My wife volunteers with Carrie Underwood's mother at an area animal shelter. So when Carrie played in Tulsa tonight, we had great seats. I'm not really a country music kind of guy, but I have to say, Carrie throws a great concert, and she won me over.
Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the street preachers who were outside the BOK center, protesting the concert and yelling at people to repent.
Repent, by the way, means "turn around." So I did.
Now, I've been to lots of concerts at the BOK by people like Kiss, Tom Petty, Garth Brooks, hell, even Justin Bieber (don't ask). Never have I seen a church group protesting a concert there. But apparently, the "Jesus, Take the Wheel" singer is worthy of a protest.
"Carrie Underwood just said publicly that she supports gay marriage," one of the preachers shouted through his portable PA system. "She was raised in a Baptist church, so she knows what happens to gay people after they die - they go to hell."
Oh. Well I get it now. They were protesting because someone they viewed as their own had the balls to have an opinion they didn't support.
One of the preachers was 350 pounds if he was an ounce, so as I was walking by him, I casually shouted "Gluttony is a sin."
He furiously turned to me and shouted through his portable PA system "What verse in the Bible is that? Mr. I don't know the Bible. That's Mr. I don't know the Bible Guy."*
I promise I'm not making that up. If I was, the dialog would be better.
Since I've read the Bible at least 15 times - several of those in its original languages - I briefly thought about letting him have it with both barrels. But I was with my wife, and she abhors such displays. So I let it go.
Well, not entirely, because I'm going to tell you now how to deal with similar situations in the future, should they ever come up:
PREACHER: Repent! Only if you repent of your sins can you be allowed into heaven.
YOU: You're a hypocrite.
PREACHER: I'm not a hypocrite for telling you what the Bible says. (I promise, his or her response will be right along those lines)
YOU: The Bible says in John 8:7 that he who is without sin should be the first to cast a stone.
PREACHER: (Starts to say something about how his sins are all forgiven)
YOU: (Interrupting) Jesus also said in Matthew 5:28 that if you think on a sin in your brain, it's exactly the same as if you committed that sin. So while you're telling all these people here that they're going to hell unless they repent, the truth is, your sin is worse, because if you want to do a sin yet preach to others that they should repent for it, you're a hypocrite and Jesus said in Matthew 21:32 that whores and tax collectors will go to heaven before you.
PREACHER: Why yes, you're right. How could I have been so wrong?
(That last part will never happen)
Anyway, that's how I would have handled the fat preacher if my wife hadn't been there. And how you should in the future.
As a brand-new Carrie Underwood fan, I have to say she didn't deserve that bullshit for just speaking her mind. And neither did her fans. And neither did the two double-cheeseburgers the preacher wolfed down before preaching - and the third he ate afterward, because winning souls sure do work up an appetite.
* By the way, douchenozzle, gluttony is called out in the Bible at least 30 times, including in James 5:5, Isaiah 22:12-14, Philippians 3:19, Zechariah 7:4-6, Colossians 3:5 or Proverbs 23, which says "Do not be with ... gluttonous eaters, for the ... glutton will come to poverty." or Proverbs 28:7, which says "He who is a companion of gluttons humiliates his father." Or proverbs 23:2, which says "put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite." But I forgot, I'm Mr. I don't know the Bible Guy. Personally, I don't think being a glutton is a sin, it's just stupid. But if you're going to use the Bible to pound people over the heads, at least have the decency to fucking read the whole thing first, not just the parts that make you feel superior.
On a sad note, Patton Oswalt lost his wife this week. She died in her sleep.
I'm just going to admit something up front: Hi. My name is Leif. I am a Kiss fan.
There. I've said it. That's the first step, right?
I grew up in the 1970s, and in the mid-to-late 70s, there was no band as big as Kiss. And I was a card-carrying member of the Kiss Army.
Ace Frehley is the reason I learned to play guitar. Paul Stanley is the reason I learned to sing. Gene Simmons is the reason I only play bass guitar when I have to.
And Peter Criss is ... um... the reason I don't like cats?
Anyway, Kiss was a great band for a preteen boy who was into superheroes, comics and pretty much everything testosterone-related. Their makeup made them superheroes. Their music was nothing but sex, sex, sex, which also played into the preteen mentality. In other words, in the 1970s, Kiss was everything.
So tonight, I was programming (I've been programming like a madman for months now, and it wears on you after awhile) and I needed a brain break, so I started watching one of the concerts that later became part of their 1978 album, Alive II. Overall, it was a fairly weak album, because the public was demanding a new live album after the gargantuan success of 1975's Alive, but they really didn't have the same quality of music to put on the new album. In fact, they only had enough songs for three album sides, so they put a bunch of new (and mostly horrible) studio music on the fourth side of the double album.
In any case, the concert was illuminating. And here's why. I, as a fan of Ace Frehley, am largely disillusioned with his guitar playing these days. In fact, I'm better than he is, and that's not bluster, it's just a fact. But in the 70s? He was a beast. Watching the concert, several facts are clear:
The fact is, Ace Frehley was really, really good for the 70s, and that kind of surprises me, given what he's done since then. In fact, since then, I think Paul Stanley has surpassed him as a guitar player, and even though he was always a better songwriter, Paul became a great songwriter in the years after the 70s, while Ace stayed stuck in the "I'm going to write another metaphor for my dick" songwriting school.
After watching the Gene Simmons reality program on TV, I can't like that guy at all, and Peter Criss is just a drugged-up homeless guy who just happens to have money for stumbling on a good thing in the 70s. But in this one concert, there is a star, and his name is Ace - he reminds me why I started playing guitar, and that's a cool thing.
So there's a giant, child molesting douchenozzle in my hometown who is mad at me for reporting about his child molesting.
And he happens to be moderately Internet-savvy, though I wouldn't call him an expert of any stripe, so he took to Facebook to lie about me, and when the page he created to lie about me went south while he was on what I assume was a meth binge, he created another one. Then that one went south and he created another one. And another.
And it started to piss me off, because sweet as I am now, I wasn't always such a nice guy, and I've been known to take things into my own hands.
By the way, I wasn't the only one he was attacking. Our sheriff is also facing re-election and the child molesting douchnozzle has been working overtime to sully his name, too (what I assume to be meth helps you stay up late and post all over Facebook, apparently). And then he attacked his own lawyer, saying horrible things about him.
So I wrote a Facebook post on it because I was tired of hearing lies about myself. I couldn't post the truth on his pages, because he had me blocked.
I know, I know. I should have ignored it. But as I mentioned before, there's a bit of rough-and-tumble left in me, and rather than take care of it the illegal way, I thought I'd fight fire with fire.
By the way, his name is Thomas C. Dodds Jr., and he's a lifelong criminal according to this page I found while researching him. Apparently, he's a conman, a forger, a child molester, a stalker and all kinds of other crap.
I'll greatly enjoy watching him go to prison, and I know that's horrible of me to say.
So I'm being petty, I know. Unprofessional? Definitely.
But satisfying? Oh hell yes. Satisfying.
Sometimes I forget where I live.
Today, I went to the local convenience store to buy chips for a four-year-old who begged, "Please get me some chips, Daddy."
When I say "local convenience", I realize that's an oxymoron because I live in the sticks. Like the suburbs look at where I live and go, "Man, that's really kind of out of the way."
So in the store, I grabbed a bag of chips for my sweet four-year-old, and then I did something I never do - I looked at the price.
That's right, four dollars and sixty cents for a bag of sliced, fried potatoes.
So when I went to the counter, I said, "Man, I had no idea chips were five dollars."
The lady behind the counter, your stereotypical country woman from eastern Oklahoma, said, "It's everything nowadays."
And I, completely forgetting where I am and who most of the people around here are, waved my fist in the air and mock-shouted, "OBAMA!!!"
"Boy, you ain't kiddin' about that," the woman shot back without hesitation. "'Bout everything that's wrong is that ... his fault."
The ellipsis there represents an almost-spoken thought that you had to be there to realize was this clear: "Nigger."
And if that shocks you, you don't hang around red states very much, because the N-bomb is dropped around here as much as "y'all" or "reckon."
So I, because I love stirring pots, said, "I was kidding. Obama is a great president, and I blame all this country's financial woes on George W."
And then I left.
I don't have a Facebook page. I mean, I have the official Leif M. Wright author page, but I never update it.
My wife, however, has a Facebook page, and I creep on it all the time.
And election season has taught me one thing: People are fucking idiots.
Oh, warning: bad language.
All Facebook does is take people I used to respect and make me think they're idiots for the person they're supporting in the race for president. And the vehemence with which they support (I was going to say 'that person,' but I'm just going to say it) Trump.
This is why I've studiously avoided politics, and even though Bernie Sanders has excited me in a way no candidate since Obama '08 has (in many ways, much more), I have to say this: I hate politics, and I don't care who wins president, as long as it's not "that person." Because eight years of another "that person" made America the most hated nation in the world, and I'm not prepared for everyone to go back to thinking we're all a bunch of narcissistic redneck idiots after all the progress we've made under Obama.
And don't even accuse me of being a freeloader for loving Bernie Sanders. I'm a hardworking American who has been working like a slave since I was 12 years old, and I earn a more-than-decent living. In fact, I just did my taxes. Apparently, the IRS thinks I'm partying on a yacht somewhere, as much money as they think I should send them now that I've done the math. So don't think I'm a minimum-wage blue-collar worker hoping Bernie Sanders will take money from the rich and give it to me. I don't want any handouts. But I believe in a nation where, as Christians (the majority of America identifies as Christians), we believe in helping the less fortunate - even when they don't deserve it. Kind of like Jesus dying on the cross for every douchebag in the world, including me and you. If you don't believe in helping those who don't deserve help, then stop calling yourself a Christian, because "Christian" means "Christ-like" and if you want to be like him, you help those who are complete assholes, not because they're such great people, but because YOU are supposed to be a great person.
Pretty sure that's in the Gospel of Curmudgeon, chapter 4, verses 3-13. Look it up.
If you don't agree with me, go to another page.
I caught myself looking down on a person in Walmart when they were in front of me, using foodstamps and buying more food than their foodstamp card would pay for. It pissed me off. Not that they were overbuying, but that I'm such a jerk that I could look down on people for needing help. That's a dick move. It doesn't reflect poorly on them, it reflects poorly on me. Whatever happened to "there but for the grace of God go I?"
I work hard, it's true. Too hard. Hard enough that my kids have to come sit beside me at my desk to see me as much as they want to. Hard enough that my wife has to jump naked into the hot tub in front of my desk to get my attention. Too hard. But the fact is this: if you believe in God, then you must know that all things come from God, including your money. No matter how hard you work, it's God who's paying you, not your hard work. And that means you're being showered in his grace every time you cash a check. So, except for the grace of God, you could be the guy in line at Walmart running out of food stamp money before you run out of hunger, having to ignore the judgmental guy behind you who should know better.
If you're rich enough to be pissed about a guy using food stamps to buy the things he needs to stay alive, do yourself a favor next time - buy his groceries for him. Not because you like him so much, but because you recognize that you're in a position to help - and good people help.
And then vote for the candidate who says "I'm sick of taking money from the middle class and giving it as handouts to the rich. Why not take money from the rich and give it back to the people who have worked hard to make them rich?"
Is that really so evil? If you think so, you're on the wrong page.
The threads of our lives sure are funny, aren't they? Back in 2002, maybe 2001 (I can't remember), I had lost a bunch of weight after realizing how fat I had become - like someone who ate a farm animal or two. I got positively skinny, and by that, I mean like 150 pounds, which for a guy who's 5'11" is pretty skinny.
At the time, there was a copy editor working for me who was also friends with my then-wife, and we used to hang out all the time. She started dating this muscle-bound guy, and because I had been grumbling about "gotta get to the gym", they introduced me to the muscle-bound guy, whose name was Jim Jarosz.
Jim was way cooler than I expected a muscle-head to be. I mean, he had the body of a Greek god, and I expected him to act like ... I dunno. A jerk, I guess.
"Oh, man, get a membership at my gym," he said affably. "I work out twice a day. Show up for lunch and I'll help you get into shape."
Against my better judgment, I showed up. And the first day was beyond embarrassing. I saw a girl bench pressing the bar with the third-biggest weights on it (I later found out that meant she was benching 95 pounds - two 25-pound weights plus the 45-pound bar). She was pounding out reps like she was benching air.
"Let's get in after her," Jim said, and we went over to the bench and he started taking the 25s off the bar. I thought about protesting - surely I could bench what a girl was benching. Surely.
Turned out, nope.
I struggled to get the bar up. And it pains my testosterone to say that. But it was true. I couldn't bench 45 pounds. Jim was so cool about it. He stood behind me and spotted, yelling encouragingly (a mean trick, by the way): "Come on, Leif, you've got this! You can do this!"
I don't know what I was expecting him to yell. Maybe "come on, pussy!" or "I can't believe you can't bench the bar!" But there was none of that. Only encouragement.
Later, we went to the curl bars. He handed me a 25-pound weight. Nope. We made it all the way down to the 10s before I was comfortable.
But the next day, I showed up. And the day after that. And on, until, about a month later, I was showing up twice a day, just like Jim. Soon (by which I mean after several months), I was pushing him just as hard as he was pushing me. I was benching 230 pounds, curling 50s with each hand, maxing out the bar on shoulder rolls, and I started looking like ... well, like Jim.
"You're a monster," he would shout in his vaguely northern accent as I was lifting more and more weight, correcting my form as we went. "I created a beast!"
Then, at work, I had to officially discipline Jim's girlfriend. And shit went south. Jim quit showing up for our workouts. And I found that, without a workout partner, I just wasn't motivated, so eventually, I quit. I stayed buff for awhile, but eventually all things go away, and though I still have muscle, it's nothing like it was - and it's covered in a protective layer of fat.
After the girlfriend did him wrong, Jim and I made up, but we never were able to get together again on workouts, largely because of schedules. I was reminded today that Jim introduced me to one of my favorite people, Keith Birdsong, likely the best artist you're ever going to encounter.
Six months ago, Jim died mysteriously - doctors think it was probably a massive heart attack. I had no idea until today. But think of the threads that brought all that together: The copy editor, friends with my then-wife, dating Jim, who was friends with Keith and interested in helping out a noodle-arm guy like me. And then, as those threads unraveled, each of those things going their separate ways until one of them could just completely disappear without the others knowing about it for months.
I'm sad you're gone, Jim. You were rare.
I played around with the Content Management System that runs this site for months, not really making much headway because I couldn't decide which directions I wanted to go for numerous parts of the system.
By the way, a Content Management System (CMS) is simply a fancy way of saying "the way you get content onto your web site."
Traditionally, all of them work the same way: you log into a control panel somewhere and then you click a bunch of links or buttons to get you to the part of the system where you can enter content.
So I decided to do something different:
The image above shows three content creation buttons at the top of my news site's main page, and then at the top of a story that's live on the page, there are two buttons for editing or deleting the story.
I did all that work because I HAD to. The MySQL databases that had been running my news sites since Jesus was a boy were groaning under their own weight, and something had to be done, so I dove in with this system. However, I didn't move EVERYTHING to the new system.
This morning, I awoke to messages and emails that all said the same things: "WTF is wrong with your sites?"
Yesterday, I moved all the sites from an older server to a newer one, and everything was hunky dory, but this morning, the sites had lost the ability to communicate with the MySQL server that still served up the ads on the sites, so there were error messages EVERYWHERE on the sites - and no ads.
So I fixed that problem, and then I thought, "I'm not going to go through that again; it's embarrassing." So I migrated all the ads on all my sites and my franchisees' sites into the new system, with the bonus of simplifying EVERYTHING about them.
Necessity is the mother of invention is how the old saying goes, and I probably could have dickered around for another year trying to get the CMS right on here, but when I NEEDED it done, I got it hammered out in record time, and it's getting to the point where I can release a version of it into the wild. I mean, it's pretty robust: it does static pages (think pages whose content rarely changes), blog pages (like this one), and now ads that are served to the page randomly and securely. If I get a wild hair and do comments, it will be ready for a first release into the wild.
I still have a client waiting for me to finish his stuff, so the comments will have to wait awhile, though. Oh, and taxes. I have taxes to do. I wish someone would program a way to have the government pay ME taxes instead of the other way around.
There is a show on (Netflix? not sure what network - UPDATE: USA Network, home of my favorite "you never heard I loved this show" show, "Burn Notice,") called Raising Hope. Actually, I'm not even sure how I found it. But it truly renews my hope (ha. 'hope.') that there is good writing in the entertainment industry.
Here's the story. A desperately poor guy who lives with his significantly and enduringly dysfunctional family goes out to buy bubblegum-flavored ice cream for his demented great-grandma (played brilliantly by Cloris Leachman), and while he's en route home, a girl being chased by some big brute hops into his creeper van. She lauds him for saving her, calls him a hero and bangs his brains out in the back of the van.
Next morning, a newscast informs him and his family that she's a serial killer who murders boyfriends when they do shit as simple as forgetting her birthday. His mother, the hilariously pragmatic Martha Plimpton, casually knocks the shit out of her with a portable TV. She goes to prison, where it turns out she's pregnant with Jimmy (the desperately poor guy)'s daughter.
So after the state executes her, he inherits the daughter, Hope.
Convoluted premise? Maybe. But the depraved and utterly politically incorrect humor in the rest of the show is just about the funniest shit I've seen on TV in a million years (46 years of which I've been privy to).
I've only seen about half of the first season, but the complete irreverence of this show is such that I'm pretty sure the writers have been scraping my mind for material.
If you love political correctness (and, really, why would you be here otherwise), you'll be happy to know "Raising Hope" is so PC, you'd practically have to be a black, gay, transgender abortionist socialist communist feminism pioneer to get ANY of the jokes. Or maybe not.
Whatever. Watch the show. Because I'm doing my very best to not wake my sleeping wife by guffawing at this amazingly written show right this very minute.
I've been a journalist for [mumble mumble] years, and in that time, I've lost count of the times people have threatened to kill me, burn down my house, key my car, kick my dog and ruin my name.
In the beginning, to be honest, it used to freak me out a little. But after the twenty-first or second time, it just became background noise. It still freaks my wife out, but she's not used to people not liking her.
I grew up in a family where perception was everything. As is the case in most such families, we all declared that we didn't give a shit what people thought of us, but nothing could have been further from the actual truth. It wasn't until I was getting regular death threats that I came to a realization. I don't have to actually give a shit what anyone thinks of me.
It was liberating. And it may seem like a nothing to you, but it was a big deal to me.
One of the businesses I run is a very successful and popular online newspaper. It's more successful than my wildest hopes for it. Another business I run is an online mugshot site, which displays mugs of people who are arrested. And there are people who love me for it. The cops. The cops love the fact that the mugs sites exist. Bondsmen? They love it. Lawyers? Yep, them, too. Loan companies? They say they use the site every day to check up on their customers.
But there is a group of people - mostly those who get arrested, it seems - who loathe me for publishing mugshots. And they accuse me of lining my pockets by exploiting the misfortune of other people, as if I'm going along skid row, taking pictures of homeless people and selling them for millions. I of course earn the bulk of my money from the news operation, not from the mugs operation, but even if that were reversed, it's not like I'm exploiting anyone. In fact, the way I see it, I'm doing a public service.
Drunk driving has nosedived in the communities my sites serve since my sites have gone live. I've heard police and taxi drivers alike tell stories of people desperate to find a sober driver because "I don't want to end up on the mugs site." In many ways, I think it's possible to extrapolate that to say my sites have saved lives. Also, numerous people have said they've discovered sex offenders living near their children. I've found numerous other cases where wanted felons were tracked down and arrested because people were able to identify them by using my sites. But I don't really care whether anyone agrees with the explanations in this paragraph. Because I literally do not have to give a shit whether they like me.
Isn't that a gas?