Archive for Politics & Religion

Booze and a Book: Scotch and Zen

The Booze: Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky

Scotch has been very hit and miss for me, with mostly misses. Some of them are overwhelmed by that smokey, peaty flavor Scotch is known for, and it generally turns me off. Fortunately that note is mellowed in Monkey Shoulder, allowing the malt and a bourbon-y sweetness to come through. It makes this whisky a mellower, more soothing drink.

Monkey Shoulder goes down smooth and easy, too, and I enjoy it both straight or on the rocks. I’m going to recommend larger cubes or whiskey stones for this one, though, as the melting ice waters it down quick.

At the moment I’m enjoying Monkey Shoulder with the last of my Gurkha Legends, and neither is overwhelming the other. Good times.

The Book: The Dude and the Zen Master by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman

“The Dude abides.” The classic The Big Lebowski character is a starting point in the conversations of life and Zen philosophy between actor Jeff Bridges and Zen master Bernie Glassman. In fact, the book is simply a transcript rather than a standard narrative.

I first ran into this book sitting at a friend’s basement bar. I was waiting for him to finish something upstairs, so I picked it up and read the first chapter, and I enjoyed it. A few days later, I saw several copies sitting on a remainder pile for around five bucks at our local Barnes & Noble, so I snapped up a copy for myself.

That was over a year go. It’s been sitting on my nightstand ever since, buried under my Kindle and a handful of martial arts-related books. I felt a bit angry and down the other night, so I pulled The Dude and the Zen Master out of the stack, dusted it off, and started reading.

In true Zen fashion, it was just what I needed, exactly when I needed it. It made me reexamine a few things and look at them in a new light, and it made me feel a hell of a lot better. A hundred pages later, I forced myself to put it down so I could get at least a little bit of sleep before my alarm went off later that morning.

I’ve harbored a minor interest in Zen philosophy while I’ve been involved in the martial arts these past ten years or so, but not so much its religious trappings. What I like about this book is it’s not preachy at all, and while Bridges & Glassman discuss meditation on occasion, they’re not telling the reader he must do this or that to reach enlightenment. It’s simply two guys discussing how they’ve found their paths and the things they’ve encountered in their lives, with a little sprinkling of The Dude for flavor.

Good stuff, and I’m looking forward to finishing it.

Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman on cigars in “The Dude and the Zen Master.” Word. #quote #cigars #books #zen

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About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Murder in the Local Paper

Secor is a small farm town not far from me. With a population under 350, it’s exactly the kind of place where people always say, “nothing ever happens here.”

Until a man was murdered and his body dismembered there just over a week ago.

I first read about it on Peoria’s Journal Star website Thursday morning, and early Thursday afternoon I read about the two people arrested in connection to the crime. A live-in caregiver and her boyfriend allegedly shot a 74-year-old man and tried to dispose of the body. Details are still being withheld, but it appears the killers dismembered the body, leaving a portion at the home and a dumping the rest off a bridge into a river just over the county border. Authorities were waiting on DNA test results to confirm the body parts go together and verify the identity.

Later that afternoon, I got home from work and pulled our local weekly paper out of the mailbox. The murder made the front page, which is not a surprise. However, it was already way out of date. It said a man was missing and a body had been found in the river, but there were no suspects yet.

It’s a perfect example of the challenges faced by print media and the increasing irrelevance of small, local newspapers when it comes to reporting major news. My wife and I subscribe to the local paper because it’s the best way to get coverage of our town, such as village and school board meetings and notices from local groups. However, because of the way the paper tries to protect itself, it’s the only way to get that news and information in a timely manner.

See, this newspaper does have a website. It also has breaking news on the case, but it’s all culled from the paper’s parent, Bloomington’s Pantagraph newspaper. Unfortunately everything else is unavailable for about a week after the local paper is printed and distributed. Some other big stories have been exempted from the rule, but for the most part, delaying the news has been their alternative to putting up a paywall.

It’s sad, really. I understand there’s a business side to running a paper and reporting local news. Reporters need to be paid, and whether we’re talking print or Web, there are costs involved in distribution. We can talk about how information should be free and people deserve the news, but unless we’re willing to cough up more taxes to pay for it, we’re out of luck. (Not to mention we’d then be dealing with government oversight of the media, which is the last thing we’d want. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)

I got to thinking, though: what really pays for the newspaper? Ads. This is why just about any given interior page is at least 3/4 advertisements, and at least one or two other pages (in our small paper), often the back page, is a full-page ad. How do you get ad revenue? Guarantee eyeballs. How do you guarantee eyeballs? Subscribers. Sales in stores and out of corner machines probably vary somewhat, but a paper can cough up an exact subscriber number at any given time.

This is the problem news websites face. The web advertisement arms race, where ads get more obnoxious and browser-based ad-blocking software gets more aggressive, is frustrating on both sides. Paywalls, meanwhile, are a huge turnoff because sometimes a reader just wants one story or isn’t local to that paper.

Also, the Journal Star’s paywall is laughably easy to defeat: after a reader has read 15 articles for the month, a pop-up ad asks for a digital subscription. If the reader refuses, he is dumped to the front page. However, I’ve discovered if I hit the browser’s stop button after the page loads but before the pop-up arrives, I can keep reading. If they fix that, I’d bet dumping or blocking cookies or using a proxy would still get me past the paywall.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better, and it’s these small, local papers that are going to suffer. Our local reporter is nearing retirement, and I can’t imagine it’s going to be easy to replace her. The pay can’t be great, and the beat is far from glamorous. They’re going to need someone who cares about the area, otherwise we’ll get someone out of Bloomington or Peoria covering the area part time and our news will be secondary to whatever city story he or she is working on at the time.

Papers really need to start thinking outside the box, leveraging both emerging technologies and the desire to reach local audiences (and for local businesses to reach their local populace), or they’re going to die. This isn’t news to them, of course, but the locals don’t have time to wait for the bigger outlets to figure it out.

So yes, here I am with a half-assed suggestion: mobile apps and subscriptions. A tablet app local news outlets can push news, ads, obits, classifieds, etc., to. Readers buy the app, subscribe to the content.

On a personal level, the local paper’s website is useless, and it’s not worth paying for the Pantagraph or Journal Star (even if I couldn’t defeat the paywall). Pay what, $2.99 or so for the app (for the developer), then around $1.99 per month for the content (for the paper)? Sure, that’d be worth it to me. I don’t know what our subscription cost is, but I’m sure it’s less than buying the paper for $1.00 per week in stores. I’d just as soon read on the tablet if I can get the same content, including things like the high school’s monthly newspaper.

Speaking as a tech, I’m seeing a lot of folks picking up tablets. Not just the students who are bringing more and more tablets to the school I work for, but their parents and grandparents, too. Every year, more staff members, both current and retiring, are buying iPads when we do our annual bulk purchases. Staff members who are not computer savvy are purchasing iPhones at the behest of their children. I also see parents and grandparents bringing tablets and e-readers to the karate dojo.

Tablets are perfect for people who have no use otherwise for a computer. The elderly are buying them or receiving them as gifts in greater numbers because they can do email, Facebook, and basic web surfing without the hassle—real or perceived—of a laptop or desktop. With the Nexus 7 priced at only $230, it’s very affordable.

Design the pages right, and we could get local, relevant ads in an unobtrusive manner, making local businesses happy and generating more income for the paper. Small ads around the content, larger ads on a full page to swipe past, just like a real paper.

Hell, if I knew anything about app design and programming, I might try to develop a relationship with the local paper and take a crack at it myself. I’m not a business man, but it seems to me a developer catering to hundreds of local papers might do at least as well as a major paper developing its own in-house app.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Bipartisanship Smokescreen

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

—Benjamin Franklin

This NSA wiretapping scandal is unbelievable. The Patriot Act is a vile piece of legislation passed in knee-jerk fashion by a terrified Congress who had no clue what exactly they were doing to us. Blown out of proportion or not, I’m sure PRISM—or whatever Big Brother presents it as to the companies denying its existence—is pulling data in a sweeping, invasive, and unconstitutional manner.

But the thing many people seem to be missing is this goes beyond political party lines.

The finger-pointing has already begun, with the Dems blaming Bush for starting the program and the Repubs blaming Obama for bringing it to a whole new level. Either way, they’re both responsible. There are three branches of government populated with assholes on both sides of the aisle who have at worst collaborated to make this a reality and at best allowed this to happen on their watch. Any time something like this shows up, someone waves around the Patriot Act and says, “Because terrorism.” Fearmongering at its finest.

Meanwhile we citizens spend all of our time arguing about the things that affect us as individuals, things like gay marriage, abortion, religion, and gun ownership. Bipartisanship is the best smokescreen Big Brother could ever have. While we’re kicking and screaming and fighting and protesting over social issues, the power players in the NSA and FBI go unnoticed in violating the very rights we all claim to hold so dear.

Let’s take gay marriage for example. Does who you’re sleeping with really affect the government? Not in the slightest. It may offend an uptight neighbor, but it makes zero difference to government operation.

Or let’s look at gun ownership. Does the government really fear that gun in your hand? Hell no. Let’s think about this: sure, a collection of armed citizens sounds scary, but how are they going to organize in any effective manner against Big Brother if Big Brother has access to all of their communications?

It does not matter which side of these debates we’re on, because as long as we’re choosing these battles, we’re missing out on the big picture. This is why groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation are so important, and why people need to understand the benefits and limitations of the devices they carry around in their hands every day.

Yes, a lot of this data doesn’t matter. A lot of it is meaningless prattle and we give a lot of it away to companies voluntarily all the time. But when it comes down to truly private data, shouldn’t you be aware of how to protect it? Shouldn’t you have the right to protect it?

You’re goddamn right you should.

So by all means, keep arguing about whether we should teach sex ed or Creationism in schools, or whether Bush or Obama have done more damage to our country and our economy. As loud and obnoxious as those arguments can get, it’s all docility to Big Brother.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Bipartisanship is Killing Us

We’ve lost the middle ground. Whether discussing the economy, guns, abortion, or religion, too many people—especially our politicians—take one side and treat it as an absolute. Their way is the only way, and the media drives the wedge in deeper by encouraging the rest of us to choose sides.

This has to stop.

What was more painful about Romney’s now-infamous 47% statement: his gall to state it in such a demeaning manner, or the fact that it hit home so hard? The zombie-like devotion to one side or the other has disgusted me for a long time, and it’s been rubbed in our faces more and more during the last few elections.

When all we do is choose sides and shout at one another, nothing gets done. The refusal to sit down and discuss both sides of an issue to find a reasonable solution is beyond counter-productive, it’s damn near political sabotage.

The shocking violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT yesterday is the most recent in a string of mass violence that we’ve been faced with in recent years. I work in a school district, and we have a K-4 building. Every day I watch those children file out of the building while waiting for my own kids. Sandy Hook is as horrific as it gets.

The moment the news hit, the gun comments started on Twitter and Facebook. “Great, now we’re going to have people trying to ban guns again! You can’t take away my Constitutional right!” Fuck you. “See, we told you guns were evil! Ban them now!” Fuck you, too.

I’m a gun owner. I live in a community of hunters. Yesterday I received a Christmas card that included a photo of a 3rd grader holding a hunting rifle with a scope. Guns do not signify evil to everyone, and there are families who bond in activities involving guns, just as mine did with target shooting.

However, I also do not support the NRA (more on that in a moment). I have an Illinois-issued Firearms Owner ID card, and I don’t look at it as a grave infringement of my rights (in fact, it’s laughably easy to obtain). I do think waiting periods are ridiculous and ineffective, but again, I don’t view them as some tremendous violation of my rights. I support concealed carry, but I don’t believe guns and carry permits should be issued to everyone who wants one.  I don’t even fear gun registration, and I’d be willing to discuss registration as a part of concealed carry.

The NRA causes as many problems as it solves. They do a great job of supporting families who are gun owners, of supporting hunters, and of pointing out the many instances were firearms were used in defense of life. However, they do a shit job of doing anything to prevent  guns from getting into the hands of the wrong people. Take the Operation Fast & Furious scandal, for example: Fast & Furious was hampered at least as much by poor legislative support than it was the incompetence and in-fighting of federal agents.

The NRA should be front-and-center helping create solutions, not entrenching itself with the tired old “out of my cold, dead hands” statement.

This is why, even as a gun owner, I signed the White House petition to immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress. I’m not sure I could have stated it any clearer than this:

The goal of this petition is to force the Obama Administration to produce legislation that limits access to guns. While a national dialogue is critical, laws are the only means in which we can reduce the number of people murdered in gun related deaths.

Powerful lobbying groups allow the ownership of guns to reach beyond the Constitution’s intended purpose of the right to bear arms. Therefore, Congress must act on what is stated law, and face the reality that access to firearms reaches beyond what the Second Amendment intends to achieve.

The signatures on this petition represent a collective demand for a bipartisan discussion resulting in a set of laws that regulates how a citizen obtains a gun.

I just hope our congressmen have the balls to find the middle ground and are willing to keep extreme lobby groups like the Brady Center and the NRA from sabotaging real progress.

If past behavior is any indicator, nothing will change, and before long we’ll have another incident like Sandy Hook or Aurora and the discussion fight will start all over. Then die down again. And again, nothing will get done.

Remember the definition of insanity, folks? I give you the United States bipartisan political system.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

I Rocked That Vote

And I hope you did, too.

Many years ago, I used to be one of those “both options suck so why bother?” people, but I’ve come to a few realizations since then.

Decisions, decisions... #ElectionDay

Hey, where’s the “Shit Sandwich” option?

For one, there’s more at stake than the presidency. There’s U.S. Congress and there are state legislature and local seats. While the politicians and the media are loathe to admit it, several of these will have a far greater impact on my way of life than the guy sitting in the Oval Office. For example, the county board here was in great contention over whether or not to allow wind farms to be constructed in our county, and a number of seats were turned over.

Then there’s the question of state and local decisions. Today, Illinois had a question about amending our state’s constitution which will directly affect the pension of teachers and other state employees in the future. In the past, several Illinois counties have voted whether or not to allow concealed carry of firearms. School districts have referenda that can drastically impact our property tax bills and the education of our children. Federal government decisions are slow and cumbersome; state and local decisions can hit us immediately.

Don’t like either candidate? That’s fine. Vote Green. Vote Libertarian. Give a third party a voice. Show the Big Two and the media that you’re sick of the bi-partisanship. Don’t think it can happen? We did it in the Illinois governor race a few years ago by giving the Greens 14% of the vote, if memory serves. Voting for third parties is not throwing away your vote because you’re still raising your voice. Not showing up is throwing away your vote.

Finally, there’s the issue of voice. I agree the First Amendment guarantees us all the right to bitch whether or not we cast our vote, but by staying at home, it shows we just don’t care. Poor turnouts show the politicians it doesn’t matter what they do, because we’re not going to stop them. The Electoral College may be a dated, questionable process, but everyone examines the popular vote just the same. One vote may be irrelevant in a county that will lean hard toward red every time, but it reminds the locals that there are still different opinions out there.

So you’re damn right I voted.

Walked there in the rain, had a fine-point pen for filling in ballot bubbles, but I did it. #ElectionDay

All done. Do I get my shit sandwich now?

I’m fortunate it didn’t take any time at all in my precinct. I didn’t have to deal with electioneers, I didn’t have to deal with a confusing ballot or a potentially rigged electronic system, and I didn’t have to jump through crazy oops and show five IDs to obtain my ballot and fill it out.

A number of my friends in larger precincts are dealing with long lines. There are reports of hassles and electioneering. There are stories about voter ID problems and questions. Videos like this one out of a Pennsylvania booth aren’t helping:

There are going to be cheats. There are going to be assholes. There are going to be corrupt officials trying to influence the vote in every way they can, whether or not their parties or candidates are directly aware of it.

This makes it even more important to show up. Keep these bastards honest. In a day when half the people have cameras in their pockets, it’s a lot harder for the people in charge to get away with shady dealings. They’re going to be a lot more intimidated by a recording device aimed their way than they will somebody complaining.

“All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

— Edmund Burke

Don’t be that good man (or woman) doing nothing. Stop making excuses.


About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

SOPA Must Die

If you surfed the Web Wednesday, I’m sure you ran into a SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) blackout somewhere. If none of that made sense to you, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s one-page summary of the problems with SOPA.

It’s a good example of Congressmen not understanding what they’re legislating, or what they’re asking this legislation itself to accomplish. A SOPA supporter and PIPA (SOPA’s sister, the Protect Intellectual Property Act) co-sponsor Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) recently posted copyrighted video to his own YouTube channel. His excuse? “YouTube is excluded from the bill as it is written right now.”

Say what?

This means posting copyrighted clips to YouTube violates the spirit of the law, but not the word of the law. In other words, someone can upload pirated crap to YouTube and get a free pass. (Or, more likely, it’s a matter of “We’re afraid of Google’s lawyers.”)

Make no mistake, this is not about protecting the little guy, it’s about protecting big corporate bucks in the guise of protecting the little guy. Do the Hollywood unions like the WGA, SAG, or the production support unions support these bills? Not the general membership. In fact, most creators oppose SOPA, but the bill’s sponsor, Rep Lamar Smith, says they don’t count. It’s all about the lobbyists who are protecting their own interests.

As a creator myself, I’m not a fan of pirates. In fact, I would prefer to deal with pirates like this:

Whoops, I guess that would get my site blacklisted! No, wait, the video is on YouTube. Guess I’m golden after all? Brain hurts. Moving on.

No, I’m not a fan of piracy. But I’m also not convinced they’re doing as much harm to me as some think, and I’m sure as hell not convinced protecting my meager income by destroying the very network I’m leveraging to make a living is going to do a damned thing to help any of us.

The worst case scenario? We end up with a censored, restricted Internet that countries like China and Iran have. We rally behind freedom of speech and condemn other countries for blocking their citizens from access to information, yet we’re attempting to pass legislation to give corporations the same capabilities to shut down websites that China and Iran have. It’ll be a new age of digital McCarthyism, where Hollywood will point a finger and someone will get blacklisted.

It just boggles the mind.

Here are the 67 pinheads (as of this writing) who think $$$ trumps freedom. SOPA may be “shelved” for now, but that’s not good enough, and PIPA has to die with it. Make sure these people understand the damage they’re trying to do, even if it’s just by taking a few seconds to sign petitions like Google’s.


Khan Academy has posted an excellent video explaining SOPA and its problems, as well as outlining some of the scarier provisions of the bill.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

On Apples & Trees

So my kid got selected to be Joseph in a play. The Joseph.

“This will end badly,” I told the Wife.

“Why do you say that? I think he’ll do fine.”

“Trust me,” I said. “This kid is my clone.”

“How can they screw up? They have no lines, and they  just have to go through the actions the older kids narrate.”

I reminded her his teachers already had to tell him to not hang the Baby Jesus (a doll) upside-down by one leg as he passes Him over to Mary. She felt that meant they solved the problem.

Wishful thinking.

Sure enough, he missed his cue because he was too busy trying to get my attention. Then he passed the Baby Jesus over in a rush. At least he didn’t hold the Son of God upside down again, because if  he did, I’d have been laughing too hard for anyone to continue.

Then, through the rest of the play, he sat front and center and looked like this:

Really Bored Joseph

This is pretty much how I look on the few occasions the Wife drags me to church

Yep. Like father, like son.

To top it off, Little Bird nearly knocked over the giant cardboard box that served as the Inn. She couldn’t see what was happening from inside and kept trying to lean out the window for a better look, and her friend followed. The Inn leaned, wobbled, came apart on one side, then fell back straight when the girls backed off. If it had gone down, it would have taken the Advent wreath with it. Her teacher about had a stroke, and I had to struggle not to laugh.

Leave it to the Oliveri kids to be the troublemakers. If my eldest, one of the Wise Men, had let out a “nyuk nyuk nyuk” as he walked down the aisle (I don’t know who would have coached him to do such a thing), we would have had the hat trick.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Yeah, I’m Irish

My father’s Sicilian and my mother’s Irish. This explains why I have such a short temper.

Today’s Saint Patrick’s Day. How am I going to celebrate it? By drinking a little Irish whiskey and jamming some Dropkick Murphys.

This, of course, does not make it any different from any given weekend throughout the rest of the year. I’ll be headed out of state with some friends tonight, and it just so happens one of them is Irish and has an equal fondness for a certain Irish whiskey. I’ve located a microbrewery near our destination that will have corned beef, live music, and lots of beer, so a boilermaker or two may be in order if I can convince the rest of my group to check it out.

How do most other people celebrate? By drinking ’til they puke and making wisecracks about the color of the Chicago River. If you’re going to be out and about tonight, have fun but watch out for those guys.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Viva La Revolución

Revolution is a big deal in the United States. Without it, we wouldn’t even be here. Men like Ben Franklin and George Washington are traitors to the Crown in the United Kingdom, but in the U.S. we’re taught they’re our founding fathers and are our heroes.

Is what’s happening in Tunisia and Egypt any different? They may not have fallen into outright warfare yet, but they’re in a volatile situation and the protesters’ ultimate goal is the founding of a new government. Are there faces and personalities behind the conflict that will become their founding fathers and national heroes? Or will the existing government restore order and bring charges against a handful of people who were simply tired of the government abuse?

Unfortunately the lesson appears to be lost on some of our leaders. While President Obama supports the revolution, our legislators are trying to pass laws that would hamper our abilities to do the same. Specifically, they want a kill switch for the Internet.

This is dangerous territory. One of the first things the Egyptian government did was cut off Internet access in an effort to prevent protesters from organizing and to keep news from spreading to the rest of the world. Fortunately word’s getting out anyway, and all it did was make things worse for the government. (And rightfully so.)

Let’s think about this, Congress. What’s more dangerous? A people with protected speech and the ability to criticize their government, or a people suppressed to the point they can’t take it any longer and it all comes out at once? If our country was founded on revolution, why should the people be forbidden from exercising that same power to preserve it?

Let’s remember how we got here, not emulate the dictators we’re hoping will fall.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Big Business and Your Belly

I sat down and watched Food, Inc. this evening. Doing so during dinner may not have been the wisest choice, but honestly, it’s not so much the visuals that turn your stomach but the way big business has a grip on your health.

Look, I know chicken farming and slaughterhouse operations are no picnic, especially for the animals. I’m willing to accept there are better ways to do these things, and wherever possible I vote with my wallet. My wife and I know locally-grown food tastes better and is better for us, and that’s what we try to stick to for both ourselves and our children. We can’t afford to hit Fresh Market every time we shop, but at least we can pick and choose at Wal-Mart. The end of the movie acknowledges that voting with our wallets is starting to make a difference.

But it’s really not enough, and there’s a lot of shady things going on. To me the movie isn’t so much about the evils of capitalism as it is the ease with which we allow big business to take advantage of it. As usual, on paper it’s a great philosophy, but then people get involved and it all falls apart. Congressmen vote on things they don’t even understand, so they just go with big business and the big bucks because that’s where all the weight is.

I was going to have a long rant, but really, it’s not that interesting and the movie speaks for itself. If you’re on Netflix, it’s available to Watch Instantly. If not, at least track it down at Blockbuster or something. Educate yourself. Yeah, there’s a bit of an environmentalist agenda there, but it’s not hard to see through it and get the idea that some things need to change.

I was going to watch Super Size Me next, but I think I’ll save that for another night. I don’t want to be put off food for good just yet.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

About This 2012 Apocalypse Business

If you really believe the world is going to end on December 21st, 2012, you’re an asshole.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about why.

The whole thing is predicated on a Mayan belief the world exists in cycles, and every 13,000 years there’s an apocalyptic event and the world is reborn. By most accounts, that will occur on 12/21/12.

The first question you should be asking yourself is “Am I a Mayan?” followed closely by “Do I believe in the Mayan religion?” If the answers to these questions are no and no, but you still think the world is going to end, then yeah, you’re an asshole. If you’re picking out this one aspect of their religion and rolling with it, knowing nothing about the rest of their beliefs and practices, then you really need to back off and rethink your own belief system.

This is doubly true if you’re a Christian, Muslim or Jew. In this case, you should be ignoring the Mayan apocalypse altogether. Putting your faith in their calculations would be akin to believing Zeus still rules Olympus. Are you drawing parallels between the Book of Revelations and the Mayan apocalypse? Nice try. Keep in mind your Bible says the world is only 6000 years old, so you’ve got 7000 more to go. They can’t both be right!

Still don’t think you’re an asshole? It gets better. The Mayans don’t believe in an apocalypse themselves. The 12/21/12 date is just the end of a calendar period. It’s like 12/31/99: we marked a new Century and the world didn’t end despite the panic over everything from technological collapse to fire raining from the skies. Also, the Gregorian date calculation may be way off. Matching up two different calendars is far from an exact science, especially when those calendars are centuries or millennia old.

Now you’re going to tell me you have plenty of evidence. That’s cool, so does this asshole. I love this guy’s page, because at the top he says Christ may return on June 21st, 2009. Well, that hasn’t happened. So then he goes on to talk about May 14, 2011, at 9:32AM EST. Can’t get much more specific than that, can you? Oh, wait, he has a disclaimer: “We are reminded in scripture that no one can know for sure the exact date of the Lord’s return, so I do not put this out as a prediction or a certainty, but only as a possibility or hypotheses.”

Whaaaat!? He has an exact time! If he’s going to be that precise, he needs to stick to his guns. He might as well just say “Please don’t call me an asshole. I’m just batshit insane. My hobbies include furious wanking and rolling my turds into tight little balls.”

So, you go ahead and take your book of Mayan evidence, then go visit this guy’s page and read all of his evidence. I’ll let you decide which one sounds more crazy. If they both sound good, then yep, you’re a huge asshole. Meanwhile, I’m going to set an alarm on my calendar for May 14, 2011, 9:32AM so I can run outside and watch the skies for the big nothing to happen.

The only reason people believe in this crap at all is some combination of fear, superstition, and a complete lack of understanding of what they’re talking about. Y2K was a perfect example: those of us (well, most of us) who worked with computers just shook our heads while some people were stockpiling water, canned goods, and bullets. Nothing happened at midnight that night, and we were able to get a little peace and quiet at work for a while as the crazies hid in their cubicles in embarrassment.

Please, stop being an asshole and live your life. Don’t just listen to crackpots and people making their own guesses, and especially don’t listen to someone trying to sell you something. You’ll feel a lot better.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Bring Back Space Heroes

Take a one-way trip to Mars? Now that’s balls.

That’s exactly what’s missing from our current space program: big, hairy balls. We worry about costs, about safety, about how people are going to get along. Meanwhile there are plenty of volunteers ready to be strapped in and blasted into space. Sure, they know they could die, but they’re willing to take the risk because they know it needs to be done.

Think about the old days. Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Buzz Aldrin, Yuri Gagarin… These guys didn’t let their mortality stop them. Even the atmosphere-bound guys like Chuck Yeager accepted there was a chance the only way they’d return to the ground was in a flaming ball of wreckage. Time was these guys were the heroes and role models. Kids wanted to grow up and be blasted into space, too.

Now kids want to be Hannah Montana.

Of course, it might help if the space program were a little sexier. If you’ve got the money, you can fly across the ocean in first-class luxury. Cars and planes are loaded up with all the latest technology, and smartphones have become disposable toys. Meanwhile, my iPod touch probably has more computing power than what’s under the Space Shuttle’s dashboard. If private jets are souped-up Ferraris, the Space Shuttle is a ’70s-era woody station wagon held together with duct tape and Bondo.

You want to bring back space heroes? Build that Mars ship. Show them something new. You can’t tell me anything we build now isn’t going to be light years beyond the tin cans we put up in the ’60s.

You want to bring back space heroes? Let them break new boundaries and brave new frontiers. Give these heroes a reason to put those big, hairy balls to use.

You want to bring back space heroes? Stop talking about it and do it. Stop sweating every little detail, because they only way we’re really going to know if something’s going to work is to try it.

Load ’em up, strap ’em in, light the fire.

Let’s rock.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.