Assholes and the Umbrella of Safety

Retired NBA star Charles Barkley said something recently, something probably reported with the intention of shocking readers, but actually fairly tame, all things considered. Here:

When asked about a report that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson isn’t seen as “black enough” by some of his teammates, the NBA Hall of Famer went on a rant about how “unintelligent” black people believe they have to hold successful African-Americans back.

“For some reason we are brainwashed to think, if you’re not a thug or an idiot, you’re not black enough,” he said in an interview on CBS Philadelphia 94 WIP’s “Afternoons with Anthony Gargano and Rob Ellis.” “If you go to school, make good grades, speak intelligent, and don’t break the law, you’re not a good black person.”

I thought about this for several days, and two different ideas for blog posts came out of it. Here’s the first, addressing some part of what Barkley’s saying:


Statistically, there must be a regularly-distributed concentration of assholes in the world, wouldn’t you say? (Of course, this is ignoring those philosophies and cultures that produce them in high concentrations as a matter of course.)

Oh, wait. I guess I need to define “asshole.” As I’m using it here, an asshole is a person who lives in his own little world and who really doesn’t give a shit what effect he has on others. A self-involved jerk, in other words.

There are assholes driving on the roads. Assholes riding motorcycles. Assholes in the theater flashing their cellphone screens while you’re trying to watch the movie. Assholes who park next to you at the gas station and leave their music blaring while they get out and go into the store. Assholes at your party. Assholes in public service. Assholes in the military. Asshole co-workers. Asshole employers. Asshole upstairs neighbors. Asshole parents and asshole kids departing the public park in a blizzard of left-behind trash. Asshole “friends” who borrow your stuff and break it, and then just hand it back to you as if it’s your responsibility. Assholes who inevitably show up on the ski slopes, in the stadium, and on the lake. Assholes sleeping through their own car alarms at 3 a.m. Assholes who call you late at night to try to sell you stuff. Assholes who spit on the sidewalk, or throw their sandwich wrapper and soda cup down in front of you.

Assholes in bars? Oh, yeah.

Assholes on the Internet? Oh hell yes.

Assholes in politics? Sweet Baby Jesus, YES!!

It is an observable fact that assholes can come from any demographic. A lot of us don’t want to admit it, but it’s true. I have met both religious and atheist assholes. Male assholes. Female assholes. French assholes, Mexican assholes, Arabic assholes. Handicapped assholes. Minority group assholes. Homeless assholes. Hell, I’ve met asshole dogs and cats.

(Possible exceptions: I have never met a Humanist asshole, or an Australian or New Zealander asshole. I have a hard time imagining the first; the second two may be an artifact of my limited experience.)

You can expect to meet them on a fairly regular basis. We all know that most people are NOT assholes. It’s just some people, some small percentage of larger society. And certain other people SOME of the time. (Who, me??)

But assholes exist, and we all know it.

Another thing, though, is that assholes get feedback that keep them somewhat in check. The police get called. Their girlfriends/boyfriends ditch them for someone nicer. They get publicly shamed. They get voted out. A little old lady shoots them the finger and they get laughed at. Their friends tell them to grow the hell up. They get their comeuppance on YouTube.

But then again, there are certain safe havens where they are protected. Where they almost never get called out.

I’m not talking about positions of wealth and power. Although those are certainly good insulators for assholes, they’re not impenetrable. Even rich, famous assholes can suffer if they go on long enough, if enough of their fan base catches on, if they make that one critical mistake the public can’t tolerate. And when they do fall, they get no sympathy. Everybody loves ‘just desserts’ in action.

The safe haven I’m thinking of occurs – disturbingly enough – in an atmosphere of social activism. There are assholes both among the downtrodden and among the champions of the downtrodden. And they have an umbrella of safety – our own caring and compassion – that protects them from being called out. The worst part is, they know it, and use it.

Think about this for a bit before you reject the idea. The fact is, it’s not something we’re comfortable admitting, even to ourselves in private. But don’t you really know of assholes who find safe haven in certain movements, or certain social situations, because nobody calls them out?

Ever met a black asshole? Someone that you didn’t dare say anything to – or about – because you were afraid you’d be called a racist?

Ever met a feminist asshole? Someone you didn’t dare confront because you knew you’d get attacked as a mansplaining woman-hater?

In both cases, I have. (And so has Barkley, but even he will get sniped at for saying something about it.)

Right now in your head, I’d bet you’re saying “But white people can be assholes too! And men are the worst assholes of all!”

I absolutely agree. But then again, at least in the social circles where I live and work, racist white assholes and misogynist men catch shit by the shovelful when they act out their assholiness. There is a LOT of backpressure on majority-group assholes.

By contrast, some time back I had a run-in with a Hasidic Jew who deliberately parked directly blocking the walkway into a highway rest stop. When I told him mildly there was an entire parking lot out there where everybody else was parking, his response was essentially “You’re only treating me like this because you hate Jews, you bastard!” In fact, he went one freaky-racist step farther by saying “Look at my face! If my face was black, you wouldn’t have said anything!”

Plenty of people walked around his car without complaining. But to me it looked like he was being a bully. Not a bully that would beat anybody up, but the small bully who makes people walk around him, just because he can. In short, an asshole. But an asshole with an umbrella of protection, the protection of the rest of us who didn’t dare look like Holocaust-loving monsters. The best I could muster at the moment was “You’re being rude and inconsiderate.”

Those of us in the liberal camp are so focused on the concept of “the downtrodden and disadvantaged” that we sometimes miss out on realizing that among the people we defend and campaign for, there are a certain number of assholes. Some of whom are there – who concentrate there, in numbers greater than in the general public – because they are SAFE.

And here’s the thing: Whatever movement they find shelter in, they weaken it. They USE the movement as cover for their own petty bullying, and even sociopathy. They create enemies for the movement – for the people who truly do deserve special caring and consideration – by turning people outside the movement, who can’t distinguish the few specific assholes from the larger downtrodden population, against it.

They also drag down those in that population who are working by their own efforts to overcome the problem. This is pretty much what Charles Barkley was saying.

You might argue that such people have reason to be offensive, that their treatment somehow justifies them being assholes. You might even be right. But you might also be helping to create that umbrella of protection that allows them to continue to operate. Regardless, we’re still left with the effect they have on everybody else, even others in their same demographic. If nothing else, this is reason enough to think about the fact that they exist. To SEE them, and what they do.

If you’re in the social justice movement – as I am – look around you. If you see one or more people who seem to be having a little too much fun busting on others, those who are working a little too hard at coming up with the perfect cutting remark, the most stinging put-down, the most vicious dismissive comeback, people who are putting in extra effort to create enemies rather than to create understanding and sympathy …

… you may be looking at assholes.

And you may be better off without them.

Book of Good Living: The Risk Rule

BGL copyMy approach to risk is tuned toward the more sensitive end of the spectrum. (We’re not counting the bull riding, which was a 20-something macho-guy one-off.)

As I said in my last post, I’ve gotten to the age of 62 without a stitch, a broken bone, or a major accident of any sort. I’ve done it by following a rough rule for dealing with risks.

So here’s my Risk Rule. (Note that this applies mainly to physical dangers, and not to existential hazards such as being turned down when asking someone out on a date.)

There’s the CHANCE of a thing happening. And there’s the COST if it does happen. The two factors are separate, but they work together to determine the probability of injurious end result. It’s not Chance vs. Cost, it’s Chance TIMES Cost.

There are five general risk scenarios:

1) Zero-zero.

The probability of the thing happening is zero, and the effect if will have if it does is zero. You don’t need to think about it. You’re not going to be attacked in your bathroom by butterflies. And even if you are attacked, by some extremely remote chance, it’s butterflies. Eh.

2) Zero-Something.

The probability of the thing happening is zero, but the effect if it does happen is significant. You still don’t need to think about it.  You’re not going to be attacked in your bathroom by a sitatunga. Even through such an attack might leave you injured … it’s just not going to happen. Eh.

3) Something-Zero.

The probability of the thing happening is significant, but the effect if it does happen is zero. You don’t need to think about it. A complete stranger is going to someday look at you and think “What a complete asshole.” You will probably never even know it when it happens. But afterward, the two of you will go your separate ways and never see each other again. Eh.

4) Something-Something.

The probability of the thing happening is non-zero, and the effect if it does happen is non-zero.  You’re going to cross the street in traffic and there’s going to be a driver who fails to notice you. He may strike and injure you. Whoa. You definitely need to pay attention, and work to limit the negative outcomes.

And a special case …

5) Something-Infinity

That rock ledge you’re standing on PROBABLY isn’t going to break. Hey, it’s been just that way for tens of thousands of years. But rock ledges DO break, and if this one does, you’re definitely, absolutely, without any doubt, going to fall and die. Double-whoa. You need to not do that thing.

If there’s an ALMOST ZERO chance of the thing happening, but if it DOES happen it will cost you the entire rest of your life, you treat it as if it was an extremely dangerous situation.

Unless and until you think about it, decide the risk is worth it to you personally — that there is some large potential payoff — and deliberately accept that things could go bad.

The point of the Risk Rule isn’t for you to hide yourself away from life and never again ride motorcycles or swim in the ocean, or ski down black diamond runs. The point is 1) to approach each Scenario 5 situation with your eyes open and knowing you’ve made a conscious, adult decision to proceed, and 2) to limit the number of these types of risks you take.

In these cases, Chance X Cost equals some very high level of probability. Over the course of a lifetime, repeatedly taking these kinds of risks increases the potential for a fatal accident. Sooner or later, you will suffer for it. As the saying goes, “There are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.”

In fact, the same is true of Scenario 4, especially if you’re doing something – smoking, drinking, using drugs – which is non-fatal in the short term but has a cumulative effect toward certain negative health effects. Sooner or later, you’ll suffer some consequence, which may very well include misery and death.

Book of Good Living: The 5 Second Rule

5 secondsNo, this has nothing to do with dropping food on the floor. This is about the OTHER 5 seconds, the one that gives you a cushion of safety in everyday life.

The simplest statement of the rule might be: “Look 5 seconds ahead … in every direction.”

Every person who drives is familiar with the concept of looking ahead. Some of us do it badly, and end up in rear-end collisions, or even pileups. Some of us do it well and see cops on the side of the highway a half mile or so in advance, so we can slow down and avoid a ticket.

As far as pileups are concerned, the critical factor isn’t that the drivers in the rear aren’t looking ahead, it’s that they’re not looking ahead ENOUGH. If you’re only watching the one car 30 feet in front of you while moving at 70 mph, you’re a prime potential victim of a rear-end collision.

Just from the fact that 30 feet is not enough space in which to stop, or even to react, you’re placing your safety in the hands and happenstance of that guy ahead of you. If a deer or a child runs out in front of him and he slams on the brakes, you WILL collide with him. But if you have a full 5 second warning, that’s time enough to brake, to swerve, to do whatever you have to do to keep yourself safe. It’s time to see, to analyze, to react to the situation. Think of that 5 seconds as a cushion ahead of you, not just a cushion of time, but of space and circumstance.

Extend the 5 seconds outward in all directions, and in all situations. Because if you could see 5 seconds into the future, you’d never have another accident.

If you’re walking and a car is coming up behind you, it can’t possibly hit you if you foresee and forestall that event … 5 seconds before it happens.

If you’re strolling near a baseball field, and you hear the crack of a solid hit off to the side, that line drive can’t sail over the fence and whack you if you look up and around.

The rule means that you attempt to see intersecting vectors from every direction, no matter what the environment. And not just the vectors that you can predict – for instance, you’re walking along the roadside facing away from traffic and expecting that all the drivers will stay on the road – but the vectors you can’t predict: All those drivers too sleepy or drunk to see you, too involved with texting, too old or tired to notice you, too distracted to stay on the road.

Yes, they all should be doing a better job of driving. But that’s THEIR job. YOUR job is to protect yourself by watching out for your own safety NO MATTER WHAT they do.

Nothing in the 5 Second Rule implies that an injury is your FAULT (and certainly it doesn’t relate to unexpected deliberate attacks). But it is your DUTY to protect yourself, and your loved ones by controlling your own contributory acts – inspecting and foreseeing each hazardous environment and taking whatever action you can to limit risk. You can’t control all the factors out there around you, but you can control your own actions, as you move among those factors, with deliberate foresight and forethought, to lessen the probability. No matter what, if you do get hurt, you’ll probably tell yourself over and over “If I had only …”

Just as you wouldn’t walk out into a lightning storm carrying a tall metal rod, you should never walk in or around traffic with earbuds and loud music blocking your hearing. Nor should you stare down at your smartphone in a way that distracts your vision and attention. Never cross the street with your head down, as I see so many people doing. Never cross without looking at the lights, the traffic, even other pedestrians and cyclists … all the time you’re in the roadway. Because all of that blinds you to the next 5 seconds, and that’s just long enough to be killed by something you could have foreseen.

Inevitably, there will be those who’ll sneer at deliberately enhanced awareness as “paranoia” – a waste of time and energy on imaginary fears. But it isn’t paranoid to look out for yourself in an environment you already know is hazardous.

On a personal note, regarding the charge of paranoia, I’ve gotten to the age of 62 — following the 5 Second Rule most of my life — with never a stitch, never a broken bone, and only one minor auto accident … caused by another driver. I consider those many 5 seconds well spent.


Dark Adventures and Dumbfuckery

bear facepalmJust reading a status by a Facebook friend where he talks with pride about his adventures waking up in strange beds and houses, being threatened by men with guns, handcuffed by cops, all sorts of exciting bad-boy mayhem.

And I kinda have to wonder … why go there? Why choose THAT path?

I mean, we live in a world where fantastic adventures are possible, adventures of growth and learning and accomplishment, and even real danger if you want it. You can stand on the floor of Yosemite Valley and look up at men and women climbing a vertical rock wall more than 4,000 feet high. You can BE one of them … and nobody will stop you. You can parachute out of planes from 2 miles in the sky. Scuba dive with whales. Raft the Grand Canyon. Work to be an ace skateboarder. Camp in the wilderness in grizzly country. Learn to throw knives and join the circus. Become a wildland firefighter. And NOBODY WILL STOP YOU. Nobody will even care, except to admire you when they see you doing it.

Why does it have to be shit that gets you in trouble?

To me it’s always looked like a serious failure of imagination — not just of individuals but of entire cultures. I have a sort-of friend in Los Angeles who’s been butting heads with cops and courts his whole adult life. His eyes glow when he talks about his neighbors calling the cops on him for revving his motorcycle after midnight, or a police helicopter circling over his house after a gun was fired into the air at 3 a.m. I hear stories from New York City people, practically on a daily basis, about their many arrests and fights and time in jail.

And damn, what a massive and fruitless waste of time. I mean, what the hell? Is that all there is for some people?

If you were standing in the middle of a 360 degree circle, and every degree marked off some wild adventure, maybe  ONE degree would be the stuff that’s illegal. The rest might be every bit as exciting, every bit as fulfilling, but would contain no threat of arrest or imprisonment. Most of it costs less than drugs. And incidentally doesn’t involve stepping on the rights of the neighbors to enjoy a night of sleep uninterrupted by assholes.

I wish there was a class young men could go through — “How Not To Be A Dumb Fuck” — that would be at least partly about this.

Might be an interesting thing to include in this crowd-sourced, deliberately designed culture I’m thinking of.

I even know some guys — serious adventurers, all — who could teach it.

Short Stack #23

Maple Syrup on PancakesIf we had evolved from deer, I wonder if we’d all get out of school and jobs for several weeks in the fall, so the guys could scratch their horns against trees, and get in fights.


I’m imagining that we first-worlders will have to switch over to strict vegetarian diets as population continues to increase, and third-worlders will switch over to grass.

Fortunately, they will be provided with a genetically engineered digestive enzyme that will allow them to eat the grass, at least enough that they will still have sufficient energy to reproduce. Because god help us if people don’t have their “right” to have children.

But also fortunately, we will be able to kill off just about every other large mammal on earth and take over that vital living space. Because hey, fuck them, right? They’re ANIMALS.

Wait, you don’t want to kill off those animals? … Why do you hate the starving babies? They’re BABIES, and they’re STARVING. Why do you want to kill them? Why? What’s wrong with you?


Idea Book: Some talented artist out there, I’d love to see superheros done as Smurfs. Iron Smurf, Spider Smurf, Smurftain America, the Smurftastic Four!

I’m especially eager to see the Silver Smurfer and S’mor (Thor).


So when are we getting the nanites that give us extra strength, rapid healing and superior vision and hearing?

Because I’m READY.


If nobody knew about milk, and you suddenly showed up and said “Hey, I drink this whitish, greasy liquid I squeeze out of the underside of those big smelly animals over there!” …

I’m pretty sure somebody would say “Eww, you filthy, gross bastard!”

Come to think of it, you might even get arrested, charged with bestiality or something.

Especially if you accidentally pointed at a bull.


My heart goes out to all the victims of ebola. It’s bad enough that you have this horrible deadly disease, but even worse when people quarantine and marginalize you. That’s why I’m starting my new campaign of compassion, “Hug An Ebola Victim.”

We need to let them know we still care.


I think it would be fun to see a TV show called “History’s Assholes.”

Dear History Channel …


In the alternate universe where superheroes are real …

What do superhero comics look like?

Because if they’re just illustrated adventures of the real superheroes, they’re sort of like People Magazine, aren’t they? And what 15-year-old boy would read THAT?


One of my cowboy friends, Tom Wood, got malignant melanoma and died of it. I was going through a stack of old papers and came across one of the last letters he wrote me.

“Dear Hank: It was good to talk to you last night. Sorry I wasn’t quite with it, but I get drowsy in the evening from my pain medication. Since my surgery I have just been taking it real easy.”

It’s dated 1986. He died 28 years ago. I can still remember the sound of his voice, the feel of his handshake, all his likes — Australian country music, darts, Irish Cream — and dislikes. He was one of the cowboy “gearheads,” the guy who has to have all the cool wild rags, hats, dusters, belts, boots, etc. Hell, he had his own branding iron pattern, a T-hanging-W.

He died at the age of 39. At the time he was about 5 years older than me, but now he seems like an idiot kid.

Death is weird. And I miss the dopey bastard.


I’m glad they fly ebola victims back to the U.S. Because after they’re infected with a deadly disease, we really need to Bring Them Home.

And that charter flight … I do hope they clean that plane with fanatical care. Although I hear the Cheney family is looking for a nice comfy jet to travel to a private island retreat.


Reality TV Series: Ten C-list actors and actresses and two stand-up comics are cloistered together on a gated Hollywood estate, with a pool, tennis courts, jacuzzi and such. Hidden cameras are everywhere, and the group stays together for 21 days.

A grounds-keeper with ebola is introduced on the third day.

I’m pretty sure there would be Madcap Hijinks.


Other than that, Mrs. Kennedy, how did you like Dallas?


So if Superman was your daddy (by a Hollywood starlet, say, who wanted the publicity), and he was still using a secret identity, would your last name be Superman?

Bobby Superman. Michelle Superman. LaQuonda Nadine Superman. Pemberton Braithwaite Superman.

And would they get along with Elliott and Roxanne Luthor?


If you’re not willing to try Brain Piercing, you’re not hard core.


Ha. I was just thinking of writing a fake news story in which the little-known U.S. Government Office of Gravity altered the gravity at different times and in different places in order to favor business and manipulate private citizens. For instance, during the armed standoff at Waco, the office turned up the gravity in that area so bullets fired at federal agents would fall short. And on election day, the gravity near certain polling places is turned up so minority voters will be too tired to vote.

Bet I could get people to believe it.

Besides which, I’m pretty sure the gravity was up to 1.5 Gs where I was today. Obama!!!


Flasher Philosophy:

“I’ll show you mine if … Aw, screw it, I’ll just show you mine.”


Aw, come on. If I was REALLY living in a Fool’s Paradise, there would be a lot more Batman T-shirts, ice cream, water slides and big funny hats.


Back when the guillotine was so busy during the French Revolution … do you suppose they washed and disinfected the blade after each use?


But what would you do for TWO Klondike bars?


Back in the days of Rome, it must have been pretty funny when someone lit a candle and those balls of fire started shooting out every few seconds.

I guess we’re lucky today that we only have to use them for Fourth of July.


What would zoos look like if we assumed elephants were sentient beings?

Seriously, I’ve wondered for years why we don’t have a 30-million-dollar project to really map elephant intelligence and cognition. And then treat all other elephants according to what we find out.


Another great day when, once again, you didn’t wake up with the police pounding on your door.

They’re probably still collecting evidence.


If robins made a sound like jackhammers … mornings would be a lot less fun.


If there was a trillion-to-one chance that you could get struck by lightning, and then you got struck by lightning, you’d almost HAVE TO assume there was some special intent involved. “What’s behind this? What caused it? Who did it? And why?”

But the thing is, given the population of planet earth and the frequency of lightning strikes, sooner or later somebody DOES get struck by lightning.

To the rest of us, it’s nothing special. But to THAT guy, it’s got to feel significant.

Somewhere in this is a lesson about all of life: “It’s probably not about you.”



I’m sitting in a local coffee shop this afternoon, reading and kicking back, when I hear raised voices. One of the local street characters is SHOUTING at the little girl behind the counter. I realize I’ve been hearing them for a bit, gradually escalating, and now he’s yelling “Whatchu mean, call the pow-leece?! Whatchu gonna tell the pow-leece?” He storms out.

I’m thinking “WTF? Who has to get this excited in a COFFEE SHOP in sleepy little Schenectady, New York?”

Thinking about it, though, I realize it probably has nothing to do with this moment and this place. It’s about his whole life, and the trap he’s found himself in — a trap that he no doubt contributed to, as we all do, but that also has some large element of the outside world at fault.

But I do not know what I can do about that today. I read my book, finish my coffee, and go about my life.


Just wait ‘til I release MY secret tapes.

I think the 1/2-inch transparent is going to really turn heads, but it’s the double-sided 3/4-inch foam-core picture-hanging variety that’s really going to blow the lid off. Brace yourself, world.


Dang it, they fired me from my supermarket produce-department job. Hey, I thought the sign over the bananas saying “SWEET AND JUICY!!!” was a real attention-getter.


In any issue of science and public health, there’s the science, and there’s the socio-cultural system in which the science is carried out.

If you talk to pro-GMO people about GMOs, they’re only willing to discuss the science issue. They’re not willing to talk about the social matrix where the science happens.

The social matrix includes the fact that the scientists are working for somebody, they’re paid to do certain things. Being a scientist does not necessarily imply ethicality. We like to think it does, but it doesn’t.

The companies those scientists work for have mandates that are only peripherally concerned with your health and safety, and centrally concerned with profits. They don’t want to get sued and lose money, but there are times it’s cheaper to fight it in court and put off a settlement as long as possible than it is to pay damages — or even to proactively head off the problem ahead of time. That happens all the time. Cheaper to pay off politicians to change the laws.

The “you” in your head is centrally important to you, literally the most important thing in the universe. By extreme contrast, though we don’t like to think it, there are people about whom you literally don’t care anything. They might die in a speed-boat accident, and you might see the video of the accident and think only how funny it was. The idea of their fear, severe injury, drowning and bleeding to death at the same time, and being wholly conscious and terrified as it happened, would probably not even occur to you. It’s a sort of de facto sociopathy, but it’s also normal, because none of us can know or care about every stranger.

The thing about any corporation is that it’s run by people to whom YOU are the speed-boat victim. They not only don’t care about you, they CAN’T. This is a hard thing to realize for some of us. Those of us who think Science can do no wrong, they deliberately assert that every company dealing in GMOs must care so much that they would never let anything happen to precious us. When the opposite has been demonstrated — in every industry — over and over and over, thousands of times.


I have in mind a new TV show, but I’m not sure who to pitch it to. It’s sort of a mashup of Breaking Bad, Twilight and The Walking Dead.

The sparkley vampires are made out of pure cocaine, and the crack-addict zombies want to snort them. And there’s a love story.


If you meet someone from India for the first time, you should immediately ask them a question about your computer. Because man, those people know computers.


I’m thinking of a pattern (or style, or color) of paint called Blood Spatter. Thinking how fun it would be to have a truck painted that color. A spray of blood over the hood, one off the left side of the front bumper, maybe one over the roof. The laughs would just never stop.

I suppose others might disagree. After all, my Car-Top Baby Carrier never caught on.


It was common for my mom to get mad at me when I got hurt. By the time I was 12, I was regularly concealing injuries and accidents so I wouldn’t have to deal with the uproar. I once fell off a 10-foot church roof — onto my head and neck (no snickers, you bastards) — and my first impulse after I was able to get up was to hide.

I suppose this MIGHT be what informs my feeling today about “victim blaming.” If I walk out into heavy traffic and a car hits me, it seems to me that it’s partly my fault. If someone says “What the hell were you thinking? Never walk out there like that without looking!” and then someone else chirps “Oh no, you’re VICTIM BLAMING!!” … I’m not going to see that second person as the truest friend.

If something happens to you and you contributed in any way to the situation … yes, you do need to make better decisions next time. And other people need to be told so THEY can make better decisions for the future. This does NOT mean I think drivers should have perfect freedom to run over anybody they want. It does mean I think we live in the real world, and that nobody gets a free pass on the consequences of their own contributory actions.

I just can’t see it as black and white. There’s a lot of discussional space between “this is totally your fault” and “nothing is your fault, ever; it’s all THEIR fault.”

But in some circles, a desire for those gradations of nuance makes me a monster.


Enough of this “day” shit.

I will now go into the Sleep Chamber to lie on a resilient surface, pass into a temporary state of unconsciousness, and probably rise several times in the night to jettison liquid wastes before becoming fully conscious again when daylight reappears.

There may be fantastic images experienced internally, but I’m told that’s normal. There are no real killer Pez dispensers, and the screaming, bloody clowns will not actually eat me. (The flying Mardi Gras floats, though, I think those are real.)


Driving drunk. At night. While texting. In a snowstorm. With headphones. And no seat belt. You should get Expert Driver Points if you do this and don’t have an accident. Because hey, we all know there’s a penalty if you have an accident. Why isn’t there a reward if you DON’T??


If we’d evolved from cats, the term “hacker” would have a whole different meaning.


The suckiest thing about life is that you can’t do EVERYTHING. I hate having to think about doing ONE thing.

There are people out there who spend their entire careers being barbers, or carpenters, or cheesemakers. Or hell, even nuclear physicists.

I’d kill myself.


Well, if I’m going to have a pet bear, it’s going to have to happen in the next year or two. Otherwise, I’ll be too old to join him in a drunken mauling spree on his birthday.

Regarding which, it must be truly terrible when you wake up and discover that not only did you maul people the night before, but you also have a KILLER hangover.


Every writer knows what it’s like to write half a story. There should be an International Half Story Contest.

One of my half-stories was about a pet shop that sold genetically engineered birds that you could teach to sing real songs. They’d listen to you or music you supplied, then shyly sing part of one line. Later they’d pick up more and more, until eventually they’d do the whole thing. But each bird could only learn one song. And once they learned it, they’d never stop. So they were instant successes as merchandise, and later VERY popular for regifting.

Nothing more than feelings,
Trying to forget my feelings of love
Rolling down on, my face
Trying to forget my, feelings of love
For all my life I’ll feel it
I’ll wish I’ve never met you, girl
You’ll never come again
Wo-o-o feelings
Wo-o-o feelings
Again in my heart ….

–>OVER and OVER and OVER<–


I had a friend who had a sled dog kennel. The dogs were visibly happy to pull sleds. But when I borrowed one of the dogs and started taking him with me on dog hikes, and then later couldn’t do it anymore, he got visibly depressed.

He (Walter was his name, after some football player) didn’t like pulling the sled anymore. The owner told me later he considered having him put down. It took a long time, after I stopped taking him out, before he readjusted.

One of the funny things I noticed at first was that he didn’t know how to run. Racing with my two dogs, he would thrust with both back legs together, a really odd-looking motion. It was the only way he knew to move, the gait he needed for sled pulling, which was the only time he got to run. He did that for our first two or three outings before he started trying a regular gallop.

He also didn’t know what running water was. We walked over a tiny stream, maybe a foot across, and he shied back from it. My two dogs and I just kept on going, and Walter took a running leap over it, probably four or five feet in the air. Later when he saw the other two drinking from a creek, he came up and drank from it, then danced in the cold water for a good five minutes or so, excited, delighted. He had discovered creek water! The water he got was always in a dirty pan, and only enough to hydrate, and frequently tasting of chicken broth. And in winter, always hot.

He didn’t know how to be a dog. This is always in my mind when I see the annual happy uproar over the Iditarod. Those dogs look like they love it. But I know how different they’d feel if they knew anything OTHER than pulling sleds.


I worked for a Swiss Master Baker for a couple of years, training to be a pastry chef. Something I quickly learned about him was that he NEVER went out to eat. The reason: He was a true gourmet. I could bolt down a burger and fries at McDonald’s and know no different, but HE knew what really good food was, and nothing you could get in a restaurant was ever good enough for his tastes.

I was thinking about that after I posted the previous thing about sled dog Walter.

It seems to me that, if you have nothing more than the common judgmental criteria about the well-being of dogs or cats, anything that anybody does to or with them is pretty much okay with you. Breed them down to toys, deliberately make them hairless, tweak them into interesting dwarf forms, give them huge wrinkles or ponderous jowls or crushed faces or ears so long they trip over them, and it’s all the same. They’re cute, they’re funny. As long as they SEEM happy, you’re okay with it.

But maybe once you become a connoisseur of dogness, of dog feelings and welfare, you start to feel that “happy” isn’t quite good enough. Because there’s the “happy” they have because they can never know any different, and there’s the gourmet-level –>HAPPY<– they might have if they were healthy, active and free to be dogs.

I’m one of those second people. The things people do to dogs disturbs me a great deal. Even when I see a happy little lap dog, I sometimes murmur, “Little one, I’m so sorry they did this to you.”


Waiting for the day they can animate tattoos. I’m still not getting one, but it will be interesting to see what sorts of stupid things people decide to get.

And where are the moving graphics on clothing? If nothing else, you could wear a white t-shirt and have sycophants orbiting around you with small projectors.


I’m imagining a Friend Library, where you could go in and browse the collection, then pick a friend to take home for a few hours or days. You could go out to eat, go to movies, go for a hike or a bike ride. Then when you were done, you’d just take ‘em back and turn ‘em in. If it was after hours, you’d just drop them in the slot.

Probably work for orphan kids too.


Why do we have seeing-eye dogs? They take so long to train, and I don’t think their lives are all that good.

It’s not like we don’t have huge numbers of unemployed people who could be guides. English-speaking guides, guides who can see traffic and relate obstacles to the sightless more effectively than dogs.


A friend tells me he’s getting married, and the wedding is going to cost the parents more than $20,000. I tell him “Make a deal with them. Tell them you’ll run off to Vegas and get married for a couple of hundred bucks, if they’ll give you half the wedding cost.”

There are entire industries out there that are scams. The lottery industry. The diamond industry. The funeral industry. To me, the wedding industry feels a lot like that.

Just get married. Throw a big potluck barbecue in somebody’s back yard. Everybody wear blue. Toss a Frisbee around. Have ice chests full of beer and sodas. Hire a photographer. The money you save, put it down on a house.


I think a baby raccoon would make a very cool pet. If you had time for it. Otherwise it would be a bundle of destruction and mayhem.


If Marvel Comics’ Rogue — the mutant who has the power to briefly absorb other mutant’s powers by touching them — crossed comic universes and met up with Superman … would she become super?


One of my many theories of life is that — at whatever age you now are — you contain within you personas of all your previous ages.

Each of those personas requires some handling. You don’t have to allow your 5-year-old, or your 15-year-old, to run things, but you do have to recognize it exists, and either mollify or discipline it. But it does seem to me that you can allow earlier selves a little free rein every now and then, to maintain optimal mental health.

This is absolutely the only reason I make the occasional adolescent-level joke, and engage — at extremely rare intervals — in the f-bomb.

Also: Farts. Poopie. Ta-tas.



Carrie Underwood Click-Bait. Meh.

ChickenWe had chickens when I was a kid — White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Barred Plymouth Rocks, Bantams — and I loved feeding them. I’d go out with a bowl of cracked corn and call “Chick, chick, chick, chick-EE!” And they’d come running, looking up at me with their stupid prehistoric faces, brainlessly eager for something tasty. Never realizing that they were OUR food, that this was all a scam to get their eggs and meaty selves on our table in the near future.

I hate to think of people like that, but — all too often — we are.

So here’s the cracked corn:

Atheists Outraged By Carrie Underwood’s Latest Song

In the song, Underwood sings about baptism and “being washed in blood,” which refers to the blood of Christ. The whole message of the song is that we humans are lost without God.

Atheists are outraged that such a hit-maker as Underwood would dare to sing about Christianity, but Carrie doesn’t seem to care.

“Country music is different. You have that Bible Belt-ness about it,” she said. “I’m not the first person to sing about God, Jesus, faith or any of that, and I won’t be the last. And it won’t be the last for me, either. If you don’t like it, change the channel.”

And here are the lyrics:

“Something In The Water”

He said, “I’ve been where you’ve been before.
Down every hallway’s a slamming door.”
No way out, no one to come and save me
Wasting a life that the Good Lord gave me

Then somebody said what I’m saying to you
Opened my eyes and told me the truth.”
They said, “Just a little faith, it’ll all get better.”
So I followed that preacher man down to the river and now I’m changed
And now I’m stronger

There must’ve been something in the water
Oh, there must’ve been something in the water

Well, I heard what he said and I went on my way
Didn’t think about it for a couple of days
Then it hit me like a lightning late one night
I was all out of hope and all out of fight

Couldn’t fight back the tears so I fell on my knees
Saying, “God, if you’re there come and rescue me.”
Felt love pouring down from above
Got washed in the water, washed in the blood and now I’m changed

And now I’m stronger

There must be something in the water
Oh, there must be something in the water

And now I’m singing along to amazing grace
Can’t nobody wipe this smile off my face
Got joy in my heart, angels on my side
Thank God almighty, I saw the light
Gonna look ahead, no turning back
Live every day, give it all that I have
Trust in someone bigger than me
Ever since the day that I believed I am changed
And now I’m stronger

There must be something in the water
Oh, there must be something in the water
Oh, there must be something in the water
Oh, there must be something in the water
Oh, yeah

I am changed

I’m free

Now, who do you suppose this headline and this story and this song were for? Who are the chickens that will come running? Is it atheists?

Nope. It’s Christians. Those poor, besieged Christians.

This is a manipulative, parasitic song and article to fuck over people — real human beings, a lot like you and me — who identify as Christians … mostly because they don’t know any different.

Behind the song and article — and probably a lot of preacher-talk to follow — is a millennia-long religious INDUSTRY aimed at fucking over people. Aimed at lying to them. Aimed at brainwashing them. Aimed at sucking the life out of them. Aimed at creating misery that can be turned into profit.

That’s what this is all about. This is one of those things that you can never see until you get religion out of your head. Before, it all looks like sweetness and light, families home for the holidays and Hallmark moments of all sorts. After … you start to see it for what it really is: A sort of invisible monster that eats human minds, human lives.

The way this particular story is presented, that business about Christians being under siege, is a way of deflecting attention onto others for the REAL siege being carried out by the presenters. It’s a dirty little magic act where they pose as your friend — rather than cracked corn, they throw out a scary picture of The Common Enemy — so you never notice them consuming you and everybody you love.


I actually like Carrie Underwood a lot. I especially like the song and video for “Before He Cheats Again.” It’s beautiful musically. The video is fabulous. But I don’t kid myself about what it’s really about, a young woman vandalizing a man’s truck — to a felony-level thousands of dollars — merely because he’s out with another girl.

Right now he’s probably slow dancing with a bleached-blonde tramp,
and she’s probably getting frisky…
Right now, he’s probably buying her some fruity little drink
’cause she can’t shoot whiskey…
Right now, he’s probably up behind her with a pool stick,
showing her how to shoot a combo…

And he don’t know…

That I dug my key into the side
of his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive,
Carved my name into his leather seats…
I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights,
Slashed a hole in all 4 tires…
Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats.



Several days after, I realize the REAL headline that should be attached to this story:

“Religious Advertisers and Marketers SHIT-SCARED Because Atheists No Longer Buying Into Their Crap.”

Wait … What? —Take 2

Plane JewMan, those ultra-Orthodox Jews must NEVER get laid.

Ultra-orthodox Judaism forbids physical contact between men and women unless they are first-degree relatives or married to one another

They don’t fly well either.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Men Cause Flight Delay By Refusing To Sit Next To Women

I’m not even sure what to say about this that probably isn’t already obvious. The story itself says the women felt “bullied and harassed” — which is precisely how they should have felt.

I’d feel better if one or more of the women were quoted as saying “I told the cheeky bastard to buzz off. I’m not moving. If he doesn’t want to sit next to a woman, he can take a boat.”

There’s a petition to El Al Airline that is almost too even-handed, seems to me, suggesting fair solutions to solve the dilemma of the men. But the title is just right:

Stop the bullying, intimidation, and discrimination against women on your flights!

Wait … what?

Plastic Bag JewGiven the reputation of Mail Online, I can’t say I totally believe the below-linked story.

Orthodox Jewish man photographed covering himself in plastic bag during flight because faith forbids him to fly over cemeteries

But IF it’s true — I say IF — I have to wonder a couple of things.

This was the bizarre sight that greeted plane passengers when an Orthodox Jewish man covered himself under a plastic sheet.

It was believed the man is a Kohein, a religious descendant of the priests of ancient Israel, who are banned from flying over cemeteries.

First, no way this can be a very OLD religious belief. I have a hard time imagining early Jews making up rules about FLYING over cemeteries.

As a controversial solution – not entirely allowed by those in the Jewish Orthodox – the plastic bag creates a kind of barrier between the Kohein and the surrounding tumah, or impurity.

Point two, how do they know plastic, which also didn’t exist in ancient times, is the right solution? What if Death Cooties can phase right through plastic?

Some flights go to great lengths to take specific paths to avoid cemeteries.

Point three … uh, really? Really? Do I pay extra so people who are essentially superstitious savages can avoid being polluted by corpses lying in the ground 30,000 feet below?

30,000 feet is 5.7 miles, by the way. Why can they come near a cemetery on the ground (as it says in the article), but can’t be FIVE MILES from it in the upward direction? Although I have to admit, I too would hate to be struck and killed by souls rocketing skyward.

Speaking of pollution, a side bit in the story addresses a separate, offensively sexist issue.

A strict code of conduct prevents Orthodox Jewish men and women from mixing in public, with Israeli airline El Al seeing an increase in the number of religious men demanding to be reseated away from women in recent years.

Yeah, “Women unclean.” Dayyum.



Okay, there IS the issue of the man potentially asphyxiating. But hey. Comedy.