Friday, August 21, 2009

How Doctor Who Changed My Life

It's not what you think.

Yes, I am a Doctor Who fan. Have been ever since I can remember. But it wasn't until the new series premiered that I really started going back and finding those episodes I've never seen. I also started finding Doctor Who podcasts, and the first one I subscribed to was the DWO WhoCast. Back then, it was done by Seb and Paul, and then it was Trevor and Tony, and then it was Trevor and Marty. This is where the life-changing part begins.

Several months ago, (I'm not certain about the exact amount of time), this bloke Marty remarked on the WhoCast that he was on Twitter under the name of BoxRoom if anyone wanted to watch him freak out before a WhoCast. Well, I liked Marty on the WhoCast, but I wasn't about to get involved with Twitter. That was just silly.

Famous last words.

During one boring day at work, I got curious about this Twitter thingie and decided to give it a try. Marty was my first Twitter friend. (Thanks, Marty, for not thinking I was a psycho!) After a little time had passed, he recommended I check out Lost Bearings and the Bearcast. And so I did. And loved them. And wanted more. So Marty recommended the Box Room podcast, and I became acquainted with Jen. This, of course, led me to Lee and The Skoot and Neil and Laura and Jenny and Adam and the other Adam and Mark and Ross and James and...whew! Let's just say my Twitter community has grown.

After having feedback featured on the Box Room, I started sending in feedback with my husband Dave. It was then suggested by both Marty and Jen that perhaps we should do our own podcast. (Probably because they were sick of those ridiculously long MP3 feedbacks.) I hemmed and hawed about it, made the suggestion to Dave, and we put it on the back burner a while as something to ponder.

Yet again the suggestion was made to start our own podcast. And I ran with it. Found a good deal on a great microphone, started thinking about format and subjects, and voila! Dave and I are now the co-hosts of The InsideOutcast (, or available on iTunes). The Box Room podcast also has an online forum at, where we have met even more new friends and have our own discussion thread.

It is difficult to explain how this has been a life-changing experience; suffice it to say, the friends I have made on Twitter have kept me sane in the darkest of work hours, have encouraged me in creative endeavors, and have generally just made me laugh each and every day. Maybe these sound like small things, but they have considerably altered my reality. There are few people locally who think the same way that I do, who like the same kind of things that I like; to find that outlet in the UK (and in other parts of the world) has been a boon to my continuing well-being. I know that Dave feels the same way, now that I have lured him into the world of the Box Room and Twitter. (He can comment on that himself; he finally started his own blog. Not that he's let me read it - he thinks it's bollocks, but I know it can't be.)

So this is how Doctor Who changed my life...the love of the show led me to the WhoCast, which in turn led me to Twitter, which then led me to Marty and all of my wonderful friends all over the world. It wouldn't have been possible without an offhand comment Marty made one fateful day.

Thanks, Doctor Who, the WhoCast, and Marty. I'm fairly certain you'll never truly understand the magnitude of what you've all done for me. You're aces in my book!

Check out FICTS by Neil Gardner and Robert Rankin.
Merchandise now available on Zazzle!* for the UK, or for the U.S. Shirts, mugs, mousepads, greeting cards...get yours now!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Ramble

I don't actually have a specific topic today; I'm just going to ramble on and on about whatever comes to mind.

You all know that Dave and I are starting our own podcast. It became apparent while we were trying to record some feedback for the Box Room podcast that we have too many things to talk about, and not enough of an outlet. Dave has heard it all many times before, so now we're going to unleash on you lot. :) The podcast will be called The InsideOutcast. Dave came up with the name, and I think it's genius. We will definitely be touching on the cultural differences of living in Utah. We'll also ramble on about stuff and things, most of which will be our nerddom. (Just wait until I get on the topic of binoculars in movies and television.) Dave will also pick something to wax philosophical about, as he does have a minor degree in philosophy, and I will likely do a weekly short audio Brandiramble about something. Plus, we've just decided on another feature - Goth, or Not Goth? I think that one is self-explanatory.

It's been an interesting journey, getting this podcast together. Found an opening theme song last night that Dave and I think is perfect for us. I'm not saying what it is - you'll have to listen to the podcast to find out. I'm also learning all the things necessary to get a podcast up and running. Luckily I've had expert advice from those of you who already have podcasts, and thanks to Ross for telling me about Feedburner. Hadn't faced that item on the to-do list yet.

With all that on my mind, I have found it difficult to sleep the past couple of nights. That could also be due to the full moon. Last night, I dreamed about podcasting ALL NIGHT LONG! It was like my brain was on a loop, and even in sleep, I was thinking, "Wait, haven't I done this bit before?" Even the cat wouldn't stay with me; he got tired of my restless legs and sought slumber elsewhere. Finicky.

Or maybe it's the awfulness of work that has messed up my sleep. I'm not even going to talk about the mess that was last Friday. All I know is that I am TIRED and I can't seem to focus on any one thing. Hence, this ramble.

People say you shouldn't wish your life away, but right now, I have no trouble doing that where work is concerned. Every weekday from eight AM to five PM is spent just muddling through until the weekend. Sad, but true. There are those who say, "Follow your bliss!" And to them, I say, "Fuck you!" Because we can't all follow our bliss, can we? We can't all take our biggest interest and turn it into a career, because that's not the world we live in. I get frustrated with the whole "you can do anything you set your mind to" attitude, because it just doesn't work in reality. Unfortunately, what you can and can't do is often the choice of other people. Do I want to work in the office of this small dumpster company? No, I do not. I'd much rather have done creative things with my career, but those things often don't pay the bills. Why does it cost so fucking much just to live!? I'm not saying I shouldn't have goals, but I get tired of these successful people saying "You can do anything" when all they've done is stand on the backs of others to get where they are.

And another thing - driving in Utah sucks. Everyone is always going at least ten miles an hour over the speed limit, and they'd rather die than let you in front of them. They have no courtesy for anyone else, especially if you're trying to merge onto the freeway. And they think red lights and stop signs are for other drivers. No joke - I was almost hit by a jacked-up Ford truck a few weeks ago when he didn't fully change lanes before running a red light. And this light had been red for several seconds. If I hadn't hit the gas and swerved into the median, he would have plowed right into me. Twat. My best friend Taura once said, "If the only traffic law was to be courteous to all other drivers, we wouldn't need any other laws." How true. Courtesy costs nothing. Why can't drivers here have it?

I would take public transportation if I could, but the Utah Department of Transportation is a joke. We just barely got a train last year, and it only runs from Ogden to Salt Lake City. There is a light rail system, but only in downtown Salt Lake City, and I live 40 miles north of there. There are buses, sure, but they keep reducing the schedules and eliminating routes, so you're lucky if a bus comes anywhere near where you need to go. Oh, and most of the buses don't run on Sunday. The train doesn't run on Sunday, either. Damn Mormons.

Well, I've vented my spleen a bit now. (Had a bad commute to work, can you tell?) I will invite you all to tune into The InsideOutcast as soon as it's going. Feedback will always be welcome. Oh, that's another thing, gotta set up a new e-mail address. Better write that down or I'll never remember because I've lost my other list and...oh, never mind. Ramble on, my darlings!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Evolution of My Music

As you've probably figured out by now, I didn't have the most normal upbringing. Looking back, I realized that I missed a lot of the things that every kid does, simply because I had a mother who was still under the thumb of her own mother, and Grandma had very definite ideas about what chilldren were for. She was of the "children should be seen and not heard" era, and also felt that children needed constant chores. Now, I agree kids should have chores, but a seven-year-old girl should not be spending the better part of her summer doing her grandmother's work. My grandmother was the manager of a small apartment building, and my sisters and I were enslaved for hours and hours each week, vacuuming, sweeping, cleaning windows, taking out the garbage, raking the lawn, et cetera. And while I realize now that my grandmother needed some help, I felt like my childhood was spent in a slave labor camp. It's no wonder I was such a serious youth. (I've made up for that in adulthood.)

One of the stranger ideas of my grandmother (other than science fiction being the work of the devil) was that we were not allowed to listen to the music of the era. We made do with stuff from the fifties and before, which I like, but when you know there's something more out there, it's very difficult to be satisfied with what little was sanctioned.

Though my mother does not recall this incident, I remember being about ten years old and listening to popular music on my sister's crap clock-radio. I had the volume quite low, but my mother still heard it and came stomping down the hall to my room. She didn't knock, just threw open the door and told me to turn that garbage off, that it was evil music and Heavenly Father didn't want me to listen to it. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

I missed the entire MTV revolution. Yup, the whole thing. My parents didn't have cable, and though I was familiar with music videos from late night programs such as Friday Night Videos, I never saw any part of MTV until 1992. Sadly, now it's little more than a dumping ground for unwatchable reality shows and videos for music no one cares about. I truly believe that MTV's downfall was The Real World. It all went to hell from that point.

But I digress. What I really want to talk about is my love of music.

I rather think I would die without music. It keeps me level, gets me through the work day. I can't seem to find words to explain why music is so important to me. You know that feeling you get when you hear a song you absolutely love? Yeah. That's what I'm talking about. In recent years, my taste in music has taken a turn down the dark lane, which is partly due to my husband, who has some great (and rather obscure) music that I was not aware of prior to meeting him. Though we don't necessarily like the same things - in fact, when we married, we didn't have a single duplicate CD between us - being exposed to his taste in music changed mine. Up until that point I still listened to pop for the most part. *shudder* But listening to Dave's darker things, I started getting in touch with my inner goth girl (who prefers to be addressed as Audra, High Empress of the Universe). Still, I didn't really fully immerse myself until one fateful day.

I couldn't tell you the exact date; all that I remember is that it was October 2005, and Dave and I were in our local mall, walking past a Hot Topic store. (For those of you who don't know what Hot Topic is, watch the South Park episode "The Ungroundable".) I had been seeing the heartagram in various stores for a while, and decided to find out with what it was associated. So we went into Hot Topic.

The CD demo machine had an album with the heartagram, so I figured I'd give it a listen. The cover art looked great (seen at the top of this blog), but I have low expectations of a lot of American music, and I assumed the art would be the only thing I liked. What I didn't know at the time was that the band, HIM, is Finnish, and this was their recently released fifth album, but the first to debut in the United States.

The first song, Vampire Heart, began, and I thought, "Hey, this is good music. But the vocals will probably suck." And then I heard HIS voice. Ville Valo, the lead singer and songwriter of the band. Oh. MY. GOD! I don't know what exactly it was about him that first grabbed me, but the moment I heard his deep voice, I was hooked. And the words reeled me in. I listened to the next track, and the next, and the next, and I liked them all! I wanted the CD, but in those days, Hot Topic's CDs were priced higher than other media stores, so we made our way out of the mall and went down to what was then Media Play and is now f.y.e. (We just call it fye, but is stands for "for your entertainment".)

The album I'd just heard, Dark Light, was available there at a significantly lower price than Hot Topic. And yet, that wasn't the first album I bought. For some reason, I was drawn to Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights, and so I purchased that one instead.

Over the next few months I completed my collection of HIM albums, and found myself listening to them more and more. In 2007, a sixth album was announced, and I hurried right down to f.y.e. to preorder it. I was extremely excited I was going to have some new HIM! As I was gleefully filling out the preorder form, Dave remarked to the employee helping us that HIM was my favorite band. I had never had a favorite band, so I started to protest, but then I realized it was true! They'd sneaked in and burrowed into right into my heart. That's when I gave up all pretense and really threw myself into the fandom. (I even have a heartagram tattoo.)

I could go on and on, but my point is this - HIM was my gateway band. They opened a door inside me through which many other goth and metal bands could flow. That "if you like that, you might like this" function on spiraled out into a whole new level of musical taste for me. I hadn't really liked metal before, but I realized it was American metal I didn't like (for the most part; there are some exceptions). European metal is the way to go!

Every Friday is HIM day on my iPod. Fridays at work aren't the best, and listening to my HIM playlist keeps me from killing people. :) Misery loves company, maybe? I think the bands on the darker side of things are what really keep me sane. It's as if those people understand that shit happens, and it's okay to be angry or depressed about it. People might argue that this kind of music breeds violence and death, but I vehemently disagree. We always have a choice. Always. It's not the music - it's the person. Just because that person listened to this music, it does not follow that this music caused that person to commit a crime. And yet music is often blamed for atrocities for which it is not responsible!

Whew, I'm getting off topic again. Sorry.

I love music. I love the joy it brings me. I love the dark stuff and the light stuff and everything in between (except country music - I just can't get into that). HIM expanded my horizons, though they'll never know it, but if I ever manage to get closer than fifteen feet to Ville Valo, I'll let him know he changed my life for the better. Though his songs are dark and often sad, they remind me that I'm not alone - we all have demons, and we all deal with them in different ways. He sings, I listen. That's my chosen way.

Now if only they'd get that seventh album out...

Here are the lyrics of the song that brought me into the new world - the very first time I heard HIM. (Not to be confused with the first song I heard in its entirety, which is Salt in Our Wounds.)

Vampire Heart (music and lyrics by Ville Valo)

You can't escape the wrath of my heart

Beating to your funeral song (You're so alone)

All faith is lust for hell regained

And love dust in the hands of shame (Just be brave)

Let me bleed you this song of my heart deformed

And lead you along this path in the dark

Where I belong until I feel your warmth

Hold me like you held on to life

When all fears came alive and entombed me

Love me like you loved the sun

Scorching the blood in my vampire heart

I'll be the thorns in every rose

You've been sent by hope (You'll grow cold)

I am the nightmare waking you up

From the dream of a dream of love (Just like before)

Let me weep you this poem as Heaven's gates close

And paint you my soul, scarred and alone

Waiting for your kiss to take me back home

Hold me like you held on to life

When all fears came alive and entombed me

Love me like you loved the sun

Scorching the blood in my vampire heart

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

To My Childhood Bullies

When I was wee, I was not blessed with immediately apparent physical beauty. My front teeth came in quite skewed, sticking so far out that I couldn't close my upper lip over them. Needless to say, those teeth kicked off the several following years of daily torture from my classmates. Kids are mean, and they mean what they say. But this is not about the retaliation I dreamed of in my younger days.

Nope, this is to thank those bullies. Without those little fuckers, I may never have found the real me, the strong me. The me who doesn't take shit from anyone. (Except from my current boss, because I can't find another suitable job right now, and I AM NOT going to lose my house.)

Did I enjoy being bullied? Of course not. Nobody wakes up in the morning and smiles at the thought of all the dickheads waiting to attack once they get to school. But the teasing and harassment taught me some invaluable lessons that I will now share with you.

1. People who are mean to you are pathetic individuals who often have their own inadequacies and lash out at others to cover it up. This does not excuse their behavior by any means, but I now find myself pitying such people. And avoiding them whenever possible.

2. Life isn’t fair. Good things are going to happen to bad people, and vice-versa. It sucks, but it’s not worthy of controlling your outlook on life.

3. Different is good. I have always, always been different. What I didn't understand at first was that different is MEMORABLE. Of course, back then, I couldn't exactly choose for what I was remembered, but I can choose now, and that's what matters.

4. The most effective way to get rid of a bully is to laugh it off. I remember a boy in middle school who enjoyed harassing me on a daily basis. Once during lunch, he sat down next to me and started the teasing. I looked at him and said, "What do you want?" To which he replied, "I want a kiss." Of course he didn't really want a kiss, he wanted to throw me off balance and embarrass me. "Okay," I laughed, "go ahead." That was the last time he teased me.

5. I don't need to prove a damn thing to anyone but myself. My opinion of myself influences everything I do, say, wear, et cetera, and I can choose how I feel about me. So I'm quirky and nerdy and a drama queen. Like it or lump it, it matters not to me. I like who I am, but I doubt I would have arrived at that level of self-discovery without the bullies causing me to examine who I really am.

6. Mean comments still hurt, no matter how strong I am, but I can choose how to feel about them. It’s really not that difficult anymore to cast it off. Yes, I still dwell a bit in the beginning, but ultimately I choose to let it go, because why should a shithead’s comments have any kind of control over me?

There are always going to be mean people out there. But being bullied as a child certainly helped me prepare for those assholes, and they find it very hard to get the desired reaction out of me with their cutting comments. So thanks, childhood fuckheads, for teaching me how to deal with your ilk - now run along and get your noggin out of your ass. (Or arse, as my British friends would say.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Wild World of Religion

Disclaimer: It is not my intention to show disrespect by not capitalizing certain nouns at all times. I will be showing plenty of disrespect in other ways.

Eddie Izzard said it best in the DVD of his show "Circle":
"Dad, the Mormons are from Mars, we've had that checked."

This, of course, was Jesus talking to God, and wondering why everyone had split up into different groups.

Now, keep in mind that I was born and raised in the LDS (Mormon) religion, so I do have some experience with the subject. And about thirteen years ago, I left it all behind for good.

The first inkling I got that the LDS church was not for me was right around the age of eight. I was not the most - ahem - attractive child, and I endured teasing from many kids at school. What I hadn't expected was that the teasing would also happen within the very walls of "God's house". Even as a child, I wondered how that could be. I grew up with some of the most self-serving, stuck-up, holier-than-thou people that I've ever encountered, all of whom were considered to be righteous and holy. Whatever. People who were actually righteous and holy wouldn't turn a blind eye to the teasing a child received in Sunday School.

I am a live-and-let-live kind of person. I wish organized religion would adapt that way of thinking. Here's my biggest problem with religion, and with Christianity specifically: it is one of the most nefarious tools that has ever existed, created to keep people in line, and to keep their controllers in power. To quote Eddie again,"Blasphemy, blaspheyou, blasphe-everybody-in-the-room..." Let fly the nasty comments!

In the most recent U.S. presidential election, a rumor began that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim. Now, if there really was a separation of church and state, as the Constitution provides, no one would have given a flying fuck. But oh my gods, what a controversy that became! Every news network talked about it ad infinitum, and Obama's opponents even began using the rumor. A completely unsubstantiated rumor, I might add. But these hateful people felt they had to protect the office of the presidency from what they deemed an immoral person. (None of these people obviously had any idea what Islam is really about.)

Every president of this country has been a Christian. Every. One. And up until now, they'd also all been white males. Yeah, a bunch of freedom and equality we have here, don't we?

So let's consider for a moment that Obama actually had been a Muslim. How would this have affected how he managed the Presidency? Well, if he was truly upholding the Constitution, it wouldn't have affected anything. Then why is religion such a big deal with politicians? Beats the hell out of me. My only guess is that it has to do with feeling superior over other people who "don't have the truth". Pfft.

Here is the truth: religion has no place in government or in schools. It is separation of church and state, plain and simple. So get the fuck over it already and quit trying to force your god into my life.

And then there's the Bible.

Think for a moment about the Greek Myths. Today we regard them as fictional stories, but many moons ago they were regarded as truth by the people of the times. It would be ridiculous to think that Zeus is still sitting on Mount Olympus, right? Yet the Bible, a work of fanciful tales that sound every bit as unlikely as the Greek Myths, is taken seriously. Why?

The Bible is widely regarded as the literal Word of God. If that were so, then it wouldn't have been written, compiled, and edited by men. Men in power. Men who got together in a huge tribunal and decided what was going in the Book and what wasn't. And the Word of God wouldn't contradict itself so often, either. (Surely God would have known about the existence of dinosaurs??) And yet this book, and religion in general, controls so much in so many lives.

Do I believe in an all-powerful god who designed us all and has a master plan? Nope, I sure don't. I like Eddie Izzard's theory of the god Chaos, who was just trying to make a flan and the pilot light ignited the Big Bang. If a person believes that their god is doing everything according to a plan, then that god is not only responsible for the good things, but the bad things as well. The faithful never think of that, do they? (In fact, I think one of the best arguments against "intelligent design" is the earwig. *shudder* No decent being in his or her right mind would create that.)

I understand the desire of human beings to want to explain everything, to think they have some sort of control over their universe. Hence, religion. But it seems rather conceited to me to think that a human can know God's mind. People all the time are telling me what God wants of us. Oh, really? And he told you this face to face, did he? Uh-huh. That's what I thought. The god that most people rely on, if those people really thought about it, would scoff at anyone thinking they knew his thoughts. Anyone claiming he or she is doing "God's will" is misguided at best, psychotically delusional at worst. Especially if "God's will" involves hurting other people. (See The Crusades, the Holocaust, the Mormon Massacre, the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict, 9/11, etc.)

I could probably stomach organized religion better if it also wasn't so heavy-handed about sin. Apparently anything fun or that feels good is a sin. In the Mormon religion, the most sin-free people get married in an LDS temple, a place that only "worthy" people can go. So no having sex before marriage! I can't begin to imagine how many LDS women have unsatisfactory sex lives because they didn't test drive the car before buying. Sexual compatibility is of major importance in a marriage! I feel rather sorry for those women, because we know the men certainly aren't suffering. (You men have it so easy when it comes to orgasms.)

Personally, I don't see the big deal about sex before marriage. Nor do I see the big deal with living together before getting married, or not getting married at all. The LDS religion is very stringent about these things. Needless to say, I'll never be going to any of their temples. Why would I want to, though? Why would I have married in a place where not all those I love are welcome?

Sometimes faith can be utterly disastrous. When my father was diagnosed with cancer in October of 2004, he had many "priesthood blessings" given to him by members of their bishopric. Their bishop said in these blessings that my father would recover and have many more years upon this earth. He passed away in April of 2005. My mother was completely unprepared and utterly devastated. I, however, knew he wasn't going to survive much longer, and was not surprised at his passing. So many people came up to us at the funeral and said how shocking it was that he'd gone so quickly. Not really. Anyone with half a brain and eyes unclouded by false statements by religious leaders would have seen my father was dying, and quickly. Shit happens, and the explanation is that there is no explanation. Shit happens.

I feel I've only barely scratched the surface of this subject, because my problems with religion are so vast. I only touched on its role in U.S. politics, and said role is so much more vast than the attention I gave it. I probably have enough material that I could write a short book on the subject of religion in politics alone. But, seeing as how I don't have the patience to be angry for the amount of time it would take to write that book, I will simply leave it here in my rambles. Religion should be about peace, love, and working together. Instead it's a contest of "My god is better than your god".

I want no part of it, thank you very much.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

On Being American

Well, here it is. I've joined the blogging nation. I want to say first that if you are one of my LDS friends or family, please stop reading this now, as you are likely to be offended by the possible adult language and/or content. I don't want any comments or e-mails from you objecting to this blog, since I DID warn you beforehand.

Some people may have gotten the notion that I am not happy to be an citizen of the United States of America. This is most emphatically not true; I realize that I am lucky to live where I do, and that there are billions of people in the world who would kill to have my hum-drum little life. However, this does not mean that I am blindly patriotic and think my country can do no wrong. This country has flaws. Big flaws. The problem is, anyone who brings up those flaws is immediately labeled "un-American" and conservatives* start shouting about oppression.

Now wait just a damn minute!

According to our famed constitution, I have the right to say and do what I want, without fear of recrimination, as long as I stay within the context of the laws of the land. At least, that's the way it's supposed to be. I think we, as a nation, have a long way to go before that's truly reality. Freedom does not mean freedom just for the things YOU like. It means freedom for all, whether or not you like or agree with what other people are doing. I don't understand why this is such a difficult concept to grasp! There is so much hatred here between conservatives and liberals. AIG collapses under the weight of its own greed and stupidity, and Bush gives them a bailout. Obama gets into office and continues in that vein with the banking industry, and suddenly people cry foul, conservatives and liberals alike. (But mostly conservatives.)

Actually, I think they like crying socialism more. As if it's a dirty word.

Americans are generally very stubborn and once a concept is fixed in our minds, it's difficult to change. Countries with corrupt leaders claimed they were socialist (or communist), then abused and used their own people. So naturally socialism and communism are evil, right?

I remember in my childhood years in the LDS church (which I have since left), a lesson about charity and taking care of your neighbors. The gist of it was that in the ultimate society, everyone would be provided for, we'd all pitch in on all the work, and everyone would share the fruits of our labor. Hmm. Sounds...well, kind of like communism AND socialism to me.

I don't claim to know a lot about socialism, but I know it has worked well for many nations across the world. Somebody, however, put it into the collective American consciousness that if we, say, socialized health care, we'd have to wait hours to see a doctor and wouldn't get the best care possible. Hell, I ALREADY have to wait hours to see my doctor, even with an appointment! PLUS I have to take unpaid time off for my appointment, then pay for the privilege of seeing the doctor! And I've been misdiagnosed more than once! HOW THE FUCK IS THAT BETTER??

I've gone a bit off track with my initial idea here, but hey, this isn't called Brandirambles for nothing.

America needs to get over itself and find some humility and compassion. There are far too many people in this country who are homeless, jobless, ill, and hungry, and that is unacceptable to me. The cry of "WE'RE NUMBER ONE!" means nothing when I know that millions of our citizens go to bed with empty stomachs every night. We have no right to proclaim ourselves a moral or ethical authority; we can't even fix our own problems! I seem to remember a passage from the Bible about someone not being able to see the mote in his own eye. (Yes, you too can use the Bible for your own nefarious purposes!) Well, my friends, we have motes in our eyes. And if we want to be the nation that we believe we are, we need to re-think things that many of us have never questioned. I love this country, and we have the potential to be a truly great nation if we could all pull together and stop yelling at each other. A house divided cannot stand, or something like that.

So please, America, just calm down and take a breath. This is not a contest with the rest of the world. I want us to be respected, so let's really look at ourselves and ask how we can make our nation a better place to live. Because as we all know, nothing is perfect and there is always room for improvement.

Just like there's always room for dessert.

*Disclaimer: I am neither Democrat or Republican, nor am I affiliated with any other organized political party.