As You Go Forth into Blah Blah Blah

Maybe it’s just me, but I think most commencement speeches fail because the greater number of listeners will do just fine in the world since—unlike the more philosophical speaker…unless he or she is a captain of industry or similar WANT-TAKE-HAVE type—they’re individuals who don’t over-think the mechanism of life. They live without any real hesitation, because they’ve broken it down into a simple process. You get a job, possibly get married and have kids, go on vacation once in a while, take up a hobby, and watch a lot of TV.

I’m not saying there’s anything necessarily wrong with that, at all. I admire its simplicity. Most folks aren’t designed to change the world. Also, I wish to God I could do likewise and stop thinking, “Jesus H., isn’t there something MORE to all of this? How can I solve everyone’s problems before I die? And why the hell do I have to die anyway? God and man! Death and life! The unavoidable yawning void! Etc. etc. etc.”

That David Foster Wallace speech/video that’s been making the rounds perfectly illustrates my point. I’d guess 85 percent of the young folks Wallace addressed just nodded, said “Yeah, I should be more open to my fellow humans and junk,” and then moved on to just live.

Meanwhile, Wallace took a short drop into eternity.

Cliff Fiscal (Not Pictured)

Yeah, I went to school with Cliff Fiscal. Weird kid. He’d turn up out of nowhere at parties he wasn’t invited to, and you could never get him to leave. He’d never bring anything, of course, but he’d constantly wonder aloud if we’d have enough food and drinks to last the night—not that he’d make a beer or food run, of course. The worst part was how he’d spend most of the party talking with the other guests, sharing his paranoia and saying things like, “Boy, I SURE hope this porch we’re on doesn’t collapse.” or “Man, if this place caught on fire, we’d ALL fucking DIE.” or “You know what that black line is up the shrimp’s back? Feces.” Some of the jocks thought it was funny to watch him creep out the guests, so they took him on as a kind of mascot. “Heyyyyy! Didn’t you invite, Fiscal? I’ll call him up! Good ol’ Cliff Fiscal!” What dicks. God, I hated that kid.

A Mighty Bastard Is Your God

Whenever a GOP idiot says God approves of something reprehensible, try to imagine the following exchange happening with a co-worker.

God (in the Next Cube): Say, Brad, what’s wrong?

Brad: (Crestfallen) My… teenage daughter was… raped last night.

God: Tsk. Oh, that’s a shame. (Scratches head) Say, was she dressed like a whore? That might have done it.

Brad: What? How could you ask such a question?

God: (Starts squeezing a pair of exercise grips) Come on, Brad, let’s face facts. Was she wearing a short skirt and lipstick? Was she in jeggings? Could the guy see her naughty pillows? Was her hair, you know, exposed? How exactly did she instill lust in the poor guy?

Brad: (Aghast) How can you say that? What kind of unfeeling, thoughtless, hateful bastard would suggest a young woman was responsible for her own rape?

God: (Shrugs) I’m not seeing the issue here. How does saying the little tramp was inviting ravishment by dressing wantonly seem “unfeeling and thoughtless”? (God makes air quotes with his fingers)

Brad: WHAT!?! Are you insane!?! She’s physically and psychologically scarred because the son of a bitch couldn’t control his own urges! Worse yet, she’s pregnant!

God: (Smiles brightly) What!?! Awesome, Brad! A grandchild for you! Mazel tov!

Brad: (Punches God’s lights out.)

“Henceforth, Down Will Be Defined as Up”

With a wife, sister, sister-in-law, cousin, and many friends working in teaching and/or the CPS, I’m fairly familiar with what their day-to-day lives and jobs are like. Consequently, it’s amazing to read or hear the avalanche of not only negative but also grossly uninformed reactions to the strike. I’d compare it to going outside one morning and discovering a polka-dotted sun rising in the north.

Truly, I can say without qualms that the anti-union folks are either Emanuel flacks, professional liars, or embarrassingly misinformed citizens. Frankly, it is ASTONISHING how few journalists (not to mention their newspapers) have bothered to perform the most rudimentary research about actual teacher’s pay, classroom sizes and conditions, lesson plans, and the rest. Whenever they’re confronted by the teachers, they mostly waffle or say they don’t want to argue, they’re just thinking about the KIDS, MAN. Nah, what I suspect they’re doing is regurgitating press releases and summaries of think tank white papers.

Sadly, the teachers are facing a hugely powerful and despicable opponent. They’re not just facing off with Rahm. They’re dealing with the Powers That Wish to Continue to Be—people who would lie and cheat to screw a child out of a nickel.

Which is pretty much what they’re doing.


I don’t like the proliferation of security cameras in public, partly because it’s invasive, secondly because it creates the mindset that crime is best dealt with through cheap gestures. However, there’s one civil liberties non-argument against security cams in public that I’d like to see done away with, mainly because it frames the issue in abstract terms that seem to make sense, but can’t be verified.

Here it is: some civil libertarians propose that the presence of cameras somehow puts people into a submissive (versus a cautious) mindset. If you’re writing a novel about a soulless Big Brother future where love does not compute, fine. Describe streets bejeweled with security cameras, serving as soul-sucking floating eyes and draining people of their willingness to rise up against their oppressors. It’s a great literary image, but (outside of a prison’s walls) it’s just not true. Perhaps that’s a debatable position, but let me ask these questions:

1. When you realize a camera is trained on you at the store, the bank, or on a main intersection, do you EVER care (barring the possibility that you might actually be there to rob the bank or store), much less develop a submissive personality?

2. What is the actual percentage of individuals walking around, constantly planning crimes, only to be flummoxed by the camera in the far corner of the room?

I Am Unhappy! What Are YOU Going to Do About It!?!

There’s a certain type of leftyish pundit/commenter who strikes me as the sort who hangs out with you only to bitch about how you’ve failed him. He comes over, raids the fridge, and complains that you never stock the kind of beer and food HE likes. Then he strides around and critiques your books, furniture, art, clothes, and anything else he comes across. Finally, he looks out your window and says that where you live is a shithole, the people are gross, dirty, banal, and uneducated and why, why, WHY  aren’t you out there every day doing something to improve it and them, so he can come over, drink your beer, critique your possessions, and… and… relax? Hmmmm, that last one doesn’t seem likely, does it?

Eventually, you understand he doesn’t want you to achieve some apotheosis of human perfection or be a force for positive change. He has no real solutions beyond saying, “Just don’t DO that.” What he wants is for everyone to be just like him. A big, crabby, pain in the ass motivated not by compassion, intellect, or taste. Just misanthropy, self-disgust, and a soul-crushing case of nirvana fallacy.

Yes, they are right. And yes, they are goading you toward admirable ends, but DO NOT EXPECT these people to ever say, “Well done!” Else, they will gradually wear you down to a sarcastic nub with their absurdly high expectations and a sense of righteousness based entirely on the roach scrabbling up their ass.

At The Theater to See Moonrise Kingdom Last Night…

(My wife leaves to use the facilities. I’m one seat in from the end in an already poor viewing position on the far right of the theater. I spy a group of four mature semi-latecomers  coming in, looking for seats. I know they’re heading for me, and I’m prepared to move, once they show they plan to sit beside me.)

Leader of Latecomers: (Points at my wife’s purse in her seat): Who’s sitting there?

Me: My wife, but… (I prepare to shift over a seat)

Leader: Well, is ANYone sitting THERE? (Points to the seat at my right)

Me: Uh, no, so I’ll just…

Leader: (Obviously feeling that I’m not springing from my seat fast enough.) Is THERE a PROBLEM here?

Me: No, there isn’t a PROBLEM here, but maybe you could give me a CHANCE to move OVER!

(I get up and move over. Without a thank you, they file in. As I glare at them, they avoid eye contact.)

There are plenty of asses in this world, yes, and they should be thwarted at every turn. However, there are just as many jerks who (1)  think they’re here to fight the asses of the world; (2) assume everyone who doesn’t make them immediately happy must be another ass throwing obstacles in their path; and (3) anything goes, because sarcasm and bad behavior are the best ways to deal with a fellow human being.

I Can Haz Cannibalizm Bacon?

Let’s imagine that through some set of circumstances, you end up attending a soda pop bottle collectors’ convention. Perhaps, like me, you collect soda pop bottles, and turning up at such a convention wouldn’t be a surprise to you (I haven’t attended any myself), but in this instance let’s assume you don’t give a damn about soda pop bottles. You don’t hate them, but they fail to set you afire, let’s say.

At first, as you walk around, you might be mildly impressed by the beauty of the bottles on display: some possess eye-catching art, others have pleasing shapes. Perhaps some of the collectors are perfectly lovely people, plainly excited about their hobby and willing to share the joy of soda-pop bottle collecting with you. Some are more exuberant and/or socially awkward than others, but mostly they seem to be a pleasant, harmless lot. You may not be able to follow their conversations about grading or ACLs, but it’s clear they’re enjoying themselves, and no one is buttonholing you to joyfully scream about the 1952 seven ounce Grapette bottle they discovered in a Muskegon landfill.

Still, after a time, you tire of hearing about bottles. That’s understandable. The convention center exits are clearly marked, and you’re not chained to a column, so there’s nothing keeping you there.

Yet, you remain, and you continue to walk about. But now the tone and endless onslaught of soda-pop bottle trivia and trading is growing grating. I must stress, you could leave, but instead you visit each table, hoping someone will start talking about flyfishing, SOPA, Artemisia Gentileschi, or Indian food. You bring up these subjects, and you generate a mild conversation or two about them, but soon you’re back to bottles, bottles, bottles. You exhale a sigh of disgust and walk off to another part of the center.

Eventually, you find a group of your friends—all of whom, for the purposes of analogy, are exchanging empty bottles that once contained Heep Good orange pop, Top Hat seltzer water, Kayo chocolate soda, O•So•Grape elixir, and others. They’re having a grand old time, and when they see you they wave you over.

“Aren’t you guys SICK of talking about bottles?” you ask.

Startled, they look to one another, and your best friend says, “Uh, no. It’s fun! what’s your favorite soda pop bottle?”

“But it’s NOT fun,” you gripe. “It’s just so overdone. I’m sick of hearing about it.”

They look at you sympathetically—these are your friends, after all—but ask, “Well… You do realize you’re at the annual soda pop bottle convention, right? And Bob and Jane over here, well, they’ve just gotten into it.”

“Yeah! It’s superduper fun!” says Bob, happily. You shoot him a withering glare.

“But you’ve been talking about it for days now. Isn’t it time to discuss something else?” you say.

One of your friends shrugs and says, “I… guess… but we’re really enjoying ourselves.”

“But I’m not!” you say. “I want to talk about something else! Like jai alai or French cinema or Anjelica Houston.”

“Hey, you’re in luck!” another friend says, cheerfully. She points to a staircase across the center. “Upstairs they’re holding the convention for aficionados of French movies starring Anjelica Houston as a jai alai player! And it’s free! Actually, I was thinking of going up there after this, so we could…”

You begin to stomp your feet and shake your little fists in the air.


Your friends look at you askance.

“Maybe you could go home for a little while and then come back later? You know, take a break. We’ll be done soon.” says your best friend.

“Yeah, let’s go to the bar next door and have a drink. And we’ll talk about whatever you like!” says your cousin. “Before we go though, check out this hilarious soda pop bottle I found! It has a kitty-cat on it!”

“NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!!” You scream. You start overturning tables and breaking bottles like Christ cleansing the Temple.

“Everyone must talk about things according to my schedule! Everyone must cease enjoying a hobby when I declare it! Anyone who hasn’t laughed at a joke by a certain time and date MUST BE FORBIDDEN TO LAUGH AT IT EVER AGAIN!” you bellow. “Arrrgggh! This is why America is in danger! This is why people are stupid! Once things were good, but now they are bad! Argggh! Evil has a face, and it is soda pop bottle collectiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!”

When you finish, you find yourself panting, sweaty, and standing on a mountain of glass, the collectors dazed and breathless and more than a few—your friends included—glaring and wondering why you’re so damned worked up.

Then you look across the center and see someone eating a ham sandwich. Except the ham isn’t stuck between two pieces of bread… IT’S STUCK BETWEEN TWO LARGE SQUARES OF GRAPE JELL-O!

“Ha ha ha! Hey, look guys!” you say, stumbling with bloodied feet across the field of glass. “A Jell-O sandwich! Ha ha! Well, if that isn’t the ever-living, ever-loving end!” You take a picture of it, intending to share it with everyone you meet on the way home. “Say, guys…” you ponder, turning back to your friends, “What other things could you make with Jell-O!?! Ha ha! Bacon Jell-O! Badger Jell-O! Zombie Jell-O! Lutefisk Jell-O! HA HA HA HA! Man, this is KOOKY!”

At once, everyone in the convention center forgives you, and you all begin amassing and sharing thousands upon thousands of Jell-O recipes and photographs.

Something you know you’ll never ever get tired of doing.

Once Upon a Time, Blogs Were the Devil

You know, when you get right down to it, paper is a colossal waste of time. Everywhere you go, some jerkoff is just sitting there with a stack of paper in front of him, writing notes, doing work, recording some event or emotion for himself or others. You know what, man? I don’t give a shit about what you’re writing! Nobody does! Look at you, all smug and literate, recording words with ink or pencil. Acting like anything you’ve ever done in your entire life is worth memorializing. Where the hell do you get off, man?

And it’s such an invasion of privacy, the way they write things and then shove it in your face, like, “Here, motherfucker! Read this!” I don’t have TIME for that, man! You’re just flushing away your life, writing on paper, when you could be working or playing or building ships in bottles or sitting quietly. Why do you do that to yourself? And even though I don’t actually want to have a conversation with you, you paper-writer, why do you cut yourself off from me, man? It’s sad that we’ve become a society of antisocial misfits… like me.

And that’s why it’s ultimately pointless to bitch about social media.

The Kryptonite of My Annoyance

I don’t know why, but… I really, really, REALLY can’t stand it when non-Cockney/non-southern women speak in “Cockney” or southern accents. It drives me up the fucking wall. Don’t try to be cute and do it around me either. I’ll leave the room.

I’ve got to get back on Twitter. I’m just embarrassing myself here.