A midsummer night’s dream sequence

I heard a cool story today. I don’t recall every detail, but here’s the gist:

Once upon a time not so long ago, this dude I know and a girl who had the hots for him took a rubber raft down the Merrimack River on a very warm July day. At some point the two of them got drunk on Schlitz to the sound of cows lowing away from both riverbanks, eventually inspiring the dude to push the chick over the side just to see what she might have been sitting on. She tumbled in backward, shoulder blades first and ass akimbo, which was nice. “JERK!” she yelled, tearing off her string bikini in consternation and following doggedly in his wake using a modified butterfly stroke. There were no witnesses. He tossed her a couple of beers and settled back for a nap.

After three hours and seven minutes of this, the dude, now awake, sunburned, and bored with the whole enterprise, steered the raft to shore, shed his homoerotic cut-off jeans shorts, and forcibly commandeered a 1967 Dodge Dart with bright yellow rocker panels from a blind yam salesman operating in a riverside park. He soon found himself driving down the Everett Turnpike, his nubile companion again seated beside him and — from the musky smell of things — uncommonly hot and bothered. (I’m just telling you what he said.) There was a decal of Yosemite Sam giving the finger pasted on the rear windshield. The oil light kept coming on even though the yam salesman had claimed to have dumped about four quarts into the crankcase that very day, so the dude became really angry and smashed in the dashboard display with his thumb. Then, while still doing seventy-five, he threw the door open, leaned way out and peered under the car, abrading his scalp on the pavement. He could see a veritable flood of oil spurting from the sagging engine block. This shit, he thought, should never happen with a Slant 6 engine. Continue reading “A midsummer night’s dream sequence”

Mass shooter kills 137 good guys with guns at NRA gathering

PECKERWOOD HEIGHTS, Tenn. — An armed gunman attending a National Rifle Association convention opened fire on his fellow Second Amendment enthusiasts yesterday, killing 137 and wounding 823 others and orphaning dozens of rifles — some as young as six days old — in a matter of eight horrific minutes.

The massacre, believed to be the deadliest U.S. shooting to occur so far today, took place inside the spacious theater of the Christian school that hosted the gathering. A video presentation instructing NRA members how to properly deal with irrational analysts intent on linking guns to gun violence had been playing for approximately 20 minutes when a 46-year-old former Marine combat veteran calmly trained the AR-15 military-style automatic weapon he had been casually brandishing on the front row of viewers and began dischargingn rounds of at a rate of 10 bullets per second while slowly rotating the muzzle clockwise. Before anyone could do more than let fly howls of terror and dismay, witnesses said, the man — whose name the gun lobby is declining to release owing to a high likelihood of negative media coverage by cowardly leftists — had also deployed a light anti-tank weapon, tossed several lethal grenades, and a tricked-up Kalashnikov capable of firing tiny conical thermonuclear warheads with a muzzle velocity of 1,100 meters per second.

“Sometimes,” marveled an owner of 54 firearms from Who The Fuck Cares, Texas, “bad people just find a way to make guns do stuff guns was never intented to do, and good people get killed.”

The dozens of surviving NRA members who were literally inches to feet away from people who lost their lives vowed to find the ultimate reason for this grisly attack, adding that had any armed private citizens been on hand to intercede, well over 130 of the fallen with various kinds of guns still strapped to their shredded corpses would surely have lived to see another NRA convention.

“Ole Jim there would have been ready for something like this,” said one survivor, pointing to a slain man lying a few feet away whose head now consisted of a pool of blood, skull fragments, and brain matter. “He was always packin’ heat and had an eye for miscreants. No psycho could’ve got the jump on him.”

“We’re sending our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the deceased and their families, as well as each other,” declared Wayne Lapierre, the cult’s supreme leader for many harvest moons in a row now. “We feel it’s unfortunate that the Democrats, in their haste to blame NRA members whenever some nutbag from a domestic terror sponsor commits violent gun act, are probably going to politicize this first like they always do.”

At press time, a naked Dana Loesch was attempting to crack a coconut open with her thighs as part of filming another “We’ll Die Before You Take Our Guns” YouTube video for the NRA.

Reality doesn’t bite, it gnaws and gnaws

Lots of people who were around before the advent of the World Wide Web blame the Internet for the apparent decline in people’s respect for one another in the past 25 or so years. They imagine that the ability to remain anonymous, the tendency of people on social media to form thought-bubbles, and even Donald Trump’s Twitter account have made inroads on people’s sense of honor and dignity.

I’m an optimist, so I accept that little has changed since I was a kid, and that in any society, most people are dishonest, uninformed, corrupt, incompetent, and self-serving by default and to varying degrees at different times. This has always been true and always will be until the warm, although admittedly abrupt, embrace of a multitude of glorious mushroom clouds erases us all in a giddy thermonuclear rapture.
Continue reading “Reality doesn’t bite, it gnaws and gnaws”

Don’t worry, be happy (or I’ll fuckin’ kill you)

d72bc7759697b04042b588adf44a701bIt seems that the inspirational-quotes genre — and I’m talking about entire Twitter feeds and e-mail lists devoted to the phenomenon, not the posting of a few go-get-’ems here and there — should be self-limiting. Exhortations to ditch negative people and situations in favor of joyful smiles and unconditional love would disappear from circulation if these quotes were actually inspirational in the literal sense, because people the world over would simply put all of these messages to practical use and no longer need to continually receive them.

But of course it doesn’t work this way. The people I know who love posting kum-ba-ya fluff are often inspired to do no more than repeat this exact process every day, and worse, they are usually contemptuous gasbags and founts of banality who blame others for their dismal life choices and attendant poor outcomes. Continue reading “Don’t worry, be happy (or I’ll fuckin’ kill you)”

The paradox of the rhetorical circle-jerk

A lot of us are familiar with sort of belligerent online ranters who aren’t afraid to “speak their minds,” “stir the pot,” “put it out there,” and so on — as long as they can control the conversation, that is. On their blogs and social-media profiles, these people grow comfortable talking either into a void or to a (typically small) cadre of equally mindless followers. It is usually evident that their toxic views and flights of ideas are fueled by some combination of glaring intelligence deficits or legitimate mental illness. Their output is blatantly dishonest, repetitive, self-contradictory, and in violation of countless rules of grammar and style.

Continue reading “The paradox of the rhetorical circle-jerk”

Getting unfriended in five joyous steps

I’ve mentioned before that I have more than a few friends who voted for our ever-more-embattled C-i-C, and that they not only don’t take umbrage at the stuff I write about various pertinent goings-on, but also chuckle at a lot of it.

But not everyone has such accommodating people in their online lives. If you have friends or “friends” who disagree with your politics or religious beliefs in a manner you find toxic, don’t worry, you don’t need to take action — soon enough, they will.

This is how it goes: Continue reading “Getting unfriended in five joyous steps”

A subprime extended analogy

Imagine that for some reason the Bolder Boulder 10K — which I will be running for the first time on Memorial Day — fronted me 200 race bibs for this year’s event, and told me that they wanted $10,000 ($50 per bib) in return. Recognizing that the homeless and low-income population of Boulder is an untapped and eager market for this race — there’s a lot of free food and a free T-shirt involved, after all — I canvass the downtown area and offer to give race bibs away for $5 each, along with any EBT cards with a balance of between $25 and $50 (I might throw in a pint of vodka to sweeten the deal). I am able to very rapidly hawk all 2,000 numbers, giving me about $1,000 in cash and a pile of EBT cards. I have no idea if these have any value and I don’t check because I don’t care.

The reason I don’t care is simple: I’m on the hook for ten grand to the Bolder Boulder, but that is about to become someone else’s problem. Through a process of possibly illegal but complicated forgery, I manage to make the 200 EBT cards look like Whole Foods gift cards with a value of $250 each, and I offer these to people around Whole Foods stores and on Craigslist for $50 in cash, explaining that I have a gripe against the company and want no part of any of their nasty-tasting, overpriced garbage and homeopathic woo-woo. In the fine print of the agreement, which is written in Sanskrit, I have each “gift card” buyer sign for my personal tax records, it says that they also owe the Bolder Boulder 10K $50 in the form of a mandatory charitable donation to the Bolder Boulder 10K itself. It also says that the gift cards are only good in Whole Foods stores that open on or after January 1, 2020. No problem. Continue reading “A subprime extended analogy”

That’s not what “information” means, sir

The greatest thing about unintentional irony is that its power to amuse is immune to the sands of time.

We live, of course, in an era in which every slack-minded crusader with Internet access seems to think that his frantic and delusional ideas about politics, religion and life in general merit a personal blog. This has boosted the number of people publicly expressing thoughts that are not only profoundly stupid but also magnificently oblivious to levels no observer could have predicted even twenty years ago. Nevertheless, every new addition to the canon of “Look at the pile of chocolate it looks like I stepped in! Why does it stink?” is just as entertaining as the ones preceding it. If nothing else, these actors are largely insulated from uncomfortable emotions such as shame and embarrassment, because they lack the intellectual candlepower to see how badly off the mark their shots invariably fall.

Hence my fascination with Granite Grok. Continue reading “That’s not what “information” means, sir”

The futility blog

If you’ve spent any time reading blogs, you’ve seen at least a few of them that, rather than serving as a linear chronicle of events and ideas sharing a common theme in the writer’s life, center on a particular event, purpose or goal. In a typical runner’s blog, the writer describes his training and races and daily experiences, with the implicit idea that the blog will be regularly updated until the writer gets sick of it or quits running or no longer has the time. It’s essentially a journal, nothing more. But sometimes people start blogs with titles like “My Journey to the 2016 Olympic Trials,” or “Getting to the Bottom of Russian Doping” that have either a fixed temporal endpoint or a finite purpose or both.

With the latter type, you’ll often discover right away that the person behind the blog has a goal he or she stands no realistic chance of attaining, either because the goal is worthy but simply out of the blogger’s reach (for example, a 40-year-old man with a marathon best of 2:50 hoping to make the Olympic Trials standard of 2:19) or the entire scheme is founded on delusional thinking or ferociously corrupt logic (say, a runner who predicts that a Nepalese marathoner will set a world record this fall because of sherpas’ proven ability to perform yeoman physical feats in the presence of very little oxygen). In such cases, you have unearthed a genuine futility blog. Continue reading “The futility blog”

Things I wrote today that were not blog posts

I didn’t time how long it took me to write the following e-mail, but it could not have been more than four minutes. I only wish I could generate words and paragraphs that quickly in my other, for-profit and for-creativity writing endeavors. The only context you need is that I was trading messages with someone who was joining me in a pointless but fun tirade about a subset of the generally self-deluded American populace.

I will also take this opportunity to point out that, as grim as it is to admit, having a Facebook account has largely laid waste to my contributing to this blog. I find it all too easy to fling thoughts that used to be the seeds for blog posts into status updates instead, and I can’t really claim that I regret this because in the end I don’t waste as much time. And while blogging is a dear pastime to me, or has been, that’s all it is. I don’t even read them much anymore, much less contribute to my own.

And most of them are still fat, they’re just staying that way through inadequate workouts and a new form of extra calories instead of pure ass-sitting and traditional empty calories.

This is just classic American bullshitting of each other and ourselves. Remember when we were in college and fat became the devil? All of these fat-free foods hit the market, and it was supposed to mean epidemic weight loss and nirvana for people who embraced these new, magical snacks. Problem is, they still have a lot of calories (many non-fat desserts have even more calories than their fat-rich counterparts — ice cream sometimes does).

So the U.S. continued to bloat, and it was back to the bullshit drawing board, and WOW! Carbs are the problem, that’s it! Shoulda fuckin’ known it all along! So people went the way of your cottage-cheese-slathered co-worker, and they lost some water weight, but their moods blackened and in the end most of them were still big slimy tubs of goo. Whoops! Looks like that one didn’t work out either. NOW what the fuck? We’re out of macronutrients to pick on and target for isolated destruction!

So most of the people on [Web site redacted] seems like dumbasses, and while this is true, unfortunately they’re pretty representative of the American middle class — educated enough to ignore the stink of their own self-righteous shit, but only smart enough to be dangerous instead of visionary. Christ, how much insight does it take to realize that people stayed fit and lean well before all of this paleo and vegan trendiness arose? I even have evidence — photos of thin people from the 70s and 80s! Not photoshopped. And they did NOT do it by trying to fit a 60-minute cardio session into 5 minutes or taking the right combination of nutraceuticals and yoga classes.

Ten verbs that weren’t around when I graduated from college

OK, I “earned” my degree a while ago, but 20 years isn’t that long. I guess the real message here is that language, like the world it describes, is changing a lot more rapidly than it used to; I doubt that the typical 1992 resident of Earth could have come up with 10 common action words that were unheard of in 1972.

My list (and you’re invited to produce your own before scanning mine to see how much overlap there is, as most of these are obvious):
Continue reading “Ten verbs that weren’t around when I graduated from college”

To the BRC guy I saw doing a road fartlek this morning (North Boulder)

(Yeah, I’m posting in Craigslist Rants & Raves mode.)

Hi. I’m the guy you saw a few times on and near the Cottonwood Trail at 7 a.m. who was wearing a bright blue Charlottesville Running Company windbreaker, black Sporthill-style pants, a Delaware XC hat and two-dollar gloves from Walgreens. (You surely couldn’t see all that, but I like describing this crude ensemble.) You were — and probably still are — about 5′ 10″ or 5′ 11′ and 160-ish pounds, and were wearing black bicycle-type tights and a Boulder Running Company top. You had — and most likely still have — a dark mustache/goatee combination and appeared to be about 30 or 40 years old. (I didn’t have my sunglasses on.) Here’s the deal. I was out to run for a little over 70 minutes so I could call it ten miles. That gave me the freedom to go by my watch rather than landmarks, which will explain the behavior I’ll review below. Continue reading “To the BRC guy I saw doing a road fartlek this morning (North Boulder)”

It’s safe to say that these are inane admonishments

“Stay safe!” “Have a safe trip!” “Be safe, OK?”

Most of us are guilty of addressing people with one or more of these phrases. I’ve done it many times and will surely do it again. When you get right down to it, these are no more useful than “You’re in my prayers.” In fact, they arguably translate to the same thing.

I have told a number of my friends on the East Coast, bracing for the possibility of a powerful windstorm this weekend, to “stay safe.” Maybe the fact that I have only written this in e-mails and not said it out loud lets me off the mental hook I’ve constructed and jammed into some needless wall in my mind. But I can’t help but be amused by common turns of phrase when they are essentially goofy.

I mean, what do I expect to change about the people I know by telling them to stay safe during, say, a transcontinental commercial flight? If I deliver these magic words, even if by text message, will this change the course of events? Will my friend have an epiphany and say “Fuck! I’d better sit up in the cockpit!” and take over in the event of an aircraft malfunction? I suppose it’s possible.

In some ways telling people to stay safe when a known hazard is heading their way makes more sense, as more factors lie within the sphere of their control under these circumstances. But most of my friends are not blithering waterheads, so in theory I don’t need to tell them to, say, not go sea kayaking in the middle of a category 4 hurricane, or make a sport of catching falling bricks or playing with live downed wires in the midst of a ruinous earthquake. Even if I had a habit of choosing such friends, they’d be quickly selected out of the population given the number of possible ways to behave in lethally stupid ways.

By the way, don’t be offended by any of this. Keep on keeping on, because it is what it is.

What I’d like to tell the loud dude in the coffee shop

“Yes, the Beach Boys started out in their garage. So did most bands that went on to huge success. But so did the thousands upon thousands of wannabes who never went any further than that.”

People have a difficult time with the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. This is probably founded more on stubborn optimism than ignorance, but either way it’s entertaining. Whenever I hear something like this, I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, this one by Carl Sagan:

“[T]he fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

There’s a guy I’ve written about here a number of times who fits this mold perfectly. He’s a top-tier crank who denies the benefits of high-mileage training for runners lacking what he declares to be unusually favorable genetics, and instead suggests that the route to success for the average runner — even those training for marathon — involves running three times a week and doing lots of weight work and sprinting. Not surprisingly, this fellow was, much to my amazement, quoted in the same Competitor article that featured an equally cranky guy advocating more or less the same garbage. The two of them share an important trait, one common to every would-be revolutionary: They have convinced themselves that mockery of, and arguments against, their ideas are rooted in fear and a conditioned unwillingness to consider alternatives to conventional wisdom. Whether they started with this stance or developed it over time after being serially marauded so as to dispel cognitive dissonance is unclear, but it doesn’t matter. They are Sagan’s Bozos. Continue reading “What I’d like to tell the loud dude in the coffee shop”

Ironically, uninformed people say mistaken things

That’s obviously (I hope) not an example of irony.

“Ironic” may be the most misunderstood and misapplied adjective in frequent use. It’s a tricky word; ironically, it can be hard to distinguish irony from its diametric opposite. But while it’s understandable and no big deal that the rank and file continually misuses the word “ironic,” one would hope that broadcast journalists in a major metropolitan area would know better, or at least that their producers would.

This morning, one of the Denver news stations ran a story about the wind-induced collapse of a stage at the Indianapolis State Fair that killed four people. The anchorwoman had something very close to this to say: “Ironically, an announcer warned the crowd of severe weather just a minute before the collapse.”

Okay, let’s break this down. Someone points out that the weather is getting nasty, and an element of that nasty weather nastily wrecks something. That’s irony? If so, then so is “Ironically, after spending eight hours in the Florida sun, Maine vacationer Charlene McGillicuddy suffered a terrible sunburn. Now, had the announcer in Indianapolis boasted that the facility had just received the “Safest Set-Up of 2011” from the American Association of Fairground Structures right before the collapse, that would have been ironic. Coincidence is not irony. Unfortunate timing, like last night’s, is not irony. In fact, I’d guess that in four out of every five instances of someone using the word “ironically,” replacing it with “not surprisingly” or “sure enough” would create a far more coherent delivery.

Yeah, it’s a slow day and I found this on a forum where I engage in compassionate trollism

“Does anyone have a pet on phenobarbitol? My 10 year old mastiff has 4 seizures last week during the night and we rushed him to the vet in the morning. The vet didn’t do any bloodwork or nothing, just gave us a prescription for phenobarbitol….after reading about this I am nervous about him being on it. It says you can’t stop the drug once its started because it could cause a seizure. We don’t know what the seizures were from but my boyfriend noticed that our back yard was full of mushrooms, the flying kind too i guess. He could have eaten one of these? Anyway, has anyone else had good/bad experiences with phenobarbitrol?”

I don’t think the dog is alone in eating these mushrooms if the writer has seen them flying around. Also, it’s noteworthy that this person managed to misspell the word “phenobarbital” three times in two different ways — on a writers’ forum.

On the same forum (and sorry, I can’t link to it because you need a login) I chimed in with this on a thread titled “Where will Casey Anthony go next?”:

“I’d be happy to take her in. She’s undeniably gorgeous (when she doesn’t have the jailhouse pallor, anyway), she’s resourceful, she’s soon to have a lot of cash, and best of all it’s doubtful that she’ll ever want kids! People have been rough on the young lady. I think if she were guilty the jurors would have maybe picked up on that?”

My guess is that the overwhelming majority of respondents will take this seriously. (As of this moment, someone has already helpfully told me that I am entitled to my opinion.)

You are what you eat, depending on where you are

I am bemused by the fact that the same load of groceries that would qualify me as a health nut most everywhere I’ve lived makes me a nutritional pariah among my associates in Boulder.

My usual purchases include some combination of the following: pasta; tuna fish in water (solid white if I’m feeling flush, chunk light otherwise); whole-wheat bread or bagels; low-fat or nonfat cheese slices; fat-free or low-fat salad dressings of various kinds; fresh, frozen (usually) or canned (vegetables), the latter typically including chick peas; cole slaw or lettuce; some kind of pretzel-based snack food; skinless boneless chicken breasts; a two-liter of diet soda (not lately, though); and sometimes, Sour Patch Kids or lemon drops. Now and again I’ll get Egg Beaters and I don’t get skim milk as often as I should, but I’m dealing with a very small fridge at the moment. Continue reading “You are what you eat, depending on where you are”

Chickens, eggs, black helicopters and cheap wine

Today I was privy to a conversation between two men who appeared to be homeless (and if they weren’t, they dressed the part) in which each was dourly reassuring the other that the U.S. government was sitting on more oil reserves stateside than the rest of the world held combined, and better yet, that Uncle Sam’s grim scientists an actually manufacture sweet crude whenever they need to. The central idea here was that there is so much oil beneath our feet that if the government so desired, gas prices could drop to about a quarter a gallon and excess numbers of people could enjoy a much-improved standard of living — an egalitarian notion that the power brokers at the top of the heap could simply could not abide by. Bemused, I chalked this up from my position one Pearl Street bench over to, on balance, ignorance rather than paranoia. But then somber End Times talk took over (at which point one of these gentlemen may have been humoring the other) and I knew I had myself some conspiracy speculators. (Most conspiracy nuts don’t rise to the level of generating theories, so I use that term sparingly.)

A long time ago in a city far away, I volunteered for a spell at a facility servicing mostly homeless people with a well-honed taste for crack cocaine. At least half of them seemed to believe that President Clinton was withholding from the public a cure (not a vaccine) for AIDS because unleashing it would mean introducing more blacks into the American workforce, something that the power brokers at the top of the heap simply could not abide by. At the time I chalked this idea up to drugs and understandable bitterness, but given the number of similar proposals I’ve heard since that time from perfectly sober street people, I’ve abandoned that stance.

I have to wonder, then: Is the high prevalence of conspiracy-based notions among street people one of the causes of homelessness, or is it more one of its consequences? Continue reading “Chickens, eggs, black helicopters and cheap wine”