Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Hurricane Sandy came and went, bringing with it destructive gusts, massive storm surges and a catastrophic doomsday screwing for the Northeast.

This was one of the worst hurricamnes on record to strike the New Jersey coast, causing untold damage and sending millions of lives into a deathspiral of total fuckitude.

Sandy made me homeless.

This she-bitch of the sky rained down a devastating blow to my tiny burgh by the ocean, eroding the beaches, flooding the streets and pissing on our parade. Beachfront houses clogged with sand, roadways choked with debris, and widespread power outages, plunging the city in the dark.

We Northeasterners aren't used to hurricanes. To us, hurricanes happen down in Florida and South Carolina, not New Jersey. We don't know where to begin dealing with the chaotic aftermath of such a storm.

And yet, as I walk these debris-strewn streets, pondering how this could have happened, the hurricane was real. A mighty hurricane did strike my town.

A mandatory evacuation was issued for Oct. 29, and anyone with a brain got out of Dodge. Those hearty few who remained faced no electricity, flooding and gale force winds. For 36 hours. Yeah, that soiunds like an enchanting evening.

To the ones like me who left, we watched the storm unfold on television, as every Philadelphia news reporter donned their L.L. Bean windbreakers and stood on the beach, bombarded by sheets of rain. If there's a mega-storm with the potential of abundant damage and misery, you can bet TV news will be all over that shit like Roman Polanski at a sweet 16 party.

The problem with these plastic people standing in the rain and reporting about overturned trees, shattered homes and flooding, is it's endless. To satiate the growing appetite for gloom and sadness, TV media's disastrer coverage seems gratuitous. It's grief porn, served up with images of wrecked neighborhoods, torrential downpours and grim-faced douchebags sloshing through hip-deep water.

And they play this over and over and over .

For many hours. Until you want to scream like a berzerker.

After seeing two days of apocalyptic storm footage and buildings that made Hiroshima after the atomic bomb look like a Midwestern planned suburban development, I headed down the shore to survey nature's wrath.

Police guarded the bridge leading into the island. The state restricted entry onto the barrier island, yet all I did was showed my identification and I was allowed to pass. What greeted me on the other side of the bridge was a town pulling its shit together after a rough night, like a woman straightening herself out after a particularly raucous and drunken date.
Except Sandy fucked the city hard, like a nuclear powered vibrator of ultimate doom.
My apartment got a foot of water inside it. The telltale signs of flooding showed; the high-water mark of grit and mucky silt from the bay washed on the door, revealing the water's depth. Once inside, I noted the awful fish smell permeating the apartment. The rugs were soaked. My DVDs stored on the bottom shelf of the entertainment center suffered damage, so did some books in my study. Water trickled down the wall of my study onto the desk. Sand and dirt were everywhere on the kitchen and living room floors. I opened the windows, mopped the kitchen floor and threw away food in the refrigerator. because when you have no electricity and the refrigerator hasn't worked for three days, that sauerbraten you got at Oktoberfest smells like patient zero at a leper colony.

The damage wasn't as bad as I anticipated, and for that, I'm grateful. I dodged a bullet here, and came out with drenched rugs, possessions and electrical sockets.

The landlord will see to it the rugs are replaced and the apartment is habitable ,but that'll take time. I've been living out of my suitcase for five days, hunkering down at my parent's place miles away. With a crappy commute in my future, a house filled with water damage and soggy DVDs and books, I'm very fortunate.

It could've been far worse. The Jersey coast is now the 9th Circle of Hell, a jumbled, wrecked and battered place wrought with miserable people digging out from the worst storm in recent memory.

A visit from Gov. Chris Christie and President Barack Obama lifted our spirits today, because these tow political titans are working together. Both men are wise enough to place partisan politics aside and unite efforts to assist the people in their time of need.

Our once quaint shore town is beaten, but we're not down. We're stubborn and tenacious. We don't quit.

Though challenges are imminent in my future, I've got to remain focused on the clean-up. I'm determined enough to deal with this setback in a calm, rational manner and plough ahead.

It's like I'm driving along life's highway and I hit a pothole. And a deer. And a Winebego filled with explosives. After the eventual mishap I yank myself up by my bootstraps, remove the splattered blood from my lapel and continue on, this time faster and with more resolve.

Like Christie and Obama proved with their collaborative efforts, we're all in this together.

Oh, and fuck Hurricane Sandy in her wet subtropical eye.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Anyone Say Anything Stupid About Rape?

For Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, the shit hit the fan when he defended his stance on abortion, that quirky, delightful issue that causes grown people to flail their arms wildly, gaze skyward and invoke Jesus’ name, or, depending where you are, produce poster-sized images of bloody, mangled fetuses.

Mourdock, at a debate on Oct. 23, explained why he opposes abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest. He said “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in the horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Mourdock later said his comment was taken out of context; “I said life is precious. I believe life is precious. I believe rape is a brutal act. It is something that I abhor. That anyone could come away with any meaning other than what I just said is regrettable, and for that I apologize.”

So in other words, Mourdock hates rape, but if a women is raped, it’s all part of God’s twisted divine plan?

The comments are just one example of what liberal pundits and overtly-dramatic types are calling the GOP’s “War on Women,” although I prefer the more striking moniker “Gynopocalypse.”

So what do these dorks in suits and neckties have to say about rape, and why? Why is rape the latest platter in the 24-hour news buffet?

 Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, who opposes abortion, even in cases of rape, ignited this powder keg when he said in August that pregnancies from rape were “really rare”. Akin said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something; I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Vice Presidential candidate, Congressman Paul Ryan, sponsored the proposed “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, which qualifies victims of “forcible rape” for federal funding for abortions.
Isn’t the definition of rape forcible? It’s not exactly something you ease into.

Republican men seem to be commenting more and more on rape, and each puzzling, ear-bleeding, cringe-inducing quote is worse than the next. Either they are totally clueless regarding anatomy, physiology or how vaginas work, or they’re trying to piss off every woman on the planet.

Consider Idaho state Senator Chuck Winder’s comment in March: “I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.”

Or former Senator and shit splooge Rick Santorum’s January statement: “I think the right approach is to accept this horrible created – in the sense of rape – but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept that God has given to you…rape victims should make the best of a bad situation.”

Cheer up, ladies! Robbing your human dignity, self worth and violating your bodies and souls isn’t all bad! You’re knocked up now!

Incidentally, Santorum was the only one of these guys to actually take home dead baby from the hospital and show it to his kids. I know it was a way for him to deal with such a tragic loss, but, ew, that’s pretty fucking macabre.

But the worst quote, the one which makes the rest of these frat boy misogynists look chivalrous and couth, comes from former Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams: “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.”

This callous disregard for women and the insensitivity they’ve shown regarding the most heinous act of rape makes me wonder if there’s something else at work here, under the surface.

No empathy or remorse is a sign of a sociopath. The way some of these candidates are talking, you’d think they view women as trundling womb sockets for wee-wees instead of complete human beings.

It also makes me wonder if rape is the only way these Republicans have sex. Drink a few beers, bitch about how that uncircumcised Muslim Negroid in the White House is crapping on the constitution and their blood boils into a furious, frenzied rage before they take it out on the date they arranged on Craigslist.

Don’t these guys know every time they speak into a live microphone, the world is listening? We scrutinize politicians more than ever, ad nauseam, it seems.

Yet they want to have some good-natured back-slappin’ and joshing about rape and women’s anatomy and God’s will. 

The scary part is many of these Christians aren’t asking “What Would Jesus Do”, but taking their cues from the Old Testament, where God cheered on rape. Not once or twice, but several times.
Here are citations in the Bible where God approves rape, pillage and murder: Numbers 31:7-18, Deuteronomy 20:10-14, Deuteronomy 21:10-14, Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Deuteronomy 22:23-24, Judges 5:30, Judges 21:10-24, Zechariah 14:1-2.

For politicians and political wanna-bes to bring religion into this is unconscionable and a cop-out. It’s almost as if they’re justifying the crime of rape, as if God’s invisible hand guides the rapist to bring misery upon the woman. It’s a sick, demented scenario no rational person would endorse.

But why is it happening? Because saying a woman can’t get an abortion after she’s been violated kinda makes you look like a dick. It makes voters wonder does this guy have a wife or daughters and how do they feel about it?

When you have men making laws for women without the participation of women, that’s beyond draconian. It reeks of exclusion and is just awful policy.

Maybe these guys should be forced to tour rape shelters and listen to women who’ve been raped. Maybe sit in on a group therapy session to get the full effect of rape’s psychological scars.

It’s the Republican wet dream to overturn Roe v. Wade. They’ve been plotting it for years, like the Rapture.

For every politician who wants a rape victim to carry her pregnancy to term, I think an equal treatment should be meted out on the politicians themselves, so they can experience the gut-wrenching horror of rape and it’s so-called “God-given gift of life”.

The politicians themselves should be raped, and not by a dominatrix with a strap-on. Not whimsical finger-up-the-pooper assplay. No, they should be set upon by hardcore prisoners, tattooed lifers who’d love to get their hands on frightened old white men from the rural Midwest. After an hour-long butt-pounding in the prison showers, where they’re each passed around like a joint in a college dorm room, these self-righteous women-bashers will see the light.

Maybe then they wouldn’t be so keen to philosophize on women’s issues and embarrass themselves.

Here’s hoping.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Asshole Town

Today while covering a ward meeting (which, incidentally, is about as much fun as having fire ants shoved in your urethra), one ornery old man singled me out and referred to me as a "partial newspaper person".

I might be a partial newspaper person, but he is a complete asshole.

Seriously, what's this need to publicly vent your dissatisfaction for the press when the press is sitting right in front of you? What about a curtly-worded letter sent to the newspaper's offices, a brusque phone call or an e-mail...forget about e-mail. Most people over 60 can't operate computers. Better stick to pony express, then, WIlfred Brimley.

I've known this particular grizzled prospector of a human, this furry-cheeked Methuselah, for a few years. He always attends council meetings and speaks, with a gravelly voice reminding one of a multi-decade long nicotine habit. You can imagine him belting scotch before belting the waitress. he's the old school kind of guy who felt most comfortable in a La-Z-Boy recliner watching Bill O'Reilly and cursing at the "Jew media elite".

In other words, he's an asshole.

This is the same geezer who jokingly referred to me as "Mr. Front Page" because my newspaper stories fill most of the front page.

His witticisms hath slain me.

Apparently, this guy has an enormous chip on his shoulder and doesn't get along with people.

He's a petulant old grouch, hence, his deriding me as a "partial newspaper person" wasn't unexpected.

To set the record straight for Grandpa Munster, I've been doing this journalism schtick for 19 years in Cape May County (come for the beaches, stay for the plutocratic oligarchy). I have written for four area newspapers. Before that, I interned at a newspaper in Massachusetts. In college, I majored in journalism. In my long (almost unbearably long) career in the coastal wilds of southern New Jersey, I've won six awards from the New Jersey Press Association. I received a journalism fellowship, and was tasked to write editorials for the newspaper by the editor himself.

I dare characterize that as "partial" anything.

In my entire profession, I've labored to retain a creed and a trust of neutrality, of presenting both sides of the story and delving deeper. Sometimes I succeed in mission, while other times I fall short.

Regardless of how the stories manifest themselves, how the interviews go and whether I secure the right documents, the story always comes out.

Reporters have to grab multitudes of information, synthesize said information in our addled caffeinated brains, and organize the information into readable, digestible text.

Writing isn't easy; it's a time-consuming, grueling and unforgiving mistress with black leather stiletto heels digging into your frontal cortex, grinding the words out of you.

I do this job because I enjoy a good political scrum, tete-a-tete conversations with people from varied professions and a chance to write for publication. It's not a novel, but it's got my name on it.

Mostly, it's something I excel at and have familiarity with.

I don't claim to be a journalistic maven or virtuoso wordsmith, but I can write during a deadline. That's a valuable skill, writing in a crunch.

In this conservative city, journalism is viewed with a jaundiced, bloodshot eye and and reporters are merrily scoffed at, except for ones with connections to the real estate industry.

They're viewed as "serious journalists" and not "partial newspaper people."

No matter how many words you write in a feeble attempt to explain or enlighten, someone will inevitably turn that shotgun against you and blast a hole through your gut. They are greedy, ignorant men with money who persuade their creepy friends that anyone adopting a different viewpoint should be shunned or ridiculed.

Problems plague this delightful city by the sea, yet I can't fix assholes. There are several assholes in this city, embittered, raving men who deride anyone who makes them feel inferior. They get a jolly kick out of chastising reporters, not because of who we are, but because of what we do.

To them, the profession defines the personal character.

They have the luxury of sitting on their Depends-sheathed asses and complaining about the sorry state of the community, and point to the media and blame us for the town's shortcomings. Like I'm staying up nights flooding the roads and causing beach erosion.

What other explanation could it be for this guy to speak pejoratively of me in a room full of people?
Was it to shame me, to make me see the error of my ways and repent, to abandon a life of writing in favor of a career in chartered accountancy?

Or was it because he was just an asshole, lobbing stones at the class nerd?

He's not alone, because this city takes pride in its assholes. Influential people with money and power, vie for control, forge alliances and push through their own greedy agendas. It's like "Game of Thrones" without the nudity and the dwarf.

I don't know what causes this peculiar affliction. Perhaps you get up one day and instead of greeting the world with a carefree smile and spring in your step, you guzzle your prune juice and yell at a reporter.

Thing is, people here like me. Not all of the country club fuckers, but some of them. My reputation countywide is fairly positive. People with the county government, political and civic groups know I give them a fair shake. They've complimented me on my articles and even-handedness in reporting.
I might falter, but I climb right back up on the horse and spur the nag in its gizzards before galloping on.

My quest is to inform the people here, to give them balanced, accurate information.

I'm trying to make this a better place.

Newspapers create an organic, ever-changing dialog between citizens. It's healthy, it's needed and it's what the Constitution protects.

But I can only do so much.

Some days, you feel good about writing stories under deadline and producing a graphically-pleasing newspaper with a variety of articles, and other days a decrepit old fart coldcocks your ego.

Forget about it, Jake. It's Asshole Town.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Santiaga for Senate

Colleen Lachowicz plays the popular online fantasy game World of Warcraft, where she assumes the guise of an orc rouge assassin named “Santiaga”.

Nothing wrong with that, as millions of Americans play WoW and battle monsters in an online pixilated realm.

Lachowicz is also a Democratic State Senate candidate in Waterville, Maine, and her opponent, State Senator Tom Martin, believes playing fantasy roleplaying games disqualifies one from elected office.

So much so that the Maine GOP gathered Lachowicz’s online comments and put them in a blog.

Most of these comments are many years old and casually refer to stabbing online foes and real-world politics and characterizes the GOP as "selfish". 

Yet the stabbing references make the GOP go apeshit.

Before I go any further, I must confess I’ve never played WoW, or any MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) before. I primarily design and play pen and paper RPGs (Role-Playing Games) and have for many years. Reality Blurs, a game company in Memphis, Tenn., published my game, Ravaged Earth, in 2008. The second revised edition of Ravaged Earth will be released in the next few months. The closest I’ve come to playing WoW is Skyrim, a sprawling, epic fantasy adventure from Bethesda Softworks. Even though I don’t reside in Maine or know anything about Lachowicz’s campaign or where she stands on the issues, I’ll venture to say we both enjoy gaming.

Gamers, regardless of their political leanings, should unite and stand up for each other.

The Maine GOP prepared a mailer showing a photo of Lachowicz and her online doppelganger, the green-skinned, mohawked orc.

“Colleen Lachowicz spends hundreds of hours playing in her online world Azeroth, as an orc assassination (sic) rogue named Santiaga.”

Seriously? You can’t even get the character class “assassin” right?

“What’s worse, in Colleen’s World she gets away with crude, vicious and violent online comments”, the mailer continues.

What? On a private online server between fellow gamers, she can let her hair down, relax and vent?

It almost makes you wonder if the intended demographic for this mailer includes little blue-haired elderly dowagers with fainting couches.

So what are these scandalous comments which doth maketh baby Jesus cry?

“I love poisoning and stabbing! It is fun. I never thought I would love it so much either. I did not start out WoW with a rougue…” Lachowicz wrote Feb. 11, 2010.

“I used EJ to re-spec my rogue (the lovely and talented orc rogue Santiaga here. Thank you for noticing my totally hot purple Mohawk!) I got heavier into the assassination tree for more mutilate skill. I did lose some speed and ability in stealth as a result, to my dismay. But my dps (Deaths Per Second) increased quite a bit…” she wrote June 11, 2009.

“I play a rogue…I like to stab things and I’m originally from NJ…what’s your fucking point?! lol” she wrote Feb. 11, 2010.

I’m from New Jersey, too and I attest we don’t fuck around.

“Oh…and I can kill stuff without going to jail. There are some days when this is more necessary than others,” she wrote on Dec. 17, 2009.

“That is the joy of the VM [Vagina Monologues] traditional or trans! Yelling “CUNT” onstage always cracks me up.” She wrote Nov. 12, 2009.

Wait, what?

What does her quote about the Vagina Monologues have to do with online fantasy roleplaying? Oh, I get it. It’s because she used the pejorative word “cunt”, one of the foulest words in the English language, and if you don’t believe me, call a woman this and see what happens. I guess this quote was selected to make Lachowicz seem like a Tourettes-addled potty-mouth.

You know how Republicans hate using obscene words in public. In private, it’s a whole other matter.

So how does the ad consolidate its message?

“We need a Senator who lives in OUR world, not Colleen’s World. Vote NO on Colleen Lachowicz.”

What this attack ad tries to accomplish is portray Colleen Lachowicz as a lazy, deluded woman-child wholly divorced from reality. It tries (unsuccessfully) to paint her as someone who prefers enacting violent fantasies in an imaginary place, and a videogame, of all things.

Delusional, fanciful, and pitiful, Lachowicz should be ignored because she’s not a member of “our” world, of the “real world”, where she’s running for political office, according to the Maine GOP.

There’s a certain segment of the population, older, more conservative and curmudgeonly, who will never understand the concept of RPGs and online gaming. To them, it’s just a child’s toy, a pastime for geeks, dweebs and dorks too socially awkward and uncoordinated to man-up and play sports.

It’s the old high school rivalry of jocks versus nerds. It’s the same level of bullying and cajoling you see in 17-year olds confronted with something they don’t understand, so by ridiculing it, they gain instantaneous satisfaction.

WoW is a hobby. It’s a way for Lachowicz and others to unwind.

When imagination is frowned upon with a condescending eye, what’s that say about us as a culture?

Gamers transcend political party, race, economic and social barriers. They are a zany yet intelligent bunch who love being entertained and socializing with each other.

A political flap over Dungeons & Dragons surfaced in 2008 when then-Republican candidate Senator John McCain’s staffer Michael Goldfarb wrote, “It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman’s memory of war from the comfort of mom’s basement.”

Translation: “Shut up, nerds! Let the grown-ups take control for once!”

Viewed through the conventional lens, games like WoW and D&D are strange, weird and bizarre, and so are the players. The geeks who attend conventions dressed as anime or Nintendo characters or wear chainmail bikinis or…actually, the chainmail bikinis are pretty cool.

Until the media portrays geek culture and gaming culture with dignity and realism, we're just going to be labeled as pariahs and annoying stereotypes.

So how batshit loopy is Colleen Lachowicz? If she’s a hardcore gamer, she’s got to be a slob with a sub-par IQ who works part-time at Kinko’s, right?

According to her website, Lachowicz graduated with college and spent a year in Eastern Europe providing counseling services to international students before attending graduate school at Boston College for a Masters in Social Work. She worked at Kennebec Behavioral Health since 1997 and was the Program Director of School-Based Services since 2005. She’s a wife and stepmom and has been working since she was 15 years old.

From reading her website, she seems like a down-to-earth, nurturing person, one bereft of pretenses and snobbery.

But somehow because she plays WoW, she shouldn’t be taken seriously as a candidate and dwells in a fantasy world?

Let’s talk violence, because that seems to be a major concern with the Maine GOP’s criticisms. Lachowicz’s comments indicated she enjoys stabbing and killing in the game.

Yes, combat and violence are a part of MMORPGs and RPGs. Fighting enemies, taking their loot and upgrading weapons is standard.

What about a hunter who, as part of his hobby, goes into the woods with a rifle or shotgun and shoots a deer in the face or stabs a peasant in the gut? A sportsman can kill animals in the real world and be celebrated, but someone killing things in an imaginary online world is a psychopath?

Not that I’m against hunting, or firearms ownership, but if you’re implying someone’s dangerous because they say they like stabbing targets in an online universe, while hunters kill real animals and nobody blinks, it’s a little disingenuous.

Also, this notion that assuming another persona is somehow creepy and unsettling should be put into context, especially with the popularity of Civil War reenactments. So portraying an orc rogue in a computer game is weird, but actually dressing up in 19th century military gear and fighting the Battle of Gettysburg is normal? Camping out, marching and eating hardtack while cleaning your scattergun is completely acceptable, but the nerds at the Renaissance Fair in leggings and ruffled shirts are just freaks.

Fantasy versus reality.

What world are you living in?

Remember Rich Iott, the Republican who ran for Congress in 2010? Iott was known for dressing as a Nazi in World War II reenactments. Say what you will about Lachowicz and her kooky green orc, but she never donned a Waffen SS uniform and pretended to be the very epitome of evil.

Yet not all people who participate in historical reenactments are reactionary throwbacks longing to re-live past conflicts, but then again, not everyone who plays computer games are dangerous, nutty loners.

The problem with such an attack against a woman and her WoW hobby is it’s desperate.

Attacking a candidate on their positions, their records and proposals is fair game. Yet the game the Maine GOP wants to play is dirty. It’s the worst kind of mud-slinging, the implication that someone in mentally unbalanced because they enjoy RPGs and MMORPGs.

Lachowicz’s orc character is level 85, according to the Maine GOP. That takes dedication and skill, but in the jaundiced eyes of non-gaming haters and scoffers, it means she’s lazy. Out of touch. An overgrown child.

Yet it’s the Maine GOP who are acting like children for pointing this out in the first place.

WoW is Lachowicz’s hobby, and a very benign and harmless one.

When a state political party savages a woman because of her online postings in a game forum and doesn’t use the opportunity to discuss policy, the voters ultimately lose. This lack of substance and rise of superficiality in political discourse frankly disgusts me. This is what’s important to us? Someone’s online fantasy character?

The real difference between the two candidates in this race is simple; one candidate has a childlike enthusiasm for living in a fantasy world of barbarians, monsters and mythology, and the other candidate has a World of Warcraft account.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Other Human Living With Me

It's been over three months since my girlfriend moved in with me. I consider myself a solitary hermit, a true lone wolf, unshakable in the face of relationships.

Being a total pariah and outcast, I grew painfully accustomed to living alone.

Before my girlfriend moved in, if you opened my refrigerator, you'd confront a box of Chinese food, plastic water bottles and a nondescript brown lumpy thing with a sheen of green fuzz that used to be a casserole. Or maybe a piece of fruit.

The laundry hamper smelled like a stinky tropical rainforest. It reeked so bad, and flies who landed on it immediately started gagging from the stench.

All of those miserable trappings of a single male dissipated rapidly when She moved in.

I'm in a comfortable, healthy place now. She makes sure of it.