8.29.2011

My Schedule for Dragon*Con 2011

A short note to give you all my schedule for Dragon*Con 2011:

Art of Akira Talks and Exhibit:


Exhibit:
Main Display in Artists Alley - Friday, Sunday, Monday

Booth:
BT22 in Artist’s Alley - All 4 days (come say hi!)

Panels:

Fri 1:00PM, Hanover F Room: The Art of Akira - Show & Tell

Sat 5:30PM, Courtland Room: Western Invasion of Anime!

Sat 7:00PM, Hanover CDE Room:  Akira Screening + Commentary + Film & Art Comparison (This one is going to be a RIOT. Bring a flask)

*****

In addition, I'm moderating two talks Monday: One on tattoo culture with my artist Todo at 1:00PM, and one on "Life in a Collaborative Studio" with all the Studio Revolver guys at 4:00PM. That one should be HILARIOUS given that we're all going to be exhausted and don't want to be there.

Lastly, there is a Fark party at the 1st floor bar at the Hilton at 3:00PM Saturday. I'll be there for a bit, as will Drew Curtis and a few other web celebs.

Please check the DragonCon pocket guide for updates and changes!

8.27.2011

Admit It: You Want To Watch Hurricane Irene Smash Right Into New York City (And So Do I)

Let's cut the shit. You're watching the weather forecasts and hurricane trackers and news coverage of Irene today for one of two reasons:

1) You live in the path and want to know when to leave, or how long you'll need to batton down the hatches, or
2) You want to watch it when it plows right into New York City and see it cause millions, if not billions, of dollars in damage.

Now, the "good person" in you is saying "Joe, that's HORRIBLE! I would never..."

Let me stop you right there, liar. You would. And you do it all the time. You may not like NASCAR, but I guarantee you if you watch Sportscenter, you don't flip the channel when they tell you there was a gnarly crash that happened in an event. You roll over in bed and look up from your laptop or your book just to catch a glimpse.

You watch YouTube footage of train wrecks and car crashes and steam pipe explosions and what-have-you. You're morbidly curious. And so am I. We humans have a fascination with destruction, so long as it isn't our own.

Now, I need to clarify: I'm not saying you're HOPING it does that much damage, or that it kills people. That's too finely detailed. Only monsters delight in the individual aspects of pain and suffering enough to hope it happens. And I'm not calling you a monster.

I'm saying you're full of shit if you tell me you aren't watching the coverage of the hurricane because, if it DOES bulldoze New York, you want to make damn sure you see it when it does. And if you're a weather nerd like I am, you want to have been keen on every detail leading right up to it. Because in 10 years, if the worst does happen, you want to feel like you were as aware and awake as possible in the midst of a tragedy.

It's instinct.

When the tornado ripped through Atlanta in 2008, I was up the entire night watching every second of footage and live-Tweeting everything I found out. I went downtown in the morning (because they were VERY clear that you weren't getting anywhere near the city that night) to see the destruction myself. I couldn't look away.

The Atlanta tornado, 2008. It really whipped the llama's ass.
(can't see the photo? Click here)

The same is true with Hurricane Katrina in 2004 and with 9/11. And the truth is, there's NOTHING wrong with that. You want to know what's going on. When you find out it's relatively little, you're no longer interested. However, when it's something huge, you just can't look away. And the bigger it is, the more you stare. Car wrecks, "Craziest crashes" tv shows... We're drawn to disaster like moths to flame.

...So long as it takes place in America, anyway. We have a keen disinterest in disasters that happen in places that aren't here. And the reason for that is the same reason I believe we're intrinsically drawn to witness as bad things happen to other people near where we live:

Because they're not us.

If they don't look and act like us, or don't live in our little sphere of influence (our city, our state, our country), we take the information as data. "Wow, did you hear about that thing that happened? How crazy."

If they do look and act like us, we can't help but put ourselves in their shoes and think one honest, unadmittable thought in our heads: "Thank God that's not me." And the closer the issue is to home, or the greater in magnitude the disaster, the more we watch and take note and ponder. And when the two combine -- like, say, a category 2 hurricane barreling through the most densely populated city in the nation -- we can't help but give it our full attention.

But you won't admit that to anyone. You won't tell people "I'm watching coverage of the hurricane so that I can witness wonton destruciton and be glad it's not me." You won't admit that there's a perverse pleasure in it.

I don't want to either. It's not comfortable in the slightest to pull back the covers of civility and admit that, at our core, we're animals. But we are. And there's nothing wrong with it. I just wish all the hand-wringing well-wishers in Kansas and California and Oregon and even here in Atlanta, GA could admit it.

So pop the popcorn and pull out the brews and enjoy the live broadcast of the greatest -- BUT OH MY GOD UNFORNTUNATE FOR THOSE POOR PEOPLE -- disaster film ever recorded... You hope.

8.25.2011

The Black Crowes, Pubic Hair, Morals And My Mother

There's this point in our development as human beings when we decide we actually care about music. Concequently, there's an intersection of the path which guides our love and selection of music, and our parents' insistence that we are going right to hell and the world is in utter turmoil due to the sounds of the times.

For me, that intersection came MUCH later than it probably did for most people, and MUCH MUCH later than it probably should have. But that's because my mother only selectively cared about negative influences on me, because by the time she noticed that they'd taken hold, I'd already set fire to what I was going to set fire to. Or smashed what I was going to smash. Or pissed off the teachers, preachers and cops I was going to piss off.

Still, being my mother, she had to care, I suppose.

I started to care about music around age 12. And by care about, I mean I quit just mindlessly dancing around to the pop flavor of the times (which consisted mostly of Michael Jackson, the Rocky IV soundtrack and Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus") and I actually begin selecting styles and musicians and bands and sounds I liked more than others.

Now, as a boy, I was big time into rap and R&B. I grew up in Decatur and Atlanta, where the urban influence wasn't so much an influence, it was the world in which you lived. And being the only white kid at all black schools for the majority of my childhood, rap and R&B and Motown was just what I heard all the time, so the tunes I jived to were what was playing on the radios around the town.

But when I moved into the suburbs, I was introduced to all sorts of new sounds. And while I didn't particularly like country or southern-flavored anything, I did enjoy some of the harder rock sounds I was hearing. And the very first band I decided to care about, The Black Crowes, were all the flavor of heavy rock, with this toned-back twang that would eventually lead me to appreciate The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin (once I got over the "Eew, that's OLD stuff..." portion of my stuck-up music selection process).

I still loved rap. Quite a lot, in fact. But I was branching out. Growing. Maturing. And it's thanks to The Black Crowes that I started to discover that white people -- despite their inability to dance overall -- could actually get down and have a bit of soul about them. So in 1990, at age 13, I fell head over heels in love with the Crowes. In fact, they were my first ever live concert.

My friend Matt Harrelson and I went to see them when they came to Atlanta on their first tour (Shake Your Money Maker), and it was there I experienced my first marijuana-induced high. Now, I never actually smoked the stuff (a truth which persists to this day), but given that the Crowes played in the Omni, which has a roof, and holds a LOT of people, and the vast majority of those people were smoking the HELL out of some weed... Yeah. Matt and I got lifted.

Anyway, I kept on loving the Crowes as they released Southern Harmony And Musical Companion, and when they released Amorica, my love had exploded into a full-blown lust. That album was (and still is) a highlight of modern rock. It's a complete experience, and it marked the absolute peak of the Crowes creative period. And it was about three weeks into owning that album that my mother decided to launch a Judeo-Christian fueled moral crusade against every band I liked at the time.

It all stemmed from getting ready for school one morning during my Senior year in high school, while the Judgement Night soundtrack played. Specifically, the Boo-Yaa Tribe vs. Faith No More track:






(Can't see the video? Click here)


The portion where they say "I'm taking off they heads with the mothafuckin' chrome" happened to play just as she poked her head in to see if I was near ready to walk out the door.

She hit the roof.

"I cannot BELIEVE you'd bring this... This FILTH into my home!" she screamed, as if she'd just found the entire Larry Flynt library in my sock drawer. And it was particularly hilarious because for approximately six years, I played N.W.A., Public Enemy, KRS One, 2 Live Crew, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and several other bands that were at least two hundred times more controversial about sex, violence, religion and other aspects which lead to the moral decay of modern youth.

So, from that point forward, she decided to pay special attention to the things I was watching and listening. At age 18. A mite late to start being a moral compass for your child, I'd think. But there it was.

A few days after the infamous "That FILTH!" incident, I was listening to Amorica while drawing a bit, and my mother just casually walked into my room and began evaluating the sounds coming from the hi-fi.

"What's this?" she said with that tone of "I'm going to SOUND like I'm interested because I might want to listen to this one day and bond with you and whatever, but the truth is, I'm judging the shit out of every single thing taking place right now" that parents get when they're finally interested in something their kids are doing.

"The Black Crowes," I replied.

"Who are they?" She said, beginning to flip through some of the jewel cases stacked on my dresser.

"You know who they are," I replied. "I saw them with Matt Harrelson back when I was 13... I've been listening to them for years."

She made some sort of acknowledging noise, which was immediately followed by a bellowing "What in the WORLD... JOSEPH PEACOCK!"

I flinched, spilling a bit of ink on a Spiderman piece I was ripping off from Todd McFarlane. "What?!?" I yelped as I turned around.

She held up the jewel case for Amorica. It looked like this:

(can't see the image? Click here)


"Yeah?" I said, shrugging my shoulders.

"This is DIS. GUST. ING." She said with a sneer.

"Okay?" I said, confused.

"...You don't find this vulgar?" she asked. "You're a good Christian boy... You don't find some woman's crotch desecrating the American flag disgusting?"

"It's a woman's crotch in a bikini bottom, mom," I replied. "So what? There's more disgusting things on MTV."

Which, it turns out was the wrong thing to say, because MTV was immediately banned in our house. It lasted about a month, when my mom forgot her moral crusade on music and focused instead on my staying out late. But still.

"You have to take this back," she insisted.

"Mom," I said with a sigh, "They're not going to take it back. It's a CD. They don't take back CDs."

She looked at me, confused.

"...Because people copy them?" I continued.

She scowled her mom scowl. "You're returning this," she demanded. "TODAY."

There was no getting around it. It was going to happen, or I was going to spend the rest of the weekend in hell. And they don't allow drawing in hell. Or comics. Or good music.

She refused to drive me, claiming the walk would do me good and give me time to think about the types of entertainment I was choosing. Now, I could have just stashed the album in a bush and came back to get it at some point, but for some reason I wasn't thinking clearly. It's probably because at 18, all you're thinking is how to stay the hell off the radar. At any rate, I trudged down to Blockbuster Music and proceeded to have an unnecessary conversation with someone who wasn't going to give a shit about my predicament.

"You can exchange it, but you can't return it," the clerk said.

"But dude..." I said with the kind of resigned sigh that conveyed that I knew how screwed I was, "My mom is giving me shit over the cover... I gotta--"

"Just get one of the black ones," he said.

A lightbulb went off. "Oh yeah..."

Back in 1995, there was a HUGE hubbub about the Amorica cover. In order to carry it in national chains, they had to go back and censor it. They released a blacked-out version, and it looked like this:


(Can't see the image? click here)

So, I took his advice and swapped it out. A few days later, my mother walked in my room. Amorica was playing. With the same casual-but-not-at-all-casual tone, she asked "Oh who is this?" She saw the cd cover, picked it up. This time, I purposely didn't say anything.

"Is this the band? 'Amorica?'" she asked.

"Yes mom, it's 'Amorica'. My new favorite band." I didn't even sneer or roll my eyes.

She stood there for a moment and listened. "This sounds really good! I might have to borrow this album from you!"

She actually made me tape a copy for her, and she listened to it quite a lot the next few weeks. To this day, it's in her permanent rotation of country and southern rock listening lists.

I've never had the heart to tell her that she's actually a moral degenerate and a horrible Christian for listening to such filth.

8.24.2011

Who Wants To Slap A Millionaire? (A Lost Mentally Incontient Story)

I was talking with my friend Noa Gavin this afternoon.

...Not that that in and of itself is especially noteworthy; I speak with friends during afternoons all the time. But this particular conversation is noteworthy in that it lead to this blog post. And I'll explain how if you STOP BEING SO GODDAMN PUSHY AND LET ME OHMYGOD.

Anyway, Noa is an extremely funny writer (and, from all accounts, a rather talented and gifted stand-up comedienne -- but you wouldn't know because she has, for whatever reason, refused to YouTube her act, which is stupid in 2011 cause, like, social media or whatever). One of my favorite things I've ever read is her account on things people would take with them if there was a fire. It's a riot. And she's pretty funny every other day, too. But today, she's not feeling too funny.

"It's weird to be a comedienne," she didn't say, because she HATES when she's called "Comedienne" - she insists she's a gender-neutral Comedian. Which is why you'll be seeing me refer to her as Comedienne throughout the rest of this and any other post I ever write involving her.

Anyway, she lamented that "...People get pissed at you if you slip up or are just not funny. I've stopped telling people what I do because I usually get their follow-up comment of, 'Well do something funny then'."

And having known many Comedians and Comediennes in my life, I've seen that happen more times than I can count. But it's not unique to just those who tell jokes. "Oh, you're an artist? Draw something for me!" "Oh, you're a weightlifter? Flex for me!"

And of course, I cannot tell you how many times I've heard "Oh man, you're a writer (or author)? I better watch out or you'll write a story about me!"

No. No, I won't. Because fuck you, that's why.

In order to end up in one of my stories or blog posts or articles, you have to be interesting. People who say the above prove, by the mere fact that they even bothered to say it, that they are NOT interesting. They are the opposite of interesting. They are every bit as boring and mundane as the assholes who hear my name and ask if I "Pee out of your cock! HAHAH" or are "As proud as a peacock! HAHAH" or ask where I'm going with that gun in my hand.

Congrats. You've joined the cast of thousands who has repeated one of the several exact same jokes I've heard since I was in 4th grade. You rule.

But in talking with Noa about inane horseshit that boring people lob at us, she did remind me: there was one guy who, when finding out I was a writer and asking that inane and droll question, did end up with a story about him. I just never found a place to post it on Mentally Incontinent (see what I did there? Two words, two links, two books... I'm clever dammit) back when I was writing the books, so it exists solely as a few lines of notes and a memory. But I'll share it with you now. Don't worry, I'll keep it short.

**********

I was at a "party" in 2004 (And I use the term loosely, because "party" usually means a fun gathering where frivolity is experienced, while this was more of an "obligation" because it was the housewarming party for the CEO of a company I quit working for in 2001 named Peter, and while I was friendly with some of the remaining staff, I HATED Peter with a passion. Mostly because he was a money-obsessed dick), and there was a particularly obnoxious guy there.

He was a douche who was the friend of the CEO's new neighbors. "New money" types, who are utterly incapable of discussing anything that isn't themselves or how much money they had. He had walked up and joined the little conversation circle that had formed between myself, a few of my former co-workers and friends. And he loved interrupting.

"Oh man, you worked on that Victoria's Secret site?" He asked during our reminiscing of that project. "I'd LOVE to have worked on that... All those hot chicks..."

Yeah. That type.

Anyway, when someone brought up how much they were liking what I was doing with the first book's site and some of the stories, the guy piped up and asked "So you're a writer?"

"Well, I write..." I said, prompting my usual casual dismissal of the label of "writer" because it brought with it a self-consciousness I wasn't really able to face at that time.

"OH MAN, are you going to write about this?" he asked with a smile that practically dared me to interlace his bleached ivories with a few black keys.

"Uh... No?" I replied.

A short, awkward silence, and then "Well you should! It's a great party!"

"Yeah, okay..." I said, trying to hold back a much more fiery reaction. This was someone else's home, and furthermore, a social setting where I was merely a visitor. Rather uncharacteristic of me to try to be pleasant, I know. But I was trying.

A little later, someone else was telling the story of how our former director of development shot a girl in the chest with rock salt during another party, and the douche pointed at me and loudly declared "Oh man, YOU should write a story about THAT!"

"...I did," I replied.

He just laughed. He pulled the same shit twice after that with other peoples' stories, and then proceeded to tell us all a tale about how he "...totally nailed two girls at once!" at a party in college.

"You should write about THAT!" he said, once again pointing at me.

I sighed. "Dude, come on..." I said.

"What?" he replied with the same damn smile that I couldn't tell if it was his being a smartass, or if he was genuinely serious and just smiled like that. "I just figured you're a writer, right? You might need material!"

"I'm good on material," I replied.

"So I'm not worth writing about?" he asked.

I was very frustrated. I was at this precipice of just going after him and declairing him a total fucking waste of skin, but the fact that I was trying to be respectful just kept winning. And I loathed its victory.

"It's not that you're not worth writing about," I said through grit teeth. "I... Look, I write about my life and my stories, okay? Their stories are their stories... Your story is your story."

He looked at me a bit askew, then asked "But you said you wrote about that shotgun story... That wasn't your story."

I shook my head a bit. "Yes it was," I replied. "I was there. I saw the whole thing."

He looked at me strangely. He then adopted a bit of an attitude and got confrontational. "I see how it is," he replied. "You're just an egoist."

Yes, egoist. He said egoist. I don't know where he heard or read that term, but that's what he called me.

The other people in the conversation circle were getting uncomfortable. It wasn't a pleasant thing. Things had turned a bit sour, in that way where people don't quite know if it's going to last long or not, so they hang around with a silent timer in their heads for how long they'll tolerate it before going to get another drink.

Furthermore, I was getting looks from people which clearly stated they were flabberghasted that I was holding my tongue. It's not like me to hold my tongue. So I stopped.

"...Fine. You want to know why I won't write about you?"

"Yeah!" He replied.

"It's because you're boring," I answered. "And I'm not trying to be insulting. This is most everyone in life, most of the time. This is boring. You are boring. This party? Boring."

"I'm having a good time," he said with attitude. "I don't know what your problem is..."

"It's not a problem, it's... Okay, look, for a story to be a story, there has to be a beginning, a middle and an end, right?"

"Well yeah," he said.

"Right, so, what's the beginning of this story?" I asked.

"That there was a party?"

"...Sure, okay, there's this party... And then at this party, I'm talking to some friends and then what?"

"We had a good time?" he answered.

"Fine, and then what?"

He sat silent. "I don't know, the night's not over yet!"

"Okay, so once upon a time, I was at this party where a bunch of people had a good time, and then the party kept going. The end." I stared at him. "Good enough?"

The people in the circle who knew me chuckled. The ones who didn't quite know me smirked. Him? He just kept on not learning his lesson. "Well you don't have to be a smartass about it," he said.

"Yes I do," I replied. "At least being a smartass adds some action to the damn story. So now we have, 'Once upon a time, I was at this party where I was a smartass. And then it kept going. The end.' That's infintely more interesting than your version."

We stood there as he grit his teeth. "You know what?" he finally asked. "That's fine, you go on and write your little stories. I'll keep making millions."

I smiled. "Fine," I said. "You want a story?"

He just stared at me.

I walked up to him. "Hold this for a second," I said, handing out my drink.

He looked at me defiantly.

"No, seriously, hold it for just a second."

He reached out and took my drink. I then immediately slapped him across the face -- not so hard as to leave a mark or seriously hurt him, but with enough force to let him know, he'd just been slapped.

He gasped and looked at me completely agog. I took my drink back, turned around, walked the few paces it took to retake my spot in the conversation circle, and smiled. "I think I'll call it, 'Who Wants To Slap A Millionaire?"

The circle, recovering from being taken aback, all broke out in laughter.

It was clear he wanted to challenge me, but given the immense size disparity between us, common sense prevailed. He turned on his heel and walked away.

A few moments later, Peter the CEO politely asked me to leave. I obliged happily, knowing that I'd finally done what so many writers, comedians, artists and creative types had always wanted to do.

8.18.2011

How To Start Your Thursday The Heaviest, Most Sadly Confusing Way Possible

So, this post was going to be a Part 3 of the great cereal bag debacle, illustrating how buying a Rubbermaid container to put cereal in wasn't actually solving the base issue of the bag tearing in the first place and was merely the compromise that both consumers and the industry have come to due to the lack of a better cereal bag.

My fingers danced across the keyboard with the furor that comes from righteous indignation, when a message window popped up: I'd been friended on Facebook by someone I hadn't talked to in 16 years, a guy named This One High School Guy (what, I'm going to really tell you his name?). And it was just distracting enough to cause me to stop educating the internet on why they're wrong.

This One High School Guy (or, Guy, as I'm going to call him because it's getting annoying using the shift key on and off five times in a row to type that name) was always decent. Very smart guy.  In all the advanced classes, as was I for about 2 months my Freshman year before my father pulled me out due to not trying hard enough ("You're taking a spot that another kid who really would try hard could have," he'd tell me. "I'm not going to let you waste something someone else could put to good use!" My father was a stickler for waste. He wasted NOTHING. He once made me sit at the dining room table for almost 12 hours to finish a huge mistake of a bowl of Grape Nuts).

Guy and I had very limited contact after that. We shared a few classes during the 4 years we matriculated, and when we left high school, we never talked. Still, he was pleasant enough and enough of an overachiever that I was that special kind of Facebook curious we get when we wonder just how closely our vision of what someone would achieve after high school matches reality. So, I accepted the request, and before I could really get into reading his profile, a message came from him. This is, in its entirety, the conversation we had:

9:58:57 AM [Guy]: Hey, Joe.  I hope all is well.  I don't know if you've had any contact with Mandy - I know you two were friends or dating at one time.  She's on her third bout with breast cancer, and this time it has spread aggressively to her bones.  It's stage 4, whatever that means, and terminal.  She's "Mandy [married name]" now and lives in SC with two kids, unless I'm mistaken.  Thought I'd pass the news along.

9:59:15 AM joe peacock: ...whoa 
9:59:16 AM joe peacock: i had no idea... Wow, thanks for telling me. We haven't talked since we broke up back in like 1997. I don't really know what to say... 
10:01:02 AM joe peacock: do you have contact with her? 
[High School Guy] changed status to Offline (10:03:10 AM)

...I had no idea that Guy even KNEW who Mandy was. She didn't go to our high school, and was only loosely connected to people I knew through me. But there it is. I just found out that a girl I dated 14 years ago is in the final stages of life due to a horrible disease, from a guy I haven't spoken to in 16 years. Through Facebook.

Hurrah to the modern age, huh?

Now, people who have read my stories and books know the name Mandy. She's... Well, she's enough of a figure in my life to warrant a few stories about her being written in my books. But the summary: She's an ex-girlfriend whose emotions constantly got ahead of her to the point of neurosis.

  • Her tantrums were so legendary that I once snuck out the back of a restaurant and scaled a 12-foot security fence, only to become ensnared and very cut up and bloody, because she demanded we go see Titanic the night it opened. And if I hadn't, she'd have cried all night. As it turns out, we missed the film, but the Emergency Room did give her a free Jell-o, on account of her missing dinner. Well, I say "free..." It did cost me a few hundred dollars.
  • She caused me to miss a VIP, invite-only Prince meet-and-greet show because it was "date night."
  • She once bumped into a guy at one of those Christmas stores in the mall and he fell into a Hummel display, shattering a few figurines. When he turned around and told her to "watch it!" she began crying and insisted I beat the guy's ass. The two of us stood there in the macho-yet-confused moment that's probably happened to every guy where you REALLY don't want to fight, but feel like you have to -- either because some guy is threatening you in defense of his girlfriend's honor, or some girl is crying and insisting you engage in fisticuffs. We didn't fight, but only because security showed us the door. 
  • When the relationship finally ended (and it took a LONG time for it to do so), she became a bit clingy, prompting a few weeks of... Well, the only word for it is "stalking." She hung out with my MOTHER. For WEEKS. And this culminated in her convincing my mother that I was "gay together" with my best friend Mike.  The damage waged during those weeks persists today. My mom -- regardless of the fact that she actually walked in on me making out with two separate girls in my teenage life and was AT MY WEDDING -- still believes, in some deep dark recess of her heart, that Mike and I boffed. And it's Mandy's fault.

And now, Mandy is dying.

So here I sit, writing this out because it's the only response I have right now. The emotions I feel... They're unlike anything I've ever felt before in my life. I am filled with grief borne from the idea that someone I knew and cared about -- regardless of how things ended -- is suffering and in pain and doesn't deserve what she's going through at all. And I want to reach out. And I can't.

The conflict here is fucking horrible. It makes me wonder how selfish I am. It makes me want to prove myself wrong and write a letter and offer to lend my support. And THAT feeling makes me feel so hypocritical it borders on disgusting. She made me miserable! I was very close to hating her.

Yes, hate. It's a strong word. And I almost used it when describing how I felt about her at one point. Because I felt victimized by her in some regards. But that's the other half of the coin here: I was actually to blame, if you really get down to it.

I was never honest with her. I never told her that I was only dating her because I really wanted to be alone, and my friends and family couldn't accept that, so dating someone who was away at college was the perfect excuse. I introduced distance as a precursor to having the relationship, because -- and I'm only able to be honest with this now after 14 years -- I was too much of a coward to tell my friends and family to leave me alone and let me be myself (after all, a late-teens/early-20's male should WANT to be with a girl, right? Being alone is tantamount to being OMGGAY).

And that emotional distance, coupled with someone like Mandy who cared A. LOT. ABOUT. EVERYTHING. prompts some pretty irrational behavior.

Like crying when I acted distant. Or trying a little too hard to get my attention. Or insisting she be important in my life when she's around, if I'm going to call her my girlfriend and tell her I loved her. Demanding that, if she was going to drive down from college to hang out with me on a weekend, that I actually hang out with her and not brush her off for a Prince VIP something-or-another with my friends. Insisting that, if I promise to take her to a movie she really wanted to see, that I keep that promise.

On the surface, and in my head and heart at the time, I felt she was pushy and insistent and selfish. And what I come to realize, sitting here thinking about it all, is that she was because she felt she had to be. Because when you boil it all down, she cared about me. She loved me, insofar as one can love another person at that point in life. And that makes me want to reach out to her and apologize for how it all went.

But i just don't feel like I can. Why would I? I spent a few years actively avoiding this person whom I wasn't happy with. Why, only now that I've found out she's dying and suffering, do I want to reach out? I mean, let's be fucking honest here: I'm only projecting myself as the antagonist here because it's what we do when we feel sorry for someone. She and I simply did not gel, and she did some truly crazy shit.

You see? The part of me who remembers her less than fondly is at odds against the real, caring, honest human side of me who wants to just comfort someone in pain, who I once knew. Someone who doesn't deserve what's happening to her at all. Someone who made some mistakes against me due to youth and an overabundance of emotion. Mistakes that are only mistakes in hindsight.

It's an emotional clusterfuck. And writing about it is the ONLY way I know to manage it.

The marks we leave on other peoples' lives remain in stasis, emotionally. They don't really mature along with us. We remember what other people said and did with the taint of how we felt about it with the mindset of when it happened. We never allow for perspective to alter our thoughts on those moments until, like now, we're forced to.

And that's when you begin questioning things like your own humanity in a situation where you want to be a good person... But only because you know you can't live with having been a bad one.

We both have a lot to apologize for in each others' lives. But it's only an apology when you actually feel remorse. Do I? Does she? Do I even have a handle on the breadth and width of the playing field that particular game would be played on?

I don't think I do. Because in all honesty, as much of a brat as Mandy was to me, and I was an asshole to her... Neither of us were sorry at the time. And 14 years have gone by without a single thought in my mind that I owed her anything whatsoever.

So do I owe her anything now? And why? Because she's at the end of a life, the majority of which has been spent without me in it, and I feel bad for some parts of the short portion we intersected?  Because the truth is, I already let go of all the stuff she did. A long time ago. It doesn't bother me. It makes for entertaining stories in books and at parties and that's about it. I have nothing in my heart or mind that requires closure from her.

And so, the conundrum. Reach out and have that conversation to satisfy my own grief, or leave her alone and let her live the rest of her life in the peace she's found elsewhere and just let all that go?

That's the gamble. Does reaching out help her pain... Or my own?

Maybe that's what this is. Maybe this whole post is hedging that bet so I don't have to make it. Maybe someone she knows reads this and shares it with her. Maybe no one ever does and this is catharsis enough that I can live with simply knowing that I at least attempted to rectify how I feel about this whole very tricky and delicate thing in my head and heart.

This is not intended to be insulting or hurtful. It's the exploration of how I feel about a situation that, no matter how you slice it, is difficult. And in no way do I feel my pain is even on the same level as hers -- that's actually THE POINT. She's suffering. She's battling through a disease I've only experienced tangentially in my life, in that people I know have had people THEY know suffer and die from it. What she's going through; what the family is going through... That's HELL. It's horrible. It's deep and powerful and a strain on life to the point of ending it. And I know that.

But I don't know her. Not anymore. So all I have is the pile of swirling backwash left in the bottle of a relationship that ended many years ago; suddenly put in the sunlight due to a random message from someone I hardly knew in high school. And I'm dealing with that.

...Yeah. So how's your Thursday?

8.17.2011

Cereal Bags, Part 2: Using Tools, Evolution, "First World Problems" And Your Mom

Yesterday, I voiced a gripe on my blog about the inherent design flaws in modern breakfast cereal bags.

Some commenters on the blog, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Huffington Post and Fark suggested that I'm a neanderthal and that my simian nature led me toward mindlessly ripping into the bag rather than using tools created by our evolved society, such as scissors and knives.

Here's my response to them:



(can't see the video? Click here)



♫ Down for the count... Lookin at the ground... I think your a hater... ♫


As for cereal bags being a "First World Problem" --  You're goddamn right it is. And here's a tip for those of you unable to comprehend why this matters: if you're reading this right now, YOU LIVE IN THE FIRST WORLD.

Society and humankind have evolved to a point where economics and technology advance to bring us steps (and sometimes leaps) forward in our standards of living. The mere fact that there is a heat-bonding process to seal a cereal bag is itself a marvel of modern technology. When you factor in the logistics that have come into play to merely getting that cereal to a grocery store, or packaging it in cardboard boxes decorated with a four-color printing process, or the trucks that actually haul the cereal, or the massive factories full of wonderful machines that actually process, sort and bag the cereal, or the farms which grow the genetically-modified corn and wheat which is harvested by monstrous tractors...

Well, you get the idea. And my point is this: What if we just stopped advancing at any point in that process, satisfied that we'd reached a place where it was now a First World Problem to continue refining and advancing the logistics, machinery, technology or farming behind all of it?

What if the people behind the wireless remote control were complaining to his family about having to get off the reclining barcolounger (full of advanced mechanisms to swing that footstool out) to switch the dials on the television set (which broadcasts moving pictures through the air or coaxial cable), and they all yelled in unison "FIRST WORLD PROBLEM! You should be so lucky as to have television at all!"

Fuck you.

We advance because of discomfort and dissatisfaction with our current state. You're all correct: it IS a First World Problem. Which means we have access to the educated and intelligent members of this First World society who can make the problem less of a problem. They can advance us beyond the inconvenience of ripping the bag holding the cereal by applying the simple zipping mechanism of a Ziploc bag.

Does this cure world hunger? Does this stop AIDS from spreading? Does it feed every man, woman and child in this nation? No, of course not. But it's yet another cog in the vast machine that is our ever-evolving and forward-moving society. And I'd posit that perhaps this advancement in cereal bag technology might actually lead to the next great leap forward in our technological, engineering or medical fields. Why?

Because the great minds leading those charges have to eat breakfast, too. And I guarantee you they're just as fucking annoyed as I am with the cereal bag ripping down the side.

Maybe the Ziploc Cereal Bag saves a cancer researcher a morning's frustration. Maybe they won't get all angry and agitated after opening a bag of Cheerios and spilling it everywhere. This means they won't snap at their spouse over leaving the cap off the toothpaste, causing them to be divorced. And that means they avoid a great misery in their lives forcing them to hit the bottle and get drunk while in the lab, so when they get in their car one fateful evening and drive home tipsy, they don't careen headlong into a bus full of little league baseball players and kill everyone involved, thus preventing them from finding the cure for lymphoma. And society is better for it.

Or, at least, they have a slightly less annoying day. As will you when the cereal people finally install that goddamn Ziploc device. So shut the fuck up.

8.16.2011

Dear Cereal People: PLEASE FIX YOUR BAGS

It's 5:45 in the morning.

Or, maybe for you other, more sane people, something like 7:45, or 9:45, or if it was an exceptionally good weekend night, 1:45 in the afternoon. At any rate, the time isn't that important, except that it measures how long you've been awake, which in this case, is just long enough to be mobile and hungry but not quite long enough to do long division with a pencil and paper.

So you reach into your cupboard and pull out some tasty, tasty cereal. It's a fresh box. And you know what a fresh box means... ANTICIPATION. From the moment you bought the cereal at the store, you've been, at some level, playing through what it will be like to pour that first delicious bowl of your favorite breakfast treat. And now it's here... The moment of triumph. All that waiting has led to this moment.

BOY OH BOY.
(can't see the picture? click here)

So you gently lift the top of the box and separate the two folding pieces of cardboard which are held together with a modest amount of adhesive, and for just a very small split second, you say a silent prayer to the Cereal Gods who finally -- FINALLY -- figured out the proper amount of glue to keep you from ripping the damn top off completely (which makes folding the tab back into the slot to preserve freshness completely impossible).

You get to the bag, and here's where the conundrum starts. You're not an idiot. You remember what happened last time you opened one of these bags -- it ripped all over the damn place. But the time before that? It opened smoothly, what the hell is that crap? But wait, was it the same brand of cereal? Is it possible that different brands have different abilities to open properly? Which brand is this one... Was this the one that opened with no muss and no fuss?

Tired and not quite free of the cobwebs just yet, you gingerly pinch both sides of the bag and begin to separate them. And that's when one of three things happens:

  1. It opens smoothly. Chances of happening: approximately 20%
  2. It begins to open smoothly, but as you get to one of the two edges, varying degrees in levels of adhesive along the seam cause you to have to change the amount of force you're using, and the bag tears down the side. This is the most common occurrence. Chances of happening: 79%
  3. You HULK RIP! the damn thing apart, expecting the tensile strength of the plastic to actually withstand being opened with some immediacy, and cereal explodes from your hands like a grand, tasty HADOKEN! Chances of happening: If you're everyone else on Earth, 1%. But if you're me... Well, stop it. I'm me. Get your own gig.
  4. You're one of THOSE people who use SCISSORS which is AGAINST NATURE and you should stop being so SMUG and posting snotty COMMENTS to my FACEBOOK. Chances of that happening: about the same as a Prius owner not telling you within the first 2 minutes of meeting them that they drive a HYBRID.

Right. In this case, it was #2:

Mother. Fucker.
(can't see the picture? click here)

This, of course, sends me into a blind rage. I want nothing more than to meet the executive at the cereal company who made the brilliant fucking decision to skimp on material costs by heat-sealing and gluing this bag in the most "cost-effective" manner so as to result in a disproportionate number of bag-opening mishaps (which, you just KNOW, he calls an "acceptable consequence" or "marginal loss" or some bullshit term which translates into "whatever money I save here, I get to spend on a new Masarati") and pretend the bag is his face. 

I know I'm not alone here. I know you feel the same way. But since assault isn't exactly legal (but a small part of me honestly believes that every judge in every jurisdiction has experienced this same situation and would totally sympathize), there are two solutions as I see it:

  1. Redistribute the adhering solution and pull back slightly on the heat sealing process, so as to allow for an even distribution of force when opening which will keep us from struggling to the point of ripping the bag and spilling cereal all over the stove and having the little bits fall into the holes where the burners are and causing us to curse the stupid cereal executive's existence and wanting to fuck him in the mouth with an all-steel flashlight, or
  2. Put the cereal in a ziploc-style container.

Dudes, it's not that hard. They're cheap and already exist.
(can't see the picture? click here)


I was so moved by this potential solution, I demonstrated to the cereal executives the process we consumers currently have to take when this situation arises:

(can't see the picture? click here)


This really can't be that hard. And I'd gladly pay another, what, 35 cents per box to make this happen? I mean, Ziplocs are, in quantity, about 35 cents each -- and that's after retail markup. I can't help but think that they'd get a price break from the distributor.

Please, cereal people: MAKE THIS HAPPEN. Or there will be more foul language and early morning grumpy YouTube clips in your future.


8.14.2011

I Tested It: Ignorance IS Bliss (And I'm Never Going Back)

I used to be a 24/7 news and information junkie. When I wasn't watching either CNN, MSNBC or Fox News, I was reading one of 20-some-odd news RSS feeds in my news reader, checking Reddit and Fark and Digg, and otherwise cramming my brain full of everything that was happening, all the time.

Almost a year ago, I decided to stop. It was one of several steps I took to become much happier. And it worked. At first, it felt like there was a massive hole in both my routine and my awareness. I felt, in a word, dumb. I was out of touch. I couldn't participate in discussions about current events with the breadth and depth I used to (which, for the most part, was "subject matter expert" -- the only other people I've ever met who were as tuned in and aware of the second-by-second changes in any story are Drew Curtis who runs Fark, and Alexis Ohanian who runs Reddit, so almost always, I was the guy with his thumb on the pulse of whatever topic was being discussed). And it was a huge blow to my self-perception. Almost as big as running the marathon and consequently losing nearly 30 pounds of muscle. But that's another blog post for another time.

So, a year later, I've run into a few situations with completely separate groups of friends, family and acquaintances where the topic of current events or politics comes up, and I have nothing to contribute. And in each and every case, the exact same thing happens: first, people want to know if I'm sick. Or if there was a blow to the head in my recent history. Or if I'm just playing games.

"You NEVER have nothing to say," someone in each group says.

"Well, I just have no perspective on this," I reply. Note that I don't say "opinion" cause that's never true. But the lack of perspective is. I seriously have no idea what's going on as it happens anymore. I mean, I do hear through the one news feed what's happening in the world. But with the London riots, for instance -- it was three days in before I knew the story. And that's only because someone posted a picture in their Twitter feed.

In fact, that's how I find out almost everything worth knowing -- through social networks. Facebook friends posting an opinion on something, or Twitter friends linking to a story somewhere.

And I couldn't be happier.

There really is a sense of relief in my life; not stuffing my awareness with all this information which -- honestly -- is fleeting. It has opened the door for me to be aware of so many more important things, such as creating things. Drawing, for instance. I now have hours -- HOURS -- I didn't have before to just sit and study the line which forms the distinction between someone's figure and the background in front of which they stand. I can appreciate conversations in a way I never did before, because they're no longer entirely about today's hot news story or someone's ridiculous antics in Congress.

I'm no longer the guy in the know (about current events, anyway). And it's such a relief. As Seth Godin recently pointed out, there is no shortage of speed these days. Everything that's happening right now, we know about right now. It used to matter when something was Breaking News. Bombs going off in subways. Planes flying into buildings. Presidents being impeached. Gas mains breaking and exploding.

Now, EVERYTHING is Breaking. In fact, to me, it's broken. Information is omnipresent and immediate, and we as a society have lost the ability to determine what's really important, because all of it is always in front of us.

I for one am enjoying the break from Breaking. I still know everything worth knowing... The difference is, I now have actual perspective on what matters. At least, the perspective I've come to want. And life is so much better for it.

8.11.2011

On Being Vulnerable

I watch So You Think You Can Dance?.

Go ahead and laugh if you like. I'll wait.

I've been watching the show since Season 1. My wife and I saw the promos, and we thought it was just going to be an American Idol style showcase of retards who bounce around. "It could be pretty funny," she said. "Eh, if you're going to have it on while I work..." I replied.

There were some truly, truly amazing dancers amongst the silly folk. And having taken a little bit of dance in high school (if by dance, you mean "stood there like a really strong prop because I was able to lift the girls") I knew just enough to know what good technique looked like. So, I gave it a shot and fell in love with it.

The other week, Jeremy was hanging out at the house while we watched SYTYCD. That evening, there was a particularly moving piece where Marko danced for the very first time in front of his mother (who flew in from Guam to see him) about judgement and the guilt that results from realizing you've hurt someone (for life, to me) when you convince them your opinion is fact. And it made me cry:

(Can't see the video? click here)


"You're really crying?" Jeremy asked.

"Yup," I replied. "It was beautiful. It's my favorite Jeff Buckley cover, it's a powerful message, and he just danced in front of his mother for the first time. How are you not crying?"

He sighed and Tweeted about it for the world to see (he's since deleted it, because he realized he was stupid). And I didn't really care. I've long since stopped caring what the world thinks about the moments where I'm vulnerable. I suppose that'll happen after spending eight years writing about your most vulnerable moments on the internet for the world to see.

After a while, peoples' thoughts on whether or not you should be vulnerable just don't matter, because the people who do get it and do respond and do write to tell me thanks for letting them know they're not the only person on earth who felt the way they feel far outweigh macho pricks who think crying is for girls.

I try to live with feeling. I try to embrace moments. I have left myself wide open (stupidly, even) to let people really, really hurt me. And I can't be sorry about any of it, because I learned something from each experience. I won't lie -- I try like hell to put up walls and keep myself protected. And I do often watch as people bounce off my walls and get confused as to why they were even there in the first place. But when I believe in someone or something, I open myself wide and try to believe the best about it.

And sometimes, it hurts. Badly. Very, very badly.

But sometimes, it is rewarding and opening and validating and real and warm. And it makes me realize that the ups can't come without the downs. Stars don't twinkle without the darkness behind and around them. And life is a connected series of moments and experiences where you try things out (usually because they just feel like the right thing to do) and let the chips fall where they may.

And that translates into things like watching So You Think You Can Dance? if for no other reason than because you can recognize when one of those dancers is laying it all on the line and opening themselves to that moment and risking it all. And you can see when they've experienced something so vicious and painful in their lives and it comes through in their movement and their face. And you can relate to it, because you've felt it and seen it and know it. Like this piece -- which no matter how many times I see it or prepare myself for it, never EVER fails to make me cry -- about addiction:

(Can't see the video? click here)

The moment for me that just makes me collapse emotionally is at 1:07, when he grabs her arm and is in complete control of her and just looks so malevolent... And she can't escape. So she surrenders. She gives in. And he floats her as far as he can take her. Because that's what addiction is like. Once you realize you're there, you fight -- HARD -- and you just cannot escape, so you surrender. You give in. You feel as if your life will never be without it. And it carries you as far as it can, until eventually even it isn't enough, and it all collapses.

And if you've ever known anyone who has (or yourself have) experienced addiction, you know exactly what I'm talking about. How does that not make you want to cry? It's pain, personified. And if you know pain, and you allow yourself to be vulnerable in that moment when you watch this, you can relate to someone else's pain. And that is beautiful.

It's human. It's connection. And it's why we're here.

If you're never vulnerable; if you never open yourself to the possibility of being hurt, you also never open yourself to the possibility of being truly happy. You will feel nothing. And an unfeeling life is not a life worth living.


8.09.2011

The Letter Writing Campaign Thing -- Some Early Observations

As of today, I've gotten 22 letters from folks. This floors me -- I didn't expect that many! And I especially didn't expect that many this soon -- it's only been a little over 2 weeks since I asked if you guys missed writing letters as much as I did. And I expected, oh, five. Maybe ten. But when I got that many in just one week, I knew I was on to something.

Judging by the content of all the letters -- every single one, in fact -- the concept of a handwritten letter is something everyone who has written, misses. And that's the first observation. The very real, human aspect of putting a hand on a pen and using it to write a message to a person? That's something that a lot of people really value. And it's something that's been lost in this modern age.

In fact, I'm instant messaging right now with someone who wrote me a letter, Heather. And she told me that in just one week, she found herself writing three handwritten letters/notes, and described it as "disorienting" because she's gotten so used to email, IM and texting.

Disorienting. That's just a strange term to hear when talking about the simple act of writing a letter. But I can completely relate. It just seems so antiquated. Almost a romantic thing (not like man-woman-courtship romance, but more like sunset romantic... Typewritten book romantic. The notion of something experienced as sentimental). And that leads me to my next observation: the vast majority of the letters come from female writers.

I've always had what I consider a surprising female reader demographic. Before I sold the first book, I thought I catered mostly to young teenage boys. And I garnered that fact by watching who commented on the stories and the kind of things that were in the forums on the old Mentally Incontinent site. But when the sales figures were tabulated, I was shocked to find that I was selling to over 40% females.

When the second book came out, I was especially shocked to find that the vast majority of new readers who wrote in within a month of the book coming out were females -- nearly 90%. So I don't know if this is endemic of my reader base consisting of a higher level of females than I'd expect, or the fact that letter writing would appeal to ladies in general. Or maybe the fellas haven't really gotten around to it yet -- we guys are notorious procrastinators.

But I will say that this whole thing has been fascinating, to say the least. In fact, I've decided if I get enough letters, and you guys are cool with it, there's probably a book that could be made out of this.

I'm absolutely serious. Naturally, I'd have to ask that everyone who writes a letter be okay with that letter being published. And if you are, if it's cool to include your name or not. But regardless, the project (which, I guess, it's now a project? Who knows) has legs. The letters themselves, how they're written, what they're written on, the things people have sent, the feelings that have been shared, and most of all the reasons why letter writing has appealed to so many... All very fascinating stuff don't you agree?

If you do, won't you please spread the word (and more importantly, send a letter yourself)? And if you're stuck on what to write, don't be. Just write me a letter. That's the real goal here -- to share something with you that goes past the digital immediacy of our current society and into something heartfelt. Something real and tangible.

So, again, here's my address:

PO Box 792
Lovejoy, GA 30250

I look very forward to hearing from you!



8.04.2011

The No Bull**it Guide To Self Defense For Ladies

A few years ago, I wrote a guide on how to actually win a fist fight. The guide was geared mostly toward men and boys who had no fight training, who may find themselves in a situation where they have to defend themselves against a bully. It was a much bigger success than I ever anticipated. To date, I've received over a hundred emails from fathers thanking me for writing the guide that finally taught their kid how to stand up for himself, and young men who have faced bullies and other less than savory characters using the tactics I taught them.

Yesterday, completely separate from each other, two women asked me to write a self-defense guide for ladies, with the same no-bullshit attitude and tactics I used in the fist fight guide. I took this as a sign, and have done exactly that. It is my sincere hope that no woman ever has to use any of the information in this guide, ever. But unfortunately in today's social climate, hoping isn't enough.


Don't let this happen to you... PLEASE. 


This guide will very lightly touch on things that you can learn in just about every self defense course, video and article I've ever seen -- namely, situational awareness, avoiding becoming a victim, and all of that. It will then dive very briefly into why you should carry a gun, and if not a gun, a can of pepper spray with military-grade tear gas -- and if not that, a knife.

And then, we get to the stuff I've never really seen anywhere: what to do if you need to defend yourself against a male attacker with only your hands.

So, if you already know all that situational awareness stuff and you find guns and knives and the like icky and gross, feel free to skip on down to the last section. But I'll go ahead and tell you the point of this entire guide, and hope you won't skip anything:

This is your life we're talking about here. Not just staying alive, but living it without having to face severe traumatic experience (read: getting raped).  He is going to hurt you or kill you. You need to be prepared to hurt him first and escape.

So even if you know this stuff, it's not a bad idea to re-read it and refresh your memory.

Situational awareness

This is the "common sense" portion of the guide. And that phrase is in quotes because, even though sitting here reading this thing, you're going to think "well, DUH, of course I shouldn't walk down dark alleyways at night by myself," I guarantee that the vast majority of you have done exactly that, thinking "well, I'm in a hurry" or "it looks safe enough."

Nothing is ever "safe enough." It's either safe or not safe. Period.

Now, there's no need to go out into the world thinking everyone's out to get you. You don't have to be in a constant paranoid panic every time you go to the mall. But you DO need to keep your head about you.

In the car: 

If your car gets stranded on the highway, stay the hell in it. Don't go anywhere. Keep a disposable cellphone in your car and keep it charged up with minutes (and juice). Most states have a DOT program that can help you with roadsiassistancence. Even if a person is wearing a uniform (even a cop), STAY. IN. THE. CAR. No police officer is going to ask you to get out of your vehicle if you've done nothing wrong, and even if you have, you have the right to request they call another officer or their watch captain / sergeant to the scene before you exit the vehicle.

On that note: police cars have blue and/or red lights. There are no exceptions. No car without blue/red lights has the legal right to pull you over. DO NOT PULL OVER FOR ANY CAR WITHOUT BLUE AND/OR RED LIGHTS. For those that do, you can legally signal to an officer your intent to pull over by slowing down and turning on your hazards, which you should do until you get to a public, well-lit area.


Police cars may have red lights as well as blue, but they always have at least one of those colors. Typically, Sheriffs and state / federal vehicles (State Troopers, FBI) are blue-only (except in Michigan, thanks Erin). 



Out and about / on foot:


Park your car under lights whenever possible, as near to any building as possible (that will be open when you plan to exit). Avoid recessed doorways and alleyways on city streets. Travel with people -- if you're by yourself, look around for a group of girls or guys and girls, and walk near them. Don't talk to strangers, especially men. Keep to yourself -- fuck all that "what will society think?" crap. If a scary man (of any race) looks scary, stay the hell away. Who cares if you hurt his feelings? The worst that happens is a nice guy has a bad story to tell his friends about how much his ego was hurt, the best is you avoid being beaten and raped. Pick the best option.

A quick antecdote: when I was active in martial arts (Judo, specifically), I regularly assisted in teaching self-defense courses. One of the students in my dojo -- a girl named Sandy -- was a black belt in Judo and studied Akido. She was devastatingly fast and could handle just about every man in our dojo. In the self defense clases, she executed every maneuver perfectly.

One rainy night, she was out on the town with two of her girlfriends, and they were approached by an attacker in a parking lot of a bar. The guy was waving a knife at them and demanding they surrender their purses. Guess what Sandy did?

a) A flying armbar which resulted in a severe dislocation while her friends called the police,
b) A super fast saronagi (over-the-shoudler throw) which flung her attacker across the parking lot,
c) threw her purse at him and ran with her friends back to the bar? 

Yeah, it was c. She was a highly trained martial artist. She was even armed with an umbrella. And she had the good sense to do the best thing she could have -- give the guy what he wanted and run. 


I don't care how expensive the bag was or what you have in it -- it's not worth your life or your innocence. Toss the damn thing. 

If you are approached and mugged, throw your purse (or wallet, or cash clip) in one direction and run the other. Trust me, if you're being robbed, they will choose the cash over you. 

But if they're not out to rob you -- if they're there to rape and hurt you -- you need to know how to handle that. And that's why I recommend highly that you arm yourself. In order of effectiveness (and preference): a gun, pepper spray, a knife, a tazer / stun gun, a blunt instrument (those stupid key-bats you see on sale around town), hand-to-hand.  I won't be covering ineffective measures, mostly because they're ineffective.


On weapons:

First thing's first: in my experience (and the experience of just about every self-defense instructor I've ever met), womens' ideas of effective self defense measures are, in a word, not. Most women have a drastically inhibited concept of what effective self defense is. So, I'm going to give you the only answer, and there is no variation on this:

You must be prepared to disable or kill an attacker who is intent on hurting you. And by disable, I mean to the point of being unable to pursue you. Kicking the nuts and punching someone in the nose? Sounds great. It's taught by mothers and fathers to daughters the world over. And guess what -- it's pretty much the least effective advice you could ever give anyone.

When physically confronted, men instinctively protect their genitals and face. It's inborn. We just do it. Then, there's the fact that adrenaline and endorphins block out the pain caused by being kicked in the balls or punched in the face (long enough to do you grevious bodily harm, anyway).


See? Balls and face. Even the most girly of men (soccer players) do this.


These measures aren't ineffective, mind you. They're just the least effective of all the advice you could be given. There are physical moves you can do to defend yourself, and we will cover those in detail in a bit. But my focus here is effective self defense, and you have to understand that we are talking about keeping you from getting beat up, raped and/or killed. So, to that end:

The golden rules:

1) Keep your head. It's hard. You're scared. Try not to let fear turn into panic. Keep breathing. Keep your head up. Keep your eyes open. Don't fly into a blind rage. Don't lose sight of your escapes. Stay in control of yourself.

2) Make no mistake -- You're fighting for your life. Not just your ability to stay alive, but also your ability to live the rest of your days without the painful scars of a violent attack. This means you need to let go of any pacifist philosophy or maternal instinct you've got and get ready to get mean.

3) Distance is your friend.  Bluntly, you cannot be raped if they can't get to you. You want as much distance as possible between you and your attacker. Escape is your absolute primary goal. Your best means of escaping an attacker is to have a great head start, and you want the guy to be completely incapable of pursuing you.

So my advice on weapons, in order of most effective to least:


Get a gun. 

Now, I need to tell you that if you do opt for the gun -- and I sincerely hope you will -- there's a LOT to discuss. In fact, it's probably deserves its own guide. But the bottom line is that guns are not meant to intimidate or maim, they are meant to kill. Do not get a gun to scare off an attacker. Do not get a gun to shoot them in the leg. Get a gun to shoot them and kill them and save your own life. This will require, if not demand, that you go to a gun range at least once a month and hone your skills, as well as practicing your draw from wherever you decide to keep it (purse, night stand, waistband, whatever).

The GLOCK 26 short-frame 9mm pistol. Concealable, powerful, and kinda pretty. 


If you cannot face this, you probably shouldn't get a gun. But there's absolutely no getting around it: in the hands of a woman who has taken the time to learn how to draw, aim and shoot her gun, there's no better measure to defending yourself. Period, end of story.


If you don't want a gun, get pepper spray. 

Let's assume you don't want a gun, legally can't get one, aren't prepared to be a responsible and effective gun owner (by going to the range and practicing), or you don't have the money. I highly recommend you get high velocity bear repellent for your home, and this SABRE spray for out and about. Don't bother with MACE -- some people aren't very susceptible to its effects, and even those that are are much more susceptible to pepper spray + tear gas. The portable sprayer is pink. And that's nice. But they sell it in black, too, if you're into the stealth thing (or pink is just too stereotypical).

A keychain / concealable pepper spray canister. My wife keeps one in her car, one in her purse, and one on her keychain. They're 8 bucks a piece. Load up. 


As for the bear spray, it shoots up to 30 feet and will flat knock a man down. When in the confines of your home, escape routes are fewer. You want as much distance as possible, and you want the guy to be completely incapable of pursuing you.

Keep a can of bear repellent near your bed, one near any door in your home, and one in the centermost hallway. 


Now, if you're going to use spray, you need to be aware of a few things:
1) It's most effective in the eyes, nose and mouth.
2) You need to practice with it just like you would a gun. To not practice with it is folly. You will either fumble with it when you need it, or end up hurting yourself.
3) don't spray it into the wind, or you'll blind yourself, too.


Tasers / stun guns:

Tasers work... sometimes. 

1) They're easily defeated by thick jackets and clothing. Ask a cop if you don't believe me.
2) You get one shot. True, they sell multi-shot tazers, but if someone's wearing a thick jacket, the other two shots will just fail to penetrate as well, and then you're screwed.

The taser. You've got one shot, make it count (and hope they're not wearing a leather jacket). 

Handheld stun guns have the same limitations, but with the added issue of proximity. Remember, distance is your friend. Stun guns require you be right next to the attacker.

Furthermore, while they do work, they don't subdue. They merely temporarily disable. The point of using any of these weapons is to render the attacker unable to attack -- and if you temporarily subdue them, then start running and they can get up and pursue, you've failed. And now, you're expending energy and oxygen and time while they pursue you, and if they get you again, you're in trouble.


Knife:

I recommend every woman carry a knife as a backup to their gun / pepper spray. I carry a knife myself. I've never had to brandish it, much less use it (thank god). But I have it, just in case. I'm a HUGE fan of spring-assist knives by SOG (specifically, the FLASH II). I recommend a solid aluminum handle. If you can get your hands on one, get a fully-automatic knife like a switchblade. Yes, they're illegal in many states, but so is rape. Your attacker isn't letting a pesky thing like "laws" get in his way. Don't let them get in yours.


The SOG Flash II with aluminum handle and serated blade. It'll fuck shit up, and it's legal in almost every state. 


I'm not knife trained in any real manner outside of the very basics, which I'm going to share with you:

1) Hold it blade-down, in an "overhand" grip. This would be like making a fist for punching, only there's the blade of a knife sticking out of the bottom of your hand.
2) If you're facing your attacker... What the hell are you doing? Run.
3) If your attacker has you from behind, plunge the blade of the knife into their thigh. Twist it. Remove it. This will keep the wound from closing and do some serious damage to his ability to chase you. DO NOT LET GO OF YOUR KNIFE, EVER. If you do, even if you've stabbed your attacker, you've just given him a knife. Don't make his job of hurting you any easier.

Don't wave your knife around like you see in movies (this really applies to every weapon). Don't threaten. Don't telegraph you have it. Your job is not to intimidate, it's to escape. If you pull out your weapon, use it. Don't pull it out unless you are absolutely going to use it. You run the risk of being disarmed, or worse, escallating an encounter to something far more serious by producing a weapon that the attacker is now prepared for.


Blunt instruments (bats, flashlights, those stupid "key bats" they sell so you can swing a keyring at a guy intent on hurting you, etc):

Well, simply put, they require you be close to the attacker. That's what we don't want. But they're better than going bare-fisted. So if you have nothing else, or lack the good judgement to get a gun or buy pepper spray, get yourself an ASP (collapsable baton). Know that in most states, they require a law enforcement ID to buy, unless you go to a pawn shop or gun show. Also, they're considered a controlled weapon, like brass knuckles or a blackjack. But again, the law isn't really a concern when someone's trying to hurt you.

If it is a concern for you, then get a huge 4-battery Mag Lite and carry it everywhere. It doesn't rouse suspicion, it fits nicely under the seat of your car, and it is legal in all 50 states. It's also cumbersome. It probably won't fit in a purse. It's awkward to carry around stores.

But the truth is, short of a baseball bat, it's the most effective legal weapon you can possess... That isn't a gun or pepper spray, of course.


Your bare hands (AKA the last resort, AKA what to do if he gets you):

If you're facing your attacker, read up on my fist fight guide. It's long, and necessary if you're not going to heed my advice on weapons and running. Read it. The only difference is that it's possible a swift kick by you to the knees or genitals might help... But you need to keep in mind, kicking in tennis shoes or heels (or barefoot) can result in a broken foot, or miss and leave you off balance. You need your feet and your balance to escape.

If you are caught from behind and still standing:
a) Stomp instep. Over and over again, stomp right down on his foot, preferably on the instep. Break the foot if you can. It doesn't take much to do this, by the way. And don't be satisfied with one good stomp -- keep it up until he lets you go, or you break his foot.
b) Sling head backwards, over and over. Break his nose or dislocate his jaw. Either will cause his eyes to water.
c) Grab his fingers (not hands, get a single finger) and wring it like crazy. Break it if you can, especially a thumb. You'll know it's broken when you hear the "CRACK!" sound and his yelping.

If you're on the ground, the fingers thing is still important. Break his goddamn thumbs. If he's on top of you, get your hands to his face and gouge out his eyes. Did you know it only takes about 15 sq. lbs. of torque to dislodge the eye from its socket? If you clap your hands with any sort of velocity, that's roughly 60-80 sq. lbs. of torque. Trust me, getting your thumbs into his sockets and pressing VERY. HARD. will be effective.

If you can't quite get there, slap his ears. Cup your hand and rupture the eardrum.

If you can't get there, make your hand into a blade (fingers together) and chop / stab at his throat. Don't punch at it, your fist is too big to fit into the gap between the jaw and collar bone to be effective. You want to crush his windpipe.

If you can't do that, start raising your knees at high velocity and try to crush his genitals. This isn't the most effective of all the tactics, but it does work.

At any rate, the SECOND you can get away, do so. And whatever you do, don't drop your hands to your sides or let him stop them. Thrash. Go fucking crazy. Tear his face off. Never stop until you escape.

If none of that works, and if you can't get away, OR you're in a "date rape" type of situation (indoors and unable to just go nuts and run):

In a "calm" situation (indoors, date rape):

If saying "no" and then fighting him off hasn't worked, go with it.

I know. Gross. But trust me on this. Just relax. Get into it. Start running your hands up and down his shoulders. Work your way up to his face. Maybe even kiss him. Get your hands on both cheeks. Put your thumbs right into his eyes. Press like hell and dislodge the eyes from their sockets. If he's got glasses, just slowly try to remove them.

If you can't get to his face, try asking if you can help him with his pants, or even better, "Go down" on him. Get his pants to his ankles. Get his underwear to his knees. Place both hands around the testicles and yank as hard as you can -- try to pull the bastards off. A distended testicle will make him incapable of running, and is FAR more effective than trying to kick or punch the balls. It takes quite a lot of force to rupture one, but not much at all to yank it out of place.

With his pants around his ankles, he's not going to be able to chase.

If that's not possible, look for an alarm clock or the phone. Anything with bulk. Grab it and slam it against his head.

In any case, the second you can get out of the room, run. Get out of the house / building. Go to the nearest populated place (a neighbor's house, a store, a gas station). Shame has no place here -- swallow your pride and get running, even if you're disrobed and embarrassed.

(UPDATE, 7:30PM: I want to make it absolutely clear that the first priority before "Go With It" is definitely saying no, making it very clear that you are not comfortable, and then if possible fighting him off. It's only after these tactics have failed that I'm advocating turning the tables and trying another tack. You're in a situation where you're already trapped and something you don't want to happen is happening, and fighting has failed. Rather than just giving up, try another tactic that may open an opportunity for you to escape).

All of this said, it's far better to have a weapon and be safe and distant.


Final thoughts:

The major major MAJOR point here is to be aware of your surroundings and not get attacked in the first place. If you are attacked, you need distance between you and your attacker, as quickly as possible. To that end, a weapon which incorporates distance is primary. One that incapacitates and keeps them from pursuing you is preferred.

It's unpleasant to talk about, but the truth is, there's no martial art in the world that can teach you how to defend yourself while unconscious. If he can't get near you, he can't choke you or knock you out.

If you have no choice, or weapons simply aren't an option for you, you need to keep calm and use the situation to your advantage however possible. If fighting can't get you free, turn the tables. You're already trapped -- instead of just surrendering, try a fallback tactic of going with it and attempting to get your hands on the most vulnerable parts of his body, the eyes and the genitals.

Above all else... Be ready to hurt him for real. Because he's ready to hurt you, and that simply won't do.


**UPDATE 11:45AM 8.6.11 **

To all the men who have commented or emailed about how women shouldn't be paranoid all the time, or why nice guys get a bad rap when trying to talk to a girl, READ THIS. NOW.