The Others

With over 500 pieces in various forms of publication on this site, one might think that I take inspiration for granted. I can assure you that is anything but true. I consider inspiration, and whatever talent I have to see that inspiration to an end, a gift. 

1) The Future of Sci-Fi Tropes and Dystopic Hopes This piece occurred as a result of the fatigue I have with typical Sci-fi movie conventions. and all of the tropes and clichés they employ in their stories. There is some politics in this piece. I would call it politics-lite, but the politics-lite is only used in this piece to counter the politics-lite of the typical sci-fi movie.

2) I’m a Little Bit Polka, and a Little Bit Rock and Roll I had a conversation with a young adult, half my age, that suggested that I had regressed (or progressed, depending on your point-of-view) from a rock and roll rebel to an old fogy that ascribed to the more traditional lines of thought. I knew the progression had occurred, but I was a little surprised at how stark it had become, from the young ‘un’s point of view. Spoiler Alert: I didn’t care near as much as I thought I would, and I’ve always known how to enter into the “in-crowd” but I never wanted to prostitute my beliefs enough to make that grand entrance.

3) James Joyce: Incomparable or Incomprehensible? In my obsession with author James Joyce, I wanted to read, at least, Ulysses, if not Finnegans Wake. I found the attempt to do so exhausting, and I attempted to learn why by researching the claim that he was declared the greatest writer, and Ulysses his best work. 

James Joyce is widely regarded as one of the literary community’s greatest artist, but how did he achieve that vaunted place? Did he already achieve a literary masterpiece with the short story collection The Dubliners and/or the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man? Some would say he had, and that the works that followed were further explorations of the novel as an art form. Others would say that A Portrait was marginal, and Ulysses and Finnegans Wake were purposefully, and progressively confusing. The naysayers would say that Joyce didn’t have the talent of a Hemingway, or a Fitzgerald, so he decided to go outside the parameters of the traditional novel format to achieve something different. There’s nothing wrong with that, this reader replies to that specific argument, but when said author goes so far outside the parameters that no one knows what they’re talking about, a debate of historic proportions is created that leads this writer to question the motives of the author.

4) My Obsession with the Music From The Elder I wrote this piece with a mind towards describing my youth, our youth, and the youth of the future, as it pertains to music. A person could order obscure music, even in my day, but that person had to be prepared to pay a lot for that product’s scarcity, and the shipping and handling costs. I didn’t have that kind of money. I had to wait for my record store to order it. In the ensuing weeks, I developed a love affair with the possibility of the music on that cassette tape. One of the points of this piece is that music will never again enjoy the precious commodity of scarcity that music enjoyed in my youth. By the time I became obsessed with the music on the Kiss album Music from the Elder, it had already been panned, in all corners, as a failed experiment. As a result, the record company no longer provided fresh supplies of the album. Did this result in a greater number of sales for the album, no. Did this result in a cult following, yes, but that took decades. The only result from this was that it ascribed magical qualities to an album for one Midwestern boy that pined over it. I’m not sure if that does anything for anyone in the corporate chains of the music industry, but it did lead one boy to love music before he developed this obsession. This lack of scarcity, thanks to MP3s, and the act of file sharing, may be one primary component to the death of the music industry.

5) How the Excessively Gorgeous Gloria Steinem advanced the liberal, feminist agenda There is, of course, politics in this piece, and I normally wouldn’t consider such a piece for this list, but rereading this piece has informed me that it may be the exception to my self-imposed “no politics” rule when it comes to compiling lists of great posts.

This post starts in the wake of a friend of mine stating that he could no longer watch his favorite show King of Queens. “Because Carrie (female actor Leah Remini) has put on weight.” My friend was not alone. The seasons in which Remini appeared overweight (because she was pregnant!) on the show  were the seasons when the show experienced a major dip in ratings. This led me to wonder if the media figure Gloria Steinem had put on weight, would that generation’s incarnation of feminism have had any clout? It also led me to wonder if the format of the situation comedy Friends would’ve had a male audience, if the female stars on that show had put on forty to fifty pounds.

I do make it very clear in this piece that most women would have succeeded regardless the political climate of the nation, for all of the reasons laid out in the piece. I also add that there is a huge difference between classical feminism, as it pertains to individualism, and the nasty, bitter movement Steinem and her ilk wrought. The classical, individualist strain of the feminist movement was/is a beautiful thing, as it detailed the plight of an individual, that happens to be a woman, fighting against the patriarchal forces that be, but the nasty, bitter element that Steinem, and her ilk, may not have succeeded if their leader Ms. Gloria Steinem had put on weight.

6) The Music That Chuck Klosterman Kind of, Sort of, Used to Dislike I enjoy the musings of author Chuck Klosterman, but I’ve found that he now attempts to tightrope between writing risqué music critiques, and not saying anything that an artist could perceive to be insulting. As a rock journalist, interviews with rock stars are Klosterman’s bread and butter. Klosterman is knives out on some B level stars, like Mike Patton, but for Springsteen, or the Eagles, he dulls his spear a little. As I write in the article, Klosterman may never have been as piercing as I once thought, but he has so many lilting opinions on major stars, and his political opinions are so “correct” and unchallenging to the status quo that I robotically read his last book.

7) Oh! Our Electromagnetic Minds This non-fiction piece was derived from the research I conducted while trying to write a sci-fi novel. I tried, with everything in my might to create a narrative around the findings of the good Doctor Persinger. I couldn’t, but I think I developed one hell of a unique blog from it. Lesson learned: Just because a wealth of material doesn’t produce the product an author thinks it should, there is no reason to pitch that material in the dustbin of life. Or, it takes a lot of dung to fertilize a flower.

This is a piece that I hold as a testimony to the range I’ve displayed on this site. Is it the best piece I’ve written? If it were, I would’ve listed it higher, but this is one of the first pieces I wrote for this site that I considered unusual.   

8) To B or not to B How can philosophy help one through life? Those of us that have read some of the great philosophers have experienced some enlightenment, and some frustration as a result. The frustration is born from the fact that the broad tenets of philosophy can lead a reader to believe that the philosopher is speaking to the reader, but they have no specific resolution. The beauty of philosophy is that while it may not apply to immediate concerns, it provides nuggets of information that stick with a person, until the philosophy student begins to apply them. The primary contention in this piece is that we all need a plan B in life to be. 

9) Conquering Fear: A Few Tips from Psychopaths An interesting magazine article prompted me to consider the true nature of fear from those that don’t. How many of us don’t act, as a result of fears great and small?

An example was brought forth by the writer. He said that a friend of his was a land owner, and he couldn’t get rid of a tenant that wouldn’t pay his rent.

“How about you send someone pretending to be from the council to the house? How about you say that the councilman is looking for the landlord to inform him that they have conducted a reading of that house? How about that councilman asks the uninvited guest to deliver a message to the landlord that his house is just infested with asbestos? Before you can say ‘slow, tortuous death from lung cancer,’ the wanker will be straight out the door.

“You guys get all tied up trying to ‘do the right thing’,” Jamie continued after being informed that his resolution was less than elegant. “But what’s worse, from a moral perspective? Beating someone up who deserves it? Or beating yourself up who doesn’t?  If you’re a boxer, you do everything in your power to put the other guy away as soon as possible, right? So why are people prepared to tolerate ruthlessness in sport but not in everyday life?  What’s the difference?”

10) Social Psychological Operations I read an article on the psychological operations, or PSYCH OPS, that are used in the military. I used that article as a premise for the PSYCH OPS we use in our day-to-day interactions.

11) Chances Are You’re a Lot Like Me: My Life with Alcohol Some suggest that children of alcoholics are predestined to have problems with alcohol. I don’t think that’s true, as it suggests we have no free-will when it comes to genetic coding, but my knowledge of genetic coding is so limited that everyone should factor that into my opinion. My inherited problem arose from the fact that every adult I knew had a blast getting blasted. They sang songs and laughed a lot, sometimes at matters I didn’t consider funny. We didn’t know angry drunks in our inner circle. In my experience, every outing was a blast and everyone I knew used alcohol to fuel the fire. They also used alcohol to douse the flames in their head, as they used it to drown out the awful life we’re all forced to endure. I survived this mindset long enough to see the holes in it.

12) Would You Eat Someone Somebody Cared About? This is another one of the articles on this list that employ what we call politics-lite. Those who may describe this as heavy handed politics, haven’t read heavy handed political pieces. This piece is based on an episode of Tru TV’s Impractical Jokers show called Who Arted? In this episode, Sal spoke to a piece of pastry, and the customer wouldn’t eat it, because of that. I didn’t understand that, and I attempted to determine her thought process. 

13) The ‘You Don’t Have a Shot in Hell’ Ray A female friend of mine shot me a nasty look at the gym after I waved at her. I was upset that a good friend of mine, a blonde bombshell, decided to inform me that I shouldn’t even start considering plans to date her. Did I have my sights set on doing awful things to her, of course, but I didn’t initiate any of the necessary sequences required. The reader could say that she sensed that I fantasized about her, and she gave me that look because she didn’t want me to have crazy ideas, but that doesn’t account for the fact that I successfully restrained those impulses so well that she might not have known. I was a good friend, in other words, and this look she shot me at the gym violated the tenets of our friendship.

14) Katie Newberry II: “We’ll Call Her Katie”

I don’t think anyone would argue with the idea that women are the more compassionate, empathetic, and conscientious gender. Thus, when they step to the other side of this prism it is, to my mind, noteworthy. A friend of mine wrote a Dear John letter that eviscerated a young man I knew. This guy was so nice and sweet that when I learned of the contents of that letter, my mouth was hanging open. “He wasn’t doing things,” she said. “Sending me flowers, little notes, and other stuff that suggest he isn’t getting it. He thinks we’re going to get back together.” She said he needed to learn the truth, so she provided it, in a soul-piercing manner that was so creative and funny that I have to think it wobbled the man. A normal letter would have hurt, but the time she spent using creative and humorous condemnations of his character might have devastated him if he invested emotions into their relationship. She later admitted she might have overdone it, but she thought that letter was the only to make a point she tried to make so many times before. I witnessed some carnage in the wake of a relationship gone awry many times before, and I’ve heard such clarifications before, but I never saw anything like this before from a woman. Call me a traditionalist if you want, with unmodified boundaries on the genders, but I never saw a woman lay a man like that before. I thought of telling her she was being too harsh, but that wasn’t my place. The only thing I could say to her was that she would probably consider me just as goony and loving as she did this guy. Her reaction informed me that I was probably the only one who informed her that it wasn’t a great letter. She pretended that she didn’t hear me. It led me to think about those who consider it their duty to report the truth, regardless the consequences. At that point in my life, most women I knew were more compassionate, or at least I thought they adhered to the “treat others the way you want to be treated” principle better than men. This letter was so heartless that I realized that “I do what is best for me” was her guiding principle. I also wondered what would this nice, sweet fella have to do to make her feel bad about sending him this letter? We’ll Call Her Katie is the product of that imagining.

15) The Mythology of You There is a real you in there, but you are so boring when compared to the creative illusions and delusions you dream up about yourself. The fundamental question this piece asks is do we believe those fibs we tell? Why, yes we do. We develop a mythology about ourselves that, over time, assists us in our attempts to cope with the idea that others are achieving far more than we are. This mythology also gives us greater mental health and a better self-esteem. It becomes so ingrained, over time, that there are times when we accidentally adjust our characteristics to live up to the lies we tell about ourselves. This is our mythology.

I break down the truths and illusions and delusions by using the visual display of the atom. At the inner core of the atom, we have the neutrons and the electrons. These are the stories of what actually happened to us, what shaped who we are, and our moral code. These moments, however, do not define the person that we would like to be as well as we think they should. We develop myths about who we are. We get creative with actual incidents, and we fabricate whole incidents to tell our friends and family. The important note here is that we believe them. So, they cannot be called out and out lies. Can they?

16) The Real Back Pain Solution I awoke one day to discover that I had been granted debilitating lower back pain. I was a baby about it, aren’t we all? I began thinking about back pain in general, and the various complaints and remedies we’ve all heard over the years. I realized that it was not as bad as being mauled by a bear, and I found a quote from Louis C.K.’s show Louie to prove that. 

17) Octopus Nuggets This mysterious cephalopod has always piqued my interest. Having a child renewed this interest. I watched every documentary, and I scoured the internet for the interesting nuggets that could be found there. I presented such information to my child, and he didn’t care. Yet, I had just compiled a list of these nuggets that I felt should have a home somewhere. I thus compiled this list for a whole bunch of people that probably don’t care. It just doesn’t hurt as much when they say it.  

18) Wearing a Mask the Face Grows into There’s nothing I enjoy more than reading a story, or a philosophical point, that retroactively helps explain a noun (person, place, or thing) from my past. Author George Orwell’s Shooting the Elephant helped me, in a roundabout way, understand a hard-bottomed boss I had that wanted to cultivate a better relationship with his team members. After witnessing this newfound temperament firsthand, I thought it better that that boss maintain the leadership mystique he had maintained throughout our relationship with him. After reading this story, I had a greater hold on this idea. 

19) Brutal Honesty in the Age of Being Real Most of us do not deal with insults well. Some have tried to convince themselves that when another doesn’t know us, they don’t know enough to know what they’re saying. This has helped us in some cases, but in others we wonder what the person leveling the insult was hoping to accomplish with their barbs. While insults might be tough to deal with, the excuses one offers another for the insult might be even tougher to grasp. “Quit being so sensitive” is a line that those of us that feel insulted by an insult often receive. Whether or not the assessment is correct, such a line offers the individual insulting their own person license to continue mocking and ridiculing. Those of us that have received the “I’m just being real with you”, in the age of being real, learned that that line was an excellent method to assuage the guilt they might otherwise have associated when insulting another person. When some of us learned that 

20) The Paris Syndrome This is a story, stolen from the premise of another, that details the idea of the expectation of the tourist as it pertains to self-worth. If the reader has ever planned, and dreamed about, a trip to an expensive, exotic locale, they know that the citizens of that locale, and the service industry employees working in those locales, can demolish those expectations quickly. 

21) The Freedom of the Self-Checkout Aisle When the first self-checkout aisle was rolled out, circa 2001, I thought that Big Business had finally invested in technology for someone like me. I thought I was being rescued from the inane conversations that seemingly lonely checkers feel compelled to engage customers in in the full-service aisles. I thought price checks might finally become a thing of the past, in my life, with the advent of self-checkout. I thought I was being rescued from ever having to endure the spectacle of a customer waiting to pull out their checkbook until all the items have been scanned and the total has been given. There are no checks allowed in self-checkout after all. I thought self-checkout was a dream, for do-it-yourselfers around the nation, a dream come true. I thought we would all be granted more time to do other important things in our lives.

22) The Psychology of the Super Sports Fan This is a story that details how much I hate being a sports fan. If I could whisper a secret to a younger me, I think it would have something to do with trying to avoid investing so much of my self-worth into that which I cannot control (i.e. sports). Though I suppose that the angst I devoted to the failings of people I’d never meet, permitted an outlet for the angst I may have directed at myself.

23) Indigo Children: The Next Step in Human Evolution There is an unusual attribution that some adults attribute to their otherwise not gifted children, it is a spiritual, impossible to prove one way or another, assessment that some parents make about their children, their sister-in-law, and their children. I learned about this firsthand, when another individual informed me that they were a better indigo than a third party we both knew. I considered this one of the top five most hilarious things I had heard that year, until I looked at that other individual to see that they were serious. As is often the case with personal experiences, this one had to sit in the browner for a couple of years to divest it of all comedy, and result in one of the most comedic, unfunny pieces I have ever written. 

24) Kinesthetic Learning in Sports What’s the difference between top shelf athletes and the elite athlete that rarely fails to execute in crunch time. When the ball is in the air, there are some top shelf athletes that manage to do things we mortals can’t comprehend, there are others, an elite few that those that execute so often, and on such an unimaginable level that top shelf athletes can’t comprehend it. What’s the difference? Practice. A hand, eye, arm, and mind-numbing amount of hours of practice that that elite individual has spent perfecting their craft to the point that they can return a 140mph serve, in tennis of course, to a very specific spot on their opponent’s court. 

This piece resulted from a David Foster Wallace musing. It details how detailed sports have become.  

25) Is Theodore Roosevelt the Batman?

As a Batman fanatic that spent some time reading about the life of our famous president Theodore Roosevelt, I found the correlations between the fictional character and the president fascinating.

26) Ellis Reddick

Creepy is an inexplicable, intangible vibe we feel. We often do not know how to describe it, but we know it when we feel it. “That guy is just creepy!” we say to our friends. Prolonged experience with most creepy people leads us acknowledge, almost apologetically, that most of the creepy contingent are quiet people that don’t know what to say, or how to act around people. Knowledge and experience leads us to declare that most people are not creepy, I discovered that is not always the case, but I knew Ellis Reddick. You didn’t. Ellis Reddick would star in many of my worst nightmares, and he would influence my perception of bad guys in horror movies. Most people have no idea how awful elements of humanity can be, and I may admit that I don’t know the extremes, but I did witness the extent to which Ellis Reddick would go.  

27) Nancy Sendate

Nancy Sendate was the most beautiful woman I dated to that point, but her problem was that she could not get past the prospect of her own beauty to be civil and cordial. Her beauty also prevented her from having a good time. 

“I’m lonely,” Nancy Sendate would say to nullify whatever sense of accomplishment I thought I achieved by asking for her phone number, and asking her out in that phone call. I’m not sure how long after agreeing to be seen with me that she first said that, but it informed me that whatever it was we would be doing in the coming days, and weeks, would be conditional, short-term, and almost solely based on good timing on my part. Once that characterization of our relationship was established, she congratulated me for mustering up the courage (and she did say courage) to ask for her phone number and asking her out.

“That had to have been difficult for you,” Nancy said. “Congratulations!”

 “I’m not to get excited,” I said. “Got it!”

If you’re reading condescension in her comments, you’re not a genius. She intended for these comments to serve notice that she was not dating me, because she was attracted to me, or that I exhibited charm or charisma. The only reason she agreed to date me was that she just happened to be fresh off a divorce, and she was lonely, and I was the lucky beneficiary of good timing. She also wanted me to know that this structure should serve as the foundation for the course of whatever events that would follow.

28) Shelley Hayden

A person can have money stacked up to the sky, and a list of friends yea high, but when that person is finally laid into the ground, with worms diminishing their pounds, it is what their family thinks of them that will generate the most sound. A person can be a war hero, an athlete with trophies decorating every inch of their basement, or a scintillating conversationalist that leaves nothing but laughter in their wake, but if their family considers them a fraud, their legacy will fall to the lowest point on any temperature scale, the temperature at which all (non-quantum mechanical) motion ceases absolute zero.

Shelly Hayden is an absolute fraud. Most people don’t consider her a fraud. She doesn’t either, so we needn’t worry about providing accurate details of her existence, because fraudulent people don’t recognize the nature of their being.