Meetings


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Steven Vaughn — Contributor — @BylineBeat

I hate meetings.  Granted, most of the time they are scheduled for the right reasons - sharing information, communicating needs, etc., but in my opinion, most meetings could occur between two, maybe three individuals in a five-minute stand-up conversation in the hall. 

I attend meetings because I have to.  It is expected and my input is “valued.” That doesn’t mean I don’t utilize certain coping strategies in order to survive the tedium. 

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Feminine Abode


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Steven Vaughn — Contributor — @BylineBeat

I once invited a male friend to my house to hide with me in the unfinished basement, get wasted and jam on the guitar.  He was no more than three steps into the house when he turned to me with a look of shocked horror on his face and said with uncharacteristic sincerity, “Oh. My. God.  You poor, poor bastard!”  He pointed to a shelf in my kitchen upon which sat a single, wrapped tampon.  That is my life in a nutshell. 

You see, I live in a house full of women - a wife, two teenage daughters and even the dog and two cats.  All women.  There is so much estrogen floating around my abode that I often feel I need a paddle to navigate it.  And feminine products on the kitchen shelf is just the beginning of the female madness in which I am expected to survive.  Let’s take a little tour…

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Fear In The Heartland: Looking for the National Conversation on Guns and Drones


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Alex Cacioppo — Contributing Editor — @BylineBeat

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Outside the big cities and vast urban wastelands, millions of Americans view guns as something other than killing machines that must be kept out of the hands of the insane and evil-doers. For a vast number of our fellow countrymen, guns are used for sport, for protection, and are a tactile reminder of the freedoms won by fathers and grandfathers.

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From Bored Minds Come Bad Ideas


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Steven Vaughn — Contributor — @BylineBeat

One of my favorite tweets:

“Eating your sister out is like drinking Non-Alcoholic Beer.   It tastes the same, but it’s just wrong!”

Besides being shocking, funny, perverse, obscene, irreverent and poking fun at a ridiculous product designed to make alcoholics feel included in social settings, it makes my top ten list because it was something I actually said to a friend, with deep sincerity. 

It was at the tail end of my last job… that glorious time when the majority of my workday encompassed deciding what would be the most insane way I could give my notice that would leave a memorable mark without landing me in jail.  I wanted songs written glorifying the event.  At the time I had a like-minded friend in the company who was racing me to be the first to quit the hellish environment we were imprisoned in.  So when not dreaming of shitting on the boss’s keyboard on our day of exit or arguing about who got to dress as Batman and who as Robin for the next monthly staff meeting, were doing what we did best - sitting around, fucking off.

“So I found out I have a sister,” he dropped casually, his monotone voice intentionally designed to add shock to the declaration. 

After picking up my jaw I wrestled the story from him.  It turns out he was adopted (after learning this I now only refer to him as “dumpster baby”), and his real parents later had a girl they kept.  We both agreed that it was a good call on their part:  ditching him and keeping her.  His sister only just found out he existed and reached out to him.  They had been texting and calling each other, and he had no doubts she was his blood.

“Dude, she’s an even bigger asshole than we are and hates people even more!” he spouted proudly. “She’s like a female us!”

“Us with tits,” I nodded sagely.  “Awesome.”

He told me she was heading to NYC in a few weeks, and they were going to meet for a weekend of partying and getting to know each other.   They are both fans of heavy drinking, microbrews and getting into trouble in bars.  They sounded like Hansel and Gretel on crank, but there was no doubt of their shared parentage.

He showed me a picture of her on his phone, and I studied it, glancing from the photo to him and back.  I could see the resemblance.  Same hair color, same goofy, bulbous nose, and, from what I could tell, she shared his unusually large head size.  But she was cute.

“Dude, you should fuck her,” I joked.  We are guys.  We were bored.  It was the logical direction for the conversation.

“I know! She’s pretty hot, and she’s kind of a slut-pig,” he replied.  “And because she looks like a cute me, it’s just masturbation, right?”

We bantered back and forth, me recommending getting her drunk and playing “I’ll show you yours if you show you mine” like all good siblings do and him contemplating that, because it is family, it wouldn’t really be cheating on his wife.  Like most of our conversations, the depths of our depravity knows no bounds.  However, as our usual, perverted conversation dragged on, I realized he might be serious.  

“Um, you know you can’t fuck her, right?”

“Why not?!” he indignantly replied.  “Want to bet?”

“Dude, it’s not whether or not you CAN score with her, it’s whether or not you SHOULD!”

This led to a long discussion as to whether sex with someone you’ve never known, albeit a blood relative, would be incest.  It really is an interesting concept.  Was incest the specific act, or was it knowingly performing the act with someone you grew up with as a sibling.  For example, if they had met coincidentally in a bar and instantly connected due to whatever magical genetic link they carry, then ended up fucking like bunnies, how bad would that really be?  We don’t blame or ostracize Luke and Leia for their attraction.  They aren’t hated for the kiss they shared.  Right?  It’s truly amazing how creative a pair of bored assholes talking about sister fucking can get in their justifications.

Half of me wanted him to score, only because of the amazing story and resulting abuse I could lay upon him.   The other half finally bent to societal pressure, and I tried to defend the inherent wrongness of it all.  Eventually my argument swayed him. 

“You’re right.  Maybe we should stick just to oral,” he admitted.

Sighing, shaking my head, and raising to leave I replied, “Dude.  Eating your sister out is like drinking non-alcoholic Beer.   It tastes the same, but it’s just wrong!”

Editor’s Note: 'The Man Cave' column will appear every two weeks on Byline Beat. Check back every other Thursday.

     

In Requiem


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Austin J. Hunt — Contributor — @ BylineBeat

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Today would have been Kurt Cobain’s 46th birthday. Since committing suicide in 1994, Cobain and Nirvana have been the topic of much discussion, and there have been countless stories and documentaries detailing his life and pondering what could have been.

But why?

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A Period Piece


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Steven Vaughn — Contributor — @ BylineBeat

Let me start by saying this: I have two teenage daughters and, in my mind, they have no vaginas.  None.  Like Barbie.  For a father, it’s just best this way.  Admission of genitalia leads to horrific mental possibilities.  Like some creepy dude trying to fill it.  So a father’s mind blocks the very existence of his daughter’s vagina in order to protect him from this trauma.

In that context, I cannot begin to describe the recent shock I experienced when my wife approached me with an emergency.  Somehow, by some vaginaless miracle, my youngest daughter got her period and there were no tampons in the house.  My wife was in the midst of some high priority mission that she couldn’t be torn from, like baking cookies, and I was tasked with going and purchasing tampons.

All men should be able to relate to the blood curdling horror of this statement.  I was sent to buy tampons.  Tampons.  From a store.  With people in it.  I swear I would not wish this on my worst enemy, and I have imagined my worst enemy with a 2x4 in his ass, on fire, while swatting his flaming nutsack with a Louisville Slugger bat.

That said, I also know the world is a cruel, heartless place and someday, somewhere, another man may have to perform this heinous act.  So I believe it is my duty to provide the process steps which, if followed, may help a man survive this most humiliating event.

  1. Sit in the driveway in your truck, convincing yourself that this is really happening and not a nightmare.  A half-hour later, start the truck. As you pull out of the driveway, scream at the top of your lungs: “How the hell, in a house full of women, can there be no tampons?!?!”
  2. Evaluate the amount of gas you have and wonder if it will get you to Mexico, while resisting the temptation to drive headlong into that huge old oak tree at the end of the drive. As you pull out onto the road,  cancel the route to Mexico you just entered in your GPS.
  3. Arrive at the store.  Circle the lot looking for cars that you recognize. Then, after sitting in the lot for 20 minutes trying not to cry because you’re already considerably less of a man, enter the store.
  4. Evaluate if the box of tampons will be more visible in a basket or a shopping cart.  Choose the basket, then cruise the store looking for items that you don’t need but may adequately hide the tampons in the basket.
  5. Stand near the tampons pretending to look at something, evaluating the tampon shelving situation.  Note: do not use adult diapers as your “pretending to look at” item.  This is bad enough already.
  6. Wait, hoping another man will come along looking for tampons so you can get through this together, realizing no other man is sucker enough to be buying tampons.
  7. Slowly approach the tampons (I call this location Ground Zero) while trying to remember the brand, size and applicator you’re supposed to get. Note, you will be unable to find the right tampons.
  8. Briefly flash back to that time in your childhood when the neighbor girl told you you shouldn’t use the cardboard tube that you found in the bathroom as a kazoo, all the while wondering why anybody would buy an applicator that isn’t easy glide.
  9. Realize that the brand/size/applicator/color/shape tampon you’re supposed to get only comes in a multipack which includes heavy flow.  You were told not to get heavy flow.
  10. Meditate on how gross the term heavy flow is.
  11. Consider opening two boxes and combining the non-heavy flow all into one box, but then realize that you’ll probably accidentally buy all the heavy flows and have to go through this hell all over again.
  12. Be glad your kid doesn’t have heavy flow because that’s just gross
  13. Look quickly to your right and left and, in one swift motion, grab the tampons, stuff them under the lettuce, lightbulbs, Doritos, pancake mix and beer (fuck yes: you’re going to need beer after this) and move rapidly away from Ground Zero.
  14. Stop at the meat section and try to get your breathing under control.  Realize that you haven’t had a good steak in a while, probably because you are not manly in any way shape or form.  Seriously, you’re buying tampons.
  15. Approach the check out area but stop and take time to evaluate and choose the proper check out person.  Avoid males or hot chicks.  The older and scraggier, the better.  Also do not choose a line with male or hot chick customers.
  16. Place all items on the carousel,  carefully hiding the tampons under the Doritos and lettuce.  Broad, leafy lettuce is best, because in my experience iceberg just rolls off the tampons. At no time should you make eye contact with the cashier. Act as cool and casual as possible while paying, while trying to hide your shaking hands.
  17. Sprint for the door.  Remember to grab the grocery bag because you will not survive this again.

Hopefully no man will ever need this list. Understand that if you do, and even if it does work for you, you will still have a long road to emotional recovery, and  I still haven’t recovered from the humiliating loss of my manhood.  

Thank goodness my girls don’t have vaginas, though.

Editor’s Note: 'The Man Cave' column will appear every two weeks on Byline Beat. Check back every other Thursday.

     

Parts Unknown: The Royal Rumble, The Rock And The Legend Of Maven


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Brad Milner — Contributor — @ BylineBeat

(Panama City, Florida) The Road to WrestleMania begins on Sunday with one of the most entertaining pay-per-views of the year, the Royal Rumble. For those unaware of the concept, the Royal Rumble Match pits 30 competitors against each other, one entering the ring after a few minutes until the field is completely out of the locker room. The winner earns a WWE or World Championship shot at WrestleMania against the titlist of their choosing.

This year’s 30-man brawl looks to be devoid of major surprises. There are a handful of clear favorites with any among the group of Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, Ryback, John Cena and Randy Orton likely to win.

The rest of the card includes Alberto Del Rio putting his World Heavyweight Championship on the line against The Big Show in a Last Man Standing Match, Tag Team Champions Team Hell No against Team Rhodes Scholars and a little WWE Championship match pitting CM Punk against that guy named The Rock.

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Mobile Photography: An Interview With David Baer


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Austin J. Hunt — Contributor — @ BylineBeat

(Bowling Green, Ohio) Photography has always been a part of people’s lives, whether as a way to capture images of friends, family and the natural surroundings, or as a profession that puts monetary value to the work of a select few. Whichever it may be, photography has mystified many and created a niche for individuals to express themselves, capturing some of life’s most rare and intimate moments. From the first days of the Kodak box camera to the development of throwaway cameras and the present-day digital cameras, people have always loved taking photographs.

Just recently, some photographers and hobbyists have dropped the traditional approach to photography and adopted a new form of capturing and sharing their images with thousands of people in an instant.

David Baer (@David_Baer), located in San Jose, CA, is one of many people taking a new approach to photography. He and many others around the world, dubbed the “Instagramers,” are using their smart-phones to capture high-quality images and are comparable to those photographs taken by professional photographers with high-tech cameras.

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American Jews Host Rally for Palestine on the Second Inaugural


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Alex Cacioppo — Contributing Editor — @ BylineBeat

(Washington D.C.) Hundreds of concerned citizens led by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and 66 other activist groups rallied at Farragut Square, a handful of blocks away from the White House where, one day later, President Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in for a second term. The protesters gathered under a half-moon sky and after a few speeches by pro-Palestinian activists and academics.

After a brief blessing by Rabbi Julie Greenberg, the crowd went off, loud and proud, down the street, marching past the presidential viewing stand in full sight of TV cameras. Hardly any cops were present except for the few Secret Service agents roaming around several hundred feet from the White House. They were barely visible, but loomed as a potent symbol for the demonstrators.

***

“If you question aid to Israel,” intoned the preacher of a local church, “if you question products produced in illegal settlements in the occupied territories, if you question anything that has to do with Israel, you run the risk of being labeled ‘anti-semite.’”

***

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The Tangled Web Of Te’o


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Brad Milner — Contributor — @ BylineBeat

(Panama City, Florida) The sport’s world’s most fascinating and oddest story in some time broke on Wednesday, when Deadspin reported Manti Te’o’s relationship with Lennay Kekua was an online hoax.

The story of Kekua and her September 12, 2012 death from leukemia garnered national attention during Te’o’s and Notre Dame’s run to the Bowl Championship Series Title Game this season. Te’o claimed he was informed of the death hours after the passing of his grandmother. The dual deaths and Te’o’s love for Kekua propelled him through the season and his play placed him on the brink of the Heisman Trophy.

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China’s Role In Africa: Labor Competition


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Shanley Knox — Contributor — @ BylineBeat

(Brooklyn, New York) “They live next to us, and then they go to the markets and they shop next to us and then they eat at the same restaurants and eat the same food that the Africans eat and the Congolese eat,” Eric Olander remembers his Congolese employee saying of the Chinese population in the Congo.

“Every step made their skin a little bit darker to the Congolese,” Olander continues. “When he saw the Chinese going to the bathroom in the same place he went to the bathroom,” Olander’s employee told him, “‘they became black, like me’.”
             
Olander is an Asia-based multimedia journalist and co-host of the ‘China in Africa Podcast’ that explores the PRC’s engagement on the continent. He estimates there are between 75,000 and 1 million Chinese immigrants in Africa, split into five different categories: unofficial migrants, those involved in state-owned enterprises, the managers of said state-owned enterprises, diplomatic and corporate elites and the entrepreneurs and small business people that have been in Africa on their own for 10-15 years.

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National Intelligence Council: The Sun is Setting on the American Empire


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Alex Cacioppo — Contributing Editor — @ BylineBeat

(Brooklyn, New York) We have passed the ballyhooed “Mayan apocalypse,” a popularized misinterpretation of an ancient calendar created by a defunct civilization. Now it is time for another prediction into the future, on the eve of a new year. However, our modern-day soothsayers forthrightly admit that there is no crystal ball.

America’s role in the world is going to change, according to the recent National Intelligence Council (N.I.C.) report forecasting the world of 2030. Ideological conflict is going to increase. More of the world will be urban, and along with that, the damage to the environment is likely to worsen.

What looks volatile now will seem quaintly serene.

The N.I.C., a governmental body under the umbrella of the Director of National Intelligence, describes a world order in which the United States is no longer the global superpower, pandemic disease and climate change have ramped up, and the advances of technology have crafted an international society with levels of communication and innovation never before seen in human history.

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Parts Unknown: Never Too Early For Undertaker, WrestleMania Speculation


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Brad Milner — Contributor — @ BylineBeat

(Panama City, Florida) Anyone who follows my Twitter account (and if not, why don’t you?? @BradMilner) knows I have a thing for time travel. So let’s take a journey to next year’s WrestleMania, shall we?

There are myriad possibilities for matches and it’s likely we will see The Rock, Brock Lesnar, John Cena and CM Punk in the mix among the top attractions. There also is that guy floating around who just so happens to be 20-0 at WrestleMania, whose name is The Undertaker. He could work into a match with any of the aforementioned foes.

Of course, we won’t know anything for certain until the early part of next year. Undertaker works on his schedule now, which isn’t much, and appears fewer times than Sting did in his heyday with WCW. Sting also is an intriguing possibility, but more on that later.

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China’s Role In Africa: Natural Resources



Shanley Knox — Contributor — @ BylineBeat

(Brooklyn, New York) Each year, the aid sent to Africa equals around 50 million USD. Conversely, the estimated value of resources coming out of Africa is in the region of 400 billion USD per year, after production costs, according to Jim Cust, Executive Director of the Natural Resource Charter and member of the Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies.

“What that means basically in principle is if these revenues are captured by African governments and well managed on behalf of the citizens then the opportunities to break dependence on aid and to undertake transformative economic are very real,” Cust said.

A wave of new resource discovery taking place has created a new perception of Africa based on resource and possibility, rather than aid, according to Cust. He attributes this to investment and natural resources along with a commodity-price supercycle that has persisted through the financial crisis in the West - largely driven by what he calls China’s insatiable demand for mineral resources.

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Murdoch Recants After Charging Media of Anti-Israel Bias



Alex Cacioppo — Contributing Editor — @ BylineBeat

(Brooklyn, New York) Let’s recap: the owner of News Corporation, which owns Fox and the NY Post et al, is talking about “the Jewish-owned press.” One doesn’t know where to begin unpacking Rupert Murdoch’s statement, to wit these Jewish media outlets are so anti-Israel, an utterance wrong on several overlapping levels. What is astonishing is that here we have a media mogul, the octogenarian Australian, talking about the “press” as if it’s an entity that he doesn’t have a huge piece of within his direct possession or through his family. What is also striking is that the next clause, the media is against Israel, is so flatly wrong that it defies belief. Seeing these two wrongheaded claims squished against each other makes for a very entertaining and grotesque display of a William Randolph Hearst at his twilight fiddling some nonsense on a tablet.

The latest (gossip? Version? On dit?)  is Murdoch has apologized for his remark. He shouldn’t have to say he’s sorry for that. What much of our political commentariat should apologize for is their insistence that the subject at hand, the ongoing situation in Gaza and southern Israel, involves two sides at war with each other. In this crisis, as Murdoch alleged, the press (presumably the New York Times, owned by the Sulzberger family) is somehow “anti-Israel.” Putting aside the ontological question of what does it mean to be “anti,” it is clear the media is portraying Israel as an embattled nation, and the Internet is mostly taking up the cause of the other side, a population of roughly 1.5 million people hemmed in and being bombarded.

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