Saturday, January 22, 2011

East Side

I’ve been inside what is going to be my new house three times now and I’ve forgotten to take a single video shot of the floor plan on each occasion. Of course, this is a stupid problem to even be annoyed with especially when you consider that children are starving to death in Africa with every second that I’m kicking myself for forgetting this little thing, but that’s beside the point.

The fact is that I regularly videotape bugs that I find in my backyard right now so getting footage of the place that I’m going to live until I die shouldn’t be a problem for me to remember, right? So far, I haven’t so fuck me and fuck all of those AIDS babies living on the edge of the Sahara for making me feel guilty about being pissed off about it.

My wife has been there four times. On her third visit to the place, I was at work so I gave her my camera to take footage with. Instead of getting shots of the rooms and the yard for me to review, she chose to get all esoteric and metaphorical in her approach to framing the scene.

That thing on the fence was a buzzard and I can’t get too mad at her for failing me in this regard because (as what this post is about) I haven’t been the most attentive person regarding this life-altering purchase either. I’ve reviewed all of the paperwork and jumped through all of the financing hurdles. I’ve met with the inspector and nodded at the appropriate times when he’s told me about the few things that needed repair. I’ve even sat in the driveway of this house late at night, to see how weird the neighborhood gets but still, I’ve forgotten to take footage of it vacant.

In this respect, my wife is actually ahead of me because she filmed this shot.

What does it mean that I can’t ever remember to take the video camera that I always carry with me out of my pocket to film this house? What does it mean that my wife only chose to film scavenger birds and flipped off light switches when she was there? Why do I even feel the need to obtain a record of this?

As I outlined earlier in this web-journal of mine, I went through a period this summer where my faith died. It was on life support before this transition, but after the hot months had passed I checked on it and it was as dead as one of those emaciated AIDS babies in Africa.

To my surprise, I discovered that along with my already pale view of Christianity, all of my notions of fate and karma had passed. To put it quite simply, I can’t even force myself to regard any of this as mystical or supernatural.

I can’t look at this in Freudian terms either. The Id and the Superego will have to take a backseat here and just chill the fuck out. If I thought that I was truly suppressing a desire to run from a middle-class suburban life then I’d have to come to terms with a lot of the pretty harsh things that I’ve said to my Hipster friends about their neighborhoods.

True, I’d love to live in a 3 bedroom bungalow next to the downtown arts district (I’m not burying that in my repressed desires) but more so, I’d much rather let my kid get a good education and be allowed to play with her friends at the park that’s just down the street from the totally fucking beautiful creek near where I’ll be planning to live. I can take her to the museums in my spare time and besides that, there’s all this crack and ghetto shit to be concerned with when you chose that lifestyle. From what I can tell, it’s like a White-Guy badge of courage to say that you’ve chased away a pedophile that’s addicted to methamphetamines in your neighborhood if you chose to live this way.

No, I don’t think that this is a God, fate, karma or even a good old fashioned Jesusing factor that’s caused me to forget to take video of this home. I think that it’s just being too busy. You see, we were thisclose to making an offer on another fucked up crack head house before this one came up so it’s taking time for me to readjust. Also, I’m moving from this, to this so I feel a bit like George Jefferson did when he got a chance to move out of Obama's old neighborhood into those mix race aparments on the East Side to yell at his family in.

It may not be much but fuck this kind of bullshit at the old house.

I won’t miss a second of it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fake cat does fake work

Over the summer the local library had a sleepover for stuffed animals. Kids would come in and drop off their Teddy Bears and dolls so that they could spend the night hanging out in the children’s section. In the morning, you could go and get them along with a picture of the toy reading a book that would somehow relate to what they were. If they were a horse, for example, they would read about horses and if they were a pig they would read about pigs.

It was all terribly cute to see your child’s doll engaged in such egomaniacal behavior and, if you wanted to, you could check out the book that they were photographed with so that you could read it to them yourself. My daughter took a stuffed penguin and the text that she brought back was one of the most boring picture books that I’ve ever read regarding flightless birds. It was essentially just a list of factoids about penguins printed next to crudely drawn images of them that sort of resembled black and white strips of ripped up paper.

Whatever the case, my kid loved it so much apparently, that she was driven to ask about it over the weekend. Of course it took us a little while to figure out what she was talking about. On Sunday we were driving past the library when she said, “Hey, that’s where my penguin went.”

Now my daughter talks constantly. Sometimes she runs out of things to say so she just starts spouting off shit that’s really obtuse and out there. It’s not unusual for her to start talking about penguins playing basketball or dogs’ tap dancing or anything else really that lacks a fundamental basis in reality. Fortunately though, my wife and I eventually tapped into what she was saying and realized that she was remembering that time almost a year ago that her penguin had spent the night at the library.

As we drove on, my little girl asked when they were going to do that again. Sadly, neither of us had an answer. I tried explaining that it might not be for a while but Dana stuck gold with her suggestion. In a moment of shear brilliance she hit upon the idea of me taking one of my daughter’s stuffed animals to work and photographing it throughout the day. Of course, it was an act that could potentially lead me to great embarrassment and constant harassment around the office but, since I am a totally awesome husband and father, I agreed.

The next morning, my kid woke up before the sun. As I was leaving for work she reminded me of my promise and then shoved two stuffed animals right in my face. One was a HUGE kitty and the other, a much smaller one. She told me that I could have my pick of which one I wanted to take with me. Since I didn’t want to be the guy riding the elevator with a pillow-sized orange cat on a Monday morning, I chose the pocket sized yellow one.

Getting the pictures was easy. Making them interesting was another thing. You see, I work my ass off, pulling 12 hour days for one week out of the month while the rest of the time I just sit around surfing reddit. Since my downtime had just started, my desk was still a wreck but my workload was pretty much nothing. In a kind of fun-house mirror version of my actual life, I realized that taking a half a dozen pictures of my kids stuffed animal browsing r/politics and r/pics was pathetic beyond measure.

All in all, I think it was a success. My little girl enjoyed seeing the photographs that I took and my family finally got to get a look at the place where I work. The only downside was that I actually had to mock up things for the cat to be doing instead of surf the internet all day long. Essentially, I had to do work myself just to pretend that this stupid cat was doing work.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A different kind of snob

As I mentioned in my previous post, my wife and I are trying to buy a new house. This impending transaction has lead us to have many conversations about what we both want from the place that we eventually chose to live in. Do we really need a four bedroom split-level with a formal dining room or will a three bedroom ranch house with a pool and spa be more to our liking?

Honestly, I don’t really care what’s inside the house. As far as I’m concerned, if I’ve got at least one room that I can play my Xbox in and blare my music without causing my families ears to bleed then everything’s golden. The rest of the home could be covered in frosted glass and wood paneling and I wouldn’t mind it one bit. It’s the outside that really concerns me.

I’m a big believer that people should define themselves by what’s inside of themselves and not what kind of neighborhood that they live in. Too often at work, I’ve had to listen to some person with the social skills of a middle-schooler trying to impress me with tales of how bitchin’ their neighborhood is. It’s always the same. They love to talk up the merits of their HOA (until they themselves get fined for something) or tell some immature story about a block-party that turned scandalous after Tom’s wife, Betty had a little too much White Zinfandel and spilled her potato salad all over Cynthia’s Ralph Lauren jeans.

To me, this kind of talk all sounds so shallow and boring that I usually just tune out as soon as most people mention anything about their neighborhoods. It’s a topic that’s almost always designed to make you feel bad about yourself. Extremely ethnocentric, it’s essentially a clan mentality that says, “We live here and you live somewhere else. We’re better than you because we are a part of this community. You can validate us and be in awe of us, but remember… you live somewhere else.”

With that in mind, I seem to have gone in the other direction when considering what I want from our new house. I’ve somehow allowed myself to become a neighborhood snob and there are certain things about the communities that we visit when looking at homes that I consider to be non-negotiable deal killers. They are so ingrained in my subconscious that I’ve only recently become aware of them but, in no particular order, here’s a list of what I’ve slowly realized are the things that I cannot tolerate in my new neighborhood.
  1. Garages with neon beer signs or banners for sports teams hanging in or around them.

    To me, this just reeks of a bunch of middle aged dumbass. As far as I’m concerned, I run into far too many people that are my age who have yet to get over the fact that their college days are behind them. I’m fine with you liking sports and beer but advertising your affiliation for Bud Lite and the Texas Longhorns seems a little juvenile.

  2. Status cars.

    If every house has a Mercedes, BMW or a Charger parked out front, there’s obviously some kind of pissing contest going on that I want no part of.

  3. Jet Skis, Dirt Bikes or 4-Wheelers parked in the driveway.

    I know right? You probably read that and your mind immediately leapt to some sitcom image of a redneck drinking a can of Keystone and wearing overalls but around here, nothing could be further from the truth. These loud-assed machines are the accoutrements of upper-middleclass weekend warriors and 40 year old men who’ve yet to be told that despite their many successes, they still most likely have several different kinds of learning disabilities.

  4. Crocs or Flip-flops.

    If I see too many people wearing them, the neighborhood is out of the question for me.

  5. Community bulletin boards and HOA newsletters.

    Whoever the person was who first decided that everyone living within a few blocks of one another had to be constantly stuck up each other’s asses was probably a very awful person. I’m all for getting to know your neighbor and expecting them to keep up with their shit but a community that actively polices everyone via a citizen committee seems like a wormy little ‘Lord of the Flies’ type of situation.

I’m sure that there are other prejudices of mine that I’ve yet to identify but these are the main ones. The existence of any single one of them (except the flip-flops) doesn’t rule anything out entirely but if they are all present then my interest in the place is over. Last night, I was trying to explain this to Dana (who I thankfully discovered also feels this way) and I said that I just don’t want to live in the Uncanny Valley.

There is a theory that as robots and computer generated facsimiles of the human form become more and more realistic, our emotional responses to them will be increasingly empathetic… right up until the point that the representation crosses the line into the realm of revulsion. For instance, the Akibot is cute but the Repliee is creepy as fuck. As technology develops to a degree at which we can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is computerized, our opinions of the machines will once again swing towards the positive. That gap between creepy and indiscernible is called The Uncanny Valley.

I think of these planned communities a lot like I think about the Uncanny Valley. Sure, they seem like nice places and all but if the socialization is that structured and organized then there’s got to be a cog loose somewhere. Perhaps I’m being too hard on these Stepford subdivisions but still, they creep me out and they definitely are not a place where I would want to live. Like I said, I guess I’m just a different sort of neighborhood snob.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Does anyone else find it odd that the Baby Boomers were practically fed asbestos from birth up until their mid-thirties and yet all of them are still going to live forever? Seriously, the Greatest Generation put that stuff in everything. Looking back on history, it’s surprising that they weren’t inoculating their children with lead based asbestos-antifreeze vaccines to protect them against the Commie flu and the Red Death. In the 1950’s and 60’s even the trees were made of asbestos.

The material is not just some new WWII era product that was dreamed up in a Nazi lab by a monocled guy with a pencil thin mustache and a love for giving people too weak to call themselves members of the master race a pesky case of the cancer. No, asbestos has been used in the world for more than 2,000 years. In fact, its name is derived from the Ancient Greek word for inextinguishable.

In those days, slaves wove asbestos into the cloth that they made. They did so assuming that the material had magical properties to prevent people from catching on fire all the time (an apparent problem for a people who’s Gods lived on a nearby mountaintop) and they were in awe of it. It was the space-age polymer of its day and to the Greeks, wine and asbestos were the ultimate shit to have lying around the house in order to impress their friends with.

Even then, asbestos and peoples internal organs didn’t agree. Piny the Elder wrote that many of the slaves succumbed to a “sickness of the lungs” while engaged in their labors but as long as the Greeks and Romans were able to do their dry cleaning by tossing a pile of clothes into a fire and waiting for them to turn white again, everyone was okay with it. In fact, the Romans were so OCD about their asbestos garments that they ironically named the fabric “amiantus” or “unpolluted”.

The material fell out of favor during the Middle Ages when people started wearing more crowns, wizard robes and armor but it soon took off again during the Industrial Revolution. In the late 1800’s it began to be used as insulation for steam engines when they were still being assembled in the Dickensonian factories and before they became Mark Twain metaphors. Pipes, kilns, boilers and ovens were all coated with a thick layer of asbestos and any health risk and cancerous cooties relating to the product were either forgotten or ignored. It wasn’t until the mid 1920’s that someone first thought to ask, “Why is it, that all these dead people have asbestos coated lungs?”

The case that got them thinking was of a woman who expired at 33 after having worked as an asbestos miner ever since the age of 13. A doctor in England, probably named Sir Obvious McNoshit, took one look at her body and then examined everyone else in the mine and said “You all have ‘asbestosis!’” Because of this, laws were passed in Great Britain requiring increased ventilation in the mines and which made “Dying of asbestos” an excuse for not coming into work. The United States followed suit ten years later.

Asbestos continued to be used all the way up until the mid-1980’s when men and women everywhere finally got tired of having to live around a bunch of poison everything all the time. Even today, it can still be found in currently manufactured roofing tiles, brake pads and vinyl flooring. It’s a really good insulator and an absorber of sound and, as of the late 90's (the last time the regulation was reviewed) it was still worth dying for in some cases.

I’m thinking about all of this right now because asbestos has been on my mind a lot here lately. I don’t normally ponder Don Dellilo type scenarios where mass produced consumer goods slowly attack our bodies to death but these days, that’s about all I’ve been thinking of. You see, there’s asbestos in America’s ceilings. It’s right there above our heads, hiding in the form of spray-on popcorn goobers which won’t kill you outright but if you try to remove them they will get inside of your lungs like some self-protecting organism and make you all warty with cancer.

Like I said, this wouldn’t be something that I would normally worry about. I’ve got popcorn ass-beads up on the ceiling of the house that I live in now but I couldn’t really give a shit about them. I don’t intend to do anything with them and their existence doesn’t affect me one way or the other as a person. We live in peace, the popcorn and I. What bugs me now is their presence inside of the house that my wife and I want.

You see, both Dana and I have been looking at the same house since June of last year. It was the one that prompted us to put our own up for sale and ultimately it lit the fire beneath us to try to move ourselves up about a half an inch in status within the world. It’s not the best home on the market but we both like it. It’s actually been delisted twice since the time that we started watching it and now, it’s finally available for a price that we both can live with.

But can we really ‘live’ with this house?

It’s got those goddamned popcorn ceilings and, while I may not care about them being in my current piece of shit home, I don’t really desire them in this one. I mean, if you think that the height of American engineering was the T-top then I’m sure that the blasted ceiling look is totally boss to you. My wife and I though, we want to go for a more modern aesthetic. We’re hoping to live in this place for a while so it’d be nice to not have to be vomiting all over the place at the thought of what’s sitting there right above our heads every single second that we’re in there.

I’m not a big fan of home remodeling but I’m not afraid of it either. My attitude is that if it doesn’t kill me then if I think that I can make it look a little better I’m going to try and fuck it up using some tools and some drywall. The problem is I can’t remove this ceiling without it killing everyone.

Personally, I grew up in a major, industrialized town so I’m not really too concerned about the introduction of even more chemicals into my body. I feel that what’s there is there and anything else is just spice to make my already toxic arteries glow even brighter when they’re placed underneath a black light. It’s my wife and my daughter that I worry about. I don’t want them to become a glowing mutant like me.

If I remove the popcorn, then I’m putting my family at risk. If I leave it, then it’s an eyesore. Of course, I could cover it over with planks, but that might be expensive. I’m not sure what to do about it all.

I guess that we could just walk away from this house (again) and hope that something perfect comes along. Whatever may happen, I really don’t want to corrupt the decision with any biases that I may have. My wife is the one who has the most specific needs in regards to a new home and ultimately, I want this to be her decision. If she’s okay with working around this, then so am I. If she’s not, then we have to keep looking. More than anything else I want her to be happy with where she lives.

My only problem is that I’ve been thinking a lot about asbestos and how my life would be great right about now if it just wasn’t for those goddamned fascist popcorn ceilings.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Yesterday I woke up sucking on a lemon.

During the past year, I’ve somehow organically transformed from a once ambivalent agnostic into a full-on raging atheist. I’m not sure how this change came about (getting lectured by a Bible thumping acquaintance of mine didn’t help) but now that it’s there, I have found that don’t ever want to pretend to be interested in religion ever again. I used to pay lip service to peoples testimonials of the power of their faith but these days, I just can’t seem to stomach them anymore. I think that God is a man-made poison.

I don’t know if there is some kind of mental level of tolerance which, once full, can no longer hold anymore room for charity but for me, the mouth of that cup seems to have overflowed. These days, I get extremely annoyed when people just assume outright with no thought or question that I’m a religious person. When this happens, I want to tell them that to me, mystifying nature is to take away the power of its awesome energy. To me, any attempt to gloss over the universe and ascribe its creation and maintenance to an unseen being who lives in the sky is an insult to all the greatness that there is to study and behold.

To paraphrase most people’s belief system, it’s like someone saying, “Quantum physics is hard and stuff so there must be some kind of a wizard out there who’s been pulling the strings and if you don’t believe in Him then you’re going to die alone and your soul is going to be devoured by a lizard man from a Black Sabbath album cover, LOL.” Or, biblically speaking (Heb 11:1) "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

What the shit is that? Why would anyone think that and what’s more, why can’t I tell a person who spouts off this insane and insulting tripe that I just don’t agree with their horseshit and that it also pisses me off to be told that they in turn think that my entire existence is damned just because my mind doesn’t function at their level of dumb? I mean, Jesus freaks get mad when you bad mouth their water-walking savior so why can’t people like me get defensive about all the mysteries of science being desecrated by some self-righteous and pedantic fairy tale? It’s nothing more than a double standard. If you insult a person’s faith, you are disrespecting their freedom of religion but if they insult your evidence-based outlook on the world, they are just representing their cultural views and you should STFU, heretic.

I don’t feel like playing this game anymore.

Look, I realize that I’m fighting an uphill battle here and honestly, I don’t really care what most people choose to believe or don’t believe. The only problem that I have is when people automatically assume that I share the same religious foundations as them and then can’t accept it when I tell them otherwise. If they chose to try to convert me, then as far as I’m concerned, I’m entitled to make a likewise effort. If then, neither of us can get past our differences and get on with our friendship without having to use God as a crutch to define our relationship then I’m sure that I’m not going to ever regret parting ways. As a bunch of bearded misogynist once said in Proverbs 18:24, “There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”

Whatever happens, and however I may feel about other people’s faith in God, I’m sure that my own personal beliefs are just as important as their own. That’s why no pastor and no Bible study will ever convert me. I’ve looked into myself and this is what I’ve found. If, by chance I may someday uncover a lost deity or maybe some other kind of nebulous spiritual enlightenment while poking around in my head, I’ll be sure to let everyone know that I’ve suddenly become all fucked up and retarded.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

This is not a blog

Before I begin this online journal of mine I would like to make it clear that I regard bloggers as being one the most vile sorts of people to ever walk upon the face of the earth. They are insecure and weak; desperate for attention and forever pleading outwards for validation from their audience. They disgust me. Their words are nothing more than digital garbage; a degradation of the informational nature of the World Wide Web and a complete waste of both time and bandwidth. I hate them.

Of course, it would be easy to pity bloggers, sitting alone at their desk and bureaus, typing out their latest screed of drivel and forever hoping that someone might care what they think of the latest illustrated comic book superhero and his jolly boy companion if they weren’t so awful in every conceivable way. They are the living embodiment of the faulted trait of self absorption. Their text is a perfect example of all that is superficial, petty and inane in the world. A person of reasonable intellect would find it impossible to regard bloggers as anything more than the dung rolling insects that they are without also completely losing respect for themselves in the process.

Bloggers are just terrible, loud and obnoxious people. They are the drunken louts, the no account hoodlums and the sideshow circus freaks of the cyberspace carnival. They demonstrate wanton ignorance with every post they make. They laugh at pictures of poor unfortunate animals that have been anthropomorphized against their will, they share digitally rendered videos of apes doing awful things with their penises and almost every single one of them has some sort of mild form of autism.

Studies should probably be done on the complete lack of social functionality that’s inherent in the world’s population of bloggers but unfortunately they are so wretched that no scientist to date has been able to endure being around them for a long enough time to observe their habits. What little there is to be known about them is that they mainly eat from bags, rarely bathe and almost never have sex, ever. The world is a darker place with them in it.

And so, with that in mind, I have decided against becoming a blogger. Instead, you may consider me to be an autobiographer and this, an online and real-time memoir of my life. It will be filled with comedy and pathos, thoughts and observations as well as pictures of animals doing human-like things that I think that others might find amusing to look upon in a light hearted manner.

I will share with you my day to day existence in all of its dynamic glory, documenting everything from my love of a good shampoo to the simple joys of drinking beer from a plastic cup at a Renaissance fair. I will make you laugh with stories about my charming nature and I will cause you to cry with tales of woe as I try to repair things around my house. I will keep you on the edge of your seat as I worry about my thinning hairline and I will make you think with angry rants about stuff that I’ve seen on the news.

You, dear audience, will be treated to an amplified and caffeinated version of the essence of what it is to live as me and I welcome you to be thrilled at all of the wonder and spectacle that that entails. In fact, I already consider you to be my friends and, while I may never want to hang out with any of you (ever) I sincerely hope that each of you desperately wants to hang out with me.

I hope that our relationship gives each of us something in return. Be it a sense of superiority as a writer or the total amazement of his audience as they witness his virtuoso talents, I think that there is value in us getting to know one another through my stories. All I ask in return is that we never consider this to be a blog, or I (the writer) to be a blogger. Bloggers are the bottom dwelling scum of the internet.