Saturday, July 20, 2013

Say What!?!

In the course of my life thus far I've had my share of really odd things said to me, and some of them have stuck with me even as the years and the decades have rolled on. Here's a sampling of some of the bizarre, WTF things people have said to me, as well as my responses (be they out loud or only in my head), or other commentary appropriate to the situation.

Last Kid In Class During A Game Of Telephone: The fox wanted to jump out the window, but the farmer said "NO!"

(For those not familiar with it, Telephone is a game you play where you tell someone a short story, and they pass it on to the next person, and so on, then the final person recites it aloud, and everyone has a good laugh over how much it changed. This particular occasion happened in elementary school, where the teacher told the first kid the Aesop fable about the Fox and the Grapes.)

Stepmother: It's raining out, and it's all your fault!

(Granted, my step-mother was never a threat to win the Most Rational Human Being Award)

Airhead: I didn't know you were going to remain stopped at the red light!

(This happened when I was 17. I was on Route 3A in Hingham, stopped at a red light, when this Pontiac came tooling down the street and plowed into the rear of my Buick LeSabre, otherwise known as a land-based battleship. That was her response when I asked why she didn't stop. Fortunately, the Karma Police were on duty that day; my car was insured to the hilt and got a cracked tail light; her car's entire front end was devastated, including a punctured radiator and a buckled hood, and she had NO insurance. Yes, that's right...on top of all this, she was driving her car illegally, because Massachusetts makes auto insurance mandatory.)

Me: Hey (name withheld), we're going to the movies this afternoon, want to come along?
Doofus: Wellllll...I'm not sure the Lord wants me to spend my time that way.
Me (internal voice only): A simple "no thanks" would've sufficed, you pompous, self-righteous jackass!

(This happened when I was a member of a college-age Christian fellowship in Boston. A bunch of us from the group decided to go to the movies, but before we went, we decided to extend the invitation to one more. I guess some people really need to take every possible opportunity to show the rest of us just how mega-spiritual they are.)

Backhanded Compliment Person: Wow, JT, you have a good singing voice! I'm really impressed, and a little surprised, considering what your speaking voice sounds like!
Me: Um...thanks?

(He meant well, but wow...)

Space Cadet: Abortion is totally okay because when the procedure occurs, the spirit simply leaves the dead fetus and goes off, looking for another conception to occupy.
Me:  "....."

(Starship U.S.S. WTF departing for Planet Znutar...all aboarrrrd!)

Ex-Girlfriend And Full-Time TurboBitch: You know what your problem is, John? You don't like to take criticism!
Me: You mean there are people out there who do like to?

(You can see why she's an ex...)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Obligatory Rolling Stone Cover Outrage Blog Post

Ever since I was a little kid, I loved rock music. My first album ever, received on my 5th birthday, was this new 1964 release called "Meet the Beatles". As I grew up, I enjoyed oldies (which at that time meant songs from the 50's and early 60's, not today's definition, which seems to be the 70's and 80's. GAH! I've aged!!), then in the 80's I fell in love with New wave and Alternative. So it came as little surprise that I'd subscribe to Rolling Stone, which at the time was THE first and last word in rock and roll journalism, hands down.


As the years passed, I found myself getting increasingly irritated with the magazine. More and more, my reaction after finishing an issue was "What the HELL does this have to do with music!?!". I grew annoyed at some of their questionable cover choices, and their knee-jerk (emphasis on "jerk") liberal bias continually grated on my moderate sensibilities.

When my very long subscription finally came up for renewal, I refused it. After all, why pay good money to get aggravated when I could just jump in my car, drive to Boston, and be aggravated by other people's sucky driving, for free?

But every once in a while, I'd wonder if I did the right thing. Perhaps things had changed. Perhaps it was time to revisit the magazine. People change over the years, after all..so why not an entity like a magazine?

If you've been paying attention to the news lately, you know where this is going.

No way.

Just..no. NO way.

Once upon a time, Rolling Stone was the end all, be all magazine of music and counter-culture. Informative, insightful, sometimes irreverent, intelligent, and entertaining, it's no wonder that for many bands, the ultimate achievement was making the cover. Doctor Hook and the Medicine Show says "Hello".

Now what I see is this sad, smug, pathetic ghost of a magazine that is desperately trying to stay relevant and edgy in a world that grows increasingly disinterested in print journalism as a whole. They've lost their way, much like MTV, which curmudgeons like me remember as a network that showcased fantastic, ground-breaking music videos, but has now replaced music with programming that glorifies pretty much the worst kinds of behavior humanity has to offer, starring a whole stable of reprehensible, shallow, miserable excuses for human beings.

And really, is anyone actually surprised that Rolling Stone refuses to back down and change their terrorist-glamorizing cover? Wake up, people! We're talking here about perhaps one of the most self-satisfied, arrogant packs of sons of bitches in the world of journalism, and considering the field of competition, that's really saying something.

And the sad thing is, the piece is probably pretty good, if the advance hype and description of it is to be believed. By all means, the story should run, especially if it offers anything resembling an insight into the hows and whys. But no, in their desperate “Please, look at me!” bid to attract notoriety and sales, they put up a cover picture that basically makes the little terrorist douchebag look like a rock star. They took things too far, and crossed a line that anyone with even a modicum of class, decency, integrity, and humanity should never cross. Well, at least that small pack of idiotic, disgusting bimbos who have a major crush on him and treat him like the lead singer of the latest boy band will have something to paste on their walls, right?

Even though Rolling Stone is a shadow of its former self, it still carries some cultural weight, coasting, in my humble opinion, on the momentum generated during its glory days. So yes, being on the cover still does carry with it some relevance and importance.

But again, remember, the magazine will NOT back down. They will NOT change their cover. So instead, don’t buy it. If you’re sick of their ridiculous antics, cancel your subscription. Encourage people around you to do likewise; spread the word. Write to businesses that refuse to stock that issue, and praise them for taking their stand, and while you’re at it, add a promise to frequent them.

It would be na├»ve to think that this incident will cripple the magazine and send it down the justly deserved road to extinction. Sadly, I don’t think we have seen the last of Rolling Stone’s heartless, coldly calculated disrespect and disregard for human suffering. Somehow, I think the worst is still yet to come, but I hope that this particular incident will at the very least open people’s eyes to the magazine’s nastier nature, and at least start it down the road to ruin.

To quote the T-shirt Kurt Cobain wore when Nirvana was, yes, on the cover: “Corporate Magazines Still Suck!”

Monday, July 15, 2013

Definitions

And now, education time. Here's an excerpt from the private dictionary of the House Of Terra.

Parenthood: (noun) 1. The slow, gradual, years-long process of regaining all of those freedoms, privileges, and overall cool things that you gave up when you decided to reproduce in the first place.
2. The act of looking back at the mistakes your parents made, vowing not to do those terrible things when you have kids of your own, and intending to do it right, so that years later, your kids will look back at the mistakes you made, vowing not to do those terrible things when they have kids of their own, and intending to do it right.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tragic Events and Social Media

Back in the old days (I say as I rock on my porch and tell those damn kids to get off my lawn), when tragedy struck, we read about it in the newspaper. Sometimes, if it was a huge enough deal, there'd be an Extra edition devoted to it. We'd also watch events unfold on the evening news, where somber-faced newscasters tried to project empathy as they reported on some disastrous plane crash, killer storm, or mass murder.

But as each day passes, the coverage lessens. There'd be follow-up stories, sure, and things like final death tolls, property damage, perhaps news of the apprehension of a guilty party. But in general, things begin to calm down, and it's not like you were being constantly bombarded by the tragic news. You could put down the paper, change the channel, get away from it for a while and process it without having it surrounding you.

These days, for better or for worse, we have the Internet, and social media. In an age where people can log into their favorite social media site and read about such minutiae as someone's kid's latest cute malapropism, or some co-worker's odd birthmark, the big stories, the really big stories, are plastered all over and you simply can't escape from them.

And since many people turn to the Internet for everything from entertainment to news to paying bills and much more, you can't help but read about  a tragedy no matter where you go. Fire up your computer and click on your browser, and you'll go to your homepage, and sure enough, there's the news. Go to your social site and what's everyone talking about? Yup.

At least from where I sit (aside from on the couch), it's occurred to me that the abundance of tragedies reported on social media runs the risk of the readers getting desensitized or, if I may be so crass, "fed up" of reading about them.

Let's take Facebook, as a for instance. You are on Facebook. You have people who post on your timeline or whatever. Even though Facebook doesn't have circles like Google+ does, you do unconsciously have your contacts grouped together in easy to categorize sections. Here's your family. Here's the friends you maintain regular contact with. Here's co-workers, old classmates, fellow enthusiasts of a hobby you all share, co-workers from your current job, co-workers from past jobs, and extended family.

Now, let's say that a bomb goes off in a public place. Destruction, death in abundance. Now, sit back and watch the news be reported by every single of your groups of contacts because, since there's little to no overlap, it's being reported for the first time among that particular circle of friends.

After a while, the bombardment of tragic news, updates, rumors, heart-felt tributes, diatribes, and sackcloth and ashes runs the risk of desensitizing us to the truly horrific nature of the tragedy, be it a natural disaster or a man-made event. And this is unfortunate, because we're talking about lives here. People are injured, dying, or homeless. People's lives, at least the ones not so hideously and tragically snuffed out, have changed irrevocably. This should upset us. We should care. And we do, at least most of us do. But after a while, and sadly sometimes not a very long while, we start getting that dangerous little thought germinating in the back of our minds that whispers "Okay, enough already..."

And depending on your friends' ability to process something and move on, you may wake up to find more news and stories relating to that particular tragedy for days, weeks, maybe even months later, and we're not talking about people who personally knew someone who was in the middle of the event, or were in it themselves. There's just that segment of the population that gets profoundly affected by the event and has difficulty letting go.

You don't want to be insensitive, and you certainly don't want to adopt a cavalier attitude towards the horrific events reported, but after a while, that little voice in your head picks up a bullhorn and starts screaming "Oh, shut up and get over it!"

Here, at the risk of coming across as too flip or taking tragedy lightly, is a timeline for disasters as reflected in social media, as I've witnessed it.

Zero Hour: Event occurs
Zero + one minute: First posts announce tragedy
Zero + 10 minutes: Posts pile on, many of them exaggerating figures
Zero +15 minutes: Prayers and good thoughts posted, as more rumors begin to filter in.
Zero + one hour: The first "Keep Calm And..." meme appears
Zero + 90 minutes: Someone has already designed a special loop ribbon custom-made for the event
Zero + two hours: Religious zealots declare that this is happening because God is mad at us for abortion/gay marriage/banning prayer in schools/Justin Beiber
Zero + two hours, 10 minutes: Strident atheists declare that the tragedy is absolute proof that there really, absolutely, positively is no God because there was no divine intervention.
Zero + two hours, 30 minutes: The followers of one political party declare that this happened because their political policies haven't been adopted.
Zero + two hours, 31 minutes: The followers of the opposing political party declare that this happened because their political policies haven't been adopted.
Zero + two hours, 32 minutes: The TinFoil Hat Brigade crawls out from under their rocks and declare the entire thing was manufactured by the gub-mint.
Zero + two hours, 45 minutes: The first annoying Willy Wonka image meme appears, refuting previous political arguments
Zero + three hours: Some inspirational message appears, usually accompanied by a baby and/or a cat
Zero + three hours, 15 minutes: Some posters start leaving comments like "This sort of incident happens all over the world every day; why aren't people equally upset about all of THOSE incidents as well? What makes a disaster in America so freaking special?"
Zero + three hours, 30 minutes: Obama gets blamed
Zero + four hours: Rainbows, flowers, bad poetry
Zero + one day: Stories begin to trickle out about brave rescue workers, survivors first-hand accounts.
Zero + one day, one hour: Some survivors' stories happen to mention that they prayed for rescue
Zero + one day, one hour, ten seconds: God-haters immediately seize upon those survivors' accounts and pick them apart, saying that God is unjust if He only saves people who pray.
Zero + one day, 2 hours: First Jean-Luc Picard meme showing him gesturing, with a caption refuting something or other about the tragedy
Zero + two days: Fund-raising drives commence for helping those affected by the tragedy
Zero + two days, 10 seconds: Heartless scumbags create fake fund-raising charities
Zero + two days, 12 hours: About this time, we start having a very clear idea of what happened, casualties, causes, etc.
Zero + two days, 13 hours: Political arguments, religious arguments, puppies, flowers, pictures of Jesus and/or angels, quotes by Neil De Grasse Tyson, acknowledgement of disaster at sports events, cats.
Zero + three days: Westboro Baptist "church" announces its intention to picket the funerals.

And so on. I wish I could say that any of the above items were exaggerations. They're not.

The Internet and social media can be a wonderful resource for information. Fear is based on ignorance, and being able to access up to the minute news is a good way of getting some answers and perhaps restoring some peace of mind. It's also a great way of finding out how we can help, directly or indirectly, to alleviate suffering and help with the healing. But more of than not, thanks to this new way of getting news, the constant exposure runs the risk of inoculating us against the gravity, the emotional impact of the situation, and thus make us care a little less, replacing concern with an exasperated desire to just stop reading about it constantly. And that in itself is its own unique tragedy.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day

This photo best expresses the spirit of Independence Day. It's my talented daughter's brilliant creation, and it quite brilliantly epitomizes the holiday, dontcha think?