Friday, November 29, 2013

PROPAGANDA REVIEW: “Unintended Consequences” by John Ross (1996)

It’s considered the Holy Bible of the U.S. “Gun Culture” movement, and yeah, it’s every bit as crazy as you’d imagine it to be. 

“In recent years we have witnessed violent attacks on people in the gun culture. These attacks amount to genocide. It is my hope that this book will cause those who blindly seek to destroy the gun culture to pause for a moment and recognize that their random actions are in error, and to reconsider their evil ways. This could come from an intellectual conversion and a new appreciation of the culture's values. It could also result from a pragmatic concern for the inevitable consequences of continuously attacking a cultural group who wishes to be left alone and whose overriding philosophy is one of freedom. Either way, it doesn't matter. The goal is to stop the attacks and prevent a violent confrontation which could prove harmful for all parties concerned.”

-- Timothy Mullin, author of "The Fighting Submachine Gun, Machine Pistol, and Shotgun" in the foreword for “Unintended Consequences”

“It might have changed my whole plan of operation if I’d read that one first.”

-- Timothy McVeigh, murderer of 168 people, on “Unintended Consequences” 

The cover of “Unintended Consequences” is the veritable “Guernica” of blunt political figurativeness; with the United States Constitution burning to embers in the background, an ATF agent pummels Lady Justice with a truncheon stick. Just gawking at the image on John Ross’s book -- a pre-Photoshop eye-bleach exemplar if there ever was one -- you just know you’re in store for a real literary treat.

Ross, a Missouri-based pro-gunner and one-time U.S. congress also-ran, is something of an underground folk hero to the nation’s Second Amendment enthusiasts. That’s largely due to this 1996 magnum opus, an 800 page half social fiction/half political screed that is rivaled only by “Atlas Shrugged” in terms of unabashed preachiness and self-righteousness. The book -- about a fringe guerrilla group that uses terror to repeal the nation’s firearm laws -- is considered the “Moby Dick” of gun-fetish manifestos, a treatise praised by such unbiased sorts as exclamation-mark happy Dr. Edgar Sutar, Free-State supporter Vin Suprynowicz and, of course, Oklahoma City bomber Timmy McVeigh, who once declared “Unintended Consequences” to be his “New Testament.”

Hardcover copies of the book fetch a pretty penny on the Internet, and even soft cover editions are a little pricey. As such, it took me quite a while to track the book down, but I have to say, the wait was worth it: in terms of neo-conservative, NRA agitprop, this thing is utterly unsurpassed in both its grandiosity and amateurishness. It’s both the “Ben Hur” and “Birdemic” of the militia movement, and it is, in every sense of the term, freaking astounding.

The book itself is rather interesting in terms of structure. For the most part, it’s a fictionalized (really, “fantastical” is a better term for it) account of a group of characters deeply embedded in the nation’s “gun culture” uniting to overthrow what they see as the shackles of governmental oppression. However, some segments of the book segue off into these brief anecdotes about real world incidents, which, in some manifestation or another, are supposed to serve as antecedents for the fictionalized aspects of the book. Of course, all of those historical anecdotes are highly fictionalized themselves (and tilted towards the pro-gun ideologues), so the entire tome has this peculiar narrative that’s constantly weaving in and out of rants, main story and historical reconstructions. Needless to say, this is a daring literary technique that even folks like Heller and Tolstoy would've found challenging, and regarding the storytelling prowess of this Ross fellow? Well, this guy is no Orwell, that’s for damned sure.

The first 100 pages of the book aren’t all that bad. We get a fictionalized account of how the Browning Automatic Rifle came to be, a brief passage about the Bonus Army marches on Washington and even a fairly decent -- well, decent, except for the parts where Ross paints lawyer Gordon Dean as a gun-hating lie-teller who (textually) cons the U.S. Supreme Court about the Second Amendment, anyway -- write-up about the 1939 United States vs. Miller ruling, which  found  provisions of the National Firearms Act of 1934 to be constitutional.

Early on, Ross makes plenty of vague statements about the U.S. “gun culture,“ but of course, he makes us wait a couple of hundred more pages before giving a full definition of what that is, precisely. Additionally, he writes this with an almost “Rain Man”-esque attention to detail, often spending paragraphs at a time explaining the physics behind how revolvers work. He’s prone to the exact same logorrhea when he describes the avionics exploits of a World War II fighter pilot, so I hope you dig lots of jargon and mechanic-speak about everything.

It’s not until we get to a passage about Irwin Mann - a fictitious Ghetto Warsaw Uprising survivor -- that the book begins to show its slimy underbelly. Ross writes about Mann’s first experience handling a revolver as if he was penning an op-ed for Penthouse; when I say the guy pens some solid “gun pornography,” I mean that’s exactly what he does. At one point, he even describes, graphically, how the shattered skull of a Nazi reminds him of a pair of areolas. This overly cherry, fictionalized account of the uprising -- what, with Mann becoming a master sharpshooter literally overnight, and some extremely clunky dialogue about how the Redcoats were the S.S. of their time and how Hitler chose to go after England instead of Switzerland because the latter was more heavily armed -- is perhaps your first indication that this thing is soon to fly off into Crazy-Land, and spectacularly.

Early on, the technical-speak just bombards you, with several sections loaded with math terminology (bet you didn’t expect to see the word “parabola” in this one, did you?) and characters thinking with the mindsets of seasoned physicists. Ross never just writes about an airplane, he has to tell you what the ailerons of the plane looked like, and nobody just gets “shot” and falls over dead: instead, the author likes to labor over the (literally) gory details, sometimes rambling on for sentences at a time to tell you which organs got eviscerated and how big the bullet holes on victims were -- strangely, he seems to describe many a lethal wound as being “cantaloupe” sized in appearance.

And from there, it’s CHARACTER OVERLOAD time! Irwin Mann moves into America and drives around Las Vegas at 110 miles per hour while mocking federal highway laws and a Colorado farm boy graduates from an Ivy League school and this one pilot talks about his airplane for a couple of pages and we’re ultimately introduced to the book’s primary character -- Henry -- who at the age of 6, becomes indoctrinated into the “gun culture” by reading the Guinness Book of World Records, picking up a copy of Gun Digest and buying a couple of Swiss army knives at an ammo shop.

After that, we get a couple more pages with idle gun shop chatter, and a subplot bubbles up about a personal injury lawyer taking up a case for a Hispanic janitor, whose wife was exposed to volatile chemicals while she was pregnant. I’ll give the author some bonus points for being able to turn the entire segment into an extended swipe at the “unfairness” of minimum wage laws, however.

So, Henry and his uncle Max go skeet shooting, and Max lets Henry drive his car, and they talk about how much they hate cops and what dropping ball bearings in a carburetor does to somebody’s ride. Then, there’s a lengthy diatribe about how gun policies in America were, largely, the result of Jim Crow legislation. Henry ends up getting his hands on a Mauser, some characters talk about silencers and then Irwin and Henry talk about the Holocaust. If there had been more kids into trick shooting in Poland instead of medicine and music, Irwin tells him, there’s a pretty good chance the Krauts never would’ve enslaved them. And then everybody goes on a camping tip and talk about the Bonus Army Marches and the pros of the Free Market and how the Second Amendment EXPLICITLY means that all Americans are entitled to ownership of the same kind of weaponry that the military has. Then, the lawyer wins his personal injury case, he dispenses some portfolio diversification advice (no, really), and then he goes on a safari in Africa. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but guns are literally the focal point of every character’s every waking moment in this novel, with the cast unable to go more than a few paragraphs WITHOUT rambling on and on about their highly specific, technical love of certain firearms. Case in point: when JFK dies, the main character’s primary reaction is thinking about seeing the President firing some AR-15s on his boat once. The characters then praise Jack Ruby for his marksmanship and dissect Lee Harvey Oswald’s firearm selection. Improbable Zionist-Nazi conspiracy chatter follows suit:

"And may I also point out that this strip-club owner happens to be Jewish, and the head of the family this Jewish strip-club owner professes to respect so much is old Joe Kennedy, who never made any secret of his admiration for the Nazi regime." Max Collins laughed without humor. "Don't expect this deal to make sense any time soon." 

Then, we get some more gun porn filler (complete with some vintage catalog photos!), which culminates with Henry receiving a goddamn CANNON for his birthday. Then, MLK dies, and the mayor talks about putting a LARGER turret on the top of city hall to prevent riots. Then Bobby Kennedy dies, and conspiracy chatter about additional gunmen abounds. And then there’s a 20 page long description of a clay pigeon shooting competition. You really don’t need any details there, I reckon. Then Henry -- who is described as having a somewhat Freudian obsession with really, comically over-sized guns -- goes to Reno and hangs out with a group that’s really into cannons, who are called "BALLS." And no, I SWEAR I am not making that last bit up, either.

There’s another camping scene, and a couple of more pages about shooting fowls, and Henry and one of his older buddies talk about girls. Then, we get to the point in the novel where things go from innocuously paranoid to terrifyingly self-righteous. Henry is ambling through the wilderness, and he encounters a young woman being raped by four boys. In graphic detail, Ross paints a picture of not only the girl being brutalized, but a highly-technical, emotionally-frigid account of how Henry (who, by the way, is just 13) guns down three of the attackers in cold blood. You can almost feel the ominous dark clouds rolling overhead when Ross pens the following line: “Killing someone was not an emotionally devastating experience when the person you killed was evil.”

The characters discuss the Gun Control Act of 1968 (surprise, they don’t view it favorably!) and then we get a lengthy passage about the dude still on safari and Henry shooting some stuff in Idaho and visiting Amherst and talking about how all the Dems in Missouri are corrupt and socialism is bullshit. By the way, John Ross graduated from Amherst, so if you’re looking for any sock puppets here…

Henry, now in college, flies his buddies around in a plane for awhile, and he talks to his lecturer about research papers on Smith & Wesson. Then, Ross provides a fictionalized account of the Ken Ballew Raid, and we’re introduced to a character named Tom Fleming, who thinks the ATF are a bunch of Nazis. And then, Henry gets gang-raped(!) and develops an alcohol addiction and thanks his lucky stars that he wasn’t brutalized during the AIDS era. So he joins AA and starts a women’s self defense class at school and talks about “a warrior’s mentality” for a couple of pages. Then he flies a plane some more, and talks about totalitarianism and then he gets a massage from a classmate and starts selling fake identification documents to his peers and he writes a term paper where he compares the National Firearms Act to the Stamp Act and says the Gun Control Act of ‘68 creates a “three-tiered status for identically-manufactured goods.” And yes, the book includes the research paper, in its entirety. Here are my two favorite snippets from the little rant, which condensed to just one sentence, could probably be summarized as “federal gun laws are bullshit, and if you want to tax me, I may just shoot you in the face.”

“The Gun Control Act of 1968, with its amendments to the National Firearms Act of 1934, is a recent continuation of the trend started during the Roosevelt Administration towards more government and less freedom. Recent and current Administrations show no sign of reversing this trend. When freedom is at odds with government policy, one of two things eventually happens: Either freedom is crushed, or political leaders are forced out in disgrace and replaced with guardians of individual liberty."

“The 1968 amendments to the 1934 Act are bad law because these amendments actually prohibit those people who want to pay the tax on their guns from doing so. These 1968 amendments have made criminals out of people with no criminal intent, and give these citizens no option other than to surrender their property without compensation. These are the kinds of laws which led to the American Revolution.”

Henry graduates from college, becomes a federally-recognized weapons dealer, bitches about estate taxes and gives us a history lesson about how Fabian socialists wound up creating England’s Labour Party. Then he goes elephant hunting, and we’re introduced to two more characters; a girl named Cindy that’s always getting beat up at home, and Dick Gaines, an “evil” liberal Senator from Missouri. The characters praise Reagan-era policies, and they discuss a 1982 Subcommittee on the Constitution report in a gun shop. Then there’s a suspiciously detailed passage about ammonium nitrate, an introduction to the Weaver clan, a brief overview of the 1985 MOVE bombing in Philadelphia and some bullshit about the Volkmer-McClure Act

Then, we get a pretty detailed description of the infamous Platt and Matix 1986 FBI shootout in Miami; and at about 400 pages into the novel, we finally get to the book’s big, ominous central message: “If this is what happens when the feds go after a couple of bank robbers who know they're in the wrong, what's going to happen to the feds when they go after a couple million trained, motivated, heavily armed citizens who haven't done anything worse than exercise their Constitutional rights?” 

Then the guys at the gun shop complain about Bush the First’s policies and Cindy gets sold into a white slavery ring and Henry goes down to a gun show and makes an FBI informant pee his pants (surprisingly, even though he pulls a gun on a federal agent, he isn’t reprimanded in the least) and then there’s another lengthy passage describing Cindy’s sexual humiliation and then an account of the Ruby Ridge raid. So Cindy and Henry meet at an AA meeting, and her captors “mysteriously” end up dead shortly thereafter. Then Henry outraces a Porsche in his pick-up truck and he gives “a presidential speech” where he repeals every single gun law in the nation to some of his pals at the ammo shop. 

After that, Waco goes down and Cindy bitches about her independent contractor status so Henry takes her to audition at a strip club instead. The characters get all pissy about a state-level law that forbids concealed weapon carry in Missouri, and Raymond (the dude that’s been on safari since basically the JFK assassination) returns to America and his all his weapons confiscated at LaGuradia. So he calls up Henry and he helps his pal out and they proceed to complain about ALL of the following for the next 50 or so pages:

- Magnetic money strips in U.S. currency
- DUI checkpoints
- Automotive safety features (seat belt requirements are a statist imposition on individual freedom, after all)
- The outlawing of “cop-killer” bullets
- EVERY single drug law in the nation
- “Clipper chips” on personal computers
- The corporate tax rates for John Deere 

At this point (nearly two-thirds of the way into the book, no less) Ross finally gives us a somewhat satisfying response to the question of what “gun culture” is in America: it’s a bunch of mostly middle-aged white men, with higher than average incomes, who really, really hate the state, don’t watch sports, and enjoy shooting stuff. Sort of giving away the ending of the book, one of the characters says if their demands aren’t met (basically, the complete and utter disappearance of federal regulations on everything, but ESPECIALLY firearms) another “civil war” is guaranteed. 

In the follow-up scene, there’s a description of a “gun rally” in D.C., with this one guy laying out a blueprint of sort for new-wave pro-gunners. He tells them to be on the offense and stop trusting the po-po, adding that only guns serve as an “utmost guaranteer of freedom” and that under the Second Amendment, 16-year-olds should have legal access to military-grade weaponry. 

Now we’re at the 500 page point of the novel. Henry takes Cindy shooting, and what do you know, she enjoys it. 

Then, the Oklahoma City bombing transpires, there’s some more target shooting, more idle talk about JFK conspiracies, more bellyaching about concealed weapons carry laws and a three page passage about an ATF “drone” plane. Then, the plot leaps to “present day,” and the story spirals into the blood-curdling madness you’ve been dreading for the last 600 pages. 

So Irwin Mann has been appointed head of some national Holocaust advisory board, and Henry and his pals make some extra dough selling guns as movie props. They eat burgers and make fun of “Rambo 3,” and uh-oh! As it turns out, the ATF has been spying on them, but Henry has been spying on them back, and I guess you figure what’s coming up ahead, right?

Well, we’ve waited the entire book to see things get downright stomach churning, and when the proverbial shit hits the fan, I assure you it’s a TREMENDOUS amount of feces getting splattered before your very eyes. The ATF recon crew sent to check out Henry’s pal are described as being multicultural, and at one point, the narrator mocks African-Americans for their unique names. Then Ross quotes Mencken about hoisting black flags and slitting throats, and Henry decides to torture two ATF agents -- one of whom is an African-American woman named, I swear to God folks, “Gonorrhea” -- with Habanera peppers and duct tape, and then he shoots the black federal agent in cold blood and forces the other agent to record a false confession before decapitating him. 

Yeah, a disgusted chill went down my spine too, kids. 

So Henry burns the ATF van in East St. Louis (yet another excuse for the author to mock black culture, I suppose) and he shoots three helicopters out of the sky and meets up with his buddy Allen Kane and they talk about NFA dealers that have been arrested for not filling out the proper paperwork. 

And since the ATF agents -- painted as inept and hopelessly corrupt individuals, through and through -- have (allegedly) put 3,000 gun dealers behind bars by the mid 1990s, the characters figure they’re no different than the Nazis or the Klan and decide to declare a formal jihad against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Here’s perhaps the choicest cut from the section:

“There are at least five or six million serious Bill of Rights advocates in this country who understand the importance of the Second Amendment. There are at most—what?—ten or twelve thousand people in the government trying to dismantle the Bill of Rights. That's a 500-to-l advantage. And you, one person, have managed to kill twenty-two of those enemies. There'll be no contest." 

The protagonists decide to use the false confession of the one agent Henry killed as a “false flag” of sorts to galvanize the nation’s hardcore gun proponents, and they decide to start posting messages on the Internet to rile up the militia folk. They post the names of all the ATF agents online, and then, the mass killings doth begins; at one point, the author cheerily describes the ice pick murder of an obese agent in his own home. 

And from there, the protagonists of the book lay out their next course of actions. I think it’s best if they just speak for themselves, no?

"'From now on, any ATF employee with a Government Service classification of GS-7 or higher is a party to the treason the ATF has committed and is now subject to execution, as are all ATF informants. No exceptions. 

"'Second, any judge who upholds any gun law shall also be guilty of treason and subject to execution. No exceptions. From now on, guns will be treated the same as books. 

"'Third, since elected officials and law enforcement entities have a duty to defend the Constitution, any elected official or police agent who supports or enforces any measure, past or present, which violates the Second Amendment shall be subject to execution. Private citizens may freely advocate any policies or ideas that they want, as per the First Amendment.'"

A presidential task force is assembled to address the wave of shootings, and Cindy kills a Senator after needlessly prostituting herself to him -- I suppose it’s an opportune time to bring up the fact that Ross seems to REALLY like writing about the graphic sex acts she’s forced to perform throughout the novel.

Then we get a passage about the demographics of militantly political gun owners, with Ross stating that even the really, really racist types -- your Christian Identity folks, namely -- aren’t really THAT racist, even though they support segregation and stuff. Then, there’s some anecdotes about Hell’s Angels sex initiation rituals and training protocols for the IRA, and a brief run down of all the hyper-political NRA alternatives out there, like Gun Owners of America and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. This section is immediately followed up by a sequence in which some proud, liberty-loving gun owners batter a congressman to death with a hammer.

After that, there’s a long passage, allegedly written by the sock puppet ATF turncoat, which compares gun regulation to book regulations, because fuck, those two are so similar in utility. Some more ATF agents get whacked, and then Ross said that slavery in the South would’ve stopped on its own eventually because of “free market forces.” Then the characters trudge up “The Battle of Athens, Tennessee” and a former SCOTUS judge starts communicating with some of the patriot-terrorists. Pulling a page out of “Hellraiser,” the militants use Cindy to lure several senators in favor of gun control policies into deadly trysts, and tapes of Blair (the ATF scapegoat) are mailed to CNN. Then we get a primer on how to make sexually explicit, pre-Photoshop Polaroids (which, by itself, is a felony) and then there’s a twenty page passage where some pro-gunners lure some ATF agents out into some woodlands and systematically massacre them. Then an ATF agent and his children are incinerated in a house fire in San Antonio, and another congressman has his skull bashed in by a set of hand weights. THEN an FAA official gets gunned down, and the (fictitious) governor of Missouri is found dead of a heroin overdose, with manufactured XXX photos stuffed into his pocket…the entire sequence existing, it appears, just so Ross can make a crude joke about Ted Kennedy.

We have some shit about Vince Foster and a brief list of “false flag” incidents prior to the signing of gun-control legislation, and a suspiciously characteristic-less President of the U.S. begins negotiating with the “heroes” of the book. So the President finally meets with the patriot-murderers, and he’s forced -- at gunpoint -- to read an executive order that repeals every single gun law on the nation’s books. And then the director of the ATF gets shot, and this thing is…thankfully…fin.


Before I give a final critique of “Unintended Consequences,” I would like to say just a few positive things about the book. 

Although Ross is certainly no master wordsmith, his writing approach -- when he isn’t spending nineteen pages at a time describing what firing pins smell like -- isn’t too horrendous. His characters may be paper characterizations, and the entire plot is carried along by an undercurrent of awkward politics, but yeah, in terms of pure literary experiences, I’ve probably incurred worse. 

I’m not really sure if I would consider the book reliable historical treatise, but there is quite a bit of information throughout the book, and if nothing else, it serves as something of a compendium of about a million billion other resources. “Unintended Consequences,” as such, is really a much better reference guide than it is a work of fiction/propaganda. 

Regarding the pace of the book, it flows fairly well, but be advised; this is a treatise that takes FOREVER before it actually gets into the meat of the proverbial matter. And although you probably shouldn’t have to be told this, if you’re not a fan of heavy-handed preachiness…well, this colossal cinder block of a book probably ain’t going to be your bag, no matter your personal take on firearms. 

And now, onto the negatives…which are VERY, VERY negative, I am afraid. 

One of the huge problems with Ross’s central tenet of the book -- that members of the “gun culture” are a misunderstood, legally marginalized minority unjustly punished by a totalitarian government -- is something that he completely contradicts over the course of the novel. He spends 500 pages reiterating that gun owners are non-violent individuals, yet the finale of the book is littered with more bullet-riddled corpses than all three ‘Missing in Action’ movies put together. These individuals are not a threat to civility, Ross reassures us. And in the next scene, his heroes are blowing away federales left and right, pushing hot lead through agents with all the glee of an Adderall-fed “Doom 2” player. 

Perhaps the biggest slight against “Unintended Consequences” is also the biggest slight you can have against the vague “gun culture” Ross fails to fully describe throughout his own screed. In Ross’s eyes, it is ONLY the members of the “gun culture” that stand between American life as we know it and federal tyranny -- only THEY know that freedom is being usurped, and only THEY can prevent that hypothetical totalitarianism from taking over. Ross literally posits the “gun culture” dissenters as the self-ordained defenders of liberty, a proposal made a thousand times scarier when he makes it a focal point of the manifesto to establish that, yes, these same individuals would KILL for what they consider their God-given entitlements. It’s a small sliver of a small portion of the general American populace (shit, just 34 percent of American households have guns, and Ross says that most of them aren’t actual members of the enigmatic “gun culture” he vaunts like a religious sect) that he considers the nation’s true protectorates.  For all the anti-Nazi diatribes Ross hurls about in the book, he never seems to detect the irony that his self-righteous, politically-motivated vigilantes are every bit the bloodthirsty, undemocratic tyrants the goose steppers were. Ross’s “gun culture” seeks to impose their martial values on a nation where an overwhelming majority of the peoples don’t even bother owning firearms -- through the barrel of a rifle, Ross’s “heroes” enforce their ideology of freedom, on a general public whose own freedom is less likely to be curtailed by federalists than they are the trigger-happy antics of a crazed gunman, a pistol-packing gangbanger or a paranoid NRA member who would rather shoot at sounds than let others enjoy their own freedoms

Oddly, Ross never picks up on the fact that his definition of freedom -- your typical neoconservative wet dream -- is inherently fascistic; a hyper-free market, hands-off federal system (which, really, sounds more like a confederation) where the well-off are granted more personal power while the downtrodden are continually degraded. This “anti-statist” fantasy becomes very intriguing, in the fact that in the absence of federal oversight, who becomes the forceful in culture? State powers? Local powers? The armed elites? The hyper-capitalists with their private police forces? This is an issue that Ross never explores in “Unintended Consequences” -- naively, or blinded by his own shortsightedness, he never mulls the possibility that suppression can come about by state agencies and local actors just as easily -- if not more aggressively -- than the Federals. And of course, that’s leaving out the most glaring implication of the novel: do most Americans TRULY want to live in a cultural milieu where a self-ordained militia rules the roost via constant threat of force? As shitty as the IRS may be, I think I’d much prefer a nation where Eric Holder and Ben Bernanke are in charge, as opposed to Randy Weaver and David Koresh. 

As to whether or not this book will change your own stance on gun control, I highly doubt it. Whatever progress Ross may make when describing the muddled 1968 laws and the inexcusable clusterfucks that were Waco and Ruby Ridge are automatically negated by Ross’s almost fanatical vaunting of the ill-described “gun culture” -- by describing his kindred as gaggle of individuals prepared to declare jihad over an unfavorable 1939 Supreme Court ruling and $200 transportation taxes, Ross actually ends up doing more harm to his own cause than good. If you’re filled with ant-statist rancor, this book serves as exceptional masturbatory fodder, but for any impartial individual out there, this thing most certainly isn’t going to have you signing up for the Gun Owners of America newsletter anytime soon. 

And lastly, regarding the “value” of this turgid turd as free expression, I say this: “Unintended Consequences,” despite being a work of “fiction,” is no doubt an incendiary work, which if not directly inciting fringe gun folk to declare civil war, at least gives said individuals a fantasy to vicariously wank to. I’m sure there are plenty of nutcases out there that would LOVE to replicate the despicable things that occur in this book, but ever the proponent of the FIRST amendment, I fully believe that Ross has the right to shit out such contemptible materials, despite their probable negative impacts on most of the radical lunkheads that read it. 

At the end of the day, what civil enlightenment does Ross’s book bring to the world at large? Well, it’s long, and paranoid, and brutal, and likely to inspire madmen to at least MULL engaging in heinous acts of violence. It’s a detestable piece of hate literature, whose artistic merits are limited to the fact that, yes, it does contain words. As a political manifesto, it’s amateurish, as a call to arms, its among the most offensive treatises ever penned. It’s a tract that stretches the limits of free expression boundaries, and absolutely shatters one’s conceptions of what constitutes good taste.

It’s vile. It’s contemptible. It’s probably dangerous as all hell. I read it, and human nature being what it is, you may be tempted to thumb through it yourself. I can’t stop you, but be forewarned: “Unintended Consequences” is a carnival ride to a dark, dark place…which, I assure you, is a place you almost certainly do not want to visit if you can avoid it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cranberry Sprite! Mountain Dew Game Fuel! Shaq Soda!

A quick round-up of a few recent cola purchases…

I talk about soda a lot, but at the same time, I don’t think I talk about soda enough. As a teetotaler, I don’t have much of an interest an all that beer-stuff you yanks and wanks are always raving on and on about, and since all forms of coffee more or less resemble tar-black sludge, the aesthetic opportunities in the journalistic medium there, obviously, are a bit lacking.

With soda, however, you’ve got variety. Even if most colas are the same color as tobacco juice, at least the packaging is usually vibrant and distinct, and every now and then, the soda Gods toss us a penny from heaven in the form of some oddly flavored, oddly hued beverage that may or may not have some abstruse seasonal theme.

Well, this Thanksgiving season, we've got quite a few new(ish) items on store shelves, that in some way shape or form, kinda' tie-in to the autumnal season. Well, actually, there's only one soda of the like I can think of that fits that precise descriptor, but whatever. Now take a gander at these here pictures of cola cans and bottles, folks, and my feeble attempt to write more than 300 words about each individual item...


First up, we have Soda Shaq, a line of four cream sodas hawked by…Hakeem Olajuwon. The beverages are produced by the fine folks at Arizona, whose popularity in certain youth demographics most certainly CANNOT be attributed to the fact that scores and scores of people are mixing their teas and fruit drinks with potent pharmaceuticals and getting high Three Six Mafia-style. Not. At. All.

As stated up front, there are four flavors out there, but I could only find two in my neck of the woods: a strawberry cream version, and a vanilla cream version. Both sodas (I’m assuming all four, actually) cost just 99 cents, and weigh approximately nine and a half pounds. Well, maybe 23.5 fluid ounces doesn’t necessarily even out to nine and a half pounds, but like there’s really THAT much of a difference here.

Some folks think these beverages are just a wee bit hypocritical, since Shaq is doing all those ads for Michelle Obama about not being a fatass, and here’s that same spokes-Center turning around and plastering his mug all over these carbohydrate-laden colas, replete with on-the-aluminum messages like “a big can for a big man.” So yes, the products do in fact seem to insinuate that using them will make you obese…which, for honesty alone, probably makes the items automatically worth a purchase or two.

Iteration one is called Strawberry Cream, and I will be damned if I didn’t enjoy it. It had a light Cherry-Vanilla Coke taste, but it felt a little bit smoother and less acidic than Coca Cola’s take on the flavoring combo.

Aesthetically, there’s not much to see here, but it does seem to have a nice, cool ale-like hue. It certainly appears more tonic-looking than soda-looking, which, if absolutely nothing else, is a nice change of pace from the norm. As before, it has a very robust flavor that resides somewhere between hyper-caffeinated juice drink and your standard vanilla cola; it may not be something you would think you had a hankering for, but one sip of this stuff will have you ready to pump “Steel” or “Blue Chips” into your DVD player in no time flat.

The vanilla cream iteration has a good, old-fashioned root-beer aesthetic, both in terms of exterior aesthetics and actual liquid content. Thankfully, however, it doesn't taste anything at all like actual root beer, which I believe we can all agree tastes like prairie dog piss mixed with whitening tooth paste.

It was a solid soda, for the most part, but I think I preferred the strawberry vanilla cream soda more overall. That's not to say this thing is bad by any stretch, it's just that it's taste and texture was a little predictable, whereas the other Soda Shaq flavor I tried had a bit more substance to it. It's probably not as good as Vanilla Coke, but it's all right...even if the squinting Shaq head on the can is the kind of image that may make you want to forego sweets for awhile.

Mountain Dew Game Fuel!

Technically, these sodas aren't new per se -- the red one has actually been an on-again, off-again item since 2007, I believe -- but the packaging certainly is. And oh yeah, the purple one is definitely brand new, so it counts, gosh darn it.

As you ca no doubt see for yourselves, the colas are heralding the arrival of the Xbox One, with each bottle representing a different Day One launch title on the system. Rumor has it on the Intraweb that several different games are featured on the soda offerings, but I haven't really done that much sleuthing myself. All I know is that red one wants you to play "Forza," while the other one wants you to play some shitty Kinect sports game. If I had to have one as a next door neighbor, yeah, I'd probably give the nod to Mr. Red here, obviously.

Let's start with the grape drank, first and foremost because it looks very, very similar to Mountain Dew Pitch Black, which we all know by now, is one of the greatest things ever crafted by the hands of Homo Sapiens. 

Unfortunately, despite it's uncanny resemblance to one of the finest colas of all-time, this one and done offering -- given the uninspired moniker "Electrifying Berry" -- is actually fairly ho-hum, a watered-down grape cola that tastes less like an awesome Mountain Dew variation than it does a bottle of PowerAde you've had sitting in your icebox for a couple of weeks. Granted, it's not an undrinkable concoction by any means, but compared to retired heavy hitters like Mountain Dew Supernova? Yeah, this thing is a rare disappointment from the house Code Red built... 

Comparatively, I can't think of anything bad at all to say about the "Citrus Cherry" Game Fuel permutation, which from what my partially decimated taste buds recollect, is more or less the same product that rocked our proverbial worlds around the release of "Halo 3." 

Yeah, I know it's basically nothing more than a mildly souped up Mountain Dew Code Red, but I don't give a shit. Mountain Dew Code Red is one of the ten best things that's ever happened to me, and giving me that exact same thing -- only amped up with more sugar and caffeine content -- is like asking a dope addict if he's OK if you give him two spoonfuls of the cocaine instead of just one. Citrus Cherry Game Fuel Mountain Dew is goddamn great, and I'm more than willing to fight the Chinese over it if it comes down to it.  

Sprite Cranberry!

And so we come to Sprite Cranberry, really the only soda discussed today that even remotely ties into Thanksgiving in the slightest. I'm actually a really huge fan of Sierra Mist's seasonal cranberry cola, which is odd, because I generally don't care that much for either Sierra Mist or cranberries. And since Sierra Mist is basically just a poor man's version of Sprite, than it stands to reason that Sprite's own version of a cranberry cola HAS to be better than the substandard competitor's...right?

Well, I've never been a huge fan of Sprite, and I don't think I have ever tried Sprite Zero before at all. Since this iteration -- logically, anyway -- would appear to be the less intense of the two beverages, I decided to try it first. And folks, let me tell you -- I was sorely, SORELY disappointed.

First off, the thing doesn't taste like cranberries one smidge. Like, I can barely detect a glaze of artificial cranberry something in there, but its so faint as to be hardly recognizable. Odds are, if you offered this up to a pal and didn't tell them it was supposed to be cranberry-tinged, I highly doubt they would even suspect the beverage itself of having a cranberry theme. That, clearly, is bad. But the unforgivable sin here is that not only does Sprite Cranberry Zero NOT taste like cranberries, it doesn't even really taste like Sprite -- instead, it feels like a watered-down, cheap ass imitation brand Sprite knockoff, and I'm talking one of the REALLY low tiered kinds, like whatever dafug Food Lion calls their Sprite ripoff. I don't say this often, but if you're a soda fan? This is a product you need to steer clear of. Like, totally and shit. 

That said, Sprite Cranberry is a vastly superior product, in every conceivable way. For one, the packaging is cooler -- the fact that it's plumb-colored actually makes you think about cranberries, which is a sharp contrast to the Sprite Cranberry Zero packaging, which at first glance, looks almost indistinguishable from the regular Sprite Zeroes out there.

In terms of flavor and texture, it's not a bad little beverage. The overall soda probably tastes more like Sprite than a full cranberry-flavored beverage, but that's not necessarily a negative. Overall, the texture is crisp, and the cranberry flavor is strong without being too overpowering. If polled on the matter, I'd probably say that the Sierra Mist alternative is still a much better cola, but this remains a respectable first at-bat for Team Sprite nonetheless.

And need SOMETHING seasonal to wash down all of that Tofurkey, don't you?

Monday, November 25, 2013

PROPAGANDA REVIEW: “Last Ounce of Courage” (2012)

That one dude from “Roadhouse” takes on Fred “The Hammer” Williamson…in a metaphorical battle over the meaning of Christmas? Well, this is going to suck plenty…

Perhaps you’ve heard of this thing called "the War on Christmas" before. In short, it’s the belief held by many (predominantly) right-leaning Christians in the United States that “secular” (read: liberal, Muslim, homosexual, Marxist, vegetarian, feminist and atheist) contingencies are joining forces to eliminate the celebration of Jesus’ birthday from the national consciousness.

Now I know what you’re thinking: man, wouldn’t it be great if somebody out there made a really hokey, low-budget movie transforming this symbolic struggle into a literal one? Well, thankfully, somebody did, and the end dividend is “Last Ounce of Courage,” a 2012 straight-to-DVR offering that is arguably the finest Christian persecution revenge fantasy ever filmed. As an added bonus, it even manages to throw in some syrupy nationalism too, and the real kicker? The main villain of the film is none other than Fred “The Motherfuckin’ Hammer” Williamson, playing, of all things, the HEAD of the American Civil Liberties Union!

Before the movie even begins, you know you’re going to get a stern proselytizin’, due in part to a.) the name of the production company being “HELLFIGHTER,” and b.) a pre-credits audio snippet from Ronnie Reagan. We get a brief video montage of two lovelorn, heterosexual kids monkeying around with a digital camera, which is followed up by an extended sequence in which a dude in Patriot Guard regalia zips around in a bitchin’ denim jacket in the mountains. Meanwhile, really, really melodramatic music plays, and it doesn’t let up…really, at any point in the movie.

From there, we cut to a flashback scene where the biker (played by Marshall Teague, who is probably best known for his role as  Jimmy in “Roadhouse”) reflects on his son leaving his wife (who, of course, is preggers) for combat over in some suspiciously unnamed foreign conflict. A really, really cheap-looking “war montage” follows suit, the baby gets born and LOLOOPS! Here come the guys in military regalia and the folded flag, with some very unfortunate news about their eldest kid (for those of you unaccustomed to American military traditions: that means he got killed.)

Huh...I wonder what the political leanings of the filmmakers are?

After the funeral sequence, Teague tosses a flag on his bike in SUPER SLOW MOTION, to signify…I don’t know, some shit. And then we jump ahead 14 years later, where the bad ass biker dad is now a pharmacist who likes to (illegally?) treat the gunshot wounds of surprisingly civil biker gang members, whose legion includes a midget and the ever-present accompaniment of the shittiest sounding public domain rock and roll music you’ve ever heard.

His grandson is now middle school age, and he and his mom are over for Thanksgiving. He rummages through an old trunk and finds some old videotapes, and the family gathers round to watch some old Christmas celebrations. The kid ask his grand pappy how come people nowadays don’t celebrate like that no more, and his response is because there are people out there that are “trying to get laws passed to ban Christmas.” And also, the elderly couple has another kid, but because she did stuff “they didn’t agree with,“ she’s basically disowned. And in case you are wondering: no, the movie never tells us what she did to earn her parents’ scorn, either.

So Teague has a flashback about this old truck he and his son were working on, and his widowed daughter-in-law flirts with the local cop and on his very first day at school, her kid ends up being sent to the principal’s office because the Gestapo hall monitors found a bible in his locker. The janitor tells Teague that they are a bunch of cowards for not standing up to the principal, so Teague goes in there again and asks the principal if there are any actual school policies forbidding the bible in school and he says no and then everybody goes home to watch “The O’Reilly Factor.”

So the grandkid (whose name, creatively, I might add, is actually “Christian”)  and his platonic next door girlfriend peruse through some old Christmas decorations and decide it is time to STRIKE BACK against the forces of liberalism by hanging up stockings and eating candy canes and stuff. We get some more romantic interludes between the widow and the cop, and Teague decides he’s had enough to so he hops on his bike (with an American flag emblazoned with a crucifix pole ornament) and rides all the way to the mayor’s office…because he’s also the mayor of the town? Well, shit, then.

They call him Boss...boss of an American Civil Liberties Union expy.

While going on a rant about school policies, Teague says he’s going to bring Christmas back all by himself, goddamnit, by dragging a bunch of old decorations out of the city storage shed and putting them up all over his office. Some bikers (who are drinking SODA down at the local, PG-rated saloon) see the mayor on TV and hoot and holler, but the head of the ACLU (which, of course, is never mentioned by that namesake) sees it, sucks on a cigar, and concocts a secret plan to shut down a local veteran’s home due to church and state separation violations.

The kids decide to sabotage their “secularized” Christmas play, and Teague and the Hammer stare each other down at a press conference. “Our freedoms are being taken away from us,” Teague declares…so at this point, you know this shit is on, and hard.

Teague criticizes local retailers and radio stations for not playing Christmas music, the widow and the cop go out on a date, grandma is doing some work down at the local mission and what do you know, the health department is closing them down because they're violating the separation of church and state, which the heroes of the movie claim doesn’t exist in the slightest. We get some more “comedy” involving a Euro-trash sounding play director (who can’t even maintain his pseudo-German accent), and then Teague sets up a giant Christmas tree on the lawn of City Hall, and makes the bold declaration that the ACLU is repping “anti-Americanism.” The Hammer gets a court order to have the tree taken down, and ever the gentle Christian, Teague responds by threatening to punch him for doing things orderly and legally. The kids practice for “Silent Night, Wintry Night,” and then they all pledge on grandpa’s medal of honor to royally fuck up their school’s performance…for Jesus.

At a Christmas party, a mysterious agent yanks the City Hall Christmas Tree down…in slow-motion, of course. Soon, the local LIBERAL MEDIA reports a story about Teague’s hitherto unacknowledged missteps in ‘Nam, and he loses his job as mayor as a result. Teague then decides to give it to ‘em good by dragging a crucifix out and affixing it to the top of the shuttered mission…with aide from the soda-sipping bikers, of course.

He knows it's the right thing to do, abusing his position of governmental power to focus on sticking it to the "secularists" instead of, you know, actually running the town and stuff. 

As the townsfolk gather, Teague says the cross is a symbol of “religious freedom,” which includes atheism…somehow. He spiels about what the founding fathers believed (or, at least, what HE thinks they would believe) and says he can’t let their “enemies take one more inch” from them, as a military beat drums up in the background. He talks about all the people that have died serving their country in the name of religion, because, surely, every single soldier that’s ever died in the U.S. military HAD to have been a Christian. Every last one of them.

Not surprisingly, Teague gets arrested for his theatrics, but before he goes to the slammer, he hands his grandson his Medal of Honor. Greatly moved by the display, one of the TV reporters suddenly rejects liberalism, and storms off set to spend time with her family. And then, the Christmas play shenanigans begin, with the kids locking the director in a broom closet before the grandkid does a Tea Party spiel and shows everybody footage of his dad getting blown up in the Middle East. The janitor than uses physical force to threaten the school principal, he waves a flag around, and everybody cheers before singing “Silent Night, Holy Night.” Oh, and Teague was privy to all of this, because some bum in the cell beside him let him listen to a radio broadcast on his Walkman. But when Teague is released, his family tells them the play WASN’T broadcast on the radio…my goodness, that was no bum in the jailhouse with him, that was a real-life angel!

And as another miracle, their long-lost daughter returns, and says she’s sorry for doing whatever she did to make them toss her out of her life and stuff. The Hammer asks the cop that’s been dating the widow why he doesn’t arrest some of the townsfolk, and he replies by saying “I thought your organization was against prison overcrowding?” LOL, take that, efforts to reduce disproportionate minority contact in the nation’s justice systems!

And we get one more quote from Ronald Reagan before the end credits roll, and a final dedication to the 1.3 million “patriots” who have all died fighting in America’s struggles for geopolitical stratagem and energy interests…I mean, “Jesus” and “Freedom.”  A montage of earlier clips from the film play above the credits, while some shit singer screeches “This is Freedom!” over and over again. Oh, and in case you were wondering, this film was given the full blessing of one Charles Norris, so you know it’s good and godly and stuff.

Of course he approved it...after all, it sucks

The film was released by Rocky Mountain Pictures, the same firm that gave us “2016: Obama’s America.” It’s marketing was handled by Veritas Entertainment (one of the few publishers out there that I can think of that actually have a “values” statement on their website), and it has something to do with StandUSA, which is some Astroturf  Moral Majority-type revival that stands up for everything Jesus did, like lax gun laws and suspension of welfare payments to the impoverished. Needless to say, this was a stew prepared by a many conservative hand, and the finished product is about as fine a goulash of “seriously?” and “what the hell?” as you’d imagine it to be.

In terms of entertainment, you’re not getting a whole lot here, unless you take a particular pleasure from watching ham-fisted filmmakers make incredibly ham-fisted efforts to drive home ham-fisted messages. This whole movie, in short, feels like a pork knuckle being shoved down your throat, a big, fat, indelicate agitprop dinner that’s about as sure-handed as the grip of a methamphetamine user. It’s clear the producers of “Last Ounce of Courage” had a distinct message they wanted to send with the picture, but the gigantic problem therein was  that they didn’t know how to cobble a movie around that super-blunt message whatsoever. The acting is inferior, the direction is subpar and the script is particularly painful. In essence, the filmmakers could have delivered the gist of this movie by climbing atop a pharmacy and shouting aloud “Liberals hate Jesus!” through a megaphone; and the fact that they had to resort to making this overlong turd of a DVD really makes you wish these folks would’ve invested in a step ladder and some extra batteries to spread the good cheer instead.

Friday, November 22, 2013

41 Things I Hate About Modern Society

Some aspects of modernity make me quite happy. Today, we will not be talking about any of those things…

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for stuff…hence, the namesake “Thanksgiving,” I suppose. That said, there are quite a bit of things I encounter in my day-to-day life that I am not thankful for. In fact, these things, I feel downright unthankful for, because they’re awful and cause me a personal amount of suffering, which fluctuates in intensity from mild irk to carotid-artery-bulging outrage.

Here are a few of the things I'm talking about; forty-one of them to be precise, if we're sticklers for accuracy in reporting and all...

Music -- I know that’s an awfully broad thing for a person to say that they hate, but that’s more or less how I feel about the concept of music as a whole. Of course, I periodically listen to music, and there are quite a few acts that I really like, but compared to other art forms, there’s no denying that music is, intrinsically, annoying. For starters, it’s loud, and omnipresent; you can’t chow down at an Asian buffet without having Huey Lewis and the News songs blaring at you, and goddamn it, sometimes I just want to eat five pounds of shrimp in quietude. Similarly, music fans seem to take their love of whatever kind of music they like to extremes that are WAY more irrational than the fanaticism of, oh say, nonfiction literature or Sega Genesis aficionados. They’re ALWAYS playing their favorite music, as if life itself would come to a sudden halt if they didn’t hear that song on their iPod one more time and at that very instant. They come to more or less worship the artists they like, and at concerts, they act like one of those Southern Methodists that like to writhe around in the floor after the pastor slaps unholy spirits out of them in front of the pulpit. The worst part about it, I suppose, is that “music people”  act so weirded out about others NOT having the exact same instant-gratification needs they do -- they ALWAYS have to have the radio on in their car, they ALWAYS have to have their headphones on while they do stuff and on top of it all, they seem to be the most one-dimensional, homicidally violent, hive-minded kind of fans out there. Music itself may not always be bad, but I assure you that every kinda’ culture fixed around it is sure to be insufferable.

Television -- Pretty much the same deal here as it is with music. Sure, there are good television programs out there, and every now and then, I like to catch a hockey, football, soccer or game on the tube, but this whole idea that TV has to be such an entrenched aspect of one’s life just irks the shit out of me. In a lot of ways, the TV show has kinda’ become a ritualistic surrogate for religious ceremonies; I mean, people spend ALL WEEK waiting for the newest episode of “Breaking Amish” or what-the-hell-ever to air as if the other 167 hours in their weekly lives were just superfluous to that one central point of watching that show they like. You can tell me that shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones” are great, but I know better; it’s just more episodic nonsense, that gives one the illusion of enlightenment and an illusory sense of both personal progression and community via parasocial relationships. That, and I automatically feel dumber just by sitting in front of a set, being bombarded by advertisement after advertisement when all I really want is to hear Sophia Petrillo crack wise for a good 22 or so minutes. The most aggravating thing about television, I’d say, is the same thing that’s perhaps the most annoying about music in general -- its ubiquity. No matter where you go -- a gym, Taco Bell, a video game store, wherever -- you’re sure to be bombarded by a television screen of some kind, making the entire medium virtually inescapable.

Bicyclists -- Hardcore bicycle riders have to be the most arrogant people on the planet. Roadways, in case you haven’t noticed, are for AUTOMOBILE USE. That grey stuff between the grass is a vessel authorized for motor vehicles only; that is, machines, designed to transport individuals from location to location via the controlled explosion of combustible fuels, at speeds which fluctuate from five miles to about 70 miles per hour. Bicyclists, it appear, haven’t figured this out, and have no qualms WHATSOEVER about taking their rinky dink contraption out on the nation’s highways and byways, peddling at speeds in excess of ten or so miles per hour, while actual motorists are stuck behind the rider, whom are completely unable to move because of opposite lane traffic. It’s clear that bicyclists have no respect at all for the unstated social system, nor our communal transportation laws. And on top of that, they dress in goofy, pastel-colored spandex, which just makes them look like gay superheroes.

Families that Like to Exercise Together -- They are so many things wrong with people like this, I don’t know where to begin. First of all, where I come from, families aren’t supposed to do ANYTHING as units -- they’re SUPPOSED to be dysfunctional clumpings of people that are, largely, kept together because of court order. And even IF said families were to perform an act together, it sure as heck wouldn’t be for something with positive health benefits, like jogging or aerobics. Long story short: if your family likes to roller skate as an ensemble on the weekends, instead of fist fighting each other over who’s going to get the last drumstick from Church’s, you’re probably a horrible human being that will never amount to anything in life.

White People that are Really into Reggae -- Folks of the sort are just absolutely intolerable. First of all, the reality is, they don’t even LIKE the music, it’s just that they like to smoke weed and feel some sense of cultural connection (primarily, via the works of a violent rapist) outside their own painfully boring (and almost certainly) middle class white person existence. And regarding Caucasians with dreadlocks; in at least 48 states, others should have legal permission to punch your lights out.

Believe it or not, I don't think that's a picture of the dude from "Blues Traveler."

People that Wear Fedoras -- Even outside of all the Brony subculture stuff, it’s just an unsightly fashion choice. But at least it works as something of an unstated social warning: headwear of the sort is more or less the Star of David for boring perverts whom have nothing worthwhile to say about anything, at all.

People that Like to Bump their Stereos at 10 in the Morning -- It’s Tuesday at the Post Office, and there are only two people in the parking lot. Who the hell do you think you’re impressing here? Almost as bad: people that feel the need to blare their custom car sound systems at places that are completely unlikely to draw the attention of like-minded others. Example? Once, I saw a dude bumping and trying to look all gangsta…at 7 PM…on a Wednesday…at Publix.

Post Office Service, In General -- Always staffed by the most incompetent, clearly disinterested people on the planet. Honest to God: I went into the local P.O a few weeks ago, and the desk lady actually greeted me by saying “what are you looking at?” The fact that they always lose your parcels doesn’t really help their case, either.

People that Wear their Sunglasses on the BACKS of their Heads -- The first time I saw someone doing this, I was convinced it had to have been someone with a developmental disorder. Flash forward a few months, and encountering an entire armada of bro-dudes rocking the exact same look made me realize that this ridiculous fashion trend actually exists. When I see someone doing this, I instinctively want to grab a felt tip pen and quickly draw a crude nose and squiggly mouth down the back of their neck. And I’m going to do it someday, I promise.

People that Are in Clearly Unsuccessful Bands, Who Are Convinced They Will One Day Achieve Greatness -- At some point in your life, you’ll probably think about starting a band. That time is called “for about five minutes when you’re 14,” and then you move on to thinking about shit that actually matters. Believe it or not, I know people who are in their 20s, and even by-God 30s in some cases, who are 110 percent sure that their band will eventually lead them to fame and fortune, despite the fact that a.) they’ve never actually been booked for a show before, b.) they don’t have enough money collectively to even record a tape demo (let alone afford the postage to mail them out to anyone) and c.) they’re still trying to find a bassist. The more I think about it, the more I realize just how much music is responsible for the general shiftlessness of today’s generation. David Noebel was wrong about a lot of things, but he sure was right about a whole lot of others…

Nothing pleases the Dark Lord quite like casual Fridays...

People that Are Always Going to Concerts -- A kinda’ inversion of the above, this time from a spectator’s perspective. We all know at least one or two people whose lives more or less revolve around going to “shows” -- they take in at least one a week, and sometimes more, and their Facebook feed is pretty much nothing but pictures from the last show, thoughts about the last show, thoughts about how excited they are for the upcoming show, and reminiscing about that one time that one thing happened at that one show that went to. Most of the time, these people are failed musicians themselves (who, I suppose, at least had the good sense to do something quasi-productive with their lives instead), or really boring, buttoned-down people that thrive off the vicarious thrill of watching others do something they can’t (although, to be fair, most of us COULD be behind-the-stage drug addicts that make $80 a gig at doing SOMETHING, I reckon.) Needless to say, there’s not a whole lot of depth to people of the like; it’s best to ignore them, or at least say all sorts of slanderous shit behind their back while they’re trying to get the drummer’s face perfectly stabilized for an Instagram selfie.

Any Kind of Electronic Music, for that Matter -- Yeah, I know I’m talking a lot about music here, and I suppose covering music in general up front sort of covers this one by default, but this aural racket is worth a special deriding for at least a few sentences. Trance, Trap, Techno, Dubstep and especially all of that Ambient stuff -- I don’t even think it’s shitty enough to qualify as actual music, to be honest. It’s just a bunch of zips and zaps and these low pitched hums and droning beats, typically worsened by the inclusion of some completely unnecessary secondary audio track -- like, some dude talking about  “Lord of the Rings” or a mandolin solo, or something.  Additionally, I have yet to encounter a single person into music of the like that I would consider a decent human being; maybe there’s something intrinsic about the genre that just taps into the human “asshole” gene, I guess?

People that Care about GMOs -- That’s “genetically modified organisms,” for those of you that aren’t in the know. For whatever reason, a large contingency of folks out there decided to go on a jihad about how GMOs in food are some sort of scientifically-unproven lethal scourge, and a lot of people that are really keen on thinking for themselves decided to become part-time GMO-critics, too. These are the kinds of people that are hell bent on convincing you that Boo Berry and Mountain Dew are utterly toxic chemicals, frequently going on tirades about how “raw milk” and Paleodieting is the only way to keep yourself from contracting aspartame-borne cancer or something. I hope I live to be 100, just so I can stand over their graves and eat a Hot Pocket.

People that Think Comic Books are Legitimate Works of Art and/or Social Commentary -- Look, I grew up loving 1970s Spider-Man comics as much as the next guy, but even as comic-collector in the 90s, I knew the shit was junk culture, nothing more, nothing less. Nowadays, people are utterly convinced that comic books are legit art, on par with, you know, real art, and that said medium has just as much validity as film and the ACTUAL written word. You know, because “Maus” was a much more effective, in-depth look at the Holocaust than “Schindler’s List” in either book and movie-form, and “Miracle Man” is far more enlightening than “The Gulag Archipelago” or “The Human Condition.” Even worse are those purveyors of “comics journalism,” which is an honest-to-goodness attempt to get morons to read news by having overrated and overpaid comic artists draw it for them. If you ever wondered why nobody trusts the media -- or why today’s generation is filled with so many numbskulls -- that’s more or less all you need to know right there.

Anime, in General -- Might as well thrown in manga while we’re at it, and any of those JRPGs that are based on anime or manga, or are trying to emulate anime or manga. The stories are stupid and juvenile, while the artwork is completely interchangeable. Hey, look, some dude with big eyes and a sword-arm is fighting another dude with big-eyes and sword-arm! How inventive. And a lot of it is just pervy as hell - the fact that one of the most popular Japanese cartoons out there is a show about a dude trying to avoid being boinked by his stepsisters (no, really) is really all the proof you need there, I suppose. Even more depressing is that this hogwash somehow inspired an entire subculture. Which, of course, provides a natural segue into…

Some people dedicate their lives to solving social injustices and curing deadly diseases. And others like to dress up like cartoon characters from Japanese  children's programs. 

Cosplaying -- Am I the only person on the planet that realizes how stupid this is? You’re a grown-ass adult, dressed up like a cartoon character, in public. Just think about that for a minute, and let the sorrow sink deep into your marrow.

Commercials -- I hate them, I hate them, I hate them. That’s probably the primary reason I could never get into TV, I suppose. When I hear people talking about commercials, I can almost smell their brains turning into mush. And if you post a commercial on your Facebook page, for any reason, you deserve a good walloping. Several, maybe.

People That Have No Idea What Objective News Is Supposed To Look Like -- How many times have you been in an argument with some lunkhead, who was convinced that this one article completely validated their crazy-ass beliefs on something? So anyway, you take the bait, and what they show you is from WND, Breitbart, or god help you, PrisonPlanet. We live in a culture where millions of young people can’t tell the difference between an official government source or a peer reviewed article from a blog post written by some tinfoil-hat sporting basement dweller, or some conspiratorial dweeb’s YouTube channel. Opinion, fact, truth, commentary…who cares which is which, right?

Plasma Screen Menus at Fast Food Restaurants -- When the shit did all this happen? A couple of months ago, I walked into a McDonalds, and the place was like some sort of post-modern Museum, or a picture from the set of “Demolition Man” or something. There’s a counter, a cash register, and a wall of LCD screens behind you, where the good-old plastic menu board with removable paper slots used to be. And to make things worse, they keep changing, so it takes three or four times as long to figure out what you want to eat now. It’s unnecessary, counterproductive, and technological just for the sake of being technological -- which, in a nutshell, kinda’ describes most of our modern world, anyway.

Radiohead, and Anybody That Listens to Them -- There are a lot of bands out there I hate, but I really, REALLY hate Radiohead. It’s the worst kinda’ hatred too, the kind that you really can’t explain in one or two sentences. It’s a sensorial hatred, I would say, an instinctive hatred that goes far beyond the normal constraints of human reason or understanding. For starters, “Creep” (which gets my vote for single worst thing ever recorded) made whiny-ass-white-boy-rock the default genre standard for the last 20 years, and as far as their critically acclaimed stuff goes -- “OK Computer” and “Kid A” and all that mess -- I honestly don’t know what makes it great, let alone enjoyable listening. As a general rule, people that are into Radiohead tend to be the absolute most boring, herd-minded individuals you’ll ever meet -- a buncha’ pseudo-intellectual dingbats that would listen to the sound of a malfunctioning air conditioner and give it a five star review of you told them Thom Yorke was the person that stuck a nickel in its fan. Avoid Radiohead, Radiohead-like things and especially Radiohead fans, and you’ll probably do pretty well in life, I’d imagine.

Clearly, one of the greatest running back "could've-beens" in NFL history.

People that are STILL Talking About Tim Tebow -- Yeah, he had one or two good games, but ultimately, he had a whole lot more star-breaking performances than stellar ones. Anybody remember that one game against the Bills in Week 16, or that playoff sodomization at the hands of Tom Brady and the Pats in early 2011? He’s a mediocre to under-performing QB, that ONLY gets media attention because even for a professional athlete, he’s an annoying, self-righteous, overly-proselytizing doofus. And remember: this is the same professional sport that gave us both Reggie White AND Ray “Jesus Wants Me to Win the Super Bowl” Lewis.

People on the Internet that Really Hate Justin Bieber -- These people are just utter scumbags, through and through. I understand not liking a musician, but wanting a musician literally DEAD just because you don’t? It’s beyond asinine, and just another indication of how the Internet has totally eroded our abilities to act like civil human beings.

QR Codes in Public Spaces -- AKA, those bar-code thingies you’re supposed to scan with your phone to get advertisements and shit. They’re ugly, intrusive, and every time I see one, it kinda’ makes me want to do a crossword puzzle. Definitely another reason why I’m glad I don’t have a smart phone, even though all 7 billion other people on the planet do.

Bryan Cranston -- The fact that we live in a world where the Dad from “Malcolm in the Middle” is now considered one of Hollywood’s finest thespians says a lot about modernity. And absolutely nothing good, I assure you.

Louis C.K. -- I gave a few of his stand-up routines a try, and I was not impressed. Probably the most overrated comedian on the planet right now, and considering that’s a planet that includes Kevin Hart, that’s probably saying something.

Christopher Nolan -- Way too revered for not doing a whole hell of a lot to being with; I liked “The Dark Knight” better back when it was called “Heat,” personally. Also responsible for this absurd idea that all comic book properties HAVE to be retooled into quasi-realistic film projects: you know, quasi-realistic film projects about JFK, Jr. dressing up like a leather wombat and fighting a terrorist clown using military-stolen weapons he purchased via stockholders’ money. Bonus Dislike Points for making all of that incredibly blunt, pro-neoconservative agitprop at the same time.

People that are ALWAYS Smoking Weed -- Probably the closest thing liberals have to a sub categorization that’s as annoying as the NRA wads. Of all the political and social ills you could be fighting -- wealth inequity, institutional prejudices, systemic injustices, so on and so forth -- you’d have to be a pretty dim bulb to make “weed legalization” your default causa sui. It doesn’t help that my neighborhood is SURROUNDED by weed-smoking dingbats, whom prove once and for all that marijuana has some sort of negative impact on one’s cognitive abilities.

Yeah...that's something I wouldn't mind staring over me while I sleep.

Cats -- I just don’t like them. They’re nowhere near as cute as everybody likes to tell you they are, and unlike dogs, you can’t trust them. That, and they have toxoplasma gondii, which according to whom you ask, may turn you into either a delusional cat-lady OR a really good soccer player.

When My Foot Falls Asleep -- OK, so maybe modern society doesn’t have anything at all to do with this one, but that still doesn’t mean that I can’t hate the ever-loving shit out of it when it does. It always seems to happen at the most inopportune moments as well, like, right when you have to get up and do something important, like walk across a stage to receive an award or when you really, really have to spring towards the commode for a sudden shat. Modern medicine can give an octogenarian a boner, but we haven’t come up with a way to properly address this ailment; that alone is reason enough to prevent me from donating money to ANY sort of scientific research.

Reddit -- Far and away one of the worst websites on the Internet. I’m not sure which aspect of the site I hate more; the fact that’s its almost single-handedly responsible for turning Internet correspondence into a jumble of infantilized blurbs and hackneyed sayings (while at the same time, replacing genuine reflection with the irredeemable scourge of “memes”) OR the fact that it’s goaded so many people that ought to know better into believing it’s a viable source for both news and audience-building. Long story short, Reddit is nothing more than a sounding board for people with various mental illnesses to talk about their oddly specific fetishes and obsessions. If you really want to hate humanity as a whole, just spend about five minutes browsing through some subreddits, and the pan-odium is sure to hit you.

Sports Talk Radio -- Whatever the lowest form of journalism is, I’m pretty sure “sports talk radio” is right underneath it. It’s all a bunch of fat, out-of-shape broadcasters, alongside virtual nobodies with absolutely zero professional sports experiences calling in from home, complaining nonstop about what coaches SHOULD have done and why (insert unpopular local sports figure here) needs to be booted out of town. No matter where you go, these programs are all the same. Especially in the qualifier that they all suck, mostly.

People that Hate on Madden Football -- For whatever reason, this appears to be the most hated video game franchise on the Internet, with many a pissed off IGN reader criticizing the franchise for being nothing more than an annual rehash that doesn’t do anything new with the platform -- this, coming from individuals that do nothing but fellate Nintendo and Square every time they release a Mario or Final Fantasy game that looks, sounds, feels and plays just like the last fifteen that came before it. There are a lot of people out there that are still pissed about the NFL 2K5 deal, even though Madden 2005 was CLEARLY a superior football sim that year and Visual Concepts’ attempt to relaunch its football engine in a next-gen title flopped harder than a live trout tossed off the Willis Tower. Madden at its uncreative worst is still better than a good 98 percent of the titles you’ll find on the Wii U right now, so if you have any beef with the series…well, I don’t really care. And  while I’m at it: “Madden ‘94” is a better game than “Super Metroid,” too -- my 300 or so hours playing the former on my Genesis between the years of 1993 and 1996 being all the evidence I need to corroborate my claim.

How Peyton really spent the 2011-2012 season...

Peyton Manning -- Even before he became a Bronco, I hated him. I hate his big, stupid country accent, and the way he talks like he only has one really big tooth in his head. I especially HATE how all of those numbskulls in the sports media perpetually drone on and on about how great he is, when the fact of the matter is the NFL just puss-ified defenses so much that it makes it nearly impossible for DB’s to cover wideouts or for safeties to target him without counting to fifty first. Also, I hate how omnipresent he is as an ad figure, even though if you ask me, he really should’ve stopped after that “Your defense is offensive” Xbox commercial about a decade ago. The only silver lining here? Every year, I can’t WAIT to watch him throw yet another season-ending interception in the playoffs

People that are Really, Really Outraged about NSA Spying -- If you do something online, people will find out about it. GET OVER IT. Bonus hypocritical points: these same folks are outraged that the government MAY be spying on their e-mails, but apparently, they have no qualms whatsoever about Facebook and Google mining their personal data and SELLING IT TO ADVERTISERS WITHOUT THEIR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT.

People that React Rationally to Unfavorable Sports Outcomes -- These people make me want to vomit. Sports exist solely as a safe outlet for all of us to return to our primitive roots, where savage violence and fierce tribalism supplants things like “common sense” and “caring about laws and stuff.” If your team loses an important game, simply chuckling and saying “oh, well, maybe next year” just doesn’t cut it with me. As we all know, there’s only one response to such occurrences, and that’s tapping into one’s reptilian brain and saying and doing stuff that a caveman would probably say and/or do. If your team gets booted out of the playoffs, and you DON’T break glass, use profanity loudly or set something on fire, you have no business in my culture, amigo.

Buzzfeed -- Next to Reddit, probably the worst thing about the Internet I can think of. In the long term, Buzzfeed is probably worse, because as awful as Reddit may be, they at least make users say a FEW words in the English language before posting whatever stupid and offensive bullshit they find. With Buzzfeed, we’re watching the slow elimination of language altogether, with animated .GIFS and image macros slowly beginning to replace the concept of “sentences” and “paragraphs” as forms of human communication. Perhaps this is the first step in the long, painful process of the written word deteriorating back into pictographs; 30 years from now, the all electronic-version of “The New York Times” will probably supplant “journalism” with “connect-the-dots” and “color-by-number” infographics.

People that use the term “Straw Man” as a political euphemism -- I’ve never encountered a person that’s used the term “straw man” before that WASN’T a pretentious, smug, self-congratulatory spunk-head. If you ever hear someone refer to an oppositional stance as such, take note that you are assuredly in the company of assholes.

Can you spot the incredibly overrated director in this sea of Elvis impersonators?

Quentin Tarantino -- Mostly, for the part about him being Quentin Tarantino.

Civil War Reenactors -- What a boring ass war to dedicate one's spare time to. It's just a bunch of old white dudes, with white beards, running around in blue and brown and pretending to stab each other; I know, that sounds a little cool in principle, but if you've ever seen a Civil War reenactment in person, you know that it's incredibly underwhelming. Why not start staging reenactments of Vietnam instead? At least that one had Chinook helicopters and Punji sticks in it...

White People That Claim Indian Ancestry -- Sometimes referred to as "The Billy Jack Syndrome," this occurs when people who are whiter than a mayonnaise snowflake attempt to reinforce their inherent "Americanism" by claiming to have a certain percentage of Native American blood flowing through their veins. You know, because being 1/64th Choctaw completely negates the other 63/64ths of you being "Anglo-Saxon Dickhead," somehow.

People that are always complaining about modern society, that never offer any constructive solutions as to how to remedy those same problems -- I mean, they are just the worst.