In Remembrance

Remember that tiny search engine that posted job offerings on the local movie theater’s screen before the previews started?  You probably sat there with your date, munching your popcorn ever so softly so as to not disgust said companion, because you hoped at the end of the night she would be thinking more about your charm than your eating habits?  Well my friend, this tiny search engine that could has since grown up and now offers visitors across the world instant access to every last piece of information they may or may not need.  But you know what it has little to nothing of?  You.

You see, every now and then I type your name into Google, thinking/hoping an article would come up that has been written about you after you first passed away.  To be sure there are entries, but other people share your name and they are out there living their lives, posting on LinkedIn and Facebook, and they likely will never know there was once a beautiful person that shared their name with you.  Maybe one day I’ll give up trying to discover something new that’s been written about your life.  I hope not, though.  You offered much during your time, and likely had more to present, but we’ll never know.

I wonder how often your family members think of you.  I would like to think, and strongly feel, that it is often, but I also wonder too if they find it hard to digest the harsh reality that as the years go on, you get pushed further back into the page ranks of our society.

I can’t deny the likelihood that had you not died that cruel March day in Mexico, I’d have little knowledge of your current life.  Most friends from that time are now married, many with kids, and those I called my closest pals aren’t even in my phone’s address book, and you’d probably be no exception.

Still, the random intricacies of life that offer themselves up to my sub(conscious) find their way to my tongue, and have me quietly wondering out loud what could have been for you, and what unfortunately was for all of us.  I guess the search contiunes…

Posted in Meh | Leave a comment

Us. vs. Them vs. us

If you were fortunate to have a good father you likely have warm memories of him at a young age (you being the young one, not him.  That would be weird, right?  Like somehow you broke the time continuum and met him while you were both five and…, well anyway).  Like most people, I looked up to my Dad for just about anything he did, and I was ready to rally behind any cause he aligned himself with.

One of the fondest memories I have with him ended up being the origin of a deep seated love and hatred that eventually become engrained as part of my identity.  I speak of course of a lifeblood of our civilization, a necessity as essential as food and water.  I speak of football.

It was Thanksgiving; I was probably five or six years old.  My Dad owned a small business and like many small business owners, he incurred the responsibility of working on less desirable days (aka holidays).  He brought with him two items to the shop that day.  Me and a 13 inch fuzzy TV.  The University of Texas Longhorns, of which he was an alum, were playing the much hated Texas A&M Aggies, and he was going to damned if he missed that game, and even damndeder if I wasn’t going to apprentice under his mentoring tutelage.

From that day forward I swore my allegiance to UT and vowed to fight the war against its enemies (by way of cursing at them through the TV).  Emotion flowed through me all those years that served as the conduit to this allegiance.  I didn’t root for UT because they were nobler than other teams.  I didn’t hate their rivals because they were less honorable.  I rooted because of emotion and nothing more.   As I grew up, attended a different college than my father (gasp), I started to distance myself from this blind loyalty and turned my emotions toward a similar ‘Us vs. Them’ sport.

Politics.

With the election not far off, it’s impossible to plug in to the world, or at least, this country, and not be bombarded with the opinions, stories and facts about the politicians and their corresponding parties.  From garbage man to CEO, everyone has an opinion on politics, and everyone seems to believe their opinion is the right one.  If your view is different, well, then, you’re stupid.

Dissimilar to sports, politics are (in theory anyway) supposed to carry a higher meaning, as well they should.  The underlying positions that the two major parties represent are at their core, the pillars of issues that each believes are paramount to the well-being and advancement of our society.  Again, in theory, anyway.  But just how objective and truly concerned with the fundamental principles behind the issues are we?

Chances are that you live somewhere.  Crazy, I know.  And chances are that wherever you live has a newspaper.  There’s a good chance that newspaper has an online version of itself, and chances still that a comment section follows most of its articles.  If you’ve ever read the comments made on a political article, you probably perused thoughtful, provocative discourse.  Just kidding.  You likely saw copious amounts of flame-throwing, name calling, and attack dog rhetoric.  Do you think anyone has ever changed their mind because someone they don’t know makes a compelling argument by acting like a bully on a school playground?  Didn’t think so.

Moving on up the ladder of political dialogue, it’s roughly more of the same.  Smug writers at prestigious newspapers or magazines marginalizing a politician in an effort to dress them down in front of the masses.  Rarely does it seem the actual issues are of any importance.  In this increasing self-gratifying and short-term gain world of social media, we don’t seem to care much about the issues, but rather what superficial attributes our politicians have, and we often go by our ‘gut’ in choosing who we vote for.  Someone sells a vague message of prosperity and we buy.

Even worse is swearing an allegiance to a party and not considering that just maybe you don’t have to pledge your fidelity to either side.  We’ve been indoctrinated into this concept that it’s either one or the other.  If you like Coke you’re not allowed to like Pepsi.  If you like Apple computer you have to hate PCs.  Pigeon holed to a political party is a fast track to closing yourself off from other possibilities, other ideas.  The irony is for those of us who all too eagerly wear the label of a party, we are nothing of the sort- it is an illusion.  We are teachers, business folk, lawyers, doctors, civil servants, parents, brothers, sisters, mothers, sons, daughters….you get the idea.

It should be noted that the negative aspects are abundant between both major parties.  Our politicians are largely influenced, if not ruled by lobbyists.  A lobbyist’s job, by definition, is to represent the special interest of the group that pays them, and in turn he or she exercises their influence by way of donations and or other curried favors to get a politician to do their bidding.  This is a rampant occurrence in Washington but we’re too busy living our lives, trying to deal with the things that matter to us on a personal level that we decide it’s not important to ourselves to do anything about.  We have mortgages to pay for, jobs to work and kids to raise.  Until recently, Congressmen and woman could freely trade securities on clandestine information the public wasn’t privy to.  The vast majority of people in Congress are multi-millionaires.  Many of them did not enter Congress their freshmen year affluent, yet they somehow managed to acquire vast sums of wealth on civil, albeit generous, salaries.  These are the people that are supposed to be looking after us?

But of course this is how our country is structured in terms of politics and politicians are all too happy in keeping with the ‘Us vs. Them’ theme.  We are breeding a culture of hate that is puppeteered by those we elect to serve us.  We act as if our party is our team, and dammit we’re going to root for that team no matter what.  Inversely, we have to hate our team’s opponent and everyone who supports them.  In sports, someone wins and someone loses.  The gross misconception in politics is that the people win when their party’s representative wins an election, but the ‘vs.’ part of ‘Us vs. Them’ refers to the competition amongst the politicians.  There are no winners in ‘Us vs. Them’ when it comes to the people.

The Super Bowl of politics is coming up.  I don’t who’s going to win, but I know it won’t be ‘us’.

Posted in Hmmm | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Extra Credits

The word ‘no’ or some variation of gets used a lot in our house, and rightfully so.  The dog is constantly scolded for swiping pacifiers, getting under our feet or barking at ‘menacing’ neighbors.  Our two-year-old decided a while ago that pushing his younger brother is the most effective method for getting the latter to stay away from his toys, and thus said two two-year-old is promptly reprimanded.  By the way, that would be awesome.  I’d love to just push people that bothered me.  Co-workers who say dumb things.  The annoying broad in front of me at Starbucks holding up the line.  The fucking guy at the car wash who hovers over my windshield looking for a crack, any crack, so he can convince me to spend the next two hours on the phone with my insurance company for a free windshield.

Anyway, saying no is a word all of us repeat in some form or another, either to ourselves or those around us.  When you’re a kid you don’t really get to tell other people no, but oh boy, do you get told no.  I watched a lot of TV as a kid.  I remember sneaking out of bed after my parents were asleep to eat chips and watch HBO in the hopes of hearing cuss words, and if I was really lucky, seeing boobs.  During normal hours however, the TV was viewed in the same way as alcohol.  To be enjoyed in moderation.

Mmm, boobs

As I grew up and became more or less an adult, I drank up my TV, much like the kid whose parent’s scared him to death about the dangers of alcohol, only to become a raging alcoholic himself.  Thankfully, we now have boxes that record the shows you want to watch if you’re not around when they first air, or if you don’t want to watch the commercials.  It amazes me that this beautiful invention has yet to be elevated alongside our most fantastic of mankind creations, notables like potable water and you know, stuff that cures diseases.

The best part of my day is often sitting in bed after putting the kids down and turning on this wonder box to watch our shows.  Over time I’ve noticed a recurring trend; credits that don’t end until the show is almost halfway over.

I don’t recall as a kid that the shows I watched let you know who the casting director was midway into the program.  Today though it seems that right about the time House stumbles on a diagnosis thanks to a seemingly irrelevant conversation with a caste mate do those goddamn credits end.

The only theory I can come up with is people are more excited to watch a show when it begins as opposed to later in the program when they realize they’re viewing a pile of shit.  If you’re still in the early stages of a show, or think you are, you’re more inclined to sit and continue watching rather than do the sensible thing and change the channel or better yet, read a fucking book.  I don’t know, I’m not an advertising executive, but I do know the guys that use erectile dysfunction cures aren’t all good looking yuppies who have spare tandem bathtubs lying around their beautiful backyards, so I know these mad men ad execs are capable of deception.

“My stomach hurts….must have been the McNuggets I ate for lunch. The patient has Lupus!”

I don’t like being confused with regard to how far along I am in the show.  It’s unsettling.  It’s like recording your voicemail and having it just go on and on before it eventually ends, finally providing your Mom the opportunity to tell you that she’s called five times this week and you haven’t called her back.  “Hello, you’ve reached Ryan.  Please leave me a message….I will get back to you when I can…..for you see, I am not around right now, which is why I am leaving this recorded message…..but your call will be returned”.  Ok, maybe not quite like that, but kind of.

I wish I could tell my TV ‘No’ when it comes to those never ending credits, but I can’t.  So for now it looks like I’ll just have to keep yelling at my dog.  On the other hand, maybe there’s something to this pushing thing.

Posted in Meh | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Words with Retards

Some years ago, fresh out of college, I started working for an Internet(ish) start-up.  For anyone who has had the benefit of experiencing firsthand what it’s like to try and get a company off the ground by working twelve hours a day with nominal pay, you’ll understand how taxing it can be.  For anyone who hasn’t had the benefit, it fucking sucked.  Over time we gained a little ground and I found myself moving up in the company and taking on more responsibility.

With hard work comes reward, and one day, in a conference room filled with co-workers I became the center of attention.  Unbeknownst to me, I was presented a new title and promotion.  “Executive Vice-President of Business Development”.  Not knowing exactly what that meant, I kept my questions to myself during the presentation and merely beamed with pride as the office gave me a round of applause.  Of course there would be time later, in closed quarters, where I would find out from the Human Resources gal what perks came with the promotion.  Here’s how that went:

Me (modestly):  “So, I was wondering what the bonus/salary benefits were to the promotion.”

HR girl (immodestly):  “There are none”

Me:  “You mean there’s nothing that comes with the promotion?”

HR girl:  “Well, you have a nice new title and more duties I imagine.”

I walked dejected out of that room and went back to my desk.  This life changing experience taught me one valuable lesson:

Words can be used as a substitute for financial and spiritual enrichment.

Executive Vice President of not getting a raise

You see, my boss wanted to motivate me, to make me proud and to get me to be even more productive, but he didn’t want to do it at a cost to his bottom line, so he bestowed free words on to my title to accomplish the same goal.  Since then I’ve been more privy to this type of manipulation.

A couple years ago we sold our house and bought a new one that needed remodeling.  There was to be a period of roughly two months where we’d be without a house, so we hauled ourselves to a nearby apartment complex.  My wife had already checked the place out and signed the 2 month lease.  As she pulled up to our new place with yours truly riding shotgun, I noticed the big sign in front, advertising to passerby’s.  It read:

“Life Upgraded”

I immediately perked up.  “What does that mean?” I excitedly asked myself.  “Surely, they must have some exclusive amenity that makes every resident here happier than a teenager getting his first hand job.  Turns out, that wasn’t the case.  A couple highlights:

1)       A 20 inch TV complete with bunny ears in the living room

2)      Stained carpets.  By all appearances the stains consisted of baby vomit, split green soup and likely a rotting corpse.

3)      A dog park.  Not only was this a dog friendly apartment complex, it allowed all breeds, not just the non-baby killing ones.  I spent 5 minutes in that closed off park before walking out of there for good before my best golden retreiver felt the cold angry jaws of a pit bull clamped around his neck.

4)      Grass throughout the complex that wasn’t so much grass as it was yellow circles of death caused by the aforementioned dogs.

I could go on but you get the idea.  This was ‘life upgraded’.  The owners of this complex thought a little marketing was in order to separate themselves from the competition and what better way than to put a sign up in front of your business that LIED to people.

Out unit was the one with the laundry hanging out

This cute little anecdote is merely one example of the horseshit we’re fed as consumers.  Every toothpaste is recommended by 4 out of 5 dentists.  Every restaurant is world famous.  Everyone agrees that this product is the best at whatever it’s supposed to do.

Why?  Why is ok to lie to people?  Advertisements, be they TV, print or otherwise or almost always created by ad firms that had no part of creating the product.  Ad firms that make money by selling you on something regardless of the product’s quality.  I could put dog shit in a box a hundred times over, call it ‘Nature’s Doorstop’ and hire a marketing firm that will sell the shit (pardon the pun) out of the product.  Who’s to stop me?

Tacking on meaningless words to a tag line, or a title, or a whatever, is the easiest way to circumvent the hurdle of actually providing a quality product.  My title of Executive Vice President was nothing more than a couple of free words intended to manipulate me into thinking something good had just crossed my path.

So that’s it, years of being lied to  has made me cynical and distrusting every time I come across something that I’m told I need or is good for me.

At any rate, I hope you enjoyed reading this enriching, ground-breaking, award winning blog entry.

Posted in Meh | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Escaping Reality

I have a vague recollection of inventing an imaginary friend when I was whatever age kids are when they have imaginary friends.  If I recall, the genesis of this fictional play mate was hearing about the idea on a cartoon.  My pretend friend didn’t stick around for very long.  He rarely talked, if at all, and made for a terrible scapegoat, so I sent him packing.  Since then I haven’t gravitated much toward things that are make believe.  Things like Santa Clause, my gifted athletic ability or reality TV.

These days you can’t turn on the TV without a reality show smacking you in the face like a glove from a challenger in earlier times, indicating a duel was at hand.  Whether it’s the big networks or the annals of cable, to be sure, there is a reality show about something.  Some of these shows are informative and educational.  I am not referring to these shows.  Rather, the moral decay that has become what we perceive as entertainment by way of catty bimbos, fame whores and fame pimps; these are the scourge of TV and society.

I actually heard my Dad one day long ago tell me he had to ride his bike up a hill, in the snow to get to school.  My version of this is that I watched sitcoms.  As cheesy as sitcoms were, there was a sense of morality to them, and they rarely delved in to the indecent.  The fact that previews for these reality shows, the trailers that are meant to get you interested, are women crying, pulling each other’s hair, and men throwing punches, dropping f bombs, makes me think back to a simpler time when we watched shows that were about nothing.  Without question, we are confusing this demise of our culture as evolution.

I personally know a reality ‘star’ that is on one of these more popular shows.  This run of the mill goofball is eligible for a visit from the IRS, and nothing more.  Yet he is hoisted in front of our eyes as something he is not for the purpose of entertainment.  And we buy this fantasy as viewers.  We trick ourselves that this is real because this type of programming has the word ‘reality’ in it.

I’ve always taken issue with this form of entertainment, and there was a time that I ignorantly chalked it up as stimulating consumption for the uneducated.  However, the more I looked around, the more I saw that people much smarter than me were obsessed with this stuff.  That’s when I realized the fantasy that is reality TV is not subject merely to the simple-minded; it’s simply for those that wish to escape.  This fantasy is escapism and the question we need to be asking is ‘why do we need to escape from our lives’?

It’s not just TV either.  Every week my family gets the print versions of these shows in the form of magazines like US Weekly because someone at our house (ahem) subscribes.  Flip through any of these periodicals and you’ll instantly see the most vapid quotes, the most pointless pictures.  “Here is someone that is out and about getting coffee.”  “Here is someone that says their new year’s resolution is to ‘be themselves’.”  I cringe when I flip through these pages of literary nonsense and dream of a time when I didn’t know that someone with no discernible talent picked up after her dog at the park.

This obsession with other people seemingly knows no bounds.  A thriving business model of today is any medium that caters toward this form of escapism.  The most recent example is social networking websites, notably Facebook.  I would like to personally not thank Mark Zuckerberg for creating a website that made stalking a perfectly acceptable social norm.  My wife spends countless hours each week scouring her Facebook like she’s trying to crack the Da Vinci code.  What wondrous joys does she uncover?  Pictures of a people that we hardly know or don’t know anymore and their kids.  Exes.  Where someone went to dinner the night before.  I love my wife to no end, and she is considerably smarter than I am, yet her obsession with other people’s lives, as common as it is, leaves me scratching my head worse than if I had a terrible case of lice.

We are burying our heads into these shows, into these magazines, into these websites to satisfy some sick indulgence that does nothing for our development and provides no value of significant worth.  I realize this entry comes across as preachy, however I do not look down on anyone who indulges in this form of escapism, but rather blame the collective efforts of the media that dangle this type of immediate gratification that as a society we are so vulnerable to grab.

I feel lucky that reality TV and social networking didn’t exist when I was in high school and/or going through my formative years, I’m sure that I would have consumed both to an egregious level.  I can only hope that I am able to teach my kids to avoid hurdles that could interfere with their development; to live life by creating their own reality instead of escaping it.

Posted in Hmmm | Tagged , , , , | 98 Comments

.Com On, Seriously?

Five days a week I sit in front of a keyboard, pounding on it like some sort of gorilla trying to squash a coconut so it can suck on the tasty delight of nature’s candy.  I don’t think gorillas eat coconuts though, I mean; they might if coconuts were indigenous to their region in Africa, but I don’t think they are.  I guess I could go look that up on Google.  Maybe zookeepers throw coconuts in their pen, and that’s how they get the coconuts.  Anyway, this isn’t about gorillas or coconuts.  This is about my weekday routine of hammering down on my keyboard like a madman so I can pay for things.

"I wish I had a coconut"

A couple years back my wife spent the money I made from thrashing on my keyboard to buy me an iPhone.  It was very thoughtful.  Several swear words later I finally figured out my way around the thing, and got to typing.  And that’s when I saw it.

The ‘.com’ button.

“Holy shit,” I thought.  “What is this magical button I see before me?  You mean I can just hit this button after the domain and my website will appear?”  I felt like one of those brats in Willy Wonka, who just laid eyes on the majestic chocolate river.  I couldn’t keep my excitement; I had to visit every website at a lightning fast rate.  I wanted to call Steve Jobs and thank him for this wonderful invention that had for too long eluded the greatest thinkers of this technological age of advancement.

"Bless you, Steve Jobs"

That Monday I got to work and started my day.  As I began typing in the URL of a website, I instinctively finished it off with the four strokes that I came to know so well.

.

c

o

m

I’d like to think you know where I’m going with this. 

WHY THE FUCK DO THE KEYBOARDS OF TODAY NOT HAVE A FUCKING ‘.COM’ BUTTON????????

I didn’t realize that when they made the mold for keyboards that they decided it couldn’t be undone, like they were the fucking Ten Commandments.  There are other inventions that fall into this category.  Toasters of today don’t make toast any better, toilet paper isn’t any more soothing.  Are there keyboards that exist today with the ‘.com’ button?  Probably.  Do they come with your new computer; do they sell them at Best Buy?  No!  You’re forced to type on the same piece of outdated shit they’ve had around for 30 years.

I’m going to do some quick math.  I work roughly 40 hours a week.  I probably type ‘.com’ 20 times a day.  Of course my favorite sites auto appear, so I’m talking 20 websites a day that I visit that I don’t normally frequent.  I estimate it takes me one second to type ‘.com’.  So here we go:

  • 20 websites/day * 1 second=20 seconds
  • 5 days/week* 20 seconds=100 seconds
  • 4 weeks/month*100 seconds=400 seconds

400 seconds a month are wasted on this menial task.  That’s almost 7 minutes a month.  7 minutes may not sound like a lot, but let me tell you what I could do with an extra 7 minutes a month:

  • Beat off
  • Drink a beer
  • Cut my fingernails
  • Beat off
  • Bake a cake
  • Look up gorilla eating habits

Come on people.  We can occupy the banks, we can protest higher taxes.  How about we use some of that energy for the real problems this country faces…wasted valuable masturbating (and other things) time.  I dream that one day, my children will effortlessly type in a new porn site, or gossip website and not be labored by the pains of typing three extra characters.  I dream that regardless of color, creed or gender, we can no longer be slaves to this arduous process.  I dream that one day, gorillas will be handed state of the art tools in which to crack open those coconuts, should one be thrown in to their pen.  I have a dream.

My name is Ryan and I’m running for President.

Posted in Meh | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Braking the Cycle

People like to always say ‘time goes by fast’.  In addition to being a fucked-out, hackneyed cliché, it’s also quite true.  I wondered for a long time why life started going so fast for me, and then it hit me.  Routine.  Most of us are ruled by routine, and the ironic element to routine is the better you have your life figured out, the more routine your life becomes and the faster time goes by.  In other words, once you got your shit together, you can’t blink without what seems to be another Christmas or birthday coming up.

My weekend routine is rather enjoyable, or as enjoyable as can be with two little kids demanding most of my attention.  Part of my Saturday and Sunday routine is going to Starbucks to get an overpriced coffee and latte for my wife and me, respectively.  I grab my wallet and keys, hop in my car and hit the road.  And that’s when they get me.

Cyclists.

Fucking cyclists.

As I round the first corner on my short commute to the caffeine castle, I have about as much of a chance encountering at least one of these weekend warriors as I do of not getting a weekend blowjob, which is to say certain.

A visual interpretation of my weekly fantasy

Why am I such a dick?  Why can’t I just share the road with people who are trying to enjoy the outdoors while getting some exercise in the process?  Lots of reasons, not the least of which is….

  • You think you’re better than me?  Look, I just woke up 20 minutes ago and have a mild hangover.  I don’t need you pedaling up that hill on Saturday morning, mocking me and the extra lbs. I’ve put on lately.
  • Those tights look ridiculous.  Speaking of lbs., you’re no Adonis either.  I can see the fat bulging out the saran wrap you call shorts.  If you’re such an avid cyclist you must have started your journey at 400 pounds, because from what I can tell you have a long way to go to becoming:
  • Lance Armstrong.  You’re better off hacking one of your balls off if you aspire to be like the 7 time Tour de France champ.

Your Average Cyclist

  • Quit riding with your boyfriend side by side.  These roads were built for people that had somewhere to get.  Like their job.  I get that you have a bike lane and yes, according to the law you have every right to the road, but you and your buddy pedaling side by side means one of you is sticking out in my lane, and I have to slow down or move over a lane to get around your non-motorized ass.  Ride single file, asswipe. 
  • Speaking of law breaking.  If you want to claim joint ownership of the road then follow the goddamn signs like the rest of us.  Red light doesn’t mean you get to slow down and look both ways before running the light.  If I was a cop I’d throw you in the slammer with the rapists.
  • We all know you’re ending up at the coffee shop.  For some reason, coffee shops are the mecca for cyclists.  They like to meet up at Starbucks, order their muffins and coffee, take up all the tables and clank around in their expensive clip on bike shoes.  You look ridiculous, stop it.  It’s bad enough I had to risk my life driving past you, now I got to wait in line while you figure out how many half caff mocah chai lattes everyone in your group wants.

“Hey, aren’t you the guy that flipped me off 5 minutes ago as you drove by?”

I am ruled by routine, and I like it that way.  What I don’t like are moving obstacles with two legs that threaten to make my life a lot shorter as I drive off a cliff attempting to avoid clipping them with my car.  If you like to ride bikes and want to get exercise, get a mountain bike and ride the trails.  There are fewer cars and even fewer assholes like me.

 

Posted in Meh | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment