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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.

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.

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

Habitual Creature

May 5th, 2011 No comments

“Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late”
–The Beatles (A Day in the Life)

A routine, I haz it.

As much as I would like to believe that I have spontinatiy coursing through my entire existence, I have recently realized that much of my “get up and go” time is incredibly regimented. Unfortunately I think it has to be so I don’t end up “eaten by a grue” every morning (read: snoring loudly while the sun tracks across the sky).

It’s pretty simple (to me, at least). At 6AM (really it’s 5:51AM because I keep my clock nine minutes ahead) the alarm goes off. I don’t mess around with playing “snooze-tag” because that’s a likely way to be eaten by a grue. I pop up, turn on the shower and brush my teeth. Shower, shower, shower until the clock across the room (also wrong as can be) is around the 5:20 or 6:20 range (depending on Daylight Savings: I don’t believe in changing that clock), and then get slapped together so I’m decent for public consumption.

From there I plop myself down in front of my computer for a quick glance at email and weather. The weather check became necessary after I realized that I don’t actually see the great outdoors until I’m pulling out of the garage. This way I can grab the appropriate outer covering for the current climate.

Then it’s out the door and off to the office. Because I love me some god-awful earliness, I’m typically the first person in the office. I turn off the alarm, pull out the laptop and fire it up. While the gods of Windows go through their stretching routine known as “booting up,” I unlock the two back doors. I then come back to the laptop, log in and go to the kitchen to make the first pot of office coffee. Then the day can officially begin.

Deviation from this routine always throws me for a loop. I’ve gotten very used to the 45 to 50 minutes it takes me to get from slumberland to fully functional developer. On very rare occasions I run into snags such as fashion crises, falling asleep in the shower (more common than I’d like to admit) or dreaded Windows Updates that put small kinks in my kickoff, but, because those are few and far between, I can generally just roll with them.

What I find utterly facinating is that I am far from the only person locked into my morning track. I can always tell those individuals on my drive down the highway to work who have fouled their routine in some manner. You know the type: 85 miles per hour, weaving in and out of lanes while either stuffing their face with what passes for breakfast or gesticulating wildly at fellow drivers who don’t have the “courtesy” to accommodate their fellow commuter who is obviously late for something or the other. These people stick out like a sore thumb.

As for me, tomorrow my alarm will go off at 6AM (5:51) and I’ll start it all over again. Like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace or the noon lunch whistle, it happens just because it does.

Categories: Deep Thinking, monkey, Ravings

Scenes From Outside a Box

August 18th, 2010 No comments

Many of you might be aware that I quit my job a little over two months ago to persue a life of leisure.

There are many reasons why I finally walked away from my job of five years, but they really aren’t important to anyone other than myself. The big thing that a lot of you who come in contact with me on a regular basis is that I feel like a new human being.

No more stress over factors that irked me to no end that I had no control over; no more false senses of urgency; no more working insane hours. It’s like heaven!

I gotta tell you, for the first month all I really did was sit around and watch the games of the World Cup. Sure, I cleaned the house like a madman just because I didn’t know what else to do with my idle time, but I got to see almost every game live. That’s a big first for me.

Then, when The Cup ended, I had to start thinking a little more long term. I took a little bit of time to finalize some projects that I had been freelancing on prior to quitting, but, with all this extra time, that happened really quickly.

I finally caught up on my five week backlog of comic books. Believe me, for my insane habit, five weeks is a crap load of books.

I got to play a video game for two days straight. I know that’s horribly hedonistic, but it was pretty damn awesome for me.

I bleached my hair and finally got my right lobe pierced to match the left one that had been pierced for the past twenty years (it’s the little things that working for “The Man” make you really appreciate).

I slowed way down on my smoking (I’m not going to say I’ve quit until I haven’t had a single smoke for three months and I’m not doing that hot towards that goal these days), and I started to aggressively attack a “Couch-to-5K” program. If all goes as planned, I start week four day one tomorrow morning.

This lack of day-to-day responsibility has got me feeling more centered than I have felt in a very long time. I’m less grumpy, anxious, sleepy (and other dwarfs as well) and I actually feel more healthy (except for the blasted summer cold I’m nursing right now).

And, because I can’t stay idle for too long, a friend and I have started a company to book Dallas-area bands (visit ManhandlerBooking.comfor more details). This will help me turn my habit/fascination with live music into a productive endeavor without having to expose anyone to my horrible horrible musical skills. I mean it. There’s a reason I do the vocal parts of Rock Band while squeezle is out of the house. There are just a few people who have been exposed to my dabbling in karaoke who are still alive to tell the tale. It’s just badness.

Unfortunately, the one thing I really intended to do over the past two months, but really haven’t gotten around to is write. I’ve been so lax with this blog that I probably need to get in here and scrub off a goodly layer of dust and mold before proceeding.

So, here’s the deal. I’ve got more to say and I’m hoping you folks are still willing to read it. I can’t promise any of it will be heady or substantive, but it will, at the very least, give you a little brain break for part of your day.

To quote something a very wise man said upon being woken on the couch: “My mind is a sewer, and I live in a cardboard box.”

P.S. For all of you worried about that mouse up there at the top of my post, don’t worry. He’s suspended in a PFC solution, so he’s just fine.

That old rugged chair

March 22nd, 2010 No comments

I’d like to preface this entry with a disclaimer. If you are at all religious and/or are offended easily, you’d better stop reading right here.

Are they gone yet? OK, I’ll proceed.

This weekend I had the very fortunate opportunity to attend the wedding of two friends. It was a lovely small service in a quaint wedding chapel and that got me to thinking (uh-oh).

As a rule, I tend to steer clear of Christian-oriented locales. I was going to write that I steer clear of religious-oriented locales, but that’s just too inclusive. As a general rule, religions other than Christianity don’t try to cram their doctrine down my throat. Never once have I been proselytized to by a Muslim or Jew (except for that wacky Jew for Jesus a few years ago, but they are an entirely different kind of animal entirely), and I actually know quite a few Muslims and Jews.

Anyway, sitting in this chapel waiting for the show to kick off, I was struck by something that actually tickled my funny bone: the universal symbol of Christianity is a device of execution.

I understand that over the past couple of├é┬ámillennia the meaning of the cross has been turned around to a symbolic representation of redemption, etc., and I’m just fine with that, but that doesn’t change the fact that it took Constantine I to abolish it’s use as a method of execution in 337 AD. That’s a full 300 years after it was used on Jesus. Scarily enough, that date is one of the few things that has stuck with me from the formal courses in “Christian History” I took almost ten years ago.

At this point you are probably trying to figure out how I derived humor from my observation of a cross in a wedding chapel on a Saturday morning. Fine, I’ll get to my punchline.

If the time/technology for the events of the New Testament had been shifted by two thousand years or so, it is entirely feasible that the symbol at the altars of Christian churches could be a gas chamber gurney or even the electric chair. That’s what I found funny.

Can you imagine baroquely jewelled and gilded “old sparkys” adorning sacred space. How many people between 0 AD and 337 AD found the cross as repulsive?

These are the things that humor me. Oh, and for all of you who didn’t heed my disclaimer, yes, I do indeed know that I’m going to burn in your “Hell,” but I’ll keep a seat warm for you.