Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fuck Your God (Advertising)

I just deleted a friend request from someone who did not appear to be a real person. Obviously, someone somewhere is behind the creation of this fake account. People have to fake being people to make other people buy things. It's depressing. Facebook has only existed for the better part of a decade, but being a slime ball salesman is as old as the concept of currency.

Remember that obnoxious Geico commercial? No, not that one. I'm talking about the one with the screaming pig. I also find that depressing. That's what it has come down to, America. You're being marketed to by a screaming fucking pig. This is what Geico thinks of you. And they're not far off. Most of you seem to have the mentality of overgrown third graders. But they're also partially responsible for making you this way.

Whose carotid artery needs to be slashed to further prevent such non-consensual assaults on my senses? Whose testicles must I chop off and feed back to them to stop this heinous onslaught of artless depravity?

How many times can I brutally reword the same sentiment until you start to feel uneasy?

I like Banksy's idea of using art as a means of countering the barrage. When you walk down the street (especially in a big city) you're constantly harassed by advertising. You're made to feel as inadequate and unworthy as possible. You have very little say in the experience. But graffiti is illegal? Fuck you harder.

People like to talk about banning certain kinds of advertisements for kids. I say let's go for broke. Ban 'em all. If you can't market your product on the basis of its merit, you deserve to die. Survival of the fittest, right? God bless capitalism. God bless America. Hail, hail.

Just kidding. Well, I'm kidding about the "you deserve to die" part. What we could really use is a system where it doesn't have to come down to that. After all, we have the resources.

But having everything (and then some) isn't good enough for some (and by that I mean an elite few). So, again, who needs to die "mysteriously" of carbon monoxide poisoning?

And to clarify, I'm not suggesting we execute any of these miserable crooks (yet). I'm against the death penalty. I just really enjoy thinking about it.

Like, really. A whole heapin' helpin' lot.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Shut Up, Drink Your Whiskey, and Read Your Damn Book

I can't help but think that the world would be a better place if more people would drink whiskey and read.

"Oh, so you think the world would be a better place if more people were more like you?"

Ah, fuck. Yes. Well, who wouldn't think that? Wait, no. No.

I am often the first to point out my own flaws, unless Tiffany beats me to it. I have an MFA in Creative Writing but I'm really not the best at grammar or punctuation. I played sports for the majority of my life but I have a beer belly and I oversleep. I'm self-deprecating, meaning I draw attention to my flaws and poke fun at them in a "see, we're not so different" kind of way. But not everyone appreciates self-deprecation, mostly because of the "see, we're not so different" part. If you can laugh at yourself, you essentially suggest that selves are things to be laughed at. Humorless people take offense to this.

I feel more of us would have a better sense of humor, and a better sense of self, if we were to spend $10 at the liquor store and then spend around that much at a book store.

"But books don't come with comment sections!"

I know, and you're responsible for marking the page where you left off. What's worse is that trees are dying so that you can be educated. You love the troops who fight for your freedom, don't you? Well, what of the trees who die for your knowledge? How dare you let them die in vain.

I guess I'm not really making much of a case for either drinking whiskey or reading. Who cares? Most of the shit you read nowadays is equally substantial. And by "nowadays" I mean the days where anyone can write a thing, and so long as it stokes the confirmation bias of the reader, it be accepted as Gospel.

Which reminds me, what the fuck is up with those Gospels?

What have I just gone and done?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Entitled Generation"

I'm running out of shit to write about.

Actually, no. I'm running out of shit to write about with any degree of coherency. With most topics, I am thrown into a fit of frothing rage.

"Ben, you're so hateful."

Yeah, I take way too much far too seriously. One of my biggest pet peeves happens to be people who take things too seriously. So perhaps you can see the pickle I've found myself in.

I saw an article in my newsfeed earlier today about a girl who wants it legally mandated that her parents pay her college tuition. I read through the comments, because I'm a masochistic self-loathing prick, and of course I was furious. Why wouldn't I be? Most people are fucking idiots, and they're proud of it. This is on full display in the comment section of most any given news article posted on Facebook. Anti-intellectualism has slowly been destroying this country's collective mindset since before I was born.

But of course I am a part of the "entitled" generation. How convenient for the generation that preceded us.

 I went to read the article in question, but Facebook bugged out, and then I couldn't find it afterward. I searched Google, and every relevant hit I got was from March of this year. As of right now, that's eight months ago. Perhaps the whole post, and ensuing comment section, was a hallucinatory product of my ever broadening psychosis. Maybe I read it eight months ago, blacked out, forgot, and had it come rushing back to me in a fever dream of paranoid delusions.

Either way, none of the most-liked comments (or really any at all) focused on the very real issue of rapidly growing student debt. But we don't value education (which is ironic, because of how expensive it is). We value whatever makes money, and whatever allows us to feel better than people who aren't making enough money. We are soulless corporatist monsters and we deserve to be obliterated and roundly mocked upon Christ's return. And that's your god, not mine.

I will stop and say right now that I'm supposed to be avoiding comment sections. Tiffany, in her infinite and angelic wisdom, has mandated this. But I'm a giant asshole who doesn't know a good thing until it's far too late, so of course I have a hard time listening.

People love to wag their fatty fingers at whatever they perceive to be the root of all evil. If you believe the fascist propaganda of the right wing media machine, it's obviously anyone who voted for Barack Hussein Obama. I like to include his middle name the same way they do, only for different reasons. I think we should embrace our inner and outer freak. I think we should stop trying to avoid scaring the living shit out of the most hateful, petulant, and downright dumb brand of Republicanism this country has ever seen. Remember, they're the same party that held the Union together, and all those people are dead now.

The bottom line is twofold. First, I must stop reading the comment sections, especially of articles I haven't read. Second, anyone who blames a generation for any current issue is not to be taken seriously. Give me any generation prior to this one, and I can characterize them as being something far worse than entitled. For example, you have the previous generation, who in their cocaine-induced haze of taking the mantle from THEIR parents, thought Reagonomics sounded viable.

And they still think that, despite decades of having been proven wrong. So for real, fuck them. And double fuck them for having the nerve to call anyone else entitled, when they seem to be so "entitled" to the idea of taking absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for the context of the shit situation we're stuck in right now (that only partially being crippling student debt). But it's not all of them; it's not even close. So this conversation isn't very helpful, is it?

Hell, even the generation that fought in World War II isn't clean. First and foremost, the racism and misogyny is impossible to ignore. And it took you gentle geezers HOW long to figure out what Hitler was really up to? But again, I'm not being fair at all, and that's my point, so kindly shut your trap.

Okay, I feel a little better now. Not really, but a little.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Chronic Oversimplification

Chronic oversimplification, coupled with a facade of cleverness, I think, is a symptom of our society's gradual descent into anti-intellectualism. "Look at how cleverly I turned this complicated problem into a simple one," is usually how it goes, and the moronic masses applaud with vigor.

The most recent example I care to divulge is that of an individual who claimed that I do not value Irish culture as much as I value Native American culture, because I care more about the offensiveness of the Washington Redskins' name than I do about that of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The implication being, of course, that I am a racist. I should, if I value all cultures equally, according to him, be just as concerned with the name "Fighting Irish," as I am with "Redskins."

Anyone who has even the most elementary grasp of logic (and all her ensuing fallacies) will recognize that this gentleman has committed an egregious example of oversimplification. More specifically, he could be accused of presenting a false dilemma (or a "false dichotomy," as we say in good ole 'Merican logic). There exist, but more importantly could exist myriad reasons why I do not care as much about the Fighting Irish as I do the Washington Redskins.

I called him a prick. He wasn't very happy about that. He claimed vulgarity has no place in a civil discussion between adults. At no point did I claim to be civil. Furthermore, I should think that basic logical fallacies have no place in a discussion between adults. But boo fucking hoo, ya know?

Another example occurred twice today on my newsfeed. One being a taxi cab driver who lamented that Uber drivers are not held to the same legal standards as he and his fellow taxi drivers. This was in the Facebook comment section of an article about some alarming crimes committed by Uber drivers.

One of the top replies was along the lines of the sarcastic, "yeah, because cab drivers have never committed any crimes."

The implication of the ensuing argument was that because regulation of cab drivers hasn't stopped ALL cab drivers from committing crimes, regulation is wrong. Even worse, was the implication that because the cabbie was upset about the lack of Uber regulation, he must hate Uber and the fact that ride-share competition exists, and is therefore anti-capitalism, anti-American, and the worst fucking human on the planet. All of this was because he dare favor regulation, rather than side with an unmitigated "free" market.

For your information, self-professed libertarians and conservatives love Uber specifically because it is unregulated. Of course, if it gets more popular we'll see more gruesome crimes committed by its drivers. We'll also see more regulation, because the government will do what is necessary to protect its citizens (WE FUCKING HOPE). In the meantime, if you dare criticize it, you must hate freedom.

The other example is that of the gun lobby, which stresses that because gun regulation would not work 100% of the time, we must never have gun regulation. I trust you see the flaws in these arguments against regulation. If you don't, I'm sure you'll comment on the Facebook thread (rather than the blog itself, because who does that?).

But maybe I'm just a worry-wort. Maybe our generation is far more concerned with facts, the truth, and intelligent discourse than I am giving us credit for. Nerdiness is in vogue, but is it genuine intellectualism that is in vogue, or the appearance of it? Because the appearance of cleverness often tends to accompany these utterly shitty arguments. They're very popular, well "liked," and are often portrayed with an air of "See? I got you there!"

Do we really care? Or have I been drinking too much Scotch?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Coffee and Havoc

Disclaimer: This is not a rant against coffee snobs. I like snobs. Yes, they can be annoying. We can all be very annoying.

I am a little grossed out by the fetishization of coffee and its contrived association with comfort. What I’m referring to is any time you hear or read “curl up with a book and a cup of coffee.” And maybe I hear/read this more than others, because I do drink coffee and read books, sometimes even at the same time (but I prefer reading and drinking hard alcohol). Maybe it’s not cliche.

So, sure, I drink coffee when I read. However, “curling up” makes drinking coffee and reading at the same time improbable for me. I have three options, and I may only select two. Even if not for the immediate physical difficulties, it’s impractical. When I drink coffee, which I suppose is mostly at home and in the mornings, I have to shit. Even if I already took a shit, apparently my caffeine addiction is such that if I don’t have coffee, my colon forgets there is more shit to be shat.

And if I don’t have coffee, I’ll forget where I put my car keys, and my wallet, and my time. Mind you, I only drink two (extra large) cups of coffee (with a shot of espresso in each) every single morning (and maybe more in the afternoon if I’m off from work ((or, fuck it, even if I’m at work)) that day).

Comfort? Screw comfort. I need coffee to live like a human being. Being a human is not comfortable.

And that’s what the Scotch is for.

And everything else.

Forever and ever.


Monday, September 8, 2014

The Spam of Good Intentions

One of the more peevish aspects of being a writer, or any kind of artist, is that you are continuously offered unsolicited advice from people who have very little understanding of what it is you actually do. I realize individuals in other fields experience the same badgering, but it's a little easier for a nurse or a steelworker to tell an unqualified opinionator to shove off.
One of my (least) favorite forms of unsolicited advice, is having someone remind me that all great writers and artists started off as failures.

My question for anyone who dares send me any version of this link (there are a few variations), is how naive do you think I am?

Do you assume I believe my heroes to be perfect in every way? Do you really think my inability to be perfect is the source of the anxiety that is still holding me back? Granted, I'm a people pleaser. But I also understand I cannot please everyone. I'm getting better at this. I'm also a meddling perfectionist, procrastinatorial apologist, etc. I piss and shit and fall asleep at night. I get it, I'm human. Some list you found on Buzzfeed isn't bringing me closer to enlightenment.

This is shitty advice because a lot of artists and writers would have been considered failures for their entire lives until after they died, and only then did their work catch on. It's such a familiar cycle of artistic "success" that it borders on cliche. But I guess it's more my job to be concerned about perpetuating cliches, not yours, Mr. McBusybody. But my point remains; how is that encouraging?

But let's go back to this idea of famous writers receiving rejection letters. Thank you, everyone who forwards me this link, but this is nothing revelatory. All of my peers and colleagues have been rejected. All of my mentors have been rejected. In grad school,  on the very first day, I was introduced to Rejection Wiki. I learned very quickly that rejection from publications, both minor and major, is actually an honor in and of itself. It means someone read your work and maybe even put some thought into it. As writers, that's all we're really ever asking for. So, yeah, I'm not surprised Stephen King was rejected multiple times from multiple publications. I probably won't even receive rejection letters from The New Yorker. I won't receive a letter of acceptance, either. I'll still probably flood a certain New Yorker editor's inbox come Halloween, should my submissions make it past her purportedly aggressive curse word filter, because that's just what we do.

It's not the thoughtful, professional rejections that keep me up at night. It's the rejection from everyone else, and that includes you. When you forward me this link, or any other form of thoughtless, hollow advice, for the umpteenth time, you're essentially rejecting me. You're not listening. When it comes down to it, you only have the best of intentions. In essence, you're telling me to "try harder." I would like to pay this kind of encouragement back to you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Here's Why You Shouldn't Care about Jennifer Lawrence's Nude Pics

I first found out about the release of Jennifer Lawrence's nude pics (along with the pics of a bunch of other female celebrities nowhere near as popular as her at the moment) through an article imploring me not to look at them.

I agreed with the article, and then realized my newsfeed was about to be besieged in an onslaught of articles regarding JLaw's bare body.

I realize none of us have any choice but to care about this issue. We're all at risk of having our computers hacked. We all have said or done things on our computers that we'd rather the world not know about. We're not celebrities, so we have both less to gain and less to lose.

The media has gone so far as to call this a "scandal," cause, you know, celebrities, nudity, blah blah blah. I agree with Scott Mendelson, though, it's most definitely not a scandal. It's an attack. Naked photos do not necessitate the hacking and sharing of said photos. Lena Dunham tweeted, "The 'don't take naked pics if you don't want them online' argument is the 'she was wearing a short skirt' of the web. Ugh." I wholeheartedly share this sentiment. While rape and the hacking of nude pics are not the same crime, they both fall on the spectrum of violation. I shouldn't have to define "violation."

But, of course, people want it to be scandalous because people hate naked bodies. They shouldn't. It's dissonant. We love sex, we love suggestions of sex. There is nothing wrong with that so long as we are not violating others. Jennifer Lawrence is gorgeous. She has nothing to be ashamed of. I am not gorgeous, by my reckoning (have you ever smelled me? Seriously), but I shouldn't be ashamed of my browsing history, or the awful short stories I've typed and summarily deleted, etc. And yet for some reason I am ashamed. What the fuck is that, society? Shame serves a valuable function. You're supposed to feel bad when you've done something wrong. There is nothing wrong with the human body, and if you think it's designed by God then there's especially nothing wrong with it.

You should feel shame if you look at naked pictures of someone that you weren't supposed to see. You shouldn't feel shame if someone sees you naked. It's only complicated because we make it so. We're animals and we're going to die, and god forbid we acknowledge that from time to time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


PSV Eindhoven fans are upset that their club is providing fans with free wi-fi within its stadium. On the surface, it sounds like an asinine thing to be upset about, and for once your knee-jerk reaction is probably the right one to have. But let's give these skinheads troglodytes the benefit of the doubt.

Is the wi-fi expensive? Couldn't this money be spent more wisely?

Maybe, and perhaps. But I'm not seeing these supporters offering any suggestions or alternatives. Apparently, the club thinks it's going to attract more people to the stadium. This is also kind of silly in its own right, because who is going to pay an already exorbitant fee to merely use free wifi? Starbucks customers, that's who. And you know what? Starbucks already exists. No matter how overpriced that double soy latte may seem, it's still a lot more value per euro than mediocre Dutch football.

And I don't really know what PSV's problem is, apart from the fact that it participates in a league (a league I enjoy, but don't go out of my way to watch) that has seen better days.

So this whole argument has been framed around what "real" fans (as opposed to those fake ones who buy tickets and cheer for their team without feeling the need to make a colossal fucking spectacle of themselves) should be doing during a match. Well, certainly they shouldn't be live-tweeting or tagging themselves at their favorite sports venue! No sir, they ought to be (drunkenly) cheering on the team, and vehemently opposing change!

They also should not, apparently, be contacting emergency services in the event of a *drum roll* EMERGENCY! Because having that wifi signal will boost the reception of most smart phones, thereby making it easier to contact emergency services in a stadium of thousands. But god damn it, we only want REAL fans dying from epileptic seizures and heart attacks and whatnot. HONOR! GLORY! SIMPLICITY!

Dear PSV fans, I'm addressing you directly now. Your team probably sucks, and has ceased being relevant on the European stage (which I think is the root of this issue more than anything else). If you're worried that your precious stadium atmosphere is going to be negatively affected by the presence of wifi, you have a shitty atmosphere to begin with.

And I get it, this is attached to other changes you don't like. You don't like that stadium officials have cracked down on standing sections. You don't like that non-supporters group fans are growing less passionate. You'd prefer your club focus more on what's occurring on the pitch.

Maybe you should heed your own advice.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

NFL Team Names are Lame, Especially the Racist Ones

"Washington Redskins" is an offensive name for a football team, but that's not necessarily why it should be changed. You can him and haw all you want about political correctness. You may even claim that it has "run amok." You're wrong, and that's fine, but god forbid anyone try explaining why. I believe that's one of your many fundamental flaws as a human (I certainly have multitudes of my own, so calm down).

But you control the dialogue. Your insistence that overly offended people are the problem is evidence of your control of the situation and the language we use to approach it. Our nation's history, particularly the racial and ethnic bits, further substantiate my claim. White people conquered and pillaged, and now control society in this part of the continent. Is that an oversimplification? Yes. Are oversimplifications only problematic when they make you look bad? It's a lot like how when you're the one who is offended, suddenly political correctness isn't ruining everything, and people need to be more respectful, right?

If you're from the United States, and you are reading this, there's a good chance you're white. I am not guilting you (us) or holding you (us) responsible for the mistakes of your ancestors. After all, it's not your fault you were born with privilege simply on the basis of your skin color. You also can't blame someone for being born on a reservation. You may fault indigenous peoples (which is a very condescending, Whitey McWhiterson term, but why bother saying it differently, right?) for failing to assimilate. But this is actually where I do blame you, person-who-cares-too-much-about-other-people-caring-too-much. A world society that allows a professional sports team to be called the Washington Redskins is not necessarily one that is fit for assimilation. It's almost as if it's actively resisting it, by so nonchalantly making light of the fact that we very recently attempted to exterminate Native Americans, people otherwise identified as having red skin. We've named cities after the president who signed the bill that made this happen. Maybe we didn't name them after him because of that, but still, holy fuck. And yeah, none of our ancestral politicians were innocent (they were politicians, after all), and that includes our founding fathers. But we still control the dialogue. I won't bother beating you over the head with the irony of our capital city's football team having the name it does. I will point out that its ownership claims the name honors natives (who, again, are the ones we know as having red skin). Intentions are great, but unfortunately reality doesn't stop there.

Changing the names of cities and schools and parks seems tedious and difficult, but so what? It can be done, if but gradually, so long as people are educated. I know I'm asking for too much.

So instead, let's focus again on the NFL, something we're all accustomed to doing instead of whatever we're probably supposed to be doing. A lot of team names are silly, and bear only the shallowest of symbolic connections to their city's respective culture and history. You could also argue football is silly, and you'd be right. But there exists a spectrum of silliness, some forms of which are more significant and more important than other forms of silliness. Isn't it silly how I said it like that?

The teams themselves may have forever carved their existence into their city's identity, but a lot of them also may have not. Lest we not forget, these teams are franchises. The NFL is a business. We Americans love business. We're okay, generally, with businesses bending over backwards to cater to the lowest common denominators of American society (so long as we are not inconvenienced, of course).

But maybe the Washington Redskins team name is not bad for business. I'd argue that financial success is not a metric for ethical decision-making, but I'm not entirely sure how else to communicate with you anymore. I'm also not claiming to speak on behalf of any racial minorities. I only claim to speak on behalf of those who have empathy and are in favor of actively utilizing it.

The Washington Redskins existence as a brand is symptomatic of greater social problems, and you could argue that merely changing the team name is not going to solve those problems. You'd also be acknowledging (however tacitly) that those problems do, in fact, exist. And holy shit, now we have some common ground to work with. This seemingly inane "politically correct" conversation regarding a very large football brand's offensive name has now spawned another conversation about how we can be technically correct. Maybe there aren't millions of people who are offended to the point of boycotting and protesting the organization. Maybe there would be if so many natives had not been "removed." The point is that more people should naturally be in favor of, or at the very least be un-offended by the idea of changing the team's stupid name. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

That Whole MFA Thing

Barring a clerical error or an egregious misstep on my part, whenever the university gets around to conferring degrees, I will have my MFA in Creative Writing.
I have to write about the experience because it all feels so much like a dream, and it is best to write about dreams as soon as you wake from them (lest you forget). Also, it's a writing degree, so why wouldn't I be writing? Granted, my focus was in fiction, but no one really needs to know that. That'll be our secret.

But hopefully it won't be much of a secret. One of the best things about the residencies is that they always rejuvenated my confidence. This residency was no exception, and claiming ownership of a shiny new degree certainly serves to boost my morale. In addition to the encouragement of my mentors, I always appreciated the kind words and compliments from my colleagues. Workshops were not always roses and rainbows, but I was told what I needed to be told.

As a requirement of my fifth and final residency, I had to read a sample of my thesis, and conduct a seminar based on my critical analysis essay. Despite having destroyed my voice with a deadly combination of World Cup soccer and scotch, I thought both went pretty well.

I'd like to thank my thesis advisor, Kevin Moffett, for not only being a fantastic mentor and advisor, but also for asking me to help him at his reading. He, Eli Horowitz, and Matthew Derby collaborated on a novel called The Silent History, which you should really check out. If you like me in any way, shape, or form, for real, you should check out this novel. I had to read a section written by Matthew Derby, in which I was a disgruntled mime who punched a kid in the face. If that doesn't pique your interest, fine. Whatever. The reading went very well, and you really should have been there.

All of this happened at the University of Tampa, during the June portion of the MFA in Creative Writing low residency program. If you don't know/remember what that is, I imagine you stopped reading a few paragraphs ago, but here's some help if you haven't.

Some more highlights of the past residency include me rocking a reprise of "With Arms Wide Open" by Creed during karaoke night at The Retreat, eating Eddie & Sam's pizza three nights in a row, eating more Taco Bus than I care to remember/admit, drinking all of the scotch, meeting even more new awesome writers, and watching the World Cup with everyone. Seriously, it was so awesome watching soccer with other people who not only knew what they were watching, but cared almost as much as I do.

I don't get enough of any of this.

I'd share with you what I read during my graduate reading, but I'm busy looking for someone to publish it. :P

Monday, June 9, 2014

The United States of Alcohol

I once thought ours was a nation of alcoholics. Not so. Sure, we may have plenty of individuals who are addicted to alcohol. They have a "drinking" problem. Fine. But we, as a nation, do not love alcohol nearly as much as we claim to.

I won't say where, by day, I'm employed. All that is relevant is that I give people free alcohol. Free. Fucking. Alcohol. It sounds like heaven on Earth, right?

 I'm also responsible for cleaning up the glasses from which such generous libations are consumed. You would be both shocked and appalled if you saw how many glasses still had liquor in them.

I know, it's the middle of the day, and c'mon, we're all getting older. BUT IT IS FREE ALCOHOL. On top of that, it's vodka. It's insanely easy to drink. If you can't at least grin and bear it, you simply don't like alcohol. Stop pretending like you do just so you can fit in. No one likes a teetotaler, but it's not a dichotomy between "drinker" and "anti-drinker." Just don't take the sample if you don't like alcohol. It's way less offensive to me.

Here's a fun test:
Do you claim to love beer? Yes? What's your favorite? Does its name end in 'light'? Congratulations, you're a liar!

There is NOTHING wrong with liking light beer. There is everything wrong with claiming to love a certain type of alcohol, but only ever imbibing in the most homeopathic version of it available. Stop it!

To sum it all up, my favorite Australian comedian Jim Jefferies has a great bit about American drinking.

Also, here is a list of BeerAdvocate's top 250 beers. Have you ever tried any on the list?

Chime in on the comments below. What's your preferred poison? Do you know someone who pretends to like drinking, but really only likes being an obnoxious intoxicated dick? Are you an alcoholic? What's your favorite beer? What's your favorite cocktail? I don't do this just for the page views, I want a dialectic, people!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pardon the Imbecile (Pardon the Interruption)

Sam Borden recently published a piece in New York Times Magazine about Jurgen Klinsmann and the overarching narrative of the United State's Men's National Team heading into the 2014 World Cup and beyond. It is a thorough piece that, in all of the drama and anxiety leading up to Brazil, can help seasoned soccer fans regain some perspective. It's also detailed and balanced enough that it may help some of the more casual fans pick up where they left off back in 2010.

But wait- "Thorough? Detailed? Get to the chase, Ben. IS IT REALLY LONG?"

Yes, it's really long. So when Michael Wilbon, of ESPN's PTI (Pardon the Interruption) went on this alarmingly xenophobic rant about Klinsmann, the article's length more than likely contributed to the commentator's egregious disregard for context. Or maybe he was forced to disregard the context because that's exactly what he's paid to do, yell like a jackass.

Let me include here that I am completely and 100% biased against Pardon the Interruption. Many of you are probably only familiar with PTI as that show that is always on mute whenever there isn't an actual game (or anything else entertaining) on at the sports bar. If you ever thought "wow, those guys look like they're probably yammering fucking idiots," then you are right, and if I had any way of verifying your psychic prowess, I'd buy you a beer. PTI is a lot like CNN's Crossfire, in that it's a bunch of people arguing in talking points and contributing nothing to any kind of meaningful dialogue.

It's all about stirring shit up. If you're really into shit, then it's fine.

So to sum up the article in a nutshell (a tall task, so you should pat me on the back when I'm done), Jurgen Klinsmann was brought on as the USMNT manager to bring about a change in culture within the structure of US Soccer. Most managers are hired to do exactly that, wherever they're hired, but when I say "culture" I mean this in more than one sense of the word. If the United States wants to compete on the world's stage with European powerhouses, common sense would seem to dictate that the United States would benefit by emulating the Europeans in some ways. Not all ways, of course, but enough that it's going to take a coach who not only played for Germany, but managed them as well.

One of the most obvious ways in which these changes have manifested themselves is in the roster and lineup of the USMNT. Again, on the surface it sounds obvious; new manager = some new faces on the pitch. But the lineup seems to be more international than ever. Apart from the inclusion of players plying their trade in leagues all around the world (this was usually the case), there are now more players who were either born overseas or born to at least one foreign parent. A lot of these guys have dual-citizenship, and could have played for other countries. This, to me, is (ironically) the most American a team could possibly be. When you look at the names and the faces and the birthplaces of these players, you see a melting pot.

Jurgen chose his 23-man list for Brazil because he thinks that's his best team. The most controversial exclusion from this list was Landon Donovan, one of the most successful and decorated players to ever represent the United States. Jurgen's "European" sensibilities are of no benefit to star-studded players. He does not believe that players should be rewarded purely on the basis of their reputation, as is an all too common practice in American sports.

But because he's German and he's challenging the hallowed tradition of overpaying the egos of our most revered corporate spokespeople, like Kobe Bryant, HE SHOULD GET THE HELL OUT! Or, at least, that's what Michael Wilbon would have us believe. Don't bother getting into the details, Michael, you've got thirty seconds to shit all over someone your audience doesn't care about, to the appeasement of your corporate masters (because, again, how dare you insult our entitled corporate poster children?).

The best part of Wilbon's argument is that it's more applicable to himself than anyone else. What do you know about soccer, Michael? Perhaps you shouldn't fucking be talking about it. I'd also wager a mind like Klinsmann's is more finely attuned to the American sports landscape than Wilbon's, considering Jurgen is actually a part of it. Wilbon used to be a real sports journalist, but that's about it at this point. Never mind Jurgen's athletic accomplishments, which are much greater than Wilbon's, only one of these two individuals rambles like an imbecile.

I guess this is so offensive to me because I love soccer, and I'm sick of seeing it get short-shrift on ESPN. Yeah, they're covering the World Cup, but I'll be shocked if I hear any of their non-soccer-specific commentators say one remotely intelligent thing about anything that happens. Most of the time, when they're not covering the beautiful game (on ESPN 8, the "ocho"), they're saying something dumb about it. And shows like PTI are not just bad for soccer, but bad for sports in America in general. They simplify everything into digestible talking points, thus ignoring the inherent complexities of these competitions that make them entertaining and meaningful for thoughtful, intelligent humans.

So, in short, I'm against shitty television shows. And Michael Wilbon. Get off my screen, you un-American scumbag.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sexy Shoulders

A school in Utah came under fire recently after it was revealed that the administration doctored a bunch of yearbook photos. There is nothing odd about touching up and editing photos for the sake of quality and consistency, but there is something massively creepy about covering up a bunch of girls' arms and shoulders.

Apparently, these girls violated a dress code by showing too much skin and not being modest enough. Clearly, no one in charge of taking the pictures was ever actually made aware of this code, otherwise the photos wouldn't have been taken at all, right? I think The Young Turks do a bang-up job of mocking those responsible for this absurdity.

Some (indubitably) male authority figure finds the shoulders of teenage girls too tantalizing, and I"m sure he'll never have his sexual modesty questioned. As much as I find women attractive, it's hard for me to imagine the shoulders as a sexual object. Those rare moments when I find myself in the middle of highly misogynistic, objectifying banter, shoulders and arms are very rarely ever the body parts discussed. There's just too much effort required in sexualizing the shoulders, but I'm sure there are videos you can find online that will aid you in your visualization of this process.

And then there's this bullshit notion that is a lot more common, and a lot more general than the covering of shoulders. When I was in school, the rationale behind what constituted appropriate attire for females was that it should not be distracting. While having my female peers fully clothed no doubt helped me concentrate in class, no amount of Sharia shawling was going to stop me from being distracted by girls. It didn't matter what they were wearing, I was distracted by my female classmates. Hell, you could've taken them out of the room entirely, and I'd still have been daydreaming about female classmates.

I'll admit that back then I was a slave to my hormones. But I still find it absurd and offensive that I should not be held responsible for managing these distractions. All of this makes sexuality that much more arbitrarily confusing for kids, and subsequently adults. Instead of teaching our boys how to manage their own sexual desires and frustrations, we pile all of the pressure on the shoulders (now more literally than ever) of our girls.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Sam/Tebow Comparison (Persecution Complex on Display)

Since NFL draft pick Michael Sam kissed his boyfriend on national television, certain conservatives have attempted to downplay the significance and symbolism of the moment. Since I love making psychological speculations I am nowhere near qualified enough to make, I will guess it is a natural reaction to the shame of realizing they've been wrong about something for such a length of time that it makes them appear backwards and hateful.

One writer claims that there exists a double standard in the media, because Michael Sam was praised for his bravery (of being openly gay and *gasp* kissing his boyfriend, thus SHOVING IT DOWN OUR INNOCENT, TENDER THROATS) but Tim Tebow was mocked for openly displaying his faith.

Right from the first snap, let's get one thing clear: Tim Tebow was not mocked for being a Christian. He was, however, mocked for being one-dimensional, both on the field and off. I'm not saying he was a bad guy and that he was entirely deserving of derision, but if anything his zealotry probably kept him in the game longer than his playing abilities would have otherwise dictated. In this country, Christians are the majority. Even if they weren't, there is still a vocal enough minority of Bible-thumping born-agains and Baptists who are willing to cough up the cash for the replica jerseys of anyone who represents them on the national stage.

But this isn't so much about Tebow as it is about the author's persecution complex and discomfort with homosexuality. She writes, "Tebow also didn’t whine like a baby when someone made fun of his beliefs, and that goes for most followers of Christ. Christians know who they are and they’re used to society hating them for it."

Really? Society hates Christians? How many presidents have been Christian? How many members of congress? She may claim the not-a-true-scotsman fallacy for most of these individuals, so for argument's sake, let's pretend that wouldn't be fallacious; who exactly are these "fake" Christians trying to appeal to?

"Why did ESPN find it necessary to show Sam kissing his boyfriend? If the gay community wants to be treated the same, they should stop expecting special treatment."

"Don’t get me wrong. I have no ill will towards gay people, but if you find all your identity in your sexual orientation and have to flaunt it absolutely all the time, there must be another underlying issue."

Hannah (I'll just address you now directly), there is nothing weird or exceptional about kissing your loved one when you achieve something great. Please admit that you are bothered by the normalization of this act, and not the exceptionality of it. The kiss is brave because so many people like you hate seeing it. If you see a celebratory kiss as "flaunting" someone's sexual orientation, I believe you yourself have some underlying issue.

Also, if there exists such an egregious double standard, why hasn't Mike Singletary seen the media pull him down by his giant fucking cross necklace?

I've said this before and I'll say it again; I played football. I saw great players give up the game because they were gay and their teammates expressed homophobic sentiments. Michael Sam gives kids like them hope. It shows them that they too can be included in something big and cool and fun. It is incredibly sad to me that you feel so threatened by that.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Why I Believe "Bubble Butt" is Brilliant

If you are unfamiliar with the Major Lazer song and video, "Bubble Butt," take a moment to acclimate yourself.

I understand if the gratuitous posteriors offend some of you. On the surface, it appears as if this video is a prime example of female objectification. But(t), I beg of you, look closer. On the backside (see what I did there? No? Let's pretend this never happened then), this video features a bountiful range of booty types. Some are the run of the mill oversized rumps you see in every music video (well, every music video featuring dancing women. We'll have to keep waiting for a Tegan and Sara twerk-off). Other asses are relatively small and firm, and more than a few are disgustingly dense.

In between all of this is an oversized woman attacking a city. Her multifaceted disembodied head occasionally spins around like a mirror ball, reflecting all that we normally find acceptable, abhorrent, or sexy and simultaneously disgusting about mainstream music. And this is where it really gets me. Major Lazer is a collaborative effort. All of their releases bend genres, not the least of which include reggae, dancehall, trap, rap, and anything else you could conceivably use to get your bubble butt shaking. They bend those genres, it seems, until they snap and bleed into one solid, coherent work of art.

Eric Warheim does something very similar with this video. He takes everything provocative but otherwise officially "okay" about sexual objectification, and pushes it just beyond the point of what is commonly acceptable. This video forces us to reconcile our ideals with our animal lust and our hostile reality.

If nothing else, the song itself is so catchy that it burrows into your brain and lays bubble butt eggs somewhere around the part of your brain that is connected to your ears. They hatch at random and you must feed the little minions by listening to the song again and again.

Some of you may accuse me of reading far too deeply into this song and video. My only response is that I'd rather read too deeply into something enigmatically simple than recklessly ignore something important.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Growing Up is For Children

To be an adult is to be scammed. Children are lied to and exploited the most, but they don't have nearly as much of a choice. When you are an adult citizen, you are compelled to breed a monster that is of very little benefit to you.

No, I'm not talking about raising a child.

When I picture the stereotypical American home (white middle class families in the suburbs, ya know), I see corporate notions of value and purpose epitomized. In other words, I see altars to demigods. When are we going to cut the bullshit and acknowledge that the marketplace is our church and consumption our religion?


On the flip side, I have no idea what it is to be an adult. I am still in the first "quarter" half of my life (let's not be too wide-eyed and optimistic, I drink a lot (of unfiltered tap water)). I'm still new at this.

I suppose my angst and bitterness come from a childhood full of expectations, fair or unfair. We basically were taught that if we worked hard in school, got good grades, and behaved, we'd be guaranteed a successful, fulfilling adulthood. You may be thinking "child, it is more complicated and difficult than that."

Yeah, no shit. We all know that now.

We also seem to have abandoned the notion that education serves any grander purpose than putting people to work. It should be better than that, but we're too uneducated to see why.

Baby boomers and Generation Xers alike lament the idea that we Millennials have had trophies handed to us throughout our respective childhoods. We expect to be rewarded for little or no work. Those before us, after all, worked 9-5 their entire lives and only asked for two-story homes, two-car garages, lawns big enough to be mowed sitting down, multiple television sets, hundreds of channels for those television sets, surround sound speakers, swimming pools, and on-demand pizza in return. You know, it was typical hard knock suburban living.

I think the real reason we got so many trophies is because we had an abundance of cheap plastic available to us that previous generations did not have available to them. We also inherited a dying planet for similar reasons, but that's for another blog post. The trophy thing, while symptomatic of a greater issue (that being Americans value confidence more than they value expertise or technical mastery) is not as relevant as it may seem.

First of all, as one of my coworkers once put it so beautifully, "Sure, we got trophies for losing. But the kids who won? Their trophies were bigger and cooler. As a kid, you want the bigger trophy!"

Second, life is not a game. Sure, I'll grant you that games should teach us lessons about life. You have to be willing to sacrifice your personal wants and desires for the benefit of others. Sometimes, it doesn't matter how hard you try, you're going to fail. Oftentimes, you will get hurt. But one of the biggest lessons should also be "life is not a game." Winning and losing are not comparable to life and death in any facet beyond merely being two kinds of polarities.

I don't take my education for granted. I am incredibly fortunate to have grown up in a highly regarded public school district. I just wish there were more I could do to influence a change in approach to the subject of "growing up." It seems the people who claim to have the greatest handle on the "real world," (the regimented differences between childhood, growing up, and adulthood) are some of the most childish among us, and I think that means something is very wrong.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Just For Attention

This will probably come across as an inadvertent counterpoint to my previous post, but only if you ignore its respective context.

As anyone with an unhealthy addiction to the internet and/or cable news is now surely aware, members of Pussy Riot are once again making headlines. In their efforts to garner attention to the dire political situation of their homeland, they are being criticized...for garnering attention.

In their most recent "stunt," they were set upon by whip-wielding Cossacks, a scenario I honestly could not have even ever dreamed up. And I dreamed about Pussy Riot last night, seriously. The basic, underlying message that Pussy Riot is conveying to those of us enjoying the comforts of the western world is that Putin is a fascist asshole, please flipping help. Most of you may claim to have already been aware of this fact, Putin's existence as a rectum (a Putin pooter, if you will...or not), but what have you done about it lately? SQUIRREL!

I'm not sure what to do about Putin. However, one very easy thing I can do is denounce him and defend Pussy Riot.

Now, there are those among us who wish to criticize Pussy Riot on the basis that they're "just doing it for attention." To which I respond, YES. That's usually what awareness and activism is all about, homebody. But when their version of getting attention also runs the risk of seeing them (repeatedly) whipped, detained, and sent to prison, I have to seriously question where you get off marginalizing their efforts. EFFORTS. They're DOING SOMETHING. You and I are blogging and bitching. If anyone is just desperately trying to achieve attention, it's the rest of us. You're just jealous.

Something similar happens whenever a celebrity or famous athlete decides to come out of the closet. Multitudes of commentators write off the event as one of shameless self-promotion. Anything to not have to acknowledge a positive societal shift, I suppose. But it's uncommon for a football player to be gay, and it's important for the gay ones to try to help change that. You only see it as someone parading around their sexuality because you live in a bubble (be it self-contained or unintentional) where your life has never been seriously affected by homophobic hate. I've been bullied by homophobes. I've seen other kids bullied by homophobes. Those other kids were better athletes than me. They were also gayer than me. Who knows what on and off field successes we would have witnessed had they not been bullied out of the sport? So to the homophobes and to the indifferent alike, I'd like to proffer forth a long overdue FUCK YOU!

And this brings me to the Cossacks. Whips? Really? For far-right anti-gay Putin supporters, you sure picked a pretty gay weapon. Do you have fuzzy handcuffs as well?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

THE BEST THING YOU WILL READ TODAY (about unfulfilled expectations)!

Louis CK has a great bit (entitled, "The Way We Talk") about how we always have to "go for the top shelf" with our words. We're always trying to make our anecdotes and observations seem more exciting, but we do this in an otherwise neutered tone of voice. I think this is symptomatic of some greater issues.

One of the most memorable observations from the aforementioned bit concerns our whiney impotence. Obviously, it does not apply to every single member of western society.

But I think that's part of the greater problem I'm about to talk about, that I would even have to concede that a generalization is a generalization, as if those could never possibly be useful in a discussion. In other words, if you're so concerned about generalizations, why are you generalizing about generalizations?

Maybe that's a straw man, but more than likely you're just an argumentative dick. ANYWAY, I think we moan and mumble our way through life because emotion is scary. I'm no longer convinced that curse words bear their strength on the basis of their literal meaning. More than anything else, if someone screams "SHIT!" and/or "FUCK!" at a playground, the surrounding tiger moms will care far less about the implications of excrement and intercourse than they will about the presence of dirty, angry words. They're not "appropriate," those words, because even the tiger moms lead lives so dull, they can't conceive of a scenario wherein someone gets angry on or near a playground. And they, of all people, should at least be able to imagine that much.

If you are feeling an intense emotion, you may act with according intensity. If you act with intensity, rather than sedation, you just might do something different or dangerous. I guess.

Meanwhile, in reality, people swear all the fucking time. People experience a range of emotions in mere seconds. Ignoring this does not keep your dumb ass kid any safer. And thus begins a fateful aversion to nuance and detail.

I think this resulting emotional blandness, ironically, contributes to the binary polarization of our language that Louis CK mocks. There cannot possibly be anything other than the worst or the best. It's so easy, theoretically, to ignore the in-between. Because you can't win if you don't risk losing, or something, right?

I'd also like to levy a significant amount of blame on our media and the corporate entities that control it. More specifically, the advertisements we have shoved down our throats on a daily basis are constantly striving to convince us that we are nothing without the BEST thing they have that our money can buy. From the onslaught of commercials trying to convince me I need more Axe and Bud Light and presumably accompanying vaginas to have a good time, to the hit-happy bloggers and amalgamators on the internet trying to convince me that this video of a homeless guy doing a thing will CHANGE MY LIFE, there is no room for rhetorical nuance.

So we exist in this cultural, tonal malaise. We throw nothing but lofty promises at each other, and so it's no surprise that we are so very frequently disappointed and let down by everything. We're just too god damn dumb to enjoy subtlety anymore. Or maybe I have it somewhat backwards. Maybe we truly love being miserable, and that's why we continue to allow such thoughtlessness to decimate our culture.