Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Reason I Don't Talk Politics Is

Walking in, I spent years reading about and studying the Crusades,  the abuses of the medieval Church, both the reformation and counter-reformation, the Thirty Years War, the Treaty of Westphalia and its effects, the rise of the modern nation-state and then colonial empires, the revolutionary period, industrialism, the Franco-Prussian War, the Treaty of Versailles, the Weimar Republic, the Marshall Plan, the Cold War, the reintegration/post-partition, 9/11, and the rise of postmodern nationalist populism.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why I Am a Skeptic


“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
--Charles Duell, US Patent Office Commissioner (1899)

“Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”
--Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of the US Department of Defense (2002)


“Nobody knows much of anything and we’re all going to die.”
--Me

            I find it somehow both fascinating and boring that we live in what is currently being described as a “post-truth” world.  Indeed, “post-truth” was selected by the Oxford dictionary as the 2016 word of the year.  I am fascinated because people seem to finally be clueing in to how much of the world is swimming in, for lack of a better term, bullshit. But I am bored because even the slightest scratching beneath the surface of those that are referencing post-truth shows that they are still bullshitters themselves, stuck in the endless chamber of “Your tribe is the worst! My tribe is the best!”
            Humans do not handle uncertainty. Humans want control.  This extends to ideas and knowledge.  In my life, I have seen that the most difficult thing for otherwise intelligent people to say is “I don’t know.”  I’ve never heard a one say “I can’t know.”
            It’s not that I don’t have strong feelings, opinions, or beliefs. No one who’s spent a few moments talking to me would say that.  It’s just that behind every single one of them, other than my religious ones, is “except if it turns out I’m 100% wrong, I won’t be that surprised.”  I’d say I have, at best, 95% conviction about the things I’m certain about.   
            What I particularly am fascinated yet bored with is people’s religious worship of “science”, particularly the non-religious who mock faith.  97% of scientists agree on climate change!
            Hold on. I’m not going to do the climate thing. Not yet, anyways.
           
You should listen to your doctor. You absolutely should. I’m not saying otherwise. He or she is doing the absolute best based on the information he/she has at the time to do what’s best for your health, as he/she understands it.  I’m just saying that you need to understand that he/she might very well not really know what he/she is talking about. And it’s not his/her fault. It’s reality.
We live in 2017. This is not the Neolithic or even Medieval times. We know complicated things. Of course we know the simple things.  Of course we do.
Did you know that in 2013, a completely new ligament was found in the knee? (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/13/a-surprising-discovery-a-new-knee-ligament/?_r=0 ) Galen didn’t discover that in 200A.D. Leonardo didn’t in the 1400s.  2013.
Did you know they found (or rediscovered) an entire freaking organ within the past few weeks?  Yeah. The Mesentery. http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/04/health/new-organ-mesentery/
Did you know until less than a year ago, the brain did not really connect to the lymphatic system?  Well, of course it did, but we didn’t know about it:
And then, did you know that your immune system affects your social interactions and perhaps even controls them, because it was only a few months after that brain-lymphatic connection that UVA researchers discovered that as well:

Except, guess what? You can find a study to support nearly everything.  UVA posits the brain lymphatic system, but until it’s replicated and confirmed, who knows?  I certainly don’t. Neither do you. And that’s the issue.
            Nearly every day you can find a study that will say something shocking (you will definitely find boring ones) that supports or upends your beliefs. And guess what?? Who cares?! A study isn’t science. Confirmation and consensus is science.  But that’s boring and takes forever. Headlines grab attention.
            In 2011, articles popped up stating that CERN scientists had discovered neutrinos that broke the speed of light.  Which isn’t actually what happened at all.  Their data indicated that, but they were investigating because anything faster than the speed of light upends physics.  But that was long and decidedly non-sensational, so the articles didn’t state that.  And the articles didn’t do much when it was discovered later that there was a fiber-optic cable issue that accounted for the timing of the neutrinos.  The scientists, following scientific protocol, found that of their own investigation, which is to their credit. (http://nautil.us/issue/24/error/the-data-that-threatened-to-break-physics)
           
            And sometimes, there’s consensus and confirmation, except it turns out there is consensus and everyone assumed confirmation but no one actually confirmed, which is, apparently, what happened when it turned out that daily flossing your teeth has no real scientific basis. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/03/health/flossing-teeth-cavities.html  Of course, that doesn’t say flossing doesn’t protect your teeth, either. Just that the studies don’t specifically show it. So floss. Or don’t.

            Everyone likes to have firm opinions on big things, so from time to time, I get someone who will lean in conspiratorially to confirm that I, of course, agree with them that vaccines are/are not effective.  And I make both camps equally furious when I say, “I don’t know.” Because I don’t. And they don’t either.
            I tend to assume that vaccines work.  I know that polio wasn’t a fear for me the way it was for my parents, and, without looking into it, I figure that’s from vaccines.  But I have no idea. Because I haven’t done any research whatsoever.  And then, if I ever do, I will have to figure out if the information I’m looking at is legitimate. Because most of it’s not.
            I do have 4/5ths of an anthrax vaccine I was forced to receive as an adult when I was in the army.  I wasn’t willing to risk court martial refusing it, so here I am.  Was that vaccine good? Was it fraudulent? I have no idea. It appears there isn’t, nor ever was agreement.
            Anyways, I don’t have kids, but when I do, I’ll look into it. My medical friends have looked at me like I’m a blithering dolt when I didn’t jump to agree with them that of course vaccines are effective, but then I think about new knee ligaments and new organs and I smile and nod until they get it out of their systems.

            Okay. Climate Change. Global Warming.

I dunno. 

I know that I’ve been to Thermopylae. And when I looked out on the famous “Hot Gates” which were so narrow that 300 Spartans (and thousands of allies) could hold back the Persian Hordes, I saw that if you replicated the battle today, the Spartans would be annihilated quickly, because the water is way, way away from where it was 2500 years ago.  Troy/Ilium/Hisarlik is miles away from the waters of the Aegean whence it was 3500 years ago.
            At the South Carolina Aquarium here in Charleston, there’s a map that shows the coastline was 70 miles farther out 17,000 years ago, and if you do the math on that (70 miles = 70*5280 feet= 369,000 feet, which you then divide by the 17,000 years) you end up with about 21 feet of rise per year, on average, since then.  As sea level hasn’t risen by even half a foot in my lifetime, I dunno.
            But 97% of scientists agree that climate change is real!
Let’s make sure we’re talking about the same thing when we talk about that 97%.  Because that’s not all scientists, it’s climate scientists, which makes sense, because what the hell does a biologist or chemist really know about climate trends?  But it turns out that 97% isn’t simply all climate scientists. It’s either from a “random” poll of climate scientists who belonged to two meteorological societies (which one could argue is akin to asking the National Republican Party or National Democrat Party for the consensus opinion of the American people), or it’s from a cursory review of abstracts of papers submitted on climate change or global warming (11,944 such papers), but only those that endorsed a position (97.1% of 4,014 of them). An overwhelming number of the abstracts that discussed global warming or climate change did not endorse a position (the remaining 7,930 of 11,944).
            However, of course, just like Big Tobacco being responsible for all those ads and studies over the years where scientists and doctors said that smoking was fine or perhaps even good for you, Big Oil and Coal and who-have-you can very much be throwing false science into the mix to create a false argument. Of course. 
            However, climate science is big business unto itself.  I got stuck in an argument with a big climate change supporter and when I asked him about the University of East Anglia scandal, he scoffed and said he didn’t know about any “Community College of East Bum(screw)” but “anyone with a brain” knows that climate change is real.  Which was pretty much the moment I realized we were having a discussion where he heard himself talk.
            If you don’t know, the small (to Americans) university in Norwich has what is probably the world’s foremost climatology department, known as the Climatic Research Unit
(http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/about-cru).  So influential is the CRU that it has been involved heavily with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change, “probably more than anywhere else relative to the size of an institution” according to the CRU itself.
            Except, there was Climategate
            Wherein someone hacked the email servers of the CRU and published them and seemed to show that there was a concerted effort to manufacture data to support their positions. Climate Science is a multi-billion dollar “industry” where tax dollars and donations evaporate if it’s proven that man doesn’t affect the environment, mind you. 
            Here’s an outraged article reaming against the scandal:
            Here are two articles saying that there is no scandal and the outrage was hokum spun up by climate deniers:
            You know what I know?        
            I know that both the climate change believers and deniers can’t even agree on the known knowns.  They refuse to acknowledge known unknowns, let alone the possibility of unknown unknowns.
            So at the end of this, what’s my position?
I don’t have one.
I don’t know.
I know there is bias in all kinds of media.  I definitely don’t trust nearly anyone who prattles on about it; that’s for sure.

Is it easy to have to question and look at everything? Of course not. But if you're going through life using the easiest route, you're probably doing it wrong.  It is 100% okay to stay quiet and observe; there is tremendous value to not adding noise to the echo chamber.



You know why I love that Patent Commissioner’s quote I put at the start of all this?  Duell never really said that.  According to this website (http://patentlyo.com/patent/2011/01/tracing-the-quote-everything-that-can-be-invented-has-been-invented.html), it was a misattribution from a comedy magazine.  Of course, I haven’t looked into the nuts and bolts myself, so, as ever, all I can tell you, with any certainty whatsoever, is that nobody knows much of anything and we’re all going to die.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Kim Kardashian Interview

I can make these fuckers dance. Words, I mean. I've been awarded, you know. And now I'm here to sell you Kim fucking Kardashian.

You understand this is an insult to everyone involved, right? But her team, and her, really, thinks (and at this point let's credit them and say "knows") there can't be bad publicity, so here we are. A self-involved literaturist and Kim K. Internally, I howl in disdain, veering on hatred. Externally, I have resting bitch face. Or whatever that is on a man.

And yet, do you have any idea what they're paying me for this? $34,000 for an interview-centered thinkpiece. They have to be hoping it's a hit job. That's the only thing that makes sense. Some snob bashes Ms. Talentless and it rallies her hordes of failures, the ones who watch her show, and buy magazines featuring her, and play her phone game where I-don't-know-and-refuse-to-look-up-anything-about-it-on-principle. Kim Kardashian is a pet rock come to life. But then it just kept sitting there, being a pet rock, but breathing.

And yet. And Yet. AND YET. Who am I? Because her whole "deal" is offensive to me and people like me because it doesn't just feel like a repudiation, it *is* the repudiation of our entire self-value. Intelligence and accomplishment? Meh.

Can I be honest? Like savagely chauvinistically honest? Fuck it, I’m doing it.

She’s some weird gestalt. She’s her ass. She’s her tits. She’s her face. She’s her flawless complexion. She’s her hair. She’s her uptilted voice. She’s her goddamned family. So she’s her sister, and her other sister (you know, the tall one), and her half-sister and the other half-sister and now her brother and her brother’s pregnant Blac Chyna.

I swear that when I wrote the words Blac Chyna, one of my awards disintegrated on the mantelpiece.

But, anyway, she’s all of those things, plus, somethingorother, plus kanye goddamned west.

Oh, Jesus Christ, I just remembered Kris Humphries.

What important in my mind got pushed out so I could hold on to Kris Humphries?

That’s probably why I hate Kim Kardashian: her insipid bullshit has stolen valuable brain real-estate.

But who is she? And who cares? I mean, who really cares?

I have a bazillion-ty IQ. I’ve been published in Harper’s Weekly and the New Yorker. My great-great-grandfather is the Rhodes from the Rhodes Scholarship (let’s gloss over his racism, svp). I got kicked out of prestigious boarding schools and went and did drugs and joined the Marines and wrote that hard-hitting book (you know the one) that made the intelligentsia swoon (I didn’t use punctuation! On purpose!) and then I wrote that play that bombed and tried my hand at screenwriting and then my second novel had punctuation and sold dick and then I was a columnist and then my third novel was fine, but only fine, and then…and then…and now.

So I’m here and I’m me and I’m waiting for Kim Kardashian to appear and I don’t like her because of course I don’t like her. Do we really have to do this?

There are only so many ways that this can even go:
1.     She shows up and is boring and of course
2.     I’m flabbergasted that she’s an astute and clever businesswoman, the depths to her cleaving me to my core
3.     I hit on her to make her uncomfortable because all of this triggers some dormant ape-dominance gene and I want to assert that I have value and who the hell does she think she is?
4.     Words come out of her mouth and does it matter? Does anything matter at this point? Did it ever? Why, God? Why.
5.     We talk about whatever it is she wants to sell because that’s why I’m here and I am a sarcastic asshole because I really want to do this one please.
6.     We talk about whatever it is she wants to sell because that’s why I’m here and I steal the $34,000 by recording what she says and later typing it, verbatim, with no commentary, and I pray the intelligentsia thinks, again, that a gimmick is brilliant.
7.     We tear each other’s clothes off and have furious, vengeful, disappointing sex. I acknowledge the disappointing part is my fault.  I’m a balding, out-of-shape, middle-aged writer. What?

Why did I have to bring sex up? “Have to”. I had to. Seriously. Ray J. Silver paint. Playboy. Break the Internet. Selfies. Had to. 

What’s she going to do when her sexual currency dries up? Will it?

Why in the hell is she popular?

That’s the question. At least, for folks like me. For the others, it’s not a question; it’s nonsensical. She’s popular because she’s popular. It’s the Law of Inertia. Objects in motion stay in motion. Duh.

She’s a mother and a person and why for any and all of this? WHY?

What’s the point?

Could she disappear, even if she wanted to? Why wouldn’t she want to? She can’t want to, right?

I say I’d take the multi-millions (she has to be over 100 million by now and acknowledging that makes me want to stab things) and slink off, but I’ve made considerably less than that, but still good money (and inherited a decent amount; thanks, Cecil), and I’ve refused to slink off myself. Hell, I’m a remora at this point, aren’t I?

And now I’ve been flown to Paris for this. I’ve literally had to pay for my own gas to drive to Des Moines to sign books at a Barnes and Noble, and that goddamned book (the fine third one) took years of my life and a piece of my soul and now Hearst Magazines paid for me to fucking fly to fucking Paris for this. And they paid for the hotel and gave me a reasonable per diem.

Buy Cosmo.

More.

Can you believe I’ve made it this far and I haven’t mentioned Paris Hilton yet?

Or Orenthal James?

But I’m in this room. It’s a hotel room. Why a hotel room for these things?  There are other private places that don’t have a bed. 

I’m a real sexist bastard for the sex thing to keep popping in my head, right?

:/ (Shrugs)

Oh, Christ. She makes money off emojis or some such, doesn’t she?

I’m not looking anything up for this interview; they can go to hell. Who can go to hell? They all can. All of them.

What are we going to talk about? Maybe that’s my opener: “So, Miss Kardashian…or Mrs. West…or Kim…or what the hell do I call you because I don’t actually know you, even though me and everyone else has taken possession of you because you’re everywhere and a part of our lives even though some of us don’t want you to be, have I mentioned I hate you, and, oh wait, what are we going to talk about?”

I brought a notepad for this. Because I’m a professional. But I’m using it to write this out, now aren’t I?

But I’m sitting here in this Parisian hotel room (of course it’s overlooking the Champs) and I’m writing this and I’m waiting on Bruce/Caitlyn’s (former) stepdaughter and I hate this and I hate myself for being here, but you bastards didn’t buy those last two books, so I hate you too. My play wasn’t that bad. Fuck.

Do I get to meet Kris Jenner? I want to meet her. Just for a second. Just to brush up against pure evil. She has to be, right? The multimedia mogul matriarch. Do I have to explain this? She had money. So none of this is for that. Why push her daughter into the limelight? Y’all have heard the “theory” that she sold the sex-tape to Vivid through an intermediary for plausible deniability to drum up publicity for the upcoming show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, right? Because…well, because…  And then she’s pushing the young ones into the limelight. I think. How the hell would I know?

Will I be able to smell the fear of death on her? It has to reek. Like a widow’s perfume (Kris is a widow, after all). That’s what I assume. For that much chutzpah, that much brazen insecurity, well, she has to be terrified of aging and death. Has to be. She’ll look plasticine in real life, won’t she?  Whatever.

I’ll keep it to Kimberley Noel Kardashian. Kimberley Humphries. Kimberley West.

I did it. I just used my phone and looked up something for this and now I know she was married to a guy named Thomas from 2000-2004. So, Kimberley Thomas. Oh, and that Ray J sex tape was from 2003, so legally, that’s adultery, huh?

Can I hate her? Can I please hate her? I don’t know why I feel like I truly need approval for this, but I do.

When she walks in, am I going to notice her butt because it’s noticeable or because it’s the thing I’m supposed to notice?

Oh! The door’s opening. I have to set this down.

Okay, back. To meet the contractual requirements, this has to be a 1500-word piece about Kim Kardashian and it must include dialogue from our interview. 

She walked in the room and said “Hello” and then other things.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Weather Channel Internal Memo for All On-Air Talent

A cousin of mine works at TWC and passed this along:

From: TWC Management
To: All On-Air Talent
RE: BROADCAST REQUIREMENTS

Talent,
We are thankful and appreciative of your routine efforts, however, we are a business, and all our market research and tracking shows that we don't make money based on your average, everyday forecasts.  

Advertisers pay beyond what they would for virtually no viewers on a day-to-day basis on the regular occurrence of a catastrophe that we can massage.

We have a country that spans a continent.  There is a weather event we can work with on AT-LEAST a weekly basis.

So, TWC requires that you and your production teams MUST:


1. USE YOUR IMAGINATION. Look. Let's be blunt. We love you and so we hired you and continue to pay you, but TWC is not the pinnacle of a broadcasting career. If you want to get back on track, you're going to need stand out. Take some risks, be a trifle ridiculous, go for it.  Maybe don't go so overboard that you go viral and it hurts you down the road, but we will NEVER tell you to turn it down. 

2. DRAMATIZE. Do so to the point of being ridiculous. People will roll their eyes, but they will still watch. AND THEY WILL KEEP TWC ON ALL DAY if the event impacts them. Do you have any idea what Red Lobster pays during even a tropical depression?! 

3. OVERSTATE.  Add 33% to the impact area AND the effects.  Hell, add 50% if you think you can remotely justify it.  Did you find someone willing to support a S.W.A.G. (Silly Wild Ass Guess)? Put them on air and see if you can brow beat them into hyperbole. You can do it. We believe in you. 

4. DEADLY-FY. If a tree branch can fall on a baby, without a storm, you can explain the dangers of rain! and wind! and debris! and tides! and waves! and dust! and fill-in-the-blank!  Always appeal to the danger to children and the elderly. ALWAYS.

5. 
GET WET. Wade in the surf; have someone off-camera spray you with a garden hose. We don't care. We get a spike in viewership if y'all look miserable, courageous, and endangered.

6. 
LIFE INSURANCE WILL PAY OFF QUADRUPLE IF YOU DIE ON AIR.  Only to the first one to take us up on this. We retain rights to your life story and your death story.

7. INSIST THIS ISN'T LIKE THE LAST TIME WE DID THIS. Can't preach this enough.  Find any minute difference in situations and explain how the current "threat" must be taken seriously. DEADLY SERIOUSLY. Then do what you always do.

8. DON'T SPEAK TO JIM CANTORE UNTIL JIM CANTORE SPEAKS TO YOU. DON'T LOOK JIM CANTORE IN THE EYES. He's a god. You're not.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Notes Whilst Storm Prepping

Whilst house-and-dog-sitting, ordinarily, my duties are to keep the dog and plants alive and to ravage the pantry.  This time we have a tropical storm/depression rolling through.  I'm in the midst of a bout of insomnia whereby I begrudgingly fall asleep at 2-3am and then pop awake, against all desire otherwise, at 5-6am.  These are my thoughts as I get the house in order:


1.  The tiny, yapping dog does not understand why the furniture that gets used twice a year (screened-in back porch) and the furniture that gets used never (open front porch) are coming in to live with the furniture that gets used all the time.  

2.  Neither do I.

3.  The tiny, yapping dog thinks I'm really bad at this new furniture placement and that I'm really %$#!ing up the feng-shui.  

4.  He's not wrong.

5.  Note to self: as with the lessons learned from moving a bajillion times in life, never have a thing you don't use once a month, at least. 

6. You can make do without. 

7. Diogenes got down to only having a bowl in his life, until he saw a pauper drink water by cupping his hands; then he got rid of the bowl.

8. Anti-materialism is commendable, but Diogenes was a bit of a prig.

9.  The dog does not understand why the plants that live on the porch must come in.

10.  That's no surprise because, even before the storm/plant movement, the dog did not understand why plants, which are designed to be outdoors are kept outdoors, on the porch, but in a place where they must be watered.

11.  Neither do I.

12. Note to self: nothing living that can't contend for itself should be in my future home. 

13. Strikes out plants, pets, and babies.  

14. Probably a trophy wife too.  

15. My home will be a cold, stark fortress. 

16.  But it will be a monument to self-sufficiency.

17.  It takes a week for the dog to think its loving masters are dead and I, the heartless humanoid who dutifully fills bowls and opens doors (yet shows zero affection whatsoever) am, if not the life giver, the life-allower.  
18.  After which, he follows my every movement by walking a micron next to/under me, just to make sure I don't abandon him too.  

19.  This is not helpful when lugging unwieldy, dripping plant pots indoors.

20.  Big Green Eggsare wondrous. 

21.  Until I have to lug one, by myself, with a tiny yapping dog underneath my feet, into a garage through a narrow side door. 

22.  A narrow side door with an 8 inch lip.  

23.  Then, Big Green Eggsare 100+lbs ceramic monstrosities without handles and if I drop or chip this one, my life will be over, because the sort of people who buy them (in this case, my mom's husband) are *that* serious about grilling. 

24.  Storm Prep for the boat was so much easier.

25.  Checked the lines.

26.  Cut the power to the boat.

27.  Raised a prayer to the Almighty to either let the Argo come through without a scratch or to mercilessly sink it.

28.  Disaster is if it gets beat beyond recognition but still floats.

29.  If I were homeless, I'd figure out how to get to Key West or Hawaii.  

30.  They don't have soup kitchens for the homeless in hot places, right? 

31.  Soup's too warm for hot places.

32.  Cucumber sandwich kitchens?

33.  I hate cucumbers.

34.  Tomato sandwich kitchens!

35.  I wonder what mayo they'd use?

36. Dad's family is a Duke's™ family.

37.  Mom's family is a Hellman's family.

38.  I'm 37 and I haven't definitively chosen yet.

39.  That makes me some sort of Southern heretic, I'm pretty sure.

40.  Okay; I'm choosing: I'm going Hellman's

41. Well, maybe I should find a neutral third one. 

42. Then I'm not back to being an 8 year old and having my parents make me choose between them again.

43.  Well, that was a dark joke.

44.  I could go hipster and make my own mayo; it's just vinegar and egg whites, I think.  

45.  Obama's the 45th president, right?

46. I need to get some sleep.

48. I'm not making much sense anymore.

34. When was the last time I really made sense anyway.

4012. tgaklg2415@#%^^NA$! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Monday, April 11, 2016

An Open Letter to All Single Women: I Give Up

I just don't know what to do about you women. I am besides myself. I am verklempt, for crissakes.

How many times am I supposed to put my heart out there, unprotected, for you women only for y'all to casually dismiss me? If you even notice me in the first place...


All of the waitresses and bartendresses I leave 40% tips for when I go out six nights a week...

The randos I buy top shelf liquor for each night...

The one really pretty, ginger barrista over at Kudu's who calls me 'hun' when she hands me my double-soy half-mocha latte but always pretends she can't understand what I'm saying when I ask for her number...

I'm not good enough for ANY of y'all?!?! 

You gotta be kidding me.

I clearly don't know what women want because it sure as shit isn't perfection. 

Because that's me, baby: fucking perfection.

I mean, I'm not some nancy-boy model, but that's the point. I'm a real man. I have most of my hair and some of it's grey, because I'm not a child. Know how else I'm not a child? My eyebrows are cordlike and menacing. My face isn't sun-damaged; it's weathered. Weathered is to faces as aging is to wines, dumbasses.

And don't even get me started on my body. 

Look, a man's muscles are supposed to be there for when he needs them, not to look pretty in a mirror. 

And that's how I have the platonic ideal of a modern man body: I don't have much muscle because I don't need it. Seriously, nearly everything I'd need muscles for, I can press a button and some machine does it for me. 

And don't give me that crap about needing muscles and cardio for sex. A) You're the ones who pointlessly spend hours each week pilate-zoomba-yoging so you can do all the thrashing around required and B) I don't really need cardio or muscles for the three minutes of sex that you'd let me have with you twice a week anyways. BOOM! (DROPS MIC)

Also, I have a natural pimp strut. This limp is macho as hell. And if chicks dig scars, they'd need a backhoe or an industrial mining drill for the gruesome seven-incher down my leg that looks like a nightmare version of one of the millipedes from Temple of Doom.

And let's get real about my body.  Here's the truth:  I'm 36. I'm middle-aged.  Unlike the other guys my age who have gained 50lbs in the past few years,  I've methodically added four pounds each year since college, like clockwork, so I get all the positives of a sexy-ass dad-bod with none of the tiger-striping grossness of stretch marks.  I'm like an adorable, smooth-bellied buddha.  

An adorable smooth-bellied buddha with most of his hair, and fierce eyebrows, and a weathered, manly-ass face. 

I rest my case.

No, I don't really, because that's the thing. I'm not just an object.

I hate how shallow women are about little things like "success" and "career potential".  Don't y'all realize how little we all control what happens to us? I mean, I did all the right things; I technically have a doctorate-level degree after all.  Shit happens, is my point.

It's not my fault the economy tanked and I am living on a tiny sail boat that's older than I am. 

I mean, sure, I could have "tried harder" to find a "traditional job" that "paid my bills", but I'm an artist, baby.  I gotta be me. 

And right now, being me means living on that dinghy.  Well, it did, until I hurt my leg and had to start crashing at my mom's place. 

You know, to hold that against me is kinda sexist because I shouldn't have it be a black mark that I have a healthy, reciprocally beneficial relationship with a woman (mom). I get a place where there's a bathroom that I don't have to pour over the side of the boat, and she gets to help me with my bills a few times a month. It empowers her. 

But fine, I admit I'm not top shelf right now, but I'm one hell of a buy low opportunity. You have to admit that.

Also, aside from success, let's talk about personality. I've got one hell of a winner here. Because I keep it real. And by "real," I mean "moderately depressed." Any man my age who's an optimist has had a lobotomy or access to all the best drugs for over well over a decade.  

A real man should have a personality that reads like a PTSD checklist. Am I bitter? Check. Do I hate groups? Check. Do I not talk about my feelings? Check. Am I highly apathetic? Check. Do I drink too much? Check. Do I blow a fuse at the drop of a hat? Check. Do I fear change? Super-check.

Nowadays, candy-asses think those are negatives. When I was growing up, those were considered virtues.  

Also, because nothing matters to me, I'm more than happy to let you do whatever silly, pointless crap you want. We can get a mini-van and go on a wine tour of Napa and I'll wear the $200 asshat shirt you bought me and insist I wear and I'll go to a "stylist" for my haircuts.  It's all fine with me because none of it moves the needle. At all. Seriously.  How is this not the biggest PRO in my favor? I don't get it. 

Not that I care much whether I get it.

But I really would like someone to coddle me and pay attention to me and look at me with intense unrestrained longing and I just don't know what else I can do to make that happen. 

I guess what I'm saying is, y'all need to step your game up and get your shit together, ladies. Because I'm not going to stay on the market for long.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thank a Veteran

I was a soldier once...and young. Now, I'm not old, but I also ain't young. And, these days, I could only fit in my old uniforms with a steel shoehorn and a liberal application of grease. But the soldier mindset is still in here, buried under the accretions of the decade of subsequent civilian life.

And here I am now, a(n intentionally) goofy, (unintentionally) pudgy dude at the dawn of middle age, out with friends at a loud dive bar after a wedding rehearsal party:

Maid of Honor (MOH; a pretty-enough ~25yo blonde from Ohio): mumblemumblemumble

Me: What!?

Bride to Be (BTB; my friend, also an attractive, blonde Ohioan): Ajax can barely hear! He was in the army.

BTB wanders off.

MOH: You were in the army?!

Me: Yeah! I used to play with cannons!

MOH: You ever kill anyone?

This is tricky. We're out at a bar. We've been drinking. No, I didn't initiate this, but stopping and lecturing and nuking the atmosphere isn't the right call. At the same time, I never let anyone who asks that think it's okay. But I also try to be delicate.  

To be explicit, it is NOT okay. 

First and foremost, it is a useless question; there is no positive, for any answer, for anyone, in that conversation.  If I killed someone and I feel bad about it, was finding out worth making me feel bad? If I killed someone and I *don't* feel bad about it, was finding out worth being uncomfortable because, whee!, you're talking to a cold-hearted killer now?  Also, what good is the knowledge about my killing someone?  If you haven't killed someone too, we're not going to really understand each other. It's like knowing a chinese word but not knowing what it means. You can say the sound out loud; hell, you might even be able to draw it perfectly, but you don't get it or know when or how to use it.  So what's really the point of knowing it?

 Anyways, the vast majority understand that asking someone if they've killed someone else is an "indelicate" question at best, and a "fucking rude" one at worst.   Coincidentally, it has only ever been attractive young women who have asked me that. I go with my response I've used for the others.

Me: It's okay that you asked me that, because I wasn't a doorkicker and I *didn't* shoot anyone, but that's not really an appropriate question to ask a veteran.

The other times I've replied with that, the girl has invariably said "Oops. My bad. I didn't realize. Sorry." and I've said, "No worries." and that's been that.  However, MOH somewhat aggressively rejoins: 

MOH: Why not? 

Me: Well, because killing people, even if justified, leaves a mark on someone and it's kinda rude to bring it up.

MOH: I don't see why. That's what you signed up to do: to kill people.

I'm shocked and confused.

Me: No. I commissioned because I'm from a military family and it's a tradition.

She carries on aggressively.

MOH: Whatever. The whole point of the army is to kill people. That's why you joined.

I'm taken aback.

Me: No. And if anything the guys I know and I joined to protect people.

MOH: That's just your 'white privilege' talking.

At this point, I see red. As in, my vision literally flashes red, as a well of anger erupts that I'm wholly unaccustomed to feeling.  

I will be frank: only a woman would say anything remotely like this and not understand before saying it that she was inviting a punch to the face. I'm not saying violence is appropriate or commendable, but men know there are lines that they risk crossing that will result in violence. 100% of men in this situation (antagonizing a veteran about service) would know they ran the very real risk of getting decked.  

However, I am not a personally violent person and I try my best to control myself, so I take a very deep breath and push the anger down.

Me: That doesn't even make sense, if not the majority, huge numbers of minorities are in the military.

MOH: Yeah, poor people sign up because they don't have other options. But even then most people sign up to go shoot people.

At this point, since breaking her nose is not on the table, and having a back and forth with a jerk is not going to accomplish anything other than making me madder and madder, I pause for a moment, and then go meta.

Me: I don't understand why you're being antagonistic.

MOH: What do you mean? I'm not being antagonistic. 

Me:  Yes, you are. And you know you are.  We are out, AFTER OUR FRIENDS' REHEARSAL PARTY, and you're insulting me to my face and doing it knowing you're insulting me. Why? For what purpose? Is messing up the night your goal?

Now she's shocked, because I called her on it.

MOH: No, I'm not, I mean...

Me: Yes, you are.

The Bride to Be wanders back in to our conversation. She smiling.

BTB: What's up?

Me: Nothing. I gotta grab another beer. You want anything?

I smile for her and wander off to the bar. No reason to tank her night with her friend's bullshit.  I go to the bar and ask for a cup of water.  I stand there, slowly sipping water and stewing. A couple of friends come over and ask me to join them, but I demur and, after a while, I slip out and head home.