Thursday, June 27, 2013

Adventures in Larryland

Early this morning, around 3 a.m., I sat in front of my laptop and downloaded a video game. This was no ordinary hack and slash or explosion-laden shooter. The game's protagonist is a 40-year old virgin named Larry Laffer and his only weapon is his rampant libido and penchant for striking out with the ladies.

The game, Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded, is the latest offering from Replay Games and N-Fusion Interactive. A tribute to the halcyon days of point-and-click graphical adventure games, LSL Reloaded was made possible through a successful crowd funding effort on Kickstarter last spring. It took one year  for the developers to go from a rough demo and concept sketches to one hell of a game.

Back in 1987, Leisure Suit Larry was one of my favorite computer games. Larry Laffer is a leisure suited lothario who arrives in the gambling and vice mecca of Lost Wages for one bawdy night of gambling, drinking and chatting up women. Larry's goal is to score with the woman of his dreams. The snag: he's an uncool dolt who fancies himself a Casanova. Despite his posturing, the lovable loser is an Everyman the players can root for.

He shoots! He scores! Larry's a disco douche, but the ladies love his moves. 
When the game's creator, Al Lowe, pleaded for funding for the Kickstarter campaign last year, I jumped at the chance to support it. Now, over a year later, Replay Games and N-Fusion Interaction released the game to backers. I completed the adventure in a matter of hours for the purpose of writing this blog entry. I'll return to Lost Wages later to savor and explore every cranny and orifice, just to make Larry proud.

Replay Games released Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded at midnight Pacific time. That meant for those die-hard Larry fans on the East coast, the game went live at 3 a.m. I went to Replay's website, entered my special key expressly for Kickstarter backers, and began downloading the game to my Mac. A few minutes later I was immersed in Larry's world of Lost Wages, seedy bars and dodgy characters.

The final product is a spectacular journey into familiar territory for fans of the original Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. Slicker hand-drawn graphics, superb soundtrack by composer Austin Wintory, fresh puzzles, hilarious dialogue and a new girl - Jasmine, an Asian whale trainer - make this version a must-have. The original voice of Larry, Jan Rabson, returns with his usual brilliance. Hearing Rabson deliver Larry's signature introduction, "Hey, baby. My name is Larry; Larry Laffer" reminds fans just how that voice brings the nebbishy would-be playboy to life. Brad Venable is the cheeky narrator, adding snarky commentary on everything and everyone Larry interacts with.

Back at Lefty's. It's like Cheers, but sleazier, and nobody knows your name. 
Some of the puzzles have been rewritten, but the basic plot is still present. Left's bar still holds a drunk, secret back room and hooker, but making things happen involves different puzzles instead of the ones from the original game. There's also a plaque in Lefty's dedicated to the Larry Kickstarter 69'ers, those Kickstarter backers who pledged an additional 69 cents. I'm listed on the plaque, and it left me gobsmacked seeing my name in one of my favorite adventure game franchises. Thanks to the designers for honoring the donors who gave a little bit more for Larry.

Larry Kickstarter 69'ers scrolling plaque. Because 69 cents means we give AND receive.
I posted last month how disappointed I was with not having a Mac beta to play with in advance of the general release. The PC beta was available to PC users, but us Mac users were left suffering. However, I think Replay Games compensated for this perceived slight by releasing an exceptionally well-designed, well-executed game. LSL Reloaded is fun to play, and a fitting homage to old school computer games.

Larry celebrating with a willing romantic partner. Bottoms up! 
A series of icons enable Larry to move, examine, taste, touch and talk to the world around him. There's an inventory menu where the player can store and interact with various objects Larry acquires by poking around. Larry still requires a taxi to get around Lost Wages, and this can be expensive. I found gambling at Caesar's Phallus casino can restore Larry's depleted funds.

There are some red herrings in the game. One puzzle involving bungee cords and a fire escape tripped me up, but I eventually solved it after much cursing. Another puzzle involving creating the perfect perfume is also new, but is easy if you know what you're looking for. There's also an endearing moment with an inflatable doll, which comes in handy for Larry (and not the way you're thinking).

Josh Mandel as Dr. Frankenstein and Paul Trowe as Igor during Larry's resurrection scene. 
Of course the big reason I supported the Kickstarter was Al Lowe's participation. Lowe designed games for Sierra-Online, the original publisher for the Leisure Suit Larry games. Josh Mandel, another veteran game designer and comedian, provided writing and voices. Paul Trowe, who tested games for Sierra, founded Replay Games, the publisher of Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded. These gentlemen, along with the New Jersey-based N-Fusion Interactive, labored tirelessly on reworking Leisure Suit Larry. Their endeavor shows in the game's high quality, from the voice acting, to musical score, to the animation and humor. The entire team did right by the Kickstarter backers, and after a frenetic year, they can finally sleep soundly knowing they made one kick-ass game.

Larry's romantic escapades land him in hot water...
Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded is a love letter to retro-gaming. It's Al Lowe's gift to all of the fans who enjoyed the Larry franchise and had to endure years of no games, or two terrible games by Vivendi, which re-imagined the franchise with Larry's nephew, Larry Lovage. Lowe had no input into the Larry Lovage games, and it showed.

With the success of this Kickstarter, Larry Laffer is reborn, bigger and better. All of the right elements coalesced into a superbly funny adventure game and a lighthearted adult romp reminiscent of 1980s interactive entertainment.

Hopefully, Lowe, Trowe and Mandel will remake the other Leisure Suit Larry games, and give the polyester-clad hero more cheesy pickup lines and awkward situations for our sadistic amusement.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Man Rests Deep

The day Alfred Mansley died, the sun eclipsed a pale sliver behind a bulbous moon, cloaking the skies in muddy darkness. Soothsayers babbled about ominous portents and dire prognostications of the solar event, while the sane merely balked and returned to their 24-hour cable bitchfests and the latest decapitation pornography.

Mansley would’ve enjoyed the sublime irony of the eclipse over his funeral. He might’ve told his guests casually over a strong demitasse and biscotti how he planned the entire thing, and coordinated his demise to coincide with the solar eclipse.

“It’ll give the funeral guests something to talk about on the ride home,” he’d say in his clipped northeastern accent.

His guests would’ve predictably guffawed at the remark, and respond with grins and giggles, “Madly droll, you are, Alfred! Where do you come up with these things?”

But such a scenario wouldn’t play out.

Alfred Mansley, publisher of the Rutland Beacon, Vermont’s most conservative newspaper, was dead of a brain aneurysm at age 78.

The Mansley family began the Beacon in 1894 and through the years weathered the tumultuous waves of success and failure. While other papers fell to financial realities of the publishing industry, the Beacon, tight-fisted and tenacious, clung like a wet kitten on the bow of a tempest-tossed scow.

When Mansley assumed control of the newspaper from his father, the late Lionel John Mansley in 1973, the country was in the throes of scandal, social upheaval and domestic unrest.

Mansley fired all male reporters with hair past their collars and ordered women in the secretary pool to wear skirts down past their knees. Priggish and puritanical, Mansley scoffed at the youthful “free love” movement and began a companywide purge of unmarried employees. To him, family values and tradition trumped a natural, healthy sexual appetite.

In 1994, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean presented a proclamation to Mansley, honoring the Rutland Beacon’s 100th anniversary. Mansley touted the success of his publication by offering deep discounts on subscriptions, which nearly doubled overnight.

Rutland Beacon reporters Jake Proctor and Ellie Grauman won statewide reporting awards, further boosting the paper’s reputation.

Yet things wouldn’t remain rosy for the stodgy daily newspaper. After 2002, the paper’s circulation began a steady decline in readership, subscriptions and advertisers. The once mighty bulwark of the Green Mountain State began crumbling under the hefty weight of cable news networks, Internet news sites and general public apathy.

After a disastrous shareholder’s meeting, Mansley, infirm and decrepit, cloistered himself in his mansion, never to leave. Mangy, unkempt and resembling Howard Hughes during the batshit crazy years, Mansley fell into a blissful dysfunction, a calming madness. He spent mornings cushioned in his four-poster bed, surrounded by opulent paintings, furnishings and the aid of his manservant, Othello, which wasn’t really the Dominican man’s name, but Mansley saw all black people with a fractured racial lens: either they were exotic foreigners worthy of Shakespeare’s titular Moor, or they were antebellum servants from Gone With The Wind.

By noon, Mansley struggled from his bedchamber, bathed, took his required bowel movement, and trudged downstairs for lunch. His cook, a Jamaican woman he called Mammy, served him the same thing every day: prime rib (medium rare), two eggs (over easy) and a bottle of Dom Perignon. 

Following his meal, he’d head to his study, where, flanked by bookshelves, a liquor cabinet and a large oaken desk, the old man read the news and caught up with world events. He’d guzzle Scotch and soda and write correspondence to his friends and family; mostly rambling diatribes about how publishing is a serpent coiled around the leg of an incontinent elephant, waiting to be violently trampled.

When his business associates came calling, he’d welcome them with alacrity and entertain them in the billiard room. The old man, a gaunt, pale giant, towered over the soft green felt table, cue in hand, and eyed his next shot.

During one of these social calls, Beacon editor Walt Hirsch noticed Mansley hovered between lucidity and madness.

“The president thinks he can toy with this nation, with what we built, by punishing us, Walter. This ebony-colored jackal socialist yearns to put people like me out of business, and for what? Because we’re successful. Because we’ve labored our lives believing in America,” Mansley said, and tapped the ivory ball with his cue. The ball drifted slowly over the green felt and into a leather pocket.

“It’s getting difficult every day to do this job,” Hirsch said, staring absentmindedly into his Scotch, examining the light reflecting off the clinking ice cubes. “Reporters are paramecium. Flagellating protozoa. Microscopic pond scum. When I started in 1990, I was young and optimistic, right out of J-school. I was going to cover corruption at the highest levels and keep the bastards honest.”

“I take it things didn’t exactly work out for you.”

“Far from it. The more I delved into stories, the more I wrote, the more I uncovered, the more people pulled away. It’s as if the people resented me for bringing to light uncomfortable truths.”

Mansley chortled, and hacked up a glob of phlegm. He dabbed a handkerchief to the corner of his mouth.

“Pardon, Walter. I found your lament utterly ridiculous,” Mansley said. “If working in publishing has taught me anything, it’s the public’s fickle temperament. People are idiots. No discipline, no tastes. No capacity for responsibility.”

“Still, it’s a bit depressing to try to do your job when everyone hates you.”

“Bullshit,” the old man said, and sunk another billiard ball without blinking. “Look at me. Everyone despises me. The liberals, the secularists, my competition. Those frumpy, effete country club bastards. All tough talk and no balls. I didn’t make this organization thrive without making enemies. Believe me, if you’re making people angry, you’re sticking to your guns. You’re true to yourself.”

Hirsch realized Mansley was correct. Bless his diseased, shrunken heart, he thought.

“The Internet is killing us. Everything is instant updates, minute to minute,” Hirsch said, swallowing the last of his Scotch with a satisfying gulp.

“Such is the nature of things these days,” Mansley said. “High-speed data transfers this, fiber optic network that. Can’t wrap my head around all this technology. We’ve got people who understand that shit better than I do. That’s what I pay them for.”

“I don’t want to keep whining about this…”

“Oh, don’t stop. It’s amusing,” Mansley said, and handed his cue to Othello, who wore an expression of grim indifference. “This is business, Walter. It’s gathering the news, feeding the beast. It’s convincing businesses to advertise with us. Making money. Prospering. Thriving in a world of infotainment, opinion-spewing pundits and lurid photos of some starlet’s tits.”

“How do we compete against that?”

“We don’t. We continue to print the news the way we always have. Stay the course.”

“But the world isn’t a 45 rpm vinyl record. It’s an mp3 blaring from an iPod. News has to be sensationalized, in-your-face, obnoxious roar. It’s The New York Daily News, Fox News, MSNBC. It’s telling people what they want to hear. I hate this new world we live in, too, but we can’t ignore it.”

“So what do you suggest?”

Hirsch thought for a moment as the old man fixed his eyes upon him like a vulture surveying a piece of freshly-killed carrion.

“We make the Beacon relevant, not just for Rutland, but for all of Vermont. Hell, make it regional. New England. Make is essential for people to read,” Hirsch said. “Crank up the volume and make it louder, better, bigger.”

Mansley thanked Hirsch for his thoughtful input and welcomed further dialog on improving his family’s newspaper.

By the day’s end, he fired Hirsch.

* * *

“You know what they’re saying about me, Othello?” Mansley said to his manservant as he stood over the toilet pissing. His urine trickled in a puny stream into the porcelain bowl, splashing on the rim and sprinkling on the tiled floor.

The butler shook his head.

“I don’t know, sir. What are they saying?” Othello replied.

“They say I’m a low-rent Charles Foster Kane. As in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. Can you imagine? Me, some greedy, tyrannical plutocrat.”

“The mind boggles, sir.”

“Right,” Mansley said, finishing his tinkle and pulling his wrinkled penis into his striped silk pajamas.
The butler wiped Mansley’s hands with a scented towel and the old man clutched his ivory-tipped mahogany cane.

Ambling into his bedchamber, Mansley crawled into bed. It was nearly 2 a.m.

“It’s not my fault this dysfunctional world lost its purpose,” Mansley said as Othello kneaded the downy, goosefeather pillows. “Everyone’s looking for a quick fix, simple solutions to complicated problems. Nobody wants to work anymore, to sweat. The whole country’s gone soft.”

Othello finished fluffing the pillows and stood ramrod straight.

“Will there be anything else, sir?” the butler asked crisply.

“Perhaps a nightcap. Snifter of brandy, please.”

The butler nodded and retrieved a bottle of brandy the next room. He poured the syrupy, heady liquid into a bulbous snifter. Mansley rolled the glass in his hand and sipped it gingerly. The brandy warmed his throat as it descended down his esophagus.

“Othello, can I tell you something?”

“Anything, sir.”

The old man sat up in bed, his eyes moistening, lip trembling.

“Years ago, I could’ve gotten married. I met this beautiful society girl at the yacht club. She had grace and poise. She didn’t take shit from anyone, either, especially me. Thought I’d met the one. Her name was Beatrice, and she was everything I’d hope for,” Mansley said.

“What happened to her, sir?”

Mansley coughed and stiffened.

“She wouldn’t wait for me. I delayed the courtship because I wanted to make more money. Wanted to make the Rutland Beacon the greatest paper in the state. So demanding. Working late at night. Meeting clients during the day. This newspaper consumed my time. In the end, Beatrice thought I wasn’t interested and moved on. Married an investment banker and moved to Martha’s Vineyard. The years haven’t been kind to me, Othello.”

“My condolences on your lost love, sir.”

Mansley acknowledged his butler’s empathy with a slight wave of his hand. He dried his eyes and sunk deeper into the pillow.

“That was a long time ago,” Mansley said, shifting his tone from teary recollection to tough indifference. “We’re all at the mercy of the past, sooner or later.”

“Quite right, sir.”

The butler turned off the light and departed in silence. A moonbeam fell through the window, across the room, pouring over the satin sheets and four-poster bed where Alfred Mansley slept, curled like an infant, drifting dreamlike where Beatrice awaited, her arms outstretched.

Monday, June 10, 2013

American Masquerade

I took a shuttle on a shockwave ride,
Where people on the pen pull the trigger for accolades
I took a bullet and I looked inside
Running through my veins an American masquerade

-       The Killers
Sam’s Town

America is an empire in decline, and to deny it means you're not paying attention or are one of the greedy bastards who put us here.  

Hard truth time: We're in the burning Rome phase of our civilization, and it's been on a gradual slide down an offal-caked shaft towards the rotating blades for the last 30 years. Despite the peaks of prosperity and technological innovation, the United States has lost its moral compass and international standing.

We are a society at war with itself.

In those kinds of struggles, there's no clear winner, just piles of corpses and self-righteous slogans.

It’s increasingly difficult to stay positive, to believe mankind is eternally good while only a few narcissistic lunatics grab the headlines. We’re better than the crude knuckle-dragging troglodytes, the reality TV whores and political pimps. Each one of us should strive for something meaningful in our lives instead of the obligatory fame and fortune. 

We want to learn a bit more about this vast mystery called life, while leaving something for future generations.

Looking around me, I cannot help but think somewhere along the line, we faltered. 

Our institutions are systematically failing us: government, media, church, banks. We might as well just throw our hands up and live in the woods, if we didn't already run roughshod with deforestation.

America: if you can exploit it, you can profit from it.

Isn't that what this country is about? Power and money? Penises and greed? Obeying over thinking? Bullshit over facts?

Don't get me wrong. America's freedoms and culture are exemplary. We hold the shining torch to immigrants, offer unbridled opportunity for growth and success and are much more permissive and free than any country on the planet. While other nations have freedom, America has continually excelled and removed barriers to the downtrodden and oppressed.

Yet somewhere we lost our footing. We became so enamored with the big shiny things and puffed ourselves up with quixotic fantasies of postindustrial utopian bliss we forgot who we were. We failed to appreciate our uniqueness, our strength through diversity, our quest to dream and innovate.

We grew frightened, complacent and stupid.

We slipped back into the ugliness of the early 20th Century. Powerful people pushed a dreaded agenda of avarice and the financial sector and politicians worked in tandem to destroy what little savings and security we had. From a republic to a plutocratic oligarchy in one decade.

After 9/11, Congress passed the Patriot Act that gave broad-reaching powers and tools to law enforcement agencies to catch terrorists. America saw a shadowy enemy like no other, and needed to fight a different kind of war. The public agreed to curb their Constitutional rights in order for law enforcement to catch terrorists. Don't ever say Americans haven't made sacrifices in the War on Terror. We allowed our rights to erode to the point where we can be imprisoned without trials and bombed by unmanned drones. If you put George Orwell, Ray Bradbury and Anthony Burgess in the same room, they couldn't dream up a science fiction dystopia as bad as our current political reality.

Government: One for All, All for Themselves

Current American politics is a hybrid of representative government and eBay, where bidders vie for the best puppet to push their interests. Now that the Supreme Court ruled foreign corporations could donate to American candidates, the entire process is a free-for-all, flush with riches moneygrab where lobbyists and private companies have more influence and pull on our legislators than the people.

Anyone in Congress doing the right thing for the right reasons is an aberration. Politics is broken, with fierce partisanship trumping compromise. Democrats and Republicans, each one bought and paid for by their respective interests, continue their loud, embarrassing tirades while ignoring the people's true will.

They can't fix our infrastructure, our education system, our economy or our financial system. Technically, they could fix these things if they work as a collective. They just don't want to.

They rationalize "it's too expensive" or "it's pork barrel spending" or "doing this will make Baby Jesus cry".

Congress is not the white knight rushing to our aid. It's the evil wizard scheming in his dungeon how he can fuck the peasants out of more treasure. 

The Democrats are just too weak-willed and lack the balls to stand up to bullies. They weave this liberal fantasy of togetherness when the wolves are circling outside, and dwell in ignorance as the wolves bash the doors down and tear them to pieces. After Senator Ted Kennedy died, Democrats lost the ability to become forceful innovators of good and champions of the downtrodden and poor. Instead, they sip sangria in their townhomes and cheer to Rachel Maddow and John Stewart, a passive-aggressive way to vent their frustrations.

The Republicans have abandoned reason and logic long ago. Once the party of fiscal responsibility and restraint, they've morphed into a nightmare version of themselves. Touting American exceptionalism, Christianity and xenophobia, the Republican Party today is what Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal admonished as "the stupid party."

Anti-science, anti-intellectual and uncompromising, they've made a pact with Fox News and their corporate masters to push a radical right agenda. The Tea Party, supported by the Koch brothers, are some of the most patriotic people you'd meet, totally dedicated to the Constitution. They're also some of history's biggest dupes. For the Tea Party, President Obama is a Kenya-born, Muslim socialist who wants to shred up the Constitution and indoctrinate your children into gay marriage.

While cowardice reigns in Democratic quarters, madness currently reigns in Republican quarters. Right-wing pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly drown out any dissent from fellow conservatives. It's either the party line or no line, and the last few conservatives who believe in science and reason have been fed to the flames. You're either with the herd, or you're a RINO. 

Political discourse now isn't debate; it's immature shouting, histrionics and partisan showmanship. It's pointing fingers, sharpening swords and rumor-mongering. Instead of crossing the aisle and working together, Democrats and Republicans have dug their heels and refuse to compromise and find common goals. They see each other not as colleagues or Americans but "wackos", "crazies", "tree-huggers", "secularists", "Bible-thumpers", "nutjobs", "socialists" or worse. 

The Media Sucks

Another institution in crisis is the media. Once revered as watchdogs for the public good and tellers of truth, the Fourth Estate got in bed with big business and became a dysfunctional disaster.

Journalists who once conducted investigative reporting, now are dilettante entertainers and pseudo-actors. The 24-hour cable news networks determine the day's news cycle. Events are reported ad nauseam with little consideration given to objectivity or context. Splashy animation, stirring music and video are prepared in packages fed through the networks, and sensationalism holds sway.

Corporate mainstream news outlets don't present much news. Pundits, talking heads and biased opinions dominate cable news. Networks such as MSNBC, Fox News and CNN are loaded with opinion instead of accounts presented factually. Straight news isn't popular. People need to be told what to think or at least to confirm their beliefs and longstanding prejudices, they figure, so show more pundits.

Americans are more misinformed now than ever, with the news failing to report events in an objective, meaningful way. If reporters had it rough before, they're especially vilified today, and take on the guise of charlatans and corporate tools.

Even honest journalists who see their careers as informing the people and crusading against corruption burn out early. The information age is a relentless bitch, filling our ears and eyes with nonstop sensationalism, celebrity news and violence. The stories we really need to see, investigative stories about the government and news from other countries, seldom receives airtime and is usually delivered in easily digestible soundbites.

Listen to the right wing pundits and politicians and we’re made to distrust the media, the very people paid to inform us. Discredit the messenger, take ownership of the message.

Not that the messengers are doing a stellar job. They're falling over themselves to report the latest human failings, celebrity breakups, spree killings, celebrity couples, war, celebrity arrests, government gridlock, celebrity fighting, economic meltdown, celebrity announcements. So much of our news is dedicated to fluff and bullshit, the real stories are pushed aside. The little real news that squeaks through the gate is often about guns, shootings, social discord and crime.

If you're a regular cable news watcher, you're either numbed from Zoloft or you've hung yourself from a utility cord in the shower. It's beyond depressing. Who's watching the public's interests? Who's telling us what we need to know?

We're purposefully kept in the dark and fed a diet of bullshit celebutantes from the Hollywood idiot machine. Everyone has a publicist, everyone craves publicity. Look at us! We're so self-important!
Meanwhile, in an undisclosed location, your government is up to some really bad shit and lives are at…. Look!

Honey Boo Boo!


American Idol!

We have the attention spans of hyperactive squirrels and that's how the media likes it.

Zero integrity and intelligence. Bimbos and beefcakes. Violence. Sex. Scintillating scandals. Political hackery.

Welcome to the 24-hour news hole, a vortex sucking our collective consciousness.

Religion: God Inc.

If Catholic priests diddling children wasn't bad enough, the church's leaders, instead of excommunicating the offending priests, or turning them over to civil authorities or putting them in the iron maiden or the rack (like the church used to), they're relocated to other parishes.

Imagine if our justice system worked like that. You take a serial killer/pedophile/arsonist who rapes multiple kids, sets them on fire and fucks them. Instead of giving the guy the electric chair or incarcerating him for life, he's put in a truck and driven across the country and set loose in another town with no arrest or trial.

That's what the Catholic Church has done on numerous occasions in numerous countries worldwide.

Get that last part?


As in everywhere. It's not just the Boston Diocese. It's the Catholic Church all over the planet. Church is where children should feel safe, not have their innocence stolen by the very people tasked with protecting them from harm. The Catholic Church is not a religion, it's NAMBLA with collection plates.

If pedophile priests immune to prosecution doesn't make you angry, the rising tide of fundamentalism will. Religion in America isn't a free-for-all anymore. It's a tide sweeping souls toward Protestant megachurches, Biblical cults or movements such as the Westboro Baptist Church, whose members protest military funerals and anything they deem is a threat to America, like homosexuality or liberals.

Instead of spreading the Gospel and preaching tolerance, peace and love, fundamentalists are increasingly politicizing their message. It's Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort arguing creationism must be real because of the banana, (or as they call it "the atheist's nightmare") which Comfort said was created to be gripped and peeled by man. It's the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, a place dedicated to debunking science and learning dinosaurs frolicked with early humans (insert obligatory Flintstones reference here). It's Pat Robertson of the 700 Club saying feminism is a "socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." It's bombing abortion clinics, stockpiling weapons and waiting for the end times or whatever superstitious fire and brimstone rapture prophesy the doom cult leader preaches about on any given week.

I'm all for religious freedom, but these pseudo-Christians ignore the basic tenants of Christianity. This brand of religion turns people into zealots and negates their ability to think for themselves.

They see the devil in everyone and everything: Obama, liberals, homosexuals, unwed mothers, secular progressives, atheists.

If they want to see the devil, they should look in the mirror.

How is this any different from Al-Qaeda or the Taliban? Radical theology inciting violence and hatred. You're not following Jesus anymore. You're just a dick with a chip on your shoulder and your brand of religion rationalizes this shitty behavior.

Throughout history, it wasn't the secularists or rationalists who tortured and persecuted people. It's always the self-righteous church, with its mandate from on high to convert or kill anyone they perceive as obstructionists.

If we believe all of the superstitious hocus-pocus from the church, if we take it all seriously, we give charlatans the power to dictate our lives. Faith is strong, and many people devote their lives to it. But when the faith of a few is placed before the good of the many, mischief and massacres often occur.
It's time to drop the hyperbole and place reason over rhetoric.

The same thing goes for all of the liberal religions, too. America should not be a politically correct amusement park where everyone gets to ride the roller coaster for as long as they want. If you enjoy communing in nature on a yoga mat while in a casting circle, then that's your thing. Burning sage will not cleanse the forest of evil nature spirits any more than Pastor Ted Haggard won't stop guzzling cock or buying crystal methamphetamine.  

Your Sunday morning beliefs are making you look like idiots. Think for yourselves and help the less fortunate. Don't open fire on a Planned Parenthood clinic or bully gay teens.

Remember all of those goofy What Would Jesus Do bracelets the evangelicals wore years ago? Jesus would be appalled by the antics that continue in his name.

So What Have We Learned?

Blogging is like screaming into the void, and this manifesto is part of that muted din, reverberating in an immense echo chamber, undistinguishable and lost in the ear-splitting cacophony. 

I don't care if you're offended, perturbed or inconvenienced by this screed. 

The goal of the writer is to reveal truth, expose corruption and show humanity's striving to better their current conditions. If getting you to see truth means plunging ink-tipped biros through your eyeballs, so be it.

We're in a crisis, people. Apathy, whining and ignorance is not an option.

Get mad.

Do something to make America a better place. Help your community. Teach. Join the service. Volunteer. Anything. Don't let the forces of greed and corruption continue to sully this beautiful land, this idea of America.

We need to be a more compassionate nation, toward each other and towards the world.

Once you lose empathy, you become cold and selfish. Our capacity for doing good for others must outmatch our desire to do only for ourselves.

It is this message of love and tolerance that has outlasted the hatred and tyranny of the past. Americans must - for their own survival and the survival of the country - turn away from things that segregate and separate us and flow towards that which nurtures.

If America is to avoid the ignominious fate of the failed barbarous empires and kingdoms relegated to history, we must improve. Shun bitterness and petty squabbling and unite for solutions on how we as a nation can confront problems and solve them.

History has always been rough, from the Greeks, Romans and Visigoths, up until present day. It’s a bloodbath of lies, exploitation and violence.

Civilizations built on the backs of subjugation and domination. Brutes with swords, holy books and AK-47s. But if you peel back the grimy veneer of history, you see past the wars, genocides and conquests. You see in every era, there were people who said no to the status quo, who remained uncorrupted. They might have been tragic victims, or they might have been catalysts for change, but they made a decision not to let cynicism and madness defeat them. They remained pure and good and helped those in need, sometimes sacrificing their lives to do so.

If we look around today, we see those kind strangers who extend compassionate hands. This is the difference between the good and the bad, between hate and love and fear and resolve. If we’re going to survive on this rock orbiting the Sun, we have to approach kindness and compassion not as a lifestyle choice or trendy alternative, but as an imperative.

We must have the courage to think for ourselves and be kind.