Sunday, March 22, 2015

Two Ankles: A Love Story

I don't really know how, but I done busted my ankle a couple months back. It would problaby be healed by now, but it took me the better part of a month to realize that I'd done busted it. So now I’ve got a big dumb cast I've got to wear, seemingly until the end of time. You start wearing a cast and you almost forget what it’s like to have a normal functioning ankle. I don’t remember what it was like to just walk.

My dumb stupid broken ankle 


I don't want to be a complete sourpuss about it. There are some good things about wearing a cast and walking on crutches. People on public transportation usually will give you a seat. I mean it is a law so I don’t know how much credit they deserve for this, but who gives a fuck. Legally obligated or not,  people being nice to you still feels good. Also I've had an excuse to sit on my stupid ass and watch a lot of Voyager. Mostly though, it sucks. Worst things about not having two functioning ankles at my disposal that I've noticed so far are these.

Standing. Oh how I took just standing still for granted. I didn’t realize just how tough it’d be with only one functioning leg. I could just stand for hours at a time with not a care in the world. Only have one leg and you’re not just standing, you're balancing on one stupid leg. And it’s giving out on you.

The train. Yeah, it’s great once you get on there and everyone gets up to give you their seat, but getting there is going to be the biggest pain in the ass in the whole fucking world. “Sub” is right in the word subway, so you know right there that chances are it’s going to be below something. And what it’s below is you. It’s probably going to be downstairs. If it’s not downstairs then it’s upstairs. And the thing that both upstairs and downstairs locations have in common is stairs. Usually a fair amount of stairs. Handicaped stations ones aren’t much of a help. They usually just eliminate one set and then leave you to crutch up and down the next.

Drinking responsibly. I have to do this now. There’s no having one too many and just stumbling a little bit. Or waking up with a headache. If I end up having too much booze I just have to lay wherever I am until the morning rolls around and I have my balance back.

Biking. All of this stupid winter I’ve been waiting for some nice weather to get out there and ride my bike. Right before that time came I’ve got a stupid non bike riding cast that needs to go along with me everywhere I go. Fuck you cast. 

Running: I’ve never gone running a once in my stupid life, but I was really thinking about starting when I hurt it. Now I’m just looking out the window at the nice weather knowing how kick ass a runner I'd be by now. Thanks a lot stupid ankle.

Kicking things. You’d think that among the things that are just as easy to do with one ankle as it is to do with two would be kicking things. Not the case. While it’s true that you’re really only doing the kicking with the one leg you very much need the other one to help you not fall on your stupid back and break your stupid brain. And if you think doing shit with one less leg is tough just try that shit with one less skull. Now every time I see a pigeon down on the ground staring up at me I have to excersise some self control and not square up and teach that piece of shit a lesson.

This all sucks. It's only been sucking for two weeks. It will probably end up sucking for another month. So pigeons enjoy the next few weeks, because after that, all bets are off.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Nothing You Valued Is Valuable


I'm currently in Michigan for a couple reasons. In addition to doing some shows I figured I'd also secure my financial future and become wealthy. I planned on going through some old Magic: The Gathering cards and strike it rich. I saw a YouTube video where some guy finds a twenty thousand dollar card going through an old pack and rightly loses his shit. So I figured I'd go through some old cards, find a rare card, lose my shit, and then buy a bunch of stuff.
The more Plague Rats that are in play the more valuable they are. The opposite is true when collecting them.

It didn't work out like that because why the fuck would it. So I took the Magic cards and just put them in their place next to my Marvel trading cards, comics, baseball cards, and football cards--all things my friends and I believed were gonna make us rich. None of these things will actually make any of us rich. The very fact that everyone was told how collectable these things were almost automatically negates their value in the long run.

As a guy who took two econ classes at Oakland Community College, I think I'm qualified to speak to this. Everything we were told was going to have value won't because we were told it was going to have value and acted accordingly. Also we assigned too much value to them to begin with. The value will never be higher than I thought the potential value was going to be. You got little plastic cases to make sure your cards didn't lose value. The fact that all your friends got little plastic cases ensures that there never will be any value. The reason that Honus Wagner's rookie card is worth a couple million bucks has less to do with Wagner and more to do with the fact that it's the only one of about five in existence. It's not because he was the greatest player. It's a valued collectable because at the time it had no value and wasn't collected.

As soon as the interest for baseball cards became apparent, multiple companies filled that void and started making a shit load of them. Part of the reason these cards will never be worth anything is the market flooding these companies did when interest peaked, but it's also that we went from putting baseball cards in our spokes to putting them in non acidic plastic casing. Who's going to pay top dollar for a specific baseball card when everyone who could want one already has it in pristine condition? When the X-Men debuted a second series with five different covers of the number 1, I bought or traded for them all. So did millions of other kids my age. As soon as we got them we put them in polyurethane bags with cardboard backers so they wouldn't get bent. Then thought nothing of tearing open all my ninja turtle toys because what kind of monster keeps all his toys in the original packaging? A rich one. A rich one who has amazing self control, but has never enjoys a goddamn thing.
All five X-Men #1s. Nothing that claims to be a "limited edition" actually is one.
That's another reason as to why everything you spent collecting won't be worth what you think it should be. You spent time collecting it. You'll always inflate the value of what you've collected because you spent the time collecting it. You remember being swindled and swindling and scheming so you could collect as many Lou Whitaker cards as humanly possible. When it's time to sell, you're not just parting with all your Sweet Lous, you're also selling part of your childhood. Selling your childhood to some asshole who wants yours. And he's gonna lowball you, because there's no way he'll put the same value on the time you spent collecting as a kid as you will.
Sweet Lou's Value Over Replacement IRA is pretty anemic. 
That's it really. Just something I was thinking about. I'm pretty sure it wasn't funny, but hopefully it made sense. I'm just trying to say that whatever you collected, whatever you valued, won't have value. Unless you and everyone you know throws them away. Unless of course we're talking about my pogs.

Friday, February 13, 2015

GEICO: Proudly Doing Nothing For A While Now

I've always thought that I'd be good at advertising. For starters I don't have much in the way of a soul. Also I'm good at making vacuous statements that sound like they mean something but really don't. I wasn't sure where to take my talents, but I'm thinking whatever ad company GEICO uses will be the place for me. Of all the shitty noncommittal statements used by companies to get you to buy their stuff, you'd be hard pressed to top GEICO's "proudly serving the military for over 75 years."

That might be the emptiest statement that's ever been uttered in all of advertising. When they say they've been serving the military for 75 years, one can only assume that the company has been around a lot longer than 1940 and that they treated the military with general disdain before then, otherwise they would say it. So WW1 on back, GEICO was (probably, given how they worded their commercial) unsupportive of our nation's military. It could also mean that the company came into being around 1940 so wouldn't have been around to be either pro or con the troops, but who has the time to look a fact like that up?
From what I can tell in the ad, all they're bragging about is not turning away soldiers as potential customers. They've also been serving Nazis, communists, board game cheaters, people who take a penny when not in need of a penny, thieves, and pedophiles for the same 75 years. I'm not saying that GEICO can't be happy about doing special shit for the military, but they give no indication of what they do aside from getting their insurance needs filled. I guess that's something. But they don't say that they do anything aside from taking their money. If they did go above and beyond you can bet your ass that the stupid gecko would be shouting it from the rooftops. Most companies will spend ten dollars to let you know they did something worthwhile with a dime.
So when they're bragging about how they've been serving the military since whenever they fuck they came around, all that's saying is: "you know the military? You like the military? Well guess what, we're not opposed to taking money from them!" It's not like they're bragging about insuring the actual military. It would be one thing if Iraq and Afghanistan were no-fault insurance states and GEICO was just losing their shirt on blown up Humvees and whatnot, but from what I can tell that's not the case.
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for the military that GEICO doesn't make a habit of spitting in their face and turning them away. It's also good news for the fine folks who work at GEICO, because not serving military personal would make their job harder. Every time they gave a quote they'd have to ask at one point "hey, we'd love to provide you a service in exchange for money, but you're not a military person are you? Because if so I'm afraid I'm gonna have to tell you to go pound sand." What they seem to be saying is that they're proud to do absolutely nothing since 1940. I just don't think not turning someone away based on their profession necessitates a multimillion dollar ad campaign. So to help them out for the next campaign I've provided my portfolio which includes more statements that don't mean a goddamn thing. I await your call.












Friday, February 6, 2015

Often Forgot


When I was just a wee lad I made a scrapbook. It was one of those big photo albums with sticky pages that you unfold the clear sheeting on. I kept pictures in there for a while but I was a little kid. Everything worth remembering had pretty much just happened. Plus I didn't really have all that much I needed to remember anyhow. Also my folks were pretty good about documenting what needed to be documented. When the first Gulf War started I decided to use that photo album and  make a war scrapbook. I was born in the 80s. It wasn't the first time there was a war in my lifetime. America had been giving someone the business for just abougt about my whole of my life up until then, but this was the first time the media really gave the war their A game.

I was pretty sure that this war was a pretty big deal. It was the first real news story I can vividly remember. I remember wanting to do something, but because I was just a little kid I didn't know what to do. My sister drew a peace sign on her trapper keeper. That seemed to work for her, but I wanted to do more. So I decided to document the war for future generations via a scrapbook. I'd thought that this war might be the war that ended all wars. At least hoped it would have been the war that ended all wars in Iraq. Very minimum I should have hoped that Gulf War 1 would be the war to end all wars between a Bush and Hussein. But hey, war mongers gonna war mong, and since it's now called Gulf War 1 it obviously was the war that didn't end much of anything.

So that's what I did. For the rest of the war I went through the paper every day. I went through the front page, back page, editorials, and even some heavy handed shitty political cartoons that I never got. If it was about the war I collected it. By the end I had a pretty solid scrapbook. I was pretty proud of it. I honestly thought that my scrapbook would help people remember what people thought about the war as it was happening.

Battle of Gulf 359
The next year I watched my first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was awesome and I got into that pretty hard.  I taped every episode while I watched them and then rewatched them until the next one came on. I read the shitty novels. I collected the action figures. I was pretty happy with how into Star Trek I was, but I thought I should take my fandom to the next level by documenting it with a scrapbook. The problem was I only had one scrapbook. Instead of asking my parents for a new one I just started slowly replacing the war clippings. Mid way through season six I'd completely replaced every piece of war news with Trek clippings.


No blood for dilithium!
I'd forgotten I'd done this until recently. I remembered and felt kind of shitty. I felt shitty because that's a shitty thing to do. A year or so after vowing to make sure nobody forgot something, I'd pretty much completely forgot about it because of some pop culture distraction. But really that's the most American thing I could have done. I'm forgetful, ignorant, and easily distracted. I will shout from the rooftops about what you're supposed to remember and then I'll immediately forget it myself, and then eventually I'll probably repeat it.

I am America. God bless me.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Home Is Where The Heart Disease Is More Prevelent

They say you can’t go home. That is very much bullshit, because if you can’t then who was it if not me that strode through his boyhood Target last week like a goddamn champion. I went back to Michigan for the holidays and it was really nice.

My wife and I traveled to Michigan by bus which means we got to go to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Couple fun things of note there:



The gentleman in the background there had his hands down his pants the entire wait for the bus. I was floored by this. I'm not a huge fan of people wearing sweatpants in public, but I was about to board a Greyhound so I'll can the high horse bullshit. That being said I don't think it's too much to ask to have someone either wear real pants or stop masturbating in public. Maybe I'm just old fashioned though.

On the lighter side:
This guy sitting on the rope. About five minutes later what you expect would happen happened. I tried to get a picture but was too slow to show him right after he fell and hit his stupid head. If that's all I saw it would have been a successful trip, but there was more. 

While out there we didn’t do a whole hell of a lot. Mostly it was just sitting around and eating while near family. One of the few things that didn’t involve gluttony and sloth was my wife, her folks, and I took a trip to the Henry Ford Museum. If you haven’t been it’s a pretty cool. There you can find a lot of car based history like FDR’s presidential limo:





JFK’s limo: 


They kept JFK’s car in service for over a decade after his assassination. They added a roof to it, and presumably Scotchgarded it.

And of course Willam Taft’s presidential limo:


While on the subject of fat people from the midwest. The Henry Ford, being a large space in Michigan has couches roughly every twenty-five feet. Every one is occupied by people tuckered by the twenty-five foot trek from the last couch. 



I did get to see an original copy of Thomas Paine's Common Sense. I've loved Tom Paine since high school so all snark aside it was beyond badass to see that. 


Speaking of badass I also shot guns for the first time in my life. I would say "learned how to shoot a gun" but I really didn't. I was in a spot of northern Michigan that has a low enough population density where you can pretty much just pick up a gun and shoot any which way without worry. So that's about what I did.



I was a little conflicted. On the one hand I've always had an issue with guns. They kill a shit load of people. Most people who have them don't need them and are more likely to shoot themselves or someone they love than they are a criminal. On the other hand MY GOD I FEEL LIKE THE MOST POWERFUL PERSON ON EARTH. YOU TALKING TO ME? YOU TALKING TO ME? WELL I'M THE ONLY ONE HERE. WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU'RE TALKING TO?


So clearly both sides of the issue make a very valid point. 


Well, that was about it. Thanks for checking in. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

2014 End of Year Media Power Rankings

This is the time of year for year end lists. Otherwise they'd be too early or too late. I've always liked the idea of ranking everything that came out over the year, but I've never been the kind of person who took in that much media group any given year. I'm usually listening, watching, or reading the same things I have for years. Not to say that a rookie can't find their way into my heart throughout the course of the year, but by and large im rewatching the same things I've seen a hundred times. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Everyone gets all crazy about all this new stuff, but there's something to be said about media that not just captures your hear, but then occupies it for a good portion of your life. So I don't do an end of year ranking of new media, I do an end of year media power rankings. Some of these books and movies have been out for years whereas some were just out this year. They're ranked on how much I enjoyed them over the course of 2014. This was a tough year, and and some that were ranked highly didn't even make the list. Like every year though I just appreciate everyone who competed. I assure you the process to determine this was both fair and incredibly scientific. 

(I decided not to include any standup, because if I read one more non-famous comedian's analysis of a famous comedian's special I will probably blow my brains out.) 



TV Division

1 (Last year's ranking: 5) How I Met Your Mother 




With the finale of Breaking Bad 2013 was the year of the crime drama. 2014 saw the close of one of the best sitcoms that's been around for a long time. How I Met Your Mother was in it's day just about the funniest thing that was on TV. The past few years were defineitely not the prime of this show. The last season was hit and miss. The finale was mostly miss, but finally sitting down to watch this show that I'd spent so much time with was satisfying even though the last episode was anything but. Also there is something to be said about a finale that pisses you off. It means you've invested so much time and energy in it that, good or bad, it really means something to you. So I choose not to focus on how much better the last season could've been, but how much I truly loved the first four seasons. 

2 (Last year's ranking 2) Firefly




Last year Firefly was number 2 because it's a great show. Firefly remains a great show so it remains number 2. If you don't like it then you're probably a bad person. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is. 

3 (new to the list this year) Game of Thrones



This show went from something I was sick of people talking about, to something I promised I'd check out, to something I becasme obsessed with, to something people around me were sick of hearing me talk about. If it continues being this awesome then I don't think I'll stop talking about it anytime soon.watch it then talk to me about it please. 

4 (new to this year) 24: Live Another Day




When I heard this was coming I'll admit I was pretty nervous. Yes, I loved and still love most seasons of 24, but it's been a while. I wasn't sure Jack Bauer would still have what it takes to be at his bad assest. Luckily there was no need to worry. This wasn't the best season by a long shot, but goddamnit it was good. Usually if 24 is gonna suck it's gonna happen in the second half of the season. Live Another Day fixed that by just not having a second half the season. The writers played the same tricks the've played and over played throughout 24's run, but when they do it well who gives a shit. 

5 Star Trek: Voyager




I watch some incarnation of Star Trek a lot. It's probably the media franchise I've spent the most time and money on throughout my life. Voyager isn't my favorite among them, but it's not awful. If you pick and choose what episodes you watch and when you begin to realize how great this was when it was on it's game. It's hard not to watch the show and wonder what could've been. Janeway deserved a better show, but there are still some great episodes in there. You should watch them. 

Movies Division

1 (not ranked last year) Guardians of the Galaxy





This movie is nothing but fun. Why doesn't that happen too much anymore? Why can't you just go and have fun at the movies. I'm sick of sitting down to watch a movie and having it be a gritty portrayal of real life. I'm familiar with real life. I often find it plodding and redundant. As much as I loved the most recent Batman movies you'd be hard pressed to label them as fun. Guardians puts a smile on your face in the first ten minutes and makes it stay there for the next two hours. Plus Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon should get all the Oscars this year. That's not hyperbole that's a cold hard fact.

2 (not ranked last year) Blue Ruin




I really only watched this movie because I kept on seeing the poster on my Apple TV screen saver. I was curious, it seemed to have good reviews on Netflix so I watched it. One of the most tense movie watching experiences I can think of. Even though there's not a whole lot of dialogue I spent the whole movie genuinely worried. When it was over I was relieved that I didn't have to be in that world anymore. But there's something to be said for a movie I wasn't really invested in to pull me in that completely. 

3 (not ranked last year) Django Unchained




If this list was the most bad ass movies I saw this year then this would be number one. I don't think this will end up being my favorite Tarantino, and the scene where he tries to act was almost bad enough to bump it from this list entirely, but what's good about this movie is fucking great. 


4 (last year 4) Serenity




I think every year that Firefly is on this list Serenity will also be. It's hard to watch one without watching the other. Particularly since the show was cancelled without much notice this serves as a perfect sendoff for a great show. 

5 (last year not ranked) Star Trek: Generations

I didn't much care for this movie when it came out. It's not the best Star Trek movie that's been made. It's not the best Star Trek movie with the Next Generation cast in it, but it's a lot better than you remember. A good sendoff to the TOS crew, and a great start to what I thought was going to be a great run of Next Generation cast moives. It didn't work out that way, but it's still a much better movie that I admitted until this year. 

Books Division


1 Y: The Last Man - Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra




I'm not the type of guy who cries a whole lot. Nothing wrong if you're the kind of wuss who does, but that's just not me. When I first read Y: The Last Man I wept like a baby while reading the last book. Having read it a second time and knowing what to expect I assumed I'd handle the ending better this time around. I did not. It's hard not to immediately be carried away into a world where all the men on Earth have died suddenly died except one. Even if you're not a fan of comics I can't imagine anyone not just loving all ten books in the series. Check it out, you'll thank me. 

2 The Stand - Stephen King




I'd never read anything by Stephen King. I had heard of the guy of course, but I guess I always just dismissed him as not for me. I was a fool and I'll admit that now.  I don't really know why I decided to finally read one of his books, let alone the longest book in his catalog. I opted not just for The Stand, but the extended version. I guess King thought the original 800 some page version was just wasn't enough so he beefed it up to just shy of 1200. Well holy shit. There's something to this King character.  One of the most unsettling, scary, funny, readable books I've ever come across. Even though the last third doesn't quite deliver the same punch as everything else, it still instantly became one of my favorite books. 

3 World War Z - Max Brooks

By no means a new entrant. I've read this book a few times, and now that I've read it another time I already can't wait to read it again. I've never been a huge fan of the zombie genre. After having read World War Z I thought I'd get more into it, but the opposite ended up being true. Max Brooks paints such a realistic, far reaching, relevant, and vivid picture that shows like Walking Dead just seem silly. The fact that Walking Dead is a bad show doesn't help though. 


4 The Night In Question - Tobias Wolff

I love Tobias Wolff. He's probably my favorite author. He's at least the author I've read the most. His catalog isn't huge, but I generally read something by him at least once a year and have for the last bunch of years. He's written novels and memoirs, but this book is a collection of short stories. All his protagonists are so flawed, but relatable that it's hard not to immediately see yourself in his characters. The last story in the book, Bullet in the Brain might be my favorite thing that's ever been written. It's what made me buy this book to begin with. I heard Wolff read it on an episode of This American Life. I went out that day to buy this book. I read that and then bought the rest of them right after. 

5 Devil in the White City - Erik Larson

Another new entrant to this year's list. My wife had told me a hundred times that I'd love this book. Turns out she was right. He made a nonfiction that reads like a novel. Using what must have been a shitload of research Larson tells the stories of the folks who built the 1893 Chicago World's Fair as well as a monster who used the pandemonium surrounding the fair to murder a whole lot of people and a number of other folks who helped shape and were shaped by Chicago as it entered a new era. 

Music Divison 

1 (Last year 1) Adele - 21

 2 (Last year 3) The Beatles Abbey Road

3 (Last year 4) Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

I keep on waiting to get sick of these three albums. Hasn't happened yet, don't know if it ever will. All three remain bunched up at the top and I gotta tell you I don't see that changing any time soon. I have weeks worth of music in my iTunes library and still I listen to one of these three just about everyday. I sincerely hope I find something to usurp these, but they ain't gonna go down without a fight. 

4 (Last year not ranked) Hozier - ST 




A new entry to the end of year power rankings. I don't know if this is a passing fling or if Hozier is here ot stay. Regardless, music is generally what I'm the most closed minded about. I almost never seek out new stuff. When a friend is insistent about me checking something out I will, but I won't be happy about it. If I'm out and hear a song I like I'll check it out. Usually that'll result in me listening to it a few times and then forgetting about the band forever. I downloaded a Hozier song assuming that it would be same with this character, but I listened to the whole album and it was real solid. So I kept on listening to it, and I plan on continuing to listen to it for the foreseeable future. Rest of the list, you've been warned. Hozier just fired a warning shot across your bow. 

5 (Last year 2) Jay Z - The Black Album



Down a few spots from last year, but I wouldn't hold that against old Hova. He had two spots in last year's power rankings plus Magna Carta Holy Grail dropped with a shit ton of fanfare so there was bound to be some backlash in this year's rankings. Given that there's only five spots, so to be awarded any position is extremely difficult. Don't let his position on this year's list fool you, Jay's looking to make another strong showing in 2015. 

Congratulations to everyone who made the power rankings this year. If this is the second year in a row that you've made them then extra special congratulations are in order. There was some fierce competition this year. Lorde made a strong push to be a newcomer to the music list. Meat Loaf again was a close number six. I felt sick leaving him off, but that's just how the chips fell. Prison Break should've made the TV list given how much I watched it, but I had to take some points away due to the fact that it wasn't a very good show. Enjoyable, but not very good. That being said it was a fun year for new and old media alike, I hope you enjoyed reading about it half as much as I enjoyed taking it in. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

FIGHT MIC! 2014-2014

Six months ago I was a man with a dream. A dream born on a bar patio. I had a dream to run a show. Not just any show though. A comedy show where, before comics performed, they would box each other. That may seem a little sadistic to uninitiated, but nothing could be further from the truth. The idea was born when I was hanging out with some comic friends and thinking about how great it would be to watch them all get punched in the face. If only there was a place that would allow such a thing.
Either a promotional flyer or evidence. 

Due to some good fortune, and some terrible decision making on the part of Rebecca Trent of The Creek and Cave I was able to make that dream come true. FIGHT MIC! was on. For two whole shows my dream came true. During those shows I learned a lot. Though many were very excited to talk matchups they were much less interested in actually taking part. I learned that some people are reluctant to punch their friends in the face. I also learned that some people are all too eager to punch their friends in the face. Both of these facts should have given me pause. Neither did.

There were some great matches those two shows. But there was one big challenge that FIGHT MIC! just couldn’t overcome. That was the fight with common sense. You see FIGHT MIC! was a great idea. And like most great ideas it was actually a really bad idea.

Kurt Cobain said “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” before he proceeded to burn himself out. And that’s what FIGHT MIC! has done. For two glorious shows FIGHT MIC! burned hotter than any show could ever be expected to, and now it’s time for it to rest.

So to FIGHT MIC! and to everyone who made it possible, I say goodnight and good luck.

FIGHT MIC! 2014- 2014.

Special thanks to: Rebecca Trent for enabling. Andy Sanford and Bob Hansen for being accomplices. And to the brave warriors who made it possible: Benel Germosen, AJ Thompson, Robbie Collier (a lot stronger than he looks), Chelsea Hood, Chelsea Taylor, Evan Jones, Evan Davis, Chris Waelti, Nick Naney, Peggy O’Leary, Lauren Vino, Owen Straw, Justin Flanagan, and Brett Osinoff. You’re all champions. Unless you lost. Then less so.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bus Got Your Tongues?

A couple months back I turned over this space to a lady named Angry Bus Lady. She was a lady that I saw on a Chinatown bus who was very angry. Well, I took another bus ride and as luck would have it I got to meet another fucking lunatic who I'll call Crazy Bus Guy (CBG). When traveling by bus you have a number of options. Megabus is usually the best in terms of the caliber of the people you’re going to find yourself traveling with. Not great, don’t get me wrong. There are still a bunch of losers running around. You don’t have nearly as many options with them though. So if you need to make it across the country, you don’t have a bunch of money to blow on a plane ticket, and you don’t mind it taking a week and a half to get where you’re going then you gotta go Greyhound. The best passengers are the ones you don't notice. Take only pictures leave only a weird smell. Take only naps leave only fart smells. The thing Angry Bus Lady and Crazy Bus Guy have in common is that they were very noticeable. Angry bus lady was very noticeable, but to her defense she at least passed out. Also she was a few rows a head of me which helps. But at least she didn't bring god into the whole thing.

Enter Crazy Bus Guy. CBG was a gentleman I encountered on my most recent Greyhound trip to Detroit who was crazy. Things seemed pretty normal at first. He was dressed like a dirt ball, but who doesn’t when they prepare for a trip on the Greyhound. You have to dress for comfort. It's not like flying on a plane, it won’t be over soon so you should dress accordingly. CBG was wearing ESPN pajama bottoms and a paisley thermal shirt. Short hair no weird shapes or things shaved into his head. As a regular bus rider I've gotten pretty good at being able to spot potential wild cards. I saw thing guy and thought nothing of sitting right behind him. It was a packed bus, so I didn't really have too many other options, but it seemed to be a safe bet.

CBG in all his glory

Things started falling apart a couple hours in. I was sitting there reading my book like a normal person does on the bus. He was sitting right in front of me staring straight ahead like a crazy person does on the bus. I stop reading for a second, look up, and realize the guy is looking at me. Don't think too much of it, but then he says "what do you want from me?" I just assumed that he thought I had said something. So I said "oh, I didn't say anything." He says, "no, what do you want from me?” I was starting to realize that I was dealing with a crazy person. So I said "nothing, buddy." Then he said "you know I will NEVER be like you." So I decided to end the conversation by saying “Oh cool you take care then.” I said take care like I was walking away from him. Not continuing to sit two feet away from him for the next dozen plus hours. After that I tried to not pay attention to him while paying a shit load of attention to him so I was prepared for when he went fucking nuts. He then muttered something about how he's a stronger person than me, then kinda shook his bible. Which was the only thing he had with him from what I could tell.

Our bus driver
From there he spent a lot of time just muttering things under his breath. It was hard to make out much of what he was saying. I think a fair amount was about Jesus. I kinda wanted to put my headphones on, but at the same time I knew he was gonna say something nuts that I'd want to hear. Because I like listening to crazy people. It makes me feel better about my own mental state. I might be hanging on by a thread, but at least my thread is a shit ton stronger than CBG's thread. I shouldn't take too much solace in this, but oh well. Life is all about these little victories so find yours where you can and quit judging me. 

Next outburst was him raising his fist to the air and yelling “this is my sword. I came here not to bring peace, but to bring a sword.” I remember this quote. It's a Jesus quote. I'm pretty sure at least. I've never read the bible of course, but I used to listen to this Christian talk guy named Bob Dutko. He was fond of that quote. I'm sure he knew more stuff from the bible, but he really mostly focused on the passages that talked about how awful gay people were and that whole sword thing. Though in Bob Dutko and CBG’s defense I've never read the bible maybe that’s all that it is. Just "all gays and no play make Jesus a sword wielding maniac." for thousands of pages. That would explain a lot about this character. 
89% of Christian radio stations are also called "The Light."

Then a few hours after that we were treated to the dude actually speaking in tongues. Listen, I'm not one to judge people for believing in religion. I'm not a religious person, but I've always kind of envied people who are. I wish I had the certainty that comes with a strong belief in god, but it’s just never been something I’ve had stick. If you have that thing that pulls you towards religion, bully for you. I took a bible studies class in college. I read the chapters that were assigned. So I’m not very religious nor am I a Bible expert. THAT BEING SAID, whatever you think is in there that tells you to speak in tongues is wrong. That's not what they're saying. 

The gloved sword of CBG
Multiple times he broke into rounds of tongue speaking. It's one thing to be in a group of people all cool with the tongues, but not when you're shattering the quiet of the bus with the shouting of your gibberish. It's just not cool. Lots of people believe in god, not everyone are using that belief to freak everyone out. Whatever chapter that says that in the bible is some horse shit. Don't buy it. If you're into that religion, for god's sake I implore you that a quieter religion will be much more likely to get you into heaven.

video
Real live audio of CBG speaking in tongues and the bus driver telling him not to.



The bus driver had to put his foot down. when we stopped and had to ask the guy if he was gonna be cool for the rest of the ride. He told him no more praying, and then crazy guy had to tell him that he was gonna pray. They went back and forth about the issue of praying, until finally they came to a compromise. The guy was allowed to pray, he just had to do so at a level that was only audible to himself and god. That seemed fair. 

CBG all tuckered out at the Cleveland bus depot.

Sometime after all this this went down a lady got a phone call. She answers and says “Hell… Just on the bus… no it's fine.” I'm sorry this is fine? You are locked on a bus with a guy who's referring to himself as the sword of god, who's been screaming in gibberish for the past hour. I don’t know how many more years phone lady has in bus ridership than I do, but I do know I have to find another way to travel before I find myself describing that trip as fine.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Getting Down To Small Business Saturday ™

Hope you’re all out there enjoying your Small Business Saturday ™. Which people say is a holiday. I guess not so much people as just one company that says that. American Express likes to remind you to think small this holiday season. Think small while racking up thousands of dollars at 20% interest.
Some that are far too cynical had the gull to question the intentions of American Express in founding and pushing this holiday. Sometimes a large multinational financial services institution just looks at the runaway consumerism and disconnect and has nothing to do but shake it’s head. So American Express did the noble thing. They thought it would be a good idea if people used their American Express cards not to pad the bottom line of large multinational corporations, but of smaller brick and mortar retailers. So American Express came up with the idea of a day dedicated to patronizing smaller local brick and mortar stores. Presumably local brick and mortar stores that then have to fork over untold millions in transaction fees. Then American Express immediately trademarked the idea so nobody could profit off of the idea but them.

A company that took in 33 billion dollars last year urges you to shop small

Even though I think we all have to applaud American Express for their efforts (which are of course no way crass or disingenuous) to combat how removed we’ve gotten from what we buy and from where it comes. Despite their best efforts though, Small Business Saturday isn’t really a holiday in any real sense of the word unlike it’s big brother Black Friday. 
The time these people spent in this line has negated any savings they would've enjoyed. 

Now there’s a holiday. I know because my phone automatically corrects me when I forget to capitalize it. Black Friday is unique because unlike every other holiday that exists there was no meaning behind it before it became a holiday. Every other day had some significance before we decided to go nuts and buy shit for it. Not Black Friday though. This was just a day where we, as a people were going nuts and buying a whole bunch of shit some day in November. This kept on happening year after year so eventually they decided to give it a name. Now it’s on the calendar. 

What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?  - Some asshole
I like to think that it’s going to be the reverse. Generally a holiday has a great deal of importance then slowly we forget what the original meaning behind it was until one day you’re punching in the teeth of some jackass at a toy store so you can buy your ungrateful kid’s love on Christmas morning. Slowly over time the holiday just gets more and more perverted until it has no meaning aside from the commercial. Black Friday is the opposite of that. It’s never had any meaning. It started out as what most holidays end up like. So I’d like to think that it’s going to go the opposite direction. Where in the future where every holiday has become a sick excuse to waste money and trample people to death that in that future one holiday will have a solemn feel to it, and it’ll be black Friday.

Black Friday: All gave some. Some Gave all.
I have to tell you I don’t see that happening though. In the years I worked retail I was always struck by the amazing disconnect between people reporting on it and what I was experiencing myself. I heard countless stories on my way into the Best Buy I worked at about how we were changing as a society. Black Friday wasn’t going to be like it has in the years past. You see there’s been a movement of people who’ve decided not to degrade themselves by coming to a shitty store hours or days in advance to save a little bit of money. We’re wising up as a people. Those would be the stories I would hear on the radio. Then I would get to work and be warned about the risk of being trampled by animals in search of a moderately discounted Blu-ray player. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A (True) Story About A Guy Named Mitch

I went to high school with a guy named Mitch. Mitch was a cool dude who did cool things. Drugs mostly. Drugs wasn’t the only thing Mitch was ahead of the curve on though. Mitch used to be into listening to shitty music pumped up to high volumes through oversized distorted bassey headphones. Just like the kids are into these days.

Mitch used to listen to his music really fucking ear blisteringly loud. People (nerds) used to wonder what the point of listening to music that loud. “Hey MItch” the nerds would ask. “Arent’ you afraid of hearing loss?”

“Nah.” Mitch would answer.

“Oh, well maybe you should be. Because that’s currently happening.” The nerds would say like a bunch of stupid nerds.

Then Mitch would give them 250 db of cool cranked up to eleven. “Nah, man. I ain’t worried about hearing loss, because fuckin’ I want to loose my hearing.”

You see Mitch was an ideas man. And like a lot of ideas men Mitch had an idea. Mitch loved music. He loved listening to so much that he didn't want to listen to it using his ears anymore. He wanted to get his other senses involved in the process. So his plan was to deafen himself. That way he would only be able to feel the music. Seriously. I imagine even if feeling the music is as great as Mitch thought it’d be,  there is going to be a serious hangover period in regards to phase two. The part where he has to go through only feeling what once he was able to hear.
And he want on to...
That was the only conversation I ever had with Mitch, and I never found out what became of him. Sometimes after high school you’ve found you’ve drifted apart from the people you care about. Sometimes as in the case of Mitch, you really just don’t give a shit what happens to people. That being said I have wondered what happened to him. I wonder if he ever made his dream of losing all his hearing come true. I also wonder that if he died shortly thereafter because he wasn’t sufficiently able to feel a fire alarm.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Internet

I made a venn diagram about what's been keeping people busy on the internet this week.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

All Aboard The Train(ing Seminar)!

Quick note before the real meat of this week's blog starts. One of the things that really excites me as an occasional blog poster is the chance to give life to stories that weren't good enough to be jokes. Sometimes for whatever reason a story just isn't good enough to live as a joke. Usually that reason is it's not funny enough or has too many words. Luckily those aren't problems in the medium of blogging. So here's #1 in this series. I hope you enjoy it more than anyone who ever saw me tell a version of it on stage did.

I’ve mentioned it numerous times, but I worked at Best Buy for a number of years. Three and change to be inexact. It wasn’t my first choice in jobs, but it was the only job that wanted me to work for them so I did it. I spent most of my time at Best Buy selling TVs. And most of that time I spent doing that poorly. I don’t really have that salesman personality. I have nothing against salespeople. I’ve worked with and for many. Some are great people some are real sacks of shit. Just like any other profession. I myself just don’t have that salesperson thing in me. I don’t have it in me to fight tooth and nail to make a sale. Some people are just built with that. I would have trouble doing it to begin with, but at a place like Best Buy I found it damn near impossible. Retail sales is a tricky business, because unlike a normal sales job there’s no motivation to try harder. Some guys would go crazy to make sales then spend the day bragging about how much better they were at selling the warranty plan. That always just seemed nuts to me. I would always offer the people the horse shit stuff like the warranties and the hundred dollar HDMI cables because if we didn’t we’d get hassled. I don’t like being hassled. Whether or not they’d buy the jacked up cables or the warranty didn’t really bother me one way or the other.

I bought a Best Buy shirt at a thrift store  when I was fifteen. I knew I was destined for greatness. Also those headphones aren't plugged in. I just thought they looked cool.


The fact that me, and a bunch of people like me, worked there ended up being a problem. Best Buy’s business models involved selling a lot of things, and we weren’t selling enough things. If you’re a company and need to motivate people to do something you have a few options. You can pay people the amount necessary to get that effort. This is tricky because it’s hard to know what that amount is. It could take years of trial and error to come to the right amount and that was time Best Buy just didn’t have. So they did not go this route. Another motivational tool is trying some non monetary compensation. You can try to make the work experience so great that people will forgo a higher wage to keep working their. Best Buy also did not go this route. Or at least if they thought they were they were failing. The third option is by tricking people. This is what they decided to go with.

The sales training attendees from my store and our "professor." This is what the future of a Fortune 500 looks like. 

They sent us to a sales training program where we were told that what was acceptable behavior in the past just wasn’t gonna cut it anymore. They needed to whip us into shape and make us put out the kind of effort that a professional sales staff would. But they didn’t want to put out the kind of money that would take. So at this training where it was explained that we’d have to put out some big money effort without big effort money, BUT this was a good thing for us! You see in the process we would be getting skills. Skills we could use to get better jobs once we got sick of working at Best Buy. We needed to sell a 32” Panasonic like our lives depended on it, because one day we’d have jobs where we’d have to try that hard. So we better start practicing now. Seriously.

I wasn’t happy about doing the sales training. I wasn’t too crazy about working there as of about two weeks in, and this was three years after that. So I was pretty fucking sick of it at that point. I didn’t much want to be there, but now I had to get trained to be there for the long haul. It’s like going to counseling for your marriage that you only agreed to so you get a green card. So when I was told I needed to attend this training seminar I wasn’t thrilled, but at least got to spend the week away from customers. Also if I bitched about it I might get hassled, and as I said earlier I’m not a fan of being hassled.
One of the customers I was happy to be getting away from. Some asshole wearing a flak helmet. Not pictured is his stupid razor scooter. Go to hell buddy. 

People there fit into one of a few different groups. There were the people who didn’t take it seriously because they thought they were better than this shit. That group included myself and a couple other folks. There were also the people taking it very seriously to better their Best Buy career. There was only a few of them, but they were annoying well beyond their numbers. A big part of the sales training was learning how to read off a “sales experience worksheet.” The worksheet was really just a script we were to read so we didn’t accidentally say anything too dumb. Learning how to read these things involved a lot of role playing with each other. Getting paired up with the people taking it seriously was always a pain in the ass because the company had spent money to send them here and goddamnit they were gonna get that money’s worth! Not only did they want to get better, they wanted to make sure I was getting better too. So during these role playing sessions they would not just pretend to be customers, but they would pretend to be really shitty customers. They would really be a tough sell and give me trouble over every single product I was supposed to be selling them. Keep in mind that these are all just pretend products. I’m not actually selling them anything and they’re not actually buying anything. No money is changing hands. This is all just make believe. And that being the case they would talk about how money’s tight lately (probably because they work at Best Buy) so they don’t think they can afford a new TV these days, unless of course I could spend more time convincing them. This was an everyday thing. Luckily there weren’t that many of these assholes.

The largest group were the idiots. These were the people who had no business being employed anywhere. Some of the standouts included a couple who spent most the week snuggling. They found a nice desk in the middle of all the action and decided they were going to take this opportunity to get some spooning done. Nobody seemed to think this was odd except me. There was the gentleman who wore his Best Buy blue shirt which he made his own by rolling up his sleeves all the way to reveal a giant pot leaf over flames tattoo. My personal favorite though was a grown man who went by the name “The Wolf.” He would answer to Wolf, but preferred it when you included the “the” before Wolf. They were easier to work with. They certainly didn’t make you work your ass off in the role playing but looking at them seriously depressed the shit out of me. Because we were all in the same place. As superior as I thought I was, I wasn’t. We were at the same company working the same jobs blowing off the same the sales training seminar. I realized that I had to make a change and quick. I either had to start taking this job seriously or else just leave.

Professional salesperson.

To help us do our job the way they wanted us to we were told we needed to live by our new company values. Company value number one was “have fun while being the best.” The fun having part was a challenge, but of course we were the best. Our team included The Wolf. Ain’t no Wolf rocking second best that’s for damn sure. Company value two was “learn from challenge and change.” When he told us that I couldn’t help but think of the manager who, upon my hiring, urged me to opt out of the 401k program so I could invest all my money in Best Buy stock. I’m pretty sure she will be changing after that challenge. Company value three was “unleash the power of the people.” If it was good enough for ending the Vietnam war then goddamnit it’s good enough to sell reasonably priced electronics. Company value number four was supposed to be the least insulting, but sounded the worst. The final company value was to “show integrity, respect, and humility.” On the surface that’s not all that shitty. I mean respect and integrity are both good things to be showing I guess. Do they really need to remind people who work at Best Buy to go in everyday and be humble? There’s nothing more humbling than working a job where everything is designed to make you know how replaceable you are.  The whole retail experience is designed from the top down to let you know that if you’re gone nobody will notice. That being said, you are not allowed to call out. Everyday you will show up dressed like a hundred some odd other people, you will all say the same things that we’ve read off identical scripts. That seems like a shitty thing to drive home. “Hey, you in the blue don’t you dare be thinking too highly of yourself, we can’t function in a place where people recognize their self worth!”

I understand there are certain professions where being humble is a necessity. If you’re a priest you have to remember who you’re there for or you’ll go mad with people throwing all those Hail Marys your way. You may start thinking you’re God. Same with the being the president. You probably have to work to keep yourself grounded so you don’t start developing a king complex. When you work at Best Buy you are never once at risk of letting that power go to your head. The second you put that blue shirt on every ounce of pride in who you are as an individual will evaporate. Also in working retail you’re not serving some greater purpose the integrity of which that is in need of protecting. It’s just some stupid big box store. The second you start thinking that this is an institution that you need to be humbled at the foot of that’s the moment you’ve lost all sense of perspective. From then on I knew I had a choice. Either get the hell out of there or keep working to the point where I'd humbled myself into thinking I belonged there. At that point I would claim my place alongside The Wolf, pot leaf guy, and the seminar snugglers.

I quit shortly thereafter. I got a job walking dogs. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.