs to the people who participate in the functioning of this democratic republic. What is scary is that social networks (read: clubs and other “private” groups) are a resource as well. That makes some people shiver I am sure, that is another discussion for another time. No this is not a socialist agenda it is a fact. Imagine trying to haul lumber cross-country, or go on a cross-country family trip if every gas station, diner, park, motel, shopping mall, or other necessary piece of infrastructure had the right to wantonly discriminate against anyone based on whatever criteria they wanted. That would be somewhat difficult would you not agree.

Now you may feel that your great times 4 grandfather came to this country with nothing but $5 dollars and a dream, he worked himself to death so that when his son grew up he could go to Harvard, and because that son had the savvy to invest in real estate one day his son had the startup capital to buy his first oil well, and on and on and on, any notions of “shared” anything is rubbish. However, from the moment great-granddad raised his hand and swore allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, his $5 dollars, hard work and everything it wrought became part of the collective effort to make America great. The difference is, in America, we supposedly allow the person actually doing the work to enjoy the lion share of the benefit - supposedly.

What does that have to do with Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? It is quite simple. I need to be able to walk into ANY business anywhere and receive service. I need a quality, safe, and reliable product or service that is no different from the one sold to the person before me or sold to the person after me. I need to know that if I place an application with a company my application will be considered based on my qualifications and experience, and that only a more qualified or experienced person will be selected in my place. I need to know that my family will be able to buy groceries, for a fair price, at the most convenient supermarket. I need to know that mine, my family’s, and my friends’ lives, liberties and happiness have protection beyond what means we are capable of protecting as individuals. That is how a smooth economy operates. That is a “more perfect union.” This in a way feeds into the concept that certain issues should be determined at as low a level of government as possible. However true that might be, we simply cannot entrust people to do what is naturally right in every instance across the board. Had we waited on the community to decide that such issues were paramount many individuals would be waiting still.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

That Faint Rustling Sound is God's Hair Moving Side-to-Side as He Shakes His Head at Us

File Under: I Imagine God is Laughing at Us, Because I Do Not Want to Imagine God Crying

Copyright (c) 2010 Harry A. Gaylord

This was hurriedly scrawled in response to the Draw Muhammad and anti-Draw Muhammad pages on Facebook:

As outrageous as everyone who is against the event believes it is, it will not or I should say should not be stopped - at least in countries with constitutions guaranteeing freedom of speech. Would it be nice if everyone respected everyone's individuality and culture? Yes. Should we violate basic constitutional tenants to force everyone to do so? No.

Freedom of speech protects even the willfully ignorant too. See, I just bashed stupid people...because it is my right to voice an opinion. Would you have the host of this blog ban me for it? Every major religion, race, ethnicity, color, and creed, who has even remotely occupied a space of strategic or economic value, has been a target of persecution, oppression, denigration, or ridicule. All of them. Just ask the Tibetan people they will tell you all about it. Moreover, when the tables turned many of these groups turned around and repeated the process to others. This is not a new process.

One day we just might all get along and this will all be a moot point. However, until such a time comes why are we outraged over the comments of a few financially and intellectually immobile individuals? I found a draw Muhammad page that barely had a thousand fans. I do not think we should all tremble at this woefully non-fearsome coalition of socially unimportant cowards sitting at their computers pontificating about peoples and religions they know nothing about, and who do not intend to make an effort to learn anything either. Do you expect people with actual power and influence, who participate in real world events, will listen to such individuals anyway? Stupidity might be contagious, but it is not that contagious.

Finally, the arguments that religiously defamatory messages or irreverent behavior draws the wrath of God in turn leading to the harm or death of Christians, Westerners, Capitalists, or democrats abroad, is utterly ridiculous. When God decides to descend from where he resides when he is not out smiting people, I think we will all realize it and will not need anyone to point it out for us. Until such time, anyone who may die dies because of the willful actions of another individual or group - not because God mandated it. Period.

Freedom of speech is protected all over the democratic world. I wish people did not say or do disrespectful things. However, just because I do not like it does not automatically preclude it from being protected speech. Unprotected speech would be something that calls for or encourages violence, not something that merely inflames passions. If you feel so defamed, then take your complaint to a court and try to see if you can get some recompense. Just remember, in times of trial and tribulation your emotions are yours to control. I believe that is a tenant, in one form or another, within all popular faiths.

"Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." - John 12:28 NIV

It seems God does not need any help protecting his reputation. Perhaps all he or she wants is for us to love each other and live in peace. I will not beat on my we-have-more-important-things-to-worry-about drum today, but I will tap lightly on my get-over-ourselves-already tambourine.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Uber-Nerds Fire a Shot Across the Bow of Fascist Social Networking Oligarchs

File Under: Technically Speaking

The plentitude of useful (and useless) information, file sharing, e-commerce, telecommuting, online games and the myriad of other things the Internet makes possible are all wonderful, but it is the people that make it all worthwhile. For millions of individuals, sites like Facebook or Myspace is where they go to meet or keep in touch with friends on a daily basis. Since their beginnings toward the end of the last century, social networks have been the gatekeepers to probably the most important thing the Internet has to offer: instant connection to your friends and the millions of other net travelers around the world. Such websites have certainly made the world a smaller and more connected place. However, all this wonderfulness comes with a price, because you see...most social networking services are information-grubbing, friend-hoarding fascists. They spy on you, stalk you like paparazzi, and sell your most intimate revelations to the highest bidder.

Once your information is out there, it is out there forever and there is no getting it back - ever. That creates a serious problem within a virtual community based solely on sharing and communication. Individuals leery of being scandalized or harassed because of something they thought they were sharing with only a few close associates have become reticent to share and interact. Moreover, for those who do like to share, achieving a modicum of privacy has become an ordeal itself. The message: if you would like to keep in touch with all your friends in a simple manner, submit to a cavity search and prepare to bare your soul to the world. Such is the state of social networking.

That could all change in the near future thanks to the efforts of four NYU students on a mission to "decentralize" the web. The project is Diaspora* and it aims to place the power (read: control and privacy) of social networking and sharing back into the hands of the end-user by cutting out the middle-manager and allowing the person sitting at home on their computer to be their own social networking server. I could regurgitate a significant amount of technical jargon but I am not a computer programmer so I will break it down to brass tacks. What this would mean is that you the Internet socialite using secure, encrypted software would send all your communications whether they be messages, pictures, videos, or whatever cool new (or recycled) features Diaspora will add directly to other people on the Internet, rather than first sending them to a central place (i.e. Facebook), where all your goodies are scrutinized by the server, combed over by advertisers, and then ultimately shared with the intended target.

Sharing? Check. Security? Check. Privacy? Check. Control? Check.

Bane and 400 Million others like this. .

The Internet used to be such a great place, full of hope and promise. Oh where, oh where did it go so wrong? Perhaps the O'Jays can help us understand it all.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Where are the Dads Part III: The Final Word?

File Under: It is in Our Hands

Copyright (c) 2010 Manataka American Indian Council

If you appreciated the positive or inspirational tone of the first and second installment of this series, note that this post is not like those two. In fact, if you are having a good day, a good week, or you are just generally glad the weekend is here, then please revisit this post later. I do not want to be responsible for killing your mood or ruining your weekend. However, the stories that unfold in this post are the penultimate proof that our children, and by extension the future of our planet and species, are in crisis.

This post did not begin as a social commentary, nor did I intend it to be a continuation of, “Where are the Dads?” One of the following articles triggered a memory of a related event – adults aiding their children to commit a heinous crime over an argument between juveniles. At any rate, in the process of searching for the story I remembered, I found numerous similar stories – many, many more. The details, motivation, and participants are not universal in all the following accounts. Nevertheless, several themes are constant: a gross lack of moral decency, a lack of self-control, and a lack of reverence for the sanctity of life. Therefore, this post became the next chapter in “Where are the Dads?” because when by failure to teach or by failure to be present, a parent fails to inculcate such vital lessons in the mind of his or her children from a very early age, the events that follow are the results.

Johanna Orozco

On March 5, 2007, two weeks after his arrest for the alleged rape of his teenage ex-girlfriend Johanna Orozco, 17-year-old Juan Ruiz accosted his accuser in the driveway of her Cleveland home and shot her at close range, in the face with a sawn-off shotgun. Later that year, because of a plea deal, a Judge sentenced Ruiz to 27 years in prison without parole. Johanna survived the attack; and after weeks of recovery in a hospital and multiple surgeries (and likely more to come), she went on to attend prom and graduate with her class. Johanna would go on to become an advocate for young teen girls and raise awareness for relationship violence. Because she survived, Johanna was able to use her tragedy to help others. In that light, she was fortunate, others have not been as fortunate.

“Parents often talk about the younger generation as if they didn't have anything to do with it.” – Haim Ginott
“It behooves a father to be blameless if he expects his child to be.” – Homer

Mark and Susan Petric

Later that year on October 20, 2007 in Brighton Township of Lorain County, Ohio, 16-year-old Daniel Petric, severely wounded his father, Mark, and murdered his mother, Susan, showing that sometimes all the love and support in the world is not always sufficient to avoid tragedy. His reason for doing this? His parents forbade him from playing a video game they deemed too violent and confiscated it when they discovered he had purchased it anyway. After breaking into and retrieving a gun from his father’s lockbox the teenager approached his unsuspecting parents while they were watching television. He implored them to close their eyes because he had a “surprise” for them. Expecting something “pleasant,” they did and for Susan Petric that was the last time she would see anything in this world with mortal eyes.

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” – Abigail Van Buren
“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.” – C.G. Jung, Integration of the Personality, 1939

Derrion Albert

On September 24, 2009, 16-year-old honor student Derrion Albert lost his life after a vicious, unprovoked attack by two groups of area rivals. Even after Derrion survived the initial onslaught and tried to move himself to safety, Derrion’s attackers pursued him, striking him with fists, feet, and railroad ties. According to one of Derrion’s murderers, Derrion “never struck him;” regardless, his killers pressed upon Derrion, going so far as to kick him and stomp his head once he was clearly unconscious. All this transpired as bystanders cheered and called for more violence. As the early 2010 streak of homicides in Chicago illustrates, murder in the city is not new; only that the perpetrators and victims are growing younger. Despite America’s long association with violence and the decay of the family unit, the crisis surrounding children has not isolated itself to America alone.

“Simply having children does not make mothers.” – John A. Shedd
“Although there are many trial marriages... there is no such thing as a trial child.” – Gail Sheehy

Salum Kombo

On December 20, 2009, 18-year-old Salum Kombo, a Tanzanian immigrant and aspiring artist, became the 13th teenager killed in London that year when a 15-year-old premeditatedly stabbed him over an apparent Facebook-related dispute. Because of that 15-year-old’s actions, Salum died when he was in the prime of his life, alone, on a street distant from home and his parents, and in the arms of a stranger. At least in the UK, a passerby will stop and make sure a dying person does not die completely alone.

“What a child doesn't receive he can seldom later give.” – P.D. James, Time to Be in Earnest
“Most American children suffer too much mother and too little father.” – Gloria Steinem, New York Times, 26 August 1971

A few days later that month on New Year’s Eve, back in the United States, 16-year-old Matthew Dubois of Burien, Washington, shot in the face and fatally wounded his 15-year-old girlfriend, Mikarah Sanders. Why? Apparently, Dubois was angry over a comment left on Mikarah’s MySpace page by an ex-boyfriend and the couple was having another one of many frequent arguments. Dubois, shot himself in the shoulder in order to make the murder appear to be a gang-related home invasion. Moreover, Mikarah’s murder occurred just a month after the contested early release of Dubois, who has a lengthy and violent criminal history, from juvenile confinement. [Additional details]

“Character is largely caught, and the father and the home should be the great sources of character infection.” – Frank H. Cheley
“When you teach your son, you teach your son's son.” – The Talmud

Also on New Year’s Eve that year, on the opposite coast of the United States, 18-year-old Amanda Mantini, committed what to me smacks of attempted vehicular homicide, when she plowed into and hospitalized Nicole McCarthy, the mother of a girl Mantini had been engaged in hostilities with on Facebook. Nicole fortunately survived the assault and left the hospital the next day.

“There are no illegitimate children - only illegitimate parents.” – Leon R. Yankwich
“What's done to children, they will do to society.” – Karl Menninger

Returning to Cleveland, our next story could have ended considerably more tragically than it did. In this story most of the perpetrators of criminal activity were adults, by a large margin, the youngest being 23-years-old. However, a MySpace argument (and likely a lack of common sense and intelligence) over the affections of a boy between two 13-year-olds precipitated the ensuing violence. Brendan Fitzgerald, 24, drove the spurned 13-year-old to the home of the other teenage girl, where the two fought, after which Fitzgerald fled. However, 15 minutes later Fitzgerald returned with 27-year-old John Dix II, armed with an AK-47, and two other men armed with revolvers. Upon returning, the impromptu hit squad sees the 13-year-old victim in the back of her parents’ pickup truck, on the way to file a police report. The family sees Fitzgerald return and fearing for the children at home turn around and head back toward the home. Fitzgerald’s gang parks in front of the home and waits for the family to approach. When they do, Fitzgerald’s accomplishes exit the vehicle and open fire. The victim’s father slams the pickup into reverse as Dix chase after, shooting at the vehicle. When the father makes it to an intersection, the family presumably is able to get away. In his recklessness, Dix struck two homes, firing 19 shots, one of which penetrated a window, interior wall, and imbedded itself in the back wall of a home. Moreover, Dix’s final shot wounded the 13-year-old victim, grazing her face at the junction of where her ear meets her head – literally millimeters separated her from death or grievous permanent injury.

“If you must hold yourself up to your children as an object lesson, hold yourself up as a warning and not as an example.” – George Bernard Shaw
“You have a lifetime to work, but children are only young once.” – Polish Proverb

March 17, 2010 in Deerfield, Florida, after an exchange of text messages with 15-year-old Josie Lou Ratley, Wayne Treacy, also 15, traveled with his former girlfriend and supposed “best friend” of Josie’s, 13-year-old- Kayla Manson, to Josie’s school whereupon after Manson identified Josie for Treacy, Treacy commenced to attack and brutally batter Josie. Treacy sought Josie with the intention of killing her and Manson was fully aware of his plan. Treacy attacked Josie from behind, repeatedly punching her in the head until she fell down; and once she was on the ground Treacy kicked the girl, stomped and smashed her head on the pavement. Treacy did not stop his unrepentant, murderous assault until a teacher pulled him off the girl. In the after math of his actions, Treacy who has plead not guilty to the charges against him, sent a text message to his friends bragging that he thought he was “going to prison” and he thought he “just killed someone.” After many weeks in a chemically induced coma and multiple surgeries, Josie is out of the hospital and in therapy (update). Some have constructed a Facebook group to show support and the family's legal counsel hosts an official webpage with the most current information on Josie. The above article references the attempted murder of 15-year-old Michael Brewer, a few months prior, by a group of five teenage boys ranging from 13 to 15-years-old. The cadre surrounded Michael, doused him with alcohol, and set him on fire over the $40 Michael owed the ringleader, 15-year-old Matthew Bent, for the purchase of a video game. Authorities described, all but one of the attackers as “laughing” about what they had done and showing no-remorse.

“The guys who fear becoming fathers don't understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of child raising is not the child but the parent.” – Frank Pittman, Man Enough

In the next account, who was the aggressor or who was to blame are both murky. What is clear is that on March 11, 2010, three teenagers were stabbed at the Laguna Beach home of a fourth, 16-year-old Michael Jason Wilson, who now possibly faces a lengthy term in an adult prison. The eldest victim, 17-year-old Julian C., went to Wilson’s home, along with three other teenagers, to confront Wilson over, you guessed it, a Facebook argument. The confrontation turned sour and allegedly, Wilson stabbed Julian C., at which point two of Julian C.’s accomplices came to his aid and were subsequently stabbed themselves, before subduing Wilson and escaping. Somehow, I do not think when the pioneers of telecommunication, digital computing, and the internet were toiling away in their laboratories and workshops that they ever conceived one day anyone would use their noble inventions as a venue to spread hatred and vitriol or to incite violence and murder.

“If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all.” – Pearl S. Buck
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

This is the story that inspired this post and it is a truly heart-rending and baffling one that proves that the so-called fairer sex is just as capable when it comes to acts of cruelty and inhumanity. On Thursday April 8, 2010 Audreanna Zimmerman succumbed to the injuries she suffered when on March 24, 2010, her former best friend 16-year-old Britnee Miller, Miller’s mother 39-year-old Tina Brown, and 27-year-old Heather Lee abducted, brutally beat with a crowbar, assaulted with a stun gun, doused with an accelerant, and set her ablaze. After two weeks in a coma, the 19-year old mother of two small children finally passed away. What could cause such savagery and callousness, and from individuals who knew firsthand the beauty of life and motherhood no less? There are two Facebook groups, here and here, where you can show support; I have not ascertained any information about helping her family and children.

“Your children need your presence more than your presents.” – Jesse Jackson
“Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” – Robert Fulghum

The final tale gives credence to the argument that little monsters sometimes do grow up to be big monsters. On April 4, 2010, 28-year-old Angela Bradley-Crockett of Cleveland was en route to spend an evening with friends, when she was involved in a minor accident with a van driven by Stephen Davis, accompanied by his girlfriend, Latesha Santos. The pair convinced Angela to follow them to a secluded area where they accosted her, beat her severely, and strangled her to death. After stripping her of her clothes and valuables, they dumped her body by the side of the interstate as if she were garbage or an animal, rather than someone’s daughter, wife, mother, and sister. Davis and Santos are far from children, being 30 and 33-years-old respectively; and Santos’ criminal history as reported is relatively light. Davis, on the other hand, has a long, serious criminal history dating back to a juvenile murder conviction for killing his aunt’s boyfriend. Some would say considering the pair faces the death penalty if convicted, the state has an opportunity to correct with finality a wrong that has festered too long. However, it is truly tragic that three lives may wind up lost and three families destroyed over a condition that never should have existed in the first place.

“Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” – Colossians 3:21, NIV
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4, NIV

Although, isolated mass murders perpetrated by gun-wielding minors such as Jonesboro and Columbine, capture and hold American attention, these tragic incidences are but the tip of a very broad, very deep iceberg; and society’s ship careens toward that iceberg with frightening speed. Deadly violence among minors is not new and is far from isolated. The problem is growing worse and more frequent. We as a society can debate who is to blame for these crimes or what moved the perpetrators to commit such horrible acts. Certainly, in no small number of these cases, the offender acted with forethought and malice; and many of these offenders were close enough to adulthood to know “better.” However, I believe the presence, love, attention, engagement, support, and diligence of parents could have saved the life of some of these victims and prevented the suffering of numerous others – including the offender, who must now live or die with those gruesome actions upon his or her conscience. Without a doubt the acceptance, guidance, and nurturing of one’s parents is crucial. Of course we cannot excuse personal responsibility, but neither can we ignore the vital importance of a positive male and female role model in the development of a child into a mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually healthy adult. Indeed, where and when will a young adult learn personal responsibility if it is not first taught to them through the example of present, responsible parents?

Who should know your child better than you should? After all, they are half you and ideally the other half of them should be standing with you as you face the challenges of parenting. You are not only uniquely able to notice the warning signs that your child might be developing into an unstable, morally bankrupt monster, but also you are uniquely positioned to do something about that fact. We cannot watch our children grow into aberrant adults and remain passive; otherwise, stories like these will only become more frequent and more tragic. Instead, we must treat children with equity and dignity, respecting their unrefined and undeveloped, but nonetheless massive potential to accomplish great things – for both the good and the bad.

The generation before mine has reached its sunset years and my generation is reaching its peak years of affect. Sooner than I would like to admit, but a mere mayfly’s life in the universal time continuum, my generation would reach its sunset and the next generation will pick up the torch. We have serious issues on the table, granted issues that have always plague humanity but nonetheless serious and more so pressing with advancing time. Humanity faces a worsening energy crisis, an unsustainable population growth rate, depletion of key natural resources, a thinning ozone, a warming planet, nuclear proliferation, worldwide poverty and disease, and impending socioeconomic collapse just to name a few. How can you motivate someone to care that a critical species of Peruvian mountain fern is in danger of extinction or that children on the other side of the world die of curable diseases, when that person is incapable of mustering an iota of human compassion for the lives of even close friends and family? To believe you can is illogical. However, we have the power to avoid this future because the solution is closer than you think – it is in our hands.

"I for one am glad I received punishment for breaking rules; this way I learned not to do things that were bad. If it were not for the correction [...] I would not have turned out like I did. If you love your child [...] look for them with correction in mind [...] make sure they know the family rules and they should be rewarded from time to time [...] They will grow up having a deep respect for you." -- Daniel Hawk With Seven Eyes Hoffman

Quotes © 2010 and/or their respective authors

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Best of the Worst

File Under: Off the Cutting-Room Floor

Here is a blog post originally meant for a February publishing, but never made it to prime-time. However, this is my blog and I want to share with you anyway:

Regardless of how you feel about the Saints winning the Super Bowl, you have to agree the commercials this year were pretty bad, and by bad I mean positively awful. One of the perennial disappointments is GoDaddy. For the love of all that is good and decent in the world, please, please, PLEASE, stop making commercials. Boost Mobile - bad Boost, you get a time-out mister. Charles Barkley, you are ruining yourself, or your agent hates you; I'm not sure which it is. Budweiser, you are an American icon, we expect better from you next year. I think over that past couple of Super Bowls, Coca-Cola has been trying to send the message that to truly enjoy their product, you need to be tripping on acid first. To the decision-makers at Frito-Lay (Doritos): there is a reason why people earn degrees in marketing and telecommunications - so they can make funnier commercials. Denny's you come close but no cigar. Some companies need to follow the lead of FedEx and Pepsi and give up the big game ghost (however, steer clear of stupid online ad campaigns). A few commercials garner a chuckle or a lol, but those were few. As if you will not see this enough without my assistance, here are to me what are the best advertisements of Super Bowl XLIV:

Up first is the VW PunchDub Commercial. This makes it for the nostalgia factor and punching people is just plain funny - especially the young kid and his grandfather at 0:18.

The award for "Best Use of a Bill Wither's Classic" goes to EA's Dante's Inferno 'Go To Hell' Super Bowl Commercial. EA rarely if ever does not do anything that is not full of win. While the game may not be your cup of tea, it appears well crafted and visually captivating.

Next up in the Snickers Commercial: Game we've got Betty White receiving a full-body tackle and doing a little trash talking. Funny. Just to be certain the commercial delivers, Abe Vigoda joins the party. A good effort by Snickers.

Next in line is Fiddling Beaver Official Super Bowl Ad. It is a beaver playing a fiddle. It works.

However, Monster is again one-upped by 2010 Big Game Commercial - Casual Friday :30. While this commercial does not rise to the level of their Super Bowl XLIII spot, it still poetically captures the absurdity of life in an officer or corporation.

When Stephen Hawking Speaks…Listen.

File Under: The Final Frontier

Pillars of Creation (c) 2008 Impact Lab

You might recall that recently the Vatican speculated that not only could life exist on other planets but also that these alien species would in turn be God’s children, though free of original sin. Crazy? Not according to renowned physicists Stephen Hawking, who believes that mathematically speaking the existence of aliens is “perfectly rational.” Hawking feels that the continued existence of humankind will depend on our colonizing space, which will intrinsically increase the likelihood of encountering alien species if they exist. Therefore, reason dictates we need to actively consider what these new species would be like and what their motivations will be.

Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking (c) 2010 Discovery Networks

However, Hawking admonishes do not expect the best from our first encounter with our prodigal space siblings. If God’s children on Earth are any indication of what to expect from his children from the stars, then they probably are imperialist bastards too – imperialist bastards with interstellar starships, sun-destroyers, wormhole generators, and quantum mega death-rays.

"Channel Zero" by Canibus from Can-I-Bus released 1998 on Fontana Universal

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Forget Platinum. True Players Wear Brass.

File Under: Hearing is Believing

Bane is not all work and no play. He likes to have fun and has been known, on occasion, to get 'jiggy." With this in mind, I bring you “Hearing is Believing,” great new and old music that comes across my desk. Bane likes to mellow out periodically, and when he does, it probably involves music in some way; and so it was that today I needed to mellow out. I opened my Scrobbler, and queued up the “Jazz” tag channel. On came the Coltrane, the Sade, the Michael Buble, the Nina Simone, the Ella, and slowly the calm came along with them. However, I was completely unprepared for the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

I consider myself at least a moderate admirer of classical and instrumental music, and I love when artists use untraditional instruments in unique ways. For instance, when Bon Scott (of AC/DC) first introduced me to Rock and Roll bagpipes, I was blown away. However, never did I imagine I would have my musical world rocked by the oft-overlooked baritone and the humble sousaphone.

Hailing from the Windy City with a rich musical history, this 9-piece band masterfully blends jazz, funk, fusion, and a touch of hip-hop tinged neo-soul to create a funky, innovative sound that is reminiscent of the best works of Herb Alpert, Isaac Hayes, and War. If one could say music has entered into a state of creative cardiac arrest, this group is without a doubt a shot of adrenaline to its chest.

For the lead-out clip, I bring you the song that changed things for me. With Phil Rudd on drums, Mark Evans on bass, Malcolm Young on rhythm guitar, Angus Young on lead guitar, and the late Bon Scott on lead vocals and Rock Highland bagpipes; here is AC/DC performing, "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)."

If you are interested in what else The Bane listens to or you want to suggest something, add me on or YouTube.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Where are the Dads? The Sequel

File Under: It is in Our Hands

For those who missed part one of this discussion, you can find it here. The discussion surrounds the above-linked article and the question of why fathers are missing in today’s families.

That discussion on why fathers are or are not present continues. A respondent posited that Progressives believe children are a punishment that parents can choose to bear or not to bear. Further, this respondent wonders why a man would choose to be a father when the system can be father, mentor, friend, educator, and financier. What non-faith-based reason would anyone have to make such an absurd choice? Is abandonment not the male choice as abortion is the (so-called) female choice? What “functional reason” does a man have?

So we are still stumping for the non-Progressives and non-Secularists. All right. Well, unless someone snuck into my bedroom and Progressivized me while I was sleeping, because I am not to my knowledge a Progressive, I cannot speak to why Progressives feel the way they do about children other than to say maybe it is because their fathers abandoned them, they were not breastfed, or they were not hugged and told they were special and loved when they were children. I can say that Progressives, Right-to-Lifers, Liberals, Christian Conservatives, farmers, Purple-People-Eaters, and anyone-else-who-wants-to-pipe-in-on-the-subject be damned. People are the resource of a nation on a small scale and the human race on a large scale; in turn children are naturally wards of a state (entrusted to the care of parents) because beyond the family, beyond the community it is the government who (is supposed to) protect the people (in turn protecting the species). For those who want to want to postulate special circumstances and drawl on asking “what would you want to happen in X situation,” please refrain.

Animals cannot convene parliament but they do protect and rear their children. How much more so can humans? I am willing to wager that whether or not there is someone else, who could guide this child from infancy to adulthood, ever crosses the mind of men who find out the person they are sleeping with is pregnant, at least not in those terms at that moment of revelation. Reason, not religion, tells you that the rejection of a father is a powerful influence on the choices children ultimately make. I mean no historical people have ever grown up to be tyrannical stooges for racist, genocidal agendas because their fathers were hard on them. On the other hand, have they? Reason, not religion, makes one think ‘wow, it was hard on mom and I growing up, maybe I should stick this thing out.’ Reason, not religion, dictates there is an intelligent and reasonable way to use any machine or process; the reproductive process is no different. If you sign the check, you accept responsibility when the bank calls you on it. Reason, not religion, dictates you protect and nurture your legacy. Functional reason? Ask the fathers of LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Barack Obama, or Tiger Woods about functional reasons. It is about survival – of the individual, of the nation, and of the species. Just like the sheep who line up for slaughter in the Progressive machine, some men do not have survival instincts.

Why are the only two alternatives ever offered in today’s political climate either be the sheep of the Progressive Shepherds or the pawns of the *Insert Non-Progressive Group* Masterminds? Either the way you choose your plight is sacrifice and slaughter. Is it not high time we stop shaking sticks at the boogeyman in our collective closet? Why not assist the marginal adherents to a broken system who believe the system is repairable and who participate in the only meaningful way they can envision. Why demonize these people? Is Non-progressivism that important, that much better?

The welfare state is not new; the concept is as old as humankind is. However, our specific welfare system is new and was not a product of a perfect, well-balance society. It is here because society needs it. Fathers abandoning families, not fathers wanting a counterpart to abortion, is (one textbook) reason for welfare. I do not pretend that the government does not practice and thrive on social engineering. After all it is crucial to the survival of the government that it people need them. Simultaneously, I do not absolve anyone of personal choice and responsibility. When evil Progressives are silenced and no longer fashionable and whatever preferable non-Progressive group is in power they will continue the legacy of manipulation and control. What tool will they use? False freedom? Pseudo-autonomy? Will they prove themselves hypocrites and use some bastardized welfare state? I do not know. What I do know is that the puppeteers of this system, whomever they are, will need more than state-sponsored birth control, more than STDs, more than illicit drugs, more than the welfare state, more than selective law enforcement, more than unconstitutional legislation, more than economic disparity, more than invasion of privacy, more than partisan politics, and more than sectarian strife to suppress, control, or eradicate (when all else fails) me and those I intend to influence.

Responsibility is not a product of faith; it is a consequence of being. Right and wrong existed long before man invented religion. It would seem religion and faith is high-level thought processes while logic and survival are base level processes. If you have not made the correct decision by the time you reach the high thought part of your brain, then you are not likely to – at least not for the right reasons. The time and distance between reasoning and faith may be small scientifically speaking, but spiritually there is a vast chasm between the two. What would happen to lions if they stopped to think about whether it is morally acceptable to kill gazelles? What would happen to the victims of suicide bombers if the bombers had said ‘this is an illogical course of action?’ Some people unfortunately need logical, reasonable behavior codified and explained in complex metaphors, parables, and fables that in turn men and women of dubious motivation or personal character who have no real clue about what is going on in the universe – spiritually or physically – must decipher. Some people simply would not be able to handle this current life, without some promise of a new, better life to come. Some people cannot contemplate the possibility they are alone in the universe. Those are dangerous scenarios, but such individuals pose no threat so long as they do not become fanatical.

You ask, “What am I saying about religion?” Am I lambasting established faiths in favor of shiny, new secular religion? Of am I advising we scrap the concept of faith in totality? For the answer tune in next week, same Bane-time, same Bane-channel.

John Lennon - Imagine
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Friday, April 2, 2010

Where are the Dads?

File under:           It is in Our Hands

This post and the link that inspires it, is a carryover from a Facebook discussion in which the original poster emphatically asks, “Where are the dads?” I responded that “fathers sadly are a fast shrinking minority,” to which he responded, “why so Ryan?” The Shortt answer: It is a Progressive plot to destabilize the family unit and create a more malleable society. The Long answer follows, please bear through my short (I swear) rant on criminal justice and society.

I do not know what manner of twisted things had to have happened to the 15 year-old to make her think what she was doing was 'OK.' In trying her as an adult, which she definitely deserves, I hope they do not merely bury her under the prison at the same time. She needs help and rehabilitation.

The 20 year-old on the other hand, his fate is sealed; let us hope he is as much a man about taking it as he thinks he is about dishing it out. Before I get up on my soapbox about the value of fathers, I must beat my "What in the world were all the rational adults doing?" drum. I mean, really. How many times leading up to the point that this 7 year-old was so horribly and irreversibly violated could someone have stepped in and said "no, this far and no farther?" Moreover, not just at the party either. Someone obviously had to report this, did that person figure something terrible had to happen before he or she spoke up. The entire community (and of course the "system") failed this child.

Fathers. I should back off my earlier comment somewhat. In all fairness to most men I know, the vast majority are making earnest attempts to be present in their lives of their children in a meaningful and positive way. That is regardless of status, class, relationship with the mothers, or the circumstances of the conception. I do notice a trend of males who grew up without a real, "good" father trying not to repeat the cycle with children they in turn create. However, society does not seem to be moving back towards a stronger family unit. The ratio of children to fathers still -feels- high. I think that condition exists for the same reasons it always has, many of which are the reasons why some fathers instead choose to be present.

No one teaches you to be a father (or a man for that matter). No one likes to fail, perform poorly, or struggle with something he or she does not know how to handle. I have heard people say that the first time they hold their child it is a scary moment. You realize that the person you created is now so dependent upon you and you hold (literally) a tiny, fragile life in your incapable, inept hands. What are the chances this 20 year-old's father had a college degree, and a job making mid-to-high 5 figures? Slim to nil. What is the probability that his grandfather skipped out on his father? High to certain. That is probably the most damaging 'lesson' about being a man taught over 2 generations: when you cannot handle it cut and run. Being poor and uneducated is no excuse, but it certainly does not aid the decision making process. Then you have the mother, who herself is scared and unlearned in the ways of motherhood. The child is bad enough; he or she cannot form the words to tell you how much you are unprepared for this task. But when you have a scared mother (read: loud, irate, and belligerent) who despite all her protestations of independence really just wants you to step up and be a man (in the traditional, antiquated sense), you don't hear "honey, we need to figure out what we are going to do;" you hear "My GOD!!! Why can't you just act like a man?!?!" As if she, being a woman, knows how a man is supposed to act. That sort of thing messes with a man (or a boy trying to be one). With no direction, no support, no plan, no finance, and "baby mama drama (possibly from multiple baby mamas)" lesser men and boys will take flight rather fight. Outside forces and theories of society manipulating aside, raising a child or children is a daunting responsibility.

Again for anyone preparing to mount their high horse and draw their sword of righteousness, I am not condoning or even defending males (because until you step up to the plate on your responsibilities you are not a man) who abandon their families. Beyond personal moral and logical reasons, many of the above reasons are why men choose to handle their responsibilities rather than run. My father often told me he swore to me when I was a very small child, too little to understand what he was saying, that he would never turn his back on my siblings and I as his father had done to him and his family. Despite everything the world threw at him and our family, or the decisions we made as individuals he never, ever once waivered on that promise – not for a millisecond. Do not let the horribleness of abandoning your family create an illusion in your mind that fulfilling such a promise is a simple task. It takes hard work, integrity, dedication, self-sacrifice, compassion, patience, humility, and no small amount of love. What most males do not realize (and no one tells them) is that what you lack in any of those areas you gain in droves along with knowledge, wisdom – and a beautiful legacy – when you step up and be a father. The road is hard, your life as it was is over, your family will drive you nuts, they will (make no mistake) tell you they hate you, and many times you will feel you are failing; but by being there you are winning. Fathers are the protectors of innocent 7 year-old girls. By you being there, we all are winning.

This post is dedicated to fathers everywhere, you are all our heroes.

Wherever you are dad, thank you and I love you.

UPDATE: The discussion continues in Where are the Dads? The Sequel

Monday, February 22, 2010

Showdown in Oaktown: Anatomy of a Beatdown

File under: Life Lessons

When this clip first came across The Desk a few days ago, I dismissed it. I am not a big fan of reality TV or of “young punks” abusing the elderly. Therefore, I do not know what impelled me to watch the follow-up interview with the hero/victim. Well, I was wrong about what the video clip would show. In the above clip, the young man thought he smelled easy prey; however, what he caught was the lingering scent of blood and napalm from 67-year old Marine and Vietnam veteran Thomas Bruso. Therefore, unbeknownst to him and to his great peril, he foolishly picked a fight with Chuck Norris’ father. Who knows for sure whether on any other day this young man would have delivered on his copious promises of bodily harm; unfortunately, for this young man however, Pappy had indeed eaten his spinach that fateful morning. One wonders was there an opportunity for this young man to avoid the tragedy that befell him. To find out we will break down the incident moment by fateful moment:

0:46       The First Opportunity
One can only presume, Bruso did not feel like sharing one of the cans of whoop-ass he fills his satchel with every morning, so he gets up and moves to the front of the bus. As a parting gift to the young man, Bruso instead offers a lollipop in the form of a golden piece of sagely advice: “Better pissed-off than pissed-on.” Apparently, the import of this wisdom was lost on the young man.

0:50       Divine Intervention
God (the Universe or whomever you subscribe to) in a display of infinite wisdom and undeserved kindness placed on that AC Transit bus the old-school sister – someone who was wise, observant, and possessed the perfect balance of nosiness and concern. The sister has witnessed quite a few beatdowns in her time, some she no doubt delivered, and some she might have received. She was the only person within earshot who could see, read, and interpret the handwriting on the wall. The oblivious music-listener in the purple tights certainly did not have a clue as to what was about to unfold.

For that young man, the sister was uniquely qualified to be the forecaster of a storm of pain and woe. Why? This kind stranger is old enough to have been an adult during the Vietnam War. To understand the significance of that fact you must understand the nature of men and war. Men build each other up by first tearing each other down; likewise does the military build soldiers by first tearing them down, stripping them of who they are, and leaving a blank slate with which to paint the perfect portrait of a soldier. The thought is that nature abhors a vacuum, so the soldier will fill his or her void with duty, honor, dedication, and all the other good soldierly qualities. However well that philosophy worked in the days of horse, sword, and formations, in modern warfare if you send an empty vessel into hell for a meeting with the Devil you cannot be sure with what it will returned filled. The sister saw in the eyes of Thomas Bruso the same look of barely restrained composure, ever-living horror, and fractured humanity that haunted the eyes of friends and family returning from Vietnam. Many of these men take medication to keep them just barely rooted in reality. Sometimes, these men forget to take this medication, as was the case with Thomas Bruso. The sister knew you do not make these men afraid, you do not threaten them, you do not assume an aggressive posture against them, you do not stand in their blind spots, and you do not make loud noises or sudden movements around them.

0:51       Warning Signs
In nature, a particularly dangerous creature or plant will adapt specialized markings, colorations, odors, sounds, or movements to signal to a would-be predator that it is better to look for a meal elsewhere. Scientists call these adaptations aposematism. In the human world, dangerous individuals have warning mechanisms as well. First, there is the “I am a Motherf*cker,” t-shirt. While most people have a drawer full of t-shirts proclaiming all manner of vulgarity, it says something about someone who not only possesses a custom-made t-shirt with his nickname and battle cry emblazoned on it, but also wears it in public. If a person is wearing a shirt that says, “I will beat you to death,” maybe you should err on the side of caution and leave him or her be. Also avoid t-shirts that say: Army, Hoorah!, Welcome to Sniper Country, or Semper Fi. Second, did the young man not see the Yukon Ax-Murderer full-beard? Dangerous men who do not care if you know they are dangerous wear full beards (see: Chuck Norris). Finally, if someone has three or four inches on you, outweighs you by about 50 pounds, informs you they are not afraid of you, and informs you in multiple ways that he or she will cause you bodily harm if you do not leave them alone – maybe you should leave that person alone.

1:16       “Be wise, my son” – Proverbs 27:11
The old-school sister is a truly good Samaritan. She goes beyond words of warning and actually extends a protective hand to hold back the young man from his terrible fate. However, fueled by the shouts of the peanut gallery, his misguided self-righteous anger, and his infernal pride he would not hold. Sadly, “little brother” ignored the plaintive admonition to “leave that man alone.”

1:26       Out of the Mouths of Dumbasses
Perhaps one of those in the peanut gallery had a momentary forward evolution in her normally poor judgment, because she actually tells the young man that whatever he is hoping to prove or gain by confronting this obviously unwell old man is not “worth it.”

1:38       The Beginning of the End
Maybe logic was beginning to overtake pride in the young man’s mind because he wisely goes back to his seat. However, the victory is short-lived as the young man returns to the front of the bus to confront Thomas once again. This time another young female passenger implores the young man to “stop it,” but alas, he still does not listen.

1:40       The Point of No Return
Pride finally wins the battle and everything begins to go really bad for the young man, really fast. Where did the young man go wrong? The short answer is: everywhere – but let us try to break it down. First, the young man tries to strike a seated person, from a standing position while in a moving vehicle. Bad move. I can only presume this young man missed the PSA on punching someone in the face. The first punch is the only one that matters unless you have the hands speed and strength of a professional boxer, even then you should always incapacitate your opponent with the first punch. That was by far the weakest, most telegraphed punch to the chest I have ever seen. Chest?!?! Who opens with a punch to the chest, especially when you have the high ground! The young man holding the vertical handrail no doubt necessitated this ineffectual, weak opening volley, which leads into his next problem – no guards. The old-one-handed-stiff-arm does not constitute a boxing guard or a good defense, and certainly is not a barrier against the hurricane of fists that followed the young man’s failed assault.

1:43       TKO
With the coach fully stopped, Thomas “Tom Slick” Bruso goes Super Saiyan on the young lad. In professional combat sports, the referee stops the fight when there are a certain number of unanswered punches, or one fighter is unable to offer a sufficient defense or offense. That was right about here – give or take a second.

1:51       “I told you not to F*ck with me!”
This segment only indirectly has anything to do with how this young man came to rest on the floor of a public transit bus with a broken, bloody nose and no street credibility, but it is interesting nonetheless. This is something you might see in a movie, but rarely after an actual fight. Most fights involve a few furious seconds of punches followed by much posturing and acting. In the days of yore, when two men would settle their differences in a duel, each party would nominate a “second” who saw to it the duel was fair and done according to the rules. Today, seconds still exist however now their job is damage control. Seconds (i.e. your “boys”) allow just enough fighting to happen so that you appear to have stood your ground, no one is overly embarrassed (by being pummeled), or criminally liable (for beating someone to death). Rarely would you see the kind of abject defeat and submission displayed by this young man because your seconds would have broken up the fight long before your opponent owned you this totally.

3:11       The Aftermath
So you are now stumbling around the bus, talking incoherently, still making empty threats. The kind older woman, who tried save you from humiliation and pain, is the only person on your side. Your companions (?) who are now laughing at you, chime in with their two cents. I certainly hope it was well worth it for you young man.

What this video does not show is the lead in to this altercation, which apparently involves some perceived racist statements by Mr. Bruso. Unfortunately, the only witnesses on record on the internet are the idiot with the camera, and Bruso who has obvious problems with reality and potentially a history of causing a public disturbance. It is also obvious from the verbal exchange that Bruso at minimum should update his lexicon of politically correct verbiage. In this situation, both parties were wrong in different ways for different reasons. Let us tackle Bruso first.

You might ask, with some degree of indignation, why was Thomas Bruso at fault here, he was only defending himself from a younger punk with a chip on his shoulder. First, Bruso is no saint or angel. He is a psychologically troubled man with a chip of his own on his shoulder. I have been unable to locate any information that corroborates his version of events; of course that does not mean it does not exist, it just has not surfaced, as one would expect it should. Bruso probably said something to incite this incident, and apparently provoked the conversation seen at the outset of the video clip. Secondly, while no one regardless of his or her age, ethnicity, orientation, or religion should have to fear at anytime his or her safety, security, and liberty is in danger. Anyone has the right to defend themselves or their ideas and to defend such with force if the situation requires it. So was Thomas Bruso wrong for defending himself? No. Is Thomas Bruso a hero? Not hardly. Did Thomas Bruso react inappropriately to the threat at hand? Probably. Is Thomas Bruso an unhinged, undercover bigot who has a problem relating to his fellow citizens in a socially acceptable manner? Quite possibly.

To everyone who thinks Thomas Bruso is a hero, this section is not what you think. The most obvious reason the young man was wrong was that he assaulted another person without just cause. For that lone, he deserved his comeuppance. We live is a society with rules, and people like this young man who believes they are above the rules and the rules do not apply to them – well yeah, society is weary of people like you. My problem with the young man, however, is not that he assaulted Thomas Bruso, but rather that he assaulted Thomas Bruso in the name of equality and civil rights. He presented a poor argument, in a poor fashion. Finally, to prove to Thomas Bruso and all the witnesses on the bus that the young man was not all the stereotypes that Bruso thought of him, he reduces his intellectual arguments to expletives and threats of violence; well, all the stereotypes with the exception of the stereotype about physical superiority. To the young man, you set Black people back several years by showing yourself to be a brutish thug with a complex. You have no real understanding of concepts of equality; you have no respect for the dignity and freedom of others, or any respect for your elders who made it possible for you to sit freely on a bus spouting vulgarity and nonsense.

The question remains: “Why does a brother have to spit shine your shoes?” Why do we still have these problems 40 years after the civil rights movement? Had Martin Luther King, Jr. been on that bus he might have asked instead, “Sir, why do you feel a black brother should be the person who shines your shoes?” The young man presumed that Bruso was referencing a black man, when he said “boy.” King did not make assumption. King also would not have excluded the white man, who possibly erred in his speech, from amongst the ranks of “brothers,” because in fact we are all brothers. Dr. King would have taken the opportunity to enlighten Bruso and those listening on the dangers of inconsiderate speech and the importance of assigning dignity equally to all persons. King would not have gotten angry, would not have raised his voice, would not have used profanity, and would not have resorted to violence when his message fell on unreceptive ears.

No one involved with the video clip will escape unscathed. To the young woman in the peanut gallery egging on the young man, you should be ashamed. To the second young man who shouted out a racial epithet as Bruso wailed on the first young man, you should be ashamed. To the bus operator who did not stop the bus, call for order, or radio the transit police, you should be ashamed. Finally, to the videographer, you are a liar and of dubious moral character – you should be ashamed.

These blog posts are supposed to have a moral theme, we are suppose to learn something. So what did we learn? Maybe we learned that wars like Vietnam and The Second Iraq war create human casualties long after we win or lose them. Perhaps we have learned that the Veteran’s Administration needs to implement a higher standard of qualitative care for veterans. Possibly, we have learned that despite or maybe because of a Black man sitting in the Oval Office, as a nation we still have much cultural unrest and bigotry. One could also glean from the clip that a general breakdown of fundamental values is the root cause of such gross disrespect for self and others in general and the elderly specifically. Is there any one overarching lesson we should walk away with? Yes. I think the lesson we should learn is simpler than all that, and summarized in the adage:

Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.” Every time.

After much intrapersonal debate and a very close competition for the lead-out video clip I decided to leave you on a light note. So...enjoy.

Mama Said Knock You Out! v1.0
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Follow-up: For those of you who care, Michael, the recipient of this epic beatdown, goes on the record confirming that he is in fact a dumbass.