I’ve been kind of geeking out on Pete & Pete nostalgia lately after learning that the actors that played the brothers – Danny Tamberelli and Mike Maronna – not only still hang out and in fact do a podcast together, but they also tour and are coming to Florida this spring and I have tickets to go see them!

Nonetheless, after watching this great series of retrospective videos that Nickelodeon did a couple of years ago with Danny and Mike, it naturally got me thinking about the rest of the cast and what they’re up to these days…

And for a brief moment, I got spooked.

Ellen was always one of my favorite characters on the show, particularly for her bond with Big Pete. What can I say? I was just reaching my teenage years when this show came out, so it was girls like Ellen and Clarissa and Melody and Z.Z. who served as my first crushes on my favorite TV shows that I watched during those years. And yet like much of the rest of the Pete & Pete cast, I couldn’t really recall seeing much Ellen represented in more recent shows, so I decided to google the name of the actress who played her…

…and I got a fairly convincing profile of someone who is apparently very into Donald Trump and conservatism and generally just being an awful human being.

Could that be the same crush from my own boyhood who was a girl, and Pete’s friend, but was she a girlfriend???

Well, thank god – no, she wasn’t!

I’m not going to post the name here because there’s no need to attract unwanted attention, but I will say that her picture was close enough that 25 years later you might say, “Sure, I suppose that could be her.” It wasn’t until listening to a couple of interviews – one with Ellen herself – that it came to light that she’s mostly stepped away from Hollywood and instead is a doctor now! And the other lady was apparently just being born at the time Pete & Pete was airing, so that’s a pretty good indicator that they were definitely different people, too. 😉

Relieved is the right word, that’s for sure. I remember how shocked I was to find that an old friend from high school had gone hardcore conservative, complete with gay bashing on Facebook and the whole nine yards. And I recall me and my friends absolutely loving Dennis Miller and his rants on HBO back in our teenage years, despite his bizarre political flip to the dark side that came a decade later. But not someone from the cast of Pete & Pete.

All of the Blue Tornado Bars in the world couldn’t produce a brain freeze capable of that level of mental shutdown… 😀

Do We Really Need Billionaires???

January 24, 2019 1:32am
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I thought this was an interesting article from the other day talking about comments made by new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about income inequality and the hoarding of wealth at the top end of the scale…

As usual, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right: There should be no billionaires

Just looking at billionaires in the US, there were roughly 540 people back in 2016 with a combined net worth of $2.4 TRILLION!!!

I’m sure you probably recognize the names in the top 5:

  1. Jeff Bezos – $112B
  2. Bill Gates – $90B
  3. Warren Buffett – $84B
  4. Mark Zuckerberg – $71B
  5. Charles Koch – $60B

It’s worth noting that three of the top five have made pledges to donate 99% of their wealth (Gates, Buffett, and Zuckerberg), but what about the other $2.15 trillion spread out among only 537 individuals in the United States? $2+ trillion is more than the GDP of Brazil. Or Canada. Or Russia. Or 180 other countries around the globe!

Put it another way, the average billionaire is worth about $4.1 billion.

The median net worth in America is about $11,000.

On top of that, there’s the old statistic that something like 70% of Americans don’t have $1,000 saved that they could tap in the event of an emergency.

Now I’m not saying the answer is just take it all from the wealthy and redistribute their wealth more evenly – at 350 million people, that would only end up being about seven grand per person!

That said, when do we get to a point where maybe we have to say, “You have way more than enough. Please share with the little guy…”???

A million dollars is something that all of us have fantasized about at one point or another. You can buy things that cost millions of dollars such as mansions and yachts and sports teams and other expensive things that people think about when they dream of being rich.

A billion dollars, on the other hand, in a way just seems silly. You can’t spend a billion dollars on any one thing, or even a whole bunch of things! I would challenge anyone to go to NYC or LA and try to spend a billion dollars without buying companies or whatnot – I don’t think you could do it, and for the people who do, they’re not even doing it themselves because investors always travel in packs. 😛

And sure, that’s the real counter argument – billionaires invest that money into whatever ventures interest them, and it creates jobs, and hopefully additional wealth … but all in the same, it just makes me wonder if all of that is worth it when A) profit is still their primary motive for those investments, and B) we’ve got all sorts of people around this country who are really struggling in one way or another, whether it’s the guy living under a bridge or the family in suburbia embarrassed to apply for food stamps because dad just got laid off from his job.

I don’t claim to know the answers, or even how to connect all of the dots here, but I do believe that if part of our income equality in America stems from CEOs skimping on wages because it’s better for corporate profits, they should be taxed to make up the difference because no one should work a full-time job and still live in poverty in America.

Looking at the math, if 540 people – or 0.000001% of the population – own 3% of the entire nation’s wealth, which expands to over 50% of the nation’s wealth if we widen the net to 5% of the population (17.5 million people) … something’s not right there.

So what do we do about it?

In the interest of encouraging more educated discussion regarding topics of public interest…

Persons will be prohibited from engaging in conversations on a given topic in the event that said person does not possess a level of education on the topic that meets or exceeds the general level of education of the other conversation member(s).

For example, an American with an 8th grade education concerning the subject of human biology shall be permitted to speak on this topic with individuals possessing a general education of 8th grade or lower.

For example, an American with a kindergarten-level education concerning economics shall not be permitted to speak on this topic with individuals possessing graduate or doctorate-level education.

This legislation shall apply to persons of all occupations, income levels, and government positions.

Classy Like John McCain…

August 26, 2018 5:11pm
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I always thought that this was a pretty classy moment during the 2008 campaign when John McCain stood up to his own supporters in defense of Barack Obama. It was something that I’ve NEVER seen another politician do.

And I think it says a lot about the Republican mentality of those whose first action upon news of McCain’s death was to cut him down as less of a soldier, or a veteran, or a politician. That party – and its supporters – could stand to learn a few things from a man like John McCain.

Wrong Way

July 27, 2018 4:30pm
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Earlier today while I was getting gas, I had an encounter that to me seemed like a pretty good analogy for our current political climate and what the Trump admin and the Republican party are doing to our country…

Although the car started out at the pump behind me, I almost hit them pulling away because they got impatient and decided to pull up between me and the car on the other side instead of just waiting their turn.

Circling the parking lot to get out, despite the large WRONG WAY signs posted at the driveway meant for incoming traffic, the driver chose to go out the wrong way anyways.

It didn’t matter that she was endangering her own kids in the car.

It didn’t matter that she was endangering anyone else who wanted to enter the parking lot the correct way.

She was just going to do what she was going to do regardless of the warning signs and the rules that were put in place for everyone’s safety.

And it’s for this reason that I’m done arguing with Trump supporters about politics.

They don’t care about the warnings, and they don’t care about the other people around them. As long as they get where they’re going, everyone else be damned.

It’s useless to try and argue with these people because we’ve seen plenty of terrible results over the last two years of Trump’s presidency, yet they continue to cheer his name – anything to be anti-Democrat, even if they’re endangering themselves with every horrible decision that their faithful leader makes.

The best we can do, just like the careless driver in the parking lot, is avoid them at all costs, and when the time comes – we vote them off the road and vow never to let this kind of mistake ever happen again.

Understanding the N-Word

July 18, 2018 1:42pm
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Reading through comments about the Papa Johns guy getting blow back for saying the n-word … it makes me sad that people still don’t understand the power of that word.

I really like this video of Ice Cube schooling Bill Maher when he said it last year because he spells out why it’s ok for black people to say it, but not white people…

I think it’s the least we can do as white people to remove this word from our lexicon out of respect for the history it bears.

And I’ll be the first to admit that, much like Bill Maher, I know that I’ve said it a couple of times myself in jokes. Looking back, I’m not proud of those moments or those jokes, I know it was wrong, and I’ve learned from it.

*It’s Unlimited, But There Are Some Limits…

May 10, 2018 11:35am
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I’ve written about this topic before, but it bears repeating because right now it’s something that I’m a little frustrated about.

Simply put, whether we’re talking cellular or fixed line, I think that Internet access should be sold as a utility, not a service.

In layman’s terms, either bill me for usage or bill me for speed, but don’t double dip and bill me for both.

This issue resurfaced in my mind because last night we got a notification from Verizon that we’re almost at our plan’s limit for data for the month, though there are still 12 days left in the billing cycle. Our plan is for 8 GB, which is usually more than enough, but we did a lot of traveling in the last month and tethering the kids’ iPad in the car always eats up a lot of data.

So I look at my options to see that they’ve eliminated the rest of the buckets of data above ours – the next step is just an Unlimited Plan, or rather two unlimited plans…

  • The first plan is an extra $50/month and adds unlimited data … but they reserve the right to throttle you down to 3G speeds due to “network congestion” (i.e. “Hi, net neutrality! Somebody else paid more, so they get to go first!!!”). Also, mobile video is limited to DVD quality (480p). Also, mobile hotspot connectivity is limited to 3G speeds as well.
  • The second plan is an extra $80/month and this time your unlimited data can only be throttled if you exceed 22 GB/line in a given month. Mobile video is limited to 720p. Mobile hotspot comes with a 15 GB allowance at LTE speeds, after which it will be throttled down to 3G.

Just so that we’re all on the same page here:

So where do we start?!

I have an iPhone 7, my wife has an iPhone 8 Plus – mine supports 720p, hers with the larger screen is 1080p, so both are getting sub-optimal video quality on the lower unlimited plan. We won’t even muddy the waters by talking about iPads here.

Throttling speeds are a HUGE difference here – Verizon cites their 3G threshold at 600 Kbps, whereas I’ve done speed tests showing anywhere from 20 – 50 Mbps for LTE. The latter will easily support streaming audio and video, whereas 600 Kbps should support streaming music over Pandora (which requires 25-50% of that) but I wouldn’t get my hopes up about video, and frankly, tethering my laptop to those speeds would be like a trip back to 2001.

And lastly, the biggest point of all – what is unlimited if it is, in fact, capped or throttled?!?!?!?!?!

I find it appalling that Verizon sold off its FiOS business a few years ago so that they could focus on “mobile as the future of broadband” if their idea of that future isn’t bright and shiny, incredible pipes but instead these hack and slash toll booths that all of the carriers swore they wouldn’t do with net neutrality, but what do you know … now they’re doing it and the current FCC chair couldn’t care less!

Maybe it’s an “undesirable business model,” but I just want access to data.

You sell me a pipe. Bill me either by how much data I use (like the electric or water company) or what capacity I have access to use (like my home broadband), and that’s it.

I shouldn’t have to consider the screen resolution of each of my devices or what tethering speeds I need to be able to do mobile work from my laptop – not when you’ve got an LTE network capable of speeds faster than the majority of residential broadband.

I spent about an hour looking into this last night and getting more and more riled up as I learned about the details, until I finally wondered if maybe I should finally consider switching to another provider, but they’re all pretty much doing the same thing!

This is exactly the kind of thing that the FCC is supposed to be protecting consumers against.

48 Hours Later…

February 18, 2018 10:28pm
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Where did this weekend even go???

Deplorable Discussions
As one might expect, I’ve had a lot of discussions about mass shootings the last couple of days. A couple of them have been insightful, but most … have not … which I think has only built upon my anger because it truly is deplorable to spend the time immediately after a mass shooting that took the lives of 14 students and 3 teachers debating the semantics of what makes a mass shooting” or this notion that “there’s no such thing as an assault rifle.”

If anything, it’s really driven home the fact that as much as even I’m willing to consider that many factors are at work with these terrible acts, at the end of the day it’s ALWAYS been about guns, and the right just doesn’t want to talk about that.

The T-Shirt Idea
So the other day – I think right after the shooting took place, I left a comment on a friend’s post in the vein of “Fuck Your Feelings” … no, Fuck Your Guns! in parody of those smug Trump supporters who wore shirts saying as much at rallies back in 2016. At the time I joked that it would make for a great t-shirt, but left it at that until Saturday morning came around and another barrage of tasteless comments got me just fired up enough to actually realize that I had all of the tools to put something together in fairly short order…

I don’t know if I honestly expected to sell any versus it just being a funny jab at Trump supporters, but it was admittedly exciting when an actual order popped up for one after a Facebook page that was seeing a lot of attention that night themselves was kind enough to share a link to their 1,000+ followers when I asked!

As I watched the pageviews shoot up faster in 45 minutes than they had all afternoon, that’s when I started to think that maybe this could be something bigger.

Social Media Frustrations
Like I mentioned the other day in an earlier post, I still have a hard time wrapping my head around how to make social media work for my creative projects. It always seems like you need followers to get visibility, but you also need visibility to get followers, and I’ve just never been able to figure out how to bridge that gap.

I was kind of hoping that maybe this idea would be a better social media fit because it’s punchy and controversial, as well as very timely now with so much discussion around gun control and how to move forward.

Pretty late into the night, I finally decided that if this idea did have potential, I needed a better presentation, so I started working on a single page website that features an essay of about 900 words to collect all of the thoughts that I’ve had around what we as a people need to do, also highlighting some of my biggest frustrations with the anti-gun control crowd.

That website can now be found at fuckyourguns.org.

You Can’t Beg People to Retweet You
I literally stayed up all night to finish the site – I think I finally went to bed somewhere around 7:30am, but for what it’s worth, I’m super proud of how it turned out.

My main goals were to A) focus on statistics, and B) make it personal, and I think I did both of those quite well.

I wanted the text to be a clear jab at the extreme gun advocates, but still convey that it doesn’t have to be that way … they just need to be willing to come to the table for an honest and open conversation, too.

After watching the success of the first share on Facebook, I figured that if I could get just one person with a mid-sized following to share a link to the site, I’d be golden! So I put together a list of people who I followed in other avenues – several comedians and a few other liberal activist types, and I sent them a simple tweet asking if they could help signal boost just like I had with the first guy on Facebook.

Mind you, I was super super nervous doing this because I know it’s not always smiled upon, but I hoped that I’d have just the right message to catch their attention in a positive way. Plus, I knew that they’d all been commenting about gun control over the weekend, so the request was on point. I was ready to wake up a few hours later and just have my mind blown when I pulled up the stats and sales!

SPOILER: Nothing happened.

Social Media Roller Coaster
All I could think about was how cool it would be to have a $50,000 check to hand over to a non-profit in support of gun control, or even $150,000! It really wouldn’t even require that many shirts sold, and damn if they wouldn’t make a powerful statement filling a protesting crowd with a sea of royal blue.

Though admittedly I’m not sure how the media would cover it without having to literally censor every single shirt!

This is actually a great example of why social media just drives me bonkers because just one taste – even a small one – and you know that the potential is there, if only you can figure out how to tap into it!

That said, there are a lot of nuances to remember … sharing and growth are meant to happen organically, not by you sending a tweet from a new account begging for a RT!, and sites like Reddit super frown on users posting their own links. I learned this the hard way once because I had some blog posts that I really wanted to share … got a ridiculous number of pageviews, but also my share of negative comments about not following the rules.

And that’s what makes it tough about social media – to know that there’s this giant firehose of users waiting to click links, but it takes a lot more effort than just passing by and wanting some in order to get any.

A Dwindling, New Hope
So I honestly don’t know what to expect and/or hope for anymore. I’d still love to see this take off and generate a bunch of money for charity because I really believe in the cause, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen and I really worry – both for this project and the cause in general – that a week from now gun control won’t even be a blip on the radar anymore because our shitty, short attention span news cycle will have moved on to a dozen other issues by then.

In the meantime, I did create a Twitter account specifically for the project and took some time this afternoon to follow a few dozen people talking about gun control, liking and retweeting and commenting on other tweets in between sharing a few quotes from my own piece. Still, I haven’t really seen any activity at all in return – not even so much as a single follow. 🙁

In retrospect, I do wonder if I might’ve inadvertently shot myself in the foot – pardon the expression – by using the word FUCK because I’m curious if Twitter’s ranking algorithm either filters content with “adult language” further down in one’s news feed or even just keeps it hidden altogether!

I was already reminded that Facebook doesn’t allow FUCK in its advertising because I tried to create a quick $10 campaign to try and drum up a little attention, only to have it quickly declined due to vulgar language.

Funny how Facebook seems to be a-ok with circulating political propaganda from Russian bots to sew discourse with American users prior to our election, yet the word FUCK is over the line. 😯

Fin
So that’s where we are as of late – I suppose the upsides are that while I haven’t sold a lot of my vulgar, gun control t-shirts, I have sold a few and it’s kind of neat to think about them being worn out in the public or at one of the upcoming protests!

I’ve also probably written more in the last four days than I have in the last two months, so there’s that.

Plus, I still have a couple of things I want to work on before I go to bed earlier than 7:30am tonight, so I suppose I should wrap this up. One is even a new humor piece for Just Laugh that I want to run tomorrow … I don’t even want to look at the last time I posted on that site!

I’ll give you one guess as to what the topic is going to be about… 😉

Gun Violence Overload

February 17, 2018 2:26am
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My brain is completely fried from everything surrounding this week’s mass shooting at a high school in South Florida.

Yesterday I wrote an essay about my thoughts, which didn’t get the support that I had expected.

Today I spent way more time than I should commenting on threads with people who will never ever ever consider guns to be even one iota of the problem because it’s everybody else’s fault – parents, violence in the media gun-free school zones – you name it, they’ll point the finger and then make sure that we never mention their beloved guns in a negative light on their watch. It’s so apathetic and sad, it leaves me speechless.

When I went to pick Christopher up from school, I couldn’t help but notice that the flagpole out front had the American flag flying at half mast, and I paused for a second to try and figure out how to explain to a four year-old that it was a symbol of respect because a very bad person had hurt some kids at another school.

On the plus side, holding his hand as I walked back through the parking lot to our car renewed my position on this matter because I realized that I’m going to have kids in the public school system for probably the next 15 years and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand by and just accept that active shooter drills need to be a part of their curriculum because adults can’t get their shit in gear and figure out how to stop bad people from barging into their schools carrying guns.

I’m still VERY ANGRY about the topic, and I’m rapidly losing respect for anyone who shrugs it off and says that there’s nothing we can really do because that’s bullshit and my children deserve better.

It really disgusted me to find before I started writing this that in fact I’ve already written about mass shootings many times before…

I don’t know how we as a nation got to be so lethargic about gun violence, as if it’s just the uncomfortable side of our right to bear arms that we all have to accept in the name of freedom.

The NRA, an organization that as far as I’m concerned should be leading the charge on responsible gun ownership, spends tens of millions of dollars every single year lobbying politicians to steer clear of any legislation even remotely resembling gun control.

And gun sales spike every time there’s a shooting, just like they surged whenever a Republican talked about how Obama was trying to take away our guns when calling that statement an utter lie doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

My mind goes numb just trying to wrap my head around it, but I know that we’ve got to change. We’ve got to have open dialogues about all sorts of ways to combat mass shootings, from mental health to better background checks to more parental awareness, better security in schools, and maybe some guns even need to come off the streets, too.

I know that gun advocates consider that to be treason, but if we can’t even protect our own children in their own schools anymore, we don’t deserve to call ourselves The Land of the Free. 

Kids deserve better from us and adults need to start acting like adults.

When kids who had to hide inside of closets beg on TV for adults to do something, anything to help protect them from all of this senseless violence, every last one of us should be ashamed. 

Parents shouldn’t have to bury their teenagers because you’re too afraid to loosen your grip on the assault rifle that you cuddle with in bed every night out of this paranoid delusion that it’s the only thing protecting you from your government.

The entire world shakes its head and sighs about how pathetic it is that America can’t seem to figure out its gun problem when it has almost as many weapons as it does people and it spends more on its military than it does on taking care of its own people.

America cannot possibly be “the greatest country in the world” when we stand by and do nothing while our kids are murdered at their schools, and I’m tired of listening to people give excuses – young and old, gun owners and paid-off politicians and just crabby Republicans in general – who shrug their shoulders and say, “There’s nothing that we can do…”

Stand up and get the fuck out of the way so that those of us who still care about our kids can do something before even more schoolchildren are chalked up to statistics.

Entertainment vs Politics

September 24, 2017 4:21pm
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I’ve never quite understood the arrogance with which some people cite that celebrities should stay out of politics.

Politics affects all of us whether we’re fast food workers or policemen or teacher or multimillion dollar actors and athletes, and just because they’re lucky enough to have a larger paycheck than the everyday man shouldn’t diminish their right to voice their own political concerns and beliefs.

I think what rubs me the wrong way the most about all those currently up in arms about the football players who’ve chosen to protest by either taking a knee or simply not coming out of the locker room during our national anthem is how crude these so called fans are towards a very real fear for the very people that they idolize. You would think that if someone who you religiously follow every game day took a few minutes before each game to speak out against something as serious as racial inequality and police brutality, then the least a fan could do is take a few minutes to listen.

…and not try to follow this bizarre, Republican talking point about how it makes them unpatriotic and disrespectful to deflect attention away from the real issue at hand…

Of course, Donald Trump came out tweeting all sorts of rage about how horrible these displays are, even calling for the team owners to take a stand and fire these individuals … which is A) ironic, considering the bile and hatred that he tweets on a daily basis, not to mention B) a gross interpretation of the 1st amendment to the Constitution … you know, the thing that soldiers actually fought and died for out on the world’s battlefield.

Now I don’t really care about what the President says because eight months plus an enduring campaign in, we know that his prerogative is to chant out whatever will best get his base riled up.

What I do care about, on the other hand, is his base who stands behind and believes in this mentality that patriotism is about unwavering allegiance and even more importantly, that police brutality is mostly something that black citizens bring upon themselves … blah blah blah … Chicago, black on black violence, etc, etc…

It shows that these people don’t care so much about our actual freedoms as they do about protecting a symbol of our freedoms … one that maybe doesn’t shine quite as brightly as some of us would like to think. But it’s easier to call a professional athlete spoiled and ungrateful across the Internet than it is to accept that racial inequality is still very much alive in this world – even if the only black people you ever encounter in your own little slice of rural America is the ones throwing the pigskin around on TV every Sunday for more money than you’ll ever see in your lifetime.

It says something when no matter how a group of people choose to protest, none of them are “acceptable” to you … protests in the streets are too violent, yet a silent protest before a game is deemed disrespectful. It says that you would prefer just to not hear about their protest at all, which is crude because this is a really important issue to someone you claimed to be a fan of, but it’s also frankly disrespectful to the freedom itself – so which is a grosser crime, making a silent protest of our national anthem or disregarding the very freedom that our national anthem represents???

Not everyone has the luxury to not care about politics, but the least you can do as an American is respect other people’s rights to care about politics themselves for a few minutes before they spend the next two hours risking life and limb to entertain you.

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