Just one of those moments I had to share

I'm eating a bite of lunch in this building's cafeteria thingy, writing on a new story, when I looked up and saw this:

Just had to share the moment.

Abuse my language and I'll punish you.

A true story from twenty-two minutes ago:

I was on the 2nd floor of a building. I needed to get to the 9th floor. I entered an elevator, where two men stood talking to one another. When I pushed the "9" button, I noticed that they were riding up to the 35th floor.

During my comparatively short ride, I overheard the conversation between the men, one wearing a polo shirt and golfing gloves, the other wearing a long jacket and a "Ping" hat:

Glof-gloves: "Well, our strengths are actually our weaknesses. Our autonomy serves as a vector for success in most cases, but we need to be more maneuverable in our own enterprise."

Ping hat: "You're right, if we don't leverage the opportunities that web 2.0 gives us on B-to-B opportunity, we won't realize internal expansion within the marketplace... And we can't grow."

Golf-gloves: "I'll call Diane... Have her assemble a hit-squad for metrics gathering and leverage-metering."

Ping hat: "Good idea. Talk to marketing also... See if there's a way to measure resource attitude toward such an adjustment."

Golf-gloves: "Will do... So I noticed your iron-game has gotten better..."

That's when I stopped paying attention.

Why the hell couldn't they say it this way:

Golf-gloves: "We're a big company, doing our own thing our own way. Maybe we should pay attention to how others are doing things."

Ping hat: "Yeah... The new tools on the web, along with faster connections, could allow us to work with our partners a little more closely."

Golf-gloves: "Yup. Diane and her group can probably come up with some numbers in their sleep that make us feel better about pretending we care, but not actually changing anything."

Ping hat: "Sure, and we can send a survey around to everyone, get 17% of them back, and learn nothing."

Golf-gloves: "Okay. I see you've been wasting a lot of your precious time left on this planet whacking a stupid white ball with a hunk of odd-shaped metal, and you're totally getting better at it..."

To punish them for misusing the structures and words that completely devastate the very fabric of what makes language such a wonderful tool for communication, I farted just as the doors opened on my floor and walked away proud, knowing that they still had 26 floors to go.


An actual new article series?

It seems like every time I do a posting about "rules of the whatever" or "how to do a thing" people dig it and then they digg it. Maybe I should make that a regular thing... Articles on how to do "X" based on my stupid observations and experiences with doing it. And for some reason, putting the word "Actually" in there seems to make it more important, like I know what the hell I'm talking about.

How to actually pay off your debt
How to actually write a book
How to actually SELL a book
How to actually move away from home (and not need my "how to actually pay off your debt" article or starve to death)
How to live with a roommate
How to actually handle a job interview (including how to write a resume someone will read)

Anyone else think this is a good idea? Or is it just dumb?


The exact reason I want to learn to play drums, in one video

So, a buddy of mine who plays drums professionally (and whom I've always admired for being so good at them) heard I was FINALLY going to quit all my art-school armchair critic nonsense regarding music and actually take up an instrument. So he sent me this video, and my jaw dropped - it's my favorite Tool song played by my favorite drummer alive today:

(Can't see the video above? Here's a link)

Every young boy does two things when they listen to rock music:

1) play air guitar

2) tap ANYTHING in front of them like they're playing the drums.

I did that a lot growing up... And I still do. More tapping than air guitar, however... And so the Rock Band game was a godsend for me - it allowed me to goof around and babystep my way into becoming interested in an instrument I never knew I always wanted to play.

I'm an INSANE Tool fan (make damn sure that, if you ever quote me on this, you include the word 'fan' in there or I'll come spit on you). I've adored them for years, and not due to the dark, mysterious nature of all the melodrama they've spun up and created for themselves. For me, it's always been about this rich, textured, multi-time-signatured sound they created - and a large part of that has always been Danny's drumwork. The thing is, even though I was hearing the notes and the timing and the cymbalwork and appreciating it from a fan's perspective, I never quite heard what I hear in it now that I'm actually learning this crap. And just when I thought my respect for him and his craft was at 100%, he goes and adds on a new wing to the meter so he can fill it up even more.



New homepage for Joe

I am pleased to announce about a week late that there is a new Joe The Peacock site. I'm not really pleased because it's new, or because it's mine - I'm pleased because the guy who did all the work, Mr. Jeremy Halvorsen, did a fantastic job. I designed it, he came up with the nifty HTMLS and JAMMASCRIPS and Cascading SS'es and whatnot.

Special mega huge kudos to Aleks Hadden, for the badass drawing.

I wrote some text on the site. I think I did a good job on that part.

Contextual ads gone wacko (or, more succinctly, WHAT THE HELL?)

I looked over my entire profile, and I cannot figure out for the life of me where the hell this ad could have been triggered. And also, as far as fetishes go, it's probably one of the more focused and benign that I've heard of. I'm just wondering how many closeted hairy-forearm-lovers there are out there.


Mailbag: 'Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank'"

I still get email just about every single week about the Wal-Mart Story.

On average, I'd say 90% of it ranges from positive to extremely positive, while 9% of it consists of "Bullshit!" and "No way this happened!" and "If it did, it'd be on the news!" They tend to miss the bits that explain that a) the event happened in 1996 and b) it WAS in the news.

Then, there's that 1% of mouth-breathing internet sleuths who feel that it's their moral responsibility to be as huge a hard-on about things as possible, and then they read my story and for a time, I'm the sole focus of their discharge.

Which leads me to AJ:

SUBJECT: Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank"
FROM: AJ [email withheld]
DATE: 01.27.2008 8:12 AM

Hello -

I recently stumbled upon your "Wal Mart Prank" website (at http://www.zug.com/pranks/walmart/index.html). I thought it was generally hillarious, but the fact that it ended with Wal Mart losing a significant amount of money and being open to lawsuits (people tend to sue when exposed to German shit porn, it's weird, but it happens), I thought it was sort of mean spirited, really.

I have taken the liberty of forwarding the URL of your account of the prank to the Wal Mart corporate offices. Maybe they'll think it was funny too, I don't know.

Still, kudos on your revenge.

- a.
"Conservative say: there ain't no black in the union jack / Democrat say: there ain't enough white in the stars and stripes" - The Manic Street Preachers, "Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldfallapart"

Wow. I mean...


What do you say to that? Wait, I know:

SUBJECT: RE: Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank"
FROM: Joe [you already know how to reach me]
DATE: 01.27.2008 9:02 AM

Thanks, AJ! I appreciate your wanting to "clue them in," but they've been "clued in" over the past 5 years, as that story was written and published in 2003 and is quite old here n the grand old interwebs. Additionally, the actual incident happened in 1996, and there was quite a bit of recourse discussed and taken. They've even asked me not very politely to remove the story from my site (and others) repeatedly. I'm fairly certain they already know.

But thanks for being so diligent on the behalf of the colossal corporation who woefully underpays migrant labor and physically locks them in fulfillment warehouses, to the point where a woman had a heart attack and no one could open the padlocks on the fire exits to allow emergency services to get to her. They were also single-handedly responsible for the demise of the old Huffy corporation and are the reason you can't find a single-owner / non-chain food or supply store within 20 miles of any town above 50,000 in population. But good on you for keeping those guys up to date on old information.

You may wish to explore the Zapruder film next... Let the government know that Kennedy was shot. They'll appreciate the hot tip.

Hope you have a great one.

Joe Peacock
(my email sig)

Not that I would ever want to discourage anyone reading my stories - or from the act of reading in general... But really, is it too much to ask for people to PLEASE comprehend what they're reading? Or at the very least, have a bit of common sense about it?


Within one minute of my pushing "publish" on this here bloggy thing, AJ wrote back:

SUBJECT: Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank"
FROM: AJ [email withheld]
DATE: 01.27.2008 9:18 AM

It's not really that I am in the service of large and particularly evil corporations. It's more a sort of vigilante quest to rid the world of self-important jackasses who blog about how they "stick it to the man" via petty and childish acts of revenge on people whom he considers inferior for working in Wal Mart.

Ah, but we were all young once. I bet you sit at a desk now, and get to look down on a completely new class of people.

My sincere apologies for not knowing about your little essay when it was first posted on the internet. I remember back in 1996 when everyone was talking about you, and there were all those front page stories in all of the national newspapers. I guess it was really my loss, really. I look forward to reading anything else you've written. Have you ever felt a sense of smug self-importance about any other minimum wage occupations? I'd love to hear about it.

All My Love,

Somehow, I don't think he really sent me ALL his love in that email. I think he was withholding... You know, skimming from the top, and handing me the leftovers. Anyway, I would have just ignored it, but I couldn't help lowering myself into this narrow little gutter of email bickering... It's been so long since I've had a good Tête à Tête on the internête:

SUBJECT: RE: Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank"
FROM: Joe [you already know how to reach me]
DATE: 01.27.2008 9:38 AM (I had to get some cereal, hence the delay)

Well, how to answer this...

First, regarding all the media coverage in 1996, the event was in the local papers here, but I'm sure it didn't reach you because the national media - at least back then - knew exactly how much relevance an event like this had... Meaning not all that much.

Second, as far as my having other minimum wage jobs I like to be smug about - I sure do! As it happens, I think that I'm particularly superior to internet vigilantes! I tend to think my overall social rank is higher, my level of intelligence is greater, and my reading comprehension skills and level of common sense tops theirs by a rather large amount. So far, no communication with such individuals have proven me wrong... Who knows, maybe one will surprise me one day. Time will tell.

And no, I don't sit at a desk. I prefer to do my self-important work from bed... Why bother to even get up?

Anyway, good luck with your task of cleansing ego from peoples' personal webspaces. You do know, AJ, there's a far easier and probably healthier solution to your perceived problem... You could just... You know...

Not read any of it.

But somehow, I doubt you'll see that as a fair fix. Somehow - and I'm basing this solely on my smug perception of your chosen profession - you'll want to dismiss any logic-based courses of action and, instead, fire off another hot-headed email full of diligence and "I'm going to save the world from this self-important guy!" And you'll spend even more resources on a Sunday morning attempting to fufill this task, giving me more and more material for my personal blog (which, by the way, I thank you for - I was stuck on what to write today... Maybe there IS some function to what you do after all).

Take care,

Joe Peacock

** Update Again **

You know what? AJ isn't such a bad guy after all.

SUBJECT: Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank"
FROM: AJ [email withheld]
DATE: 01.27.2008 9:54 AM

'Round and round it goes. Have you ever noticed that everyone is always right? At least, they seem to assert that they are always right. I think the internet is rather dangerous in that it gives everyone a rather over inflated sense of whatever it is that people do with their computers. Porn or something. It can't be healthy for one's ego.

I am not entirely certain what I can contribute to your blog. You seem to be bemused by the fact that I am reading something that's old, yet that's what happens when you put something on the internet and don't remove it. People stumble upon it and read it. Again, my apologies for not sending you an e-mail way back when so that I could call you an asshole in a more timely manner. It really does seem rude of me to read something and then contact the person whose name is on it. I suppose that being a dick isn't the best form of criticism, but it is funny to me. If I had a blog, I would write something funny about all of this there, but I want to see how long you are willing to respond to my e-mails.

Seriously though, me being a dick aside.......the overall tone of the Wal Mart piece was rather self-absorbed. I don't know if this was purposely exaggerated for comic value, but it does ruin the whole story when the guy you are suppose to be rooting for begins his tale by talking about how much better he is than everyone else involved. You should have portrayed yourself as the friendly new guy, struggling to get along with your coworkers but somehow never accepted. As it is, I don't think the reader feels much sympathy when it is revealed that they all conspired to have you fired. You kind of come off as a dick. If I worked with you, I'd probably try to fuck with you too.

And I still maintain that it's just mean to subject innocent bystanders to shit porn. Damn. Just damn.

Oh, I suppose you are right. I could just not read it. But you know how it goes, you're clicking around on the internet, you see something, and you have to actually read it to know what the hell it is, since the internet relies fairly heavily on text. To your credit as a writer, I was entertained enough to continue on to the second paragraph, but then I just kept going out of morbid curiosity, and in the end I was just mad that it didn't really go anywhere. That's probably why I'm writing these hot-headed e-mails. I can't very well ask for my money back, can I?

I hope this helps your funny website.

Hugs and kisses,


SUBJECT: RE: Regarding your essay, "The Wal Mart Prank"
FROM: Joe [you already know how to reach me]
DATE: 01.27.2008 9:38 AM (I had to get some cereal, hence the delay)

See, now THIS is a tone I can communicate with. Thank you.

There are a few things playing to the tone in the Wal-Mart story, and because you took the time to share your opinion of both the action and the literary qualities of the piece, I'll share with you my perception of it:

1) I was just "starting" with writing when I wrote that story. I didn't even know I was going to end up making a book or turning this into a career - in fact, I don't think the term "Blog" had even been invented yet. I was just trying to get a laugh out of my audience at the time - which consisted of my circle of friends and a few folks each of them knew, and that's all. So the tone suffers a bit from lack of experience in communicating #2:

2) I was going for an unsympathetic "characterization" of myself, because I truly was a dick. I was a young, impetuous teenager who - like all teenagers, impetuous or not - felt the world owed him something. I worked at Wal-Mart, and I honestly did take the job seriously... But once I discovered the other employees screwed me over, I got smug. The story is told from the vantage point of someone who feels completely justified with themselves and their actions, regardless of how shitty. Because that's how I felt at the time... Both after the event, and while writing it (although, when I wrote it, there was much more self-awareness playing into it and I realized that, even though I still amuse myself thinking about what I did, there was certainly a "dick" or "asshole" factor playing into what I'd done [which is why I portrayed myself so unsympathetically - joe]).

So, you have a newish writer playing with communicating tone and theme through an event that truly was assholish - yet, still to this day I believe justified.

And with the portion of your reply that explained why you emailed me and acted the way you did, you won me over - because that's precisely why I emailed you back and put you on my blog. It made ME laugh.

I suspect that, if this were happening in real life, this latest reply-exchange would be the beers we were laughing over as we figured out that we're really the same sorts of guy and didn't need to punch each other in the parking lot to find out.

With that, my friend, I'm going to bid you a fond adieu, and offer to send you a book if you'd like one. That would involve sending me your mailing address, and I know that - if it were me - I'd probably be hesitant, so I'll point you to the Google books version:


I hope you enjoy it.


To close it all out, he's accepting my offer of a book, and I'm looking forward to hearing back from him on what he thinks of it.

Ahh, the internet... Bringing people closer together through digital vitrol.


The birthday curse

I wanted to wait until today to say it but...

Aside from having to stay late talking to a client yesterday, I had a really happy birthday. And today, I got to go fast and danger on my snowboard for a while. And that was good.

And tomorrow, it's supposed to snow.

The curse... Is broken.


Science agrees with me: January 24th sucks

I believe I linked to this at some point before, but in light of my most recent series of stories about how bad my birthday has traditionally been, I figure it was relevant to provide proof that it's not just me -

Scientists have officially claimed January 24th is the worst, most depressing day of the year.

SO THERE, I'm not just being a big whiny baby.

Gettin' Grown

Today is my 31st birthday.

I've learned a lot of things in my nearly 1/3 a century on this planet, and I've written a book and a half about many of those lessons (actually, if you counted just the number of stories I've written as chapters, there's enough now to make about 6 books... They'd suck, but there'd be 6 of them).

As one ages, one tends to regard oneself in the third person, especially near or on their birthdays. And one of the things that tends to bear itself out is a reflection upon what kind of person they are (or might be, or wish they were). For Joe, the answer has been less than clear.

I'm a football playing software developer who reads comic books, writes books on the internet, reads books on string theory and market-driven economics on the toilet, and has a black belt in judo. I still play dungeons and dragons, I am learning to play the drums, and I snowboard. I like huge bowls of kids cereals in the morning and routinely eat my dessert before my meal. I am married to the love of my life, have a house and a car, and still find money to buy the newest video games when they come out - to which I dedicate about 5 hours a week during busy weeks, 20 hours during time off. I can recite every (not "just about every" - EVERY) line of dialogue from every Star Wars movie, and I know how to build shelves from unfinished planks of wood and lay flooring and replace a bad alternator in my truck (and no, it's not because I also know how to call a mechanic on the cellphone).

This is who I am. There is no reason for it, except that I am me, and I like what I like and do what I do. The one thing I've learned above all other things is that society likes to build these neat little labeled buckets and put people in them. Nerd, Geek, Jock, Businessman, Secretary, Salesperson, Retail Associate, Barista.

Man. Woman. Child. Adult. Old Man. Juvenile.

The labels fit because we choose not to grow out of them... Or outright stretch them out until they no longer sit where they're placed without considerable effort (or stupidity).

Despite what my parents and teachers and aunts and uncles and society have told me, there isn't been a point at which you just stop playing video games or start caring about sports or have to buy a house. There's no clear line delineating the difference between "childhood" and "adulthood"; or dreams and reality for that matter. There's no enforcement of rules stating that you must do, say, like, think or be anything you don't want to - or that you can't do them if your label says you shouldn't. You can be and do anything you want. The thing that we have instilled in us from the earliest parts of our life, about there being rules? It's wrong.

There are no rules.

There are only consequences for actions taken... Good and bad. There's no rule saying you can't make a movie with a handheld camera and some free editing software - there's only the consequence that it won't look like a big budget Hollywood dealy (whether that's good or bad remains to be seen). Same with learning to sew or riding your mountain bike down a steep hill... If you prick your finger, you bleed; if you fall off the thing, you get bumps and bruises and broken body parts. If you don't, you end up with a nice pillow or a thrilling sensation that reminds you how alive you are.

I have so much more to learn... It's daunting to think about the things I just know NOTHING about, and it's downright scary to think about all the stuff I once thought I knew everything about and got completely wrong. But one thing I do know - and I know I'm 100% right about - is that life is what YOU make it. Everyone says that, and it's cliche, but it's completely true.

You don't have a high school education and you want to be a successful stock trader? The only thing you have to do is make wise choices on which stocks to buy and sell at whatever given moment. The stock doesn't care what tattoos you have or where your diploma is from or that you're on your seventh playthrough of Mass Effect just to see what happens when you're a female and pursue the female-on-female romantic storyline (ok, fine, that happened on the first playthrough... But give me some leeway, I'm illustrating a point here). The stock doesn't even know, nor can it. The only thing that matters is that you were wise enough to buy low and wise enough to sell high. Everything else is irrelevant.

It's the exact same thing with writing software, playing drums, reading comic books, learning judo, playing football... It simply does not matter what else you do, have done, will do, like, don't like... All that matters is that you commit yourself to learning whatever it is you are doing, learn the way you like to do it, and do it the best you can. Pass or fail, you're doing it. Worst case scenario, you don't succeed at it, and you learn a how not to fail at it that way ever again. Absolute worst case: you go learn how to do something else.

And other peoples' opinions of what you do and how you do it? Well... While it's absolutely wonderful to get glowing praise over work you create and do, and it hurts to hear negative opinion or trolling when you've spent days and weeks and months working on learning to do something, the only thing that really affects is how you feel at the moment. Does it actually physically restrain you from doing it? No. Not at all. It feels good or feels yucky, but it doesn't stop you from doing anything (or help you along in doing it, either). If you want to do something - TRULY want to do it, and not just want the praise that goes along with holding the title of "thingmaker" - other peoples' opinion of what you do will simply be cheering or jeering on the sidelines. You're the one on the playing field, and you're the one who has to live your life

As my friend Jeremy is fond of quoting Dr. Seuss as saying, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”

It's worked for me thus far, anyway.


Dylan the spammer (and his babies)

So, I got this little bit o' spam today:

Dear, Acting Classes with Nick Conti

Your listing on gomylocal is being updated, please review and check that your details are correct.

Acting Classes with Nick Conti
Atlanta, GA 30305

"Rewriting the book on local search"

With our new site additions, you now have the flexibility to manage your own listing! With a login to your own dashboard you can edit your details whenever you like.

Wishing you all the best with your business,

The gomylocal Team
“Your local business directory”

Because I know Nick, and because I'm not Nick, I was intrigued as to why the hell I was getting spam about listing him in some sort of directory. But more than that, I was annoyed, because this was the FIFTH time I'd received the exact same email.

So I replied:

Joe Peacock wrote:

Hi there,

Please die in a fire. Or, failing that, don't send me this crap again.


I didn't think much of it when I did it. Occasionally, I'll bait a spammer just to see if they reply, but in this case, I was mostly just gambling that a real person was behind the scheme and that, perhaps, my email would get him to knock it the fuck off.

Well... It kinda worked:

Dylan wrote:

Hi Joe,

Please accept my apologies for the unannounced email.

Gomylocal is an online Yellow Pages and Local Business Directory. We list your business as a free service, along with approximately 15 million other businesses nationwide.

We do acknowledge that some of our data is in need of an update, so this was the reason for our email to you (we have sent the same email to over approximately 2 million other businesses also).

Please rest assured that our email was not intended to harm you or mislead you in any way,

Regarding me dieing in a fire, i am sure my babies would be a little upset by that... thanks for your kind words!

Kind regards,

Dylan [withheld]

It strikes me immediately that, while the rest of the entire email is spelled and punctuated correctly, the line about "dieing" in the fire and his babies lacks such attention to detail - so I'm CERTAIN this is a prefab response to people demanding they be removed from the list, and he just tacked on his own personal message (and no, i'm not going to reprint his email and full name here... Not yet, anyway. Last time I did that, the MI forum people destroyed this poor spammer guy, and I kinda feel bad for Dylan here... Unless he spams me again. Then, the wolves shall be unleashed)

So I wrote him back and let him know where I stood:

Joe Peacock wrote:


While I wouldn't want any harm to befall your family, I will say that blind marketing (in some circles, called "spamming") is not exactly smiled upon, especially by those of us who have been around this here interweb thingy long enough to have had enough of it to build fires for people to die in. Please know that I want to exclude your family from any wishes of flame-related demise. They're fine people, Dylan. Fine people.

As a person, outside of your chosen career, I'm sure you're a fine guy as well. I don't know you, but in my mind's eye, you're quite the 'ultimate frisbee' player and a gifted saxaphonist. I'd probably like very much to have you over for barbecue in the warmer months. Please keep up the good work on that front.

As it stands, you've chosen a path of job fulfillment that - in 2008 - you should know adds to the pain and misery of daily internet life. There's no way that today, January 23, 2008, you could possibly NOT know that blind marketing via email isn't regarded the way, say, a cute puppy wandering up to you in the park would be; or the way a stray 20 dollar bill is regarded as it floats on a light breeze across a Circuit City parking lot and, by chance, hits your sneaker.

This is why I reacted so hastily with my wish that you be consumed by flame. But note - I did say that, short of that, I hope you'd stop sending me crap. And there's still time to do that, Dylan.

There is still time.

As a marketing professional, I cannot advocate highly enough that you find a few books by the remarkable Seth Godin and check in on them, especially Permission Marketing. It's a great tome that can be downloaded for absolutely free, and might give you some ideas on how to better reach target markets without frustratingly annoying email that was sent to a purchased (and woefully incorrect) distribution list.

I hold out hope for you, sir. My best to your babies.

Joe Peacock

Who knows. Maybe I'll reach this poor, misguided man... Because really, no baby deserves to be raised by a spammer.


A deal with my wife

Somehow, playing this Rock Band game has unleashed a bit of a demon in me.

Like all males, I occasionally tap my fingers or my feet on the steering wheel or table when listening to music, trying to pick out the drum parts and pretend my index finger and middle finger are doing this wailing, insane drum fill here and there. But since we got this Rock Band game, I've really been taking up interest in the drums.

Sure, it's just a game - but the drum parts of Rock Band aren't like the guitar parts of either Rock Band or Guitar Hero... With those games, you're playing a rhythm game with a guitar-shaped controller, learning close to nothing about how to play an actual guitar. But with the drums, you're actually learning drum parts... Paradiddles, kick pedal timing, split-time and mixed time signatures between various limbs... It's really quite cool.

So my wife and I have made a deal:

If I can beat the drums on Rock Band on Expert, she'll let me buy a real drum kit - digital or acoustic, my choice.

I'm leaning toward digital right now, mostly because I don't feel like paying almost triple the cost of the drums themselves to soundproof a room or the garage just to play the damn things. If I use a digital kit, I can get the mesh heads that feel real and plug headphones in and voila - I'm disturbing no one at 3 AM as I try to pick out the utterly disgusting drum parts that Danny Carey plays in Tool's "Pushit" (Yeah, I know... Good luck to me, right? That guy is INSANE. Still, I wanna learn it).

Wish me luck.


More about the #5 worst birthday (with scar pics!!!)

Since I wrote about a fairly gruesome wound on Mentally Incontinent today (for the #5 spot in my top five worst birthdays ever), I figured I'd show pics of the scar from the incident... Only, it didn't really photograph well. Because it was an X-Acto, the cut was very clean - but it definitely did scar, and you can see it kinda okay here. But you can also see the other scars I've accumulated on my left hand over the years:

My left hand is truly a testament to stupidity. And yes, my older brother once tried to play that stupid knife game that Bishop does in Aliens when I was six... Cut my index finger pretty bad. there was a pretty sizable chunk of bone showing. You can barely see the scar now, since I kinda... You know... Cut it off with a cleaver while trying to halve a frozen chicken breast...

If you're wondering what "Fence at Chili's" refers to, read this story and wonder no more.

And yes, there'll be a new part of the story every day this week :)


Late nights and comic books

Shortly after I left home and tried to do the college thing, in 1996, I had to sell off the bulk of my comic book collection. It was with a heavy heart and a disconcerting lack of toilet paper in the house I shared with roommates that I called every single collector I knew or had met through conventions and offered them the chance to pilfer my collection of over 22,000 comics - some of them quite valuable indeed.

Shortly after the dot-com crash, I was forced to sell the very small cache (in comparison to the original collection) of comics I simply couldn't part with - the Akira series, Cerebus, first print Daredevils with Frank Miller... Etcetera and so on. We had a house payment to make, and it wasn't enough to just work my steady job.

I really, really missed those stories... Until now.

Recently, I've gone on a bit of a graphic novel / collection shopping spree. My most recent splurge was my little birthday gift to myself: the entire Cerebus collected edition run - all 16 books, over 6000 pages of a singular story told over 22 years and 300 issues. For the past week, the volumes I've purchased via Amazon have trickled in, with every single collection except #5 (out of 16, remember) arriving quite early on. Well, today, Jaka's Story (#5) finally arrived, allowing me to continue on into the series.

It's 3:02AM. I just finished reading "Minds", which is #10. The windows are open; it's just above freezing outside and I'm bundled in a hooded sweatshirt with a large mug of very warm coffee. All of the majesty and wonder that comes from living inside of someone else's world for a while has washed over me and I'm fully invested in Dave Sim's creation.

I'm a kid again.

This rules.



It's very rare for it to snow in Georgia.

It's rarer still for it to snow enough to accumulate to the point of actually seeing white on the ground and trees.

It's rarer STILL for it to happen twice in one week.

So, I thought I'd share some pics from Casa de Peacock from familiar views I've shared before, but this time, covered in snow.


In conversations with some northern friends, I was telling them about how every single over-the-air network here has WINTER STORM 08!!!!! coverage playing non-stop, with updates every 5 minutes from all 12 field reporters for each network showing you where snow is actually falling.

Case in point:

Not 1, not 2, but THREE snow-related red bars flying across the network's website. I mean... Barry Manilow has been POSTPONED!!! You can watch live video of what I'm seeing out my window RIGHT NOW!!! Or don't... I mean, it's snow. I love it and it's pretty, but really... It's just snow.

I may go up to the store in a bit to get pictures of the empty bread, milk, and egg shelves... Anytime there's even the threat of a word beginning with "s" in the weather forecast, people go clear the markets of those three items. They call it a "French Toast Alert".


Pancakes and sausage and chocolate chips... OH MY

My friend Jen0va pointed me to this little culinary gem:

Everything that's wrong with America, all wrapped up in one food product.

You've got processed meats with too much salt and not enough honest "meat". You've got carb overload in the pancakey breading. You've got chocolate chips. It comes in a plastic wrapper. It's microwavable. And it's all wrapped up in bright, gregarious red-and-yellow packaging and sold for $2.99 per box. Gluttony, convenience, and marketing... On a stick. And it's CHEAP!


Mentally Incontinent = College Textbook (again)

Back in 2005, I met the coolest English professor to ever exist on the planet, Ms. Devon Asell. She's a prof. at the University of Tennessee, and she asked me if I'd mind if she used my book and website in her course on digital literature. I thought she was playing a Joe-style prank on me, so I gave her carte blanche.

Well, she did. And it was really nifty, to say the very very very least I can possibly say on the subject.

Anyway, she's asked me if it would be alright to do so again for the latest incarnation of her class on the same subject, and again, I've given her carte blanche - only this time, I know she's serious :)

She was sweet enough to send a few pics of my book sitting on the shelf at the UT bookstore, situated between Wil Wheaton's fantastic book Dancing Barefoot and, oddly enough, Beowulf (hey college types who have to buy that book - never, EVER buy a book written more than 90 years ago. Check Project Gutenberg first... Save yourself some dough).

I don't care how many times I see it, it still gives me that little electric tingly feeling each and every time I see my book on the shelf at a bookstore, regardless of the store. I doubt (and hope) that will never get old.

Also, I just checked the course syllabus and saw this:

Thu Jan 24
Finish discussion of The Weblog Handbook.
Discuss exploration of rebeccablood.net. (don't visit, she's stupid --Joe)
Personal blog assignment.
Begin Mentally Incontinent.

They're starting the book on my birthday. I plan to buy a lottery ticket that day just to add to the potential irony.


21st Century Misery

This article in Cracked by David Wong is the literal description of why I made the resolutions I made (EDIT: For the most part, that is... See the update below). I hadn't read it until today when Liz sent it over, and the only thought I had was "WOW. RIGHT Friggin' ON."

Read it if you'd like to get someone else's opinion on why I've changed my online behavior, or if you'd like to change your own.

*** Update 8:21AM***

You know how you read something, and there's one or two portions that really hit home - so hard that you feel like the entire article is exactly what you feel or want to say? Well, that's how it is with this article. So I'd like to clarify one point:

I don't mean to say that online relationships are meaningless, or that I don't value the people I've met and gotten to know. I think the more poignant parts of this article, for me, were the work-related portions... Building things, getting things done. For me personally, there is a component of this article that I agree with in regards to a purely digital relationship in and of itself. I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree that getting out and meeting people in person is vital to the human relationship building process. It's a far more satisfying relationship when you can put a face to a name; when you can imagine someone smiling the way they smile and gesturing the way they gesture when you talk with them online. It's precisely the reason I love doing the book tours and MI meetups, and why I'm looking so forward to the Vegas Mentally Incontinent Meetup in April.

That said, if it weren't for IM and chat, I wouldn't have been able to keep up with so many of the people I consider friends - in fact, Liz (the person who sent me this article) and I maintained an entire 5 years of pure digital conversation and relationship building while she was away at college, and she's one of my best friends on this planet. But there's a portion of this rewarding relationship I have with her that wouldn't be there if we'd not met and gotten to know one another in the physical world as well. In fact, with every single MI'er and digital friend I've met in person, I feel that the relationship far more fulfilling after meeting. Not to say that knowing them in chats and IM sessions hasn't been rewarding... It's just been moreso once we hung out in person. You can't get around this fact - we humans are definitely hard-wired to relate to one another in person. You can emulate the gestures and subtleties of a conversation while in the digital realm with a colon and an end-parenthesis, but there's something about showing real teeth when you smile that just... Makes it.

But as far as the getting real work done portion... It's been 17 days, and the simple act of backing away from IM, Reddit, Fark, Digg, CNN, BBC, et al has done WONDERS for my productivity as a whole - and as a direct consequence, my overall happiness. I am most happy when I can look at something and say "Well, that's done." And I've said that more times in the past 17 days than I said the entire year of 2007. That's the part that made me say "Right Friggin' On." Out loud, even.


Wow... Snow!

this doesn't happen here much... Actually it doesn't happen here EVER.

Unlocked hidden "Rock Band" difficulty setting!!!

Dude, did you know that, after you beat Rock Band drum mode on Expert, it unlocks a new, even more difficult mode called "Kitten?"



Do you realize how hard it is to try to nail one of Neil Peart's insane drum fills in Tom Sawyer when there's a pint-sized kitten crawling all over and under and between and through the kick pedal? It's THIS hard:

But hey, how can you get angry when you look down and see this:

In other news, we've named the little kitty "Highway Star" for obvious reasons. I love the name, Andrea's not quite crazy about it... In a few weeks, she'll be old enough and healthy enough to adopt. Anyone want an abandoned highway kitten?

Also, I'll look for any reason whatsoever to post cute kitten pictures.


Thanks to Liz, Highway Star has been LOL-Catted:




I was playing Rock Band with Mike this weekend, and on a whim, I decided to check the XBox Live Marketplace to see if any new tracks had been released for download. Well, wouldn't you know it - there were! And what's more, they didn't SUCK like the last batch (who the hell wants to rock out to and spend hours becoming the master of ANY song by Fall Out Boy?)

"Dude, Hard to Handle by the Black Crowes!" I yelped. "I'm totally getting that!"

"Ok, then, do it," Mike said.

So I did it. But Microsoft wouldn't let me.

About 15 times, I saw a message saying that there was some sort of problem buying points with the stored credit card in my account, and to try again later. I figured they were still suffering from the huge surge of new subscribers from the holiday season, so I just took a deep breath and decided that I could wait a day or two before gettin' all sassy on the mic Chris Robinson style.

So, I tried again later - today to be precise - and saw that damn message again - "Status Code: 80169d94". A quick Google search for the code reveals that I'm not the only person with this problem - apparently, everyone who thought like I did that it might not be a good idea to go sticking their phone number out on the Xbox Live directory is having issues buying points, because the details of their personal information in their account and the stuff on their stored credit card information don't match.

Okay, then - A quick call to Microsoft should fix this.

The call was not quick, nor did it fix anything. I'll save you yet another agonizing tale of outsourced tech support mispronouncing my last name about 240 times across four different conversations with four tiers of support... But it looks like it'll be 3-4 "working" days before they can simply remove a bit flag from their database that says "this Joe guy is actually who he says he is."

And here's the thing - as an aggravated consumer, my heart and my brain are telling me to just cancel the stupid service and be done with it... But goddammit, the allure of shakin' my money maker with ribbons tied on my arms and leather pants on my booty singin' "Mama, I'm sure hard to handle now" is just TOO strong.

So it's off to the store with me for some stupid prepaid cards with scratchy backs.

**** Update, 1:45PM ****

So, I went up and bought some prepaid cards - two 4000 point cards and a 12 month membership card. I went and attempted to redeem the membership card:

Status Code: 80169d94.

I tried to redeem the points card.

Status Code: 80169d94.

I called stupid XBox Live support. I told the outsourced young man that I had a reference number, I gave it to him, he escalated me to his supervisor. I told the outsourced supervisor all the crap that was going on, and after pretty much doing nothing for 30 minutes, he pushed me over to an American Microsoft representative, who attempted to help me troubleshoot the issue. We deleted and recovered my gamertag... No dice. We tried redeeming the code online through the web interface... No.

So basically, the only way this can possibly be fixed is when the queue finally reaches me and the DBA in charge of actually going into the physical database and updating the live record to remove this flag finally does that job.

I spent years writing software for a living, and more years managing people who write software for a living. I know for CERTAIN that there is a much, much, much easier way to accomplish this task.

Anyway, the entire source of my aggrevation doesn't stem from the fact that a fraud flag was placed on my account - after all, i did enter a fake phone number and my PO Box as my personal information, and that doesn't jive with the credit card's records.

My aggravation comes from knowing that whatever measures were put in place to update Microsoft's system to adhere to the new fraud prevention measures now enacted in many states in 2008 are so fumblingly stupid that the fix takes 4 days. I'm also really pissed that it extends past credit card information and into prepaid cards... When my subscription runs out, I'm going to be bumped out of XBox Live with no recourse, and all of my 2 years of playing on that service and all of the accomplishments and achievements will be nil.

Not to mention that all my downloaded tracks for Rock Band will be useless, since I won't be able to log in and verify ownership.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

*** Update 1/17/08 3:21 PM ***

It is fixed! If this ever happens to you, just call them and escalate the issue. Tier 1 can't help you - get to Tier 2 and tell them what's going on, and they'll put a request into a queue. Even the American dude said "there's nothing else I can do with that" so I believe this is the best recourse.

Hard to Handle, here I come.


I hate humans...

Andrea's latest rescue... How the hell could anyone leave THIS tied up on the side of the interstate?!?


Fist-Fighting - 2nd (and final) followup

Okay, I've read all the comments and emails regarding the winning a fist fight article, and there were a LOT of great things said and considered. But one particular thing bothered me:

I thought it was pretty clear from the very beginning that the article advocated NOT FIGHTING as the primary course of action, and the intention of all that followed was to give advice on what to do if that was not an option. Furthermore, it bothered me that a lot of people made the point that you shouldn't fight a person with a weapon, who appeared larger than you, who outclassed you, etc. Again, I thought I made it clear that in these cases, flight was the first consideration, and any tips afterward were simply what you should do if you cannot get away.

SO, to make it VERY clear, if you see this guy coming toward you:


Run very fast. Run very far. But more than anything.... Just run.

(For the record, it's a prop gun)


My little inside joke

I was looking through my book for the first time in a little over a year (I know this sounds wierd, but I only checked the actual book itself out when I got it, then again to correct some mistakes [you can find all of those listed out here] and then again yesterday evening), and I just started giggling at my own silliness.

If you have a copy of the book, you've probably noticed this (and if not, read the whole book for free, and feel free to follow along): During the EXTREMELY late night layout sessions putting the actual pages together, I'd get bored. So, I put little stupid messages on the "right side" pages, where the chapter title would go. Just dumb crap, usually corresponding to something on that page.

Anyway, the thing that got me giggling is on page 43 at the top there. You see what it says? Well, I forgot totally about it, but that's actually an inside joke to the first customers to buy the book. Originally, it was a typo that said "I've never really been a fan of fish" which is the title of the previous chapter.

A stupid copy+paste error, and it made it to print in the first edition (and hardcover copies) of the book - about 5000 copies in all i think. I felt like a total moron. So once everyone spotted it and let me know about it, I decided that, instead of just correcting it, I'd change it into a little keepsake of my own stupidity.

I don't know why you'd care about this. But there you go - I giggled, then blogged about why. Yay for internet!


A Racist M&M???

My buddy Jeremy sent me a link to the new M&M commercial. We freeze-framed it when we saw this:

That, my friends, is a racist M&M.

As Jeremy said, "the only way it could be more racist is if it was only the brown M&M in the theater and he was hooting and hollering and yelling "AWW fuck no! don't go in that door! shit bitch you stupit!'"

I'd really hate to catch a glimpse of what Mars does with the yellow M&M.

After 5 years... Comments finally enabled

I got a bunch of emails over the years saying "Hey, turn on comments on your journal so I can totally make fun of you." And I've deleted them without prejudice.

I got one the other day from a journal reader person who said that he'd love to discuss the journal, but he felt like he was the only one reading it because there were no comments. And I felt just terrible. Actually, that's not true... I didn't feel terrible at all. But it did make me think of why I never turned them on.

When I started the journal thing, the intent was to give people stuff to read during the week when I wasn't posting MI stories... Just keep folks interested and paying attention. Then, I guess it became a more interesting experience for me personally. I like writing this journal thing - there's much less pressure to formulate a storyline, keep dialogue snappy, and otherwise put together material that makes an actual book worth reading.

But I always viewed it much like I view my paper journal things - just spatterings of brain junk, thrown down so that they'd be captured. I never figured it was worth discussion... And more, I never really wanted to hear what others thought about this kind of writing - because comments invite opinion, and opinion invites pressure to write more gooder.

But then I realized, folks are talking about it in the forum and elsewhere (like the livejournal feed and on facebook... And I guess it'd be decent to link to those two places, but there are links in the top menu bar of the journal page, and I'm too lazy to make the links... But not too lazy to type all these words about being too lazy to make links. Interesting. But it's too late now, I can't go back and link them after realizing the irony of my apathy, because then the entire point will be ruined), and those discussions never affect me. So why not just turn on the comment thing and allow folks to talk about the posts in the context of the posts?

So like... That's what's going on. Yo.


North Clayton kicks QWERTY's ass

Followup on fist fighting


Well, the fist fight thing really stirred up some discussion. It ended up being #2 #1 on Reddit.com (as of 1 AM, 1.10.08), featured on Neatorama (which is a totally fantastic site, btw) and discussed in the MI Forums (and now [01.11.08), it's on Digg...). Overall, response has been overwhelmingly positive - much more positive than I figured (actually, I didn't realize so many people would find it interesting).

I wanted to clarify a few points that came up in email, IM, and comments:

1) I'm giving advice based entirely on my own experiences and training. There are as many opinions on fighting techniques, stances and behaviors are there are people fighting in the world, and really, there's no "right" and "wrong" - simply "effective" and "ineffective".

2) My advice is intended specifically for inexperienced people for whom there is no escape from a fighting situation. Flight is not an option. Training is non-existent.

3) The entire goal of the guide is to keep instruction minimal and intuitive - stuff you can readily recall when you're in a dangerous situation, and stuff that won't set a beginner / inexperienced person up for failure.

4) On kicks: In a REAL fight situation, anything that reduces balance or stability is stupid. Kicks - even to the shin - are not an option for a beginner fighter who has not spent time developing balance and strength in the ankles, hamstrings, knees, groin and waist. If you've trained kicks, and you want to incorporate kicks in your fighting style, I applaud you. But I refuse to advise people to disrupt the balance and stability of their base when they're not trained fighters (and more than likely, scared out of their minds to even be in the situation). I won't say you're wrong if you do. I just refuse to.

5) Training - any amount of training - produces a certain amount of rhythm and assumed knowledge (muscle memory). When trained or seasoned fighters read my guide and think things like "why is he suggesting going to the belly when you're on the ground" or "why is he recommending against hook punches" should realize - your training has placed you into a mindset where clarity and conviction are second nature. If you're a rank amateur with no fight training whatsoever, you should focus on the simplest possible ways to disable your opponent and get safe. Kicking, elbowing, knees, targeted blows... These things work. Very very well. But they require a base of training and knowledge that my intended audience won't have.

6) Grappling... If you don't know how to fight on the ground, get the HELL of the ground. It's something I just cannot recommend. If I personally were in a one-on-one fight with someone, regardless of their size, strength or fight style, I'd be on the ground with them in a millisecond, because I've trained in arts that focus on groundwork. But for the first, oh... Three months or so of learning that crap? I got OWNED on the ground. So did you. You can puff your chest out on the net and say "no way, I pwnd!" if you want, but it's a lie. Every beginning wrestler, BJJ fighter, Judo player, etc. found the ground to be the last place on earth they really wanted to be for at least 3 months. You have to learn it. If you have to learn it, it's out of my guide.

7) Thank you all for reading and commenting on the article. Even the dissenters brought to light very important information that is worthy of discussion - and anytime someone can learn a reason to do or not do something, I'm all for it, regardless of the tone in which it's done :)

8) The "stance" pic was only semi-serious. In reality, my hands would be a bit closer together and I wouldn't be fighting near my very expensive Transformers Masterpiece figures (on the wall in the background). And I'd probably remove my shirt to take away another point of grip for my opponent. And I'd be smiling like a maniac. And that's not my mother's house.


How To Actually Win A Fist Fight

Ok, well, with the response from yesterday's post, I felt compelled to go ahead and do this. Without further ado:

You know it has to be said, first sentence, first paragraph: the best way to win a fist fight is not to get into one in the first place.

No shit, sherlock.

Every single mens magazine who has ever attempted to publish an article like this has started (and ended) exactly that way and is usually devoid of any real information - sometimes because someone on the editorial staff wanted to avoid putting the periodical at risk for a lawsuit; other times because the author has absolutely no clue what they’re talking about, so they cop out with this “Verbal Judo Wins The Day!” crap.

It’s common sense - avoid fighting if at all possible. No one likes to get hit (and if you do, there’s no need to go crawling pubs to find it. There’s any number of clubs filled with rubber-suited men and women who will give you a safety word and a few bruises for the right price...). But sometimes, diplomacy erodes to a good old fashioned bust-up, or worse, your opponent is just a big bully who’s looking to drive a knuckle into your nose. In either case, you are - at some point in your life - going to be called upon to defend yourself.

So... What to do? Well, I can’t promise that the following information will turn you into a hands-of-steel cage fighter who can handle any MMA bruiser in a back-alley match... In fact, if you’re actually in NEED of the information in this article, I can guarantee you that a trained martial artist or fighter will destroy you. But all things being equal, if you’re simply an untrained person who’s facing your schoolyard nemesis, or someone looking to simply get the basics under your belt in case something gnarly goes down, I can assure you that you’re way better off knowing this stuff than not.

The Basics

First, you need to know a few things:

  • You are going to get hit.

  • When you get hit, it does not feel good.

Knowing and accepting those two things as fact will free your mind up enough to begin thinking about much more important stuff, like strategy and technique. If you’re petrified with fear over how much it’s going to hurt when the big bad guy hits you, you’re going to be out of focus. Thus, you'll be much more vulnerable to taking damage than if you can just accept the reality of the situation and move past it... And perhaps, walk into the situation with a bit of confidence.

Confidence CANNOT be overvalued in a fight situation. If you walk in knowing you will win, your chances of winning are far greater... If for no other reason than the fact that you will gain a psychological edge on your opponent. If you don’t have confidence, fake it. Seriously, it’s important.

If you’re fighting in an enclosed area, position yourself so that there is an exit to your rear. If you cannot, try to get an exit positioned to your strong side (right side, if you’re right handed, left side if you’re left handed). The ability to retreat can make the difference between getting punched and getting beat. It’s helpful to remember that “retreat” does not always mean “flee” - sometimes, you have to back off a bit to get your act together.

If you’re a student or a frequenter of bars, you need to know that there is a very high liklihood that your fight is going to take place in the center of a huge ring of people who are chanting, yelling, screaming and whatnot. If this is the case, get to the door and get in position before they can seal it off as a crowd of spectators.

Lastly, if you’re up against two or more guys, someone with a weapon, or other crazy situation, don’t be a hero - get the hell out of there. If you simply cannot escape, look at the end of this article in the section “Impossible Situations”.

Your Stance

Your stance is the way you stand and position yourself during a fight. It’s by far the most important part of your actual fighting technique. Now, this sounds like crap, but it’s absolutely true. Your base - the position of your feet and legs - determines how much power you can deliver in a blow. You should keep your feet about shoulder width apart, with your “strong” foot slightly forward. Your knees should NEVER be locked - keep them slightly bent, but not so much so that you feel a strain in your upper legs.

As far as your “guard” goes, there are any number of techniques and positions that you could adopt, but the most simple is your strong hand in front of your face, your weak hand slightly below it guarding your chin, and your elbows very slightly pointed outward guarding your chest.

A proper stance and guard will keep you from looking as ugly as I do

Never, EVER drop your guard. Keep your hands in front of your vital areas at ALL times, unless actively delivering a blow or in the midst of grappling with someone.

Keep your chin tucked to your chest as much as possible, and ALWAYS keep your eyes up and on your opponent. You will find that, if you take away the chin and neck as targets, your chances of becoming disabled (knocked out or unable to breathe) are reduced by an order of magnitude. We’ll cover more of this in “Taking A Punch” - for now, you just need to know how to stand.

Now, with that strong foot forward, your strong-side hip is going to be slightly pointed at your opponent, and your strong hand - when you throw the punch - is going to place a lot of pressure on your strong leg. This is vital - if you can use the power of physics to align the transfer of energy from your foot, up your leg, through your hip and shoulder to your fist as you throw the punch, you will devastate your foe when you connect.

Keep moving. Don’t dance around like a moron, or you can get tripped up and probably knocked out... But definitely keep moving to the side, occasionally changing direction. Don’t pick your feet up off the ground completely; rather, try to shuffle slightly. Stay as much of a moving target as you can without putting yourself at risk of being tripped, pushed, or otherwise taken out stupidly. You’ll DEFINITELY want to practice this in your room / garage / backyard to get the hang of it.

Lastly... No wild blows. Don’t go into a fight flailing like a madman, trying to hit whatever you can as much as possible. You’re going to wear yourself out VERY quickly, which will leave you completely vulnerable to the patient opponent - which is completely counter to the goal of this guide, right? You want to win, not end up a bloody lump of exhausted meat on the ground. Find your target, be patient, look for openings, and deliver your blows carefully and with great purpose. And that leads me to...

What You’re Actually Here For: How To Punch Someone

First, the fist:

  1. Fold your four fingers downward into your hand

  2. Place your thumb on the OUTSIDE of your fingers

Now, the particulars:

You want to fill the space in your palm with whatever you have at your disposal - a roll of pennies, some dirt or hunks of grass... Anything to reduce the space between your fingers and the inside of your hand. If you have nothing available (or, don’t want to be accused of “dirty fighting” or whatever... But let’s face it, all’s fair when there’s no ref’s and the threat of bodily harm), try to grab the “meat” of your palm, where all those callouses are, and wrap it slightly under your fingertips.

Mmmmmmm.... Palm meat.

Whatever you do, do NOT fill that space with your thumb. Your thumb MUST be outside your fingers, sitting at a 90 degree angle to your index finger and bent at the second knuckle. Don’t let it stray off to the side; don’t do that little “thumb out” fist-pump swagger thing you saw DMX do in that one Jet Li movie...

The same goes with your pinky. Some flashy morons try to show how cool they are by sticking their pinkies out in the air while waving their fists at you, like it’s wine-tasting time. Don’t be that guy. Keep your fist tight - all four fingers folded and your thumb out of the way, or they’ll be sticking WAY out... In a fiberglass cast for six to eight weeks.

Now that you’ve made a fist, it’s time to fling it at someone. First, a word of caution (or, if you prefer, a note on technique): It is IMPERATIVE that you keep the back of your hand completely in line with your forearm at all times. Never, ever flex your wrist in any direction when delivering a punch, or you’ll break it.

There are several types of punches, and I’m sure you can readily call to mind several types based on what you’ve seen in movies, televised boxing matches, MMA bouts, etcetera. The type of punch that I most highly advocate - especially for an untrained fighter - is a simple straight punch. Keeping the elbow bent and at a 30 - 45 degree angle to the body (and in front of your face - remember, don’t drop your guard), extend the fist forward with simultaneous extension of the elbow and the shoulder. The elbow should straighten the arm, the shoulder should deliver the force... It sounds strange, but try not to deliver force by the extension of the elbow. Let your body weight push through your shoulder into your arm. Connect the blow at the peak of extension to get the maximum force out of your blow. Connecting too soon, you'll lose power; Connecting too late, you'll throw yourself off balance.

Hooks - the wide-sweeping side punches you see a lot of people throwing - are great for boxing or other score / tactical fighting... But they don't deliver the force a good straightforward punch will, and they're SLOW. If someone's out there scoring you on how many times you connect, sure, go for it. But otherwise, just stick to the straight punches. The same goes for uppercuts and light jabs. Stay away from those unless you've been training purposely with combinations and whatnot (which this guide assumes you're not, since you're obviously here to learn the basics. All you "trained" fighters out there, I don't need your emails about how I'm wrong to suggest avoiding these. You know what you're doing? Go for it... Otherwise...).

Make your punches count - give a full-force blow that connects quickly at the apex of extension each and every time.

Taking A Punch

Have you ever seen the movie Million Dollar Baby? You know the part where Clint Eastwood tells Hillary Swank to step into a punch to minimize its effectiveness? Well, it’s 100% true. Short of simply not being there to take the punch, minimizing the distance between the point the punch was thrown and the point at which it connects will reduce the impact it can make.

The downside is that you’ll need to retreat to set yourself up for your punches. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re aggressive with your defense - because your opponent will do that work FOR you. If you continually turn your body into punches and step forward, they will keep backing up and backing off. This will not only give you the distance you need to throw your punches, it will also give you the opportunity to do so - each time they have to step back, they’re resetting for another attack. This is an opportune time to strike.

Remember our discussion on stances - keep your chin tucked to your chest and keep circling your opponent. Keep them in a situation where they have to calculate movement along with distance to judge strikes. Balance is a key factor in fights, both physically and mentally - if you can keep them off-balance, the edge is yours.

Train yourself to flex your abdominal muscles and keep your core tight on command. When your opponent goes for a solar plexus hit, if you fail to turn into it so that the blow glances off the side, you won’t lose your breath when they make impact.

Lastly... Keep breathing, slow and purposely. Keep the oxygen going to your brain. Don’t allow yourself to lose your breath, or run low on air when you must exhale and flex your stomach to guard against a mid-blow.

Remember this - no blow feels as bad during a fight as you think it’s going to. Your adrenaline is pumping, your nerves are spiking and your mind is racing. You simply won’t have time to feel the pain... It’s the debilitating blows you need to be weary of and guard against, and if you keep taking your opponent’s power away, they won’t be able to take you out.


Just... Don’t. Seriously. It’s suicide, unless you’re highly trained - and I mean Bruce Lee caliber, or, failing that, you have an insane opportunity. Kicks are pretty much all flash and flair for your audience, and leave you VERY open to counter attacks and moves that can throw you off balance. It’s just plain stupid in a real fight situation to try doing a bunch of roundhouse nonsense.

Not him? Don't kick.

Elbows and Knees

Seriously powerful blows can come from the knees and the elbows... However, they force you to be close, and you need some training to use them effectively (elbows especially, since they pretty much remove your guard when you use them). Feel free to practice these on your heavy bag (or, if you don’t have one, head up to the Salvation Army and get an old twin mattress and some duct tape - you can make one in pretty short order). Just know that they are to be used when opportunity permits, not as primary strikes.


There’s a very high liklehood - especially if you keep stepping in and frustrating our opponent - that you will be taken to the ground or wrapped up in some way. This is not the end of the world, especially if you can keep your cool. So long as they’re wrapped up on you, they’re not throwing punches... It’s only when they can get you into a position of opportunity that they can strike you, so your primary goal is to GET OUT.

If your opponent has you from behind in a standing position, there are three moves you need to be doing over and over in succession or simultaneously until you break free:

  • Stomp the instep - come down as hard as you can with your heel on their instep. You will damage or disable your opponent’s foot bones and provide yourself with the ability to escape.
  • Backwards Headbutt - keep flinging your skull back toward their nose. If you make contact, freedom awaits.
  • Wring the fingers - don’t pull at the wrists of your opponents’ clenched hands. Get your hands around any or all of his fingers and wring the hell out of them until he either gives up or breaks one.

If you’re on the ground and wrapped up, you need to do the following things as quickly as possible:

  1. Prevent the mount - don’t let them get on top of you.
  2. Get on your side or belly
  3. Scramble like hell to get out of there.

If you end up on your belly, prevent a choke from behind by keeping your chin to your chest and keep your hands around your neck. If you start to feel punches on the back of your head, remember - minimize the distance. Try to get to your knees and get them off of you.

If you can gain the advantage on the ground, mount the opponent and punch the face until they are incapacitated. If they’re on their belly, get around their neck and choke them until they pass out - just make DAMN sure you let go once the snorting starts (you’ll know what I’m talking about if you ever hear it). Going any further, and you could kill them. However, if this is a flee-for-your-life situation and you somehow managed to choke your opponent out, feel free to break an ankle or dislocate a knee to prevent pursuit. Do this in a high school fight, however, and you’re going to end up in juvenile hall.

This leads me to a very important point: if you do gain the advantage in a grappling situation, do NOT perform any ridiculous moves you see on WWE or on movies and telelvision. No body slams, no DDT, no Pile Driver... That shit will seriously injure or kill someone, and there’s a very real part of fighting that you have to consider - what happens tomorrow. If you break someone’s neck and paralyze or kill them, you might be arrested or sued, and no one will let you off with “self defense” when you took the time to perform some ridiculous move on an opponent who was already disabled or overcome.

Plus, there’s the chance that you’ll hurt yourself and lose... And again, losing is counter to the goal of this guide.

Impossible situations

In all of the following situations, fleeing is the optimal response. Get the hell away from the situation and live to fight another day... These situations are unfair, and to be honest, anyone putting you in these situations is out to hurt you in ways that go far beyond simple matters of pride or minor altercations.

Assuming flight is not an option, try to keep the following in mind:

  • Facing a much larger / stronger / better trained opponent: stay fast, stay away. Don’t allow them to grab you, and avoid any and all strikes if possible. Look for an equalizer - gain elevation on them, grab a weapon, throw dirt in their eyes. You need to bring them down to your level if you want to stand a chance... Otherwise, enjoy your ass-beating.
  • Groups of two or more opponents: Find a corner and get into it. Don’t allow them to surround you, no matter what happens. Lash out as hard as possible at one opponent, then immediately move to your strong side and take out the next. Get one guy in front of another - try to keep yourself fighting one person at a time. Again, a weapon or equalizer of some sort should be sought. Go for one-attack-per-person until you break them up and can get out of the situation. If you do find yourself surrounded, attack the man in front of you, then immediately go for the one behind you, turning to face your left and right opponents once you can create a break in the circle.
  • Opponent has a weapon: Get as many objects and as much distance between you and your opponent as possible. Find a shield or other object to deflect the force of a blunt weapon. If the weapon is a knife or other blade, you need to get it stuck in something that isn’t you as quickly as possible. Knife fights look daring and crazy in the movies, but in reality, they bleed you until you die. As an interesting experiment, get your friend to arm himself with a red marker and try to fight him without getting any ink on you. Take a look after the fight to see just how many times you would have been cut. More than once anywhere on your body, you would have died. Once anywhere in your gut, you would have died. Knife wounds are serious. Get the hell away from it.

Final Thoughts And Tips

It’s so important, it bears repeating - confidence wins. Go into a fight with the attitude that you’re going to get your ass kicked, and you’ll get your ass kicked. You want to win? Throw as much bravado and confidence at your opponent as you can. Even if you know they’re better, they don’t know that you realize that. Just keep roaring and flashing your feathers like nature dictates you should. At the very least, you might lose the fight, but the next guy who wants to mess with you will know you won’t go down easy and might think twice about attacking you.

Always maintain awareness of your surroundings. Know where your exits are. Know if your opponent has friends in the crowd. Know where to grab a chair, bat, or other weapon - especially before your opponent can.

There’s no such thing as a fair fight if there’s no money on the line or men in striped shirts judging you. You need to win. More than that, you need to not lose. These goals are paramount. Keep them in mind at all times.

At any point you get the chance, disable your opponent. Take out the eyes. Take away the breathing passages. Remove mobility. An opponent who cannot see you cannot fight you. An opponent who cannot breathe cannot attack you. An opponent who cannot move cannot pursue you.

Above all else, remember that standing up for yourself is hard, and sometimes it can hurt... But nothing hurts more than being someone else’s bitch. And so long as you are willing to stand up for yourself, it won’t matter if you lose this one fight - you’ll win respect from your opponent and anyone else considering taking you on, and that’s worth fighting for.

**Update - 1.10.08 1:32AM: I'm honored that there's been a lot of attention on this article! I've posted some responses to questions / comments here. **

**Update - 1.13.08 2:32PM: One last response to comments here, regarding my stance on "fleeing being the first priority" **


"How to win a fist fight"

When I was younger, I was a HUGE comic book nerd. One of my regular monthly staples was Wizard magazine - a magazine dedicated solely to fandom of comics, toys and games. In 1992 (ish), Wizard spent a great deal of time and money promoting a new magazine they were coming out with called "Dirt" - and for months and months, they displayed this cover shot of their first issue with a guy's face all twisted and contorted by a fist that was striking it, with the lead story in big yellow letters:

"How to WIN a fist fight!"

My buddy Jay and I were SO jazzed about this magazine... Finally, someone was putting out a magazine targeted not only to our age group, but also not overtly stupid. It was the perfect concept, based solely on that one headline.

Anyway, the magazine came out on newsstands that fall, and even though Jay and I made a habit of buying different titles on our trips to the comic store (so that we could trade between one another and get double the value for our reading dollar), we both spent our money on copies of Dirt #1. We both sat on his front stoop, pulled out our copies of Dirt magazine, and turned IMMEDIATELY to that article.

The very first (and only) rule of winning a fist fight, according to Dirt?

"Don't get into one."

The article then proceeded to go into a fluffy, three-page write up on "verbal judo" and how to avoid getting into physical altercations through the gentle arts of negotiation and conversation. Midway through reading that crap, we both looked up at one another - nearly simultaneously - and said "Wow... This is bullshit!"

We were expecting proper techniques on making a fist, striking our opponents, foot placement, transfer of inertia at varying points throughout a punch... The cover image showed a guy getting slugged right in the jaw! It was a total bait-and-switch job!

Anyway, that memory has stuck with me my entire adult life, and it recently led me to contemplate making a simple video series directed at teenage boys telling them how to ACTUALLY win a fist fight. I dunno... Is that barbaric? I mean, as an adult, I really don't think much about fighting people, and I rarely consider the concepts needed to win one - but this might be due to the fact that I spent a great deal of my life doing things that trained me how to manage my aggression.

I just know that, deep down (and in some cases, right on the surface), every single teenage boy wants to know how to punch another teenage boy, and I can remember actively searching out sources on how to do that very thing... I remember wishing that someone, somewhere would just flat-out tell me how to punch a dude. And now that I'm a adult boy, I kinda feel like I should go back and honor that request on behalf of all the adolescent males out there who probably want to know.

Youtube it? Write it with illustrations? Or just a bad idea? What do you think?


Monday Mailbag: A funny request

I've never done this before, but I've toyed with the notion for a long time. So I'm going to just give it a shot and see how it goes. On Mondays from now on, I'll post some of the fun, exciting, silly email / messages I get from folks. Feel free to be bored by it.



Hey - this should make you laugh. I'm getting back into the workforce, and [I've been] advised to take a retail job or something less stressful than nursing... So, I applied to Walmart today and put you down as a reference. Is that okay? Half of my decision was that I had your number on my phone, and the other half was that I knew it would be a hysterical joke. Happy new year!



Hey Sarah!

First, good to hear you're back in the work force - but having "been there, done that," Ifail to see how Wal-mart will be any less stressful than nursing...

Second, feel free to use my name anytime, anyplace, as much as you want. You have carte blanche! That goes for everyone else too - if you need a reference for work, feel free to put me down. Just... Don't be shocked or surprised at the questions that your potential employer will come to you with afterwards.


Some football jabberin'

You know, I'm not a Packers fan. I've never really pulled for them - in fact, I can safely say that I've never had any feelings for them one way or another. I probably should - my father's from Chicago and as such is a really big Bears fan. As a dutiful son, I should hate the Packers... As an asshole of a son, I should love them. As it stands, I guess I'm just a dullard of a son, because I've never really cared one way or another about them.

That said, I am really, really, REALLY pulling for them this year.

Brett Favre's seasons has been nothing short of spectacular. He's broken several team and league records this year, and has lead a team of young nobodies to the 3rd best record in the NFL and into the playoffs. He was so close to retiring a few years ago, and decided to play on - then his father passed. The guy has been through hell and back, and somehow, he's scraped together arguably the best season he's ever had.

But with all the hype surrounding New England's regular season sweep, no one's really noticed any of that. Everyone's talking about Tom Brady and the retarded Patriots... Boring.

It's a pretty safe bet that New England is going to end up in the Super Bowl. I'd love NOTHING more than to see the Packers go as the NFC team and walk in and own the Pats. I'd love to see the much-vaunted undefeated season go up in smoke in the freakin' Super Bowl. I'd leap out of my seat with glee if old-school Brett Favre handed newbie Tom Brady his ass on a silver platter and took not only the record books, but a Super Bowl ring with him into retirement against that pompous, overzealous cheating team.

Plus, I'm getting pretty sick of the guys I know from Boston talking all sorts of smack. Not just because of what they say, but also because the Bostonian accent is second only to waterboarding on the list of top ten torture techniques that, for some reason, the federal government keeps allowing to go on.