20 Reasons YOU Hate Click Bait “Articles”

1.) Click bait whore’s out someone else’s hard work and passing it off as their own. The guy that wrote ’10 things you liked about the Goonies’ is getting paid from your nostalgia, taking the work of the filmmakers of Goonies and cashing out on it. He’s a parasite trying to steal someone else’s spotlight.

2.) No real content included, just Pics and 2 sentences to try to link whatever the content is to some picture of Tina Fey rolling her eyes.

3.) You are wasting your time. Right now. You could be doing anything, but you are not. You’re reading Click Bait. You’re only at #3 on the list and you’re not going to stop. It’s not that funny. It’s not that good. You don’t get a cake at the end.

4.) You could have been reading Pessimistic Ponderings instead, a blog that has creative stories, rants, and other forms of mockery directed at the main stream awfulness you encounter in your daily life. It’s refreshing to read someone that doesn’t feel obliged to like things just because other people do.

5.) You’re just being tricked into thinking that pictures of Tina Fey are the same thing as a creative article.

Seriously…enough of the Tina Fey .GIFs

6.) At the end of the article, you’ll be disappointed at how sophomoric and trite the whole experience was.

7.) You MUST read this ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL crappy post about vague opinion and popular sentiment which will ALWAYS use hyperbolic language to make you think this is NECESSARY and get you to click.

8.) The ‘points’ aren’t explained very well.

9.) The humor is fart humor, aimed at the unthinking masses. Humor made to make everyone laugh is light, overdone, and stupid. It’s Two And A Half Men humor. If you want to be really funny, you need to pick a niche audience and absolutely destroy their preconceptions. Attracting as many people as you can doesn’t allow for that…it needs the unthinking and bored masses.

10.) Have you noticed how many times I’ve said “you”, as if this web page knows anything about who you are as a complex and thinking person? How many assumptions have I made about you, thinking that just because I’ve written something down that you’ll nod and agree with what I’ve said?

11.) Each of those other stupid click bait articles has the same superior and snarky tone that assumes you agree with their brand of ‘snark’, writing as if you share a secret joke about how superior you are to whatever it is the article is posting Tina Fey gifs about.

12.) These aren’t useful. It’s just an excuse to see more Tina Fey.

13.) These things clog your facebook, making it much harder to see pictures of the kids your high school friends had, catch up on the progress of that one guy’s paleo diet, the various libertarian rants of that one relative, morally superior digs from that handful of vegan friends, and those uncomfortably sexy pictures of that one relative that’s very proud of his abs or her cleavage.

14.) Someone is being paid to do this. It’s their job. Their job is to not do any work, not think at all, and hardly put forth any effort.  There job is not complete until your job is not complete…and it’s now closing time.

15.) Many sentence fragments.

16.) People read this garbage, but not your blog that you pour your heart and soul into.

17.) You’ve lived through the 80’s and 90’s. You don’t need a recap. That’s what Netflix is for.

18.) Which _____ are you from this movie/TV series/book? The obvious one that you have been picking! Why take this quiz? Just decide which one you are, because 4 very biased questions that lean towards an obvious character in an attempt to generate add revenue is beneath you.

19.) Want to read an idiot’s thoughts on the latest celebrity ‘not-scandel’ that isn’t really news at all? Me neither.  I don’t need a list of 20 things rehashing everything Kanye West or anyone else has done that is human.

20.) Do you need some idiotic talking points for some position that thinks two sentences of snark and a joke are enough to sort out a legitimate opinion about a complex issue?
This post took me 5 minutes to write. I did it while watching “The Voice” on Hulu and eating dinner. That’s how easy this is. That’s how much of a waste of your time this is. Ditch the click bait. Find someone worth your time that challenges you and opens your horizons to read. Get yourself ready and head out into the world.

The Manliest Man

(Bonus Friday Post:  Day 1 of Writing for NaNoWriMo.  Just a taste of what’s to come for the rest of the month.)

Zach was born with a full grown beard and a subscription to Cosmopolitan magazine.  The doctors said that if it hadn’t been for the magazine subscription, Zach’s mom would have died from carrying around too much awesome manliness.  Zach had ordered the magazine in utero to save his mother’s life, because Zach was three fourths of the way through his doctorate in medical school and he knew of the danger he posed to his mother.  Zach was a gentlemen even then.

The day Zach was born, the hospital had driven her in an ambulance out into the forest because they didn’t want to insult Zach by implying he’d need help being born.  The assisting nurse was a lumberjack and performing the delivery was a grizzly bear.  Zach was raised by the bears until he was three years old.  When Zach left the bears he was the alpha male.

Zach’s early child hood was pretty normal.  He played the bass guitar for Led Zepplin.  He started a comic strip with Bill Watterson that ran in the local paper.  He lead the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl victory in 1994, and played half their super bowl winning season in 1995 before he was injured by a sudden case of puberty that hospitalized him for two months.  The puberty lasted an hour because Zach was tired of it and didn’t want to wait any longer.  He was caught off guard by how much more manly he would become during that hour, as were the rest of us.  According to the equations of the world’s top physicists, Zach couldn’t have possibly gotten as manly as he did during puberty.  Zach had to invent a new system of advanced physics to explain it.  Zach was not injured when he went to the hospital, he was just stuck flexing all of his biceps and abdominals.  It took the doctors two months to find out that this was just Zach’s natural state, so he better get used to it.

By this time, Zach was entering Kindergarten.  His education wasn’t the usual, as it was constantly being interrupted with award ceremonies such as Zach winning the Oscar for best actor, the Pulitzer Prize for public service, the Emmy for both outstanding lead actress and best director, and a whole host of other awards.  The one he was most proud of was the Nobel Peace Prize he won for Literature.  The piece he wrote for that one was just a picture of his face stapled to a box of Fruit Roll-Ups.

Zach was promoted to the rank of High School senior his second week of Kindergarten, where he took the entire female high school population to Homecoming as his date.  Zach picked them all up at their homes, greeted their fathers with a firm handshake, and promised that he’d be respectful of their daughters.  He was.  It was the most successful school dance ever.

When Zach turned 11, he enlisted in the Army Rangers and fought in the war in Uruguay.  Haven’t heard of it?  I’m not surprised.  It was all very hush-hush.  The war was looking to be a big mess, but Zach posted a billboard of himself doing pushups behind enemy lines.  The insurgent forces all surrendered.  Zach told the press to keep it quiet, as Uruguay needed some private time for self-reflection and healing.

I met Zach at the end of High School.  At this point in his life he didn’t shake hands because it was rude to imply that the person he was meeting didn’t know who he was.  Instead Zach looked me up and down and declared that we would be friends.  We went through the ceremonial arm-wrestling, in which I lost seven matches in a row.  I could have lost more, but Zach never did like to rub it in by requiring more matches than necessary.

The day I met Zach was the day that he’d have to face the greatest challenge of his life….

(I’m just joking.  This isn’t my NaNoWriMo piece.)

The 2nd Grade Mafia: Just Because Your Little Girls Are Angels, It Doesn’t Mean They Came From Heaven

[This is part 3 in a series called “The 2nd Grade Mafia”.  The first post in this series can be found by clicking on this link.]

Week 5, Day 2 Once a week we had library time, which was a chance for us to check out a book from the school library.  I loved this time of the week because I could pick up more of the authors I liked, their books were right on either side of the book I had previously selected.  This week was different.  I quickly rounded the library to the fiction section where I had collected all of my books.  They were gone.  All of the books in the fiction section had been checked out.  That was impossible!  It would take every kid in the school to check out that many books.  Or maybe…

I turned around to see a bunch of girls giggling by the doorway.  They weren’t even in my grade, these were fifth graders.  Each held a stack of seven books, the maximum amount we were allowed.  Their leader mouthed “look in the back”.  I went around to a little bookshelf to see that the only books remaining were the entirety of the Babysitters Club series.  More giggling ensued when they saw my disappointment.  Yet the library was sacred, and I wasn’t going to let them hurt me on my turf.  I approached the librarian to see if there were any books that had been turned in and had yet to be put on the shelves.  The girls bristled, as they hadn’t anticipated this move.

The librarian, a kindly old woman, said “I’d give these to you, but only the fifth graders have been to the library.  These are way too advanced for a second grader.”

With some quick talking and a promise to take care of them, I convinced her that I was up to the challenge, and I checked out all of them.

Week 5, Day 3  It was time for silent reading, a fun ceremony where we all got to read and Ms Hotchkiss got to drink some coffee and grade some papers.  This was the only time that the boys put minutes on the board, it seemed.  I was delighted, because I got to read again.  I was halfway through Hatchet and I wanted to know what happened after Brian had accidently kicked the porcupine.  I went to lift the top of my desk to find that it wouldn’t budge.  I tried again, but nothing happened.  I stood up to give it a good go, but when I heaved with all my might the desk didn’t open, it just flipped over.

Ms Hotchkiss whirled around, “Steve, what is it that you are doing?”

“My desk won’t open.”

“We don’t throw desks around just because they don’t open.”

Julie raised her hand, but proceeded to talk without actually being called on.  “Ms Hotchkiss, the reason his desk won’t open is because Steve glued it shut.”

That’s silly, why would I glue my own desk shut?  Oh you lying jerk!  Ms Hotchkiss zoomed across the room, sailing like a foxtail on the breeze through the maze of classroom clutter.  She descended upon me so swiftly that I was unable to enact any kind of verbal defense of my innocence.  One sniff and she confirmed that my desk was indeed glued shut.  “Steve, it’s very bad that you glued your desk shut.  We also don’t throw our desks.  That’s something bad kids do.  You know what else bad kids do?  They go to the principal’s office.

“But I didn’t do it Ms Hotchkiss!  It had to be the girls-“

“We also don’t tell lies to get out of trouble.  We take responsibility for our actions.  Come along now.”

I had to sit in the principal’s office without a book for all of silent reading, and for the first recess.  All the while I sat, staring at the clock, watching my minutes slip through my hands into oblivion.  I had zero minutes because of this charade.  The girls had two hundred and eighty.  I had to read five hours when I got home just to catch up.

When I got back to class, the janitor had pried my desk open and removed all of the rubber cement.  He gave me a scolding about respecting other people’s property.  I tried pointing out that I don’t even own rubber cement, but that just made him angry, because now he thought I’d lost a bottle of rubber cement somewhere and it was vandalizing some other part of the building.  I didn’t listen to him; I didn’t have to.  Not only was there no rubber cement in my desk, there were no books that I’d checked out from the library.  All of them were gone.  If I didn’t return them by next week I’d get a detention every day until they were returned.  I couldn’t get detention, I had to take the bus home.  The girls had sent their message loud and clear.  I couldn’t even risk telling on them, because sitting on the board was my name with a checkmark behind it.  One more instance of misbehavior and I was in for a detention.  Who was going to believe that the girls were all a part of some massive conspiracy, when I, the class clown was so much easier to blame?

On the bus ride home, Paige sat next to me.  She lived in my neighborhood, and it was especially hurtful that someone from my street could turn on me.  “I’m sorry about the desk and the books.”

“Thanks.  Do you know where they are?”

“No.  They hid them in case you asked Ms Hotchkiss to search all the desks in the room.  I think the third graders have them now.”

“Paige, I’m going to get in trouble if they don’t give me those back!  I told the librarian I’d take special care of them.”

“I know.  I’m supposed to tell you that if you stop reading this week, you’ll get the books back.  We’ll put them in the book return and nothing will happen. You won’t get detention, and you’ll get to catch your bus.”

“Paige, they can’t do this!  This is stealing!  This is lying.”

Paige sighed, because I just wasn’t getting it.  When she spoke next, her voice was curt and condescending.  “If you keep reading, your books are going to stay missing for a month.  Then they’ll show up on the library’s doorstep one day, except they’ll have been washed in a tub, colored with crayons, every fifth page will be missing, and we’ll smear them with mud.”

“Paige, tell them no!  I’ll have to give up my allowance to buy those books back, and I’ll have to miss the Scholastic Book Fair!  They’ll take away my library card.  They won’t let me read anymore.”

“Then you know what to do.”  Paige got up and went to the front of the bus with the rest of the girls.

Week 5, Day 4 I had to borrow a book from my aunt and uncle, my babysitters before school began.  Technically I stole it, but both of them were working on some unrelated project and were unavailable to be asked.  It was the first time I had delved into Stephan King.  The Green Mile started off in a pretty scary place, unlike all of the previous books I had read.  The characters seemed much more mean than they needed to be.  It was an eye opening experience.

At school I didn’t want to talk to anyone.  The boys were jerks and the girls were nefarious.  I just wanted to sink into my shadow and disappear.  That wasn’t going to happen today.  Today was the day that Ms Hotchkiss had updated her bar graph.

I was still in first, but there were more bars.  Cassie was in second, Pam was in third, the girls were in fourth, Paige was in fifth, and the boys didn’t matter.  The girls all collectively bristled.  If Hotchkiss had kept the girls together they would have won, but she didn’t.  Somehow this was my fault, and I could feel the malevolence of their resolve strengthening around me.  The only way they’d win is if Cassie could beat me by herself, otherwise the girls’ bar graph would just keep splitting.

Silent reading approached and I took out The Green Mile,taking a peek at the girls around me.  It was hard to read their expressions.  I hadn’t stopped reading, despite their threats to my library books.
It was a strange mixture of expressions, showing some kind of disappointed respect.  The girls were at a crossroads.  They didn’t really want to steal my books, rip them apart, and frame me for a crime I didn’t commit; they just wanted to win the competition.  I smiled over my book at each of them, because even though they were debasing themselves they still weren’t getting what they wanted.

The problem with silent reading was that it gave the girls a solid 10 minutes to come up with a plan.  Courtney was the first to pounce on my rebellion against the mafia’s tyranny.  “Ms Hotchkiss!  Steve is reading a bad book!”

Ms Hotchkiss stood up and looked at my book.  “What’s that you are reading?”

“The Green Mile by Stephan King.”

“Will you come to the front of the class, Mr. Steve?”

The girls all put their books down, watching what would happen.  They had been prepared to make threats of getting me in trouble, but seeing the consequences carried out was something else entirely.  I gauged their expressions as I approached Hotchkiss’s desk.  Some of them were ready to give in to this, uncomfortable with what they had become.  The others sat resolute in the face of my destruction, determined to finally crush this boy that dared to defy their collective might.

Ms Hotchkiss didn’t have much patience for my surveying of the classroom.  “Steve, have you been faking your reading this entire time?  There is no way that you are reading a Stephen King novel.  That’s way above you level.”

“No it’s not!  It’s about a prison guard in a nursing home. It’s easy for me.”

“Steve, I think that you’ve been pretending to read and putting up fake numbers.  A few of the girls mentioned that you’d checked out books from the fifth grade section, and they think you are faking your reading.  Are you lying just to win?  Are you just pretending to read?”

My voice cracked, as I was on the verge of tears.  The girls weren’t satisfied with trying to stop my minutes, they wanted to wipe away everything I’d done, as if this whole time I’d been sacrificing my recesses for nothing.  “No, I’m not!  I can read it to you!  It’s easy for me.”  I was not going to let Ms Hotchkiss disqualify me from all my hard work.  I opened the book and read quickly and confidently, putting Ms Hotchkiss through one of the most surreal moments of her life as a second grade boy read aloud the story of a botched execution of a prisoner via electric chair.

“Uh…nevermind, Steve.  That was some good reading.  Can we get you a different book?”

From that moment on, for the rest of my second grade career, Ms Hotchkiss would always have a hint of worried panic in her expression when she looked at me.  She also called home to make sure everything was okay.  Mom was furious with my uncle for letting me get my hands on the book, but it wasn’t his fault really.  My uncle switched out The Green Mile for a couple of books from his Doc Savage collection.

Week 5: Voyage Of The Frog, Sign Of The Beaver, Redwall, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Number The Stars, The Green Mile

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART IV….

The 2nd Grade Mafia: Sugar And Spice And Thrice The Vice

[This is Part II of a series called “The 2nd Grade Mafia.  Read part 1 by clicking on this link.]

Week 4  I was still in the lead.  To show everyone in my class that I was going to do this with or without the boys, I put up some better numbers than the previous weeks.  The girls had gotten their act together, however.  They had read exactly one minute more than I did last week.  It was a show of dominance, their reading schedules so tightly controlled and disciplined that they could strike with such precision.  I sat there, staring intently ahead at the bar graph, carefully focusing so that the girls with their malicious smiles couldn’t see me crack.  They wanted to see the fear in my eyes, and it was there, but as long as I kept them focused on the bar graph, no one could see my shivering soul.

I was in first.  The girls were in second.  Cassie was in third.  If Hotchkiss had included Cassie with the girls, I was defeated, but no one else seemed to realize this, so I kept my mouth shut about it.

We had just started multiplication and I knew the awful truth.  Every one minute that went by, I could put up a total of one minute, but the girls could put up 14.  In one hour I could only generate 60 minutes, but the girls could accumulate 840.  If they all read 2 hours a day, I’d have to read 28 hours a day in order to keep up, which didn’t seem likely.  The girls had organized.

The recess bell rang, much to my sweet relief.  The classroom was thick with tension and I needed to kick a soccer ball around to work out my frustration, but before I could stand up from my desk I was frozen in fear.  In a synchronized motion, each girl lifted her desk and pulled out a book, then looked over at me and smiled before getting up and walking outside.  No…it couldn’t be.  I grabbed A Wrinkle In Time just in case, and fled out the door to the recess field.  There they all were.  My class of girls had formed a reading circle.  That wasn’t fair.  You couldn’t do school work at recess!  That was against America!  Yet there they sat, each happily reading away while Ms Hotchkiss watched over them to sign off on their minutes.  I did some quick multiplication in my head.  A total of 45 minutes of recess times 14 girls equaled….somewhere around a million minutes.

Breanne saw me first.  She snapped twice and pointed as I exited the school.  The girls all turned in unison and as sweetly as they could sang out “hey there, Steve.”  I stood there, nervous.  I lived to play soccer three times a day at school and once at the YMCA.  I woke up every morning and got my soccer shorts on in preparation for school.  What these girls were doing was unfair.  I had a choice.  I could either buckle down and read during recess, or I could do what I loved.

With a grave sadness in my heart, I approached the reading circle.  Maybe, just maybe we could strike a peace between us.  “Hey, uh, can I join your reading circle?”

Sarah was the only one to look up from her book, the rest went on diligently reading, although I caught a few sneaking peaks out from behind their pages.  With the utmost concern in her voice, Sarah spoke for the group.  “Oh, Steve, I’m sorry.  This reading circle is for the team that’s going to win the ice cream party.  Sorry about that.”

Sarah went back to her book; the conversation was over.

There would be no peace.

They had taken the boys’ allegiance away, they had taken soccer away, and now they had taken away any chance of readership comradery.  They had me in complete isolation and the choices were to surrender to regain everything I had, or to be systematically dismantled in isolation.  I couldn’t keep up, and they knew it.

I climbed the old forgotten slide on the playground and opened up my book.  Maybe it was out of spite.  Maybe it was out of anger.  Or just maybe this was my fight to finish, because I wanted this; I needed this.  I loved books and I loved soccer and I loved recess, and these girls weren’t going to ruin everything.  No.  For every minute I read, I took 4 seconds away from each of them.  For every hour I read, I took 4 minutes away.  Two could play at this game.

When recess ended, the harassment was relentless, not from the girls, but from the boys.  By choosing to read, I’d apparently chosen to be a girl.  The boys all made their jokes as best they could, stereotyping and sexist jokes that proved how weak their derogatory powers were, which would have been greatly improved if they actually read something.

“Why don’t you go kiss a boy, you nerd?”
“Are you growing your hair out?”
“What’s next Steve?  Are you going to have a baby?”

It seemed that the boys had no knowledge of how to do a proper insult, so they scrapped the bottom of their very shallow barrels to pull out all of the information they knew about girls, which wasn’t much.

The girls were delighted at this turn of events.  How easily they manipulated their male counterparts.  These results were more than they could have ever hoped for.  They sat back at a respectful distance and reveled in every minute of this, watching as I got ever closer to snapping.  And I did, in fine form.

“You want to make fun of me because I’m reading?  That’s the very thing that you swore to me you’d do on the soccer field!  You think I’m a girl because I read, well let me tell you something. Men keep their promises, so if I’m a girl, I don’t know what you are, but it’s something far worse.”

Everyone, boys and girls alike, stood there in shocked silence.  It was clear that the boys had come to a battle of wits unarmed.  I had Beverly Cleary, Bruce Covell, Laurence Yep, Mark Twain, and a host of other ammunition.  More importantly, I had allies. I had D’Artagnan, Henry Huggins, Shimmer, young Henry Jones, Phileas Fogg, Tom Sawyer, Basil of Bakerstreet, Robinson Crusoe, and an entire army of men and women that stuck it out alone against insurmountable odds no matter who was against them or who made fun of them.  I was an unstoppable legion.

Week 4 Reading List:  Goblins In The Castle, The Castle In The Attic, Lost in the Devil’s Desert, Dollhouse Murders, Bridge To Terabithia, A Wrinkle In Time

Week 5, Day 1  Things continued to get worse.  To mark the halfway point of Read A Million Minutes, the school held an assembly.  They announced a few figures to show that we were ahead of where we needed to be, and with some renewed effort we would prevail.  And then they threw me under the bus.

The principal wanted to recognize the leaders of our minute count and award them each with a pencil.  I was in first, Cassie was in second, Pam was in third, and Paige was in forth.  The fifth was some girl from fourth grade named Samantha.  The principal watched as we all got up from our seats in the gym.  “Hey, Ms Hotchkiss.  You’ve got the top 4 in your class?  How did you do it?”

Ms Hotchkiss beamed with delight.  “I’m running a boys vs girls competition.”

The principal nodded in approval.  “Well why don’t we do that here?  I was going to say let’s split it up by grade, but Ms Hotchkiss’s class has obviously won it for second grade.  Let’s do boys verses girls!”

Boys and girls throughout the school cheered.  I knew that the boys were doomed, for in that moment of friendly competition I heard Pam and Paige turn to the fourth grader Samantha and say “We’ve got this in the bag, the only boy we need to take down is Steve, and the rest will fall.  Next time it’ll be five girls standing up here.”

Ms Hotchkiss’s class got an extended recess for their efforts.  It stung that my effort had bought my enemies more time for them to kick their soccer ball around and laugh at me for being a nerdy girl.  However, when recess hit, the three girls that played soccer weren’t there.  The reading circle was gone.  The boys were all lost in their game of soccer, but I needed to find out what they were up to.  I ran around the recess field, and even around the school, but I could not find them until I chanced to glance into the window that led to the basement where the music room was.  Every single girl in the school was in there listening to Cassie speak.  I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but it couldn’t be good.  The mafia had branched out, and now it included every girl in the school.

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART III

The 2nd Grade Mafia: Powerful Enemies Waiting In The Shadows Of The Slides

I grew up in a sleepy town in Iowa, deep in the country about an hour’s drive from the nearest interstate, but even that kind of seclusion could not protect me from the horrors of organized elementary school crime.  I was in 2nd Grade when it all started.  I lived out in the country, miles from the nearest classmate.  My parents couldn’t get far enough from everyone else, it seemed.  I was too young to bike the required distance to seek out companionship, so every summer I turned to books to get me through the lonely days.  I read a lot and at an advanced level, but I didn’t know because other than my younger sister, another advanced reader, reading the 3 Musketeers and Gulliver’s Travels in a week was commonplace.  Yet because of this isolation, I found myself ill prepared for the social aspect of a book reading competition that would crush my soul.
Ms Hotchkiss had introduced the school’s reading initiative to us, a competition called “Read A Million Minutes”.  For the next 2 months, we were to record our time spent reading and then as a school we’d combine these times to see if we could hit 1 million minutes.  Ms Hotchkiss was going to up the ante for our 2nd grade classroom.  She split the class into boys and girls, and whichever team read more minutes would receive an ice cream party.  It was an innocent enough move on her part to spark some friendly competition, but it would drive a wedge between the sexes that would last until puberty.

Week 1  Without a hitch, this was the easiest week.  The girls were ahead at the very beginning, but that was to be expected.  The girls had shown much more excitement at the onset of the competition, and more of the boys were enrolled in soccer at the YMCA, which took a good 2 hours out of our available reading time.  We were very competitive, however, and we made a pact with each other that we would buckle down and beat the girls at this competition.  School stuff was the girl’s domain, and we wanted to beat them on their own turf.

I did have my worries.  The boys were committing to reading an ‘hour’ when they got home.  I started reading as soon as I got home, took a break for dinner, and then stopped when it was time to brush my teeth and go to bed.  Sometimes I didn’t even stop when it was time to go to bed, I just kept going.  Still, I had learned about multiplication just recently, and twelve boys times sixty minutes was a lot of time, more than I could do in a day, unless that day was Saturday because I totally finished three literary classics last Saturday.

Week 1 Reading List: Around The World In 80 Days, Call of the Wild, Black Beauty, Every Henry Huggins Book, Dragon of the Lost Sea, Dragon Steel

Week 2  The boys were ahead now, which sounds like a good move to win a competition, but it was a tragic mistake.  We were 2nd grade boys, and as any parent of a son knows, 2nd grade boys are turds.  We weren’t winning gracefully.  We celebrated, we bragged, and we rubbed it in every chance we got.  The girls would never hear the end of it if we had our way.  The boys had dominated, and nothing could please our little jubilant hearts more.  Ms Hotchkiss had to resort to the school’s discipline method of writing our names on the board to keep us in line.  A name on the board was bad, but was just a warning shot fired by the teacher across the bow.  If we misbehaved again we got a check behind our name, and that meant that we lost recess for the day, and a couple of us got that check because we were monsters with no social graces.  Despite our colossal victory over the girls, the threat of losing recess was too much for us, because we lived to play soccer every day over the course of three separate recess periods.

That week we created a monster.  While we pumped our fists in the air and laughed heartily at the girls, they were gripping their little knuckles until they cracked and turned white.  This was their turf, and they were going to defend it.  They didn’t show their anger in its entirety.  Brimming with irritation they forced their revenge down to fester deep in their chests.  Decades later, I know that this is a sign that a woman is at her most dangerous, but back then I was an oblivious bungler.  I couldn’t have known.

We sucker punched them with our minute count, and that was embarrassing.  A bunch of stupid boys weren’t going to take the ice cream party away from them.  They might have lost the battle, but they would crush our souls and make us beg for mercy before this war was over.  Ms Hotchkiss’s second grade class was a house divided.

In this state of unfettered braggadocio, there was one boy who wasn’t celebrating, and that was me.  Ms Hotchkiss had drawn up a bar graph, something we were learning about in math, which showed how many minutes the boys had read vs how many minutes the girls had read.  Something looked wrong with the graph.  Could it be possible that Ms Hotchkiss had made a mistake?  Because I knew how many minutes I had read, and according to the bar graph I was looking at, I had contributed more than half of the minutes to our cause.  You might even say that the boys contributed a sliver of the minutes, a barnacle upon the whale of minutes I had slaved over.  We hadn’t beat the girls this week; I had beat the girls this week.  I had given up my entire weekend to put those points on the board.  It wasn’t a great sacrifice, I loved to read, but it took a lot of effort and I wasn’t sure if I had that in me another time around.

Week 2 Reading List: Dear Mr. Henshaw, Young Indiana Jones and the Lost Gold of Durango (and several others in that line), Bunnicula, The Celery Stalks At Midnight

Week 3  The previous two weeks, Hotchkiss had made a bar graph of boys in blue and girls in purple.  This week she had an entirely new one.  This week there were 4 bars on the graph: Boys (blue), girls (purple), Cassie (red), and Steve (green).  I was in first place, Cassie was in second, the girls were in third, and I’m not even sure if the boys were even trying.  I was floored.  How could this be?  Surely one hundred and forty hours of reading in 3 weeks wasn’t that big of an accomplishment, was it?  Yet the numbers spoke for themselves.  I had one hundred and forty hours.  Cassie had ninety.  The girls had seventy-five.  The girls and Cassie had more minutes than the boys and I had.

Ms Hotchkiss called Cassie and I to the front of the classroom.  She pronounced us the king and queen of reading, gave each of us fun pencil, and then had us turn to face the class.  Hotchkiss started clapping, and everyone else took up the cue to clap also, but I saw trouble in the sea of my fellow classmates.  The boys had already lost interest in the competition, staring off out the window at the soccer field as they absently clapped.  It was good enough for them that they had won last week, and now they didn’t care, especially now that ‘their’ victory had just become ‘my’ victory.  The girls, on the other hand, did care.  They cheered for Cassie by name, and then one by one they each turned to me.  Each had a tight, mischievous smile on their face as their eyes narrowed to pinpricks.  They knew that everything they wanted was in their grasp.  Every single boy in this chain was a weak link.  They only needed to beat me.

This was the moment that the 2nd Grade Mafia formed.

Julius Caeser himself would have been impressed with their ability to divide and conquer.  The first recess took place right after reading class.  I got ready to run out to the soccer field when another classmate named Pam pulled me aside.  “Hey Steve, take a look at this!”

I couldn’t believe it.  Written in lavender pen on unicorn stationary, I walked through a math problem.  We had just learned division, and what I saw was horrible.  The boys were reading less than an hour a day.  Their entire reading chunk was in the remainder section because one hour didn’t’ work for them.  Pam tilted her head to the side and said “they really let you down, huh.  Leaving you to do all the work for them so that they can eat your ice cream at the ice cream party.”

Pam was right, and I was livid.  I ran out to meet the boys on the soccer field.  “Hey!” I called out to all of the boys gathered at the soccer field.  “I thought we had a plan!  We were all going to read a whole bunch.”

The boys all mumbled back excuses, realizing that they had broken a promise they cared nothing about, and had probably forgotten about until this moment.  Seeing that I still cared, they were a bit embarrassed for me.
“Yeah, well you just need to read a bit more and we’ve got this.”
“We won last week.”
“Reading is boring.”
“Megan is right.  You are a nerd.”

The last one hurt, stinging right to my exposed heart.  Everyone stopped giving excuses, anger in their faces.  Megan had gotten to them.  I liked to read, but I knew it was a nerdy thing to do.  Hotchkiss’s graph had exposed my anonymity.  What I thought was a chance for me to show my passion for stories in an acceptable way had just turned out to be a source of condemnation on the soccer field, the holiest of places.  I was mad with them, or so they had already heard from Megan, so they felt no remorse in dismissing me entirely.  They weren’t going to stand by and let some nerd tell them what to do.  The captains started to pick teams, deciding that the vow we had made on the holy soccer field was inconsequential and the boring conversation was over.

I whipped around and saw Megan there on the soccer field.  There were three girls that played soccer with us: Lisa, Robin, and Megan.  They were all huddled together, smiling those vehement little smiles while appraising me with their trenchant eyes.  Was Pam a part of their plan, a way to keep me off the soccer field while Megan planted her seeds of betrayal in the minds of my allies?  I had never experienced conspiracy before in real life, but I had read about it plenty in books, and I knew what was happening.  The trouble was, I couldn’t convey that to these illiterate boys.  If they didn’t read, they lacked the capacity to understand the big picture because they were working with such a small screen.

That day, I was picked last for a soccer team, technically not being picked at all.  No one wanted an angry nerd on their team.  Cassie, on the other hand, was allowed to cut to the front of any Tetherball, 4-Square, Hopscotch, or Double Dutch line that she wanted to.  Just last week the boys had been flagrantly bragging about ‘their’ victory over the girls, but now that Hotchkiss had taken away their victory and made it my victory, reading was no longer cool and the competition meant nothing.

The girls had Cassie’s back.
The boys were too busy stabbing mine.

It was fine, I decided.  The boys were dead to me.   I’d have to walk this road alone.
Week 3 Reading List: Robinson Crusoe, Basil of Baker Street, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, The Dragonslayers, How To Eat Fried Worms

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART II….

Listen To My Grandpa’s Stories Or You’ll Die

My grandfather tells a very aggressive story.  He means well; it’s clear that he wants to get some kind of moral across, but the exaggerated lengths he goes to tend to discredit his stories, and that’s why I love them.

Grandpa is a rather conservative gentleman named Colin.  Colin worked for a living, and carries his days as a miner on his sleeve wherever he goes.  He’s as Irish as you please, a bit red-faced after a drop of the ol’ whiskey….and come to think of it, I’m not sure if he’s ever not red-faced.  When convenient, he’s a very staunch Catholic.  Most importantly, in his eyes, he is a very hard worker.  He’s got a big nose and two giant ears.  When he tells stories he leans towards you and always looks at you slightly sideways so he can get you with his piercing blue eye.  Doesn’t matter which eye it is, he’ll squint the further eye from you as he talks.  My sister and I used to sit on either side and take turns asking him questions in order to see his shifty-squints.  His voice is a deep bass growl, always a few decibels above what is comfortable to listen to as he shouts his stories.  The rather cheery Irish and Minnesotan mixed accent the rest of my family has sounds harsh and accusatory when it comes from his throat.  It’s more a growl than a voice.  He once told me, at the age of five, that he had been raised by bears, and that’s where he got his voice.  I believed him.

Grandpa’s stories were always made up on the spot.  He was visiting my hometown in Iowa and was reading the newspaper.  I was 13 at the time, and I saw him eyeing me suspiciously across the room with his blue eye.  He looked at me, back at the paper, and back to me.

“What is it, Grandpa?” I asked.

He beckoned me forward and pointed aggressively at the newspaper.  It read ‘Teen Pregnancy Rate Up In Des Moines County’.  He pushed the paper to me so I could read the story.  At this point I had to fight off a fit of laughter.  Clearly he thought this was my fault, and while I appreciated his confidence in me, I knew it was misplaced confidence.  My charisma could barely handle conversation with a girl without me blushing; it was nowhere near where it needed to be to get a couple hundred girls pregnant.

“I knew a young guy that got a young girl pregnant.  Do ya’ know what happened to them?”

I did, of course.  It was the same thing that happened to all the characters in his stories.  Still, I shook my head ‘no’, because he wanted to tell me.

“They died!  She died because she made bad choices and lacked responsibility!  He died because he didn’t listen to his grandpa, and her dad shot him dead for lacking decency and morals.”  Grandpa fixed me with his icy stare, evaluating whether or not I had gotten the message to stop impregnating girls dozens at a time.

“Did they arrest the dad?”

“No!  They let him go free because the boy needed to be taught a lesson!”

I doubt the boy learned much from being shot to death, but that’s the way it was with grandpa’s stories.  Severe consequences arose from minor infractions against his blue-collar, Irish Catholic, hardworking decency.  I never heard about my family’s history from him.  The closest I’ve gotten was the story of how all my ancestors died because they didn’t have enough food due to their laziness, despite the warnings of their grandfather.  A secondary story about my great great great grandfather also surfaced.  Zachariah Benzedecker Bishop was his name, and he was a prison guard in Vermont.  One day an inmate tried to start a riot to protest the abhorrent conditions of the prison (rightfully so), and my great great great grandfather shot him dead.

“Ya’ know why he did that?”  Grandpa asked in his usual growl.

“To stop a riot?”

“He shot him because he wasn’t behaved and didn’t listen to authority, or your great great great grandfather!”

I tell you all this so I can share my grandfather’s second most entertaining story.  His first and best story was about Justin O’Reely and how he only had one testicle.  It was an uncharacteristic story for grandpa and unfortunately I wasn’t there to hear it, but he had everyone in tears that Christmas Eve dinner.  His second best story was told in his car, where I was the only witness.

Grandpa wasn’t a good driver.  He still isn’t.  I’ve told him many times that he needs to be a safer driver by either paying more attention or to stop driving altogether.  He didn’t listen to me that day like he usually didn’t.  After cutting off another driver (twice), the driver whipped around and gave grandpa the finger before speeding off down the road.

This infuriated grandpa!  Some 20-something no-good kid had dared to disrespect him, a good and honest blue-collar Irish Catholic hard worker, and he did it in front of his grandson.  I saw his knuckles go white as he tried to catch up to that car again to show him who was boss.  Grandpa had accelerated to five miles below the speed limit instead of his customary fifteen below, but that 20-something was gone.

“Did ya’ see that?”
“Yes, Grandpa.”
“That’s a bad idea.  Ya’ know why?
“No, Grandpa.”

And for once, I saw him struggle for the story.  I didn’t know if it was the multi-tasking, the frustration of being flicked off, or that he couldn’t fix me with his blue stare while he was telling the story.  His bad driving was getting worse.  I knew it was going to be a good one.  The anger was stewing in him, fermenting, because he couldn’t get even with that punk kid.

“When I was a young boy in Minnesota, my grandma died.  We held mass for her because she was a goodhearted decent Catholic lady, God bless her soul.  We loaded her up in the hearse and the funeral procession followed.”

I was enraptured by the story.  Grandpa never went into such detail, and I had fully expected great great grandma to have died to some rather common vice.  This was different.  He was drawing from himself this story that he needed to tell.

“We were in a procession a mile long, your great great grandma was so loved by everyone.  The whole town showed up.  Well, there was this one jerk, some moron 20-year old guy that got behind us and started flashing his lights at us and honking his horn.  He had no respect.  He stomps on his gas and gave everyone in line the finger!  Me, my ma, the line of everyone, the hearse driver, and even your great great grandma, God bless her soul.”

Grandpa was fuming.  At this point he’d run a red light (3 seconds after the yellow winked off) and had started speeding.  I was getting scared, I asked him to slow down and pay attention, but I also wanted him to go on with the story.  Maybe he was equating these two 20-year olds despite the 50+ years between these two incidents.  We drove on in silence, until we made it into the country of Iowa.

“Ya’ know what happened to him?”
“No, Grandpa,” I said, though I was pretty sure.
“His car broke down.  Flat tire or something.  There he was on the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere Minnesota.  Ya’ know what happened to him?”
Now I wasn’t sure.  “No…?”
“Every last one of us gave him the finger! Baam!  One after the other.  Finger…finger…finger…finger…a whole town of middle fingers except your great great grandma, God bless her soul.”

A smile crept across the old man’s face.  “And when we left the cemetery after the funeral, we all did it again!”
“Did anyone stop to help him?”
“Of course not!  He was disrespectful and crude.  Ya’ don’t swear at someone like that.”

I wasn’t sure if giving the finger was the same as swearing, but I let it slide.  Grandpa’s mood had lifted.

“So what happened to him?  This was before cell phones.”
“It was before all phones.  What do ya’ think happened?”
“He had to walk back to-“
He died!”
In hindsight, I should have seen that coming.
“And ya’ know what?  He didn’t get a Catholic mass.  All’s he got was a tombstone that said ‘Good-For-Nothing’ in the shape of a middle finger.”

I’m pretty sure that at some point, grandpa had lost the truth of his story.  He knew it, I knew it, but it was still funny.  Still, Grandpa lacked closure for this recent case of being flicked off, and he settled into a kind of a mood.  Then, I saw a familiar red car in the left turn lane.

“Grandpa, that’s him!”

The situation was something like this: we were on a two-lane highway cruising in the middle of nowhere Iowa.  The red car was in a 3rd turning lane, stopped and waiting for an open spot to drive on.  Grandpa pulled his car to a stop inches from the other vehicle.  Keep in mind, this wasn’t an intersection, it was a highway, where we were expected to be going 50mph.

Grandpa rolled down his window and reached out with his hand, thumping the red car’s passenger window twice.  The 20-something was unaware of us until that point, but his reaction as he snapped his head around was priceless.  The thumping made him jump, and his shock went to terror as he turned to see an old man and his grandson leaning out the window and flipping him the bird on four different hands.  Grandpa stomped on the gas and sped away.

It’s my fondest memory of my Grandpa, as it is the one time I heard him laugh with complete triumph and comradery.  He was a good guy, albeit stubborn and gruff in his own way.  I learned a lot from him.  Unfortunately, he died later on because he didn’t drive carefully and he didn’t listen to his grandson.

A Passive Aggressive Fight Broke Out In Texas….

Today is Friday, the day I talk about the issues.  Today’s Issue is: Passive Aggressive Territorial Claims.

A very specific case comes to mind, about two years ago when I was at Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL for short).  It’s a very large outdoor concert festival where there are about 8 stages playing live music, 4 going at a time while the other 4 set up for the next act.  About 75,000 people are in attendance and the park isn’t all that big, so it fills up pretty quick.

Now I was a 5-year veteran of this festival.  I had run the gauntlet of standing in front of a stage all day.  That doesn’t sound too bad until you add up all of the difficulties this entails.  There are about 5 people in every 3 feet by 3 feet square when you get that close.  It gets claustrophobic very quick as people are pressing on all sides.  It’s impossible to sit down as it takes too much space, and even if you manage it, you are probably going to get trampled at some point.  All the while the Texas sun is beating on everyone with an 85 to 105 degree heat.  It’s like that for about 6 hours, and if you leave to use the restroom, get a drink, or get some food then you can’t get back to your spot in front of the stage.  It’s a certain kind of insanity that I only reserve the big name acts that I’m most excited to see.

That’s one severe end of the spectrum.  The other end of the spectrum is for the casual music fan who doesn’t want to survive an experiment designed to test the limits of personal heat stroke.   There is a chair section for this kind of fan, where he can set up a lawn chair and enjoy the concert, although from a much further distance than your front row mob.  The chair section is much more spaced out, can be navigated by an experienced festival goer to the point that refreshments, restroom trips, and venturing to other stages is possible.  The trick is, you need to find a spot big enough for your chair.

The first day of the festival I had survived a 6 hour vigil, pressed tightly in with the rest of my fellow MUSE fans.  I tend to be the oldest guy, as the sweatlodge of the front row is a game for the young.  The festival draws heavily from the nearby universities and high schools.  These students form tight alliances in the front mob, and with some careful planning it can be quite pleasant for them.  I’m a lone wolf wolf-pack when I venture up there.  I stood through 6 hours and two other concerts in order to be in the front row to watch MUSE.  When I saw MUSE I lost my mind and it was amazing.  I shouted, I sang, I laughed, I cried, I lost my voice, I stomped my feet, I jumped in the air, I punched enthusiasm into the sky, and threw more than one person around in a body-surfing extravaganza.  I also was dehydrated, exhausted, hungry, sun burned, sore, and a bit delirious when the night ended.

The second day I wasn’t feeling up to repeating the process.  My feet hurt, my body hadn’t fully recovered from what it had been through, and I just wanted to take things easy.  So for the second day I took a lawn chair with me to go and watch the Black Keys from the chair section.  The park was already filling up, and about 35,000 people were gathering to watch the Black Keys perform.  Being an avid festival goer, I took to pushing my way forward.  There are tricks to this.  The first is to not look at the crowd, that’s just a good way to panic and give up because it is so impossible.  Just look 10 to 20 feet ahead and navigate that.  With practice it becomes easy.  With no effort I can navigate to the back end of the standing section, which is where the chair section begins.  Today, however, I just wasn’t feeling it.  I was going to leave this stage after the Black Keys, so I wanted to hang back a bit to give me a quicker exit.  It took some doing, but I found myself a spot.  In the middle of a swarm of people there was a hefty sized blank spot, so I walked up to it to set up my chair.

The spot I had found was large, probably six feet by six feet, which is unheard of for how far I was forward.  I took my chair out of my bag to set it up when I felt a hand on my shoulder.  I turned to see a guy sitting in his chair, leaning forward and looking very cross.  He was in his mid 40’s, kind of a thin guy, wearing dark aviator glasses and a visor.  He leaned to me and shouted (not because he was that angry, but because you have to shout in order to be heard in that kind of crowd) “Hey, I’m saving this spot for my friend.”

I gave him a thumbs up, showing him I understood.  There are no rules about saving spots.  Personally, I’m of the opinion that if you aren’t there, then the spot shouldn’t be yours.  Still, I respect the system of saving space because other folks in my group do it and it’s a festival where everyone should get to experience it with their friends and family.  I can easily find another spot that isn’t ‘theirs’.  ACL has a rather laissez-faire attitude about claiming territory, and generally it works out.  However, I wasn’t about to give up on this other spot that his friend didn’t need, so I set up my chair.  Like I said, the area was six feet by six feet.  I plopped my chair down on what I gauged was more than enough room for the guy’s friend to come and sit between us.  It was a ludicrous amount of room.  However, I could tell that the guy was getting angry.

“Hey!”  He shouted at me.  “I said I was saving this spot for my friend!”

I nodded and smiled at him, giving him two thumbs up this time to show him that not only had I understood him the first time, but I was understanding him a second time as well.  Both times that I had understood him, I was abiding his wishes for a spot for his friend.

“Get a load of this guy!” he started shouting to no one in particular.  “I’m saving a spot and he practically sits down on top of me!”

The few chair folks around him had to look around to who he was pointing to, and I guess a few of them figured out it was me, but it was hard to tell.  I could lean at him and stretch with all of my tenacity and still not be able to reach him.

“What an [carrot-face]!”  He kept going on, lamenting his woes to whomever would listen.  I heard him call me several names, but decided to ignore him.  At this point it was getting funny.  This concert had some pre-game entertainment.  I wasn’t really excited to see the Black Keys, but now I was going to ardently sit here to make this guy’s life a living hell by simply existing.

“Hey buddy!” he yelled in my direction.  I ignored him, because he obviously wasn’t talking to me.  I wasn’t his buddy.  He’d just called me an [carrot-face]; ‘buddy’ must have been someone else.  I just kept staring ahead, watching the crowd surge in and out of itself as people situated for the imminent Black Keys performance.

“Hey!  I’m talking to you!  This is my friend’s spot!  Get out!”

I waited for four seconds to see what he would do.  Would he throw a punch?  He’d have to get up and walk over to me in order to reach me.  Would he throw something?  I was ready to catch anything he threw my way, but by the look of things it’d either be his hat or his glasses.  Either case, I’d just keep it.  He just kept shouting at me, reiterating how this tract of land was his, so I finally turned to him and curtly asked “How fat is your friend?”

This shut him up.  Up until this point I had been pleasant.  I had abided his wishes, I had smiled, and I had given him three thumbs up total.  Questioning the obesity of his friend caught him off guard.  It also made him angry.  I can only imagine because his friend is so incredibly fat that his friend didn’t like to talk about it because it was a sore subject.  The guy’s friend must have been massive to need more than a four feet by six feet area to sit in.  A similar area at the front of the stage could have held 15 people all crammed together.  For those of you that don’t do well with spatial reasoning, that’s the size of a fold-out table.  The absurdity of it all was very entertaining, and I had to fight the impulse to break my tough-guy exterior and laugh into his face.

I went back to watching the pre-show techies as they adjusted their cameras and lights, climbing up and down the scaffolds.  Sort of.  Out of the corner of my eye I was watching what this guy would do.  He was so angry and there was no reason for it.  I found it hysterically funny.  His friend had more than enough room to set up two chairs.  This random guy didn’t get to claim the entire park just because he had a ticket to ACL.  I had one of those also, and had just as much right to sit well outside of the space he had saved for his friend as anybody.  This isn’t Oklahoma and he wasn’t a Sooner; this spot wasn’t his just because he said so.  He was just pissed because he wanted to be pissed, and I wasn’t going to let him tell me what to do just because he was throwing a temper tantrum.

He stood up.  I wasn’t sure what to do at this point, so I kept an appearance as if I was ignoring him.  At the same time, I was gathering my feet underneath me in case I needed to stand quickly.  If he wanted a fight, he’d lose, and no Texas jury would ever convict me of standing my own ground.  If he wanted to verbally accost me that was fine because I could just sit here and laugh and make him all the angrier until his heart exploded.  I just didn’t know what he was up to.  I don’t think he knew either, as he just planted his hands on his hips and adorned his best ‘tsk tsk’ act.

And then he started packing up his chair.

I didn’t believe it.  He was going to give up a glorious spot for no reason at all.  There was his spot, his friend’s spot, room for another friend in front of me, and room for still another friend.  I wondered if this guy went to the movie theater and got mad if anyone sat in ‘his’ row.  Maybe he lacked depth perception.  I was a bit disappointed in him; if he left I wouldn’t have anyone to entertain me with their absurd notion of personal boundaries.

But the show wasn’t done yet.  I knew what he was going to do before he did it, because I saw him planning it on his stupid face.

With his chair packed up, the man dropped the chair so that it’d fall over towards me.  It landed harmlessly on the ground, because there was an absurd amount of space between where I sat and where he stood.  I shook my head as he demonstrated for everyone how generous I had been with the space I’d saved him.  Undeterred, the man walked to the top of his chair, stood it up again, and proceeded to drop it a second time so it’d fall in my direction.  This time it hit my shoulder and then fell to the ground.  He walked to the front of his chair and proceeded to bend over, bumping me with his hip.  He picked it up, and dropped it again so it landed on my armrest, then gently nudged me with his arm as he recollected it.  All the while he kept sarcastically uttering “excuse me, sorry, pardon me.”

I ignored him.  He was livid.  I could tell he wanted to get under my skin, and ignoring him was driving him maniacal.

He got in my face and yelled, “Maybe now you’ll be more respectful when someone saves a spot!”

I turned my head and acted surprised, as if I didn’t expect to see him there.  My facial expression was carefully crafted to express many complex thoughts at once: smugness, superiority, dismissiveness, pity, slight confusion, nonchalance, and a complete lack of craps that I gave about him.  With a careful amount of slight annoyance I asked “Are you finished?”

There he stood, slack-jawed and stupid.  He wrenched up his chair and turned to leave in a huff, when he almost collided with several unexpected members of the audience.  While he was going through his crotch-display ritual to impress the other baboons, two teenagers had plopped down their chairs on the exact spot he had been sitting.  A third was almost smacked by the man’s chair when he whipped around to make a big show of leaving.

“Hey mister, are you leaving?”

It was too perfect.  The man huffed off, but not before he saw that not one, not two, but three people could have fit in the space that he had been saving for his comically corpulent friend.  I howled with laughter and saw him grip his fists into white-knuckles as he stormed off to the back of the crowd for absolutely no reason at all.

I Write Chaos In Yelp Reviews, And People Love It.

I’ve always been impressed with the service “Yelp”, but one day I found more than I had bargained for!  There was a man named “Bruce B” who reviewed a place called “Ted’s Fish Fry”, and his review was poetry.  Bruce’s review was art.  It had nothing to do with Ted’s Fish Fry, but immediately launches into what a makes up a good Cheese Steak in Philly.  I was astonished.  Here was a guy just bucking the system because he could.

I was completely caught off guard.  Bruce B was a genius!  I clicked on his profile and read more.  His reviews were all short stories.  Granted, there wasn’t much plot, but I got more and more of a picture of Bruce B as I read his reviews.  I saw Bruce B as a writer.  He wasn’t a great writer, but I liked him.  He had character.  In every review I could tell if the waitress was attractive, the actual place being reviewed doesn’t get a fair shake but I got a miniature story about the place, and after reading enough of the reviews I got to see that Bruce was a well-traveled guy.

I was inspired by Bruce B.

I’m not your usual writer.  I like to tell entertaining stories like the next guy, but I’m willing to go lengths that most people won’t.  I tell lies.  Sometimes I tell the truth but I make up parts of stories to speed things along.  Sometimes I take on entirely different character/personality traits when I write just to get a better ‘voice’ for the piece.  Sometimes I say things I don’t mean, which are obvious logical fallacies, but I don’t let on that I (the narrator) am aware of my error in reasoning.  I’m an unreliable narrator sometimes, a liar other times, and completely earnest other times.

What better place for this than Yelp?

Bruce B inspired me to write yelp reviews that have little to do with the actual place I’m reviewing.  Maybe these miniature stories could brighten someone’s day when they were not ready for it.  They are bizarre, but always review the place in question if you read between the lines.  Originally I had the goal of writing 4 posts a month, but that’s slowed down since I’ve started this blog, I’m trying to keep it at 2 a month now.  I have a deep need to get into the swing of writing creatively again; Yelp and this blog have scratched that itch a bit.  It’s how “Steve E, the unreliable” was born.

If you want, you can just look at some of my reviews here, but I’ll present you one of my finest works:  my review of the Hilton Garden Inn at Central Park South.  (Read the review at its original location here.)

Because “society” looks down upon sleeping on the sidewalk, I had to find an alternative, and the Hilton Garden Inn was quite the find!  The Man has been keeping me down for ages, claiming he owns everything and I have to pay this in order to just ‘be in the city’.  The Hilton wasn’t so bad.  This location has nice little cozy rooms for a reasonable cheap price (I’m talking “Manhattan cheap”, not “rest of the world” cheap.)

The best part about it is the location.  Before coming here I had been removed (somewhat forcibly) from the streets.  I tried to assert my rights as an American by yelling “It’s my body, I’ll do what I want with it!”

The police kept responding with “Sir, this is Time’s Square.  You can’t go to sleep on the crosswalk.”  Pfft.  Like I haven’t heard that one before.  Come up with something original, NYPD.  A short walk later I found myself at this Hilton.  It really is nestled into the heart of the city.  It’s right next to the David Letterman show (they won’t let you sleep there), a short walk from Time’s Square (don’t even try to sleep here), Central Park (thought I could hide in there and sleep, but no), and the subway lines (I thought for certain they’d let me sleep down there).

I got a “King’s Room”, because I was feeling like the King of New York.  The room had an excellent view of the wall of another building not too far away.  The room was cozy, very clean, and it was big enough for me to do what I needed to do (sleep).  It even had a business center so I could use the Internets to find better places to sleep out under the stars the way God intended (turns out that’s illegal here).  The staff here were fantastic.  They let me check my bag at the front desk after I had already checked out of my hotel room so that I didn’t have to haul my bag around everywhere I went before my bus showed up a few hours later.  I recommend this spot if you’re heading into NYC.

Getting Better At Profanity

Today is Friday, the day I talk about the issues and completely ignore that I didn’t post anything on Monday.  Today’s issue is: Using Bad Words.  A lot of people do it, but I find that hardly anyone does it correctly.  There is a certain art-form that effective swearing requires that seems to be lost on most of the populace, and I aim to correct that.  I want to live in a world where people swear and cuss and curse to their fullest potential!  No one teaches people how to swear, and that’s a shame.  It’s a great part of the human experience that all people are left to find out themselves.  So if you have children, make sure you pull up this article for them to read (and don’t let them click on any of the links).

DISCLAIMER:  It’s not often I’ll have to do this, but today’s post is SFW (Safe For Work).  I don’t swear in my posts or use overly graphic language.  Usually the links are safe to go visit, but today that will not be the case.  These kinds of clips are used in film school all the time (its where I got most of these clips), but usually when the professor is trying to talk about censorship and profanity.  I’m not taking any responsibility for any offense you take because of the links I’ve provided.  You’re a grown up, clicking those links is your decision.  You’ve been fairly warned.

Now don’t feel bad if you don’t swear well.  I didn’t realize it about myself for the longest time.  It took meeting a good friend of mine named Zed for me to realize this fault about myself.  Zed swears amazingly well.  Out of all the people in the world, Zed swears the best.  Swearing is Zed’s super power that he used to stop Loki from taking over New York.  Being friends with Zed was like being at the Buddhist temple for foul language enlightenment.  I thought I was swearing well, but Zed showed me what it was like to be one with the swearing.

Lesson 1: We need to analyze swear words.  My mother, who is probably horrified that I’d be talking about such a foul subject, draws the line of swear words very low.  It’s been hard to pinpoint because the bar goes lower every day, but I think the bar is currently set 8 words below the word “Silly”.  The FCC, a government agency mind you, thinks there are only 7 words in the English language that shouldn’t be said on the nation’s airwaves.  The range for folks does fluctuate a lot.  I’m going to use the word “Fart” for every swear word in this post, because it’s mostly neutral, is low on everyone’s list of possible swear words, but still has the shock value of legitimate swear words.  That’s the first lesson: you can’t really tell what your audience will consider to be a swear word.

Lesson 2: Swear words are completely unnecessary.  They are.  They distract from what one is trying to say.  Swear words can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb.  (He is a _____.  He is going to _____.  That guy is a ____ clown.  That guy is ______ dishonorable.  [I noticed that some of you filled in those blanks while reading this, and not all of you used the word ‘fart’.  The sentences do become funny when you fill in the word ‘fart’ in each blank, but I’m sure you see how it distracts from the original intent.])  Still, swear words are completely unnecessary.  With a decent thesaurus, you can see that swear words are lazy words.  Swear words are generally words that one with a poor vocabulary has to use in order to add emphasis to whatever it is one is saying.  When one lacks a verbose lexicon to impact communication in a fetching way, one can lazily concede to using foul language for its shock value as opposed to a better word’s gravitas.

Lesson 2, Example:
My best friend betrayed me by embarrassing me in front of all of the popular kids to become popular himself.  He is a _____.
He is a fart.                         VS                         He is a quisling.

Lesson 3: There are generally two reasons to swear:
•to communicate a feeling of anger/disappointment
•humor

A lot of people just throw bunches of swear words around ineffectively.  The reason is that swear words are generally used to communicate two ideas, and overusing them dulls their edge.  By overusing swear words to communicate an intense idea, you’re basically making everything you intend to be intense boring.  (You know that guy that describes everything as “epic”?  Yeah, don’t be that guy.)  By overusing swear words for humor, you’re basically repeating the punchline in hopes that other people will find it funny a second time around.

The greatest offenders of this are middle school boys to college boys.  While jogging at the YMCA, I often hear the high schoolers below me swearing in every single sentence they utter.  Sometimes it is the only word in the sentence.  It is to the point that their swearing is just extra white noise, just there to be there.  It becomes boring, trite, sophomoric, useless, and dumb.  I think of their language the same way I think of high school boys.

Swearing is a lot like makeup.  Less is more.  One can use makeup to add emphasis to something one wants people to see (eyelashes, lips, ect).  If one uses too much makeup, they look like a clown.  Same goes for swearing.  The trick to swearing effectively is that it needs to be a rare event.  Swearing all the time makes one look like a clown.

Swearing has a certain power to it.  If every time you use a profanity, your language loses some of its power.  A speaker that abuses vocabulary loses all of their power.  People that overuse profanities are seen as vulgar, stupid, and crass.  Seems accurate.  These folks don’t realize that they are being overly offensive for no reason (vulgar), they don’t have the vocabulary to express themselves meaningfully (stupid), and they lack the social skills necessary to talk with intelligent and refined people (crass).

So how often should you be swearing?  The answer is always the same: Less.

Reserved swearing will actually increase your swearing effectiveness.  If my mother were to suddenly drop a profanity into one of her sentences after 60 years of not swearing, I’d know that she was EXTREMELY angry at a situation.  Her profanity would catch my attention, I’d know the severity of the situation, and I’d legitmently be shocked by it.  It’d be such a landmark occurrence that I’d call my sister to let her know that it’s happened.  Meanwhile, if Snoop Dog were to swear in a sentence, we’d all know that his heart is still beating.

Lesson 4:  Rarely use a swear word as an adverb.  It’s the equivalent of using the words “very” or “really”.  Both of these words are similar to swear words in that they are lazy ways of adding emphasis.  I’m really sure some very well planned abuse of these words will really show you how very little they really add to any sentence.  ‘The man is very stupid’ is not a better sentence than ‘the man is stupid’.  The idea is to add emphasis to the insult ‘stupid’.  This is how I hear most people insert their swear words because it is easy.  An adverb can go almost anywhere in a sentence, and yet, folks tend to place their swear word right before the word they are trying to emphasize, which completely negates what they are trying to do.  Also, most swear words, when converted into adverbs, will get an ‘-ing’ ending.  This makes swear words look like verbs, and can change the entire meaning of your sentence.

Lesson 4, Example:
The man is stupid.
The man is farting stupid.

The swear word in this case was meant to emphasize how stupid the man is.  Instead, the audience is wondering how one farts stupidly.  The swear word had so much emphasis that it took over the entire sentence, graduating from an adverb to a verb.  All meaning was lost.  Even if we did away with the ‘-ing’ ending, the sentence becomes ‘The man is fart stupid’.  Now it’s just an awkward sentence.  The word ‘stupid’ is now describing the word ‘fart’.  The sentence has been ruined by adding swear words into it.

Lesson 5:  Rarely use swear words as adjectives, for the same reasons as rarely using them as adverbs. They become boring.  They change the meaning of the sentences.  They aren’t effective.  It’s easy to insert a swear word before the noun you are trying to describe, but don’t.  Any swear word used as an adjective can be replaced by the word ‘big’.

LESSON 5, Example:
The man is an idiot.
The man is a farting idiot.
The man is a big idiot.

Nothing was added with the expletive except confusion.  The man is farting in addition to being an idiot?

Lesson 6:  The F-Word has become trite.  It really has.  The moment that “WTF” became something normally said on prime time television during a news cycle, the F-Word was done.  It’s over.  The reign of the F-Word has collapsed.  Now it is only offensive for the sake of being offensive.  It’s why I’m not spelling the word out despite it being a vapid profanity.  It’s overused.  True, it is a versatile word with fitting usage as a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb.  It’s just not effective anymore.  The F-Word is so 1990’s.  There are better words now, and 99% of those are not profanities.  The F-Word has become so pathetic that most readers here think that writing “F-Word” is a good enough censorship of it.  So the F-Word shouldn’t be used unless it’s being added to be offensive just for the sake of being offensive.  Don’t use it.

Lesson 7: Never ever use a slur against someone!  This one is always a no-no.  In the digital age where everything is recorded, you don’t ever want to be caught using a slur.  This is a career ending move, and rightly so.  Wielding a swear word to hurt people will say a lot more about you than it will ever say about them, and it’ll speak volumes about you that you don’t want spoken..  The N-Word is nuclear.  If you feel the compulsion to use the N-Word, you might want to do some deep soul searching and find what you hate so much about a disenfranchised minority class in the United States.  This is one of those personal flaws that one should work out on their own time in private, not air for everyone to hear.  It’s not just racial slurs you should stay away from.  Stay away from gay/lesbian slurs, religious slurs, slurs against women, slurs against men, slurs against the disabled (physically and mentally), and whatever other bad term that can be applied to a group of people.  Even if someone uses a slur against you, don’t ever use a slur back against them (we’ll get to that in lesson 8).

You don’t want to get labeled as a bigot, and that’s exactly where using slurs will land you, because those are the kinds of words that bigots say.  Even if you are a bigot, which is a terrible thing to be, you don’t want to be exposed as one.  You keep those locked up tight, because there is a difference between offending someone with a profanity and inspiring righteous furry in someone by exposing your prejudiced hatred for a group they belong to.

Lesson 8:  Don’t swear in a fight or an argument.  In order for an argument to be constructive on your end, you have got to retain control of yourself.  Arguing is a complicated thing that requires a bunch of social manuvers and “one-up-manship”.  You’ve got to continually present you and your case better than the other person presents their case.  If you start swearing all over the place, you’ve started to present yourself poorly.  One swear will get their attention and show that you care deeply and passionately about the topic being argued over.  Persistent swearing will make you look like an out of control, vulgar, stupid, crass, and out of touch.  If you present yourself poorly, your position in the argument gets reviewed poorly, even if it is the right position.  At maximum, you get 1 swear word per argument, and even that seems high.

Lesson 9:  Despite all of my insistence to not swear in all of the previous lessons, it can still be done effectively.  Swearing is a lot like a semicolon; a person can use it to create beauty and new meaning for the sake of clarity, humor, and expressing one’s self.  Used incorrectly; and the semicolon quickly shows how bad one is at using semicolons and everyone questions their intelligence.  You have to know what you are doing in order to swear effectively.  There are times when it can be done to humorous effect.  There are times it can be done to really show upset someone is.  It’s an artform, and part of the art form is the rarity.  When done correctly it is brilliant.  When done incorrectly it makes the speaker look bad.

The Ultimate Lesson:  If you want to swear effectively, don’t.  Don’t swear at all.  Keep those profanities locked up behind your tongue.  Don’t dare utter them.  Let them sit.  Let them wait.  Let them ferment.  A person who doesn’t swear is the best at it, because the one day that you need a swear word’s power, it’ll be there for you.  Everyone will fall at your feet, because you waited, and your saved up profanities will pay exponential interest.  It’s the build up of a conservative tongue that makes a constructive swear word.

That’s the secret I learned from Zed.  Zed swears once every three years, and every time he does, the full weight of what he’s done registers to his audience.  His profanities are a thing of intense beauty because they are so farting rare.

We can only hope that my mom never decides to swear, for we would all perish in the flames of the magnificence.

The Albany Walking Suicide Brigade

Today is Friday, the day I write about The Issues.  Today’s issue is: pedestrians are dumb.  I live in New York, in an armpit of a city called “Albany”.  You may have been taught that Albany is the capital of New York, but it is not.  The Governor has fled Albany in favor of New York City.  I drive past his mansion frequently and he is never there.  The reason the Governor has fled is that Albany is home to many stupid pedestrians.

Most people are taught at a young age that they need to look both ways before crossing the street.  Even though cars are expected to be in control at all times and avoid all threats to people and property, they still have “right-of-mass”, so you make sure none are going to hit you while you borrow their street.  Sometimes there are slight variants on that advice.  When I lived in North Dakota, I’d not only look both ways while crossing at an intersection, but I’d also look for ice, because a car intending to stop at a red light might not be able to.  Albany, New York seems to have its own slight variation on crossing-the-street advice which goes something like: launch yourself into traffic until you are in the middle of the only lane, and only then do you turn and glare at whoever it is that dared to squeal their breaks at you while invading your personal space.

I don’t get it.  It’s like they have a death wish.  I actually think a lot of people in Albany want to die.  While driving in downtown Albany, folks will dart out into traffic and only then wonder if a ton of metal is about to hit them at about 40 mph.  Folks are just flinging themselves at the hood of my car.  They are sneaky about it, too.  Albany is a big fan of parallel parking, so what the pedestrians do to increase their likelihood of being hit is jump out from behind a great big van so drivers have no warning that a pedestrian is trying to commit suicide by car.  It happens at least three times per trip I take into downtown (a drive lasting only fifteen minutes [1 suicide attempt per 5 minutes]).  I wish that I could get across to you that this figure is not an exaggeration.  I sometimes think it is like the M. Night Shyamalan movie “The Happening”, where millions of movie goers wanted to commit suicide in mass because Shyamalan makes terrible movies.

The folks here in Albany are also passing it down to the next generation.  I was driving down the road, on the verge of a heart attack because killing someone is something I honestly worry about while driving in Albany, when a little girl literally leapt in front of my car.  Literally.  Not figuratively-but-I-want-to-give-it-more-credit-so-I’m-using-the-wrong-word-like-a-moron. I mean literally.  One leg outstretched fully in front of her, one fully outstretched behind her.  Her arms matched in a parallel kind of beauty that would make for a great final pose before being mangled beyond recognition.  I was going 35 mph (10 below the speed limit) when this darling little lemming leapt in front of my car.  I didn’t see her because she was small, and had picked a nice little blind spot behind a parked car to be her diving board into the afterlife.  I slammed on the breaks and smashed my fist onto my horn.  The little idiot landed and turned to see a car screech to a halt two feet from her.  She screamed and almost fell backwards from the shock of almost being made into road kill.  I’m pretty sure she peed herself.  I know I did.

This is when I lost hope, dear reader.  The girl was an idiot, sure, but all children are.  It was her mother that drove me over the edge.  This lady starts to yell at me for almost smashing her stupid child.  She launched into a tirade of verbal assaults against me that made me think I should pack up the child with me in my car and just drive straight off to social services.  “Why you honkin’ at my baby?”

“Why haven’t you taught your daughter to not play in the street?  She jumped in front of my car, and any parent worth their weight would be explaining to their kid that the street is dangerous, not yelling at the person who is actually looking out for your kid!”

“Ain’t none yo’ business how I raise my kids!”

At this point I was evaluating whether or not my car could hop the curb so I could run this mother over.  Not out of malice, mind you, this was in the best interest of the child.  Second degree murder was a sacrifice I was willing to make on the little girl’s behalf, as well as her siblings.  Besides, this is New York, no jury would ever convict me.  A jury of my peers would just shrug their shoulders and say “What did she expect?  She lived in Albany.  She was going to get run over sooner or later.”

My wife has had a similar experience, only in her case it was a kid on a bicycle that careened into traffic right in front of her.  The mother was right there with the excuse “He’s just learning”.  I’m not sure why this mother thinks that lessons are best learned in the hospital.  Maybe it’s because she is from Albany and she wants to die and she wants her kids to die because all of their friends have already died from being run over.  I don’t want anyone to die, but dear reader, these folks are wearing me down.

I think it is the glare that gets to me the most.  Pedestrians here have a glare they use when they see you screeching to a halt.  Sometimes it is a tough look that says “What are you going to do about it?  That’s right, nothing!”  Sometimes it is a dead-eyed thousand yard stare where I can’t tell if they see me at all or if they are silently pleading for this driver to have the courage it takes to end their suffering.  With so many people wanting to be run over, I’m surprised that someone hasn’t cracked under the pressure already.  It would only take one fed up road-rager who decided to once and for all grant everyone in Albany their death wish.  Someone could easily run over at least one hundred people in one night while still following all of the traffic laws including speed limits, stop signs, using turn signals, and staying in their lane.  Albany, New York is the reason why automated cars will never work, because an automated car would follow all of the laws and still manage to murder half the population.

This brings me to my next point: drivers in Albany, New York are the worst drivers I have ever seen in my life.  This could be a post all on its own so I won’t go into detail here.  I have lived in Iowa, Colorado, North Dakota, and Texas.  I have roadtripped through nearly every state in the nation.  Albany, New York has the worst drivers. (Los Angles comes in second).  Firstly, their brake pads are all worn thin from slamming on them to avoid hitting pedestrians.  Secondly, they don’t seem to know any traffic laws at all.  Thirdly, I’m convinced none of them can see over the hood of their cars because painted lines on the road mean nothing to them.  Fourthly, they seem to be under the impression that either the accelerator or the brake must be fully applied.  The list could go on and on, including the special U-turn that I’ve dubbed “The Albany” which will take you across 4 lanes of traffic, two of which are oncoming traffic, and it’ll usually involve an intersection.  These drivers are the people that these pedestrians are leaping out in front of.  There is only one conclusion:

Pedestrians in Albany want to die.

It may be time for Albany to adopt a law from Sarasota, Florida, where it is a $78 fine for hitting a pedestrian.