Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why I'm Not Celebrating Valentine's Day, in the Style of Glenn Beck

Valentine's day is celebrated on February 14th
This is also the day ancient Romans celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia
The Roman Empire, in the year 117 AD included most of Belgica, now called Belgium
Back to the word Valentine
If you convert each letter to the number which corresponds to its position in the alphabet and add it all up, you get 79
May 10, 1940, the day Nazis Invaded Belgium
Add 5 because Valentine's starts with a V and, in Ancient Rome, V meant 5 and we get...
Valentine's day is Nazis.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


      I was hooked after my first taste. Money was the key to happiness. A particularly boring day could be quickly remedied with a new purchase. Unfortunately for a young consumer, two dollars a week in allowance was hardly enough to make a meaningful impact in an uninteresting afternoon. Buying a small cone of ice cream took a whole week, a pack of Pokemon cards took two, and a new video game could take over a month! Unacceptable. At 8, a month was a significant portion of my life. I wasn't some fool looking for instant gratification. My school had labeled me as one of the “gifted” kids. I knew that getting rich may take a few weeks, and that was okay. I could be patient. Once I was rich, I wouldn't even need allowance.
      Inspiration for my first ever get-rich-quick scheme came to me one day during my third grade's English class. Mrs. Codd read a story about an emperor and a crafty peasant. The emperor had to decide how much rice to give to the peasant and his family for the year.
      “I would like to have plenty of rice to feed my family,” said the peasant.
      “Well I don't want to give you much rice at all,” replied the emperor.
      “How about this?” the peasant said, “Today you will give me one grain of rice. Tomorrow you will give me two grains of rice. The day after that, four grains. Then eight, and so on until we reach the end of the year.”
      “That's hardly any rice! So it shall be!” said the emperor.
      One year later the peasant had all the rice in the world and I had inspiration. If I did the same thing as the peasant, except with my allowance instead of rice, I could have all the money in the world in about a year. I ran home from the bus stop that day, feeling as though I already had my winning lottery ticked and all I had to do was cash it in. When I got inside and my mom asked how my day was, I was careful to say nothing of my plans. I was gifted. I knew I couldn't seem too excited, or she may catch on.
      She caught on.
      I learned a few things that day. I learned it is impossible to contain your excitement if you think you are about to obtain unlimited wealth. I learned that my parents did not possess unlimited wealth. I even learned the word “exponential.” It was the first time I had ever heard of a middle-class, and that I was a part of it. In my mind, I went from being unimaginably rich to completely, crushingly average. It did not sit well with me, that feeling of standard status. I harbored a resentment of my meager allowance for the next year before inspiration struck again.
      There was a group that came to our school called Junior Achievement. An adult came into the class to teach us about entrepreneurship. Each of us was given the parts of a pen, all disassembled. The lesson was to put them together, and experience what “hard work” could achieve. It is true that most of us kids would never have expected to be able to construct a pen. Most of us did not want to. At the end of class though, we would leave with our pens in hand, more confused than we had been an hour ago. For me though, the only thing that mattered was that new word, entrepreneur. It had been imbued by our Junior Achievement presenter with every imaginable positive quality. Entrepreneurs were creative powerhouses, overcoming problems that would make others slink away. Their intellect was unmatched, and their drive to succeed insatiable. Despite being none of these things myself, I decided I was well-suited to the life of an entrepreneur.
      I began to spend my free time in a dizzying stupor of ideas. One after another, thoughts of making money assaulted my mind. The hurricane force brainstorms favored quantity over quality. Of course, at the time, they all seemed perfectly reasonable. So it was that I approached my mother one day to ask for an advance on my allowance.
      “Hey, mom?”
      “What do you want?”
      “I was just wondering if I maybe could have my allowance a little bit early.”
      “And why's that?”
      “Only the next few weeks worth...”
      “Kyle, what do you need so badly?”
      With a heart full of hope and lust for money I said “I'm gonna buy cucumber seeds and plant them in the backyard. I'll take care of them all myself. You won't even have to worry about them! And then, when they're all grown, I'm gonna sell them.”
      “Mhm...” she said. My mother was always very encouraging, which made this phase of my life very difficult for her. She had to carefully tread the line between crushing my dreams and ending up with a refrigerator full of unwanted cucumbers. Eventually she found a nice way of telling me to try something else, instead.
      I decided “something else” would be writing a book. Authors made tons of money. I knew books were pretty big, and the most I had ever written was a one page long book report. I enlisted the help of a friend. We were both gifted. There weren't many creative differences. Being boys of 9, we quickly decided to write a book about a ninja. For a plot, we decided we'd just have everyone he loved get murdered. The murderers were evil ninjas. Throw in a healthy dose of revenge, and we figured we had it all figured out. Then we sat down to write it. Not twenty minutes later, we decided to play a video game about ninjas as research. The book remains unfinished.
      There was a string of similar failures. At one point I tried to be a rock star. My band had one rehearsal. Next I tried to be a chef. I only made grilled cheese sandwiches. Having read some child development texts, I know now that this is what most people would call “trying on roles.” It was no such thing. My motivation was not exploring all the future had to offer. I just wanted money, and I wanted it fast.
      I tended to spend my money fast, as well. My trust fund rarely built up beyond three dollars. As it happens, that was the price of a pack of Pokemon cards. I loved Pokemon. The moment my parents handed me the money from my allowance, I would begin wearing them down for a trip to the local store which sold the cards. Allowance day was always Sunday, and so Monday did become my Pokemon card day. I had a huge collection, but not nearly enough. I played Pokemon with friends, and when they went home I played the video game version by myself. It wasn't just me. Even the coolest of the cool kids had their own cards.
      Part of the fun of Pokemon was ripping open a fresh pack to see what new cards were inside. There would usually be one or two good ones, and the rest were at least fun to look at. Naturally, the better cards went into my deck. The rest found themselves tucked away into a binder. Some kids enjoyed collecting these unused cards. I didn't care for it. I only wanted to play.
      One summer day, while playing a heated Pokemon match with my best friend, I realized that the cards in my binder could be so much more than just a waste of space.
      “Hey Josh?” I began.
      “How much do you think our cards are worth?”
      “I don't know. It's your turn.”
      “Oh. Well, I was thinking we could sell some. I mean, not the ones we use, but all these one's,” I said, picking up my binder. “There's so many, and some of them aren't that bad.”
      “Where would we sell them?” asked Josh. He always had to ruin my plans with a sense of practicality.
      “I don't know. Maybe we could go downtown and sell them outside of the game shop.”
      “Your mom would let us do that?”
      “No. Your turn.”
      “We should sell them, though. I have some I don't want.”
      “What if we just set up a stand outside my house?”
      “Nobody is going to buy Pokemon cards from a stand outside your house.”
      “It works for lemonade stands.”
      “It works for lemonade stands.”
      “Can we at least try it? It'll be fun!”
      I don't know how it worked, but my flimsy promise of fun was enough for the Pokemon Card Stand to become a reality.
      Josh and I set up outside the front of my house, right beside the sidewalk. Our stand was just a card table with a blue checkered tablecloth on it and a sign on the front that read “Pokemon Cards for Sale!!!” It was a hot, sunny day, and there were plenty of people outside jogging, walking dogs, and doing all the other things suburbanites do in nice weather. We sat in two shabby folding chairs, binders on the table in front of us. It felt so professional. We were actually out there, selling our wares. We were entrepreneurs. It is still the most professional I have ever felt in a t-shirt and shorts.
      As soon as we saw somebody coming down the street, our conversation would lull. Both of us eagerly watched the stranger, anticipating the moment he would arrive, make small talk, purchase a card or two for his son, and go on his way. My anticipation was so great, I could tell that having an actual customer was going to be the best thing ever. The stranger walked past with a nod. Our conversation resumed immediately in an effort to mask the disappointment we each felt.
      After an hour or so of sitting and sweating, we spied a middle-aged man rounding the corner. My excitement began to build again, but after the fifth letdown I was getting better at not getting my hopes up too much. He was walking down the sidewalk and didn't cross to the other side of the street! I put on my biggest smile and prayed it wasn't so big as to be weird. He made eye contact. This was huge! Eye contact was a social bond. He was obligated to, at the very least, nod as he passed us. My hopes skyrocketed. The man approached our little table.
      “Hi!” Josh and I said.
      “Hello boys. What are you two selling this fine day?”
      “Pokemon cards”
      “We have them all priced, if you want to look,” I said.
      “So you're not selling lemonade?” asked the man, hesitantly. “It is hot out here after all.”
      “No, just Pokemon cards,” Josh said.
      “Well then. You boys have a good one,” said the man as he walked away.
      “Thanks, you too!” So enthusiastically it was as though I thought my manners might make him change his mind.
      “That guy would definitely have bought lemonade,” said Josh.
      “I can go make some. I think we have a mix or something.”
      “Nah, we're selling Pokemon.”
      So we sat. It wasn't an awful way to spend the afternoon. It was a beautiful day, and we could play Pokemon matches right there on the table if we got too bored. We decided that dinner time would be the end of the day for us, unless business really picked up. As time ticked on with nobody in sight, I began to wonder if we should end our little business venture early. Before I had a chance to voice my concerns, however, a group of three teenagers turned onto our block. They were all at least five years older than Josh and I, but compared to the other people were just as young as us. They had on baggy t-shirts and jeans that looked like they may give up and fall off at any moment. One of them had his ear pierced. They looked so cool. It became pretty clear that they were heading for our outfit, so we began cleaning up our game and making the storefront presentable.
      “Hey, what are you guys doing?” one of the boys asked once they got close.
      “We're selling Pokemon cards. Want to see?” I said, trying to stay professional despite feeling way out of my league in terms of coolness.
      “Yeah! Absolutely!” the boy said. The other two snickered.
      Josh started out showing him his cards. He leafed through his binder, pointing out the organization and pricing. Then he pulled out the special box in which he kept his best cards. There were three in their original cardboard box. These cards were spectacular. Josh's grandma had gotten them for him. The were all holographic and Japanese. I guess we just assumed they were good cards, as neither of us was proficient in the language.
      “These are my best ones. They're worth a lot,” said Josh.
      “Oh wow! Those are some nice cards dude. Mind if I look closer?”
      “Sure go ahead.”
      While Josh was watching the first kid, another started looking through my cards. They all seemed genuinely interested, and Josh and I were giddy at the prospect of selling some cards. One sale and the whole afternoon wouldn't have been wasted.
      “Hey, could you throw this out?” asked one of the boys, holding out an empty drink bottle.
      “Sure!” Josh said, because you can't really turn down a potential customer.
      “I'll get it, it's my house,” I said, taking the bottle and heading back inside. It was so nice in my house. The air conditioning felt great. I stood in front of it, savoring the chill on my neck. I threw out the bottle, grabbed a drink of my own from the fridge and headed outside to make a sale. When I sat back down, Josh was just finishing up a conversation about one of the cards in his binder.
      “So he's really a pretty good card to have in your deck.”
      “Yeah, definitely,” said the kid. “There are totally some cards I want here, but I don't have any cash on me. We're gonna run back to my house to get some real fast and then we'll be back. So don't go anywhere!”
      “Okay!” I said “We'll be right here.”
      They left, joking and laughing as they walked down the block. They were walking fast. Clearly they wanted to get the money and get back quickly. Josh and I talked about how excited we were to finally be selling some cards.
      “Which ones do you think they'll buy?” Josh asked.
      “I don't know. I'd buy your shiny cards if I had enough cash.”
      “Yeah, they are nice,” said Josh as he picked up the case to show me the cards again. When he opened the lid, instead of being greeted with the iridescent Japanese print, we saw only an empty box. We had been robbed. The boys had stolen our cards and we didn't even notice. They had sent me inside with a piece of garbage, and then had distracted Josh by feigning interest in other cards. I had been played. I was gifted, and I had been played.