“Ballad of an Old Soldier” -For Our Veterans on Memorial Day

This song is dedicated to the many WW2 soldiers I have known and the many more who I have not. It was directly inspired by two men I knew in Indianapolis, Indiana in the late ’90s. They had both served in WW2, one in the Navy and one in the Marines. They had even fought in the same battle once, and lived a mile apart when I knew them, but they did not know one another. Both men craved sharing stories about their experiences in WW2. Yet, their stories (as well as other WW2 vets that I have known) shared two common features. First, they would not call themselves a “hero” and reserved that title only for others. Second, they could only go so far with their stories before an invisible line was approached that they would not cross. As much as they wanted to share their stories, there were certain things that they just would not talk about.

This song is also dedicated to the wives of these stalwart men. Many wives and girlfriends got a very different man back after WW2, if their man came home at all. It was important for me to include a verse dedicated to the women who stood by their men who lived with the ghosts of WW2 the rest of their lives. Of course, there were many women who served in WW2 in various capacities at home and abroad. A hearty “thank you” to them!

Please share this song with any old vets you know. It is for them.

This song can be downloaded on several sites, including iTunes. See link below:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/half-life/id615843809

The lyrics are below:

Ballad of an Old Soldier

v1. family reunion time once again- been going since I was a kid- I know the faces but, the names slip my mind- A gray-haired man caught my eye- I walked over to ask him why- he stood out from the ordinary man-and he said…

Ch. I’m just an old soldier, you might not understand- but from Normandy to Bataan- I’ve got memories chiseled deep in my heart- and I can never close my eyes without hearing the sound of mortars fly, while I’m fighting on a bloody battlefield- and I cry out to God above, for fallen soldiers that I love…they were heroes, but as for me…I’m just an old soldier

v2. I saw a man in a nursing home, sitting in his room all alone-just staring out at a cold winter day- I saw something in his eyes that made me stop and ask him why- he stood out from the ordinary man- then he said…

v3. I saw a man in a casket lie, his wife leaned down to kiss him bye-her tears falling softly on his chest- then she turned to face the crowd- she just wanted to say how proud, she was of the man she’d loved for all those years- then she said…

alt ch. He was just an old soldier you might not understand, but from Normandy to Bataan- he had memories chiseled deep in his heart- and he could never close his eyes without hearing the sound of mortars fly-while he was fighting on a bloody battlefield- and I would sometimes hear him cry, for soldiers fallen by his side- he called them heroes, but as for him…he was just an old soldier

A Prank Too Far- When Does a Prank Stop Being Funny?

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An interesting phenomenon has developed over the last several years via the reach of youtube- the rise of independent, “professional” pranksters. These are creative people who started out small, and due to their consistent and well-filmed prank videos, have reached a certain level of internet fame. For some, that fame and the ad revenue it produces even makes for a full time personal income allowing them more time to focus on their art of creating prank videos.

If you are into the prank videos on youtube, you may know some of the primary pranksters well. Many of their videos go so viral that even if you aren’t into watching the pranks, you will see the links posted on various social media sites. Other videos become so popular that they are referenced in major news stories nationally and internationally. A few of the “kings” of youtube prank channels are Jack Vale (the Pooter guy), edbassmaster, Roman Atwood, Vitaly at VitalyzdTV, Tom Mabe at MabeInAmerica, PrankvsPrank, The Scary Snowman, Dennis Roady, MagicofRahat, and others. Some of these pranksters have also learned the trick to being one of the “popular kids” as it were. That is, you team up and tell the populace that the other person is cool too. So, some popular pranksters often team-up to do videos and pranks together. It is brilliant cross marketing and pools their creative resources as well.

These viral pranks range greatly in their nature, style of execution, and subject matter. Some are just goofy “fart” pranks pulled off in public spots, stores, or elevators. See Jack Vale’s video’s for the best examples of these.

Others are also very simplistic in nature, but always have a great payoff, such as the Scary Snowman videos.

Hey, fake farts and people getting startled have always been and will always be funny. Video pranks will vary from those simple and relatively harmless versions all the way to some very potentially dangerous ones. Some pranksters have also made a real effort to use some of their pranks to benefit others or have done social experiments to raise awareness of some important issues. I applaud the noble efforts of such pranksters to use their art form in the service of helping others to whatever degree they can.

But, there are two other categories of prank videos that I would like to address. Actually, the two have some overlap. That is, pranks that can potentially (or likely) cause harm to the public and pranks that waste the resources of emergency or police services. I was inspired to address this issue after seeing several of those types of videos being discussed by people on Facebook in the last few weeks. It seems that there is a one-upmanship battle going on between the royalty of youtube pranksters. The nature of some of these pranks is getting more ridiculous and/or dangerous. Please know, I am not a “fuddy-duddy” that doesn’t get a kick out of a ton of the pranks I see. Yet, in day to day life, I am not a prankster myself. Since I don’t like being messed with personally, I don’t dish it out either. But, due to the rise of the “professional prankster” some of them think that saying, “IT’S JUST A PRANK!” after doing something crazy in public somehow puts them “on base” from any repercussions.

As a disclaimer and qualifier, I do not condone violence against another person merely over words or insult. I do support defending one’s self when you believe that you are in immediate danger, are being actively and physically intimidated, actually attacked, or are defending another person who is in one of those situations. I would assert that some of these pranksters are going too far and becoming reckless in a way that is dangerous to themselves and others with some recent pranks.

Since I have enjoyed watching youtube pranks for years, I have tried to hold back on being too judgmental on some “iffy” pranks that I have seen online. But, the first one I saw from a major prankster, in this case Roman Atwood, that I think definitely crossed the line is the one below:

The “Drive-by Shooting Prank” is just reckless, stupid, and dangerous. If you noticed, one person actually shot back at Atwood’s vehicle toward the end of the video. Atwood is lucky that the shooter was a poor shot and no one else had a car handy to chase his SUV down in to return real fire. Here are my main points of contention about that prank:
1. Going to a potentially high-crime neighborhood where people are already on edge and making random people think they are really being shot at is just negligent, unthinking, and lacks compassion. I would like Atwood or any other prankster who thinks such a prank is funny to consider what it would be like to walk out your front door, your small child in tow, to what you think is a real drive-by shooting pointed in your direction. Would that just be “ha-ha” funny? Would that just be all good after your and your child were terrified? I know there was not a small child apparent in the video, but I appeal to Atwood’s sensibilities (if he sees this blog) knowing his is a father.
2. The prankster his or herself could actually be injured.
3. The people who believe they are being shot at may assume that they know who is shooting at them: a neighboring gang, a person who they have had trouble with before, etc. and take revenge. Or, they may just go looking for a person who was driving the same kind of vehicle as the supposed shooter to get back at them. That is the type of thing that can happen in the real world.
4. Likely, police or emergency services are called because of such a situation. That wastes resources paid for by taxpayers at large for ridiculous reasons. It also can create a potential investigation that could falsely implicate an innocent person.

The recently posted video just below, “Killer Clown Scare Prank,” inspired a lengthy discussion on Facebook last week between quite a few people. (Graphic scenes)

That Killer Clown video is another example of a prank gone too far in my opinion. Many of the comments on Facebook had to do with the assertion that the person commenting would have reacted violently or shot the “clown.” Some of that may have been hyperbole, but I would say the majority of the people commenting were being literal. I myself live in a state, Indiana, which has a substantial amount of people who carry a concealed pistol, myself included. It would be reasonable in my opinion, especially in a city like Indianapolis with a crazy murder rate, to fire at a person who you believe is trying to attack you with a hammer, ax, knife, etc. It is inevitable that one of these pranksters engaging in highly irresponsible pranks will eventually be seriously hurt or killed. With so many real tweakers and violent people out there, as an individual on the street, you can’t just not act in a situation because there is a 1% chance you may be the target of a prank. Several pranksters have even been punched or slammed to the ground after doing a prank when they faked stealing a person’s property or said something highly offensive. Again, I don’t condone a violent reaction to words. But, you can’t expect to say crazy things to random people in public and not get hit eventually. Of course, it makes for great video and lots of “clicks,” so getting hit may be worth it to some pranksters. See the following for an example: (language warning)

Last, I would mention pranks that demean people. Even if done under the label of “helping” these pranks are in poor taste. Sure, people can do whatever they want for the most part and should be able to in making videos. But, I can also share my thoughts. In the following video, helping needy people is done in a way that is demeaning at the same time. If you’re going to give homeless folks money, do it in a way that doesn’t involve apparently blowing money out of your ass guys. Just because the homeless will take the money any way they can get it, does’t mean you should force them to grovel for money from your butt (of course, it isn’t really, but that isn’t the point)

In Atwood’s defense, he has fed the homeless and given money on several occasions in previous videos in much more tasteful ways (see the link below). And, he and his team have made tons of great prank videos as well. He is actually one of the best all-around pranksters online. Though, the push to get more and more sensational has to hit a wall at some point.

It is my hope that responsible pranking will continue. But, I implore youtube pranksters to mix in a bit of common sense and refrain from doing obviously dangerous pranks and/or pranks that waste police and emergency services. To my surprise, Roman Atwood, the prankster from the “Drive by Shooting” prank recently discovered a prank that was too much for even him. But hey, stealing gas when it’s over $4 a gallon could get you killed anywhere…

Thanks for reading and sharing! For a bit of comic relief, enjoy this classic SNL skit that relates to this blog perfectly 🙂

SNL Prankster Skit with Christopher Walken

Sweet Sixteen -A Poem for Angela on our Anniversary

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Sweet Sixteen

Do you see the hope on our young faces

My love

As we embraced

A sweet sixteen years ago

Only days before we wed

Me in your arms

And you in mine

One of our perfect moments 

I remember it perfectly

The feel of your shirt’s fabric in my left hand

How your hair smelled

The way your breast felt against my chest

As you made my heart beat faster

We knew not all that would come

Between that day and this 

Not even the half of it

But we knew we would be living it together

I, who would be an instant father

Looked forward to calling your child my son

And of our four more children to come

Nothing was known of them then

Now to go even a day without their company seems a grave injustice

My dear wife

We have seen so many of love’s soldiers

Fall to the wayside

Injured or slain

During or journey

Yet, after 16 years

We abide

Stalwart and unified

Not only that

But expectant of what is to come

For better or worse

We are purposed

Still in love

And full of hope

As we celebrate our

Sweet Sixteen

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Fighting Vitriol and Hate with Vitriol and Hate Doesn’t Work…

Earlier today, I saw this video pop up in my Facebook feed. As I started to watch it, I asked myself, “Why does the lady holding the sign look SO familiar?” When the answer hit me, I yelled to my wife, “HEY! The lady who got hit with the slushie is the hateful lady I debated with at that huge garage sale event!” Yet, I was not happy that she had been doused in a frosty, frozen, convenience store beverage.

Here is the back story… A few months ago the, “Greater Indianapolis Garage Sale,” was taking place at the State Fair Grounds. Since I am a picker and ebay seller, I decided to head up one afternoon with my family to see what we could find. I had not more than walked into the large room with hundreds of booths before I saw a table in the middle of the room surrounded by three huge signs decrying gay marriage, threatening Hell to sinners, and explaining why Monster energy drinks were of the Devil. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, isn’t that special?” It was going to be a while before we got to that booth, but I committed to myself to suss out and confront this person’s ideology.

When we got to the both, the woman running it was holding up an empty can of Monster (I hope she did not buy it, rather found it so she did not have to put money in the Antichrist’s pocket) while pontificating to the person in front of her about why the Monster logo was really “666.” Spooky stuff.

So, I waited a few moments for her to finish and then started asking her questions. She, as very fundamentalist religious people go, was not really interested in my questions or dialogue, rather only the opportunity to “rebuke” me for something. I switched gears from dialogue to debate mode and off we went. Over the next 45+ minutes we drew quite a crowd as well as attention from people running booths nearby. I’ll admit, she had me on angst and volume. I relied on the Socratic Method and asking her to demonstrate the reliability of her epistemological base in order to change my mind toward her position. I sensed a great deal of internal trepidation in her anytime I tried to test her ideology with reason and logic. Her main ammunition was vitriolic charges about my supposed character and assertions that I would be tortured in an imaginary place for eternity after I died. The other unfortunate thing for her was, my knowledge of the Bible itself was superior to hers. So, I not only had to discuss with her on one level about ideology in general, but I also spent time correcting her on her own assertions based on the Bible. It was a bit tiring I must admit.

I knew there was only the slightest chance that I would get through to such a person on any level. Yet, it was important for me to try. The greatest encouragement was, two of my kids, my wife, and a crowd of people were listening to our conversation. They saw and heard, not only what we communicated, but how. I tested her ideas, she insulted me. I implored her to rise above her archaic dogma, she condemned me to hell fire. I did not go ad hominem, she arrogantly called me names. She insulted me to my kids, I told them she was a scared person and a bully. As we eventually concluded our parley at an obvious impasse and I walked off, several other people thanked me for trying to get through to her and for how I went about it. At the risk of hubris, I was actually very proud afterward of how I had handled myself.

Then today, when I saw the video of her, Christine Weick, being slushie assaulted, it really bummed me out. Here is why:
1. It is her right to stand on a public corner and spew her nonsense if she wants to. She did not deserve to be treated in the way that the other pedestrian treated her. The other woman should have presented her own case, called Christine out on her hatefulness, explained the error of it, and then left. The second woman had no right to dump a drink on Christine and she made an ass of herself.
2. Christine and many similar people who see the video will generalize the other woman’s behavior as, “how liberals are,” and it will only serve to justify their own behavior.
3. The only thing that any other passerby could have gotten from the whole exchange was something negative. There was nothing to use as a positive, teachable example from either person in the situation.
4. Last and most important… You cannot fight vitriol and hate with vitriol and hate.

Due to the road noise adjacent to the two women, I could not make out everything that was being said. Ultimately, you had two hateful people, on different sides of one particular issue, threatening each other that the God that they both happen to have on their own side would be tossing the other into Hell. I was emotionally sickened by each of them and their words toward one another.

So, if we cannot glean a lesson from positive example, we can learn one from the negative…

We MUST hold ourselves to a higher standard my fellow humans. We must refrain from personal attacks when debating with even the most hateful person. Many times, like schoolyard bullies, dogmatic bullies are actually very weak, scared, and trying to compensate for that. Even if we are not able to break through to such people, our behavior and tact can be a positive example for others. Only that will help all of humanity to grow and be freed from the chains of credulity, hatred, condemnation, and a lack of empathy toward others. It is of paramount importance that we stand up to such hateful people. BUT… we must do it the right way. Do not become them in an attempt to beat them. As my mom always told me, “Be careful that you do not become what you hate.”

-Luke

UPDATE! 11/9/2014- Here is a video of Weick that I randomly saw pop up on the front page of youtube today:

Breaking Bad Naptown Style- A Baptist Pastor in Indy Starts a Drug Ring

Image Pastor Robert Jaynes (photo credit- Facebook)

It is like something from a movie script… fundamentalist Baptist pastor breaks bad and starts a multi-state, illegal drug ring worth millions of dollars while recruiting workers right out of his own church and little league affiliations. But, this story isn’t fiction.

Pastor Robert Jaynes, and church member, Kirk Parsons, have allegedly been running an illegal “Spice” ring for several years based on government documents. This multi-state Spice ring headquartered in Central Indiana is said to be one of the largest of its kind in U.S. history. On April 21st, twelve alleged members of their drug operation were formally charged with at least five felony counts each in the Circuit Court of Hancock County, In.

Image Kirk Parsons and Robert Jaynes (photo credit-Facebook)

“Spice” is a street name for synthetic cannabis that is produced by spraying natural herbs or flowers with chemicals, drying the product to process, and then bagging it in small quantities for distribution. The end product is typically smoked and produces psychoactive effects which are said to be similar to the effects of cannabis, though the actual effects are very unpredictable.

The current charges filed against the twelve individuals are all classified as Class C and D felonies and include, “Unlawful Manufacture, Distribution, Possession of Counterfeit Substance,” and, “Dealing in a Synthetic Drug or Synthetic Drug Lookalike Substance.” Included in the twelve people charged with all five felony counts are several members of Pastor Jaynes’ church and family. Pastor Jaynes’ wife, Stacey Jaynes, was charged as well as Kirk Parsons’ wife, Sherry Parsons.

Pastor Jaynes and Kirk Parsons have yet to be charged as the multi-agency investigation is still ongoing confirmed Indiana State Police Detective, Taylor Shafer. When I did a phone interview with Det. Shafer, he was not able to speak as to the details of the ongoing investigation. Yet, he did confirm that there is a sizable amount of public information about the twelve individuals available via the Hancock County Court file online. That file includes over twenty pages of evidence and details regarding the drug operation and conversations officials had with several members of the Spice ring and Pastor Jaynes. See the link just below to read the complete Court documents.

http://wishtv.com/sites/default/files/sites/14/2014/04/NewPal-defendants.pdf

Det. Shafer told me that after the law against Spice was passed in 2012 that closed previous loopholes, a decrease in the availability of Spice in Indiana has been achieved.  He also said an information sheet about the law had been provided by the State at that time to all business which may have sold the product while it was legal. Most of the smoke shops and gas stations that sold the product have ceased to do so. Though, Det. Shafer confirmed that some less scrupulous stores may still sell the product “under the counter” to trusted customers. He said that Indiana law enforcement was actively attempting to suss out such retailers to enforce relevant State laws and penalties upon them.

Two of the dangers of Spice (which also goes by other names such as, “K2”) that Det. Shafer mentioned are the issues of inconsistent and dangerous chemical formulas, as well as “hot spots” in the product due to sloppy production. A significant portion of the raw Spice chemical compound is imported illegally from other countries. These powders contain unknown quantities of different potentially dangerous chemicals. Also, when Spice producers are spraying the natural leaves with the solution of Spice compound, Acetone, Alcohol, and flavorings, the leaves are not always sprayed evenly. One bag of the finished product may be considerably more potent than another. Det. Shafer warned that many Spice users do not understand the process by which the drug is created nor the potential dangers. Users can experience temporary or permanent health issues from smoking bad Spice. It is easy to find examples of Spice “freak outs” online.

Here is a prime example- (Warning: disturbing images and language)

Based on the court documents, Jaynes and Parsons had been importing raw product in bulk from China. Their workers then manufactured the finished product at several Central Indiana locations. One of the individuals charged on the 21st said that his team would produce from 5,000-10,000 bags per day weighing 2-5 grams each. “Pirate Booty 3D,” was the primary name for their finished street product.

Before finishing our conversation, I said to Detective Shafer, “Based on the court charges, it appears that Jaynes and Parsons imported raw drug product, then they manufactured it locally, then distributed it locally, and then also distributed it across state lines. I then asked, “Would that not be a legal version of the ‘perfect storm’ to unleash against one’s self?” He confirmed that to be an accurate assessment of such a case. I greatly appreciate Det. Shafer’s timely response to my request for an interview and his informed answers to my questions that he was able to address.

Local station, Wish TV Channel 8, covered the story of the recent charges and the previous bust of some of the ring’s locations back in October of 2013.

http://wishtv.com/2014/04/21/12-people-charged-in-spice-bust/

What the story did not cover is the fact that one of the individuals charged with participating in the drug ring was also an IPS school teacher. Sources confirm that the now former IPS teacher was employed at James A Garfield/Phoenix Academy, School 31. Sherry Parsons, was a Reading & Literature teacher and did some after-school tutoring as well. These same sources say that the teacher, Sherry Parsons, was fired last week in a closed-door meeting. Students were not told the reason Mrs. Parsons was let go so close to the end of the school year and were left to speculate.

Sherry Parsons at school (photo credit-Facebook)

I called School 31 today to enquire about the situation. After being hung up on once by an office person who said, “I am not interested in those things,” I called back and was able to get the employee to confirm that Mrs. Parsons had worked at IPS School 31 and had been fired last week. I was then given the number to the main IPS office and told to call Human Resources for any further questions.

school 31 (photo credit-Facebook)

I immediately called the general IPS number and was forwarded to an HR representative for IPS. Unfortunately, the HR employee I spoke with was agitated by my attempts to ask several questions and refused to answer them. I told her that I was doing research for my blog article and that I know Mrs. Parsons had been an IPS teacher until last week and was currently charged with felony illegal drug distribution. She said, “This connection has not been made publicly!” I told her I understood that, which is why I was trying to get some answers before publishing my article. She said that IPS did not answer questions and there were matters of privacy at hand. I let her know that I understood matters of privacy and that specific questions may not be responded to, but that I would appreciate a few general questions being answered. She said that she would not answer any questions of any kind. I reminded the HR employee that the IPS budget was paid by the taxpayers and that the public should be able to ask at least general questions and expect a reasonable and respectful answer. I said that if I was the parent of a child at School 31 and found out that one of my child’s teachers had been charged with five felonies for drug manufacturing and distribution, I would want to be assured that the school system was doing an internal investigation to ensure that said teacher or her associates had not distributed any of those drugs to students. I was again hung up on…

One of the most ironic aspects of this whole case to me is that I personally know several of the individuals involved from a church affiliation about fifteen years ago. I met Pastor Jaynes when I was nineteen. He had been the Assistant Pastor of a church that I attended at the time and would sometimes come back to visit. I never had more than a handful of conversations with him over the years and none more recent than nearly a decade ago. Though I only knew him casually, the news of his alleged drug ring was very surprising to me. Kirk and Sherry Parsons were members of the church I attended back then and I considered them to be friends. They moved their church membership to Irvington Bible Baptist Church about a year later and I have rarely run into them over the last fifteen years. It is very disappointing to me that they were involved in this drug operation.

After getting off the phone with the IPS representative, I called the phone number on the sign for the Irvington Bible Baptist Church. I hoped to get in contact with Pastor Jaynes, but did not expect anyone to be at the church on a Thursday afternoon. To my surprise, he answered. Apparently the church phone number is actually his cell phone number. I told Pastor Jaynes my name and said that he may remember me. He said, “Sure, I remember you.” He asked how my family was doing and I said, “Fine.” I said that I was researching the issue from the news story the previous week for a blog I was writing. As I presumed would be the case, he said that his legal counsel had advised that he not speak about the case publicly. I remarked that the whole story seemed like a “big deal,” to which he replied, “Well… everything is not as it appears.” Having read the court documents extensively, I was aware of the implications of what Jaynes had already told police and what others in his ring had disclosed. Even if things are not as they seem in some ways, there is enough that is obviously wrong to be very troubling about this story as a whole. That said, everyone involved deserves their due process and fair day in court. I said to him, “From my past history in ministry, I know that typically when a pastor is going through similar situations, they tend to step down from the Senior Pastor role, at least temporarily, until things are sorted out.” I then asked, “Have you thought about letting another person assume your senior role in the short term?” He replied, “I have not made any decision to step down.” We then concluded our conversation after he asked me to pray for his family. He must not know that I am now an atheist.

irvington church (photo credit- Flickr)

I have known some very sincere and caring pastors in my life and some very selfish and manipulative ones. It is always a bad idea for a pastor to remain in the pulpit leading a church when he (or she) may have seriously compromised the integrity of the position. Unfortunately, for the selfish and manipulative brand of pastor, the elixir of power and praise keeps them in a position of “shepherding the sheep” even when they should vacate the pulpit. So, at present, Pastor Jaynes will be sharing the “good news” at the appointed hour next Sunday. After all, for Robert Jaynes, ministry at Irvington Bible Baptist Church is the “Spice” of life. Though, he may find that this verse will apply to him if and when some of his flock is potentially scattered by the winds of these felony charges and future trials to various prisons…

Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:1

The following is a video mash-up of some of Pastor Jaynes’ preaching and singing that is posted publicly online. During the preaching, Kirk Parsons is sitting in the front row wearing a plaid shirt. There is also footage of a church hymn with Stacey Jaynes, Sherry Parsons, and Lillian Bledsoe (all part of the twelve charged) singing shoulder-to-shoulder while Kirk Parsons again sits in the front row, reminding me of Matthew 23:6 regarding Pharisees, “And (they) love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues.”   The irony of hearing Pastor Jaynes preach about how, “People don’t have character like they used to have!” during a tent revival at the same time his drug ring was in full swing in the summer of 2013 is nearly more than I can bear. I will say that I 100% support the religious freedom of all American citizens, including those at Irvington Bible Baptist Church. Yet, for those religious leaders who condemn others while secretly acting as a corrupting influence in our communities, there must be accountability. (The video has been edited for the sake of reducing overall length)