A Long Overdue Rant on Facebook

Part 1 – In the Beginning. So I’ve been on the juggernaut that is Facebook for just over a year now. And it has further solidified my belief that there really is no hope for the human race.

When I first started Facebook, I thought it was a place to wax philosophical, or get at least somewhat intellectual: you know, divulge your own nuggets of wisdom on life.

I now know better.

I’d roll out my thoughts on something deep and philosophical, or make some obscure reference. Here’s an example:

Bryan read some Faulkner yesterday. Yesterday – being cold – bled yellow sunlight across the imitable sky as a hummingbird buzzed languidly – long and desolate – and didn’t seem to mind that the cold was a biting cold, while the trees (there was a forest of them), mocked me silently, and with a building peace, nature went on and on, like ancient clockwork tick-tocking, while I watched the inescapable beauty of it all.

Get it? I made a post about reading Faulkner while using a Faulknerian writing style.

Well, I thought it was funny.

You know how many comments or “likes” I got about that?

One. Because other than my one other intellectual friend on this earth who understood the reference, no one else fucking reads Faulkner anymore and probably doesn’t get it because they’re a bunch of douches.

But, I have found that if you say something as childish as . . .

Doesn’t everyone LOVE Cake??!!! (SMILEY SMILEY WINK WINK)

1,400 comments of “YEA CAKE!!!” and 300 “likes”.

We’re a species of 12-year-olds.

Part 2 – Your Privacy. Let me get this straight. You put your information on the fucking internet and you’re upset because some nefarious individuals are able to see it?

Idiots.

Part 3 – Categories. I know it’s cliche, and I know there’s been 1,800 bloggers (ironically “bloggers” comes up as a misspelled word . . . go figure) categorizing Facebook posters.

But I can’t resist. And yes, those of you who are my Facebook friends **cough** **cough** CHUCK **cough** **cough**, I know I am occasionally guilty of posting movie quotes or inspiration, but these categories are of people who overdo it in each category. So, here goes:

  1. The “Movie Quote” Poster – Be original. Anyone can use Google to find movie quotes to make people laugh. A form of plagiarism to me.
  2. The “I’m Political” Poster – Seriously, Facebook is no place for your political agenda. It makes you look like an asshole, even if your friends agree with you. And on that note, never argue with anyone over politics on Facebook. Even if you’re right. Very few people know what forensic argumentation is, and even fewer know how to use it properly.
  3. The “Look at Me, I’m Religious and Put My Prayers on Facebook” Poster – The only thing worse than being political on Facebook is being religious on Facebook. Instant grounds for defriending in my book. Even worse yet is the “I’m on Facebook to Convert People to my Religion” Poster. Luckily I don’t befriend assholes like that in the first place.
  4. The “I’ve Got My Own ‘Business’ but Don’t Know How to Setup a Facebook Fan Site” Poster – Do not advertise using your normal Facebook logon. Setup a fan site. Otherwise you are basically spamming your friends with shit they’re going to skip over every time it happens anyway.
  5. The “Wisdom of the Ages” Poster – You know, the one who always posts inspiring quotes or reminds you every chance that “Life is short” or some shit like that. Be original.
  6. The “I Need Advice on What Product I Should Get” Poster – This one pisses me off more than any other. Why? Because there are starving people in this world, and for you to ask something so douchey as,

    So, guys, what should I get, The iPhone or The Droid? I can’t decide!!!

    is a slap to the face of every person on this planet who doesn’t have that opportunity. Believe me, not being able to decide about shit like that deserves no sympathy and is even less deserving of an answer.

  7. The “Music Lyric” Poster – No one cares what music you listen to. Your obscure lyrics of some band that reflects how “cool” you think you are does not impress me.

Part 4 – Posts on my Facbook Page that are my favorites – Here are the top 10 in no particular order. I have re-formatted some of them so that they are more readable than on Facebook.:

  1. Bryan had a foreign object removed from his eye yesterday. Here’s how it went:
  2. ME: “Will I need to wear an eyepatch?”
    DOCTOR: “No.”
    ME: “Can you give me one anyway?”
    DOCTOR: “No.”

    True story.

  3. Bryan is watching Chinese Folk dancing. Yes, there is such a thing, and yes, there are dragons.
  4. Pineapples are the flamboyant gays of the fruit world. . . . OK, sorry. I’ll say it in a more politically correct way: Pineapples are the “interior decorators” of the fruit world. Discuss.
  5. Bryan had to drive back from Rhode Island with no windshield wipers in pouring rain. Used only my powers of sight and a GPS. It reminded me of that episode of The Dukes of Hazzard where Bo and Luke Duke were driving the General Lee from the floorboards with a map of Hazard County to fool everyone into thinking it was their ghost. Only it was better.
  6. Two things I heard at the DMV today:
  7. 1. “Why would that be a problem? You lick my feet every night.”
    2. “I want to go to Wal Mart later, but I don’t think I’m dressed for it.”

  8. As a reaction to parental outrage, the Cookie Monster now eats vegetables. This is horrifying. No letter of outrage is needed, just good parenting. For example, when I was a kid, I asked my mom why the Cookie Monster never swallowed the cookies. My mom responded with, “Because he’s a puppet and doesn’t have a throat. Now shut up and eat your carrots.” Parents, that’s how it’s done.
  9. Yet another aphorism: Killing spiders for my wife should be considered as heroic as winning a cage-fighting match or saving a puppy from certain doom.
  10. Bryan has been watching some late night TV. I have realized that the Exercise Industry has been selling some minor variation on the same piece of exercise equipment since 1982. Just goes to show you, yet again, that with enough enthusiasm and a “Money Back Guarantee”, people will buy anything.
  11. Not liking flowers is tantamount to not liking beer or kittens. It’s just wrong and downright un-American.
  12. No matter how different you think it looks, a snake, dragon, or naked lady tattoo looks the same as any snake, dragon or naked lady tattoo ever.

Enjoy.

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The Subtle Art of BS Detection, Part 3: Final Thoughts

So let’s sum up BS Detection. What follows are some basic guidelines for good BS Detection:

  1. Realize that you have biases, and admit them to yourself, especially when it comes to politics. I fall a little left of center on the political spectrum, and the challenge for me is to set aside my own biases in order to weed out the propaganda that fits into my own world view. There is propaganda and Conspiracy theories spewed out from all parts of the political spectrum. There are “crazies in every camp”, and anyone who hates a skeptic hates a hypocrite even more. I have an equal amount of disdain for MSNBC as I do for Fox News. I verify with equal amount of veracity the “facts” I’m told by Keith Olbermann as I am told by Bill O’Reilly. If you are the type that swallows whole everything you see on either channel, turn on your BS Detector. They both do it.
  2. When talking to people about their theories on life, BS detection thrives on asking probing questions in a non-threatening way: Where did you hear that? What are the details? Why would they do that? Unfortunately, questioning people’s statements is tantamount to pissing on their Cheerios. Nobody likes a skeptic. I have been at dinner conversations before and debunked people’s outright gullibility. The reaction I get is like in those ingenious SNL Rachel Dratch sketches, Debbie Downer. I’m the dick for crushing their hopes about some cockamamie medical cure. I’m the asshole for making the government far less conspiratorial than it is. I’m the douche bag for challenging their world view on their theory about when the world will end. Granted, I am not known as the most tactful person on the planet. But really, after their reaction, most people don’t even change their view anyway. We are a stubborn species.
  3. If you don’t have the knowledge to talk on the subject, keep your mouth shut. For some reason, no one ever wants to say they don’t know. It is better to say that then make an ass out of yourself by attempting to keep up with someone who thinks they know just a little more than you do.

People seem to be taking things at face value these days. They are controlled by the media. Unfortunately for us skeptics, a lot of this thinking has graduated from fringe thinking into more conventional “wisdom”. It’s hard to fact-check anymore. Most websites are biased.

Humans want to persist in believing the world is more interesting than it really is to continue their need for a spicier life. They may want to persist in believing the world is more harmful than it really is to continue their need for paranoia, or they may want to persist in believing the world is more safe than it really is to continue their need for solace. Here comes another Carl Sagan quote:

It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

HTH.

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The Subtle Art of BS Detection, Part 2: Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, and the Media

Let’s take another type of BS I’ve heard of late. Statistics. For example, on someone’s Facebook status recently, they said:

“Dr. Oz says that 200+ orgasms a year leads to 15-20 added years to your life!”

Did you spot it? He really did mention the 200 orgasms, but 15-20 years? Really? If it sounds outlandish, it probably is. What he really said was:

“If you have more than 200 orgasms a year, you can reduce your physiologic age by six years.” (Source)

But, here’s the kicker, your BS detector should have gone off again. This one’s not so simple, however.

There is a new health fad out currently, called RealAge, whose website is created and maintained by the Hearst Corporation. And currently, the home page has an image of Dr. Oz and the “co-founder” of RealAge giving the thumbs up with a huge smile on their faces. Their claim is that scientific studies affirm this idea of Physiologic Age, and that there are ways of decreasing it.

This brings me to my next tips for good BS Detection:

  1. Anything that can be affirmed by common sense does not need expensive scientific studies to affirm. Common sense will tell you that living a healthy lifestyle is improved by eating a healthy diet and exercising. This “physiologic age,” most likely is an indicator of health. But it is nothing more than an indicator. How do I make my physiologic age lower? Eat right, exercise, and apparently have orgasms. Done. Move on people.
  2. One should be skeptical about any corporation that runs a website that claims to “help you”. They are in the  business of making money, and due to factor number one as above, take the advice they give out for free and move on with your life.

Dr. Oz’s quote was based on a Duke University study. For the life of me, I cannot find this study. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but I don’t believe any “scientific study” unless I can read it.

I should tell you about any “study” that claims to be “scientific”.

The world of true science is a public one. Mere mortals like you and me have access to these studies through scientific journals. I don’t give any credence to scientific studies that are (a) extremely difficult to find on the internet, and/or (b) have not been rigorously peer reviewed.

In fact, you should be skeptical of any media outlet that covers a “new scientific study”. The key word is “new”. “New” scientific studies have not been peer reviewed by the scientific community.

The problem is, there is no rule that any cockamamie “scientist” can’t release their “findings” to the public without it being peer reviewed. That’s when the media gets a hold of it, and by the time the study is debunked, does the media do the responsible thing and retract it? Nope. They’re off to the next new “scientific study”.

And we wonder why no one trusts scientists.

Why does the media do this? Well, because the media is no longer responsible for journalism, as it’s become diluted by corporations.

I recently read the book True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. One of the topics mentioned in the book are VNR’s (Video News Releases). VNR’s are “news stories” developed by marketing firms that have subtle advertising (or sometimes, not so subtle). Go to YouTube and type in “Video News Release” and you’ll see countless examples. According to a 2005 Public Notice, the FCC requires a disclosing of the source of the VNR, but for whatever reason, this is not happening in many cases.

Have you ever been watching the News and thought to yourself “How the Hell does this qualify as news?” The most likely answer? VNR’s.

Someone somewhere wants you to buy something. Think for yourself.

And yes, the above sounds conspiratorial, and after reading my first post on BS Detection and Conspiracy Theories, I find that comparing Parts 1 and 2, this one’s dripping with irony.

You can decide for yourself if I am full of BS.

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The Subtle Art of BS Detection, Part 1: Conspiracy Theories

It is better to be too skeptical than too credulous.

– Carl Sagan

I was fortunate, in my formative years, to have developed what I call a BS Detector. Carl Sagan (quoted above), who is one of my all-time greatest heroes, calls it a “Baloney Detection Kit.” Mine was mostly developed in college I’d say, but started in high school while listening to, of all things, heavy metal music. I fashioned myself a bit of a rebel, as it were. “Question Authority” and all that. The beauty of the BS Detector is that we all have one, and it’s easy to use. The results of using it, however, can be hard for some people to deal with.

It should come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that you should never believe everything you read, see, or hear. Well, with the exception of what you’re reading now, of course. But of late, my BS Detector has been working overtime. The conspiracy theories, the misinformation, the outlandish statistics, and the outright lies are just getting really out of hand. So bad, in fact, I have to distract my mind with rainbows, kittens, and puppies just to stop myself from becoming a complete misanthrope.

It’s no mystery that the media has changed over the past 30 years. Gone are the Walter Cronkites, and the Edward R. Murrows. They’ve been replaced by pundits, blogs, and partisan-backed media channels. I really want to avoid politics in this post; so please don’t jump to any conclusions about my slant. There are lies spewing out from the entire political spectrum. I am an equal opportunity blogger: I’m criticizing everyone.

I want to talk specifically about Conspiracy Theories in this post. Part 2 will be about statistics in the media, and Part 3 will be some final thoughts and I’ll give some pointers abut freethinking and using your BS Detector without pissing people off.

So let’s start with a real-life example. Last week, I had a guy approach me and start a sentence with a very nonchalant, “So, when they shut down the internet . . .”

Shut down the internet?

When someone says something so mind-numbingly ridiculous, there is a point where my BS Detector pegs the needle so hard, my brain actually shuts down for a second, probably out of the need for self-preservation.

Anyway, once I recovered, I had this man explain. I’ll spare you the details, but apparently, he believes that, “the Obama administration is looking to install an internet control system like they have in North Korea and will shut down the internet on anyone who violates the controls.”

Dear reader, we share the planet with people like this. I see this guy every day.

Why are some people so willing to believe such nonsense? How do they live like that? My theory is that we humans have a need for things to be far more interesting than they really are. It would be so much more interesting if Elvis really did live. It would be so much more interesting if the government really did cover up an alien crash landing in Roswell in 1947. Additionally, we all have what’s called a confirmation bias that keeps us believing what we want to believe. This confirmation bias, by the way, is the antithesis to the BS Detector. You need to keep that tendency to a minimum.

Take a look now at conspiracy whack-job Alex Jones, who pretty much comes up with a new conspiracy theory every week. He has an “underground” radio show and two websites. I refuse to link them due to the whack-job factor, but if you want to check him out, use Google to your advantage. You’ll know his websites when you see them, and to be on the safe side, I wouldn’t visit them at work. You’ve been warned.

And before you go crying “foul” on me, yes, he’s been characterized as a “Right Wing” conspiracy theorist, but due to his history, I don’t think he cares who’s in Office. No one is safe from his theorizing. Thus, he’s just a straight whack-job in general to me. So, in my mind, he’s free game to use as an example here.

His list of conspiracy theories include:

  • 9/11 was an inside job.
  • Government-based Health Care death panels.
  • The aforementioned “Obama’s shutting down the internet” conspiracy.
  • FEMA’s secret building of concentration camps.
  • Man-made Global Warming is a hoax.
  • His take on the “New World Order” conspiracy.
  • And, get this, a conspiracy theory about the “World Government” suppression of conspiracy theories. (Youtube link)

. . . And the list goes on.

These types of people used to be written off as part of the “lunatic fringe”. But these people now get air time on “more conventional” (emphasis on the quotes) news media outlets and people like Jones’ faux “documentation” to “prove” their theories, dupe otherwise ordinary people into entertaining his complete bullshit.

Two facts about career conspiracy theorists (Alex Jones is not the first, nor the only), are as follows:

  1. The conspiracy theory is usually impossible to disprove (though keep in mind there is no real evidence for it either). Conspiracy theorists go by the “Since no one can disprove it, it must be true” fallacy.
  2. If the conspiracy theory is disproved, they are already off on another one for the masses to buy into.

People like this are well-aware of these facts, and they get a lot of notoriety and make a lot of money doing it.

Debunking conspiracy theories:

  1. Consider the source. If they have something to gain from it, such as a Political Agenda, money, ego-feeding followers, or all three, it’s a count against the theory.
  2. If it sounds outlandish, it probably is.
  3. All propaganda starts with a kernel of truth. There is a Bill in Congress that is looking to put in place the ability to shut down parts of the North American internet infrastructure in case of a Cyber Terrorist attack. Reading the language of the relevant part of the bill though, I hardly see it as a conspiracy since there is no language indicating a  “North Korea”-like control system.
  4. Be wary of phrases like “we know better.” For example, if they say something like, “Congress is debating over a bill now that would give The President power to shut down the internet in case of a cyber terrorist attack, but we know better. It’s really about the government taking away your freedom!” That becomes pure speculation.
  5. Be wary of phrases like, “don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise, they’re probably part of it,” which is proof positive that they don’t want you checking into the details.
  6. Beware of the slippery slope and/or “the piggy-back”. I will spare you the details, but if the “news story” starts with something innocuous and then graduates into something larger and unrelated, the presenter in question has an agenda. For example, the news story about the PA School board giving out laptops that could spy on students was graduated into Google spying on us in some circles, which is patently false.
  7. Check the facts. Most Conspiracy Theories don’t stand a chance against a good 5 minute search on the internet. But be aware that not all internet sources can be trusted either. All of the links I have used in this blog post have been as unbiased as possible. Stay away from sites that are too left or too right wing. They are just as untrustworthy. You will know them when you see them.
  8. If the information to debunk the theory is too hard to find, then there is no evidence for it and you should suspend judgment. As said before, conspiracy theorists go by the mantra, “Since it can’t be disproved, then it is true.” Don’t follow their logic.

On to Part 2: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.

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Born Standing Up – A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin

Steve Martin - Born Standing UpI’ve been a fan of Steve Martin since I was a young boy and could enjoyed the silly animated kind of humor that accompanied daytime classic shows.  The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, and the Little Rascals all were staples and seemed to be on one of the seven TV channels during the day.  I would catch a glimpse here and there of Steve Martin as my parents or their friends talked about seeing him on TV.  What I saw of his antics on TV were right up my alley, and I even bought the 45 record (remember those?) of “King Tut” back in 1978.  I’ve enjoyed all of his movies over the years and my favorites were definitely the more silly ones like “The Jerk”, “The Man With Two Brains” and “Three Amigos”.

Now his book, “Born Standing Up – A Comic’s Life” came out in 2008.  I was looking for a new audio book and was definitely interested when I saw his name on this one.  I was even more intrigued when I saw that it was read by Steve Martin himself.

I always associated him with Saturday Night Live and one of those folks that went from that show directly to movies.  I didn’t realize that he was a successful stand up comic that was a guest host on SNL a number of times.

As a fan of his, I do have to say it was great to learn about his career from his own mouth.  My expectations of it were along the lines of high comedy with a touch of tough times thrown in.  I was greeted with the revelations that his career was painful, his family life was dysfunctional (but who’s isn’t?), and his comedy was his life in every way.  He worked his ass off refining, changing and inventing stand up comedy approaches.  He wanted to entertain and he wanted to succeed at all costs.  Eventually, with fame as his companion, he walked away from the stand up life that he made for himself.

The story is filled with his relationships, his hardships, his drive and the personal decisions he repeatedly made to guide his path toward his goal.  It is definitely an inspirational story, one that falls through the cracks in this regard.  He tells it in a very lucid and endearing way from beginning to end, and the nostalgia he feels for certain points in his life is apparent.  He shares his regrets and frustrations and expresses his pride without allowing himself to feel proud.

Overall the book was very good, but I would definitely recommend the audio version over the printed word.  The banjo riffs between chapters were Steve’s, and a few of the song verses in the book he sings.  Plus when repeating a joke or two from his many routines, you get that comedic timing from the master himself as it was meant to be, something a book can never convey.  My only negative about it is the fact that Steve reads it… as a book.  I expected so much more inflection and emotion.  This could be on me, though, as I listen to a lot of audio books and have an Audible account.  So I listen to people reading books that are professionals in this particular field.  Also, I only know Steve Martin, the “wild and crazy guy” and this may very well have been the real Steve Martin, the mature and mellow man.

I brought away a few things from this:

  1. I wish I could have seen him perform stand up live, as it must have been an experience.
  2. I just want to walk up to him, shake his hand, look him in the eye and say, “Great job.”
  3. I will never, ever, want my children to try to be stand up comics.  I think it may be less stress and work to become an astronaut.

If you enjoy Steve Martin’s work, I recommend learning more about what it took for him to get to where he is today… rich, famous, and a person for when his name is mentioned, I cannot help but smile.

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Gambling and the Slot Machine

Slot MachineSo we took a trip this weekend to our local Hotel and Casino. It was just an overnight trip to get away. I took some time to reflect on the trip, and came away with some knowledge about myself, which is always a good thing.

Maybe it’s just my age, but I have decided that I am against me gambling. Notice I didn’t say I’m “against gambling”. I said I’m against “ME gambling”.

First of all, I have never been a big gambler. The only time I ever sat at a real casino table was playing blackjack just for fun. It was a slow night at this casino, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I lost $35 in less than two minutes.

I stopped.

Now I’m not saying someone can’t make money at gambling. It’s just that the odds are against you. Some people get a thrill from that sort of thing.

Dangerous thrill, but whatever.

I’ll leave the analysis of high stakes gambling to the big dogs. I’d rather go a bit more small time and talk about the Slot Machine. I have decided that the slot machine is one of the most ingenious god damn inventions on the planet.

Think about it. People willingly put their hard-earned money into a slot, lose their money, and, here’s the kicker: they are OK with it.

That’s fucking ingenious. I mean, they aren’t buying tangible goods and services, they’re buying into an illusion.

I decided to look up “Slot Machine Probability Statistics” just to do some research for this and sure enough, appropriate to the topic, the internet is clogged up with slot machine scams.

So, I’m not going to link your computer to the unfortunate mess of online slot machine scams. You’ll have to trust me on this one. If you really want the link from which I draw my data, I will be more than happy to disclose. I had to comb through a lot of shitty data to find the real scoop on slot machines. I am no mathematician, but here’s some basics about what I found, and I am sure that many of you already know this, so I’m not expecting this to be groundbreaking information. Looking at the math, though, I find it interesting:

  1. Every slot machine has what’s called a “lookup” table with mathematical weights corresponding to each symbol in the reels, the higher monetary value symbols have lower weights. That means the higher the monetary value of the symbol, the lower the probability they will align. This is perfectly legal and does not break any US laws.
  2. The historical payout of the slot machine makes no difference whatsoever. A machine in which you put your first coin is just as (un)likely to payout a jackpot as a machine you’ve been playing all day.
  3. There is a built in psychological “mind trick” to slot machines with the way the reels are organized. They are situated in a way that gives people the illusion that they “almost” hit a jackpot or higher payout. For example, someone might get a reel that is one symbol off from winning 20 credits as opposed to 2 credits, leading them to falsely think they “almost won” for that spin. The idea, of course, is that this will get said player to keep playing under the pretense that the next spin will increase their odds of winning. This is an illusion. Once again, perfectly legal in the US.
  4. The “payout” on slot machines, even including jackpot payouts, on a per user basis can be anywhere from 86% to 97%. What that means is for every dollar you spend, considering all factors, you will get anywhere from 86 to 97 cents back. But, that is statistics according to the Casino, not on a per-outing basis, which means that one visit to the Casino does not guarantee this “return” (emphasis on the quotes). One outing you might lose all your money, the next may be up by $40 for that visit, whatever. In other words, you should expect to lose 3 to 14 cents overall per dollar spent on total visits to slot machines. Sure, you might indeed hit a jackpot and be one of the few people who actually win something life-changing, but considering all factors, it is a losing proposition, tantamount to playing the lottery. Odds are you will be out money. The odds of winning a full jackpot are anywhere from .00004 to .00007 percent, according to my “research,” for what it’s worth.

They don’t put slot machines in casinos for nothing. They are profit-making machines like anything else. But what is ingenious about it, is that they are exploiting human psychology. It’s one thing if you buy tangible goods, but putting money into a slot machine like that, it’s just too damn easy for them.

You might say it’s great for the free booze, but that’s all part of the loss as well. You are certainly more likely to spend more money if you are inebriated than if you are not. I don’t think I need to quote statistics on that.

Me? I’ll keep my money, thank you.

If anyone finds a flaw in my analysis or math, please make a comment below. I’ll be the first to admit that I am no mathematical genius. Just please be gentle. :)

* Image courtesy of Jeff Kubina via Flickr

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How We Spend Money in America

Everyone has something they spend their money on, and one thing that never ceases to amaze me is our American super-human ability to spend money on shit we don’t need.

Now before you cry “pot calling the kettle black” I will be the first to admit that I am guilty as charged. I have a penchant for cigars and scotch. My $120 Humidor full of $200 worth of cigars and the $80 bottle of scotch adorning my liquor cabinet are testaments to that. Everyone has something they spend money on, and like it or not it’s part of our American way of life. My brothers ride dirt bikes; my dad has a motor home; my father-in-law is into ham radios; my thing is cigars and scotch. “One man’s trash is another’s treasure,” as the old saying goes.

My wife’s thing? Coach purses.

We took a trip to our local Coach Outlet store recently. As we walked in, there was a greeter conveniently giving out “20% off” coupons.

Anytime that happens, I ain’t getting out of there without her buying something. My wife’s a sucker for a sale.

Anyway, I’m looking around the store. The “trash vs. treasure” theme was apparent early on, when I spotted a $120 men’s wallet.

HELL NO!

I’d never spend $120 on a wallet. That’s fucking ridiculous. It had better be made of gold, or spontaneously spit out money on its own, or give me the occasional hand job while it’s in my pocket, or fucking something for $120. But people buy them all the time. There was a guy who just happened to purchase one while we were there.

My wallet? $12. Had it for 3 years and counting. Pisses me off that I actually have to go through the pain of buying one every so often.

But, remember we all have something we spend our money on. If you don’t, well then consider yourself lucky.

But the Coach saga gets worse.

I spotted a bin full of pink, heart-shaped plastic bags a bit larger than the palm of your hand. They were heavy and full of sand.

I held it up to my wife and asked her “What the fuck is this?”

My wife shook her head. She had no idea.

One of the Coach attendants overheard me and politely responded with, “It’s a paperweight.”

“What?” I asked.

“It’s a paperweight.”

I looked down at the price of this paperweight.

$19.

It’s a plastic bag full of sand.

And then the attendant says “We have a sale on that and the matching heart-shaped Coach mouse pad.”

I look down at the price of this mouse pad.

$29.

I smiled and responded with my usual smart-ass sarcasm, “Well, you know, I can get paperweights for free. I got connections. A good rock will do. Those are free.”

She smiled and said “Well, it’s for the girl who already has everything.”

Indeed.

I guess what I’m saying is that everyone in America has something, a “vice” as it were on which they spend their disposable income. “Disposable” is a very appropriate word, because that is exactly what we’re doing.

So the next time you want to criticize someone for throwing their money away on something that makes them happy, take a look at your own expenditures and be sure you’re not the pot calling the kettle black.

Let the (Sort of Related) Rant Begin:

And, on a more serious note, you should feel fortunate you live in a place that gives you the opportunity to spend your money on shit you don’t need. There are a lot of people in this world who don’t have that luxury. I mean, we live in a country where we have TV shows about other people buying a house, called House Hunters and call it entertainment. That show makes me sick.

I’ve seen third world conditions first hand, and to hear those people complain about their kitchen “not being as quaint as we’d like it” makes me want to stop them from procreating.

That’s why the rest of the world hates us. Oh. That, and because we’re idiots.

See you next time.

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Pixels Destroying New York

I am in my 40’s, and have been here for over a year now. I grew up with the earliest types of gaming and was hooked from the very beginning. Some of those games set the stage for me in the types of games I play and seek out to this day, whether from an unconscious nostalgia aspect… or they somehow peek into my personality.  Whatever it is, I may explore that aspect in a future post.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have owned one of the first generation home game consoles (ok, my Parents officially bought it).  It was in 1976 and called the Wonder Wizard.  It was a Pong game.  Can’t count how many hours I played that with someone else or alone against the computer.  BUT, it was Pong… eventually it became rather redundant.  The second-generation home gaming consoles introduced 8-bit circuit boards.  These were fast enough and advanced enough to bring color to the world of gaming, and it thus changed gaming, for everyone. Arcades were born in this era as well.

So I’ve played a bunch in the 8-bit generation of games, and many are the ones that are considered classics and icons in the history of gaming.  They became a part of society and of history.

The point of this post? Simply the fact that I came across a very well produced video on YouTube today that mixes modern computer animation with the 8-bit world of graphics. Any gamer worth his salt will recognize all of the references in it.  I sat here and smiled as I watched it, and wanted to share it with the other long-time gamers out there.

It is called “Pixels.” Enjoy!

This video was Directed by Patrick Jean and Produced by Benjamin Darras and Johnny Alves at onemoreprod.

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My Addiction

My daughter was born a few weeks ago.  Newborns change your schedule completely.  During one of my late night feedings I was channel flipping and saw that IFC was running a documentary on Kurt Cobain: Kurt Cobain: About a Son.  It was a collection of recorded audio interviews set against various visuals.  I loved it.  I mean, I really loved it.  Now, I grew up listening to 90’s alternative music, but I wasn’t really a Nirvana junkie.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Nirvana music, I remember where I was when I found out Cobain was dead, and I appreciate their place in history, but that wasn’t the only reason I was riveted.  It is because I am a music addict.

I listen to every kind of music, with the exception of true blue country, sorry its just not me.  From rap to rock to bluegrass to swing to classical to the blues, I take it all in.  My earliest music memories are of listening to Oldies music in my Mom’s station wagon and then starting to listen to pop music.  But, even then, in my early years I listened to different types of music. I had my Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation, Beastie Boys License to Ill and one of the Cars tapes.  I found my true love in grade school when a classmate gave me a tape of a bunch of Guns N’ Roses music.  I was hooked and from then on I couldn’t get enough, not of Guns N’ Roses, but of music in general.  I signed up immediately for BMG and ordered my first ten CD’s for a penny or whatever the ridiculous hook was before you started paying $20 a disc.  I can’t remember what those first ten discs were, but there was some Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Aerosmith.  Let’s go through some of my quirks:

  1. Growing up I listened to music all the time.  Now I know what you are saying, “All kids listen to music a lot.”  I’ll grant you that, but do all kids walk around with a headset glued to their ears, while they are eating dinner with the family, while they are dating a girl in high school (that didn’t end up working out too well, big surprise right?), or taking the SAT’s (before the teacher told me to take them off)?
  2. I’ve coined a personal phrase…”lyric days.”  These are the days I wake up and I hear the lyrics to a song clearer than usual.  Lets be honest, lots of music is covered up by heavy bass beats or overwhelming guitar riffs, but some days I just wake up as I am sure others do and I can just hear the words to songs better than I usually do.  I searched the radio dial to pick up any words I have ever wondered about.
  3. Not only do I not allow any of that kiddie music in my car, but before dinner every night my son and I rock out to Killer’s music.  He is a big fan.  I made sure that he was properly introduced to music while he was still in the womb.  My wife and I took him to a Smashing Pumpkins concert and if it wasn’t for Rivers’ bus accident, my daughter would have had the same experience listening to Weezer.  Speaking of Weezer, did I mention I DVR’d the Weezer episode of The Chronicles on the Fuse Network months ago just so my son and I can watch them playing on the Muppet Show?  He gets Kermit and Ms. Piggy, I get Waldorf and Statler.  He sleeps listening to the lullaby versions of ACDC, Guns N’ Roses, Smashing Pumpkins, and Green Day.  Have you ever heard Thunderstruck, lullaby style?
  4. I was never a mix tape guy back when I was younger,  I would make tapes to give to people with music I thought they would like, but never some cheesy “I Love You” collection.  This is because I associate people with the music they listen to.  One of the very first questions I ask someone when I first meet them is, what type of music do you listen to?  This is an extremely important part of me getting to know someone, because everyone can be judgmental and I am no different.  The only slight difference is that I don’t form my first impression on cars or clothes or jobs, I make mine on music taste.  If you are strictly a pop music fan I lean towards shallow, country I lean towards arch-conservative, and because of my own predilection as an alternative fan I usually tend to think its fans are a little more understanding of others.  I have always believed that if we were all freaks and geeks that we would be a much more understanding world, but I digress.

Look, the bottom line is, music has always and will always, be a major part of my life.  When I hear certain songs or artists playing I may sometimes think of memories of my own, but more often that that I think of people.  One of my oldest and closest friends will forever come to my mind when I hear any Billy Joel music.  Fast Car will always make me think about a friend from high school, not because of the lyrics, but because it my mind that song is her.  When I hear The Who, I think of my wife, always.  Any real twangy country music I hear always make think of a friend from college, who does happen to be an arch-conservative.  What can I say, the man has a “Reagan 84″ t-shirt.  There are the songs that remind me of a particular moment, For Those About To Rock by ACDC will forever bring my mind to the greatest wedding entrance I have ever seen by my best man at his wedding, fireworks and all.  My wife and I walked into our wedding reception to music from Kill Bill, but the song equaling a moment is not what I am getting at.  In my mind, which I admit is somewhat warped, equates people with music.  It’s how I remember people and occasionally judge people.  Let me say at least once that my initial judgment can very easily be changed once I actually get to know someone a little bit better after I find out what type of music they listen to.  That being said, you’d be surprise how often the music matches my assumed personality.

I admit sometimes I can go a little overboard.  I once questioned a Best Buy employee as to why the Zwan new release was not in the new release section.  The woman looked at me like I had as many heads as the hydra, but I was pissed.  This was the music of my youth reborn and how dare some corporate entity downplay it.  When music is this important to your life, this is something stupid that you do.   New release Tuesday is a weekly Christmas to me.  (Quick side note, speaking of Christmas, if you have never heard Chris Cornell sing Ave Maria, check it out, it is simultaneously beautiful and horrifying all at the same time.)

What I am trying to say is that music is like another limb to me, I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I think it is because I can get lost in it.  I am an incredibly stressed out person and really high strung, ask anyone I know.  I’ve toned down since I was younger, no more burning pictures in frying pans, throwing sodas at minivans, or dressing in all black with a headset around my ears. I cook breakfast for my kids in frying pans now, wear bright shirts, and…no I will never have a minivan, but you get the point.  Music gives me those brief moments of release every day.  Sometimes I think of the person it reminds me of, what the song means to me, or even something as simple as a color it makes me think of, but it’s mine and that’s enough for me.

One of my current favorite songs is off of Weezer’s second newest album, the Red Album.  The song is named Heartsongs.  It lists various song references and alludes to the fact that these were all songs that the singer sang to himself and were close to his heart.  I love the song.  Its catchy and even has a good story to it, sort of, but that is not the real reason it gets me.  Songs from all walks of life are what has gotten me to this point in my life.  They are old friends to me or new acquaintances getting me through a tough day.  I know this has gotten pretty sappy, but come rock out one night with my son and I listening to “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” and tell me you don’t see my point.

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Scotch: It’s Cake for Men

I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly. . .

– Anchorman Ron Burgundy

This one goes out to all the ladies. If you have a man who loves Scotch, my hope is that maybe what follows will help you to understand him a little better.

At the ripe old age of 36, I have become a Scotch Man.

I was previously a Whiskey Man, but I feel like I am part of a new club, as it were, you know, “running with the big dogs” now. I keep asking myself why it took me so long. I could have been enjoying it all this time. I guess it’s better to have found it late, then never to have found it at all.

My analogy for what Scotch means to me at this point in my life, goes like this:

Imagine that you have never had cake before in your entire life. Ever. No cake. None. Never in your entire life. Now, imagine going without it for 36 years, and all of a sudden you try it for the first time. Think about it. I mean, it doesn’t even have to be good cake. Imagine taking a bite out of that beautiful cake triangle. You close your eyes as you savor the taste. You find the most delicious combination of frosting and cake, and savor it over and over again. Isn’t that one of life’s little treats?

Cake.

It’s one of the most beautiful words in the English language.

That’s what Scotch is to me right now in my life. It too, is a new, delectable treat to be savored. The rosy fumes coming up from the glass, the taste as it goes down, the finish. The smell alone relaxes me. It’s a beautiful thing.

That’s the good news. . . . There’s one little problem, though. Let’s go back to our little cake analogy.

What would you want to do after you have tasted cake for the first time? . . . .

That’s right, you’d want to try every possible flavor of cake on the planet. Chocolate with Chocolate frosting, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, Raspberry Marble with Vanilla Frosting, and the ever-popular “Death by Chocolate” Cake.

“Why is that a bad thing,” you ask? Well, let’s apply this idea to trying out every Scotch on the planet:

Have you ever looked at the price tag on a good bottle of Scotch? If you have been reading my posts, you know that I’m the type who enjoys the finer things in life. A cheap $10 bottle of Scotch simply won’t do. . . . No. . . . I’ve got to try all the good stuff. The 18+ year Scotches. You know, the Scotch that at one point flows over the thighs of virgins as part of the distillation process.

I mean, I’m fucking loaded, but I’m not that loaded. I’m not the type that can afford to bathe in the stuff.

Mmmmmmmmmmm. . . .  Scotch bath. . . . . . . . . .

Anyway, my plan is three-fold:

  1. Buy the good Scotch as I can afford it, and drink it only on the weekends. In other words, put myself on a Scotch ration/budget, which is either fucking awesome or horribly pathetic, depending on your attitude about booze.
  2. Order Scotch at bars to try out different brands, which is still expensive on a per-glass basis, but at least I’m not blowing ~$100 per bottle on it.
  3. Get advice from you people. Suggestions are, of course, welcome.

So that’s my plan anyway.

It’s very exciting for me, and it really enhances my life. I can’t wait to try out new Scotches. It’s an adventure for me.

Well, it’s getting late and I have a Scotch bath waiting for me. See you next time.

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