Movies I Recommend This Halloween Season That You Probably Haven’t Seen

When I was six years old, I got my first taste of horror movies. My uncles were watching Trilogy Of Terror in the living room at my Granny’s and I was supposed to be playing in another room. Well, me being the rambunctious little ginger that I was, I snuck around to the dining room in curiosity and watched what the older kids were watching. I just happened to start watching shortly after the third story started – the one with the little tribal doll. Now, as an adult I watched this again and it doesn’t have quite the same effect on me anymore than it did on my fragile little six year old brain, but at that time, it was the SCARIEST GODDAMN THING I HAD EVER EXPERIENCED. For weeks, I ran and jumped onto my bed for fear that evil little bastard was under there just waiting to stab me in my ankles. From that point on, I was ruined. My fascination for horror movies was born.

Nowadays I like to find those gems that don’t necessarily have the big production company marketing budgets, but can make my skin crawl nonetheless. When I talk about my more recent horror movie finds, people often ask “What’s that?” and so I’ve come to realize that many of the movies I find aren’t very well known. Now, this list probably won’t be anything new to true horror aficionados, but to the casual horror movie fan, these just might be some unexpected wins for you. So without further ado, I present you with my horror movie recommendations that you probably haven’t seen (not in any particular order)

***click the images to watch that movie’s trailer***

#1) As Above, So Below:

Tight spaces, first person cinematography and a descent into Hell. What’s not to enjoy?


#2) The Strangers:

A true events story of stalking and murder. The tension builds so high in this movie that I can’t even describe it to my wife without her freaking out.


#3) The Babadook:

I turned this one on Netflix on whim one night expecting it to suck. I was extremely wrong. This was an unexpected win for me.

babadook movie poster

#4) The Green Inferno:

Captured by cannibals. What more is there to say?


#5) The Green Room:

Don’t piss off violent Nazi’s out in the backwoods


#6) I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House:

Not an action-packed jump scare movie, but the creepiness factor is turned way up in this one. Watch this with all the lights off for maximum effect.

pretty thing

#7) Feast:

Not really scary in my opinion, but there’s a lot of blood and gore, Henry Rollins and plenty of 1990’s B-movie cheese factor. This one is just fun to watch. (And if you enjoy it, there are two more Feast movies after this one)


#8) The Witch:

Now, I know this one was well advertised, but I still seem to run into people who haven’t yet seen it. This movie isn’t quite as scary to me as it is very unsettling. It keeps you on the edge of your seat in discomfort.



***And if those aren’t enough, I have some honorable mentions as well:

The Voices:

Serial murder in it’s silliest form.


Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil:

When misunderstanding a situation goes completely awry.



Reaching way back in the archives, I feel everyone should experience this gem once in their lives. This also has the added bonus of starring Randy Quaid before he went all batshit crazy.

Parents 1989 poster


Happy viewing!








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Goddamn Facebook Junkie

Too much time on Facebook. Isn’t that what so many of us say? “I spend too much goddamn time on Facebook. I need to stop it.” We say this in a post on Facebook. We say it to ourselves, then go on Facebook to look at options for deleting it and get wrapped up in the next political, religious or economic argument. Fucking Facebook, am I right?

No. It’s not Facebook’s fault. It’s us. We’re the problem. We want social interaction. We want to wash away every minute spent at our shitty jobs, every minute alone in self-loathing or every minute spent around people that irritate the shit out of us, but we feel obligated to be around. But we’re doing it all wrong because then all of a sudden, one of our Facebook friends posts something we disagree with and instead of trying to find out why that person feels that way, we tell them why we think they’re wrong.

Trust me, I’m not judging you for this at all. I’m just as guilty (if not more so) as anyone. I’m a big online self-righteous prick and I know it and I can’t seem to stop myself in the moment even when I recognize it. I justify my actions because I recognize when people are just spewing opinion over fact because I do the research. I try to weigh both sides of an issue and I even check to see if my sources are biased or if they actually research facts too. I spend so much time skimming and reading article after article after Wikipedia page and cross referencing with MIT articles, NASA articles, medical research documents and whatever else I can get my hands on. I am, in fact, an information junkie. I think this is where the rift occurs.

Some of us have fallen in love with access to information. We look for all of the exciting new developments we can find in many different areas of research. It’s awesome. That shit makes me feel like Neo in The Matrix. I want to know how to fix something? Just go on YouTube and there are 37 videos teaching me how to do it. Click play, upload to brain, scream at the sky in contemptuous excitement like Goku going Super Saiyan. The amount of information I have absorbed over the past 5 years could rival the amount of information I absorbed over the previous 36. Straight up fucking junkie.

Then there are those who seem to have just had the internet happen to them. The old-schoolers. The people who would have preferred to just hang out with their neighbor, but their neighbor is no longer outside. He’s inside his house, slamming computer keys, throwing shade at someone else’s neighbor on a Reddit thread. He’s ready to load his guns and go hunting for that bastard down at the local Giant Eagle parking lot.

We all have the same source issue, though. Everything we have been taught growing up is being turned inside out and upside down by contradicting information. We see articles telling us that our national holidays have very dark historical undertones and in some cases, they are outright propagandized bullshit. Some of us want to know the truth of the matter and fix it, so we feel superior to others for knowing it’s over, but if we work together, we can make it better moving forward. Some hate the idea of it so much and want to hang onto this image of a perfect sitcom-style America that they call it bullshit and fake news and just want things to continue as they always were. These people feel superior for thinking that maybe people were right to hide that information because people are happier without knowing about it anyway. And others are so impassioned by the details of what they found out, they can’t let it go and want to seek retribution and reparation for the people that were affected by these travesties. These people feel superior because they know other people just want recognition for the wrongs they have suffered. The sad truth is that none of us can fix what was done, we shouldn’t ignore what was done and so many people have been wronged that we waste too much time comparing who was wronged the most.

I have been all of these people. Shit, I’ve probably been all of these people in the course of  a single day or even a single thread. It’s exhausting and time consuming and frankly, I’m sick of it. I think you’re all fucking lunatics and I’m sure that feeling is mutual. the fact is that we’re all right and we’re all wrong and we all just need to chill the fuck out and stop complaining AT each other rather than having true discussions on how to make things better for as many people as we can, but also realize that we have to stop catering to the few. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I didn’t say ignore the issues of the few, I said stop catering to them. This country was built on majority rule, right? I mean, that’s exactly what a Democracy is all about. So, as things get better for the majority, we can help out those smaller groups to make things a bit easier for them too. If your paraplegic neighbor had no wheelchair ramp, would you not want to help build them one so they could go to the store a little easier? Yes, you most likely would because you’re a human being with actual compassion somewhere deep inside that internet-scorched heart of yours, but the majority must be elevated to a point of having the ability to help first. I think we’re there. After all, even some of the poorest people in America have a bed to sleep in, food in their stomachs and a cell phone. There are people in other regions of the world who still pile up 10 to a bedroom and sleep on dirt floors. Poverty for us is upper middle class for them.

So, maybe it’s time for us all to stop sharing articles and stop arguing over opinions and start actually listening to why people tend to agree with those articles that we don’t agree with. Then maybe we can stop escalating things to a point of losing friendships and seeking out others that agree with us. We are literally forming tribes of opinion and are constantly ready to go to war with the other tribes for doing the exact thing the rest of us are doing – speaking our opinions. And the sickest part of all of this is that the more we argue with other people, the more they argue back, so therefore, the more of those words that we disagree with are left out there, hanging in the ether for someone else to develop fresh opinions over. This doesn’t mean you should speak more to influence those opinions. It actually means we should all speak less.

Think about this for a minute. What usually happens when you present a controversial topic to a child or a teenager and give them a moment to think for themselves? They normally give a caring response. They process it down to the point of what solution does the least amount of damage. Some even go so far as to try and find a way to repair damages or console those affected by it. But, if two people argue constantly on front of that child or teenager, eventually they explode too. Then sides are chosen and the damage is far worse. We are all that child right now. We are all just taking sides and drawing lines in the sand because we’re sick of seeing everyone argue with each other.

That being said, I’m drawing a line in the sand too. I must break up with Facebook. I need my sanity back. I have goals to accomplish and I can’t waste any more time with people doing the same thing I’ve been doing – sharing opinionated information without listening. Hopefully others will do the same and we can all enjoy life together once again. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together anyway, so we might as well put our differences aside and enjoy the time we have. Maybe then, we’ll all learn something together.

…and yes, I’m sharing this on Facebook.

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Both Sides Have A Story To Tell

I am writing this post as a commentary to the following article I read this morning. Please take a moment to click the link below, read it and consider both sides:

Peter’s Choice/Mother Jones article

There isn’t much for me to add to the narrative being that it is just an opinion piece, but I will add that at the end of the article, the shared statement is that urban liberals will never understand what it’s like for the conservative south until they spend about a decade living there. I agree with that statement. I have lived in poor, urban areas, lower middle class urban and currently in an upper middle class suburb, so I won’t begin to pretend that I know what life may be like for my extended family members in small town West Virginia or for a small town family in Oklahoma. However, that mentality can’t be one-sided because southern conservatives will also not know what the struggles of urban life feel like. That is why we need to stop arguing over inflammatory points of discussion and start talking about the real, underlying issues.

Do I believe racism and entitlement are a problem in America? Yes. But I also know that trying to force someone to see those things through calling a person a racist or entitled does not help the conversation. Trust me, I have been on both sides of that argument. I have friends that may say that they could care less about how a person feels when they themselves have been treated like a second class citizen for their entire lives. I sympathize with that. I will never say that I fully understand because although I have been very poor in my life and not always been part of the establishment, I have always been a straight, white male, so assimilating into the establishment has always been very easy for me to do. So, while someone may reasonably say that I can never truly understand what it is like to be gay, female or a minority in America, I can say that I have always paid attention and I don’t pretend that things are better than they really are, so I do sympathize.

Now, I may have lost some of my more conservative readers at this point, but if you’re still here, I would like to say that understand your position also. I have often thought to myself that maybe if people would just obey the law, there wouldn’t be an issue and that if the police see a pattern of behavior from certain types of people, isn’t it reasonable to think that they may be more suspicious of people that fit that same basic profile? I mean, if squirrels keep dropping acorns on my head any time I walk under a tree, will I not start growing disdain for all squirrels in general? So, when the average suburban white male complains that they have worked at building themselves a comfortable lifestyle, so they are worried that they may be inundated with more taxes that they can’t afford and also sustain their business, I understand that. These people see the lifestyles that are glorified on TV. There is a disconnect with lavish lifestyles and actual hard work. The average successful, white American male knows there is no quick way to success. They know there may be quick ways to more cash, but the majority of those paths are illegal and also to the detriment of whole communities. They have seen a society that seems to work and don’t understand why non-whites in general just can’t seem to jump on board the same train and live happily instead of shooting each other in the streets over dope money.taxes

Now, I’m not writing this to break down these points with statistics and analysis. We all know how much of that is on the internet today and we also know how much of it can be misconstrued to favor each side of this situation. My intention here is to say that regardless of whether you are white, black, Asian, Hispanic, male, female, gay, straight, transgender, or any other label we have for being a human being, we all simply want one thing – to survive comfortably. We all want to eat, enjoy our own space and enjoy the company of loved ones. And really, where is the harm in that? Why do we have to worry about what someone else does amongst those they care about if it will never adversely affect our own lives?

This is the part where people may say, “Well Bryan, these people are adversely affecting my life because they are stealing jobs from my neighbors” or “They are shooting people that look like me and getting away with it” or “They got the job I wanted because they are ____ (choose whichever race you like to insert here because someone has an argument for every one of them)”

And my response to that is: are these things truly happening because of someone else or because of the choices you make in life and the people that we vote for? The average individual does not control the economy. Half of all of our neighbors don’t even vote in the general elections and less in the primaries or any other non-presidential election. We the people have become complacent to the idea that it has to always be liberal vs. conservative and I have found that there is no common ground in that arena because nobody truly listens to the other side’s point of view. We are all flooded with so much information that we feel we have to get our point of view stated so that we can move on, but then we get wrapped up in trying to prove that point when most of us don’t even have access to clear facts simply because they are buried under thousands of opinions that can be well thought out and eloquent, so often are mistaken for truths. But my argument to that point is this – in our society, there is not one single absolute truth in American society. For every fact that encompasses the majority of any generalized situation in society, there are also facts supporting the opposition. Every person who needs or wants something also has a person who wants or needs that thing too. It’s not that anyone wants to take it from someone else, it’s just that they are trying to provide for their own needs and desires to get ahead. This is where we all have the same issue and I can honestly say that this is not a race issue or a gender issue; it is a money issue.

Money is required to purchase every resource we need in life. In order for a business to thrive, it has to be profitable, so our resource costs increase as a business grows and becomes more expensive to run. In order for that business to remain efficient and profitable, they must hire quality workers, so they seek out individuals that have resumes showing that they can handle the job without much time wasted on training. Those individuals usually have school loans to pay off and also need to be able to support their own livelihoods, so their wages must be able to support them. Eventually, the costs of running the business balloon to the point where the product itself is priced so high, that those who are in poverty level economic conditions must choose between one resource or the other, so they get stuck in a perpetual balancing act of which resource can be paid for on which month, so they never truly have an opportunity to get ahead.

So, the problem becomes an argument of why one side can seem to get ahead fairly consistently and why the other side can’t and the answers seem pretty clear to those who take a look at those who are succeeding and those who are not because there is a racial imbalance toward either side. This makes all of us retract to our own individual comfort zones and want to thrive amongst those who understand our personal positions. It feels good to be understood and it feels like shit to be told that you’re doing things wrong. It feels like shit to be told you don’t put enough effort into something or that you are an asshole to someone you never met or it is your fault that someone else is suffering.

I just want us all to stop telling each other what we are doing wrong and ask each other how we can help fix it. Lets all stop TALKING AT EACH OTHER and start LISTENING TO WHAT SOMEONE ELSE NEEDS TO FEEL SAFE. Then we can all finally start to understand how to find balance. We should be able to accept that maybe someone may need some help and if we need the help, maybe we should put a little more effort into showing the one helping us that we are actually trying to produce a positive result. Regardless of our personal feelings, we are all part of the same global community. Ask yourself, if the entire planet was threatened by an outside source, would we not come together to protect it? So why can’t we come together to protect the world when it’s biggest threat right now comes from within all of us?

Lets just take a little time to actually listen to each other, shall we?a1media18431-cornel-west-common-hour-discussion-full

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Suicide Squad *this review contains major spoilers*


Yesterday morning I went to see Suicide Squad for the second time. Strangely, not because I loved the movie that much, but because our youngest son hadn’t seen it yet and the first show of the day is only $5. I will say that I do like the movie. I stress the word ‘like’ and not ‘love’ because there are some serious holes with this movie that I just can’t get past.

Now, before I go too far into this, I want to clarify that I am a big Batman/Joker fan, but I have never really read the comics. My comics growing up were mostly Savage Sword of Conan, Excalibur and Elfquest. My DC fandom is primarily through shows, cartoons and movies, so if my synopsis doesn’t quite gel well with the DC comics readers, maybe someone can explain where my flaws lie.

OK, so with that being said, let’s get into the movie itself. First off, I’d like to state the obvious – this really wasn’t a Suicide Squad movie, it was a Deadshot and Harley Quinn movie. The entire plot line followed their stories and pushed all of the other characters to the sidelines and rendered them almost unnecessary to the story. Which really is a shame because I truly loved Diablo. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Will Smith and Margot Robbie knocked their characters out of the park, but what was the biggest story and the primary chatter about this movie leading up to its release? Yep – The Joker – but the Joker was a sideline character in this movie also. With all of the hype prior to seeing it, the fact that Jared Leto’s Joker was pretty much unnecessary to the story was kind of disappointing and frankly, felt a little forced. It’s like the studios just couldn’t stand the idea of telling a Harley Quinn story without including the Joker and with Jared Leto’s Joker being comparably as good as Heath Ledger’s, they seemed to want to just add more parts to the film for him. But lets face it, The Joker was a bit distracting  to the story itself. Yes, he is an amazing character, as a matter of fact, he is my all time favorite villain and I want to see more of Jared Leto’s Joker because I think he has just reset the standard for that character for many decades to come (in Heath Ledger’s absence, of course).

Before I get into my biggest pet peeve about this movie, I want to mention a couple of the smaller ones: Slipknot and Katana. Why exactly were they even part of this movie? They couldn’t come up with a better way to write in some way to prove to the Suicide Squad that their heads would explode if they didn’t obey? They really had to add another character for that? Quite hastily I might add – I mean the way Slipknot was thrown into the group made it pretty obvious he wasn’t going to live long. Maybe they could have lined all of them up in a room while they were strapped to their wheelchairs and presented the explosive results of insubordination on a mannequin. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I think that would have been effective enough without wasted the audience’s time with introducing Slipknot to the story. Now to Katana. Other than me just disliking this character, it would seem that her only purpose for being in this film was so that Harley would have a sword available to her at the end to separate The Enchantress from her heart. Couldn’t she have used any other sharp object that was lying around? I mean, it’s not like there wasn’t a ton of potentially sharp debris lying around the joint.

Boomerang – unnecessary comic relief, Killer Croc – unnecessary street thug.

Diablo was the only sideline character that actually has a purpose in this movie. They needed his demon strength to fight the Incubus.

Now for the biggest flaw in this movie – the fact that the Joker would even chase after and save Harley Quinn from jail or danger OR ANYTHING AT ALL without needing her for a specific purpose. I mean, do they even know anything about the relationship between the Joker and Harley? The Joker is a complete violent sociopath. He is incapable of true empathy. That, in effect, is his super power. He doesn’t care about anyone or anything. Yes, he is infatuated with Harley and uses her as a permanent plaything, but he consistently discards her, displaying the true-life characteristic of a sociopath. They like to keep certain people under their power, but completely broken emotionally. The Joker would NEVER risk his own life or even waste any of his time to chase after someone simply for love. That would be a potential weakness for him and even if he did feel some sort of romantic attachment to Harley, he would resent her for it, only solidifying the need to show the world how much he absolutely doesn’t care for her. And Harley has an unwavering attraction to his power, so no matter how horribly he treats her and discards her, she still comes back to him every time and justifies his actions in her own mind by over-glorifying the little crumbs of kindness he shows her. They have a classic abusive relationship and the writers really dropped the ball on that one.

So, I guess my basic synopsis for the Suicide Squad movie is that the actors were great, but the writing was bad. It was a weak attempt to introduce a handful of characters and make a film as big as the Avengers. It fell short because they tried to do too much.

All of this being said, I actually really did like the movie. I mean, we did pay to see it twice. It was entertaining and I think Will Smith really got screwed over by the hype of the Jared Leto/Heath Ledger Joker comparison along with the pubescent excitement over Margot Robbie in her tiny shorts. He made me fall in love with the Deadshot character that I really knew nothing about prior to the movie. It’s really his character that makes me want to actually find some issues and read the Suicide Squad books. So if you haven’t seen it and love DC comics, movies, tv and cartoons, then by all means, go see it. It’s definitely worth a watch if you can get past the story holes. I can say that it was better the second time – after I had already worked through all the things that were irritating me.


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Eating Your Afterbirth Has No Health Benefit – It Is A Choice

This morning, I got into a short debate with a friend of mine on my Facebook Freethinker’s page. [I want to note that I value this friend’s opinion greatly and I am trying to be as objective as possible. I don’t wish to insult her – even if I strongly disagree with her on this subject.] I had shared an article that apparently states there is no health benefit to a mother eating her child’s afterbirth. I didn’t read the article, nor am I going to because I think the title said enough for me to share my opinion – that opinion being that it is a disgusting practice and people who do so should just admit that they like doing crazy shit.

***aaaaaand here come the rolling eyes and the enraged banter***

So, now that I have thoroughly pissed off some of you, I will admit that I STILL have not read that particular article and I STILL have no intention to do so – only simply because I said I wouldn’t and I am a stubborn bastard. I have, however, gone on to read several other articles on the subject and I will share them at the appropriate points in this post.

Now, lets start this off correctly by my own admission that I am not a scientist. I am not attempting to pass myself off as a journalist or even as a person who is anything more than someone who enjoys absorbing new information and discussing(/debating) the finer points of the information I find. Frankly, I wouldn’t even call myself a blogger. If any of you have followed this blog for any extended period of time, you already know that I am inconsistent on here at BEST. This article is simply my personal opinion based on the limited information I have found on this subject. *Please remember this statement because I will be returning to it later.*

With that being said, let’s really get into this. Since the beginning of time, land animals have been eating the placentas almost immediately after birthing their children. Whether it be a carnivore, omnivore or herbivore doesn’t matter – they all do it. I don’t know about whales, porpoises or any other sea mammal, so I’m not going to get into that. For the sake of this discussion, we are going to stick to land mammals. Anyway, as far as we know, humans are one of a very small handful of mammals that does NOT routinely eat their afterbirth. Has this always been the case? Possibly not. In the days of nomadic people, when the species was still young and ignorant to the idea of building homesteads, it may have been a necessity to get rid of the placenta as quickly as possible to keep predators from catching the scent of blood and raw flesh. As far as any study can show, that is the only reason that other mammals do it as well. Since people started domesticating lands and building houses where we are protected from predators, we no longer have the worries of having to immediately remove that threat. We are already safe and secure inside protective walls. This should be the biggest red flag. We are more protected than any other species and the vast majority of us do not practice this act of eating placenta.

From what I have read, I have learned a few assumptions about the practice of placentophagy (the act of eating afterbirth). It is believed that this act helps the uterus return to normal size, that is eases postpartum depression and that it helps stimulate milk production. Lets look at these one at a time:

The placenta contains high levels of prostaglandins which can help control inflammation when produced normally in the body. There is no study that shows ingesting these does anything to increase the amount needed to return your uterus to a normal size. We do, however, know that most women who don’t eat placenta have had no issues with their uterus returning to normal.

Lets skip ahead to milk production for now. I’m not even going to cite any particular study on this one. I’m just rolling on pure common sense. My children’s mothers had no problem producing milk. My mother and my sister had no problems producing milk. My grandmothers, aunts and cousins have not had any problems producing milk. And not one of them has ever eaten a placenta. They would probably look at you like you were a lunatic if you ever suggested to them that is what is needed to stimulate milk production. Don’t be ridiculous. Moving on…

Now, to touch on the one point that I hold some actual value in – postpartum depression. So far from what I’ve read, placentaphogy does actually have one benefit for those who engage in it – they feel better and feel closer to their baby. That’s cool. I can dig that. If that’s what it takes for less women to drown their kids or wrap them in a bag and throw them in a dumpster, then I’m on board – give placenta pills to every woman. Here’s the kicker, though – there is no proof that this is anything more than a placebo effect. This is an act that is more of a spiritual nature. It gives the mother something they can share immediately with this child, that only moments before, had been a bit like a parasite, feasting on her own body’s nutrients and wreaking havoc on her system. This child who she had felt growing inside of her and had most likely developed a close personal bond with. This child that she has at some points never wanted to separate from her body, but at others wanted nothing more than to get it out of her as soon as possible. Yes, there are so many understandably conflicting emotions that I, as a man, will never experience. So, yes I can see how a woman who is very open to alternative medicine and spiritual guidance can feel much more connected with her child by eating the afterbirth. I won’t knock you for that. That is a noble gesture.

…but lets not pretend it is anything more than gesture.

As of yet, there is no study proving that eating your placenta has any true physical benefits. I have actually read that eating too much of it can cause jitters and nervousness – which probably goes back to a more animalistic self-preservation attribute of having to be on heightened alert for predators after giving birth. The potential benefits for eating your placenta are based solely in your own beliefs, desires and opinions. So, let’s just be honest with each other, shall we? I already admitted that since there isn’t any proof that there aren’t physical benefits to eating a placenta, this entire post is mostly based on my opinion, you should also be adult enough to admit that it is also your opinion that there are. Yes, I do know that it is a growing trend for women to do this, but a trend is nothing more than that – an idea that people latch on to because someone else told them it was cool, safe, fun or the ‘in’ thing to do. A large group of people can have an opinion together and that doesn’t make them right. It just makes them equally uninformed and/or gullible.

This subject parallels religion vs. Atheism arguments. I’m sure some of you will insist that I am wrong and you have the right to state that, but I will honestly say that we do not yet have proof one way or the other, so we will simply have to agree to disagree until a definitive study shows us which person is correct.

Until then, go ahead and eat your nasty ass afterbirth. I’m not stopping you. It’s your right to do as you wish. But don’t claim that there are any real health benefits to doing so because you simply cannot prove there is.

For anyone who would still like to know how to eat your nasty afterbirth, information can be found at these sources:

Placenta recipes or Placenta Pills

Here are some of the articles that I found any information that is not already linked in the above text:

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Why do we haggle with the poor, but give the rich exactly what they ask for?

I came across this video this morning. It has a very powerful message.

I had never really though about this before and now that I have, I realized – wow… I do this. We all do.

I consider myself a person who tries to do good for those less fortunate. My wife & I have even made backpacks full of supplies for the homeless with our own money. I try to be a positive influence for the kids from my old neighborhood – all of which are well into their 20’s now. I try to teach my children that we aren’t rich, but we are comfortable in our means, so helping those less fortunate will help them more than it will hurt us and our lifestyle. But even despite all of this, I will haggle the price of something when there isn’t a price tag on it.

Lets think about this for a moment. When a product is for sale from a corporation, they have a ‘manufacturer’s suggested retail price’ (MSRP). Generally, companies try to get at least 100% or more markup on their cost of an item, so if the product costs $10 on the shelf, it may have cost the store $3-$5 to buy it from the manufacturer. We don’t argue the sticker price, though. We just decide whether or not we would pay that amount for it and then buy it or pass on it. Nobody is going up to the counter at Best Buy and asking to buy a $10 DVD for $7 because they aren’t willing to pay $10 for it, but would be willing to pay $7. Either we buy it then or we wait til it goes on sale or ends up on clearance.

When we see a vendor on the street, we don’t ask if we can get our $3 Polish Sausage for $1.50. Why? Because the price is clearly marked on the sign.

The only times we seem to haggle the price of something when there is a displayed price  tag are yard sales and major purchases (like houses & cars). Yes, when we are making a major purchase, the reason for the haggling is obvious – it’s a shit-ton of money being exchanged. In America, the price we pay for our 5yr old used cars can potentially be enough to feed an entire village in another country for 3 months. We know this and so, since we are giving that money to a salesman instead, we want to negotiate how much of his commission he is willing to give up in order to make us feel better about the purchase. I’m sure most of these salesmen have families to support and mortgages to pay, but we ignore that for our own personal gains.

Not to ignore my mention of yard sales, I think we try to talk down the price of these things because we see the lifestyle that the person has right there in front of us. It is literally in the background (their house) and displayed all over the tables and blankets that they have their items sitting on. We already know if the person is selling a television, they have obviously upgraded or just don’t need it, so this is an item that will go in the trash if nobody buys it. It’s no big deal to negotiate this to us, but what if we thought the family had a tragedy. Would we pay full price for an item that they may not have a replacement for? If that family had a child with leukemia and they are trying to earn money to pay their medical bills, would we pretend to look at an item they are selling for $5 and give them $20 instead without even taking the item? I think most wouldn’t. I think most people would simply pay the asking price and go home feeling like the just got a good deal on an electric drill and did the right thing for the family by NOT trying to negotiate.

You might ask, “But OddPapa, I have my own problems and struggles and I really needed that drill, so why should I feel guilty for buying it? I even offered them $10 for the drill and they said they didn’t want handouts, so what do you expect me to do?” Yes, I understand this logic and it’s very reasonable, but would not having that drill force you into homelessness? Would just giving that person $10 or even $20 force you into homelessness? Yeah, probably not. However, that family will allow themselves to lose everything they own in order to save the life of that child. Those people would much rather end up in a place where they have to rebuild their entire life from financial ruin (repossessed house & cars, bankruptcy, etc), just so that child can live. So, what about the other 99% of yard sales? I say go ahead – negotiate. Why not? It’s not hurting them, so if it can benefit you, so be it.

Now to the real meat of this topic – the poor and homeless. How many of us pass by a homeless person with a cardboard sign on a highway exit? It happens pretty frequently here in Ohio. Do you really even give them a second thought? Do you make judgments based on whether it is a man, a woman, a woman and child, a white person, an old person, etc., etc., etc.? Most likely you do. I think most people do. We feel a certain way about what we see in that moment based on personal experiences and where our empathy is strongest. I admit that I have passed many white, homeless men without a second thought because I feel that as a white man in America, there is no excuse for you to beg. You have the most opportunity of anyone. But do we really? There are no government programs for white males. Ahh, but there is welfare – so in a system that actually provides white males the least opportunity for assistance, we still have a fail-safe. I have a personal notion that the person is either too prideful to apply for welfare, too lazy to do anything more than just ask for a handout, or that person is an addict that has put themselves in that position and needs to figure out how to pick themselves back up on their own. This is unreasonable thinking though because any adult could be in those situations as well, but I only make that snap judgement on white males.

Now, if that same person was out there doing something for their money, such as pulling tall grass from the roadside and shaping it into little roses and selling them for $2 a piece, I would gladly give that same man $10 for that little batch of grass. Why? It’s fucking grass. I literally have zero need for grass. I have a slight allergy to grass pollen and I have an acre of lad that I routinely cut the grass on so that it never reaches the length of the grass that he has shaped into a flower. Frankly, I won’t even spend $10 on a single, cut rose. So why should I give that amount of money to a man who has given me shit I would normally chop up and discard, while if that same person just asked me for the money, I would give an excuse and walk away?

Personal bias. The little grass rose represents ambition to me. That is something I highly respect. That is something that keeps many of us from paying what a person asks for something, whereas we might give more to someone else. Would you buy the same $10 DVD from a person who looks poor, that you would from Best Buy? No, you wouldn’t. You have a personal understanding and respect for businesses (even if you don’t like the evil corporate elitism that they represent) and you have a a personal disdain for those who can’t seem to figure out how to make ends meet. You subconsciously feel as though the company with the price tag has earned it’s right to set that price and stick to it, while you feel the person trying to sell you something on the street or just beg for the money your family has earned, is a bit of a burden.

This homeless man reviews books and sells them on the street

This homeless man reviews books and sells them on the street

…But would that person be a burden if we helped them out by giving them the asking price? If that person has something for sale and has shown ambition, can they be successful if we just give them what they need to become successful? Some of them might. And the ones that don’t have something for sale, but are simply begging and panhandling for money, maybe those people just haven’t found a product or service to provide. Maybe those people could use some help from those of us who feel like we can help them find their own ‘inner entrepreneur’. Or maybe we simply feel like this is a good idea, but who has the time for all of that? I just hope that after reading this, some people will maybe go ahead and give that homeless person a dollar, maybe pay $5 for a DVD from a poor person, that we might otherwise pay $5 for in the bargain bin at a store, or maybe even volunteer at mission to help beggars find ways to inspire themselves to provide a product or service. In the very least, I hope that we have learned a bit more about ourselves through this and will take some time to reflect on changes we can make that will help us act more reasonably toward those who need it more than corporations do.

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They Look Like Big, Strong Hands

I’m sure you, dear reader, have seen the movie The Never Ending Story.

*If you haven’t, stop reading this now and go watch the movie because you have done your inner child a great disservice.*

To this day, I still find the part of the movie where the giant stone man is contemplating his own shortcomings to be one of the saddest scenes in any movie. The one thing that he has always been good at -physical strength- is the one thing that failed him when he needed it most. He just couldn’t hang on to his friends and they got sucked into the Nothing.

They looked like big, strong hands.

big strong handsNot strong enough.

Lately, I feel like that stone man. You see, we have quite an unusual family situation. Our oldest (Dylan-17) is my wife’s son and his biological father has always been out of the picture and more of a nuisance than anything. He is a very negative, lazy person and always places the responsibility of he & Dylan being in contact with each other on Dylan. The last few times this has happened, he kept bothering Dylan about the fact that he hasn’t called and has given him a generally negative feeling about their time together. Due to this, Dylan continues to ignore his texts and calls and has pretty much written him out of his life. Frankly, Dylan doesn’t even really consider him his ‘real dad’ at this point. Unfortunately, he doesn’t consider me that, either. Dylan had another dad in his life – Mark. Mark was the man that my wife was with after Dylan’s father and her divorced. They were together for about 10 years and then he passed away suddenly and unexpectedly one night. Needless to say, Mark got the best years. He had the fun childhood years with Dylan. The years that a boy just gets to be a boy and play all day with little to zero responsibility. Now comes me. I am the evil stepfather that has to try and teach Dylan responsibility and how to become a man that can stand on his own two feet. I definitely pulled the short straw on this deal. Teenage boys have no interest in responsibility and Dylan is no different. But I am the evil demon stepdad and I will continue to show him the errors in his ways and try to teach him the things he needs to do to be a productive person because that is my responsibility – even if it leaves a generally negative impression of me on him. I am not a friend. I am a parent. And I am a problem solver.

They look like big, strong hands.

The other boy we have is my son Jayden (11) from a previous co-worker. His mother and I tried to make a relationship with each other for the first few years of his life, but it was never a good relationship and it has been pretty much the equivalent of being bound and dragged down a street full of broken glass and salt ever since. Yes, the last few months have been pretty civil, but previous to that, about 80% of our interactions have been through court proceedings. This has not created a great atmosphere for Jayden. She has spent much of his life trying to make her own perfect life and keep the image of what she has done as pristine as possible. She hates me because I actually want what is best for Jayden and that means we have to take responsibility – and responsibility is hard work. The blame is nobody else’s but ours for the problems he has and it is our responsibility to help him understand what is best for him, rather than what other people might think or say when he takes off his shirt to reveal a big belly when he goes swimming. Just last week, the school called us because Jayden told another child he wanted to kill himself.

They look like big, strong hands.

Our third child – Nyah (also 11). Nyah was the result of a relationship that I had with a friend. What I thought to be a ‘friends with benefits’ kind of situation, her mother thought was a ‘building a relationship’ situation. Miscommunication was the sneaky fucker that came in and manipulated that whole scene. Fast forward: Nyah’s mother is still struggling to get her life in order, so Nyah lives here, but all of the adults can play nice and work things out in a civil – even friendly- manner without having to examine the fine print of the custody papers every week. However, Nyah was not taught in her younger years to take care of things for herself (at 5yrs old, she still had never even fastened her own seat belt) and as I try to teach her responsibility, she has turned to lying and trying to hide things when she comes up short. I have even explained time and time again that it’s OK to be wrong and that she just needs to ask for help. She doesn’t like to admit that she didn’t know how to do something on her own and she forgot something. So, now I have found rotten fruit in her backpack that she apparently didn’t eat for lunch and forgot about it in her backpack and just two weeks ago, she made up a story of a friend that committed suicide. The suicide story was made to cover up the fact that she came home crying from school because of a detention that she was trying to hide from me.

They look like big, strong hands.

My wife and I are by no means perfect parents. We love our children. We love each other’s children. And we are trying to keep everything balanced and sane. Lately we have been a bit absent with the children due to a combination of a few things: the house fire last year, which has been an insurance documents and processes nightmare, Sara’s (my wife) newer job that can keep her on edge from the stress of helping a young company grow and finally, our backyard renovations that I have had my hands in as I prepare space for the family to enjoy while I try to get an organics business started. Even despite these things, we try to sit down for family games together and we have been making it a point to return to sitting at the dinner table together, rather than eating in front of the TV. We are making the kids join us in healthier eating and exercise habits and yes, of course they are resistant (what kid isn’t?), but when we go out for walks and bike rides, everyone still comes home happy and seemingly satisfied.

They seem like big, strong hands.

Despite our best efforts, the dynamics of our family situation is quite difficult, but my job in this world is to be a problem solver. Just like the stone man, I am not perfect at this and I will do everything within my power to keep the kids safe from those who would drag them down. It is the most difficult job I have ever had, but I will keep trying. I don’t know if my efforts are in vain, but I guess sometimes – just like the stone man needed Atreyu to set things right, maybe it’s time for us to get a family counselor to help us with the things we seem to be struggling to figure out. After all, our new, modern, displaced family isn’t exactly something most people have experienced. There just isn’t much advice out there from people with similar lifestyles. This isn’t a Leave It To Beaver world anymore and it hasn’t been for such a short period of time that we may have to be pioneers on this journey. Hopefully, we can be the ones that can give advice to others as we work through our family trials and tribulations.

And maybe in the meantime, these big, strong hands can keep us safe from the Nothing.

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