March 2011 Archives

omfg! send some of that sun here!

Does anyone else get stabby over how utterly witless people are on Facebook? Is it really that hard to craft a sentence with some authorial voice in it? Maybe some general interest value? Apparently.

So cool!
How neat!
Oh no!
I've been there/I have kids/I know them too.

People are remorseless banality machines. I swear only 17 people on this planet have something to say. And three of them post on Facebook.

phillip gets a laptop

I had to read a lot of discussion boards today. How is it possible that the same guy is on all of them? Whether it's version control software or American Idol, there this preening douchebag is, wasting our time and electricity. Oh sure, he goes by different names. But I know it's him. I call him "Phillip," so I can blame him for having invented the wrong-kind-of-screwdriver, too.

Q: I need a TFS client that doesn't require that I install Visual Studio. Anyone have any recommendations?

Phillip: Why don't you want to install Visual Studio?

Q: I missed the end of Idol again because it ran long and my DVR cut it off. What happened?

Phillip: Why don't you watch live? That's what I do.

With respect, Phillip, you need to seriously shut the fuck up. Have you considered having an unexpressed thought?

vomit and the new york times

When the AW and I went to Mardi Gras, it didn't take me long to discover the splendors of having cash in my wallet. (Dial down your expectations. This story isn't that good.) I enjoyed the sweaty, teeming masses doing shots of Jaeger out of test tubes and competing for beads, but only to a point. Mardi Gras is insanely crowded and unclean. Strangers are jostling you, sexually assaulting your girlfriend, and covering your shoes with excrement and vomit. But at any given time, a sparkling refuge is but five feet away.

All you have to do is be willing to pay.

mardi-gras.jpg

Duck into any store or restaurant, and the masses vaporize. Causation is hard to determine, but generally speaking, people who defecate on Iberville St. aren't the same people who can afford dinner at Arnaud's. I felt a little guilty about reveling in such class distinctions, but not for long. Having to scrape off your shoes before entering a store does that to a man.

Back then, I called this practice "pricing out the cretins." Now I call it "subscribing to the New York Times."

While the masses pitch fits about the audacity of the Times' charging for the content they paid their employees to create, I can't type my credit card number fast enough. I am scraping off my shoes and ducking into the Times' store front.

IMG_0450.JPG

I love me some free content. I read reams of it every day, some of it even created by non-Canadians. But I increasingly mourn what's been lost. The traditional old-media gatekeepers of information might have annoyed me once, but that was a lifetime ago. Since then, the definition of "annoying" has radicalized. Every ill-read jagov with an axe to grind has a web page that validates like-thinking preliterates, and I tire of wading through their intellectual debris. Getting my news is like slogging through sand. Meanwhile, the New York Times has more employees fact-checking their letters to the editor than the Huffington Post has employees.

There are some, for certain, who will roll their eyes at my arguments and deem me a relic. Only they would spell it "there" eyes. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps there is no merit whatsoever in fact-checking. Or in journalism crafted by educated professionals adhering to some semblance of standards. Perhaps the democratization of information miraculously hasn't introduced all the agendas, shrillness and stupidity inherent in democracies. Perhaps they are right and I am wrong.

But then again, I'm the one willing to pay money to keep their vomit off my shoes, aren't I?

My god, the Times is putting up a paywall? Can they please charge more?

updated: tsunami strike

This is the best footage I've ever seen of what it's like to witness a tsunami hit. Gripping from beginning to end. You can watch it here, but I'd watch it on YouTube.

A friend's kid was recently playing with her toy boats in the sink. She got distracted and left the sink running, causing a flood that seeped through the floor into the lower level, ruining some ceiling tiles and soaking the carpet. Not the worst offense, but certainly an offense. In the pussified manner of my generation's parents, my friend asked the child to choose an appropriate punishment.

She suggested that she forgo love and cuddles before bed that night.

And then come bedtime, she asked for them anyway.

At this point, I'm imagining the audience experiencing one of two reactions.

  1. "Awwww, how sweet!"
  2. "What the fuck? I mean, what the fucking fuck?!"

I fall into the latter camp. I know what my dad's response would have been. It seldom varied. "John, go upstairs and get me a belt."

carolbrady.jpgIt was a particularly sadistic touch to make the child fetch the agent of his own butt's destruction. But where my siblings saw only cruelty, I saw opportunity. I would first retrieve my mom's incredibly wide, soft belt.

"NO WOVEN BELTS!" Dad would scream, sending me back.

Staying in mom's closet for the while, I would next try cloth belts.

"NONE OF YOUR MOTHER'S BELTS!"

Why, that's practically an invitation to raid my sisters' bedrooms, not that I needed much of one.

"NO GIRLS' BELTS OF ANY KIND HONEST TO GOD QUIT DICKING AROUND!"

There was, I knew, a point of diminishing return nigh. Yes, I was hoping that Dad would tire of this exercise and, at the least, calm down enough where my punishment wouldn't be too severe. The trick was to give him time to calm down without actually pissing him off more. God forbid. If he got pissed off enough, he'd go upstairs himself and select one of my belts, the thinnest and therefore most painful lashes imaginable. I swear they had hooks.

So at a certain point, I would have to bring him a legitimate child-abusing device. It would be one of his belts, something as wide as possible with surprisingly little mass. He wouldn't be happy, but this is what he got for being lazy.

"How about no wuv and cuddles at bedtime, instead?" I imagine my 9 year-old self suggesting at belt-point, causing my father's head vein to finally pop.

I'm probably quite alone in the sentiment, but I am amused.

i dedicate this post to my mother

Amy works from Maine and me from Washington state, so she gets a three-hour head start every workday. My morning ritual: wake up, groggily reach for phone, check mail, read a detailed list of my faults. I call it my morning "What You Screwed Up Last Night" mail.

Quite the cheery good morning, 'tis.

This mail instantly results in several hours of damage control and yesterday, like many days, I forgot to eat. One cannot propel fat fingers like mine on Diet Coke alone, and around 3pm, I started feeling nauseated from hunger.

"Oh. Right. Food."

I resolved to inhale whatever ready-to-eat food was available and get right back to work. I opened the fridge. All I had was leftover salad that Anna had made the night before.

"Fuck that noise," I said, slamming the door shut and thus choosing nausea over eating vegetables.

evil unproved

Do companies hermetically seal, say, your new Xbox controllers in nuclear waste-grade packaging just so that you have to utterly mangle it and are thus unlikely to return the item?

Do web sites deliberately require that you enter, say, your alternate phone number just so they can reload the form and surreptitiously turn back on all the "Send me junk mail!" options you'd previously deselected?

Does a women start out relationships by telling you that, say, her parents messed her up by not hugging her enough just so that later, when she's banging her physical therapist, she can say "I warned you?"

this would make a good tweet. if i tweeted.

Whoever said money can't buy happiness never watched their buddy mow their lawn, for hire, in the rain.

uncle tom 2011

To many a white folk, what Michael Wilbon refers to as "Black World" isn't so much a mystery as something of which we're completely unaware. It might as well be a deep-sea ecosystem, so alien and unseen it is.

In the context of the Grant Hill/Fab Five dustup, Wilbon does a good job of lowering a bathysphere into Black World—explaining some critical, even self-destructive, Black World dynamics.

You can tell his audience is primarily white people because he speaks of black socioeconomic strata in terms we're sure to understand: sitcom characters. I winced, but more at that choice's probable necessity than at the choice itself.

victim of the week: rashard mendenhall

Rewarding achievements in claiming victimization

Sorry, Adrian Peterson, but you have been outperformed.

Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, on the state of labor relations in the NFL:

"Anyone with knowledge of the slave trade and the NFL could say that these two parallel each other."
When questioned about the aptness of this analogy, Mendenhall, like an obedient slave, lashed out at his critics:
"If you look back and dissect what I said, I [didn't] say that the NFL was slavery, I said that they parallel each other. Look up the word parallel. This means that they're not the same thing, but they run the same course. These paths will never cross, but they mirror each other. I could break down how, but that would take an amount of ideology and big words that a lot of you wouldn't understand."
I, for one, would like to extend my most heartfelt apologies to this college dropout for not possessing the intellectual powers that does he. To this lashless, multimillionaire, Super-Bowl-losing fumbler who walked away from his free college education in order to join something parallel to slavery, I say here and now that am unreservedly sorry.

And I am shamed.

Really.

I mean that.

You cannot fake tears like these.

boy scout

When I was a kid, sometimes I would stand next to the comic book rack and try to evoke the look of ultimate sorrow. This was in hope that some kindly stranger would take pity upon me and buy me a comic book. It never happened.

JUMP CUT: LAST WEEKEND
DAY - OUTSIDE THE GROCERY STORE

"You wanna buy some cookies?" said the painfully shy child with the huge, moist Disney Eyes®, unfathomably cute freckles, and—oh no—brown ponytail.

It was time for me to be that guy. To be the kindly stranger who was never there for me. I would just give her however much she needed. No cookies necessary.

Take that, karma, you hypocritical slag!

"How much are they?"

"Four dollars."

"And how many do you need to sell, sweetheart?"

"250."

A THOUSAND DOLLARS?! WHAT THE FUCK FOR, IS SHE GOING TO TAHITI?! my Inner Dad screamed, and for once my Inner John agreed with him.

"One box of the peanut butter things," I said sheepishly.

And thus did the child resume her search for kindly strangers.


what price, $1.39?

It's time for a little role-play. No french maid outfit required. Unless, you know, you want to.

Let's say you started the only restaurant in the teensy remote outpost of Metamuville, WA. It's an upscale little lunch-only cafe, but spendy for the predominantly geriatric clientele. There are precious few Metamuvillians who can afford to drop $20 for lunch all the time.

One such guy visited you every day until he'd sampled your entire menu. He routinely dropped a fiver in your tip jar, and while he was there, he established your online presence and made you the #1 hit on several important Google searches. In your first two weeks, he patronized you 12 times.

Last week, your business's fourth, he placed his order. You didn't hear him say "and a Diet Coke." You also ignored him when he said "the total seems a little low." You did notice the $5 tip he dropped in your jar, though, and you thanked him.

A few minutes later, you see him at his table, sucking down a $1.39 Diet Coke. What do you do?

  • Ignore it? After all, this guy, often your only customer, has dropped $224 here in the last 16 days. And he added $75 in tips.
  • Quietly pull $1.39 out of the tip jar, just to make the register right?
  • Say 'Hey John, sorry, I missed that Diet Coke. Can I get another $1.39 out of you?"

If you picked any of those responses, you win our exercise. You win life.

What actually happened: the manager of this cafe sent the owner to my table, where she Whispered Gravely into my ear "Kathy wanted me to mention: you didn't pay for that Diet Coke."

It became clear that they not only thought this to be my fault, they suspected me of sneaking this trifle. I went from zero to rage in 2.8 seconds.

What followed was an ugly exchange, full of thinly veiled accusation and subsequent offense. One of us used the phrase "clean the wax out of your motherfuckin' ears." I don't remember who.

I'll let you know when the cafe folds.

reader mail: canadian invasion

Ultimately, quite a few Canadian readers responded to yesterday's post. But they took their time. First came that most dread of species, Americans With Opinions.

Alas, I found myself agreeing with almost all of them. Our fellow Americans not only don't care that they sound illiterate; so unskilled are they in the written word, they're no longer capable of recognizing the issue. So being good Americans, instead of mitigating the issue, they lazily dismiss its importance.

Special honors go to the guy who said the decline in American writing is due to the influx of Mexicans. Unless they're sucking the literacy out of people named Tyler and Courtney (I'm imagining sucking the innards of a tamale out of a corn hush), this is not what I'm talking about. Come sit in on my college English class and see the privileged white children of affluence not give a shit that they write at a sixth grade level, and then tell me again about the Mexicans.

But back to the Canadians. When they didn't write, I was puzzled.

"Of course they didn't. Why would people who write well read Stank?" Allie asked.

canadian invasion

Last night I was reading a Canadian article about the American space program when it struck me: man, I read a lot of Canadian writing.

Of the feeds that pipe through my tablet, over half originate up North. I would expect a ratio less than 1/10th, since 1) Canada has 1/10th my country's population and 2) I have no interest in vasts swaths of their local information, like politics or sports. Yet here we are, with the majority of my RSS feeds riding the Alberta Clipper into my home.

Let us eliminate obvious factors. These writers do not know one another. They do not link to one another. I do not seek Canadian writers nor even notice their nationality until they start inserting extraneous vowels into wourds. Nope, this is a truly random sampling of writers whose work I've admired.

And there you have it: I think they're better writers.

The newest generation of American adults can barely bang two words together competently, let alone gracefully. Snark has replaced wit. Self-obsession has replaced empathy and curiosity. Your has replaced you're. Assertion has replaced argumentation (he asserts). Click-whoring has replaced interest value. And god help me, artful conclusions have been replaced by "So that's what I think. What do you think?"

Shudder.

Perhaps Canadians simply haven't caught on to the stupidity trend yet. Perhaps their educational system is still teaching the discipline of writing. Perhaps they read more than we do. Perhaps they simply don't want to look retarded, and that's why they don't proudly write should of and now a days. I don't know. I don't pretend to know the whys, here. I'm a throwback American writer; I don't claim expertise about matters I know nothing about.

What do you think?

(You knew that was coming. I telegraphed it. Sorry.)

I so am not in Ohio anymore.

pitcher in need of catcher

We've established that I loathe the people who, when I enter Home Depot, wrestle me to the ground and demand that I let them help me pick a paint color. This contempt extends to all unsolicited sales pitches masquerading as a benefit to me.

Gosh, Safeway! You'll charge me a reasonable $3.50 for a pack of Diet Coke instead of $9.99—if only I give you my name, address and phone number? Wow! What did I ever do before your rewards club?

Oh. Right. I paid $3.50 for Diet Coke.

Last night was a new low. I went to the nearby McDonald's. I placed my order and drove to the payment window. And out leaned a guy from the local Indian reservation, shoving a coupon book in my face and pitching me on purchasing it. He was not a McDonald's employee. He was not there to exchange fries for money. He was there to give his sales pitch to a captive audience.

"Cancel order!" I yelled past him as I drove off.

Folks, we're one step removed from ads displayed on our dentists' exam lamps.

google maps is ruining my memories

It started with my remembering my trip to Aberdeen, Washington when I was 15. I live only a couple of hours from Aberdeen now, but then, I was an Ohio kid. Mostly, I remember Aberdeen's otherworldly beauty as I rode on the bridge into town. I thought it looked like a Malta village I had seen in movies.

What I remembered Aberdeen looking like from the bridge:

malta.png

Latter day John has been to Aberdeen several more times, and he has no idea what 15 year old John was babbling about. Aberdeen is kind of ugly.

So to Google Maps I went:


Nope. No matter how many times I pan around, I can't seem to make Aberdeen look like Malta.

Were other memories similarly bullshit? How about the entrance to my elementary school? I remember it being like the halls of Congress, with my stubby little legs pumping up a massive amount of oversized steps. Maybe dozens!


Oh.

But surely the Hell Hill in Bloomington, Indiana would measure up to my memories. I would play hoops until my legs could take no more, and then I would hop on my bike and just d-i-e as I plowed up the Olympus between the court and my couch. So steep was this incline, sometimes I had to walk my bike up.


Seriously?

But surely Detroit would be as I remember it. The Super Bowl buses had abandoned me that night. I had to walk three miles on broken crack vials through crime-riddled neighborhoods with boarded up windows and gang-bangers on every corner, sizing up whether or not I might be carrying. That memory would certainly withstand some scrutiny.


Stop sullying my memories, Google.

bad santa

"It's John," I heard Katrina answer her six year old. Then I heard the child ask to be put on speakerphone.

Click.

"Hi?" I said.

"I WANT A PET SNAKE!" the child shrieked to the one person she knows who will not hesitate to provide just such a thing.

"And I want you to have a pet snake, honey. What's the matter, Mommy won't buy you one? Do you want me to just buy one and give it to you as a present?"

"YES! AND—"

Click.

"Jesus!" said a bewildered Katrina. The entire exchange between her child and me had taken less than five seconds.

Uncle John: the Make an Evil Wish Foundation.

bing!

"Have you binged it?" asked the Microsoft wife, crowbarring that "verb" into his sentence as conspicuously as a newly engaged 18 year-old girl drops the term "my fiance" into every sentence.

I barely understand Microsoft employees exhibiting this sort of corporate-patriotic brandemonium. I will never get their spouses also slurping the Kool Aid. Worse still, they try to engage me in conversation about, well, what I do for a living. Do doctors' spouses try to debate bone grafts with doctors?

But please, continue. Tell me about the game-changing paradigm shift that is your new Windows 7 phone.

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