Celebrating Independence Day with Secret Laboratory

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For most folks, Independence Day is nothing more than an orgy of beer, brats, and ballgames—and that, I suppose, is why I’m not going to beat myself up because I’m writing my Fourth-of-July column two days late. No matter how you look at it, it’s still a holiday weekend; and for that, I’m thankful. And as for me, I’m no great patriot, either; I do remember the reason for the celebration—but I think about it as I’m getting drunk.

My day did not go according to plan; however, I’m feeling a bit better about it. I was pissed off this afternoon—no need to say why—but a nice long nap, good company, and a case of beer have me back on track, as it were. Terencio is finally writing some fiction—he’s seated at the bar next to me—and it looks like I’m going to ramble a bit, although there isn’t a helluva lot of interesting things happening in the news.

I suppose there’s that whole thing about Egypt tearing itself to pieces. President Morsi ousted, 17 dead, protests galore … but that’s hardly interesting, at least to me. It all ties in with Arab Spring—and that, of course, is what sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement—but still, it’s simply too far away to be any fun. Which reminds me that I’m still looking for a Global Affairs editor. Any takers? Just imagine yourself writing for such a prestigious magazine as this. The glory, the notoriety, the mounting bills and unbearable deadlines….

Never mind. What else is going on in the world? Well, police in Nevada arrested some nut in a stolen van with a bunch of guns and Molotov cocktails. They still don’t know what the fuck he was up to, but some are speculating that it was “no good.” This is one of those rare instances when the bad guy gets caught before he has a chance to go on a rampage—and for that, we thank you.

It looks like Edward Snowden has been offered asylum in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Nicolas Maduro & Daniel Ortega

“As head of state, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden so that he can live (without) … persecution from the empire,” Nicolas Maduro said, referring to the United States.

Snowden has been turned down by various other countries as he rots in Moscow, sending a flurry of faxes all over the world and waiting for the hammer to fall. Even Iceland didn’t want him.

“We have the sovereign right to help a person who felt remorse after finding out how the United States was using technology to spy on the whole world, and especially its European allies,” Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua said.

President Obama, meanwhile, has locked himself in the Oval Office for the last week where he is reportedly smoking blunts and according to one source, is “high as shit.” While government spooks have been scrambling to get their hands on Snowden, the president is unconcerned; he has referred to Snowden as a “hacker” and hinted that at the end of the day, he just doesn’t give a fuck; after all, he has access to the best marijuana in the world and he’s retiring from politics after this term and he’s going to spend the rest of his life playing golf and poking Michele.

Huh. We’ll see how the story unravels, but for now it’s interesting to consider just what in the stinking hell the United States has been up to, how far our sphere of influence extends, what we’re willing to do to get our way, and what it all means as we celebrate the birth of our nation. Will we make it another hundred years? Or fifty? Are we the good guys … or the bad? Is there a difference?

Reality TV: better with drugs. Here, we see Brandi’s impressive rack, courtesy of Storage Wars.

To tell you the truth, the average American doesn’t know and doesn’t care. I’m not even sure if I do, anymore. I have often advocated turning off the TV and immersing yourself in news and politics—know what is going on, explore the truth—but some of those reality shows are really good and with the right drugs, they’re even better.

In other news, the mayor of Chicago has said that in light of this week’s shootings, residents have a 9 out of 10 chance of being shot if they venture outdoors; for people who stay home, that number drops to 6 out of 10; and for those who choose to hide in their bathtubs, the odds are reduced to 3 out of 10. What’s puzzling is why all of the ridiculously-strict gun control measures are not making a positive difference … but oh well, that must just be a sign that we need even more anti-gun legislation. And while I’m tempted to pontificate on that subject further, I’ve already done so—at great length—in an earlier column.

Moving on. According to NBC: A Phillips 66 pipeline with a record of prior accidents spilled an estimated 25,000 gallons of gasoline in a remote area outside a small town on Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation, but no public health problems were anticipated, federal officials said Friday.

A representative of the Houston-based oil refinery and chemical company said the amount of leaked gas likely was less than initially reported, although no alternate figure was offered. The initial estimate came from a report submitted by the company to the government’s National Response Center.

An employee of the refinery, who wished to remain anonymous, made the following comment: “Thank God this didn’t happen somewhere else—it would’ve been a real disaster.”

Speaking of disasters—or tragedies, rather—a house fire in Pennsylvania killed six, including three children; furthermore, an 8-month-old Virginia boy died after his mother left him in the car all day … and a 16-month-old girl died in Baltimore when a relative left her in his truck for four hours. You cannot fully appreciate the horror of stories such as these until you’re a parent—and while I don’t understand how someone could forget, when I hear about this kind of shit, all I can do is picture my own child in the same situation. It’s fucking scary and sickening … and while I’d kind of like to punch the responsible parties in the face, I can’t even imagine what they’re going through. Jesus.

Child killers. Really? WTF?

Here’s another one: Two-year-old James Bulger was lured away from a shopping center in Liverpool, England, by Jon Venables and his classmate Robert Thompson in February 1993.

The pair, who were both aged 10 at the time, then beat him with iron bars and bricks before dumping him on a railway line.


In other news, British astronomers are ramping up their efforts to find evidence of extraterrestrial life. Why? Who the fuck knows. They must have a whole bunch of extra money to waste just like us. Why spend money on homes and healthcare and education when you can look for aliens?

“At the moment, America’s the place that does it. There’s no other place that comes close. We want to become No. 2,” said Alan Penny, an astronomer at the University of St. Andrews.

Well … shucks. At least those goddamned limey bastards know their place. And the folks doing similar work in the weird land of Oz—Australia, that is—have just come up with some decidedly strange radio emissions that appear to have come from beyond our galaxy or even the one next to us. What does it mean? Well … nothing, as it turns out. Way to spend that money.

Here’s a funny headline: “The State of the American Dream is Uncertain

Well … no shit.

From NBC: Ah, the enduring American Dream: The idea that anyone who works hard enough can climb the ladder and achieve success: The big home in the suburbs, the luxury cars in the garage, the kids off to a good college and the retirement in a sunny locale. 

The reality is more complicated.

The incredibly weak job market of the past five years, especially, may mean that more people feel like they are doing everything right—working hard, going to college, following the rules—and still aren’t getting ahead.

The sad fact of the matter is that while rags-to-riches stories are sometimes true, they are few and far between. Creative types get breaks once in a while—writers, actors, artists—but the majority of people spend their lives working at shitty jobs that they hate, barely scraping by, all the while drowning in a sea of debt. Let’s see a show of hands, shall we?

Johnny Depp, who was a close friend to Hunter S. Thompson and played him in two movies, has gotten his slice of the pie; Thompson did as well, although before he was famous he struggled and wrote on the American Dream—or the death of it, as it were—for much of his career. And Depp? He’s fifty now and considering retirement—and he’s a big fan of the “trashiest television imaginable,” including “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”

Well … what does that mean? I’m not sure … but apparently, more single dads than ever head U.S. households. Shit. I know that I do. Indeed. I simply have to get some work done on that goddamned divorce book—as soon as I’m finished with this.

Ed & Kim

Ed & Kim

Right. And I suppose that I should wrap this up. I’m not sure how many beers Terencio and I have had—and I’m nearly out of medicine—and cranky old Kim retired to the bedroom hours ago where she has holed up with her online casino games.

Okay. Finally, a hot, tattooed woman named Christina Stephens built herself a prosthetic leg out of Legos—and she’s now enjoying her fifteen minutes of fame and therefore, her little bit of the American Dream. And for a chick who’s missing a leg, she sure knows how to show off the other one. And again, for that we thank you.

Welcome to the weekend. Here’s your wisdom:

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John T. Schmitz is the editor & publisher of Secret Laboratory; he is the founder of Maple Hills Press and has also freelanced as a writer and photographer, contributing to various local and international publications. Mr. Schmitz lives in Minnesota with his Kim, some cats, and a Maki; he is the author of five books. Email Mr. Schmitz at editor@secretlaboratory.org

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