5.31.2012

Awfully Brave From The Sidelines...

If you know an NFL fan, you also undoubtedly know one of the truest observations of modern society: Everyone's a better quarterback on Monday morning. Every play from the big game on Sunday can be analyzed. Critiques can be made. "They should have..." this and "I would have..." that.

You'll notice, most of these guys never played the game. And they most certainly never played professionally. They've never had to make split-second decisions that are less decision than they are reaction. They've never been physically winded and spent and had to go yet another play. They've never wallowed in the mud fighting to move the ball a yard just to keep from losing.

And their opinions should be treated as such. No matter how many statistics someone can quote or games they've seen or sports radio talk shows they listen to, the old saying stands: Everyone's got a plan until they get hit.

I was reminded of this yesterday, when my "manifesto" about posers and Fashion Geeks was posted on CNN GeekOut. The intent was to explain the difference between actually being a geek -- immersing yourself in things that bring you joy to the extent that it can be considered a passion -- and Fashion Geeks, the people who buy iPhones and pretend they're gadget experts, or who wear comic book or sci-fi shirts and attend conventions because it's trendy right now.

The reactions, by and large, were positive. But of course, there had to be those who simply opt to lob insults and be contrarian just to take pot shots.

"Dude, you're not a geek. You're a hipster."

"Good to see that CNN is now posting rants better suited to Facebook, the home of narcissism."

"Oh great. Geekery has hipsters now."

Etcetera.

In fact, I'm reminded of it every time anything I write is posted on CNN, Huffington Post, Fark, Reddit, and so on. No matter what I write, there's going to be passionate reactions to it from detractors, know-it-alls and contrarians. 

I don't mind. I really don't. Commentary fall into two categories for me: people with good points and something else, I don't even give a shit enough to give it a name anymore. 

The simple fact is this: when you put yourself out there, you are out there. It doesn't matter how -- writing, painting, drawing, playing an instrument, singing, speaking in public. Whatever medium you choose, when you step out into the open and expose yourself, you're the focus. And there are going to be people who decide to make you a target.

A target for what? Venting their colons. Sorting out their deep-laden parental issues. Simply attacking to attack... Who knows. It makes them feel powerful to hide amongst crowds and look for people out there to fling poo at, treating them like targets of opportunity. They want to hear themselves speak. They feel like attacking someone putting their work out in the world adds some sort of validity to whatever it is that comes out of their mouths.

But you'll NEVER find them making the first move.

React, react, react... But they'll never ACT. They'll never create. They'll simply spend their days having opinions on the creations of others. They will forever be on the lookout for things to hurl stones at, never once stepping out into the open and exposing themselves to the same.

You'll notice, the more helpful and polite the critiques, counter-points and other feedback you get from people, the more likely it is they're a creator. It's not just because they're trying to be nice. It's because they actually have something worth saying, usually derived from experiences in creating things themselves. They don't blithely dish out punishment (well, most don't -- there are definitely some who create who also decide, out of jealousy or malice, to tear down the work of others. Those are a special sort of misanthrope I like to call "Assholes" and you should NEVER listen to them).

I am continually reminded of (and inspired by) my favorite quote, by a legendary programmer known as Why The Lucky Stiff:
"When you don't create things, You become defined by your tastes rather than ability. Your tastes only narrow & exclude people. So create."
I'll pay attention when they put themselves out there and take a stance first, instead of simply reacting to the stances of others. I'll watch when they write and perform a piece of music. I'll read articles they write or study paintings they make or otherwise give them the focus of my attention when they do something other than wait for their turn to speak.

I'll listen to the critiques of those with experience long before I listen to the judgements of those with nothing more than opinions.

5.29.2012

Addendum: More Broken (And Still Broken)

Sunday, I went into a bit of a rant about "broken" processes at Comcast. There are quite a few. The post ended with the internet turning back on and me summarizing all that could be more efficient.

Turns out, the internet was not actually fixed when it came back on Sunday. And having grown to be a wise and jaded jerk when it comes to big companies, I didn't cancel my appointment to have it fixed. And that's a good thing, because I'm chewing through my cellular data hotspot plan like crazy. And really, that's not the point. I don't think you guys find it particularly interesting when I do or do not have internet access.

What I do want to mention are the calls I got last night and this afternoon. Both the same call, from the same robot, asking if I want to confirm my appointment or cancel it. Both times, they say "To cancel, press 1. To confirm, press 2."

BROKEN. On purpose, this time. They have to know that, in 2012, we've all been trained to immediately stab at the button marked "1" the second we're asked a question -- "For English, press 1." "To continue, press 1." "If you are calling to make an appointment, press 1."

In fact, if you're anything like me, you've hit "1" as an automatic response the second you hear someone's voicemail message to skip it and leave your message (and if you're really like me, you get enraged when you can't).

During the first call, I was careful. I even smiled a little, nodding toward their craftiness. But on the second call, I was in a hurry and found myself hitting "1" as an automatic response just to get the call over with. I accidentally cancelled my call. I had to call immediately and have the office uncancel my cancel.

Congratulations, Comcast. You got me.

Do you have any examples of broken processes? Please, do join in the fun of sharing my misery.

5.27.2012

That's Not My Job (Or, "Hey Comcast, You're Broken")

Before I get to my little story about how fucking incompetent and inefficient major corporations named Comcast can be, I want to share two small bits of serendipity.

The first bit: Yesterday, Seth Godin posted an update to his fantastic series of things that are broken. In it he goes over user interfaces, organizations, and operations that make no sense or don't work.  He happened to find and upload the one and only time he gave the even more fantastic talk on things that are broken. Here it is, for those interested:








The second bit: It just so happens that yesterday, after five months of nothing going wrong and not needing it, I cancelled AT&T DSL as my backup internet service. I switched from Comcast to AT&T years ago after an uncapping incident involving my modem and several gigabytes of undisclosed stuff (to be fair, I cancelled just seconds before they were going to deactivate me). But at a certain point DSL just became way too slow for work and other things, and so I made amends with Comcast and switched back. I kept AT&T just in case. For a month now, I've had a reminder set on my phone to cancel AT&T, and finally yesterday, I did.

I woke up this morning to no internet. I immediately placed my palm on my face and cursed the gods of serendipity.

So I called Comcast about the disruption of service. The tech answered pretty quickly and spoke English very clearly -- two very great signs. And to be fair, she was VERY competent and efficient. When she ran all of her tests and we went through the power cycle stuff, she said I would need a tech.

"Can you do me a favor?" I asked.

"Sure?" she answered.

"Can you check to see if there's an outage in my area?" I requested.

So she did. And she reported back that according to what she could see, 100% of customers in my area had no service.

"Oh, okay," I said. "Can you give me an ETA on when they'll have that fixed?"

"As of now, this hasn't officially been confirmed as an outage," she replied.

"Well, can't you confirm it?" I asked.

"That's not in my jurisdiction," she replied. She explained that the way it works at Comcast, a certain threshold of customers have to call in and report a loss of service before it'll be sent to dispatch, who will then declare an outage.

"Well if you can see right now that 100% of customers in my area don't have service, why can't you just report that?"

"It's not in my jurisdiction," she said again.

Broken. It makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER that, if she can see the disruption, she can't report it.

So I asked for the repair appointment to get a report in and get closer to that threshold. I was told the earliest appointment was Wednesday (4 days from now including today). I placed my palm on my face again, and again, I cursed the gods of serendipity -- if I hadn't cancelled AT&T yesterday, it wouldn't be a big deal. But I did, and it was.

"If I have to wait four days, that's going to severely screw up my work," I said.

"Why don't you sign up for business service?" she asked. She explained that business customers get immediate technician dispatch if they report by 2 PM the same day. I do business from my home, so it's worth the cost each month to ensure I don't get screwed. So I asked if she could convert me to business service.

"I don't have that authority," She said.

Broken. I want to hand her nearly double my cost a month, and she can't take my money.

"I can transfer you to that department," she said.

When she did, I found that the business sales department was closed.

BROKEN. Why didn't she know that?

At any rate, a few hours later, service came back on and here I am, blogging on it while watching Life on Netflix. This isn't about Comcast sucking. They answered the call quickly, they were polite, and they did what they could to get things fixed.

This is about how much more they could do if they just removed the barriers to allow their people to better handle things. Let the tech make a call when she sees a wide disruption of service. Let the tech upgrade someone's service and bill them for more money at the point they've decided it's worth it to spend more money. Let the tech see along with the transfer to a department when that department is opened or closed.

These things are broken. Please fix them.

If there are things in your organization or life that are similarly broken -- if at any point you find yourself saying "That's not my job" -- you're part of the overall problem yourself. Fix it.





5.26.2012

The Light Vs. The Dark


"You can't do that."

"That idea won't work."

"That isn't how we do things."

Shutting down someone's ideas is snuffing the match before it can become a flame.

In a dark room, when a single point of light appears, it draws all attention immediately. It burns the eyes; it sears the synapses. And rather than let their eyes grow used to the light and use it to look around and see what they can see, the fearful shrink back, then scream for you to put that light out. Because it burns. Because it causes discomfort.

Don't let them put your light out. If the people in the room try to snuff your match, move to another room.

Shine.

5.25.2012

Chase Your Own Fucking Cars

If you're an aspiring artist, developer, sales person, marketer or other big dreamer, you need to know something, and it's very likely going to sting. And I'm not sorry.

When you get out of art school (or college or the training course you're taking), you're going to have aspirations. Aspirations are great things to have. They give you a goal to work toward. They drive you to work hard. They make you question your own work and strive to make it better.

But you have to pay your dues and work your way up the chain. Period.

If you want a job at Coke doing design, or DC Comics doing illustration, or Ogilvy doing marketing campaigns, you can't just find someone you know who works there (or knows someone who does) and say "Hey, can I have a job?" ESPECIALLY when you have no demonstrable track record to point to and show why you deserve one. To do so is like sending this letter:
Dear Ferrari,

You're one of the greatest designers and manufacturers of cars in the world. Can you please send me one of your cars, even though I don't know what to do with one when I catch it? I don't do very well chasing them.

Sincerely,
Dog

You not only look foolish, amateurish and egotistical, you annoy the fucking shit out of the people you're asking.

That's not to say you shouldn't take risks. Be bold. Go after what you want. Kick a LOT of ass and don't even bother taking names. Network. Get to know people. Make them aware of what you do and what your dreams are.

But know the difference between being bold and being a pest. Do your research. Know the quality of work coming from an agency or company as well as (or even more than) you know the prestige and paycheck. Have work that equals or surpasses that work. If you're good, trust me, the opportunities will find YOU.

Be so good you cannot be ignored. If you can't do that, be good enough to justify why you should get the work overs someone else. And by all means, show your work around and get critiqued. But know this, and know it well: When someone sees your work, the first question they ask themselves is "Is this any good?" and if the answer is yes, the very next one they ask themselves is "Who should meet this person?"

If the person you're asking is qualified to give a good critique, chances are good that they have STACKS of work that they have to pass on. They would love to help out their clients and customers by introducing them to talented upstarts that produce good stuff and just need an opportunity.

Furthermore, they need to know that putting you in contact with a client or friend with whom they have a relationship, won't make them look like an idiot for suggesting someone unreliable, false, untalented, or otherwise a bad fit. Sometimes, that's ego -- they don't want to look bad. But the vast majority of the time it's because they want to take care of the person to whom you are being referred. They need to be sure you will take care of their client / friend -- that you will keep your word, deliver what you're asked to deliver, on time.

If you have to ask, you're not them.


5.24.2012

Useless Words, Phrases, Sentiments and Other Bullshit





Useless words, phrases and sentiments, when someone else is hurting:

  • It'll all work out
  • It'll be okay
  • aww, honey...
  • Any song lyric or movie quote
  • "I haz a sad"
  • :-(
  • Look on the bright side
  • Tomorrow's another day
  • Man up
  • Grow up
  • Do you know who really has it bad? The [demographic in third world country]
  • [any words, phrases or sentiments that focus the attention on you]
  • clicking any plus or like button


Non-useless words, phrases and sentiments, when someone else is hurting:

  • How are you?
  • Are you okay?
  • What can I do to help?
  • I love you.
  • Thank you.

Useless words, phrases and sentiments, when YOU are hurting:
  • Absolutely anything written on Twitter, Facebook, G+ or any other social network. Going to social networks when you are hurting isn't seeking relief, it's seeking validation.


Non-useless words, phrases and sentiments, when YOU are hurting:
  • I am hurting.
  • Help.
  • Can I talk to you for a moment?
  • (Over the phone) I need to make an appointment with [name of therapist]
  • I need my friend right now.
  • I need my [sister/brother] right now.
  • I need my [boyfriend/girlfriend] right now.
  • I need my [husband/wife] right now.

Know the differences. Useless words, phrases and sentiments simply fill the space. Actually useful things do more than fill space, they help. Passing by someone's page on Facebook for a few minutes and expressing via comments and likes, platitudes that do absolutely nothing to help anyone, is masturbation. It makes you feel like you did something to help.

On the flip side, posting your pain on Facebook and Twitter is also masturbation. It accomplishes nothing, because people's replies are useless for the exact reasons I describe above. Furthermore you're not looking to end the pain, you're simply an approval junkie looking for a fix to end the withdrawal pains. 

Try not to be useless. Seek actual help when you're hurting, and provide actual help when someone you know is hurting.

5.23.2012

Rigged Games (And Why You Shouldn't Play Them)

You're at a carnival with your best gal. You start walking through the arcade and see one of those "ring the bell" where you use a cartoonish mallet to hit a paddle which flings a slider up a rail and, if you're strong enough, hit a bell. You hear a barker yell "Step right up! Ring the bell and win the lady a big stuffed dog!"

You have heard your whole life that the game is rigged, but you're not thinking of that. You're thinking of the look on your best gal's face when you hand her that big stuffed dog. You pay a dollar, walk up, grab the hammer and get in position.

Right before you swing the hammer, you see the carnival barker lean on one of the support cables holding the slider with the bell on it in place. This causes the structure to lean slightly, putting the slider off-balance and introducing friction. But you don't care -- you want to see the look on her face when you hand her that gigantic stuffed dog.

To no one's surprise, the slider makes it about 3/4 of the way up and then plummets. You pay another dollar; you try again. You fail again. You pay another dollar. So on and so forth, until you begin to think you're weak and incapable of getting past this stupid barrier that, if it didn't exist, would make your job so much easier and you could succeed.

Disappointed and feeling down and weak, you walk away.

A few months (or weeks or even days) later, you're at the carnival. you've got your best gal with you. You stroll through the arcade. You see the bell ringing game and the carnival barker. You know the game is rigged... But now you've got your pride on the line. You know that, if you can just try really hard and hit it hard enough, you can get that stuffed dog and make your lady happy. 

Do you play the game?

Of course not, it's rigged. You're smarter than that, right?

*   *   *

You're at home when your best friend calls. She's upset -- her boyfriend has cheated on her. You advise her to leave. "But he's really a great guy, and he says he's really sorry, and he loves me..." You try your best to talk sense into her, but she's absolutely convinced that if she leaves him, she'll never find anyone else. "But do you really want to be with someone like that?" You ask. She says it beats being alone.

A few months (or or weeks or even days) later, she calls again. Her boyfriend has cheated again . You advise her to leave. "But he's really a great guy, and he says he's really sorry, and he loves me..." 

Do you play the game?

"Well, it's my friend..." So you play. It's just as rigged as the bell game. "But it's my friend..." 

*   *   *

You're at work. The CEO needs you to be the clutch hitter and save the day. The sales guy can't handle the sale. You need to step in and save the day. "But I have all this other work..." you say. Doesn't matter. This is the priority. The CEO will square it up with your manager.

So you do as you're asked. You talk the client into sticking around, and get the work they need done, done. The sales guy gets paid his full commission, and gets the credit for the sale. You're asked by your manager why the work you had to do for her was put off and didn't get done. "Well, the CEO needed me to do this for the sales guy..." But no one told the manager, and she was expecting that work. Plus, the sales guy got all the credit and no one really mentioned your role...

A few months (or weeks or even days) later, you're at work. The CEO needs you to be the clutch hitter and save the day. The sales guy can't handle the sale. You need to step in and save the day. "But I have all this other work..." you say. Doesn't matter. This is the priority. The CEO will square it up with your manager...

Do you play the game?

"Well, it's my job..." So you play. But it's just as rigged as the bell-ringing game. "But it's my job..."

And now, you're playing your own rigged game against yourself.

*   *   *

Of course there are MANY more examples of rigged games, some far more severe than these. But the point is the same: the reason you shouldn't play rigged games is that you cannot win. 

The reason you will play the work and the friend game where you probably wouldn't play the bell-ringing game is that you feel like a terrible friend if you don't show up when they need you (even if it's the fifteenth time in a row on the same problem), and you need your job to survive...

The reality is, you're actually a much better friend if you call your friend on her crap and make her face it. You're much better at your job if you cut out the sidebars and either do the job you were hired to do or get officially put in the job you're being asked to cover. 

If your friend or your job react poorly to those realities, you're in a rigged game, and you need to get out. The same applies to every situation in life: if there is a solution to the problem, and someone doesn't take it, they don't want the problem to be solved.

If you realize you're playing a rigged game and you decide to put down another dollar and take another swing, don't blame the carnival barkers. They're doing what they do, and you know they're doing it. You have no right to be angry at anyone but yourself.

5.22.2012

Be Careful What You Ask For...

If you're asking for something, make sure you know what it is you want before you open your mouth to ask for it.

If you're beating around the bush, trying to ask nicely, hoping they will get the hint, or otherwise acquiescing, you're not asking for what you want. You're asking for something that you hope leads to what you want.

Just remember, sometimes you can get exactly what you ask for and still not be very happy.


5.21.2012

Why "The Big Bang Theory" Sucks

Another classic from the vaults. If you hate The Big Bang Theory as much as I do and have trouble explaining why, since you're a "nerd" or a "geek", you hate that pandering piece of shit waste of film to people who think owning a smartphone and seeing The Avengers makes them "geeky", feel free to share this. It won't help, because fans of The Big Bang Theory fail at understanding logic, but you'll feel better, and that's all I care about.

*   *   *

I've been asked quite often why I hate The Big Bang Theory. Here is a simple photo essay explaining it:


Go on... Tell me I'm wrong.

5.20.2012

Can You Let Them Burn?

We have all had situations in life where we've had to walk away from someone or something. Maybe it was a person who you thought was a friend, but realized was really just using you. Or maybe it's someone you loved who headed down a bad path with drugs or alcohol, and for your own good, had to let go of. Or maybe it's a job, or a club, or something else.

I've written a great deal about how to realize when you need to walk away, and how to handle it. If you've been reading my writing for a while, you've no doubt seen me reference my favorite saying on the matter:

"When you realize you've been standing in shit, you don't stomp on it to punish it. You just walk away."

It's hard to walk away. I know that. You know that. And we've all been in situations where it's the last thing you want to do. But at some point you get sick of it all and you straighten your spine out and you walk.

But what then?

A lot of us like to feel self-righteous. We have this grand vision of the day that "they" realize they screwed up and now you're gone and they say "oh no, whatever will we do?"

I'll tell you exactly what they'll do: what they've always done. They'll fuck up and expect you to come clean up the mess. Not because they're mean, but because they're them. And people don't change. They won't stop being them just because you walked away, and it' unrealistic to expect them to. It's also unrealistic to believe you will stop caring all of a sudden.

So days or weeks or even months go buy, and then suddenly, you watch as they pour gas on themselves. Always before, you'd say "No no, don't pour that gas on yourself." And sometimes, they'd stop, and you'd have to clean up gas.

But other times, they wouldn't listen. Instead, they'd pick up the matchbook and begin fumbling with them. And always before, you'd say "No no, don't play with the matches! It's a bad idea to begin with, but now you're all covered in gas... Stop that!" And sometimes, they'd stop, and you'd have to clean up dead matches and gasoline.

And then, there are other times when they'd actually light the match. And you'd yell "No! Put it down!" And they'd look right in your eyes and light themselves on fire. And without fail you're there with the fire hose to put them out... And sometimes you get burned in the process. And as they're walking away drenched and slightly burnt, you're stuck cleaning up the flood, all the ashes, dead matches and gasoline. And just as you get done, there they are, pouring gas on themselves...

So you finally got sick of it and you left. That's hard. But it's nowhere near the hardest part.

The test of whether or not you've got the stones isn't when you hear about them playing with gas again or when you see them pick up the matches. That stuff is easy enough to ignore when you're feeling defiant and self-righteous. The test is when they set themselves on fire again.

Your heart is now on the line. Who you are as a person is being called into question. Did you ever actually care? Can you let them burn? Or will you, once again, rush to put them out (and end up cleaning up their mess again... Or worse, getting burnt yourself)?

No one ever talks about this part of it, because no one wants to admit to themselves that their love for someone or something -- even when that someone or something is harmful to them -- will threaten their resolve. The last thing anyone wants to say when encouraging someone to stand up for themselves and walk away is "oh, and by the way, eventually you'll get tested and will have to be a cold heartless person and let them hurt themselves, and you'll probably fail that test and it'll all be for naught. But hey, you should still stand up for yourself!"

 You will know when you're serious about changing your status in life and caring about yourself when you can watch someone you love who is harmful to you stand in front of you, douce themselves with the fuel of their own mistakes, and light themselves on fire -- and for the good of both you and them, you let them burn.

If you're the kind of person who can love someone through thick and thin and put yourself at risk for the greater good, it will be the hardest test you'll ever face. The one thing I've realized that makes this a little bit easier: if they loved you (or at the very least respected you) they wouldn't put you in that position in the first place. They'd listen and at least try to change. And they most certainly wouldn't put you at risk of getting burned along with them.

People who love you, protect you. After all, that's what you keep doing for them. If they're not doing the same for you, they deserve to burn. Let them light the way to a better path.


5.17.2012

36 Hours Of Being One-Handed: A Slowly-Typed And Poorly Photographed Essay

It's been about 36 hours since the surgery to repair the extensor tendon in my right index finger, which I cut with the world's most expensive pocket knife. In that time, I've had crash course (literally) in how dependent I am on my dominant hand.

Making a proper "thumbs down" gesture. As you can see from the lead photo, I can't properly convey my displeasure with situations. It looks like an upside down "pistol" sign.


Typing. I usually type about 130 words per minute (years of MUDding and chatting will do that to you). Right now, I'm putting in a blazing 22 wpm.  And thank God for spell check. This blog post has been a pain to put together. If not for the fact that the painkillers and the pain are working in conjunction to keep my sleep as random as possible I probably would just repost something from the archives.


Making a sandwich. Every morning I make my wife a sack lunch. She loves my homemade peanut butter and pear preserve sandwiches. I have a very specific ratio of peanut butter to pear preserve. I even have the perfect spreading technique. I cut the sandwich into triangles (because really, what kind of loveless heathen cuts them into rectangles?), pack it into a Ziploc sandwich baggie, write her a sweet note (which is also REALLY difficult), and kiss her goodbye.

This morning... Well, I'll just let this short photo essay speak for itself:








Now... How do I close the stupid zipper? Well...





And afterward, I noticed I not only somehow got peanut butter on the toaster oven...


But also on the coffee maker, which is across the room:





Using Photoshop. Forget it. My right hand is my Wacom hand, and as I mentioned earlier, using a pen is nearly impossible. Even with a mouse, its ridiculously difficult to attempt to design, layout or draw anything. Doing that stuff with a mouse is kludgy, doing it with a mouse in my left hand makes everything look like a Spirograph whose gear discs are missing half its teeth.



Wiping. No more needs to be said.


Covering your mouth when you sneeze. I have, more than once, reflexively raised my right hand to cover my mouth for a sneeze, seen the bandage, tried to change hands mid-stream and ended up blowing spit and green goo on the wall.


Gaming. The right-side trigger buttons on the controller are not an option:



...And in a sad coincidence, my surgery was the same day Diablo 3 was released. Trying to play it has been a farce. I am utterly uncoordinated with my left hand where the mouse is concerned. Leave it to Joe to short-circuit the 12 years worth of enthusiasm for the release of the biggest game of the decade by being careless with his stupid pocket knife.


Petting the dog / cat. More than once, one of my cats will jump on my lap for a pet, see the gigantic monstrosity that is my right semi-hand, freak out, claw my legs and bolt. And more than once, one of my dogs will walk up for a pet, and I'll accidentally bonk it in the nose with the splint. I'm fully expecting my shoes to be filled with dog piss and cat vomit by the end of the week.


Peeling a banana. It's tough to hold the banana with the right hand, making it hard to peel with my left. And I can't hold it with my left and peel with my right, as there's really no way to grab the stem besides using my ring and pinky fingers... And they're super weak. I have found a workaround though! Years ago, this video on the "proper" way to peel a banana made the rounds. I remembered it and it was a huge help:









Balancing the checkbook. I had to write a few checks yesterday. In order to keep things sane, I needed to balance the checkbook. Below is my normal writing (which is pretty awful, I'll admit):



This is my writing with my left hand:



Balancing, period.  Remember the literal crash course I mentioned? I was groggy the night I got home from the surgery, and while going up the stairs, I slipped and lost my balance. I reached out with my right hand to brace for the fall. That pretty much sucked. And since then, I've found myself clunking the splint against the handrail when ascending or descending amy stairs.


Writing a conclusion to a "list of things" blog post. Okay, you got me. I've always sucked at that.




5.16.2012

A Letter To My 16-Year-Old Self

Note: I wrote this a year and some months ago. Recently, I've been reminded of why things like this need to be shared and put into the faces of young people, so I'm reposing it today. Along with the "That's Why You Don't Have Any Friends" post, I hope that it serves as fuel for thought for young people facing the challenges of being ostracized, picked on, singled out and generally feeling like they're alone. Because they're not -- we're here. But they need to know that. 

Dear Joe:

Hey. It's me. You. Whatever. Only, I'm from THE FUTURETM.  2012, in fact. So, to answer your first question, no, the world doesn't end in the year 2000. Also, the whole Y2K bug you're going to hear about in about 3 years? Totally overplayed. You're going to make a TON of money helping fix it though. Learning COBOL will be boring, but trust me, it's worth wasting the year of your life to do it.

Listen -- I know that right now, things seem bleak. High school sucks. You're going to be saying that for quite a while after you leave it, because it really does suck that much. No, it doesn't get any easier as you become a Junior and a Senior. In fact, what's going to happen is you're going to become more and more aware of just how little you're getting from the experience. It's a waste of time. Except for the bits involving Mike and the student teacher you're going to have in English class your Senior year. Those are worth sticking around for.

But don't mistake your hyper awareness of just how futile high school is for some superior intelligence. You're not really smarter than everyone else, anymore than someone who knows it's going to rain is smarter than the guy who failed to pack an umbrella. It seems that way, because you're better prepared. But you're not smarter. You just picked up on something quicker than the others. The only difference is that you won't regret being rained on. You're not smarter, you're just ready to go. Drop the attitude. You'll enjoy the next few years a little more.


You feel trapped right now, I know. But you're going to travel the world. In fact, I'm writing this from LaGuardia airport in New York. Yes, you get to go to New York, finally. You spend a few weeks there when you're 19, and you're going to be scared to death to leave your hotel room for almost a week. In fact, being scared to leave your hotel room will be a motif for the first few travel experiences you have. But that's because you do them alone. 

It's going to be amazing, trust me. You'll have some great experiences. You're going to love figuring out new cities. It's going to be an addiction for a while. 


You're going to move out of mom and dad's place in a few years. This will make your relationship with them ten times better. Try to respect them. It's tough. Mom's going crazy as you get older, because she's feeling like her job as a mother is coming to an end. It's hard to stop being something you've been for 18 years, you know?

No, of course you don't know. Duh. You're a 16 year old asshole. I mean that in the nicest possible sense, of course.

When you leave mom and dad's, you're going to spend about 6 months in college. Yes, you drop out. You already know you will, but you go through the exercise anyway. Don't skip that -- go ahead with it. You end up getting some pretty great opportunities from working in the computer lab. Oh, and as you may have guessed from my mention of COBOL earlier, that internet thing you play on at night? That's going to be a career for you. One of three, in fact. It rocks. You're going to get paid gobs of money to invent cool shit.

I know, right? But don't rush it. Take your time. The really cool stuff doesn't start showing up until 2000, and by then, you're going to be pretty sick of it. In fact, you take a break from it in 2005. And get this -- when you take your break, you become an author! A real life, no kidding book writer. It's nuts. As of the time I'm writing this, you have written two books. One of them, you put out yourself (yep, just like Henry Rollins does), and the other is published by Penguin Books. You're writing a third. But you've been sidetracked by -- and this is really the point of this letter -- your comic.

You finally start drawing a comic. I know you're drawing them now, but in a few years, you're going to hear something horribly hurtful from someone you care deeply about. It's going to sting worse than all the shit everyone says right now, and it's going to cause you to back away from the drawing table for years and years. I'm not going to tell you who, or what happens, because even though it's the most hurtful thing you go through in the next few years, it's also the path you take to truly becoming your own person. It sucks, but it's important. Know that I wouldn't hold this information from you if I didn't think it was absolutely vital you go through it.

And that's what I wrote this to tell you. Everything you are hearing from everyone right now is wrong. They're small minded backwoods redneck assholes who are jealous of what they know you will eventually become. They call you "fag" and "pussy" because you draw and love comics, because they themselves have been held back from truly loving what they want to love and are jealous that you still get to.

They are wrong. You are alright. It's okay to be a football playing comic book fan. It's alright to play Dungeons and Dragons in the lunch room with your "geek" friends. It's just fine to be both athletic and a fan of stuff that isn't supposed to be a jock's chosen interest.

You won't go to college to play football. You won't be a pro football player (you actually do get signed to a team when you're 32, but the league folds before you can play your first game. But it turns out, it's actually a good thing, because some really fucking awesome shit happens that year with your Akira collection. Trust me, football sucks compared to touring the world showing people your anime cel collection).

So go out there and make dad proud. Light fools up on the football field and revel in the fact that you legally get to pop assholes in the mouth full-speed. Just know that it DOES end, thank God. I know it sucks going out there everyday... Just make the best of it. You'll be done with it before you know it. And when you finally do hang up your helmet and focus on living life for yourself instead of your father, know that the road is tough and worth every single step.

There are a few things I wish you would do different, though. Don't stop working out. You become a 375 lb. fat ass for a few years. Life is much easier if you don't. You learn nothing of any particular use from the experience, aside from just how expensive Big and Tall clothing can get. Really, you can do without this experience. Work out. Don't stop. Keep your fitness.

Also, don't trust anyone until they've proven they can be trusted. That gets you into trouble in life a few times. You're going to fall victim to trusting the wrong family members; the wrong "friends" and business associates are going to bleed you dry. You're going to lose some money -- a lot of it in fact -- to these people. It's alright though. Again, it's one of those experiences that actually make you a better guy.

You're going to marry your dream girl. You haven't met her yet, but when you do at age 21, you're going to fall head over heels in love. And you're going to have to wait for her, too. It's going to suck. You have to be her best friend while she dates a total fucking loser for about two years. There will be a few girls in your life during that time.

You don't realize it now, but you're actually going to be a total dick to a girl and it's going to feel awful. You won't want to, but you're going to. And it's going to be one of the few regrets you actually carry with you. But it'll make you a better husband to your dream girl. She's an athlete. She's gorgeous. And she's so amazing in every way. You're going to wonder every single day why the hell she chose you. But don't discount yourself. You treat her well. You deserve her, and she deserves you. It's the best relationship you'll ever have in your life.

The bottom line: it's all going to be alright. Don't waste another second wondering if it will. You have an awesome life so far. It's hard, and there's some insane crap that's coming in your very near future (enough to write both of those books I told you about). And even though it feels like you're going through hell at the time, each and every one of those experiences is going to make you into who you are right now, which is pretty damn great if I do say so myself.

Take a few deep breaths. Realize that what you're feeling right now is very temporary. You will escape it, and not via the desperate method you're contemplating right now. Of course, if we're honest with ourselves, it's just a test to see if you have the balls to do it. You don't.

But eventually, you'll actually face a situation in your life where you seriously do consider doing what you're thinking about doing right now. And it'll be the darkest, most lonely moment you'll face in your life. You will actually taste the gunpowder residue on the barrel of the gun. It'll taste salty and dirty. And it's because no one has ever told you what I'm trying to tell you right now: YOU ARE ALRIGHT. The shit you've gone through, it's awful. It's terrible. And you will bury it deep inside of yourself until you have no choice but to face it.

And you win. By facing yourself down; by not pulling that trigger, you win. You beat them all.

Know that.

Love,

Yourself at Age 35

5.15.2012

The $4,269.95 Pocket Knife (Or, "You, Too, Can Have Finger Surgery!")

I own the world's most expensive pocket knife. Let me show you it:


This is the SpyderCo Civilian G-10. It's SpyderCo's answer to other knife companies making spring-loaded and spring-assisted weaponry under the guise of self defense. And it's BEAUTIFUL.

Among many other things, I collect knives. I don't have a particular obsession with cutting things. I'm not a "knife nut." But I do like a beautiful blade. I find steel working and craftsmanship to be quite fascinating, and when there's a rare or exceptional blade made by a company I like, I purchase it. I own the Ken Onion Shun knife series for my cooking, the first edition Benchmade Balisong 42, and a bunch of other beautiful, exquisitely crafted blades.

I use them mostly to open boxes.

Well, honestly, I don't really use most them to do that job. I usually use scissors for that. I've only used this one to do that, at least recently. And I've only done it once. And it was because of that one time that this became the single most expensive knife I own.

This knife retails for $269.95. And it's worth it, I tell ya. Full stainless steel, solid construction, sharp as the dickens. The surgery it forced me to get, however, is going to run somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000.00.

And how did this knife force me to get surgery? Well, I'll be honest -- it didn't. I forced me to get surgery. Because I was an idiot.

About two months ago, I received a gigantic box of books from Japan. Some rare books by Moebius, a rare program guide from a Designer's Republic exhibit in Tokyo, and several gigantic volumes of manga. All told, this box probably weighed about thirty pounds.

I'd been waiting nearly two months for this box, so when it arrived, I was QUITE excited. After signing for it, I brought it into the house and sat it down on the dining room table. Right there in front of me was the newly-purchased SpyderCo Civilian G10 knife. Now, on the packaging for the knife and in the documentation for the knife, it clearly states it is NOT a utility knife. They put this literature in front of you so that you cannot claim to local law enforcement that it is, since some knife-related laws allow you to carry utility knives of a certain length that you couldn't carry if it was for self defense.

And this is for self defense, not opening boxes. But hey, it's a knife, and it was there, and I figured "What the hell, I need this box opened." So I used the knife on it. And it worked just fine.

After pulling out a bit of packing material and verifying that this was indeed the box of books I was waiting for (as I do import quite a lot of things from Japan), I wanted to carry them into the kitchen so that I could sort through them and perhaps read one while I finished up a little bit of work. And I figured while I was at it, I'd carry the SpyderCo Civilian G10 into the kitchen with me, so that I wouldn't forget to finally carry it upstairs and place it in my office (where my wife had been asking me to put it for a few weeks).

So, I picked up the box, and then I reached down with my right hand and "slid" the knife against the bottom of the box, placing my hand underneath the hilt to hold it firm against the box. I carried it into the kitchen with no issues. But as I was walking toward our kitchen island, the knife began to slip.

"That's going to go into my foot," I thought. "I don't want it to go into my foot. That would be bad." So I quickened my pace slightly and made it to the kitchen island just as the knife slid out of my hand. It was poised to land right on the kitchen island.

"But it might slip from the island," I thought. "And then it'll land on my foot. And that would suck." Before I could even think, my reflexes forced my hands down (with the box still in them) to "trap" the knife between the box and the island, so that it wouldn't slide off the island and into my foot. Which would suck.

Instead, the back of the knife hit the island just as my right index finger hit the open blade. In less than a second, I'd severed the extensor tendon in my right index finger's first knuckle.

I'm not sure if you've ever severed your extensor tendon on the first knuckle of your right index finger, or if you've ever experienced a deep cut of any sort, but the first thing you think isn't "Ow." It's not "Ouch" or "Oooooh" or "That smarts."

It's "Well, fuck." Because it doesn't actually hurt at first, but you know that with time, the pain is going to find you. And when it does, it's going to SUCK.

More than that, the blood starts flowing pretty much immediately. You're making a mess before you even realize you've damaged yourself. There was a pool of blood on my kitchen island and another on my kitchen floor before I could even process that maybe, just maybe, I should stop the pools of blood from forming by stopping the bleeding.

But once I did, I took care of business. I applied pressure, then went and rinsed the wound immediately. I applied peroxide and then rinsed again, then held pressure until the bleeding stopped.

Because this was the knuckle and because I'd stopped the bleeding, I didn't really think I needed to go to the emergency room. But within a day, I'd caught a pretty decent cold (due to some recent travel) and I figured, while I was going to the doctor to get some antibiotics, I'd ask him what he thought of the cut.

"I think you've severely damaged yourself and you need to see the orthopedist," he said.

He sent me to my orthopedist, who knows all of my history and has dealt with my knees, ankles and elbow for quite some time now. And within seconds of looking at it, she smirked, walked out of the room, and came back with the surgeon. "Severed?" she asked.

"Severed," he replied. And that's all they really needed to say. Except, that's not all they said. They said that, while I could opt not to repair it and just live with it, within a year I'd begin to experience the type of arthritis pain someone in their fifties might feel, and within 3 years the pain would be severe to crippling. They said that if I acted now, I had a good chance of restoring movement to the knuckle, which would... Well, honestly, it doesn't do much. I can point straight again. That's about it.

And so, at 4:00PM today, I'm going to be put to sleep so that highly skilled surgeons can slice into my right index finger's first knuckle to reattach the tendon, which will save me from early-onset arthritis and a lifetime of pain in that digit.

All because I was a fucking idiot with a knife. A $4,269.95 knife.

I doubt very highly I'd get that much on eBay for it.

5.14.2012

Friendship Vs. Codependency

You don't feel worthy of peoples' friendship, so you go out of your way to make them dependent on you. Because if they don't NEED you, they may not WANT you. And then you won't have any friends.

Sound familiar? If it doesn't, then none of this applies to you. You can safely close the browser window now. But if it does, let's you and I have a little chat.

You're a giver. You give. Give give give. That's you. Giving makes you a good friend. It's who you are. Your heart is open and you give freely of yourself to those you love and care for. But what happens when they don't give in return?

You probably won't believe it's true. "They're my friend," you say. "I like giving. I like going out of my way for them. I love them."

This may not have gotten you hurt yet... But you need to trust me when I tell you, it will. I guarantee it. You may or may not be familiar with the term codependency. I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but I can tell you that's what is going on, and you need to face it.

It takes two people to be "friends." Friendship is, by its very nature, give AND take. Each party gives equally.  If one person is continually giving and the other isn't reciprocating, what you have is not friendship. What you have is codependence.

You will NEVER have an honest friendship until you learn to respect and value yourself enough to take as much as you give. You will have users. You will have abusers. You will have passers-by that like you, that you perceive as caring far more about you than they actually do -- because you like them that much, so they have to like you that much.

You'll go so far out of your way for them, and you have. Time and again. And when asked why they haven't done that for you, you will reply "Well, I've never needed it" or "I couldn't let them do that, I can handle myself" or something that sounds similar. And to be honest, it's true. Those aren't lies. But they are justifications.

I tell you this because maybe you keep getting hurt, or maybe you keep feeling used, or maybe you just plain need to hear why it is you end up in the gutter so often. It's because you keep laying down in it and letting people walk on your back over the muck and the mud.

When they don't reach down and pull you up after your great sacrifice, ask yourself -- did they ever ask you to do it in the first place? Because if they didn't, they don't actually owe you anything. You chose to do that. That's your call. To expect the same from them is natural, but it IS unfair.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't go out of your way for the people you love. I'm just saying that, should you find yourself doing so constantly and ending up unrewarded for your valiant efforts, maybe you should ask yourself why you're doing it. I'm willing to bet everything I own that the answer, after a tremendous amount of digging, will end up being what I said above: you feel like the only way people WANT to be with you is if they NEED you.

And that's not healthy. Worse, it's GOING to end up in pain. Over and over again. There is no other way for it to end, because no matter what happens, you're pouring more energy into being needed than they could ever reciprocate.

Because you have no sense of self. Because there's no "you" in you. That's an infinite hole that cannot be filled by anyone except you. And the more of you you keep pouring out, the less likely it will ever be that you can begin filling that hole and becoming a whole person. You deserve to receive as much as you give. Start by giving a little to yourself.


5.13.2012

"What Right Do YOU Have..." (And Happy Mother's Day)

I am continually asked "What right do you have to express an opinion on parenting when you don't have kids?"

I am a member of society. You're raising the next generation of people I have to live with on this Earth, who will shape what this society I'm a part of will become. I get to have an opinion on that.

If you disagree, fuck you.

Happy Mother's Day.

5.12.2012

On Misogyny

Yesterday was, in short, very trying.

I wrote a post about what has become the hot topic du jour across the nation, the woman who posed on the cover of Time Magazine with her three-year old sucking on her breast. I don't have a particularly positive opinion about her. In fact, I fucking hate her. I don't even know her. I don't need to. She put her child in a deliberately compromising position on the cover of a national magazine to further an agenda of her own. A small amount of research surfaced her blog, where she systematically did the same -- including posting pictures of her other much older adopted child breastfeeding at the age of 10, and her two children eating her edible underwear.

The conversation on this topic ranged from support to demonizing and everything in-between. And in a few cases, women who support her style of parenting called me a misogynist. I was accused of hating women for my opinions about one woman.

To address this accusation, I want to share with you a very short story:

A few years ago, I was friends with a couple. It didn't last long.

They had a child. I met them when the child was six years old. His mother still wiped his butt for him, cut his food and fed him, and bathed him. At six years old.

The father allowed this to happened. His justification for it: she's the mom. She raises him. He works and brings home the bacon. I would be at their house when the boy came home from school. He would cry continually because he was picked on at school. He had no idea how to stand up for himself. He had absolutely no sense of identity. He was ill prepared for the world.

One day, I voiced my opinion on the situation. I was as tactful as I could possibly be, explaining that while I don't have children, I had to say that I felt the boy was in a horrible place to take care of himself when not coddled by his mom. They flipped out, and we stopped being friends.

I hated her.

Not women. Her. I don't hate women. I hated THAT woman.

I also hated him. He was a shitty man, and in many ways, placed women in a category by themselves where they were to be solely domestic beings who raise children. That guy, I would call a misogynist.

But I don't hate men. I hated THAT man.

You can hate a person and their behavior without hating all people in their class. I hate shitty parents, And one of the shitty parents I hate is the woman who posed on the cover of Time Magazine with her three year old child sucking on her tit. And I wrote about it.

I don't hate women who breastfeed their child past the age of one, or two, or three. I find that method of parenting distasteful and compromising to the social development of a child, but in no way does it make me hate them, and definitely not them as women.

The older a kid gets while being coddled, however, the more I begin to hate the parent for crippling the kid's ability to function in this world, to the point that I'm going to end up hating them for what I feel is tantamount to child abuse. I find that method of parenting to be complete bullshit. But does that make me a woman hater? Only if you're one of the people I'm calling out on the behavior and you're so desperate to be in the right that you'll lob extremes at me to discredit me. You're no different than someone who would call Obama "Hitler" (which doesn't even make sense... Which I guess is the reason it's just as ridiculous).

I don't advocate violence against women. I don't even advocate abject violence against the Time Magazine woman. I would, however, love to see someone like my wife slap the shit out of her for her behavior in this instance. I don't believe she deserves a beatdown for breastfeeding her three year old. I believe she deserves a slap in the face for putting her kid on the cover of a national magazine sucking on her tit, which is absolutely going to result in a TMZ feature on "Where Is He Now?" in twenty years and ruin his life, just to further her own ego and agenda.

There's a vast difference between hating the behavior of a particular person and hating a class that person belongs to. There's also a vast difference between being a writer having a sociological opinion on when it's too old to breastfeed a child in a country where poor drinking water and lack of nutritious food isn't a concern, and advocating a gender based system of rules or bias. And its especially different from hating women.

For the record:

I think any parent (male or female) who coddles their child (male or female) is doing the child a disservice.

I think any parent (male or female) who uses or compromises their child (male or female) to further their agenda, pocket book or ego, is doing the child a disservice.

I think any parent (male or female) who takes photos of their child (male or female) eating the mother's edible underwear is doing the child a disservice.

I think that nurturing a child is appropriate and important. I think that having a child participate in activities against their will for their own good or the good of the family (like going to visit a relative when they'd rather play video games, or mow the lawn) is appropriate and important. Build character. Show love and patience and understanding. Be a good parent.

It's a child. it deserves a childhood. It's an innocent, and as life gets harder, it's going to lose more and more of that innocence.  It's part of life. We experience hardship.

When the parent is part of that hardship, they're a shitty parent. And I hate them, both male and female. And when a dad poses on the cover of a national magazine doing something that compromises that child's innocence or future and is coddling them in what I feel is an unhealthy way, I'll call that guy on it and advocate slapping the taste out of his mouth.

Just because the target of my piece happened to be a woman, doing something only a woman can do, in a way that objectified and compromised that child's innocence and future -- providing what I feel is an unhealthy level of coddling -- does not make me a woman hater. And if I may be so blunt, fuck you for being so desperate to defend your point that you would call me one.

The fact that there were 27 people who called me that out of the thousands of people who read my article and in each case, each of them was a woman, doesn't make me hate women. It makes me hate people who leap to extreme descriptions to defend their point or attack mine. If you read through this blog, you'll find piece after piece that lauds and outright empowers women. Your reactionary need to leap to extremes just because you engage in behavior that I find distasteful is pathetic.

I'm not a misogynist. I'm a you-sogynist. I don't hate women. I hate you.

And with that, I've said all I intend to say on the internet about the matter. I won't be responding to emails, Facebook posts or tweets that call me a misogynist. If you want to discuss it further, send a self-addressed envelope straight up your ass and learn nothing. Thank you.

5.11.2012

"Extreme Parenting" Is Fucking Bullshit

There is so much wrong with the cover photo of this week's Time Magazine depicting a three year old boy breastfeeding, I don't even know where to start:


There is nothing at all about this that isn't fucked up.

That child is three years old. Three years old is too old to breastfeed, period. I don't care what book you read, who you talk to, the crowd you run with; if your child is old enough to form the words "Mom, put your tit in my mouth" you shouldn't.

The article that the cover photo teases covers "Attachment Parenting" -- a movement which encourages parents to answer a child's every cry, wear it like a backpack and breastfeed it long after it's absolutely necessary. And it's disturbing in so many ways. The point of parenting isn't to cater to a child's every need -- you're not its servant, you're a PARENT. Your job isn't to teach a child that crying yields service. It's to teach the kid how to survive in a world that's wrought with equal parts opportunity and danger.

A kid cannot learn to find its own way and take advantage of opportunities presented it when it's used to being catered to. And it certainly can't learn how to take its lumps and deal with the harsh realities of growing up when you protect it from every little discomfort that could possibly befall it. It's borderline abuse. If you're an adult cognizant enough to know how hard the world can be on your child that you protect it from every little bump, scrape and emotional boo-boo, you're aware enough to know that one day, when you release it into the world, it's skin is going to be so thin that it won't be able to survive.

I believe in nurture. I'm a believer that we humans require nurturing well into adulthood and beyond. I'm a 35 year old man, and I still want it. The comfort of knowing that I have a confidant and protector at home in my wife gives me the drive and ability to head out and take risks. I know that when I succeed, I can come to her with the complications of a new opportunity and get help sorting it out, and when I fail, I have someone who can give me perspective and help me realize it's just a temporary setback on a road that extends far further than just right now.

But I certainly don't lift my head after crying on her shoulder and say "Ok, cool, I'm hungry, whip out your tit so I can eat." And if she's not present to coddle me, I don't shut down. I man up and get shit done.

And then, there's the question if there's even the necessary nutrition in mother's milk for a child of three years old. By that age, bones are taking shape and the body is rapidly changing. A child is usually moving off of strained and whipped vegetables onto solid foods. I'm not sure that milk is going to be enough to sustain the child.

Now, if that kid is eating solid food while also breastfeeding, this whole situation turns really creepy, really fast. There's an argument (however weak) that can be made that this woman thinks that her milk is the most nutritious food for her child, so she breastfeeds it. But the moment it begins eating solid foods and she still lets it lamprey off her tata, it's no longer about the kid's nutrition, it's a psychosis.

Moving on, that mother is a sensationalist. She's using her child to gain attention for herself. Sure, it's under the guise of "letting people see it so that society can get used to" her cause. And never mind the cause is complete bullshit -- it's using your child for your own ends. That is a kid. It has to do what you say. To put it on the cover of a national magazine in a compromising position may be borderline abusive, but is absolutely selfish.

And the look on her face... It's not quite enough to make me  reconsider my strict policy on hitting women. I have a hard time justifying that in any situation. But I'd certainly cheer if another, far more responsible mother slapped the smug off that face:

Ugh. 

*Updated 11:36 AM *

My friend Mark found this article which discusses this woman's blog, IAmNotTheBabySitter.com. In this blog, she shows pictures of her 10 year old adopted son breastfeeding from her, as well as photos of her children tasting her edible panties.

From the blog:



From Her Blog – IAmNotTheBabySitter.com – Something to brighten your day! The boys went to look for confiscated M&Ms and found edible underwear instead! They figured out it was edible in about 30 seconds on their own. However, I don’t think they were fans of the flavor


...Yeah. So there's that.

Now, for the photo itself:

The photo is salacious. It's a posed photo with an older child suckling its mother's teat. This is not the same as a baby breastfeeding -- this child is old enough to know to look at the camera and the mother is very obviously doing the photoshoot to prove a point. I won't go so far as to say that Time Magazine is irresponsible for publishing the photo. The image accurately depicts the topic of the story and definitely solicits reaction. But I will say it's desperate.

Imagining the photoshoot itself, I can only think of a photographer instructing the child to suck the tit, then look at the camera... Now lift your chin... Turn this way a little... Okay, good *snap* Now, look up... Good *snap* Now, let's bend your knee a little, mom, so your tit is a little lower -- Perfect!!! *snap*

It's just disturbing to think that someone found the 'art' in an overbearing snot of a mother letting her walking, talking, thinking child suck on her boob for a cover photo.

If there's one good thing that could come from this whole situation, it's the fact that this movement might very well be demonized (as it should be). It's Poor Parenting, The Movement. It's selfish and irresponsible to protect a child from every danger of life all the time, because at some point (if your lives follow the natural pattern of things) you're going to die, and that kid is going to be on its own.

It's not only your job to prepare it for that moment, its your job to make it self sustaining long before it happens.

5.09.2012

Gays Can't Marry In North Carolina, But Life Isn't Exactly Easy For Straight Couples, Either

Last night, an amendment passed in North Carolina banning marriage for same-sex couples. Some people decry this as short-sighted at best, and completely bigoted, hateful, stupid, retarded, dumb, and unfair in general. I am one of those people, for all the reasons I outline here and here and here.

Now, heterosexual marriage laws are pretty straightforward in North Carolina. In fact, things are so lenient that, In North Carolina, it's completely legal for first cousins to get married ("Double Cousin" marriage, however, isn't okay... Whatever that is). And it's super easy to tie the knot, too. Current state law states that all a couple has to do to be married in North Carolina is check into a hotel and register as married.

Not if you're gay, of course. It doesn't matter how much you love one another, how loyal to one another you are, or how much you want the right to share benefits, property, responsibilities or just proclaim your bond publicly -- you cannot go to a hotel and declare yourself married and be married, gay folks. I'm sorry.

But that's where the ease of being a married man and a woman, no matter how closely blood-related, end in that state. When first cousins marry in North Carolina, they face a whole new set of challenges. There are a bevy of strange state laws in North Carolina that are on the books today which limit the freedoms and rights of married first cousins across the state. Of course, they apply to married non-relatives, non-married relatives and non-married non-relatives, too. But for the purposes of this article, which deals with restrictions vs. freedoms of a particular type of marriage, I'll be discussing in terms of the perfectly legal first cousin marriage.


First-cousin marriages can be dissolved if one of the two people is physically impotent. And, given the demographics of the turnout for yesterday's vote (which was a Republican Primary), this renders the vast majority of the marriages of people who voted for that stupid amendment illegal. Love each other? So what. Have kids? Doesn't matter. If you can't get it up, you can't keep the marriage up. You'd think that this law would be repealed by the true believers of the GOP, since, given the ratio of limp dicks in the Republican party, it is statically likely that every single male in Cialis and Viagra ads is Republican.

Old white people can buy pills to keep their marriage from dissolving when the male's penis cannot maintain erection. Unfortunately, there's no pill to allow same-sex couples to get married, period.


Married first cousins cannot sleep in the same bed in a hotel. State law in North Carolina dictate that couples staying overnight in hotel rooms must have a room with double beds at least two feet apart. Now, non-couples can sleep in the same bed. North Carolina has no motel-room-related laws about rampant out-of-wedlock sleeping, cuddling, dry-humping or out and out sex. But when they do have sex, there are rules governing what can go down (or, not go down, so to speak).


Married first cousins cannot have oral sex. The state prohibits the placing of mouths, tongues or, for the particularly talented, tonsils on or around the genitals of another person. Which is completely contradictory, given how much Amendment 1 sucks.


First cousins cannot have sex in any other position besides the missionary position. I suppose this would necessarily include oral sex, since it defies even my vast imagination to try to think of how one would accomplish that particular feat.


Married cousins cannot have sex in a churchyard. It disturbs the good God-fearing Christian Klan members lighting fires to crosses.

The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan can light crosses in protest of non-white non-straight people in churchyards in North Carolina. Same sex couples who want to commit their lives to each other cannot get married. That's fair.


Married cousins cannot drive through a cemetery for "pleasure." And you especially can't have non-missionary oral sex in the car while driving through a cemetery, since cemeteries are often located in churchyards.  It occurs to me that the single most illegal act in North Carolina would be receiving a blow job while behind the wheel of a car being driven through a churchyard cemetery.


Married cousins cannot allow their dogs and cats to fight. It is against state law for dogs and cats to fight. Against state law. For dogs and cats to fight. There is a law prohibiting ubiquitous domestic animals of particular species from fighting. THIS IS A FUCKING LAW. North Carolina apparently has nothing more important to regulate than who can marry who and whether or not one of the oldest cliches in history can be proven true (or even allowed to happen).

Dogs can fight dogs. Cats can fight cats. But dogs and cats cannot fight. This makes this speech by Coastal Carolina coach Bennett Presser, discussing how his players need to be more like dogs while making strange, screechy cat sounds (and for some reason discussion screen doors) utterly illegal:\






Married first cousins have to pay a three dollar tax on all white goods. It's not easy being a bigot in North Carolina... Not if you want to be properly dressed, anyway. Members of the Klu Klux Clan have to pay an extra three dollar tax on their robes (and ostensibly, also their hoods, since they're not all one piece). An average family of a husband and a wife (cousins, of course) and their 10 children (also cousins, since cousins who have kids end up having cousins for kids) has to pay an extra $72 to attend meetings in proper Klan costume. Of course, they can't actually start the meeting while everyone's dressed, because state law mandates that organizations cannot hold their meetings while the members present are in costume -- another perfectly sensible state law.

In other news, Halloween parties in North Carolina really, really suck. Not genitals, though, that's illegal.


Married first cousins cannot sing off-key. It is a misdemeanor and can result in a fine and/or jail time.  This isn't a problem for Ben Folds, Nina Simone, James Taylor, Southern Culture On The Skids, Superchunk, or the Squirrel Nut Zippers (all from North Carolina). But it's certainly an issue for one of my all-time favorite NC bands, Archers of Loaf, who -- while being fantastic -- have trouble staying on key:






Married first cousins cannot use elephants to plow cotton fields. I don't like that North Carolina limits marriage to one man and one woman. I don't like that they don't allow couples (even married blood relatives) to sleep in the same bed in a hotel room. I don't like that they don't allow joyrides through cemeteries or let people who may just love to sing do so off key.

But not being able to use an excessively large, incredibly difficult to import exotic Asian land mammal to plow cotton? But this is where I draw the fucking line. Seriously, North Carolina: Fuck you.