Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Piece-o'-Shit Volvo!

Wow, has it been that long since I last posted already? Well, I've got a lot more going on in my head than in my fingers. I mentioned my car a couple of weeks ago, so let me tell you more about it.

About two-and-a-half years ago, we bought a used Volvo. We needed a reliable car (the story of my life for the last ten years), and we had a couple of years' worth of tax returns in our possession, so we decided to buy a "good" car that was a little older, but more likely to stay on the road than perhaps a newer but cheaper car. It had worked before. I owned an '85 BMW 535i that had 185,000 miles on it when I bought it, and I still managed to put another 75-80,000 miles on it myself before I sold it to a guy who's still driving it. After that experience our idea felt right, so we paid outright for a '96 Volvo 960. It felt good, drove well, and had working air-conditioning (certainly more than a convenience here in South Carolina). I hadn't had a car (including the Bimmer) with working a/c for several years!

The car came with a three month warranty. So, you guessed it, in the fourth month it made its first trip to the garage. That time we had to replace the radiator. The next month it was a coil pack. The next month it was another coil pack. A few months later, it was the timing belt, and more coil packs. By the time a year was up, the a/c was shot too. Then there was one of the control arms. Then the transmission needed rebuilt. Are you starting to get the picture? As we speak, it's sitting in my driveway unable to be started.

I know what you're thinking. "Didn't you get a Carfax report?" Yes, we did. According to the report, it had never been in an accident, hurricane, earthquake, nor been abducted by aliens. Apparently, it made it's own decision to become a piece of shit.

So, a year and a half ago, we bought another car. A brand new Suzuki XL7. I cannot express enough how nice it is to have a vehicle that starts when you want it to, stops when you want it to, and circulates air under 95 degrees! Meanwhile, the Volvo keeps the rain off of part of our driveway.

This post is not to say that Volvo makes bad cars. I cannot speak of any other Volvos, because it's the only one I've driven. However, I will say that I used to be one of those people who stood around saying "I don't know why anyone would buy a new car. The only difference is that with a new one, you lose $2000 the minute you drive off the lot!" Now, I sing a different tune. Seeing as how I'm not a person to trade cars every couple of years (provided the car runs), I am not really so concerned about resale value. By the time I get rid of a car, it's usually a "fishing" car, at best. So, for my money, I'd rather be paying a monthly note for a car that's going to run well than paying a monthly mechanic bill for a car that's not worth the cost of repairs.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Weekend In Raleigh Turns Up Jesse Helms!

This weekend I had an errand to run in Raleigh, NC. Actually, we left for there on Sunday and made our way back on Tuesday evening, so weekend is a loose term. A few years back, Alex lived in Raleigh for a year, so we are reasonably familiar with the area. The place has a good feel to it. If you find yourself there, I recommend checking out this place called "ArtSpace." It's a two-level building designated for art studios right on the edge of the downtown area. Don't go on Mondays though. In fact, Raleigh seems to close on Mondays. We spent half the day on Monday just trying to find interesting businesses that happened to be open. We thought that maybe it was people trying to squeeze an extra day out of the long weekend, but upon closer inspection, we realized that it just seems to be a local quirk.

Another note about the city is that it was the home of Jesse Helms who passed on Friday, July 4th. It was interesting being there during the posthumous debate over his "contributions." On the one hand, you had the loyal constituency putting up signs calling him a "great American patriot" and talking about "how appropriate it was for him to die on July 4th". On the other hand, you got the feeling that Jesse Helms' death really made this year's Independence Day Celebration a little sweeter for the rest of Raleigh's residents.

We seem to have this tradition of not speaking ill of the dead, but I don't share that tradition. If you spend your life being an asshole, I don't see any reason to pour the perfume when you're dead. Let's face it, Jesse Helms was a bigot. He even made attempts at reversing desegregation! When I was growing up in the 80's, his name was synonymous with old-school down-south segregationist politics. What I didn't know about him was that during his entire ride in the senate, his highest margin of victory was 55%/45%. Apparently, North Carolina had just enough fearful, bible-beating whites to eke him by in each election, thoroughly embarrassing the rest of the population. Sound familiar?

I agree that July 4th was an appropriate date for which Jesse Helms to give up the ghost. It made me feel one powerful white-supremacist lighter.

Friday, July 4, 2008

July 4th!

You know the thing that I really like about the 4th of July is that it's a day when even non-rednecks get a chance to get loaded and handle explosives. Isn't that what America's all about? Booze and fire. I wonder what happens on the 4th of July if your drunken aim ends up sending a bottle-rocket into your waving flag. That would be an interesting charge. "He's charged with inadvertant flag burning...and public drunkenness." Maybe that's like getting a non-intentional face masking penalty. If you're out watching fireworks, just make sure that you're near a port-o-potty. This would be a good night to get caught pissing in public. That'll get you arrested on a sexual offender charge. Wouldn't it suck to have to report your whereabouts for the rest of your life just because you had a full bladder? It's funny to a point, but here in this great land of freedom there are plenty of people with sex-offender status because they couldn't hold their piss or their baby needed fed at the wrong time. You know that the only reason we have bodies is to offend others with our sexuality. I mean, really, when was the last time you had sexual thoughts about a wino taking a piss on the sidewalk? I'm quite a perv, but breast-feeding (unless I'm involved) doesn't turn me on. That's not to say that I wouldn't try to catch a glimpse of nipple if possible, but that's also true of moms wearing halter-tops while giving their carriage-borne children ice cream cones. (I know that's extremely random, but it happens to be the way I saw my first public peep-nipple. I was about ten or eleven and grabbing a snack at an amusement park, and obviously it caused me to be voyeur for the rest of my life. Someone should have arrested that woman! I was actually thinking of handcuffing her right there.)

Anyway, this is supposed to be about the 4th of July not prepubescent nipple gazing. Though you must admit that nipple gazing is more exciting (and generally less expensive) than fireworks. Speaking for those of us carrying our sex organs on the outside of our bodies, if the choice was between watching the sky for the next firework to go off and watching the girl standing next to us as her breast works it way out of her ill-fitted top...

So, I found myself thinking about how those who signed the Declaration of Independence would view our modern Independence Day celebrations. You know many of the men who signed that decree ended up dead because of it. Kings don't generally have much tolerance for such things. Neither do loyalists. So, how do you suppose Thomas Paine would feel about being killed as a traitor so that 200 years later it could be celebrated by a guy with two names who's had five too many and is now working on his ninth finger? Man, I've had too much to drink to do that kind of math. I may be working on five too many, but I've got all ten fingers left (although I admittedly don't have any fireworks handy - get it? handy - with which to start subtracting digits.) I can't bring myself to buy fireworks. Every time I see a good explosion I'm thinking, "Damn, I couldn't have burned twenty bucks that fast!"

If you're reading this, I hope you had a great holiday. If you happen to go by two names (Jim Bob, Bobby Joe, etc...), well, stop using one of them and maybe you won't be so offended the next time. Catch you on the next post.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Homeownership, pt.2

Today I changed another bathroom faucet. It's not like it's brain surgery, and it's not like it's serious heavy labor, but it leaves a definite pain in my ass. Actually, it left a definite pain in my hands. I think I injured my hands in just about every way that it's possible with a wrench (torture excluded). I'm not what you'd call extremely mechanically inclined. I can read instructions, and I can even improvise a few things, but no plumber is ever going to concern himself with competing against my work. I guess at least when you turn on the faucet, water comes out. It even gets down the drain without puddling somewhere it's not supposed to, but truly I hate this kind of shit. I've become quite good at furniture repair (courtesy of five years working at an auction house/antiques shop), and I can now install light fixtures like a pro, but put me in position under some pipes or wiring, or give me a drywall patch to do, and I become about as useful and cranky as a six year old who hasn't eaten in the last ten hours. I'm not sure what the next project will be. It's either going to be kitchen renovation or tearing out our deck and building a new one. Of course, we still need to replace the ceiling in the other bathroom (see the Homeownership blog) which will also necessarily include tearing down the wallpaper and splashing some paint on the walls, and probably putting down new flooring. That's assuming that my piece of shit Volvo doesn't completely break down before I get to any of those things. (My next blog: My Piece Of Shit Volvo)
Talk to ya later.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Making the World a Better Place

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority,
but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."
- Marcus Aurelius

Everyone wants to make the world a better place. Or, put another way, to quote Tears For Fears, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." These of course are redundant statements. The truth is that even the most altruistic among us believe that the only way to make the world a better place is to make it more like our own visions of it. Ghandi was trying to make a better place according to his philosophies. Martin Luther King, Jr. was trying to make the world better according to his philosophies. Adolf Hitler was trying to make the world better according to his philosophies. To continue this exercise, simply plug in whatever impacting (for good or bad, according to your philosophies) names that you can remember. It soon becomes clear that making the world a better place is nigh impossible, because what is better for one person (or group) is not necessarily better for everyone else. Even evolution is stilted by the opinion of its observers. Do you realize how many times scientific advances have been held underground by religions, governments, and those who stand to lose profits because of it? Even Galileo was made by The Inquisition to recant his support (and evidence) for the Copernican theory of the double motion of the Earth, because it decidedly opposed the Biblical explanation of things. Sure, as time passed and technology grew, the truth of the matter became evident to even the most galvanized of people, but the delay set the species back many generations. Galileo was trying to make the world a better place. The Inquisition was trying to make the world a better place too.

My idea of the perfect world is when everyone can get what they need without being subservient to despots, slave masters, superstitions, and creeds. I would do away with anything that interfered with one's ability to think for oneself and act according to one's own conscience. You can only live one life (at least at a time) and it is imperative that each is engrossed in the action of living it for himself. Climbing the ranks of slavery to get to some semblance of creature comfort by making a wealthy man wealthier makes no sense to me. Traveling halfway around the world in order to murder and be murdered for the cause of making wealthy men wealthier makes no sense to me. Abstaining from the few real pleasures this life has to offer in order to belong to a larger group of fools who remain enslaved by ancient superstitions makes no sense to me. Hating a stranger because she was born under a different flag, representing a different group of slave masters, makes no sense to me. If these things give you comfort, then your baptism into slavery is complete. Knock yourself out, but don't force these things on those of us who prefer to live life for ourselves instead of for our master. That is my idea of a better place. What's yours?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bill Gates and God

"How can you have order in a state without religion? For, when one man is dying
of hunger near another who is ill of surfeit, he cannot resign himself to this
difference unless there is an authority which declares "God wills it thus."
Religion is excellent stuff for keeping people quiet."
-Napoleon Bonaparte

I have been spending the last weekend trying to come to terms with how I feel about Bill Gates' recent retirement. He's leaving Microsoft in order to devote his full time to philanthropy. Whatever that means. He's amassed a fortune in his first 52 years that most countries on this earth only wish they had. Countries! Now, he's going to devote his time to giving away his money (well, part of it anyway). I certainly don't want to be one who looks the gift horse in the mouth, because anything he does with his money is better than what he was doing with it, but it leaves me feeling all empty inside. The world is certainly more connected than it was before Microsoft pioneered e-mail, made a PC run like a Mac, and presented to us easy to understand and operate office applications. I certainly would never try to take away the accomplishments of Bill Gates and Microsoft. Is the world a better place? If it is, for whom? If it isn't, why isn't it?

My problem stems from the fact that while he was amassing this great fortune, 35-40% of us who were also working, couldn't even afford health care, and still can't. While he was bringing in one the greatest incomes in recorded history, entire countries could have eaten for years from the same amount of money that he made in one. Does that make him responsible? Probably not. Does that make him a contributing factor? You betcha. But, my fellow Americans, so are we.

We have, as Americans, been raised to believe three things that take precedence over everything else. First, we are raised to believe that Capitalism is the only system that works and has a conscience. We aren't taught that it only works for a few of us, because that would take away from the message that you have to protect this system because in a "free" country, it could be you on the top making the billions of dollars per year, and you must protect your right to hoard by protecting the rich now. I think to myself, "Does anyone really believe that anymore?" The truth is, yes they do! This becomes a question of "faith" because it is to be believed without the nuisance of having to have evidence to support it. The second basic premise is that we are taught that "might is always right." The United States, like many other nations, is essentially a history of the powerful exploiting the powerless. It began on the first boat ride and continued through... um, what time is it now? Many with whom I've tried to converse with about this very subject simply respond with, "Hey, more power to him!" Really? More power to him? I thought that we were supposed to be against royalty! The last thing Bill Gates needs is more power. "Relax, Rick, it's only a figure of speech." It's exactly those kinds of "figures of speech" that keep the huddled masses huddling. We protect the powerful as a matter of duty. Remember how the "huddled masses" came to Gates' defense when the government tried to break his monopoly? It reminded me of how those same people came to the defense of Ollie North. How dare the government (that would be...oh yeah, us) come down on a powerful man who abuses it? Culturally, we have not only found ourselves coming to the defense of abuses of power(money) but we've come to expect the abuses. I like to think that it's not the empathy that comes with believing that we would do the same thing if placed in his position. After all, he's going to make things better now, right?

The third premise deserves its own paragraph. We are a culture rigorously steeped in religion. Yeah, we say "separation of church and state" until someone actually tries to enforce it. Then we're a "Christian nation". The quote by Napoleon at the beginning says it all. We've come to expect ourselves to be dirty, tired, and poor because God tells us that's how we're supposed to be. To stand for yourself goes against all of religiosity. To point out that if guys like Bill Gates actually gave back (officially) to the nation according to what he's managed to receive from it, we'd all be better off is pure heresy. God expects His (and especially the churches') followers to be slaves in this life, so we'll be better slaves for eternity. In this manner,
God has taught us to be better slaves for tyrants. Is Bill Gates a tyrant? Well, has he used his money over the years to help out, or to further promote his own wealth? Has he ensured through his wealth that those who labored to bring him his wealth have made enough money and had enough benefits to live comfortably and in health? We know how many millionaires have been created by Microsoft, but what about the mail-room guys and the janitors and the secretaries? Would the religious of the world find him charitable before he began his foundation a few years ago, or would they simply be defending him on the grounds of "God's will?"

Look, I don't have the answers. I'm not sure I've even got the questions right yet. If I had my way, once these guys surpassed the Billion Dollar mark, we'd just give them a "you made it" card good for commerce without the need for cash backup. The card would be good for three generations. Then we could as a nation reclaim all that cash and maybe all that extra money lying around actually would make this a better place for us all. (I think my next blog might address the idea of "making the world a better place.") Let me hear what you think.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Funny Games

Okay, so I watched the movie Funny Games last night. I would say that I liked it a lot, but I'm not really sure what it was. The story unfolds seemingly straightforward, but during the film I noticed at least three asides, which on the one hand made me feel better about laughing during parts that people probably just shouldn't laugh at, and on the other hand made me question the theme. Tim Roth and Naomi Watts were in their "A" game as usual, and the writing/direction was consistent and fresh. Apparently it is a remake of the director's own film from 1997. I'm assuming it was a foreign-language film. Otherwise the guy's seriously out of ideas. I recommend watching it (without the kids), and then I'd like to hear some of your thoughts on it. Oh, come to think of it, I bet it was a German film. You'll understand that if you watch German movies.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


My companion, Alex, and I have been living in our house for about nine years(?) now. We decided to go ahead and buy the place this year, mostly because we could get a mortgage for about the same price as our rent. I'll leave out the boring details, but financially it was a good move. We did this just a couple of months ago. In fact, we haven't even made our second payment yet! One of the first things we decided to do was to get cable hookup. We needed to have the internet on our home computer, so we just bought the bundle. The house has never had cable put in it, so the installer had to do the whole shebang. While doing it, he put one of his legs through the ceiling in our office. The company he works for promptly sent someone out to repair the ceiling, and they did a good job with it, so really besides the cleanup after the initial break, it wasn't a big deal. Well, about a week and a half ago, I noticed water dripping from our a/c vent in the bathroom. Before two days had past, a good portion of the ceiling in there was wet, dripping, and stained. To make a long story short, we had to have our a/c unit replaced this past week. The bathroom ceiling now needs to be replaced too. Now, it's been a long time since last I was a homeowner, and I remember the cost and work that can be involved with it, but two months/two ceilings is getting a bit ridiculous. This certainly has the potential to be a cumbersome adventure. I feel like the warranty just ran out on my car!

Friday, June 20, 2008


Hello, welcome to Random Heresy! I think that if I were to have lived a few hundred years ago, I probably would have been burned at the stake for heresy (thus, the name). I really don't try to be evangelical with my thoughts, but I'm rather forthright with my opinions, which may not be the same from one day to the next. I'm anti-religious. I'm reasonably anti-government. I'm philosophically against the monetary systems of the world. I think that if someone isn't upset by what you say, you probably aren't saying anything. I don't condone combativeness, but I think that honest conversation without the burdens of political correctness is the only hope we have of saying something meaningful through this limited tool we call language. I think that the words "believe" and "faith" and "truth" should be approached cautiously, for all three represent ideas that have already died. I love music. It communicates on a primal, pre-language level, as do the other non-verbal arts. I'm also a movie and book freak. I have a band called "The Book Of Lies". You can check us out at www.myspace.com/thebookoflies . Let's have some fun with this. -rick "The Heretic"