Aliens Vs. Apparitions


There I was, 11-years-old, brushing my teeth in the bathroom mirror, getting ready for school… and terrified out of my gourd. Toothbrush slowly shaking across my front teeth, back and forth, over and over the same spot as my bulging eyes darted between the open door leading to the dark hallway and the wall behind the shoulders of my reflection, just knowing something evil must be near. I leaned over to spit out some excess toothpaste, taking my eyes off the mirror for only a split second and when I straightened back up, there was my mother standing behind me. Her bed-head hair was twisting in contorted directions, her bloodshot eyes stared blankly at me, and her jaw lay slack from a mid-yawn pause. All in all, the most terrifying, gut-wrenching, thing I had ever seen… that morning. I screamed like I was Macaulay Culkin putting on aftershave. Toothpaste-laced spittle was flying to and fro and my hands flew up in a defensive position across my face, toothbrush bouncing off a wall somewhere, no doubt. I pushed past her and her confused face, knocking her aside as I leapt in one swift motion out of the bathroom, thorough the dark hallway, and into my bedroom where I slipped under my blanket like a poof of smoke and began sobbing uncontrollably.

That’s it!My mothered yelled at me, following my flaming smoke trail into the bedroom. You’re taking those books back today!

You see, the week before my class took its regular excursion to the library so that we could all browse around and read or checkout a book or two to take home. Trying to stir the imagination, I suppose, was the intended goal of the teacher, but her noble intentions did not take in to consideration the twisted little mind of one of her students and the near nervous breakdown it would cause an 11-year-old to have just a few days later.

Two books sitting side by side caught my attention immediately. One was about the evidence that aliens might be visiting our planet from time to time and the other was about the possibility that ghosts may be all around us, all the time. Tons of photos of smokey body shapes and eyes lurking in the background of family photos, or bearded men dressed in civil war era clothing leaning against tress. I took them both home and opened up a little can of crazy on the rest of my family.

The alien book I found very interesting and not at all scary. Little slimy midgets wearing sunglasses hurdling through time and space in flying muscle cars seemed pretty awesome to this little 5th grader. Lifeless corpses who watch you from the shadows with their dead eyes and the power to possibly posses your very soul, all while moaning and spitting blood? That seemed a little less appealing for some reason.

I was incapacitated by abject fear for weeks. Every open window into the night contained flesh rotting corpses hovering and waiting for me to look their way, so they could stare at me with deadpan eye sockets. The mirror became a portal to the netherworld where a turned back could get you a one way ticket to hellish death. Every creak and crack  was a limping, dragging, foot and every breeze a whisper or moan from a tortured soul. I was inconsolable.

I eventually got ahold of the reigns and straightened out, but to this day sometimes I just cannot control the fear once my brain turns something over. I saw the movie “The Ring,” which I understand is laughable to some people, and I couldn’t go to the bathroom or down my hallway by myself for a couple weeks… and I was 26! I mean, the hallway light was a long florescent bulb that flickered on and off! How scary is that? I was living alone with my cat (totally hetero thing to do) and I had to pick him up and take him with me at night whenever I had to go to the back of the house. After all, cats can sense spirits right? Hey, I know all about it, I saw Ghost too. Pathetic.

But when I stop and really think about it, it seems like in this world you generally fall into two categories: you’re terrified of ghosts OR you’re terrified of aliens. I know there is the group that is scared of anything and everything, and then, of course, the “I ain’t a-skeered a nothin!” group which we all know is bullshit posturing, but for the most part I think people would definitely choose one over the other.

My wife lands on the alien paranoia side. Sure she has a healthy respect for possibly ill-intentioned ghosts, but you can hardly let the word “alien” roll off the tongue without igniting a little terror and sending her fingers plunging into her ear canals. La-la-la-la-la I can’t hear you!

In basic training she was woken up in the middle of the night to pull her guard duty shift. She emerged from her tent, rubbing the sleep and exhaustion out of her eyes, only to see three moonlit shapes slowly marching towards her in the dark. They were all holding rifles, of course, and were wearing hooded gas masks as they creeped across the clearing in the woods, towards where she was standing. She was legitimately horrified that they were alien invaders for a moment and almost screamed out… which of course would not have made for a pleasant ending to her military exercise.

What is the difference? Why do I think aliens are cool, but she might need adult diapers if we ever watch “The Fourth Kind?” (Never going to happen) It seems to me that the answer to the question about which you are more fearful of might have to do with a deeper, hardwired, response that you have to fear itself.

Aliens represent an external unknown. Aliens come in and observe you from a distance or they swoop in and steal you away from your own home and place of safety and comfort. They are truly unknowable and foreign. They experiment on you in very inhuman ways and represent something that is beyond anybody’s control.

Ghosts, on the other hand, are very internal and a somewhat known variable. They are basically you, but a different version of you, a possibly evil version of you and others like you. They don’t come from afar, they come from within, and could possibly be sitting next to me as I type this out (… stop saying stuff like that.) They are dead, lifeless, cold, lost souls… and you might become one of them. You know that you could, because if ghosts are evil, you understand that you have that propensity for evil within you right now and you can see it in humanity as a whole.

So which are you? Do you pull the covers up to your eyeballs when you sleep alone at night because you’re afraid someone might come in and take you or because they are already there sitting at the foot of your bed? (stop saying things like that!)

Remember that one time, when the world was going to end?


Monstrous tornadoes ripping cars right off their cinder blocks and out of every front yard in tornado alley, massive tidal waves wiping out entire hippie communes up and down the Western U.S. seaboard, gaping fissures ripping open and swallowing large women and their tiny dogs in the blink of an eye, and heat so intense that even baby seals and drowning polar bears burst into flames.

This may be a slight exaggeration on the picture painted for us by modern doomsday prognosticators, but it isn’t that far off. Unfettered by that pesky little idea about history repeating itself, they continue to press on, spitting in the face of restraint, rational thought, and every other delusional egomaniac that came before them.

One generation after another, after another, after another thinks this is it, this is the time, it’s the end, we’re all going to die… and each time, apparently to their sad surprise, instead of some epic turn of cataclysmic events leading to their noble demise, they stub their toe on a rusty gate and die from infection.

Recent generations have come up with more inventive ways of destroying humanity than just the old standard of God’s terrible wrath smiting evil-doers with one wag of the finger. However, these fun new ways to die are more a reflection of modern man’s circumstances than any real originality or imagination. I don’t want to discount the effectiveness of a good old fashion smiting, Revelations style, it’s just that it’s been done to death. Just know that for a very long time people walked around with their eyes down waiting for God to take a heavenly dump on their heads.

So, with the rise of modern warfare and modern weapons, the 50’s and 60’s saw the emergence of the idea that the world would simply be blown to little bits by atomic or nuclear warheads:

“More coffee dear?”

“Why, yes I think I’ll have some more. Say, do we have anymore shoe polish?”

“Well, I’m sure I saw some on your…”

*flash*

Congratulations, your ass and seat are now one and the rest of you is a black stain on the wall!

Next came acid rain… dun-dun-dun! What other two words could you possibly stick together that would sound any scarier? I mean, it’s acid and it falls from the sky… onto your babies and other valuables apparently. Bravo, instillers of fear and exploiters of paranoia!

Movin’ on up (Jeffersons reference) to the 80’s and 90’s we still have nuclear war hanging over our heads, but now technology is thrown in as a little twist just for fun. Uh oh, we don’t even have to press the button, maybe the computers will do it for us! Wargames, Terminator, Terminator 2, Y2K, and Short Circuit 2 all left people terrified of the possibilities.

Now that people have started to climb off the ledge a little bit, we get hit with a nature bomb. As the vengeful and terrifying God of the past is slowly being replaced by a kinder, friendlier, Earth and the worship of nature itself, the damn planet is pissed and is now going to wipe us out. Well, that’s great. Thanks a lot for the pep talk Al Gore.

If I were a betting man (and I am) I would put my money on things spinning along swimmingly for quite some time.

Keep feeding your dog. Keep clipping your toenails. You’ll be glad you did.

Some spectacular failures of the past: Top 10 Failed Apocalyptic Predictions – Top 10 Lists | Listverse

Top Ten Ways to Squander the Best Years of Your Life


Who doesn’t love a good top ten list? Especially when the list is just sad and self-deprecating. Standing here at age 32, I look back at my teenage years and early twenties and a single tear squeaks out from my cringing eye. I hope everyone finds some humor in the travesty that was my youth:

10. Go straight home after school, do not pass go, do not collect any cool points – Who has any fun doing this? Backpack over both shoulders, hair parted cleanly on the left like a fascist dictator, broad-striped polo, overly snug blue jeans that never knew the touch of the top of my XJ-900 discount high-tops. I silently walked to and from the bus stop, head down, minding my own business everyday. Never hungout too late or forgot to call home. Good God man, do something with yourself!

9. Date a strictly religious girl in high school – Life is too short to spend it trying to breech the walls of godly servitude with the inadequacies of male teenage hormones. My days and nights spent wooing a girl who already had a man in her life. My 15-year-old game with the ladies was no match for The Jesus.

8. Play video games until eye twitches involuntarily – Nothing says “Chick Magnet” or “Life of the Party” like beating Super Mario Bros. 3 in 25 minutes and then taking polaroid pictures of the screen to prove it to all your friends at school the next day. Oh yeah, I did that. Nobody seemed to be as impressed as I thought they would be, which pretty much sums up the extent of most of the accomplishments of my youth.

7. Ferociously consume Doritos and Pepsi like they’re going out of business tomorrow – Combine this one with my video game prowess and you have a formula that can’t help but keep you from getting any action with the ladies. What does Johnny-Football-Hero have that I don’t have? Besides the fact that he is not borderline diabetic, his skin is not pale and blotchy from lack of exposure to the sun, his teeth are white and his fingers aren’t stained orange.

6. Work at a fast food joint/clean toilets in Wal-Mart – As you can see here, I got the privilege of experiencing the intricacies of the entire digestive process first hand. McDonald’s in Wal-Mart, followed by the ascension of my powerful career to stockboy in the Wal-Mart itself. Talk about having your life-force drained on a daily basis. I guess the only upside to this is things have to get better from here, right?

5. Put off getting a car/love masheen – Worst. Decision. Ever. The only means of escape that you have as a young man working a crappy job, living in a crappy apartment in a crappy town. Having a car is your own little piece of freedom and solitude. My advice for any young man/woman? Get in a car and just drive away. See where you end up.

4. Get involved with a married woman – This should seem mind-numbingly obvious… to some. To others, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” I wish I could go back in time and kick my own ass. It wouldn’t matter I suppose. When I was 19 you couldn’t tell me anything. My 19-year-old self would look at me now and try to tell him he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about… what a waste.

3. Have kids before you’re done growing up – Were you forced to grow up too fast after a rocky childhood? Do you work at a fast food restaurant or clean up human feces at Wal-Mart? Are you involved with a married woman? Do you have no car, money, friends, life, or future to speak of? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions then you might have what it takes to be a real moron and compound your problems infinitely!

2. Join the army – Why be miserable at home when you can do it overseas, in a desert, surrounded by people with explosives who hate you! You didn’t really want those eight years of your life from 21-29, did you? What were you going to do anyway? Start your life?

1. Marry a bona fide lunatic – Ah, the discolored and rotting cherry on top of it all. I think the fact that she got drunk before our luxurious Reno wedding should have been at least one small clue. Ya know, in case I missed the paternity and adultery issues from before. Damn, was I an astute young man or what? I spell relief with a D.

Thank God that’s all over. I’m sure my 30’s will go off without a hitch….


Whose Bright Idea Was This?


Featured in the Chico News & Review Aug.5th, 2010

Written by: Rachel Leibrock

The Bright side

Is atheism going mainstream? One local group says yes, presents a new option for nonbelievers

Paul Geisert doesn’t believe in God, but he didn’t exactly want people to hate him for it. And so there he was, in the fall of 2002, contemplating plans to attend a march in Washington, D.C., organized to protest the overarching religious themes of September 11 memorials and tributes. A Sacramento resident since 1985, Geisert wanted to head east to participate in the demonstration but was aghast by the message its name implied. At best, he reasoned, the Godless Americans March on Washington was clueless. At worst, it was downright offensive.

That name, the longtime atheist remembers, left him feeling angry and defensive.

“I just went absolutely ballistic—here the [march organizer] is calling on everyone in the active atheist groups to march on Washington, and they call it ‘godless’—it was just like spitting in everybody’s face,” Geisert explains on a recent afternoon. The way Geisert saw it, the word godless is synonymous with “evil,” and its use was a surefire way to alienate the general public.

“Why would anyone want to call themselves something that was seen as evil? That ‘godless’ part just drove me nuts.’”

So the former science professor sat down and tried to think up a new term—one that was less divisive than godless but more inclusive than atheist.

The idea, he says, was to pick a word that would help public perception of atheists. Much as the term gay has largely replaced homosexual in the mainstream lexicon, Geisert wanted a word that would allow more atheists to feel comfortable being “out” with their viewpoints.

A few weeks later, after brainstorming thousands of ideas, he finally hit upon what he believed to be the perfect word: bright.

Used as a noun instead of an adjective, Geisert’s definition of the word expanded it to include any “person or persons possessing a worldview that is naturalistic”—a person without belief in a deity or so-called “supernatural” elements such as the afterlife or spirits.

The word bright, as he excitedly explained to his wife, Mynga Futrell, could serve as an umbrella term for atheists and agnostics as well as self-described “freethinkers,” rationalists, secular humanists and skeptics

To read the full story click on image above.

The article is actually pretty extensive and continues to go on and discuss how the “bright” movement is picking up steam and joining with the growing atheist community worldwide. They have memberships and meetings and the founder and his wife are very excited about fellow atheists “coming out” and being part of the new movement. They say that their purpose isn’t to divide the people of the world into believers and non-believers, but to dismantle the religious framework of our culture, presumably through enlightened and natural thinking, unbiased by irrational belief systems.

As a self-professed “atheist” my eyebrows were raised in surprised curiosity once I caught the gist of this material from the first few sentences. After reading further, however, I couldn’t keep from cringing multiple times throughout this article. I guess I can understand the desire to package up your entire belief system into one all encompassing phrase or word for easy consumption by the public. However, this smacks of the pot calling the kettle black.

It’s funny that he uses the word “clueless” to define the protestors and then turns around and is oblivious to the flaws of his own creation.

You don’t want to divide people? Oh, just dismantle the cultural framework that is intertwined with everyones religious beliefs? That seems easy enough… as long as you don’t have any beliefs to begin with. Those who do believe might have something divisive to say about it.

You have meetings and memberships? You belong to a group of like-minded people who carry the flag of a belief system that differs from others? Geez, that sounds familiar…

And how pretentious is that name? “Brights?” As in we are enlightened and intellectual free-thinkers, we carry the torch of truth, we are a beacon in the night? I’m sure that really butters up the opposition.

The need to “belong” strikes again! Since you don’t believe in God, aren’t a gang member, lost your Safeway Club Card, and don’t understand how to use Facebook, you have to find some group to hang out with and swap stories about how you have it all figured out. Not good enough to just have a life philosophy, you have to sign up and join the “good” fight.

If this sounds like a rant, I guess you are right. I just don’t like it when people go out and inadvertently give me a bad name. Whether it is being liberal, an atheist, a male, a father, or a Niners fan. This solves nothing. All it does is continue to stir up feelings of ill-will and contempt. It serves only to further divide people and establish battle lines for future skirmishes, the calling card of the religious culture they are aiming to “dismantle.”

Just live your damn life and GET OVER IT. You go to your corner and believe whatever you want and I’ll go to mine, but don’t start forming clubs and handing out membership cards trying to build up some kind of anti-army. That’s what you started out being against in the first place, now you’ve allowed yourself to get sucked into the game and I just have to laugh at the hypocrisy of it all.

I can hear myself think


What I sometimes think about when nobody is talking…

I have recurring dreams about flying. I just spread my arms out and soar into the sky, free from all the bindings and responsibilities of the earthly realm. These dreams are usually followed promptly by dreams about me plummeting to my death in a terrifying free fall as the earth comes rushing back to crush me. I don’t need any dream interpretation skills to figure out what this means.

I have to laugh when I hear people get really perturbed when they hear a celebrity’s view in world matters. These people get all indignant and say things like “What the hell does Bono know about anything? He’s just some dumb singer. Just stick to writin’ crappy songs and let other people worry about things you couldn’t possibly understand, all right pretty boy?!” Well, I don’t know Jimboy, you seem to vocalize your opinions pretty loudly and you have more missing digits than remaining teeth, so let’s hear what Brad Pitt thinks about world hunger for a sec. Maybe other people can also have a shred of insight, even if they are just subhuman celebrities.

I’ll take experience over age any day. Just because you are old doesn’t mean you are wise. A person can live their whole life and experience next to nothing. There is no seniority rule in truth, but the truth of an experience is lost if the person doesn’t have the will for self-reflection.

If you ask me what I think or feel about something and I say “Oh, I don’t really know.” I am lying. I am just subconciously stalling so that my brain can catch up. You didn’t ask me what I “know” about something, or any factual statistical analysis. You asked what I thought or felt about it and the brain never stops thinking or feeling at anytime. There is no off switch. It is hard-wired to prejudge, to make snap decisions as a matter of survival. When I say “I don’t know” it means “Of course I have already formed an opinion on the subject, whether or not I wish to admit it. Even if I appear undecided or neutral, deep down I know what I feel, but I don’t want to sound ignorant or short-sighted.” I think most people feel that way about most things, if they are honest with themselves.

If you truly believe that you don’t care what anyone thinks about you, you’re probably lying to yourself. You are a social animal and you didn’t just unravel millions of years of human evolution that is dependent upon group interaction for survival, just because you listen to indie rock and shop at Hot Topic. You care. Thoreau didn’t fill up reams of paper so that he could read his own thoughts at some later date. It’s usually the people who think themselves the most individualistic and free of any outside influence who have to find someone to tell it to or rush around letting the world know how much they don’t care. What a pathetically selfish world it would be if nobody cared what anyone else thought or felt.

Growing Up


I would imagine that it would seem pretty ludicrous to turn to your 10 year old son or daughter and ask them what qualities and characteristics that they feel they will be looking for in their future spouse. If you were at a friend’s house and they said to their 5th grader…

“Hey, do you think that 15 years from now you will choose a mate who is spontaneous, irreverent, and tons of fun or do you think that maybe you’d like someone more stable and predictable? You know, someone you might be able to count on more to be there when life seems too overwhelming. Given your life experiences so far, what kind of person do you see yourself as being, a decade and a half from now?”

… I’m pretty sure that your brain might cramp up and cease functioning for a moment. Who would put that kind of pressure on a kid so young? Why would anyone try to pry that kind of a decision out of a 10 year old when all they should be worried about is being a kid and figuring out what in the world is going on around them on a daily basis? Well, thankfully I haven’t actually witnessed anything like this first hand, but I’m sure I will someday.

Maybe there are some people who talk to their kids like this, but everyone I know would have quite a problem initiating such an adult conversation with a kid who still wears Spongebob Squarepants tighty-whities. However, nobody seems to have any problem at all asking a 5th grader, or younger, what they want to do in life… what they plan for a possible future career. When you think about it, this second question brings with it almost all the same decisions and problems that the first one did.

With little, to no, life experience you are asking them to conjure up some vague idea of what their future selves will think and feel 10 to 15 years down the road! How could they possibly imagine such a world? I have a hard time doing this myself, especially when I look at how I felt and thought 10 to 15 years in the past. I was a mess and had no idea who I truly was. I will probably look back 15 years from now and laugh at myself again.

All I’m saying is that when I look at my son and daughters, I too wonder about what the future holds for them in a perpetually uncertain world. I may have even asked them what they want to be when they grow-up, but I have to remind myself to ease up sometimes. Just because I am curious, and I worry about bumps in the road, and I want to protect them from harm, doesn’t mean that I need to instill in them any sense of urgency to become adults before they are ready. If I’m nervous and worrisome and trying to arrange and organize every aspect of my life, it doesn’t mean I should sabotage my kids with a Daddy-Bomb of responsibility. There will be plenty of time for them to get hit with that later.

My mother, like everyone else, asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Being a poor kid in an all-american capitalist society, I asked what jobs made the most money. She told me doctors and lawyers, and since viewing people’s insides after horrible machinery mishaps didn’t excite me, I chose the latter. I am obviously not a lawyer, but my mom still loves me I guess.

The funny thing is how many people will sometimes try to hold their kids to what they answered at the age of 10 or 12 to a supposedly and seemingly, harmless question. They ask them the question that they couldn’t possibly wrap their brains around all the aspects of, and then repeatedly bring it up throughout the years to come. Sure, it’s in a very passive way and usually not meant to be a command or order, but it does inadvertently steer a kid in a direction they might not end up going, often to the disappointment of the expectant parent.

Parents. Stop doing this to yourself. If you wait long enough, THEY will tell YOU what they want to be and everyone will be much happier. By the way, I am referring to children who have already gotten passed the toddler dreams of being a policeman, a firefighter, a pretty kitty, a fairy, or a ninja. It’s also funny how nobody takes a kid very seriously when they say they want to be a policeman or a fireman, as if it’s way too cliche to be legitimate. I wonder how people in these professions feel when they hear it from their own children… I guess ninja father/son discussions is a topic for another day…

Loose connections


Cheap wine hangover + early wake up + lots of coffee + delivering mail all day =

I went to the river once on a Monday. Across the river, along the opposite bank, a lemon tree was growing all alone. “You see that lemon tree sitting there all by itself? What the hell is that doing there?” I said. As if the only place a lemon tree belongs is in a field alongside other lemon trees being tended by farmers or something. That is the only place I’ve ever seen them I suppose, or in someone’s yard I guess. It makes me think of how rare it is to see a fruit or vegetable, that is usually farmed, actually in the wild. What’s up with that? You never trip over a melon as you walk down a hiking trail… “What the hell happened to you?” “Oh man, this cantaloupe just came out of nowhere and I just went down like a ton of bricks.” When you hear of how sad everyone is (rightfully so) because there’s only like 8 bengal tigers left in the world (exaggeration) and they are almost all in captivity you say “Aawww, that sucks. There’s only a few tigers left in the wild and pretty soon the only place they’ll be is in a zoo somewhere. How messed up is that?” Well, where the hell have all the wild zucchini’s gone? When was the last time you got caught up in a tangled mess of green beans out on a nature walk?

Generally speaking, as the saying goes, it probably is true that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Unfortunately, those words are usually uttered about 2 milliseconds before a warhead is delivered to some poor sap’s kitchen table via the new hole in his roof. What roof? If you truly believe that it is the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak then the first thing you should probably do is look at yourself and figure out which category you fall under, and then go from there. If you manage to come to a firm conclusion on that one, let me know how you did it.

Don’t get too distraught during those moments when you realize that you don’t have absolute control over every single facet of your life. If you did you’d probably screw it up. Even the oldest of trees is swayed by the gentlest breeze.

Don’t be afraid to allow someone you love to change who you are. Beware if someone you love tells you who you are, or who you should be. Know the difference.

Generally speaking, just about every belief system involves taking some kind of leap of faith, in one form or another. The greater the leap for one person, the more they try to recruit other people to do it with them. It is the greatness of the leap itself that proves the strength of their faith. It’s all circular. You cannot argue with faith, it is a trump card against any and all questions, so don’t bother trying.

Raising a kid is the easiest thing in the world to do. Raising a kid is the hardest thing in the world to do. ‘Nuff said.

Bumper stickers are actually a very funny concept when you think about it. If you have a very strong opinion about something it is not enough to just say it yourself, you want your car to tell the world for you too. I especially love the counter-culture enthusiasts. You know the ones I’m talking about, where the whole back window is covered with them. They usually consist of catchy anti-establishment slogans and cutting social commentary, proving what individuals they are, in case you never get the chance to speak with them face to face. They really just gotta tell you what’s going on. I’m going to make a bumper sticker that says “Don’t Label Me!” so people can plaster it on their rebellious bumpers.

I don’t subscribe to your religion, but you do give me free issues from time to time. I try to recycle as much as I can.