Congratulations! You are now the Mayor of the Ministry of Truth

January 3rd, 2013 No comments

hashtag-big-broBack in 1948, little Georgie Orwell wrote a book that imagined a world where people where the government rules supreme over all aspects of the life of the citizenry. “Dystopian” and “Oligarchic” are a couple of words that are often bandied about when Nineteen Eighty-Four and many a shitty high-school book report has discussed the growth of a strong Federal government and the associated concerns that come with it as imagined by Orwell.

When 1984 actually rolled around (the year I first read the book, by the way), people sat in anticipation for the Ministry of Peace and the Ministry of Love to be put into place and our daily lives to be dictated to us. Hell, those were the Reagan years. I think even at the tender age of 10 I was probably waiting for the same damn thing.

When 9/11 happened, many thought it was a foregone conclusion that we would be giving up privacy rights in the name of “National Safety.” Given what the Department of Homeland Security has done in the past ten years, I’m still not sure where we stand, but that “oligarchic,” “distopian” future we have all been afraid of for so long isn’t exactly here.

Now that I’ve gone and shown that I know me some modern history and the functions of government, let’s look into what has crawled up on us: social networking.

That’s right. Now with the procurement of a couple of free apps, you, too can see the comings and goings of all of your friends as well as what they are thinking almost minute to minute (depending on your fervor). The kicker is that we do this all voluntarily.

I’ll use myself as an example.

On a typical morning when I’m feeling productive, I’ll check into FourSquare at all of my stops, tweet a few status updates that then get reposted on Facebook and, normally, put a few things up on Tumblr. If followed, any forensic-minded fellow can make a nice timeline of my day.

The hilarious thing is that we don’t even think about it anymore. We want the badges from FourSquare, we are all tapped into Twitter and there just aren’t that many people in the Western World that don’t rely on Facebook as the end all, be all source for day-to-day information.

Big Brother, we iz it.

Given the right motivation, I could follow the public feeds of any given social network and figure out the daily patterns of a good chunk of social media junkies within a good ten mile radius of where I live. If I had a less savory sense of right, I could rob my friends and neighbors when they are away from home, sympathize with their pain and figure out where they’ll be at 9PM next Thursday.

This is all information we volunteer every day. I’m just sayin’.

Reliance on social media has also rooted its way deep into our “normal” conversation. I can’t tell you how many times a day I hear “did you see my status update?” This sort of “meta” conversation really cuts deep into the Orwellian concept of the future. Screw wanting a flying car, now you can have an in-depth conversation with your friends passively with supporting documentation.

Sure, we have bitched for almost forty years about how we don’t want the government to use their “secret” technology to track our every moves (the fodder for many a [insert strong male lead] movie) and ruin our lives. Now, thanks to the smart phone, we do it ourselves without even thinking.

Welcome to the 21st Century: Groupthink isn’t that far behind.

The gravity of gravity

October 17th, 2012 No comments

A little over a month ago I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing the plain truths of Newtonian Physics. I had a whole bucket of Second Law followed by a quick realization of the Third Law. The ensuing aftermath involved me rolling on the wet ground in traffic in the middle of the intersection of Skillman and Eastridge, my scooter desperately to visit the abandoned convenience store located on that corner by itself, and, through the magic of even more physics that was applied a couple of hours later, a broken left clavicle.

That’s a whole can of suck realized in just seconds on a semi-rainy Friday evening. Now I have a busted wing, a scooter that will probably get the nickname “two-face,” and I’m pretty much grounded to traveling by four or more wheels during prime scooting weather.

I am, however, pretty damn grateful to be alive.

The human brain is a funny thing. For about the first week after my experiment with a frictionless environment, I was just pissed off at myself for “letting the accident happen.” The universe took a big ol’ dump on me right before me and the mrs. were headed off for a week of fun and frivolity with Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter and I was stuck in a sling; hopped up on pain pills.

A little more than a week in it dawned on me that I could have fucking died in that crash.

My friends and I (us of the various Scooter “organizations” here in Dallas: a.k.a. the Sunday Dubliner drinkers) are pretty damn militant about helmet wear, so I always ride with a bucket, but I tend to get lax about most other recommended safety gear. Fortunately, when I needed it most, I had on a good thick jacket, jeans and gloves. It’s for this reason that all I ended up with was a broken clavicle, a sore tailbone and an iPhone shaped bruise on my right thigh rather than a chance for instant tattoo removal.

Since i received my motorcycle license, I’ve been pretty realistic about the risks. I realize that, by making the decision to ride a motorized two-wheeled vehicle, it is just a matter of when I’ll lay the bike down, not if. That’s a pretty stressful realization, but realistic.

Many people have asked me if I’m ready to sell off my scoots and give it all up. Hell no. Every morning I walk by my Lambretta (thankfully the bike I didn’t crash) and I can’t wait to get it back out on the streets. I’m sure the first couple of rides will be hella stressful, but this, too, shall pass. I don’t even think I’m going to have the cosmetic work done on the Vespa I crashed: it’ll give me a great opportunity to remind people to wear their helmets when they ask me what happened to it.

Healing, unfortunately, is slow going (38 year old bones definitely heal slower than 20 year old bones), but I will emerge from this a more experienced person and, hopefully, an even safer rider.

Categories: monkey, Ravings

Our [insert name] is an awesome [insert name]

January 16th, 2012 No comments

Last week when I was heading out from the house, I drove past a rather thought-provoking sign in front of a church (I know “thought-provoking” along with “clever but wholesome” pretty much encompasses all of what most church signs try and pull off, but go with me here) that said “New Year, Same God.”

That really got me thinking. Sure, it wasn’t in the manner that this establishment of the divine long-distance relationship wanted, but I was thinking nonetheless. What if the accepted model for churches was to pick a new deity each year?

I just imagine the church newsletters towards the end of the year:

Greetings parishioners!
Once again it’s getting to be that time of year we all celebrate: the grand selection!

Unlike previous years, Pastor Bob will be taking nominations via email. Additionally, while last year’s “cow pie bingo” made for a fun afternoon, the ultimate selection of Prithvi, in retrospect, should have been an foregone conclusion from the effort. In order to level the playing field a tad this year, and to raise some funds for the new altar, we will be having a bake sale and pie-eating contest. Come join us the second Sunday of December when our new deity is chosen in a swirl of banana bread and blueberry pies.

Honestly, I think is a model that could really work for the typical American. Protestants are inherently afraid of deific pluralities (aside from that whole Daddy, Junior, Spook thing that really just seems to be three sides of one thing), so this is a great way to expand cultural diversity and education while not having to tackle the entire gang-bang of a given Pantheon.

Sure, you may be shaking your head at this point thinking that I’ve finally gone way off the deep end, but I did not originate this idea. Way back in the 16th century, the Hopi did just about the same thing for practical matters their cosmology could not address or weren’t working out for them so well.

I think the main thing holding most Christians back is that whole fear thing. Those of us raised with Christian backgrounds have had the whole “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” thing pounded into us from an early age. Sure, given the old guy’s track record for smiting and pestilence-ing places into nothingness, I can see He’s got some separation anxiety.

But, seeing as we having had a good smiting or literal fire and brimstone falling from the sky (sorry televangelists), I think it’s time to put another Baal into play.

With deference to Saint Eddie of Izzard, I believe I am going to lobby for Jeff, god of biscuits or Simon, god of hairdos for 2012. Both of those chaps seem to really be speaking my spiritual language these days.

Beware of who you ask for

November 15th, 2011 No comments

My name is Justin. Sure, it’s not the most common name (though I have, for some reason, been friends with many a Justin over my years), but it’s what my folks deemed to label me with.

It’s not even a particularly hard name to pronounce. It’s spelled relatively normal with a good ratio of consonants to vowels and it doesn’t even have any pesky silent letters.

Why, then, have people insisted on calling me “Jason” for years and years?

For a long while I just ignored the “mispronunciation.” After that I made corrections; often leading with the ever-popular “I’ll answer to any ‘J’ name.” (My father’s name is Jeff, so I’ve been called “Jeff” a lot as well.)

Now, however, I’m just going to roll with it. I’m going to respond to Jason and be Jason.

Here’s the big “problem,” though, Jason is a complete jerk.

Someone asks Jason to pass the mashed potatoes? He might just throw them on the floor. Need Jason to forward that important email to your Brother-in-Law? Whoops, Jason signed you and him up for a whole passel of listservs on growing beets in Kentucky. Need Jason to defuse that bomb that’s in the room we are locked in? Well, Jason is going to go ahead and defuse that bomb because he’s not a suicidal idiot, but he’ll pelt you with nasty jeers while he does it.

I’ve thought this through a lot and it’s the perfect consequence-less crime. If the person I am snubbing gets bent out of shape, they are going to expend a whole bunch of energy bitching and moaning about the wrong person. If confronted, I can always resort to, “Yeah, Jason did that. Isn’t he a complete prick?”

In the most perfect of worlds, the “perpetrator” will apologize to me for getting my name wrong and tell me it won’t happen again (yeah, like I haven’t heard that before.) Worst case scenario, I get in a bit of trouble and play the martyr card: “It’s like I’m not even a human being to you people.”

Oh, and by the way, it will always be Jason who took the last beer and/or slice of pizza. I’m also pretty sure it was him who farted in the elevator last week.

Categories: monkey, Ravings, Stupidity

RIP: Monte

October 18th, 2011 No comments

Boy, it seems like I was just doing this not too long ago for big-H. Today, almost six months to the day after his big brother and ultimate hero passed:  Monte, my little Berger, moved on to be with his brothers Higgins and Augie.

I can just about remember the day back in 1998 when we went to pick him up. It was one of his litter-mates we had designs on rather than Monte, but when this little white fur-ball launched himself with wild abandon out of the kitty carrier he was in at our shoulders and heads, it was pretty much cinched that the high-spirited little bastard was coming home with us rather than his brother.

Monte was never not purring. In fact, he often threw a little extra on top of his purr that made it sound like he was constantly beeping. At the same time, Monte perfected the silent meow. His little face would make the meowing motion, but nary a sound would come out. Pretty standard behavior for the kitty with the question-mark tail.

Basically put, Monte was very much the attention-loving little kitty whore. While he was afraid of his own shadow (the first time Monte hissed, he had no idea that the noise had issued from within himself and, thusly, fell right over in fright), Monte would go out of his way to bound over to people who had not had the privilege to pet him yet and attempt to perch on their shoulders. He would also usually take this opportunity to stick his nose in his “victim’s” ear and beep a couple of times.

Monte was a damn good cat. He always managed to find that elusive crumb of some bit of food that you had dropped and he was more than happy to remind you that you hadn’t quite pet him enough. His tiny frame contained a mighty yowl of a meow that just about bordered on high-pitched annoyance and he knew it.

When it came down to it, Monte just really couldn’t live without his constant companion. It really didn’t surprise me, but I’m a selfish bastard and wanted it otherwise. Our fuzzy little thin white duke has left the building and will be sorely missed by all he impacted.

See ya, buddy, we sure love you.

Categories: cats, monkey, Ravings

Classic confrontations

August 26th, 2011 No comments

My brain is a rich nest of useless trivia and random thoughts. In any given day, random fluff bubbles to the surface and cracks me up for no apparent reason. There is no rhyme nor reason to most of the idiocy that streams through my skull and I very rarely share the true oddities with anyone.

For that reason alone, you are in for some serious treats today as I bring you what I like to call: character versus character.

In my gourd I find if rather amusing to imagine what a given actor/actress’ characters would do if they faced each other in a fight to the finish. Sure, it’s pretty cool when you have two combat-ready “action hero” type characters, but entirely way more amusing when they aren’t.

Let’s start with an easy one.

Han Solo vs. Indiana Jones

This is practically a no-brainer. University of Chicago trained archeologist verus the scruffy nerf herder. Before he could even clear his whip, Indy would be on the ground because everyone knows that Han shoots first. That’s an end that even Indy wouldn’t complain about. Hell, while we are at it, let’s have Han put a few holes in Mutt Williams as well. I’m not a fan.

Yeah, now you see how it works. On to more.

Doogie Howser vs. Dr. Horrible

This could be a tough one. Sure, Doogie’s exceedingly annoying medical knowledge gives him an upper hand in having all the right anatomy knowledge to kill off Dr. Horrible quickly, but, at the same time, Dr. Horrible has his freeze ray. When it all comes down to it, though, Doogie learns an important life lesson in preparing for the battle and Dr. Horrible dies of boredom while Doogie is typing into his diary. Dr. Howser wins.

Verbal Kint vs. John Doe

Ooooh, creepy. Both of these guys would just stand across the room from each other smiling scarily. Hell, they’d probably have a pretty intense conversation about polyester trousers or something equally inane yet intriguing. Then, quite suddenly, Verbal would fall to the floor in about Se7en pieces (see what I did there?). With a slight nod of his head, John Doe would exit the room.

Legolas vs. Will Turner

Yeah, Legolas is an elf. Will would be so full of holes so fast that Will wouldn’t even be aware that there was a fight on. To add insult to injury, Legolas would probably “surf” Will’s body down some stairs or something. It seems to be his thing.

Sweeny Todd vs. Edward Scissorhands
Once Sweeny Todd got done singing about how old Eddie was about to become a pile of meat for pies, he’d probably dramatically storm out of the arena. Edward, being the simple guy he is, would stand there looking comically confused and wait for the good Mr. Todd to return for the fray. Both would eventually die of either old age or at someone else’s hand because they were confused by the intial instructions. Well played, sirs.

Professor Xavier vs. Captain Picard
Oooooh, the passive-aggressive fight of the century! Picard has some serious Starfleet hand-to-hand training, but the Prof. has the ability to read and control minds. Professor X opens the conflict with his signature move of putting his fingers to his temples and Picard launches into issuing orders. As the wavy lines start emanating from Xavier’s chrome dome, Picard begins gathering up his team of officers in the “ready room.” When that doesn’t work and Picard heads out to visit Guinan at Ten Forward, Professor Xavier lobotomizes himself out of the sheer frustration of the existence of a leader who can’t make a damn decision on his own. Picard is later assimilated by the Borg and left to a lifetime trying to boot OS/2.

I never said my brain made sense.

An Unstoppable Force Meeting an Unmovable Object

August 10th, 2011 No comments

By now a large part of the global population has heard about the shooting of Mark Duggan by Police in Tottenham, London, England and the ensuing riots/looting/chaos. Not to restate the obvious, but the whole mess is tragic and unnecessary. I’ve always thought of London as a moderately calm city (despite giving us the literal Riot Act). Sure, there have been a few incidents over the past couple of decades, but things have been pretty good during this first part of the 21st Century.

Timing, it is said, is everything, and this current mess is no exception. While Tesco and JD shops are being looted by BlackBerry toting miscreants in hoodies and sweat pants (seriously, can’t we have some moderately fashionable riot wear?), the rest of England and a good chunk of the world is gearing up for the start of the English Premier League this coming weekend. Now, with a nation in turmoil, the next big news is whether or not the season will actually start on time. The friendly match between England and Holland that was slated to take place at Wembley as well as a couple of Carling Cup matches have been cancelled, and the Football League and the Premier League are frantically trying to figure out what to do in light of current safety concerns.

Here’s the thing, though: angry footballers could be a more formidable concern than the current looters.

Something tells me that we have the potential to see some of the worst nastiness surrounding hooliganism that hasn’t been seen since the 1980′s. This has the potential to get very very ugly, and all we can do is wait and see what happens.

Update (Friday 5:30AM CST)
Well, it looks like the general “go ahead” has been given and the EPL is going to take it one match at a time. What this probably means is that Queens Park Rangers will get to play their first EPL match since 1996 while Tottenham vs. Everton (at “epicentric” Tottenham) will probably be postponed until a later date. What is wild is that outlying communities such as West Bromwich, Liverpool, Birmingham and even Manchester are up in the air because the idiocy has seemingly spread to them to some degree. Here’s hoping to a relatively smooth weekend that doesn’t screw up the table too much.

Categories: England, footie, London, Places, soccer

Whump, jog, jog

August 5th, 2011 No comments

Picture this: a random, well-mannered person is walking along, going about their business. Suddenly, as if snatched by a hidden hand from the depths of the Earth itself, said person trips. Rather than gracefully fall or recover, this individual instead expands the spectacle and turns the trip into what appears to be an intentional spontaneous bout of running: a gentle jog, if you will. As if this person suddenly decided they needed a wee tiny bit of cardio workout, and I mean right freakin’ now, their feet leap to equine-like strides; propelling their not-quite-stationary body forward in the quite ungraceful stumble of someone recovering from just about falling flat on their damn face.

After seeing someone do this the other day, I was struck by how damnably funny it looks. I’ve done it. You, gentle reader, have probably done it as well. The big question, however, is why the hell do we feel the need to do this?

I’ve devoted just a tiny bit of brain time to this (I don’t have much to spare in the first place) and have come up with a couple of possible solutions.

Solution one: self-preservation.
Newton’s law states that force equals mass times acceleration. Depending on your mass, and how fast you were walking, that’s a lot of potential force. Everyone knows that kinetic energy is mostly not our friend. If it was, the Three Stooges and most Warner Bros. cartoons wouldn’t be nearly as dangerous/hilarious as they are. Humans (like most animals) are wired with fight or flight instincts. When faced with certain dangers (such as the pavement rudely grabbing our foot), most people will automatically try and flee the situation: hence the “little run.” I’m sure I’m not the only person who has seen someone launch into a “fight” response when tripping (as a society, we tend to want to look away from such unpleasantness), but those are about a rare as baby pigeons.

Solution two: saving face.
Human beings are a notoriously vainglorious species. We, as a general whole, like to put up a front of stalwartitude (yeah, I totally just made that word up) and stability while spending oodles of time and money on therapists/pills/seminars/books/life-coaches that actually convince us of said “self-togetherness.” The thought of showing frailty by not successfully being able to put one foot in front of the other (a quite repetitive action) is abhorrent. What weakness it must show to our fellow man if we lose control over the most base of the natural laws: gravity. By leaping into a jaunty jog, we are showing our aloofness at the whole situation.

Solution three: ghosts.
When in doubt, blame the supernatural. Why a rueful spirit would get its jollies (do ghosts even have jollies?) reaching up from the fiery depths to take a swipe at your ankles is beyond me, but I see no issue in running the hell away from them. Scooby Doo taught me that tidbit of wisdom. If I literally stumbled upon a weak spot in the veil and was given the option of either running the hell away or sticking around to be groped by shades unknown, I’ll gladly take the former option. That’s practically a no-brainer. Eff you, ghosts.

Categories: Deep Thinking, Ravings

A Century of What?!?!?

July 11th, 2011 No comments

So, yeah, this is NWTF number 100. I look back on the year and a half of my life that is documented in these posts and think: “Boy, I sure like to ramble.”

It’s true. I’ll be the last person to deny it.

What putting this blog together has proven to me is that it really is feasible for me to organize my thoughts and produce a knot of words that might even be mistaken for sentences if taken in the right context. Looking back at the general content of what I’ve written shows that I jump around a lot and have a few “impassioned” things to say about all manner of topics that I probably have no business spouting off about.

I’ve been sitting on writing this 100th posting for a couple of weeks. I definitely wanted to mark the occasion, but honestly had no clue what to address or write about other than, “Hey I write a bunch of stupid shit. Congratulate me for making it publicly consumable.”

That’s utter crap, so I’m going to experiment with some stream of consciousness drivel.

The index finger on my right hand hurts a lot in the joints today. This got me thinking about how many mouse-clicks I’ve made over the past twenty years and then how inconvenient it would be to not have index fingers.

The Fox and the Hound is thirty years old. Unawares to me, this film represents the transition from Disney’s original “nine old men” to a younger generation of animators. It was this movie that caused Don Bluth to quit Disney and go off and form his own studio that put out such gems as “The Secret of NIMH,” “Space Ace,” and the animated chunks of “Xanadu.”

Bamboo Paper for the iPad has been a serious lifesaver. Scraps of paper with random notes scribbled on them have been my method of thought/process organization for the past fifteen years. Being able to “write” notes out on the iPad in a simple way is the second reason I wanted an iPad (the first being an easier way to read comic books).

I recently read that the mere act of recalling a memory alters it. For some reason, this scares the ever-loving crap out of me.

While I have really enjoyed his writing in the past, Chuck Klosterman writing for Grantland makes me want to pluck my eyes out. It’s enough to make me read Douglas Coupland. As a good friend of min succinctly put it, “I don’t have the energy or patience to read a 4000 word essay on why Klosterman’s favorite sports experience was some junior college basketball game 25 years ago.” I would have to agree.

I recently decided that french fries, by and large, are a waste of time. That’s probably a pretty un-American thing for me to say, but there are a hell of a lot more potato delivery systems that I prefer. Don’t get me wrong, there are a couple of places that I think do the fry up pretty damn well, but I would love to have a “salty starch sticks” stamp to “correct” most of the places I’ve had “fries” in over the past couple of years.

OK, that’s probably enough of that. I often have random disjointed thoughts that don’t warrant a full blog post, so now I have to decide if I should just “micro blog” (a term I utterly despise) and have a couple of lines of consumable text, or just save them all up for another post like this one. I’ll probably end up going with the former since my memory (or lack thereof) will keep me from compiling things easily.

Onward and upward!

Yoga: The Return

June 20th, 2011 No comments

Friday, after a “light” break of 95 days, I returned to Sunstone Yoga to kick my practice back into gear.

I honestly never intended to let my practice drop by the wayside, but sometime things just happen. It really started for me back in February when I got just about the worst ear infection I think I’ve ever had. The mere thought of going into a hot and humid room with the pain and pressure going on in that ear just makes me shudder. Coupled with a new relationship and a new job and yoga was just an afterthought.

Sooo, here I am three months later and my body was just screaming at me to get back into the routine. When I first took a break of a couple of weeks, going back was really hard. I got really really frustrated with the fact that my body had changed so drastically in such a short time. My flexibility was gone and my stamina was totally shot.

Now, however, I knew that I was going to be starting from square one. I knew that Triangle Pose was going to kick my ass and that I would probably have to entertain the possibility that I might just puke during Camel Pose. Sure enough, Triangle Pose was freakishly hard and if I hadn’t gotten into Child’s Pose, there might have been a bit of a mess on the floor during Camel Pose.

All-in-all, it was a pretty good return. My poor body probably could have done without spending the next day pulling up carpet, but the soreness was a welcome old friend.

Today (Monday), I went and did it again and it was even better. I went into the class with one of those anticipatory feelings that I just wanted the whole thing over with ASAP. It’s not that I didn’t want to be there, it’s just that I let the hectic aspects of my life get in the way of what I “needed” to do. I liken the feeling to wanting the opening band at a show to hurry up and finish so the headliner can go on. Even if that opening band is damn amazing and you really enjoy their set, there is just a little part of you that wants them to hurry up and finish so you can watch the headliner. That’s the way I felt about class going into it.

Five minutes in, I knew I was in the right place doing the right thing. Yeah, it’s corny and very “one-with-the-earthy,” but it all just felt right. I know that my practice is nowhere near what it was when I bailed on it, but I, once again, can see that it can get back there.

It’s all very exciting; like rediscovering how to ride a bike again (note to self, look into getting a bike).

Hell, if I can do it, anyone can.

Categories: monkey, Yoga