Thursday, December 17, 2015

We're Leaving

Tiffany and I are moving to Portland, Oregon. It's official.

Tiffany has done most of the real work so that this may happen. I'm thankful and proud. We still have a lot of work to do, what with selling our things, deciding what is worth keeping, finding jobs, etc. I'm fortunate that I'll be able to temporarily keep my job with the local website that I write for.

While I don't necessarily feel like we owe everyone an explanation as to why we're moving, I still want to write about it.

"Why are you moving to Portland?"

Because everyone else is moving to Portland. Duh.

Actually, no. Not really. It's plain and simple. What has appealed to so many other outsiders before us also appeals to us.

"But seriously, what's in Portland?"

This is a question I am only ever asked by people who've never been. Apart from craft beer, Carrie Brownstein, and legalized marijuana, Portland still seems to be a mystery to most people I encounter.

I'm going to be blunt (no pun intended) and tell you that I'm sick and tired of having to drive everywhere for everything. Portland has one of the cleanest and most efficient public transit systems I've ever utilized. I can say this with experience because Tiffany and I visited the city last year for a vacation and fell head over heels in love with the damn place. The ease of transit is a huge reason why we initially fell so hard. It's so good, it feels like it's somewhere that actually gives a shit about its citizens (like a European city or something). It's SO good, it makes you wonder why the hell the rest of the country can't make it work. Until then, tally fucking ho.

I shouldn't have to sell the concept of not driving to anyone. I'm not trying to convince you that it's best for you, but even you probably secretly hate driving, and you already know it's awful for the environment. If you're one of those people who attaches most of your identity to your vehicle, I doubt you're reading this anyway.

"So what else is there?"

Great food, accessible professional soccer, art, bookstores, friendly crazy people, and friends (who may or may not also be friendly crazy people) all add to the long list of positive Portland attributes.

As for the food, there's an unprecedented wealth of food trucks, gluten-free options (for Tiffany), and worldly cuisine that is simply not available in our ancient little corner of Florida. The soccer accessibility was cool before the Portland Timbers won the 2015 MLS Cup, but it's even cooler now (despite the fact that my Philadelphia Union will always be closest to my heart). As far as art is concerned, there's music, performance art, and visual art seemingly available around every corner. Even if it isn't to anyone's liking, there's the weed, god damn it.

If nothing else, Portland has more than one comedy club, and also more than one hell hole dive comedy club. Options abound, unlike in St. Augustine, or the rest of North "you better not use big words and you better stick mostly to dick jokes" Florida. There's more than even the remainder of the Deep "if you even remotely make me feel uncomfortable, I'm going to hate you forever, because I'm a shallow, overly sensitive twat who hypocritically bitches and moans about the PC police every time I'm forced to acknowledge change" South.

We will more than likely not be able to afford the vast majority of the things that make Portland appealing. Not initially we won't, anyway. But at least we will have a home in a city that, for us, is absolutely worth living in. It's going to suck being even further away from family. It's going to suck being further away from friends (the ones who aren't already there, obviously). It's going to suck dragging the cats out there (we can only take two out of our three, so if anyone wants a beautiful kitty cat, please hit me up).

We know it's going to be difficult. Thanks. Your reminders have been so helpful.

It'd be a whole lot more difficult living somewhere that makes us miserable.

And if we're wrong, we're wrong. Now is the time for us to figure it out.

P.S. - Fuck rednecks.




Friday, November 20, 2015

Why so Syria?

I often say "I don't know where to begin," but every time I say it I feel it so much more genuinely than I did the time before. Perhaps it's because every time I've said it before, I've ultimately started anyway and then gone somewhere, however incoherent it may or may not have been.

Perhaps it's because I'm now prompted to articulate my thoughts on the most fucked clusterfuck of all clusterfucks in a very long time.

I'll let someone else start. Here is a fantastic and concise explanation of the Syrian conflict. If you don't understand why refugees are fleeing Syria (apart from the fact that there is a war going on), you should take the five minutes it requires to understand the basics of the war. If that doesn't make you bawl with frustration or confusion, here is another brilliantly concise video that focuses on the refugees (and the logistical problem of their flight from their homeland). Please watch both of these short videos before continuing.

Are we on the same page now? Do we not see how incredibly complex this crisis is, and how detrimental the implications are for people who are ultimately just like you and me?

The United States of America can and must accept Syrian refugees. We have the resources and the infrastructure to give these people homes and put them to work.

"But what about Paris?"

Yeah, what about it? The Syrian passport found near the body of one of the Daesh terrorists was not genuine. Regardless, the overwhelming majority of refugees (I'm sorry, I mean literally all of them) are fleeing from this brand of extremism and the havoc it very obviously wreaks. What happened in Paris, while utterly tragic and terrifying and awful, is infinitesimal compared to the kind of violence that Syrians are fleeing. Refugees are not the problem.

Speaking of Paris, I recall several prominent Republicans (and myriad conservative social media voices) using Le Bataclan as an example of the supposed horrors of gun control. "If only a few good guys in that audience had guns." Let's ignore how absurd of an idea it is that a bunch of dudes with concealed pistols firing randomly into the dark automatically makes everyone safer. How often, apart from the obviously infrequent terrorist attacks, are Parisians subject to gun violence? Is this anywhere near comparable to what Americans experience on a daily basis? Are you lying to me? Are you lying to me? Are you lying to me?

Sorry, I felt as if this piece deserved a good dose of Franz Kafka. Anyhow, if readily accessible guns are the solution to terrorism, why are Americans so worried about terrorists disguising themselves as refugees? It's been nearly seven years, and Obama hasn't taken anyone's guns. So what are you cowards actually afraid of? I thought we were supposed to be the land of the free AND the home of the brave. Put your money where your purrrrrrty mouth is, bitch.

Unless, of course, guns do more harm to Americans than terrorists. I mean, I'm sorry, guns don't kill people, people kill people. And American people kill an awful lot of people. So what exactly is to be gained from denying asylum to Syrian refugees? If anything, we'll have an influx of intelligent, creative, law abiding citizens. The horror! Besides, the NRA wants everyone to have a gun anyway, even if they already are on the official Terrorist Watchlist.

Governors officially declaring that they will refuse refugees (there are at least thirty of them) are political con artists. They're exploiting the xenophobia of their constituency to score cheap political points at the cost of stoking bigotry and violence. Governors do not have the power to block refugees from settling in their states. Again, the biggest threats to Americans are other Americans. We've resettled millions of refugees already and not one of them has committed an act of terror.

"But they're Muslims, Ben."

Well, yeah, and no. Most of them are Muslims. Some politicians are cool with only accepting Christian refugees. Others think that the vetting process needs to be more extensive than it already is. I'll remind you again that not a single one of the million or so refugees we've already taken in has committed an act of terror. Our vetting process is the best in the world. It already takes upwards of two years.

Also, generalizing all Muslims as terrorists, based on the actions of the most radical and extreme, is textbook bigotry. It was bigotry when the dreaded "Ground Zero Mosque" was considered a "slap in the face" to 9/11 survivors and their families, and it's bigotry when people smear their local mosque's walls with feces.

"But the Quran says..."

Well, the Bible says an awful lot of indecent and downright awful things as well. Plenty of people have been hurt, throughout both American and world history under the name of Christianity. Who are you to generalize all Muslims as taking every single word of the Quran literally? Christians get a pass with the Bible, as they rightfully should, and so too should Muslims. And what, pray tell, would Jesus do? Do you genuinely believe the middle eastern Jew who hung out with lepers and rejects would turn away some peaceful refugees? I really thought this was supposed to be a Christian nation. It's not, and that's okay, but if you want it to be, again, put your fucking money where your mouth is. Turn your other cheek. Love thy neighbor. I'm an atheist, and I share this sentiment. What is your excuse?

Lastly, we're playing into Daesh's hands by denying refugees. Call me a bleeding heart liberal all you want, it makes strategic sense to accept fleeing Syrians. The Islamic State's greatest resource is people. They operate with "convert or die" tactics (hence, again, why Syrians are fleeing. They'd rather not die OR join the Islamic State). If we take their people, we deprive them of a huge resource. By denying Syrians refuge, we also fan the flames of conflict and hatred. Refugee camps are rife with anti-Western sentiment and radical recruitment. Why wouldn't they be? You watched the videos, right? Refugee camps suck, and they suck so much because wealthy western nations will not accept (mostly non-white, mostly non-Christian) refugees. How could that not foster an air of resentment?

Lest we not forget, they're still fleeing conflict in their homeland because they foresee a brighter future for themselves elsewhere. They're willing to cross seas and oceans to make that future a reality. More of them will surely drown if we do not help them. More of them will surely become radicalized if we do not help them. More of them will surely die at the hands of extremists if we do not help them.

If you think ISIS is a death cult (which, yeah, they pretty much are), why would you give them exactly what they want by curtailing human liberty and engaging in perpetual war? It's un-American, inhumane, and illogical to deny Syrian refugees.






Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"Blue Lives Matter" is the new "Support Our Troops"

If you really believe cops'  lives matter, what do you think needs to be done to improve their working conditions? 

They seem to feel "threatened" often enough to kill an alarming number of unarmed civilians. How can we come together as a nation, as states, as counties, and as communities to better help those who "serve and protect"? 

Blue Lives Matter NYC seems mostly focused on helping the families of police officers killed in the line of duty. The first tenet of their "mission statement" is "to raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of Police Officers." I feel like that's a generally agreeable mission, but I don't know how they plan on going about that, or how they spend their donations to achieve that end. Meanwhile, on Facebook, the (what appears to be most official) Blue Lives Matter page is dedicated to highlighting the goodness of police officers, as well as the harsh reality that their jobs are both necessary and difficult. 

All of this, on the surface, is well and good. But that it's also all a response to "Black Lives Matter" seems to be rather insidious. With no substantive call-to-action, the "Blue Lives Matter" movement appears to exist for one purpose, and that is to silence the voices of Black Lives Matter protestors. Billboards are now apparently popping up around country in support of the police. The same cannot be said for Black Lives Matter, and those billboards are not cheap. Hmm.

Every day, my local news affiliates publish stories about good cops. I have no qualms with these stories, but it would be weird if they highlighted examples of any other public sector employees simply doing their jobs. Again, what exactly are we doing to help the good cops, apart from acknowledging them? That's not to say acknowledgment is bad in these, uh, trying times. But, while I shudder at the thought of being a police officer myself, to say there is currently a "war on cops" is either ignorant or disingenuous. 

So what is the end-game? All I can ascertain thus far is that "Blue Lives Matter" exists for the sake of maintaining the status quo. This is insidious because, not only do they want Black Lives Matter protestors marginalized and silenced, they don't seem to genuinely care about improving the lives of cops. It's complete and utter bullshit. It's easy to get behind the boys in blue, just as you'd have to be a complete psycho cretin to not want to "support our troops," but ultimately what are you actually doing apart from paying lip service? 

Maybe that's all I'm doing, paying lip service to the absurd. But the truth is I want more good cops. I want the police to be as good as they can be. I'm willing to vote on a local, state, and national level for political candidates who share these values and who have a plan for making it better to be a cop. Unfortunately, for most of the people who claim to believe that Blue Lives Matter, this more than likely means raising taxes and enacting stricter gun control measures. 

I don't hate the cops, I hate the system that oppresses my fellow man and emboldens and empowers psychopaths. I want good cops, but I want the bad cops to more frequently have their actions corrected and/or to receive genuine and substantial punishment for their detrimental actions. I support the Black Lives Matter movement because I recognize that systemic racism is hurting certain people more than others, and that it is necessary to declare that those lives, black and Native lives, matter. Because time and time again it simply appears that those lives do not matter, and that the people who took those lives matter a hell of a lot more. And for what reason? 


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I Assembled a Mostly Random List of Cities

10. Ocean City, NJ - According to Ocean City, Ocean City is "America's Greatest Family Resort." For a dry island, OCNJ has great food. Try the pizza. Seriously, just go anywhere and try the pizza. Even if they don't make pizza, the people wherever you happen to be are probably eating pizza, and you should just take some of theirs. They weren't going to eat all of it anyway. Plus, they're probably wusses who won't eat the crust. Show them how manly you are by eating the god damned crust.

Good pizza is a plus, but like most places that have good pizza, Ocean City loses points for being in New Jersey.

9. Gilbert, AZ - Gilbert is the kind of town where everybody knows your name, and your social security number, and probably some of your bank account information as well. They have a Sears store that, according to Google, has 2.8 stars based on customer reviews. That's almost 3!

8. Delaware - Okay, I realize Delaware isn't technically a city. It's the first state in our wonderful union. SO CUTE! If you take everything Delaware has to offer and combine it for what it's worth, you basically have a city. If you're not from a real state that is located near Delaware, you may be unaware that Delaware is home of tax free shopping. Or maybe you were aware, and then you forgot that they don't have a sales tax, in which case you've now been reminded.

7. East Earl, PA - All I know about East Earl is that it is home of Shady Maple Smorgasbord. Shady Maple is basically a giant, clean buffet that doesn't suck one bit. The food is quite good, the variety is mesmerizing, and the gift shop underneath the entire restaurant is as charming as it is creepy (and cavernous). If you go early enough for breakfast, you may very well have the privilege of dining with Amish people. You'll hear them speaking their native tongue, German, and wonder vainly if they're talking about you. Maybe if you weren't such a narcissistic prick, you wouldn't be eating alone at a smorgasbord at 6 am.

6. Cleveland, OH - When the beloved Browns are playing, Cleveland is practically a ghost town. When the Browns are not playing, Cleveland still seems pretty empty. What is going on here? Is this entire city sustained by the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame? Surely that can't be true. This city earns points for mystique alone.

5. Tampa, FL - Everything you've ever heard about Tampa is true. Probably. I guess it really depends on what you've heard. For example, if you heard that it snows ten inches there every year, that wouldn't be true. Actually, I'm not going to give you any suggestions of things that could possibly be true about Tampa, because it might be incriminating. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens in Tampa you carry with you like a curse. I will confirm that the writing program at the University of Tampa is stellar.

4. Atlanta, GA - Coca Cola, CNN, MLK, David Cross. You'd think this city were amazing if you'd never actually been there. Maybe you should keep it that way, you idealistic dreamer type, you. Atlanta is the "Empire City of the South," because "underwhelming southern caricature of New York" doesn't sound nearly as cool.

3. Niagara Falls, NY - Most of what you've been told your entire life is a lie. There is no god. The Canadian side is better.

2. Richmond, VA - The beltway around Richmond is huge. You can avoid the entire city very easily. There are Wawa gas stations in this part of Virginia, making it the best part of Virginia by far.

1. St. Augustine, FL - St. Augustine gets a lot of points for being on a lot of lists. The city will soon be celebrating its 450th Anniversary, which will honor the area's Timucuan heritage with a variety of musical performances, native foods, rituals, and an official apology to the native people from the visiting king and queen of Spain!*


*Apparently none of this is true, except for the part about musical performances. Pity.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

March for Life...OR ELSE!

A few months ago*, St. Augustine endured its annual anti-abortion parade/rally/protest called “March for Life.” 

Because calling it a "Quantity Over Quality" march would have seemed self-defeating.

And why break with tradition? After all, fallacy for fallacy's sake couldn't be worse than progress for the sake of progress, right? 

Speaking of phalluses and fellatio, I wonder how many people get laid as a direct result of this march. Of those people, I wonder how many feel incredibly guilty and shameful afterward. I'm wondering these things because I possess the capacity for empathy, and I'm using it (lest I wind up losing it). Most of us Planned Parenthood-loving freaks experience guilt and shame. That said, I cannot even begin to imagine how traumatic getting an abortion could potentially be. 

I can, however, imagine feeling so insecure in my own moral compass (and having my guilt and my shame exploited so regularly) that I think drastic oversimplifications and mischaracterizations of an issue are necessary for the sake of proving to myself and others that I am capable of experiencing said shame, guilt, and empathy. I could also imagine myself temporarily forfeiting that empathy for the sake of making strangers feel even half as monstrous and ugly as I do on a regular basis. 

I could see myself nailing Christ to that cross, because how could anyone not? 


Unless that's not really the issue here, is it?

*Over half a year ago now, I suppose. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Thing We Don't Like = Nazis, Always

There might be a good argument against TV Land pulling re-runs of "Dukes of Hazzard." This is not one of them.

For those who are at risk of suffering from seizures at the mere sound of a sad, dumb person's voice, Ben Jones (who played Cooter on the show, and also once played a politician from Georgia), claims that Viacom removing re-runs (you know, the episodes of a show you've already seen dozens and dozens of times) is just like the Nazis burning books.

Jones correctly states that Viacom made this decision as a result of public pressure. He also correctly points out that people of all races enjoyed the show. And I'm sure plenty of black people enjoyed "Song of the South" at one point.

A lot of Confederate flag defenders have used the argument that the battle flag is perfectly acceptable because there were blacks who fought for the South. Yes, there were blacks who worked in the South as well. How can one possibly grapple with the criticism of "dude, you're completely ignoring slavery," better than by continuing to completely ignore it?

Maybe I'm off base. But where Jones gets off base is exactly where Fox News and Steve Doocy want him to go. They're acting like Viacom pulling re-runs of a show is the end of the world. There is no basis for this, apart from the fact that it might very well be what's left of Cooter's world. Jones very bleakly states "We live in re-runs!" Doocy, to his credit, replies "we're on live TV." So how can we make this seem more significant? A baseless Nazi comparison, of course.

No, other Ben, Viacom pulling re-runs is not like the Nazis burning books. The Nazis were practicing censorship. Their government didn't want people gaining new perspectives and ideas. If anything, Viacom, has realized that promoting old ideas and perspectives might be detrimental to their business. You love business, right? You love it so much, you think it should control the government, I'm guessing. So maybe there is more of an argument to be made that a corporation like Viacom has too much power in our federal government, and too much control over discussions of important issues.

But that's a tough nut to crack, isn't it, Cooter?

Overall, this is part of a more casual trend among conservatives, which is to compare anything they don't like to Naziism. It's ironic, because the Nazis were so far-right that many of today's Republicans would be right at home in a modern Nazi party. It's frustrating how apparently immune some folks must be to irony.



Saturday, June 6, 2015

Against Piss Testing

I'm against piss testing.

And that's what it is, by the way. If it were "drug testing," you'd be testing drugs. But no, you're testing urine, piss, for drugs, so it's piss testing. I'll be discussing the kind that is done for employment purposes. The piss testing for public assistance gets its own post.

How dare you? If your only method of deciding between two otherwise "equal" candidates is to (and I'm paraphrasing Doug Stanhope here) judge how much fun they have on weekends, then you're just straight up lazy. Not only are you lazy, you're sociopathic about it.

"But people might get high on the job." Oh, the horror! Might they? Might they also get drunk on the job? Might they masturbate on the job? Might they press their thumbs ever so rigorously into your trachea until it snaps and then eat out your dumb fucking eyeballs on the job? Yeah, there are a lot of things that might happen on the job. Of what relevance is any of that?

"But think of how tough it must be for employers in such a competitive job market." I know, man, those poor, poor employers. It's almost as inconvenient as having multiple offshore accounts to hide your millions of dollars in untaxed income, am I right? So, no, I don't really care how tough it is for employers to judge employees based on character and merit rather than the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol in someone's urine. I don't care because you (and they) don't care how tough it is for workers, and no one ever seems to think they are obligated to care, because, hey, it's "business."

"Not every business owner is rich, Ben." Yes, but you're missing the point that we're being asked to have more empathy and compassion for the powerful than the seemingly powerless.

But fine. Keep worshipping money and the people who possess it. You laugh at some douche nozzle preacher named Creflo Dollar, who preaches that if you just give him all your money, you too can some day be rich. But I'm not seeing how that is really all that much different from our current situation. The Republicans like to tell me, over and over again, as they put their dicks in airport glory holes, hold hands with the Duggars, and deny military veterans benefits, that this is a "Christian" nation. I guess if we're talking about Creflo's (per)version of Christianity, they're not necessarily wrong.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"We Need a Pollo Tropical"

I was driving somewhere. At this point, it doesn't really matter where. Well, generally speaking, it matters that I was in a bustling metropolitan area within the state of Florida. You probably could have gathered at least that much, but for the purposes of clarification, I was driving near Orlando.

It took a really long time to get from point A to point B, and I expected this much, so I wasn't particularly peeved. I chose to drive on that specific road, and I knew that it was near rush hour. The circumstances beyond that are less than relevant. I passed three Wendy's restaurants, probably four McDonald's, two Wawa gas stations (and make no mistake about it, I stopped at one, because I fucking love Wawa. In fact, it's necessary for your understanding of my perspective to know that I own three Wawa t-shirts.), and a bunch more of the same restaurants, stores, gas stations, etc. It must have been a twenty mile stretch of road, and all I'll say is it took a heck of a lot longer to navigate those twenty miles than the speed limit would necessitate.

Near point B (okay, I-4), I crossed over Sun Rail tracks. 'Twas one lone hub of glorious public transit, amidst the smattering of dingy bus stops, and the suffocating smog of rugged individualism. It was at this point that I realized that in America we will probably build a million more shopping plazas, with thousands upon thousands more of the same chain restaurants, before we ever really get around to building more roads, bridges, and improving public transit.

Is that why there are four McDonald's within agonizingly close proximity, because it takes an hour to drive a few blocks? Is it because everyone is driving alone, and no one is utilizing public transit, because public transit is virtually non-existent? Who benefits from such an inefficient sprawl? It ain't me.

I love carbs. I love fat. I love alcohol. I will buy your unhealthy lifestyle, and I'll one-up it. It certainly wouldn't kill me to have to walk or bike a little more to acquire my vices. Or maybe it would kill me, at least if there is no sidewalk, or there are no bike lanes.

I belong to some groups on facebook that discuss local matters and local businesses. A question was posed: what kinds of restaurants would you like to see opening up in St. Augustine? Someone immediately answered, "We need a Pollo Tropical!"

But do we really need a fucking Pollo Tropical? I have nothing against Pollo Tropical (I've never even been to one, and maybe that's what this well-intentioned consumer citizen is attempting to address), but I suspect our priorities are out of order.






Monday, May 4, 2015

Bernie Sanders Appalls People Who Hate People

Bernie Sanders is running for president. It seems, generally, people are not taking him very seriously. First and foremost, his last name isn't Clinton. Second, he is not a guano crazy Republican. Third strike? Well, how dare he suggest America can be better.

Yes, most appalling to the Giant Fucking Idiot (GFI) contingent of the American electorate is his comparing "THE GREATEST NATION ON EARTH!" (slur as much as possible while you scream this) to Scandinavia. He seems to think we should try to be more like all those countries that have a higher standard of living than ours. How dare he.

 The GFIs will not tolerate a candidate who does not believe that there are threats to the United States' standing in the world beyond Barack Hussein Obama and job-stealing (but also somehow irreconcilably lazy) Mexicans. Grouped in with the Mexicans, who only really exist on a plane of reality spawned from the cognitive dissonance of the GFIs and a cocktail of Everglade gasses, is ISIS.

As long as ISIS is restricted to killing other Muslims, all is well, right? Hell, the GFIs don't mind Obama so much when "his" drones are killing innocent Muslims. Basically, as long as you're indiscriminately killing Muslims, you're okay in the eyes of a GFI.

We can assume, based on what we know so far, Bernie Sanders is against indiscriminate killing of Muslims. Perhaps he should reconsider his basic human decency. It seems as if he's not willing to forfeit any of his principles to gain access to what is allegedly the most powerful office on Earth. We should obviously be suspicious of someone so bold.

Follow the money. His top donors are unions and actual people. If he really wants to lead the American people, he should consider courting favor with multinational mega-corporations, rather than wasting so much time courting favor with the American people.

Maybe we can trust him a tiny bit more if he reveals which bank he uses. After all, our own interests are uninteresting to us.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Silly, Stupid

Help!

I have a Beatles song stuck in my head.

Wait, no. That is neither what I wanted to say, nor anything problematic.

What can a funny person do about those among us who have overly simplistic notions of humor?

I have a creatively analytical mind, which is to say that I'm terrible with numbers, but I love categories. I can also very easily come across as an unrepentant asshole who claims things like "I have a creatively analytical mind" and furthermore an asshole who actually thinks that self-deprecation will endear him to anyone who sneers at such a statement. The world around me is neatly organized chaos. I just want you to like me.

The obvious answer to my above question is "nothing. Deal with it, crybaby." But perhaps what's happening right here, in this mess of narcissism and futility that I call a blog, is me "dealing."

It seems as if a lot of people mistake silliness for stupidity. There are multiple forms of silliness, as there are multiple forms of stupidity. But I want to be clear about the differences between silly and stupid. When I try a new bourbon I like and jump up and down like a schoolgirl, giggling with dopamine glee, I'm not being an idiot. When I try to turn left at a red light, because my original plan was to turn right (and, hey, turning right on red is acceptable), I'm not being silly. In both instances I display a lack of common sense, and I may appear foolish.

I think there is such a thing as serious silliness. But maybe that's just me being silly and stupid. For example, when I applied to the University of Tampa's MFA in Creative Writing low-residency program, I had to write a letter detailing something of a statement of artistic purpose. In this letter, and also whenever I'm asked what I ultimately want to be doing with my life, I say that I strive "to be a professional asshole." It got sillier. You might think sending a letter like this to a graduate program is ill-advised. I don't think you are necessarily wrong. Regardless, I now hold an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Tampa.

Frequently, I interact with people who seem to think that all (or just most) humor is inherently cruel. These people now hate Trevor Noah. Some of them are sociopaths, and only laugh at cruelty. Most think that because a joke is being made, it can only degrade and dehumanize all subjects involved. There are degrees of degradation. I had a guy on a tour (remember how I'm a tour guide? Good times.) take umbrage with my banjo joke. It's a an innocuous and innocent jab at an abundance of banjos in a particular part of the tour (the intro video). There are no fiddles, no tambourines. It's all banjos for at least six minutes.  He felt "alienated" because he likes bluegrass music. What I said following the video that drew so much of his disdain was "Did you guys like the video? Were there enough banjos for you?" What I imagine he heard was "Banjos suck, right guys? Anyone who likes banjos must be a rednecked piece of inbred swamp scum!"

This was always an issue when I did the Comedy Walk. If one person was really offended, they made everyone else on the tour carry their buzz killing burden. This took the form of silence; the only laughter was visibly stifled by hands over mouths.

It doesn't happen often, but every now and then I am what I suppose you could call "offended" by a joke told by a standup comic. I might think it's too simplistic, or that the punchline is a weak letdown after a long, wordy setup. Perhaps I belong to a category or class that is being lampooned. If I've laughed earlier in the set, I'll have no fear that I will laugh again. Who am I to expect every joke to make me laugh?

With that, I certainly don't expect every joke I tell to land. Of course, if I'm trying to use humor at all, I'm going to alienate humorless dolts. I guess I'll just never get people who don't get it.




Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ferguson, Tension, and $20

Call me crazy (or preferably a softer adjective that still indicates a certain breaking point has been reached), but I don't really trust any information I receive from a racist police department (a la Ferguson). Furthermore, I don't necessarily trust any other department under the umbrella of that same system (St. Louis County).
At any other protest held by citizens highlighting the egregious actions of their own police, I might consider the shooting of two cops a tragic mistake on the part of an emotionally overburdened individual. 

Here, however, it's hard not to respond with snark and "told you so" angst. Since Michael Brown was shot and killed (and, incidentally, since Eric Garner was choked to death), a widely shared meme stated "Instead of saying 'fuck the police,' how about you stop breaking the law?" One response to that may very well be "Instead of saying you need more cops, more guns, and more armored vehicles, how about you stop treating your own citizens like enemy combatants?" Or "Instead of being closet racists toward the community you're sworn to protect, why don't you uphold your oath to serve and protect that community?"

No, those are both too long. I'm sure some of you can think of something better. Anyway, this reeks of self-fulfilling prophecy. If we treat a town like a war zone, and its people like combatants, it isn't surprising if those people eventually fight back. And it's absurdly unfair, as only one side is actually equipped for a war. Can you guess which side? It's not the side chanting "Hands up! Don't Shoot!"

But the possibility remains that this was a deliberate effort to deflect the public's negative attention back to the protestors and off the departments in question. All we really have to substantiate this is a grainy video (the cops apparently snatched the camera before the high quality version could be archived) wherein the shooting appears to come from behind the group of protestors. The angle of the shooting is significant because the shots did not come from within the core of the protest. This does not mean the shooter was definitely a police agitator, but it increases the likelihood that the shooter was (literally and figuratively) outside of the movement.

Let us rewind to the Department of Justice releasing its findings on the racist actions and policies of the Ferguson Police Department. Shortly afterward, Megyn Kelly predictably towed the Fox News "racism isn't a problem" line with a somewhat surprising lack of self-awareness (for her, anyway). When I read a portion of the transcript from the exchange, I thought "wow, Megyn Kelly is having one of those rare lucid moments where she says something perfectly reasonable to challenge the overarching narrative of her employer. She's admitting that there is a widespread problem of racism in both law enforcement and corporate America." And then I saw the clip, wherein she argues that the pervasiveness of racism means that racism is not a problem. Essentially, she's saying that it's okay because everyone is doing it.

Which must explain the mentality behind a fraternity that chants despicably hateful things with absolute glee and zero apprehension.

There still exist citizens who blame the media for racial division but not racism for racial division. What exactly are you afraid of? When the media reports the objective facts pertaining to a story where it seems racism, even at a very subtle level, played some sort of role in the events of the story, why is the media doing its job the problem? Do you sincerely believe that racism is best kept at bay by ignorance?

And what do you think the masters of the most potentially powerful tool in the arsenal of corporate propaganda would stand to gain by purposefully deviating from the perpetuation of the status quo? Have you fucking considered that? No. Are you worried Nat Turner is going to sleep with your wife before he swipes off your head? What century are you living in?

Speaking of bloody history, a movement is afoot to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 note. A Daily Beast article provides a comprehensive list of Andrew Jackson's utter awfulness, but does nothing to support the notion that only decent people belong on our money. I say we go the opposite direction. Only put our most miserable, heinous, murderous assholes on money. Why would you tarnish a good person's image by associating them with the root of all evil? We do believe that, don't we? Money is the root of all evil, right? But perhaps nothing is sacred, which is why God is already on all of our money.












Saturday, February 28, 2015

Lumber-a-sexual

I'm okay with categories.

"You can't think outside the box without a box."

My father said this to me long ago as I raged against the MTV machine (mostly because MTV stopped promoting bands like Rage Against the Machine).

I don't know anyone who watches MTV anymore, but plenty of my friends and acquaintances are more familiar than I am with people called Nicki Minaj and Arianna Grande. (I have a more important question for you, dear reader, in a wee bit).

Agent Coulson also made a similar concession in the first season of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

We need a system to effectively accumulate and disseminate truth. Or, as I enjoy shouting in the ears of passing schoolchildren, "WORDS! THEY MEAN THINGS!" One issue with compartmentalization is that the boxes can be closed (and hidden) by those in power.

But this is all too vague. Sorry, my head hasn't been right lately. I'm okay, for the most part, with categories and labels. Can you imagine anyone categorically opposed...to categories, though? What would you call that person? Surely, they wouldn't have a name, right?

Take my hand and leap with me into the world of fashion and visual culture. When I was in seventh grade, I wanted to be a skater. I had passed from elementary school to junior high, and was swarmed with crowded hallways and hormones. My individual identity would simply not suffice. So I wore big bright t-shirts, rocked baggy pants, and stuck to my mainstay Etnies and Vans shoes because I truly loved how comfortable and cool they were. But I was a poser. I didn't skate. I tried skating, because it bothered me that how I felt most comfortable appearing associated me with something I was not truly embracing. I fell a lot.

Well, that was me in junior high. Sometime near then the term "metrosexual" was coined. To this day, I can't think of a more nuanced definition of metrosexual beyond "well-groomed male." And that's interesting to me. We very readily associate tedious grooming habits in men with homosexuality. Why? Or is it less about homosexuality and more about sexuality?

Is it for the same reason that women are more typically sexually (and therefore visually) objectified?

I don't know, but "metrosexual" was probably never going to be the first adjective anyone would think of to describe yours truly. Now, "lumbersexual" is passing in and out of vogue. If you're unfamiliar, think of a lumberjack. Now, give that lumberjack a reasonable diet, a cellphone, and some gauges. BOOM! TIMBER! (okay, now, BOOM!) Lumbersexual.

Lumbersexual is probably higher up the list than metrosexual if we're, again, considering yours truly. I suppose it's because I'm white and I have a beard. It's the same reason I resemble Zach Galifianakis, Jack Black, and eighty percent of the alcohol industry.

But I was white and had a beard in high school. It's not simply laziness. It's a conscious decision to not engage in the unnecessary and futile act of shaving. What Russell Brand is to not voting, I am to not shaving. I'm not going to be one of those people who is saying "but I was doing it before it was cool!" because I've seen enough paintings of historical figures far prior to my existence in high school to know I'm no pioneer (and pioneers had some pretty gnarly beards, also many were lumberjacks...I guess).

I simply wish to express that I don't care. I mean, I do care, as I'm curious about the cultural context of all of this. But call me whatever you wish. I just ask that if we're going to collectively coin new words for males making a conscious decision to look a certain way, perhaps we should try to be a little more accurate.

But just as we love suffixing every controversy under the sun with "gate," perhaps I shouldn't be so hopeful.





Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kayla Mueller

So Cenk Uygur does a great job of succinctly destroying the arguments of certain bloggers who would paint Kayla Mueller, American humanitarian executed by ISIS, as an "enemy of the Jews."

Because all Muslims are the same, and that totally isn't a big reason we've been having so much trouble with our embroilment in the Middle East post-9/11, right?

So rather than simply paraphrase his argument, I'll advance my position as one that is in opposition to a great deal of...you guessed it, FACEBOOK COMMENTS that are to the intended detriment of Kayla's character.

I don't know anything about Kayla Mueller apart from the fact that she was an outgoing woman who wanted to help people who are suffering.

This has led many people to express the (ever persistent victim-blaming) mentality that she had it coming; she deserved to die at the hands of extremists.

I noticed this attitude when James Foley was killed. To paraphrase, "you shouldn't go to the Middle East unless you're a soldier with a gun."

Really? James Foley was a journalist. Do you think you're entitled to information about what is occurring beyond our borders? Do you think it just magically falls out of the fucking sky onto your network news channel/website of choice?

Of course not. Someone has to go there and figure it out for the rest of us. The insinuation that he was just doing his job for a paycheck is most likely a projection on the part of whoever expresses this belief. No, you don't necessarily have to have any sympathy for him, but you should at least have the wherewithal to shut your damn mouth.

And this brings me to Kayla. God damn it, she's another victim of the ISIS regime, monster, evil, etc. Some insinuate that maybe, because she's a twenty-six year old woman, she might not have fully comprehended the risks of the situation that, yes, she put herself in. Is that not just a little condescending? What purpose does that serve? I'm not going to say she fully understood those risks, and I won't posit that I do either. But how dare you detract from her obviously benevolent intentions? There is a little sexism there, too. We don't want to acknowledge that a woman could be strong enough to act on her (apparently deadly) convictions. Well, fuck us then. Maybe we don't deserve her.

And that brings us to our other argument. Again, to paraphrase, "she should have stayed home and helped Americans. Plenty of Americans need help."

Sure. Fine. What are you up to, anyway? What have you done for your fellow Americans? What, exactly, should she have done differently?

It's almost as if journalists and humanitarians being killed in the Middle East is forcing us to acknowledge the inherent complexities of modern warfare. God forbid. And perhaps this is why some of us would absolutely prefer soldiers (and no one else) die in the Middle East.





Thursday, February 5, 2015

You've Just Been Carpetbagged

I've been referred to, both personally and generally, as a "carpetbagger." For those unfamiliar with the term, it originated during the Reconstruction Era when Northern entrepreneurs (among other brands of psychopath) moved to the South to exploit the instability and uncertainty that followed the Civil War.

Today, it typically refers to a politician who represents people from a district or region he or she has very little connection with. It also, apparently, can refer to any "yankee" (Northerner) who moves South and has an idea.

"Hey, um, I think maybe we should have a special provision for licensed-"

"CARPETBAGGER! You're not from here! You've only lived here for the better part of a decade. How DARE you attempt to improve the place you now live! You must only be doing this for some kind of selfish gain. Me? I'm not being selfish at all."

"Oh yeah? Well you wouldn't know good pizza if it gave your face an orgasm. And learn how to use your fucking turn signal."

So the exchange is not normally that intense, but it would certainly be more fun if it were. Let's call the modern, probably very colloquial usage of the term "carpetbagger" what it is - xenophobic. It's the same misplaced frustration with immigration anywhere else. "How dare you come here and try and make your life and everyone else's better?"

Someone asked me why dumb people are stereotyped as having Southern accents. It's a good question. It seems unfair. My answer was "Alabama and Mississippi." If they're not currently sitting at 49th and 50th place with regards to educational rankings, they're very near it. You can usually find these states at the bottom of other very important rankings. It's not to say that they're awful places (I've never been, so I can't judge), and it's also not insinuating that people from these places can't possibly be intelligent or creative. But is it any surprise that these voices are the first ones we think of when we're mocking the undereducated? I don't think it's a very good argument on my part, but I was pretty drunk.

More likely, however, is that a Southern accent is the easiest for the rest of us to mimic. We spent eight years together as a nation mocking our Cowboy-wannabe president, George W. Bush. If (god forbid) Sarah Palin's political career moves beyond that of attention-seeking twat, YOU BETCHA we'll start collectively making fun of another accent.

Or not, because that one is just insufferable sometimes.

At least the lilt is purrrrdy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Flying, Fear, and Numbers (Minus Actual Numbers)

The flight data recorder from Air Asia Flight QZ8501 was recently recovered, which is obviously good news.

Unless, of course, you do not value information. As much as the finding of this crucial piece of evidence may come as a relief to the families of the victims, aviation professionals, and just generally anyone who is capable of giving a shit, this is still frustrating news for some.

Alas, there is another plane still missing. Worse yet, it was lost in the same region of the globe. There are many theories regarding the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but until the wreckage can be recovered, we're left to wonder.

And by "wonder," I mean stew in discontent and make wild assertions that ultimately place a lot of blame on someone somewhere for the fact that it's still missing. The latter part is most significant, and is why I don't really feel I have to address the specific details of any one particular theory. We cannot accept that a plane could just fall from the sky without a trace. One of the biggest reasons we cannot accept this is because it really is a rare and unique situation. While CNN was (and still is) rightfully mocked for its coverage of the incident, which was one of the most dazzling displays of unintentional self-parody I've ever witnessed, the disappearance of a commercial airliner is definitely international news. If someone hacked into the airplane's various systems, with the intent of committing some act of terror, or whatever else might compel someone to go through such extraordinary effort to kill lots of people, it would be an unprecedented example of foul play. If that is even remotely part of what happened, it's very frightening to think about. It is technically possible. But it's also a lot of speculation and only begs further questions. Absence of evidence does not equal evidence. This is, in part, what made CNN's coverage so darkly and unintentionally comical. The original twenty-four hour news network was basically having an existential meltdown. "We don't know" needed to be repeated in an urgent but entertaining fashion for twenty-four hours a day.

What a lot of us also don't know, apparently, is just how massive the ocean is. Or, maybe most people do know that oceans are large, but they have no perspective or appreciation of this fact. They also have no appreciation for how miraculous it is that we can fly so safely and efficiently to begin with, because of course when something goes wrong, it goes wrong enough to be a very stark reminder of our own individual imperfection, smallness, and mortality. God forbid we allow ourselves to reflect on that.

I have had this opinion expressed to me both online and off, that if we have such amazing technology in the first place, how can we possibly lose a modern commercial airliner? Therefore, someone must know where it is and is covering up the truth. One gentleman in particular reasoned that if he loses his phone, it can easily be recovered via its built-in GPS and, hey, it's just tiny cellphone, planes are huge, right? This is one of my favorite examples because it comes so tantalizingly close to something resembling rational thought. Yes, planes are huge compared to your phone. Now, reflect further on this comparison you're obviously capable of grasping. Can your phone fucking fly at hundreds of miles per hour, thousands upon thousands of feet in the air, and have you ever lost it only to recover it in a body of water? Your phone is small, and so is your existence. I'm sorry that this is the incident that is forcing you to acknowledge that. But your phone is also amazing, and you're budding with potential yourself. We'd rather believe that all of the nations involved in the search efforts are succeeding in an elaborate and evil conspiracy than accept that they are cooperating for the benefit of humanity and failing. At least evil has faces and an agenda. It's got something to do with us. The big cold ocean doesn't care.

Other commercial aviation accidents serve as reminders that while we do have technology, and we can use it to do great things, it isn't perfect. And it's not that we can't wrap our minds around that, it's just a little sad that it takes so much tragedy to force us to acknowledge our place in the universe. Even then, we're stubborn and reluctant. It's as if we think that if we admit that we are the source of our own ability to fly, we're not owning up to our imperfections and their inevitable consequences so much as we are either spitting in the face of god or validating (and admitting) his absence from the situation.

["When Dad gets back he's gonna KILL us. He said he'd take away ice cream after dinner!"

"Boys, how many times do I have to tell you this? There was no tree of knowledge. It was a joke. You were going to learn all that stuff anyway. Your father meant well, but he couldn't control his temper, and that's why we aren't together anymore. It's not your fault. I'm so sorry, but he really isn't coming home, no matter what that damned serpent keeps telling you."]

So, yes, something very complex and nefarious could have caused MH370 to disappear. It's all the more reason to be patient, especially if you're a network news channel. It's frightening to think about any single one of the possibilities. Imagine how the families of the victims feel. They don't have the luxury of choosing to be sane and rational about the situation. Making that choice for ourselves is the very least the rest of us could do for them.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Dear Sophist

How is it that when I call attention to your racism/homophobia/misogyny/blatant dishonesty, I'm a card carrying member of the "PC Police," but the second your spineless sensibilities are offended, it's all "HOW DARE YOU?" and "I THINK THIS CROSSES A LINE."

And why the all-caps?

Perhaps it's because you're an intellectual coward. Projection is a bread-and-butter tool of the intellectual coward's arsenal. You make shit up, and when it's thrown back in your face, you accuse the thrower of having dealt the shit in the first place. You're a hypocrite. But as I've said before, that's the thing with hypocrisy, it's only okay when you're the one who is being hypocritical, right?

I'm not a hypocrite for preaching tolerance and subsequently having no tolerance for intolerance. But do keep trying to trivialize the struggle for tolerance by making this fallacious argument. Also, you're not funny. Yeah, you can make babies laugh, but babies are also prone to shitting themselves. That is both literally true and a metaphor. Put some fucking effort into this and you'll figure it out.

It's okay, you have absolutely no interest in listening to or even trying to comprehend my point of view. So, no matter how hard I try, no matter how well-reasoned my position is, it will fall on blind eyes and deaf ears.

And you will then have the nerve to turn around and call me out on my silence.

It's a never ending game for you.

You are a sophist. You could argue yourself out of existence if you wanted.

Actually, please, do that.