Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Scam Artist in the Wal-Mart Parking Lot

Today, Tiffany and I encountered a scam artist (I prefer calling them "scam pornographers" but that does not yet have the same communal acceptance).

He was a friendly, energetic, talkative, and manipulative bastard. It was a sight to behold, the way he drove the conversation from his assignment to talk to random people for "points," to using those points to win his mother a trip to a foreign country, to helping sick children in hospitals, and ultimately buying a magazine "subscription" for said children.

Before he began asking us basic questions about our personal lives (the more diverse answers we gave, the more points he'd acquire, which ought to have been red flag number two...the first being his approaching us in a parking lot), he gave us a spiel about how we were going to have to rate his speaking ability. It was important we give him a good rating, because this garnered him more points, or whatever.

This was a great tactic for disarming our suspicions regarding his slick-talking. It also, in the heat of the moment, kind of made sense. Of course, this company that is giving him this opportunity doesn't want him to be an awkward, creepy, stuttering mess. You'd think his eventual bounty would speak for itself, but that's only if you already knew he was going to try to pry $65 out of you. His spiel also dissuades you from immediately assuming he's trying to sell you something, which he is, and that something happens to exploitative bullshit.

He made mention of using these mythical points towards filling his mother's pool with jell-o whilst on her vacation, a prank which would somehow land him in the Guinness Book of World Records and would be filmed for youtube. Oh how hip and now. At this point, I was beginning to get a little confused as to how this was all functioning.

The questions he finally asked us pertained to our jobs and general life goals. It wasn't anything too personal. The dude made sure to mention (several times) that he made money playing video games. He was a beta tester for Sony. Again, how hip. How now. (Brown cow).

Eventually, he somehow got to the topic of sponsoring a magazine subscription for kids in a children's hospital. He had us pick the hospital from one list, and pick the subscription series from a tattered, but also legitimate looking printed list. We told him which hospital, and he began writing the receipt while doing more talking. He then stopped, and told us he accidentally wrote the wrong hospital down (you know, brain fart). "Is that still okay?" he asked. "Because I only have one receipt left, and then I'm done." "Sure," we said.

This had to have been planned for the sake of emphasizing to us that he really did only have one receipt left. If we said no, he'd surely be screwed.

Long story short, we did say no. When we were told we'd have to pay $65, and when we informed him we did not have that money. He looked at us, sadly, and said he'd have to pay it himself. I told him I thought he was selling a "subscription," not a one-time payment. I'm sure, at some point, he used the words "one-time payment," but he used a lot of words, so even if this weren't an ancient scam (thank you, google), fuck him, it's his fault anyway.

But I don't feel bad at all. I feel a little embarrassed that I went along for the ride as long as I did, but he works for a company that is exploiting sick children for profit. I feel kinda bad for the scammer. He could be using his deceptive skills to sell people dangerous or superfluous goods that will only minutely and very temporarily improve their lives. Morally, it's not much different, but I'm sure it is safer and pays better.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

When the Levee Breaks

When I first saw the news for yesterday's shooting in Connecticut, I assumed I was seeing something from a few days prior. It arrived on my iPhone, via a New York Times ping alert. Oh, right, that shooting that happened, yeah, okay, I'm going back to bed...

But then Tiffany sent me a text message about the incident right around the same time my New York Times ping alerts started going bonkers. So much for my nap, and so much for avoiding the media onslaught of another horrific tragedy.

So I woke up, and in the span of the few minutes it took to read the latest NYT article, learned everything there was to know about the shooting. That is to say, in under five minutes, I acquired just as much information from over an hour's worth of television news coverage.

You know I was moved, because I even bothered to watch a Jacksonville evening news broadcast at all. Seriously, these affiliate stations make WFMZ - Channel 69 (Berks/Lehigh Counties) look nationally competent. Not only did I watch a Jacksonville news broadcast, but I watched three different broadcasts (simultaneously! - kinda).

I felt pretty bad for the woman in the story about the young man who died in a car accident. Her message was very simple: be an organ donor. Not only did she lose her son, but she also lost a bit of the spotlight and the attention that she (I certainly think) deserved for managing to stay as strong and coherent as she did on camera. Regardless, her son's organs are keeping others alive, and that is what matters most.

Tragedies such as the Sandy Hook shooting make me feel sad, but not just for the obvious reasons.

Yes, I said obvious. Innocent children were violently murdered. So why did every news broadcast that I watched feel it necessary to air a photo/video montage set to sad/somber music before each commercial break? I'm sure someone somewhere called it "gripping," and I'm actually amused at the thought of someone else sitting in front of a computer, trying to find the perfect dreary violin and piano combo for the image of crying children.

Oh, and yes, I can be amused at a time like this, because being a self-righteous, pout-faced drama-junkie does absolutely nothing to make anything better for anyone. I made many observations/quips in the form of facebook and twitter updates that I quickly recanted. I saw many facebook and twitter updates that I'm sure others wish they would have recanted.

What I also saw was very stern insistence from a great deal of people that they were, in fact, very sad and very angry. Again, I think this reaction is pretty obvious, so the amount of people who went well out of their way to let you know, damn it, that they felt pain and grief, bordered on worrying. Do these people think I'll assume they have no emotions whatsoever if they do not, rank and file, espouse their dismay?

I can forgive people for being sad, and for being shocked. After all, as I said, it's the obvious reaction. However, as I also said, I'm sad for more reasons than just those obvious ones. I'm sad because, whenever we go through one of these tragedies, I am reminded of how much I disagree with most other people on a very basic level about a great deal of important things. I am sad because we never seem to learn anything, ever.

I'm not referring to the gun control debate, though certain arguments within that realm did contribute to my sadness. I am talking about the shallowness of co-opting the tragedy and grief of others as your own. Now, the gun control debate is certainly influenced by this attitude. The aforementioned drama-junkies, at least the ones from the Fox News camp, very adamantly reminded us that we (the pro gun-control crowd) are scum for using a tragedy as a platform for the gun control debate. Yes, how dare we use a tragedy as a platform for further prevention of tragedy? I guess we're just letting our emotions get the better of us. It's a good thing we don't own guns, lest our passions cloud our reason. But I digress...

One of my facebook friends posted the link to Ryan Lanza's profile page (while he was still being incorrectly identified as the perpetrator) with "THE SHOOTER" as her comment. Out of my typically morbid curiosity, I clicked the link. It was not long until I found myself asking "who the fuck cares?"

I get it, we're angry, or whatever. But as the day wore on, I saw many a post wishing Adam Lanza, the real shooter, an eternity in hell. Again, I get it, vengeance, or whatever.

Okay, you get it, that I don't get it. You're so clever. What satisfaction does your hatred and lust for vengeance truly bring you? How, in any constructive way, is the world bettered by your bitching and moaning? I hear the shooter's name for every one of these mass-murders, I see his (it's always a twenty-something guy) face, and I feel absolutely nothing. I can see that the murderer is almost always a troubled individual who had access to too much power in a moment of an emotional nadir. I don't care what happens to him, so long as he is prevented from ever committing such an action again. I don't care what he feels, because no pain or anguish on his part could ever undo the consequences of his actions.

I am appalled by the brutality, but I'm not going to lie to you and say that I'm grieving. I don't care if you think you have the emotional/sentimental high ground/perspective on this issue. If it were one of your kids who were murdered, you wouldn't take to facebook or twitter to tell us about it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is This Thing On?

Dear Diary,

Just kidding. I am at a loss (for excuses) as to why I have not posted in such a long while. Yeah, I'm lazy, and yeah, I'm busy (a lethal combination).

I'll shimmy on past the preamble bullshit and get to the heart of the matter (and what I surely would have written about, regardless). On Saturday night, the group that I took out for the Comedy Walk, treated me like shit. They were not unresponsive, inattentive, or boring. No, all seven of them (they all knew each other) went well out of their way to make me miserable.

"We're not that kind of audience," said one of the women, after my Spanish obelisk (phallic shaped monument - google it) seamen/semen pun (an otherwise solid, if sticky, pun) fell...flat.

"We don't appreciate that kind of humor." They were all in their late twenties, so you can imagine my befuddlement. Additionally, they found my self-deprecating help-me-I'm-a-self-loathing-drug-addict act to be amusing enough.

My response (paraphrased, due to lack of proper context), "So you've had bad experiences in the past...with semen?" was met with ire and disdain.

There was one woman, we'll call her "the bitch," who delighted in making dry but obvious remarks in response to a lot of my jokes. The bitch attempted to maintain her too-cool-for-school demeanor even while her friends actually laughed.

For example, I have a gag where I pretend to take a phone call. After I "hung up," the bitch felt it necessary to point out the fact that I did not, in reality, speak to anyone on the phone. I made it known that I was impressed by her keen cognitive abilities and powers of observation, and I was about as serious in my praise as you could imagine. There were many other moments very similar to this one, and it took roughly 45 minutes for this woman to realize that she was being kind of a cunt muffin.

Perhaps the bitch felt cheated, because she paid money, and there wasn't someone waiting somewhere to call me, just for her. In fact, I was reminded several times by this group (usually in the high-pitched whine of a spoiled rotten brat), that they "paid money." I was not hearing this as a reminder to do my best, but as more of an excuse for me to expect their worst.

I could continue on about what all went wrong, but it all boils down to the fact that they went on the wrong tour for them. They expected history lessons. God knows why. They were not the first customers to have made this mistake. Unfortunately, once they realized their mistake, I was stuck with them for an hour, and they were determined to make the most of that hour, even if it meant tormenting me. Because, you know, they paid money, so they have the right to treat people like shit. Thank you, corporate America.

People who don't perform think that performing is so easy. It's not, and it's sad that so few people have ever actually put themselves in a position of vulnurable expression.

Friday, December 7, 2012


I'm pretty sure anti-abortion advocates have misplaced all of their empathy and passion for humankind.

They want you to know how loving they are, but they're afraid to show it to anyone who might not be perfect. A fetus is, in their eyes, pure and perfect. I think these people, the anti-abortion activists, are cowards.

Rather than grapple with the complexity offered by existence, they've got everything boiled down to a simple (minded) formula: life = absolutely good, death = absolutely bad (unless it's an accident, in which case, God must have a better plan for you...because he keeps changing his fucking mind like that.).

And why do they want you to know how loving they are? Because they're not. In all likelihood, they're pretty hateful. It's a generalization, I know. But that's all they seem to understand.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Downward Glances

I got a great deal of compliments on a new pair of shoes I rocked today. I wear new shoes fairly often. It helps that I sell them. But this particular pair has garnered more positive attention than anything else I've ever tied to my feet (including those frogs - sorry, Ms. Morgan, 9th grade biology teacher, I didn't know you meant for me to tie them to the top of my feet. I know you have pictures of this occurring somewhere. I remember this vividly because you were naked while you took the photos. I always remember when people are naked and screaming simultaneously. I'm making all of this up.)

For someone who sells shoes, I realize I rarely ever look at anyone's feet. Even for a foot appreciator (foot fetishist - see how I softened that revelation with the pedophile frog picture massacre?), I don't often look down enough. What's the point? The feet are usually inside of something. And yeah, said feet are rarely inside of frog guts, but that's not going to stop me from bringing that up from time to time, like I'm beating a dead frog or something.

I suppose my penchant for particularly bright footwear attracts the eye. Or maybe I'm far less observant than I should be if I'd like to tell jokes and stuff. Regardless, I'm going to go back to enjoying behind-the-scenes footage of Sesame Street. I particularly enjoy the Kermit segments. If I had this on VHS, the tape would be worn at these particular frames.

I'm not saying I masturbate to frog disembowelment. But I do really like feet, I swear.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Story! "Menthol"

Here's a taste of a new fiction piece I've been working on. It's probably about the least straightforward thing I've ever written, so please don't say I didn't warn you...

 "Menthol" - Benjamin Tier

If I told you about the demons, you'd laugh like the rest of them.

I see them, the demons, just about everywhere I go. In fact, just yesterday, I saw one in the pharmacy section of the grocery store. He beckoned, as a shadow in a windowless van asks schoolchildren for help finding his puppy; and I, much like those tender, naïve objects, felt obliged to answer this character's call, so long as there were sweets in it for me.
The sweets were unsavory. It was only a matter of hours until the demon had shown to me his true form. I said to him, “If you'd come dressed in as many red flags as I can see now, I never would have gone with you.”
His nostrils flared. Cotton, pungent and putridly sterile, composed his face. His body was of industrial plastic. As I looked at him now, he stood at least a foot taller than myself, and yet I could not escape the sensation of looking down at him. Provided was the perfect vantage point from which to slay.
“I'm going to have to kill you now. I've no joy left.”
He growled and said nothing. Taunting me telepathically, he communicated, Killing me will bring you neither joy, nor satisfaction. Furthermore, I will haunt you until you die.
“But it is my duty.”
I leapt.
From nowhere, I produced my blade. In some instances, it was a mere pocket knife. In others, it was the kind of sword you'd expect a valiant knight to thrust into the evil twat about to bugger the princess.
The cotton did not slice so easily. Chemicals smeared the ceiling, sinews stuck stubbornly upon my sword. My enemy screamed, not out loud, but, you know, telepathically. In my head.

I did not sleep that night. My consciousness continually lapsed into nightmares. I buried the demon's corpse in the trash, but I could still smell it. They advertise the trash bags as being able to seal-in the foul odors. Bollocks. I'm two rooms away.

I'm happy to say I made a full recovery the next day. I'm unhappy to say I stumbled upon another demon. I was outside for some fresh air, and I saw him on my street. Much like the last demon, he beckoned like the predator in the van after the children. But he really was in the form of a shadow in a van, asking the kids down the street for help finding his puppy. Fuck, I thought.
From nowhere, I produced my blade.