The Future of Sci-Fi Tropes and Dystopic Hopes


Roads will still exist in the future, but if the “figurative schemes of thought” of the architectural images of futuristic sci-fi movies are to be believed, they will be miles above the ground. These future sci-fi roads will sprout from an enormous, corporate monolith in the manner of an octopus. The import of this sci-fi trope is that we will no longer have cars in the incarnation we now know. These cars do not even require a runway, they lift off the ground, which begs the question why will we need roads? The unspoken answer is that while roads may no longer be constructed for human travel, they are necessary to provide a foundation of stability for the evil, corporate structure.

The corporation, in question, is often an intangible, ominous main character in the story, with an ominous name. This begs the question why would the founder choose a name for his creation that potential clients might associate with evil? Answer: It is implied that the corporation did not originate from human idea. This corporation, is, was, and always will be, springing to life from some sort of primordial, evil ooze. If the corporation did originate from a they –those humans who sat on its corporate boards, and worked in its departments, and divisions– it evolved into a self-serving “It” that no longer has a need for employees, much less customers, or any actual goods and services.

TMLandThe few humans still involved in the corporation are made all the more faceless by the fact that the corporation requires them to be in full battle gear even while tasked with the most mundane chores, such as inputting data into a computer, and their prime directive (much like the drone bee) is to chase and/or kill anyone that dares to question It. And the It (as forecast by those that know) will find a way to progress into our neighborhoods, put us in pods –as opposed to suburban housing– take away our need for Puggles, and parakeets, and drain us of every vestige of humanity, until It can achieve an end game.

This end game often gets muddled in a loose group of references, but most sci-fi fans don’t require a great deal of detail regarding It’s evil plan. (This viewer also thinks the specifics of the corporation’s evil plan end up on the cutting room floor with a “too preachy” note on it from the monolithic, evil production, Hollywood chieftains.) The average sci-fi fan cares more about chase scenes anyway, the battle scenes, the CGI, and how the movies’ gorgeous heroes will overcome the final obstacle, the manifestation of It (often a monster that drools). The details of this plan would be redundant anyway, for as all sci-fi fans know the sole purpose of all corporations is to end humanity as we know it, so the corporation can franchise out to a chain that will exist for the sole purpose of being evil and ending humanity as we know it, unless our unassuming, swashbuckling, and gorgeous heroes can put a stop It.

The website The Millions states that the word trope has taken on a different incarnation through the years:

“‘Various scholars throughout history … have argued that a great deal of our conceptual experience, even the foundation of human consciousness, is based on figurative schemes of thought.’ The writer also notes that Tropes (in the sense of figures of speech) do not just provide a way for us to talk about how we think, reason, and imagine, they are also constitutive of our experience.’” Modern language has it that the word trope has come to mean: “a common or overused theme or device: cliché.”

The origin of the trope for the octopus road coming out of the monolith, corporate structure may have occurred long before The Jetsons, but most of us (of a certain age) saw it displayed there first. To our minds, therefore, when sci-fi movie makers feel compelled to add the octopus road, they are either paying some sort of tangential homage to The Jetsons, or they are attempting to appeal to our “figurative schemes of thought that are constitutive of our experience” of what the future will look like by way of The Jetsons, or the sci-fi novels and comic books that preceded it.

The unspoken reason behind these miles high roads, is based on the idea that we’ll run out of the space necessary for more traditional, ground bound roads. For some reason, however, pedestrians keep falling off these roads that are created miles above the terrestrial plain. We have roads and walkways that were constructed high off the ground, in the present, but they’re often enclosed, or they have substantial guardrails to prevent people from falling. There is no apparent need for guardrails in our shared “figurative schemes of thought” of the future.

If guardrails become passé in the future, one has to wonder how the original architect of the evil monolith (often composed of shiny crystal) will manage to avoid federal and state zoning codes that governments throw at every project prior to construction. If this architect is crafty enough to evade government intervention, or he has enough money to bribe government officials, one has to imagine that he will see financial ruin by way of personal injury lawyers looking to cash in on the mental duress their clients experience when thinking of falling from these roads, and from those families of the victims who do fall.

If this architect manages to develop some patented safety measures that thwart most of the personal injury lawsuits that hit him, and he manages to avoid getting bogged down in all of the bureaucratic red tape from government officials –expressing alarm for public safety with one hand pointing at the inherent danger and taking payoffs for their silence with the other– this architect will probably go broke as a result of litigation brought by patent lawyers scouring the finer details of the architect’s patent to help the lawyer’s clients siphon as much cash off the original architect as possible, until no future architects, seeking to create evil, corporate monoliths will follow the original architect into this minefield.

The future, as cynical, non-sci-fi fans see it, is not one of crystal cities, miles high roads, and constant innovation, but of government-mandated open spaces and wide open plains as far as the eye can see. One has to guess with the current path we’re on –of government officials and lawyers destroying creators’ plans and finances– that our current course dictates that the future will not be one of architectural brilliance and innovation, unless an ingenious mind comes along and discovers a way to bubble wrap the world and have gelatinous bubble guns at every portal to protect anyone from ever being harmed again.

Until that day arrives, a more realistic dystopian, sci-fi movie would depict our future being one of wide open plains and prairies that mirror Kansas and Nebraska where a screaming fall of a couple miles before one makes contact with terra firma –from an octopus roads that sprouts from a monolithic corporation– becomes nothing more than a trip over a piece of loose soil. This movie would not provide us the stunning visuals our “figurative schemes of thought” have come to expect from big budget sci-fi movies that project our future, of course, but with the course we’re now on it would be a lot more realistic.

The Real Back Pain Solution


How many of you woke with the same back pain I experienced the other day? It’s excruciating. It can ruin an entire day. It doesn’t matter to us that other people might be in more pain. Pain is pain. It doesn’t matter that others may experience chronic back pain, where ours could be called occasional and temporary. Pain is pain.  It makes us irrational, emotional, and cranky, and it disrupts our lives.

The first culprit we seek for interrogation is our sleep. Did we sleep on too many pillows, or in some other way that caused our head, neck, or back to be at an odd angle the night before? Sleep is often a hostile witness, however, never answering our questions, or if it does those answers are often incoherent and incomplete. Out next step, is to retrace our steps in the day leading up to the moment we fell asleep to see if any of our actions could be determined to provide undue stress on our head, neck, or backs. Whatever the cause of it, temporary back pain happens to us all, and it can be memorable.

Woman-With-alot-of-Back-Pain-walking-tall-chiropractorTo deal with that pain, some take pain meds, others heat or cool the affected areas, and if it becomes a recurring pain we may take a trip down to the fine massage therapists at BalanceWorks Massage to have them work it out until it’s gone, and to provide us tips to prevent it in the future.

When we’re immersed in that pain, we may vow to develop a routine at the gym that will strengthen those particular muscles as a form of preventative medicine, but that vow often lasts about as long as the pain does. If the reader is serious about solving recurring lower back pain, a therapist at Balance Works Massage informed me of her opinion on the cure of my problem: The leg press. There are a variety of methods to avoid in the procedure, and a variety of optimal methods to use that appear to be relative to the person, but as one that experienced recurring, lower back pain, this machine has proved to be a cure all for me. There is no one fix for all, as they say, but this worked for me.

The next, and more prominent, question is how often does back pain occur in our lives? The answer to this question gets to the heart of why we should not complain about intermittent, minor, and temporary back pains as often as we do. We all complain when it happens, but some of us complain in a manner that suggests that God and nature are somehow against us. Some of us even act like our body has failed us in some manner for which we are not to responsible, and we go to a doctor to tell them to fix it.

On the situation comedy, Louie, Louis C.K. complains to his doctor, a Dr. Bigelow, about the temporary back pain he is experiencing.  Rather than treat Louie in any manner, Dr. Bigelow informs Louie why he has back pain.

“You’re using it wrong,” Dr. Bigelow says.  “The back isn’t done evolving yet.  You see, the spine is a row of vertebrae. It was designed to be horizontal. Then people came along and used it vertical. Wasn’t meant for that. So the disks get all floppy, swollen. Pop out left, pop out right. It’ll take another. I’d say 20,000 years to get straightened out. Till then, it’s going to keep hurting.

“It’s an engineering design problem,” he continues. “It’s a misallocation. We were given a clothesline and we’re using it as a flagpole.

“Use your back as it was intended. Walk around on your hands and feet. Or accept the fact that your back is going to hurt sometimes. Be very grateful for the moments that it doesn’t. Every second spent without back pain is a lucky second. String enough of those lucky seconds together, you have a lucky minute.”

The human body may be a marvel in many ways, in other words, but it also has structural flaws. The back, for instance, has structural flaws, and it functions for most of our lives from a flawed premise. So, rather than complain about our temporary back pains, we should take a moment, consider our age, and calculate the number of days when our back was defying nature and providing us with a pain-free existence. We don’t appreciate the back until it fails us, of course, and now that it has, we should take that opportunity to thank it for supporting all of the innumerable actions we’ve asked it to perform for all those years. If Dr. Bigelow’s assessment of the back’s design flaws is to be believed, those days of peak performance shouldn’t occur as often as they do, and that’s the marvel of the back.

When you’re in pain, however, logic is about the furthest thing from your mind. Pain is pain, and when your back pain is so severe that you can do nothing but crawl on the floor, you’re not going to be comforted by the idea that the sole reason that your down there is a structural flaw that human evolution has yet to iron out. As for the idea of being grateful to your back that you’re not down there more often, as a result of its flawed design, that’s about as irrational as being grateful that at least you’re not being attacked by a big brown bear. As a former ground bound, back pain sufferer that has never been eviscerated by a bear, I can relate, but I still have to imagine that being attacked by a predatory, brown bear would be worse.

At maximum size, a brown bear can weigh 1,500 lbs., and they reach a height of ten feet when standing erect. On all fours, some brown bears have even been measured to be five feet high, near the height of the average human. After imagining the hysteria one might experience with something that large racing at them, the victim should know that bears aren’t known to go for the throat in the manner wild cats will, and the nature of their attack is such that they often don’t employ tactics that would lead to a more instantaneous form of death. If they are protecting their young, or acting in a manner that could later be determined to be defensive, they may let most humans off with a warning. That warning may land you in the hospital for a year, and leave lacerations on your head and face that have you looking like the elephant man for the rest of your life, but it is just a warning.

I would have to guess, however, that in the aftermath of a defensive bear attack, fruit will taste better, and the victim will begin to say ‘I love you’ to their loved ones more often, after park rangers inform them that the bear was not acting in a predatory nature, and all that that implies. If the victim is witnessing a bear acting in a predatory manner, and they don’t believe in guns, they might find it interesting that a brown bear can sprint at speeds of up to thirty miles an hour over short distances, and that they can break a caribou’s back with a single swipe of one of their massive paws.

If a potential victim is unsure as to whether an oncoming bear is acting in a predatory nature or not, they should know that there is no substantial proof to suggest that bears prefer us alive. Cannibals have refuted the notion that the adrenaline that courses through our system, as a result of fear, unnecessary suffering, and pain, makes humans taste any better. So, even though playing opossum may be the only tactic for a victim to explore at one point, it may not do any good if the bear regards us as food. Bears appear to have little regard for the state of consciousness of their victim while feeding.

Due to the fact that bears are forced to store food for their long hibernation periods, most of their dietary needs involve fat content. What this means to you, if you are being attacked as a food source, is that they’re prone to go after intestines, and other internal organs. To get there, of course, they will have to claw away at the skin casing, and the rib cage, while you lay conscious, trying to fight for your life, with one paw holding you down, as they rip these fat-laden morsels from your body.

“That still does not help me!” screams the victim of agonizing back pain. It may not, I’m forced to admit, but it may answer the question why God can’t hear your cries. Some people are screaming louder.

The Conspiracy Theory of Game 6, 2002


I am not a conspiracy guy. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, I think Elvis is dead, and Paul McCartney is not. I don’t believe Colombian drug lords took the lives of Nicole Simpson and Ron Brown, and I don’t believe that the American Government had any involvement in the terrorist incident that occurred on 9/11/2001, but I do believe that the officiating in game six of the Western Conference Finals, in 2002, was either so incompetent, or so biased, that it invited the ‘C’ word into the conversation.

I’ve been a conspiracy guy before, suggesting that there might be one in certain situations (not the ones listed above), and I know that “C’mon” smile people give conspiracy guys. That “C’mon” smile asks you if you know the totality of what you’re suggesting, and it asks you if you know how many people would have to be involved. I try to avoid that smile at all costs, but if I’m ever going to “get over” the idea that a conspiracy prevented the Sacramento Kings from advancing to the NBA final in 2002, someone is going to have tell me how two of the NBA’s top officials made so many bad calls that led to twenty-seven Lakers’ free throws in the fourth quarter, on May 31, 2002, for the purpose of getting one more game out of this heated, popular series. I don’t want to believe the conspiracy, if there was one, reached into the upper echelon of the NBA or NBC, or that these two NBA officials had any money on the game. I do think, however, that these officials had a bias towards the Lakers, reflected in the numerous bad calls they made, that ended up affecting this game, and I think that latter point is near irrefutable. I also think it’s plausible that the officials may have been trying to make up for the “bad, or missed,” calls that some complain happened to favor the Sacramento Kings in game five of the series. Whatever the case is, the officials of this particular game, made a number of calls in game six that provided an insurmountable advantage to the Los Angeles Lakers.

It can be very enticing to be that guy who defaults to conspiracy theory any time his team loses. Doing so prevents a fan from having to deal with the fact that their team may not have been as skilled, as clutch, or as lucky as the other team in those decisive moments when their team lost.

Poor officiating is poor officiating, and most rabid sports fans need to take a deep breath of fresh air to reboot. Most sport fans need to accept the idea that until we load these games up with computer sensors, or mobile robots, there are going to be bad calls, and missed calls that cost one team a game. It’s the human element of the game that results in the fact that game officials –even in the age of instant replays– are going to make bad calls.

I’ve dropped the ‘C’ word in the past. It’s what die-hard fans do in the heat-of-the-moment, but at some point, we all realize that more often than not, our team is going to lose. It’s hard to be rational in the heat-of-the-moment and realize that even though the bad call happened to be a bad call, it was nothing more than a bad call. Age and experience have taught me that more often than not, the ’C’ word is often better left in the hands of the screaming drunk at the end of the bar, watching his team get annihilated.

There is one conspiracy charge, however that I may never be able to shake. If I live for another forty years, and I become twice as rational as I am now, I may still be decrying the unfairness that occurred in Game 6, 2002 of the Western Conference Finals. To say that I’m not alone with these concerns would be an understatement, as this game has become one of the most popular games cited by those conspiracy theorists who claim that the NBA will do “whatever it takes” to get its most popular teams in the championship.

To attempt to put all of these Game 6, 2002 conspiracy theories to rest, Roland Beech, of 182.com, provided an in-depth analysis of the game. After this exhaustive review, Beech found that the:

“Officiating hurt the King’s chances at victory.” He also declared, “No nefarious scheme on the part of the refs determined the outcome.”

Sheldon Hirsch from Real Clear Sports expounded on Beech’s findings, commenting that the Kings:

“Were clearly unlucky, (but) that’s not the same thing as being cheated.”

After reading, and rereading Beech’s analysis, I’ve found Beech’s findings to be thorough, meticulous, and objective. These findings, however, have done little to quell my irrational condemnation of two of the three referees who handled Game 6, 2002, and a Game 6, 2002 cloud has loomed over every NBA game I’ve watched since, and it will continue to be there in any NBA games I might watch in the future.

Corroborating Evidence?

When former NBA referee Tim Donaghy received a conviction for betting on games in 2007, my first thought went to Game 6, 2002. He was not an official in that game, it turns out, but he did submit a letter, and later a book, that suggested a collusive effort on the part of two of the three referees to affect that game’s outcome. This letter does not mention the teams involved in Game 6, 2002, but the Kings v. Lakers series was the lone playoff series to go seven games in 2002.

“Referees A, F and G (Dick Bavetta, Bob Delaney, and Ted Bernhardt) were officiating a playoff series between Teams 5 (Kings) and 6 (Lakers) in May of 2002. It was the sixth game of a seven-game series, and a Team 5 (Kings) victory that night would have ended the series. However, Tim (Donaghy) learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew referees A and F to be ‘company men,’ always acting in the interest of the NBA, and that night, it was in the NBA’s interest to add another game to the series. Referees A and F favored Team 6 (Lakers). Personal fouls [resulting in injured players] were ignored even when they occurred in full view of the referees. Conversely, the referees called made-up fouls on Team 5 in order to give additional free throw opportunities for Team 6. Their foul-calling also led to the ejection of two Team 5 players. The referees’ favoring of Team 6 led to that team’s victory that night, and Team 6 came back from behind to win that series.”

Then-NBA Commissioner David Stern denied the allegations Donaghy made in this letter, stating that they were made by a desperate, convicted felon. Stern said Donaghy was a “singing, cooperating witness”, and Stern has since referred to any, and all, Donaghy allegations as those coming from a convicted felon.

It is true that Donaghy is a convicted felon. He received a conviction for betting on games he officiated. Does that mean everything he wrote in this particular letter is false? How many times has a convicted felon provided evidence that others later corroborated? At this point, however, there are no corroborations for Donaghy’s allegations, and a cynical outsider could say that Donaghy picked this particular, controversial game to serve up as a sort of plea bargain either to the FBI, or to the society that holds him as the lone, proven corrupt official of the NBA. Some have also said that Donaghy’s explosive allegation was made soon after the NBA required Donaghy pay them $1 million dollars in restitution.

It’s oh-so-tempting for scorned Kings’ fans to believe everything Donaghy wrote, and deny everything the former lawyer Stern said to protect his product, but it is difficult to deny the “desperate act” characterization Stern uses when referencing Donaghy’s allegations. Especially when we put ourselves in Donaghy’s shoes and we imagine how desperate he had to be in his efforts to salvage his reputation after being the lone NBA official convicted of throwing games.

Corroborating Outrage!

In the absence of corroborating evidence, outraged Kings’ fans can find solace in the corroborated outrage that resulted from the game by consumer activist Ralph Nader, the announcer of the game Bill Walton, and the numerous, prominent sportswriters who watched the game. Bill Walton called Game 6, 2002 one of the poorest officiated important games in the history of the NBA, and that characterization is almost unanimous.

At the conclusion of the game, consumer advocate Ralph Nader wrote an email to then-NBA Commissioner David Stern:

“You and your league have a large and growing credibility problem, Referees are human and make mistakes, but there comes a point that goes beyond any random display of poor performance. That point was reached in Game 6 which took away the Sacramento Kings Western Conference victory.” [My emphasis.]

As evidence of his charge, Nader cited Washington Post sports columnist Michael Wilbon who wrote that too many of the calls in the fourth quarter (when the Lakers received 27 foul shots to the King’s nine) were “stunningly incorrect,” all against Sacramento.

After noting that the three referees involved in Game 6, 2002 “are three of the best in the game”, Wilbon wrote:

“I have never seen officiating in a game of consequence as bad as that in Game 6 … When [Scott] Pollard, on his sixth and final foul, didn’t as much as touch Shaq [Shaquille O’Neal]. Didn’t touch any part of him. You could see it on TV, see it at court side. It wasn’t a foul in any league in the world. And [Vlade] Divac, on his fifth foul, didn’t foul Shaq. [These fouls] weren’t subjective or borderline or debatable. And these fouls didn’t just result in free throws, they helped disqualify Sacramento’s two low-post defenders. And one might add, in a 106-102 Lakers’ victory, this officiating took away what would have been a Sacramento series victory in 6 games.

“I wrote down in my notebook six calls that were stunningly incorrect,” Michael Wilbon continued, “all against Sacramento, all in the fourth quarter when the Lakers made five baskets and 21 foul shots to hold on to their championship.” 

Wilbon discounted any conspiracy theories about an NBA-NBC desire for Game 7 etc., but he later wrote that:

“I still consider [Game 6] the single worst-officiated game in the 28 years I’ve been covering professional basketball. It was egregiously, embarrassingly bad … Stern and the NBA had better deal with it quickly, lest they appear completely unaware of a condition that will threaten the credibility of the league.”

“It’s the only time, I think, I’ve ever written an entire column about refereeing for the purpose of being critical.” 

In his letter to Stern, Nader also cited the basketball writer for USA Today, David Dupree, who wrote:

“I’ve been covering the NBA for 30 years, and it’s the poorest officiating in an important game I’ve ever seen.”

Grant Napear, the Kings’ radio and TV play-by-play man the last two decades, still labels Game 6:

“Arguably the worst officiated playoff game in NBA history.”

When LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke asked Commissioner David Stern about Game 6, 2002, in person, during the NBA Finals that year, Plaschke states that Stern turned defensive:

“[Stern] looked at me,” Plaschke wrote, “pointed his finger, and said, ‘If you’re going to write that there is a conspiracy theory, then you better understand that you’re accusing us of committing a felony. If you put that in the paper, you better have your facts straight,” Plaschke wrote, quoting Stern. Plaschke alluded to the fact that he [Plaschke] didn’t have any facts, and as a result he did back off, but that he had just wanted to ask Stern about aspects of Game 6, 2002, that Plaschke had witnessed. 

Bill Simmons, of ESPN, called the game:

“The most one-sided game of the past decade, from an officiating standpoint.”

Nader concluded his letter to Stern:

“There is no guarantee that this tyrannical status quo will remain stable over time, should you refuse to bend to reason and the reality of what occurred. A review that satisfies the fans’ sense of fairness and deters future recurrences would be a salutary contribution to the public trust that the NBA badly needs.”

The point to which Nader and Wilbon alluded is that there has long been a conspiracy theory among NBA fans that the NBA wants the Lakers to win. The Lakers are showtime. They are West and Chamberlain, Magic and Kareem, and Kobe and Shaq, and the reasons that the NBA might favor a Lakers team in the championship begins with the word money and ends with a whole lot of exclamation points. This point is not debatable among conspiracy theorists, and non-conspiracy-minded fans, but how much the NBA would do to make that happen has been the core of conspiracy theories for as long as I’ve been alive.

Conspiracy theories exists in all sports, of course, but they are more prominent in the NBA, because most officiated calls in the NBA are so close, and so subjective, that they invite more scrutiny, more interpretation, and more conspiracy theories than any other sport.

What was Stern’s reaction to Nader’s letter?

“He spoke like the head of a giant corporate dictatorship,” Nader said.

The Point Beyond the Random

Some might see it as a populist play for a consumer advocate and presidential candidate, like Nader, to cover a sporting event in such a manner. I do believe, however, that Nader was right to warn Stern that public sentiment could turn away from his product, when it reaches a point where the normal conspiratorial whispers crank up to screams of indignation. I know that those whispers gained more prominence for me, after Game 6, 2002, and in every game I watched thereafter.

“There comes a point that goes beyond any random,” Nader wrote.

There comes a point that no fan can pinpoint when disappointment becomes outrage, and outrage progresses into conspiracy theory, and conspiracy theory becomes an outright lack of trust. There comes a point when those who still believe in a fair NBA where outcomes are not predetermined, and victories are granted based on merit, are laughed off, in the same manner WCW fans are laughed at for still believing in the integrity of their sport.

“The Kings could’ve won that game,” is the usual response to charges that the officials decided the game, “and if they secured a couple more rebounds, made a couple more field goals, and free throws, they would’ve. The Kings had numerous opportunities to win that game, no matter how many free throws the Lakers were awarded in the fourth quarter (27) of game six. And … and, if the Kings won game seven, at home to boot, this whole matter would be moot. They didn’t, and the rest is history, Lakers’ history!”  

This response often quells further talk of bias and conspiracy theories, because it is true. It’s also true that the two teams in the 2002 Western Conference Finals series were so evenly matched that that the series went seven games, and of those seven games, one game was decided by more than seven points, and the two games that preceded Game 6, 2002, were both decided by a single point, and the final game of the series couldn’t be determined until overtime. It’s also true that when two teams are so evenly matched, anything can provide a tipping point … even officiating.

As I wrote, the “C’mon” smile often follows this line of thought, and what follows that is a statement like: “Your team’s job is to make it so the refs cannot determine the outcome.” Again, this is all true, but outraged Kings’ fans would admit that their 2002 team wasn’t that much better than the 2002 Lakers, and if they were better, it was by a smidgen, and that smidgen was wiped out in game six by the Lakers having twenty-seven free throws in one quarter –the fourth quarter–after averaging 22 free throws throughout the first five games.

Author Brian Tuohy adds an interesting asterisk to this discussion:

“The Sports Bribery Act was passed in 1964 and that [law] specifically states you cannot bribe (my emphasis) a player, coach, or referee to alter the outcome of a sporting event,” Tuohy says. “Well, if the NBA says to its referees, ‘Hey, we want you to do this, that, or the other thing out on the court,’ they’re not bribing them to do it. That’s an employer telling the employee how to do their job. And if this is how they want the job done, they’ll go out and do what their employer asks. There’s no law that prevents the NBA from fixing the outcome of one of its own games.”

So, when Stern attempted to intimidate Plaschke out of making an accusation, by saying that Plaschke was implicitly accusing the NBA of a felony, did Stern do so with the knowledge that it’s only a felony if the NBA paid the referees to make it happen? My interpretation of Tuohy’s comments, based on what he said about the NBA Draft Lottery is, “It’s their league. They can do with it what they will.” In other words, if the NBA were to fix a game that action might break the social contract of fair play with the fans, but as far as the law is concerned, Brian Tuohy states, “[T]hey have total control and can do whatever they want with these games [to] feed into their entertainment industry, which is professional basketball. There’s nothing out there that stops them from doing it, so if they want to, they could.” 

Anytime we hear conspiracy theories, our first impulse is to dismiss them. The best way to dismiss a conspiracy theory is to call it a conspiracy theory. How many foolish notions have just enough juice to be interesting? There are so many that when someone dismisses another one as nothing more than another conspiracy theory, most of us join them in dismissing it on that basis, and we don’t listen to another word the conspiracy theorist has to say. The next easy dismissal is to suggest that in order for a true conspiracy theory to work, there would have to be so many players involved. There would have to be various people at various levels who knew about it and have remained silent about it all these years. “How come there have never been any leaks regarding game 6?” is something they might ask. As we’ve written throughout this piece, there is no substantial and corroborated evidence to suggest that the NBA, or its officials, decided this game. At best, we have a boatload of circumstantial evidence that we think would convince a jury to award Sacramento a Larry O’Brien. On the specific topic of the number of people involved, however, we think it could be as minimal to three to four people. It could involve nothing more than a simple call from David Stern to the referees who worked this game to do whatever they have to do make this wildly popular series between two evenly matched teams last one more game. As Tuohy suggests, Stern might have viewed it as good business.

On the topic of dismissing a conspiracy theory on the basis of being a conspiracy theory, Brian Tuohy adds: 

“If you look outside the United States right now, today, we know soccer matches are being fixed. We know tennis matches are being fixed. Cricket matches are being fixed. Rugby matches are being fixed. People are being arrested and convicted of fixing those sports. So it’s amazing that in the United States, none of this happens. What other crime happens worldwide that doesn’t happen in the United States? Apparently, game-fixing is it, which I don’t understand. How is it happening everywhere else but despite billions of dollars being gambled on American sports nobody’s fixing a game? Well, I don’t believe it. It’s only considered a conspiracy theory because people don’t want to believe it potentially could be true.”    

Those of us who prefer to be on the other side of this argument often inform our conspiracy theorist friends that there isn’t more than meets the eye. Most of the time, the truth is the truth, the facts are the facts, and scoreboard is scoreboard, but facts are stubborn things, and they’re also pretty boring. It’s boring, and anti-climactic to say that one common, ordinary man could take down a president. There’s little-to-no literary value in the suggestion that a bunch of ragtag losers could take down one of America’s greatest monuments to commerce without conspiratorial assistance, and it does nothing to ease our pain to admit that a team beat our team based on superior athletic talent alone. Raised in a pop culture that feeds into our idea that there has to be more than meets the eye, we end up believing that there is, as we stare at those zeroes on the scoreboard, and we watch the other team celebrate, and we listen to the post-game interviews with a lump in our throat. This dream season can’t just be over, we think. There has to be more to it, but most of them time there isn’t. Most of the time one team loses and another wins, and the conspiracy theorist becomes more ridiculous every time they attempt to say that there has to be something more to it.

Having said all that, those of us who try to avoid the ‘C’ word as often as we can, ask those who offer bemused smiles to our conspiracy theories if it’s just as ridiculous to suggest that such moments never happen? Especially when, as Brian Tuohy suggests, they happen all the time, all over the world. “I’m not going to say it’s never happened,” the rational reply, “but it didn’t happen here.”

If it didn’t happen here, even the most objective analysis would find that two of the three officials involved in Game 6, 2002, made an inordinate amount of calls in favor of the Lakers, and because these two teams were so evenly matched, those calls provided an insurmountable advantage for the 2002 Lakers. We’ll never know whether or not these “best officials in the game” were just incompetent for one game in their careers, or if they were acting in a nefarious manner, but those of us who watched every second of the May 31, 2002 game –and slammed the “off” button as hard as we’ve ever slammed an “off” button before, or since– believe that it was a point beyond the random that damaged the social contract we had with the league, and its integrity, in a manner that is irrevocable.

Brutal Honesty in the Age of Being Real


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of being real, it was the age of delusional thinking, it was the epoch of honesty, it was the epoch of lies, it was the season of transparency, it was the season of delusions, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were going to achieve, what we had already achieved, what we would never achieve – in short, it was a period of time that needed to exist to rectify a period that may never have existed to the superlative degree of comparison that some of its noisiest authorities defined for the era.

As that paraphrase of Charles Dickens’ epic intro to A Tale of Two Cities suggests, reality TV did not the divide American culture in the manner some purported it would in the age of being real. The doyens and doyennes of our culture asked if reality TV was art imitating life, or if it was reflecting it? Others suggested reality TV represented such a small sample of the culture that the shows’ producers projected it out into the society as a measure of realness that wasn’t real to the superlative degree they portrayed? Others wondered if the culture used reality TV for what it was and dispensed of it in manner similar to the way a body puts out byproducts it can’t use?  Some people I knew, very real and intelligent people, acknowledged that while reality TV focused on a sample of a society none of us knew that didn’t mean it wasn’t real.

"Lars and The Real Girl"

“Lars and The Real Girl”

How many times in one episode did an actor say, “Hey, I’m just being real with ya” to assuage the guilt they might otherwise have while insulting another person? How many times did these show participants gain a certain degree of realness on the back of another? How many times was being real used as a confrontational device to belittle those who were less real, until the real proponent managed to gain some real definition on them?

Being real, in such instances, was nothing more than a cudgel used to diminish a person who wasn’t like the speaker. They used this device to make the unreal more like the real, and the viewer at home was supposed to accept all that as real thinking, if they ever hoped to gain real stature in the real world. Most of us now reflect back on the being real era, and see it as an intellectually dishonest era, designed to promote the position of the proselytizing speakers. 

Those of us who thought the age of being real was anything but, couldn’t deny the influence it had on the culture in general, and our friends and family. Otherwise kind and polite individuals who wouldn’t say an unkind word about anyone yesterday, started lobbing verbal grenades at us. “Hey,” we would say. 

“I’m just being real with ya,” they would respond. For word watchers in search of colloquialisms, it was mandatory for real people to use the less formal incarnation of the word you as a literary device to gain familiarity with the subject of their insults.   

“Why did you say that? That was not very nice.”

“We can do that now, in this era of being real.”

No one said that latter line, of course, but that was the import of the discussion. It didn’t happen in a day, and it didn’t happen this way, but friends and family felt they could say anything they wanted in this era, and they didn’t need to bother being conscientious, if they were just being real with ya. 

Those of us who experienced this era and studied it for what it was, learned it was based on the false premise that one could be real with ya without undergoing any substantive reflection of their own. Even those who may have watched a total of one hour of the more sophomoric shows of reality TV, could not escape its influence.

We thought the era of white lies were over. Even if being real had nothing more than a conjugal relationship with brutal honesty, and some of us used the nuggets of that message to put more brutal honesty in our presentation, regardless if anyone thought we were being real or not. In any repeated message of this type, there is a personal takeaway for some. Most of us didn’t believe the real characters in reality shows were being real, in other words, but the presentation affected us nonetheless. We changed our presentation to one that could be called brutal honesty, in regards to how we thought we should be perceived, and we encountered a number of surprising reactions.

The most surprising reaction we received was no reaction. We would detail our weaknesses for our audience and our trials and tribulations, and they would not say anything. We would finish our testimonial, and if someone didn’t say something to change the subject, the lunchroom table would go through a seven-second lull. Our audience presumably took it in stride, because they thought they were as honest with themselves as we purported to be. They lived with the idea that they were so honest that most people couldn’t handle their special brand of honesty. It didn’t dawn on them, however, that that interpretation of brutal honesty was limited to assessing others. Very few have the wherewithal to evaluate themselves honestly, and their particular brand of being real incorporated many of the elements the dictionary uses to define the word delusional. Those who attempt to help them be more real learn that it’s pointless, because the subject will attempt to be more real than you, with you, until the discussion devolves to something equivalent to the type of gunfight banter Hollywood writes into scripts to provide a tense setting for paragraphs of exposition.   

Those who have never made a concerted effort to be honest about themselves, might expect that being harshly critical of one’s self to be somewhat influential. The expectation I had was that others might “raise their game” in this regard, to be more honest. They didn’t, because, again, real people already think they are brutally honest.

Another surprising, and somewhat depressing, reaction to displaying brutal honesty, in the age of being real, was that our friends began to think less of us. In any other era, it might make sense to consider a person who provides us a laundry list of weaknesses a weak person. In the era of being real, we might fall prey to the belief that our friends and family might consider such brutal honesty refreshing, and that they might consider that moment the perfect time to be just as honest in return. No such luck. What often happens is that they join in on the discussion and add other weaknesses that the brutally honest person neglected to include.  

“How do you think you’d do in jail?” A Delusional Person asks Frank.

“Not well,” Frank replies with refreshing, brutal honesty.

When Frank provides a laundry list for why he probably wouldn’t do well in jail, the Delusional Person might laugh, because being this honest can be humorous when the recipient is allowed to bathe in the weaknesses of its purveyor. The Delusional Person will often agree with Frank’s frank assessment of himself, but they won’t assess themselves by the same measure.

“How do you think you would do?” Frank returns.

“I think I’d do all right,” the Delusional Person replies.

Even in the age of being real, most people fell prey to the idealized images they have of themselves. One of the more effective measures weight loss programs will employ are progress charting photos. They ask their clients to do this, because we can look in the mirror every day and fail to see our progress or regressions. We need a somewhat distant perspective to truly evaluate ourselves, and the same holds true with conversational scenarios such these.     

Most of us live with idealized images of ourselves, as if they happened yesterday for the rest of our lives. This particular Delusional Person was a championship-level wrestler in his teenage years. While on the wrestling team, he endured exhaustive workouts, and exercised levels of self-discipline, that most non-athletes will never know. This resulted in The Delusional Person being a finely crafted specimen who at that time may, indeed, have been capable of handling the hand-to-hand combat situations reported to occur within the confines of a cell block. When he answered Frank’s question, the Delusional Person remembered himself as finely tuned wrestler who won championships. The idea that lifted a weight or sprinted in fifteen years didn’t enter into his equation. A more brutally honest assessment of his stay in prison should have been, “I don’t know how I would so in jail, but I suspect that all of the years I’ve spent sitting behind a computer, and avoiding physical activity, would be exposed early on.”

We all picture ourselves in peak physical condition when we listen to others speak about how they have let themselves go. We laugh when others joke about those who have gained weight, conveniently forgetting that we just graduated to a thirty-six inch waist pair of pants last week. We’ll do this when we speak about the people we grew up with who “now look so old”, even though we’re now using hair-dye, wrinkle cream, and supplements to fight the aging process. We aren’t lying when we do this either, we’re projecting an idyllic image of ourselves into these scenarios that used to be able to lay out an entire prison yard when we were called upon to do so … in the movies.

Another surprising, and somewhat depressing, reaction I encountered was a kind, polite person who had no interest in being real, adding brutal honesty to my brutally honest presentation. 

“Are you sure that you’re capable of that?” she asked after I informed her that I threw my hat in the ring for a promotion that had everyone abuzz. The surprising element of this question was not that she asked it, for it could be said that she was looking out for me in her own way, but that she never asked that question of any of our other co-workers. With them, she expressed in what we could call a Hallmark card-style response to their desire to advance within the company. “Good luck!” she would say to them, or “I know you can do it.” She may have said those words to be polite, but she wasn’t polite with me. 

She asked me to reconsider whether I might be qualified. I told her that I had as many, if not more, qualifications than some of the others who applied for it. I assumed her question was borne of jealousy, but I didn’t say that. After processing her warning, I acknowledged that she was kind person, and I realized that her concerns were simple reactions to my presentations of brutal honesty. She didn’t want me to get hurt by the realities of my limits, limits that I had expressed in the course of being honest about my vulnerabilities, and she was just reacting to what I told her over the years.

Yet, people like my sweet, polite friend can inadvertently assist those striving for brutal honesty into a depressing state of their reality. The honest assessor realizes, about halfway down the spiral, that they’re doing this to themselves, and that they’re becoming too honest. Their friends aren’t helping, but their friends are just reacting to what they’ve heard us say, and they’re regurgitating our harsh and brutal opinions of us to us. Our friends are, in fact, greasing the skids to a form of depression. An honest assessor realizes, about halfway down this spiral, that they’ve become so realistic in their assessments that they’ve become brutally realistic.

We might start avoiding attempts to advance ourselves, because we’ve become so realistic in our abilities that we’re now asking ourselves so many brutally honest questions that we’re afraid to try and advance. As a result of such thorough examination, we’ve also become so realistic that we don’t think it’s realistic for any honest assessor to succeed. These could be called minor setbacks in the grand scheme of becoming more honest with one’s self, until we begin to see the Delusional People around us –some with half of our talent– begin to succeed beyond us. These Delusional People may even know that they’re lying to themselves, on some level, but they’re harmless little, white lies that everyone tells themselves in the quest for advancement, and if you can get all of them to add up just right, they may become a reality that no one can deny.

When the company selected Molly for this promotion, the confusion it created was almost painful. It wasn’t Armageddon, and no one was harmed by the company’s decision, but the aftermath of this tragedy left a proverbial wasteland of confusion. Those who devoted a large portion of their lives to this company felt that it could only be outweighed by familial or personal tragedies. The world moves on after political disasters, and religious hypocrisies can be overcome through personal devotion, but a seismic disaster on par with a person of Molly’s character, and work ethic, landing a top gig in their company can lead to reverberations that are felt throughout a person’s life. The company is where most people live most often. It’s a better indicator of how they’re living, as it’s the place where most people devote most of their resources. When matters in the workplace take a divergent path, different from all of the scenarios workers list in their head, it can lead to a company wide crisis.

“Part of an interview involves salesmanship,” those in the know tell the employees gathered in a team meeting, and that assessment was to remain within those closed doors, as off the record comments. This assessment was a “wink and a nod” attempt to assuage the confusion building around what many considered an absolute travesty. 

Those who have been in similar situations know the term “new reality”, as it becomes the theme of the many presentations that follow. If those in the know do comment on such a situation, they will say something along the lines of “You should be happy for Molly”. This leaves the suggestion that most of the confused, are confused about her promotion as a result of personal animus.

“We wouldn’t have a problem if Marsha, Kelly, or Dan received this promotion,” one person argued to reflect the general sentiment of the aggrieved, “but if Molly has any moral fiber, or conscience, she won’t be able to sleep at night.” No one cares. Molly has scoreboard. It’s the new reality. Deal with it. 

Amid the personal and professional confusion, one honest assessor, from the out of the loop sector, stepped forth and professed the harsh reality of the situation: “Molly simply fed into the leadership mystique of her superiors better than us.

“When we were concerned themselves with learning the inner machinations of the company’s system in a proficient manner they hoped might impress their superiors,“ the honest assessor added, “Molly was purchasing gift baskets for her bosses on boss day. When others were out volunteering for special projects to pad their resumé, and working untold amounts of overtime to put a smile on their bosses’ faces, Molly was at the bosses’ lunch tables laughing at their jokes, and when all of the applicants were drilling the interviewer with the bullet points of their resumé, Molly was feeding into whatever mystique they wanted to gain in that particular setting. This was Molly’s primary skill set.“

It was a bow atop the corporate basket of lies given to bosses, on boss day, in the age of being real. In the age of being real, employees began to demand more recognition for their accomplishments, and management responded, but in the end the employees realized that it was all part of a scripted, choreographed, and edited production designed to pacify their audience by mentioning their name in the credits that rolled out at the end of the day. When crunch time came, however, it was the Delusional People who had learned how to feed the mystique of those in the know that left everyone else feeling malnourished.

“Those who live in a dishonest manner will eventually get theirs,” our nuns told us in grade school. They also told us that, “Truth has a way of prevailing”. The company eventually discovered what everyone knew at the time, Molly was eventually discovered to be “not a good fit” for the position, but she was promoted up and out of the position, and out of the department, and the person who replaced her was yet another mystique feeder.

Those of us who lived and breathed corporate America heard all the stories about evil corporations, but we knew our corporate leadership board. They weren’t faceless corporate entities. They were people named Jeff and Sandy, and all the others who had kids and cats. We had one boss who was learning how to ride a motorcycle, and she drove one of her friend’s beloved Harleys into the ground, and it wasn’t funny, but it was. She was a real life, flawed individual who wasn’t afraid to show us her scars, literal and otherwise. When they speak in our corporate meetings, and our one on ones, we learn a little bit about their essence. We learned how they took their coffee, and what shows they went home to watch, and it all seemed so real, until they selected Molly for a big promotion.

We were all temporarily and permanently disillusioned. We thought our corporation was different, and that they hired and fired, and promoted and handed out raises based on merit. We believed that our corporation did not rise and fall based on the whims of faceless corporate entities. Ours was a real corporation comprised of people who knew us as well as we did them. We weren’t so delusion that we thought Jeff and Sandy knew us, but we thought some knowledge of our essence ascended from our bosses through the spider web, hierarchy, until we felt our efforts were recognized. 

The problem –those naïve enough to believe in the age of being real– discovered was not with Molly, but that Molly was emblematic of the problems inherent in a system that honest people once believed would find a way to provide rewards to those honest, hard working people who put their nose to the grindstone. The problem that seemed so complex to those of us who tried to wrestle with it, turned out to be so simple. The problem was that the various Jeffs and Sandys who controlled the spigots of reward for the hard working women and men in our company were humans themselves, and humans are inherently susceptible to flattery.

The nuns also provided their grade school students the proviso that if you’re living the honest life with the expectation of eventually receiving concretized recognition for it, you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons. We knew they were preaching gospel when they said this. Even if we didn’t know the depth of their statement, or how it might apply over time, some part of us knew that the rewards of living the honest life involve intangible, internal, and spiritual rewards. When the Delusional People begin to beat us to the more tangible goals in life, however, even the most honest assessors in a group will admit that it is difficult to avoid being affected by it, if they are being real with you.

Mechanical Animals


The next time something near and dear to a homeowner’s heart falls apart, my advice is to hire a professional to fix it. This advice goes against the grain of every do-it-yourselfer that has experienced the satisfaction of doing it yourself, but some of us have tried, and we’ve bungled it so many times that we’re ready to admit that we’re not mechanically inclined. If the homeowner is able to endure the room silencing, dish breaking stares that follow such an admission (and there will be stares, condescending, shaming stares), they will find that most of the staring contingent are not as mechanically as they’d like to think they are.  

Enter the mechanical animal. As in any arena in life, there are those that have an almost inexplicable ability to fix things, but their breed is not determined through genetic isolation or selective breeding. Either they fix things for a living, or they do it so often that they’re just better at it. As a friend of mine said, “It ain’t rocket science.”

Within the mechanical animal genus, a variety of species exists under an archetype, industrious person that taught the mechanical animal everything they needed to know. This breed of mechanical animal, knows enough to know what they’re talking about, but if the homeowner invests anything beyond raised eyebrows into what these mechanical animals have to say on the matter, they’ll discover the continental divide between the breed that knows how to apply such knowledge and those that have merely memorized it.

Within every species lies some level of natural selection, as some have found, through trial and error, that they are not as capable as others in their species are. The frustration of this whittling has led some in the species to focus their energy on the field of mechanical accounting. They can provide a desperate homeowner an itemized list of the expenses that they will encounter if they decide to hire a professional. They have intimate knowledge of how much the parts actually cost, and they know the retailer the professional in question chooses for their parts and resultant costs they pass onto their customer. They have also memorized how much each company charges for labor, and all related expenses involved in going with such a high profile company. “Do you know how much you’re paying for their brand name?” they will ask.  

The condensed version of their presentation is that the homeowner is not only foolish for even considering a call to an expert, but they are engaging in an unnecessary expense. The subtext of their presentation also suggests that homeowners that are not able to fix it themselves are less than male, if the audience of their presentation is male, and it often is in such discussions. If the homeowner stubbornly maintains a realistic limitation of their abilities in this discussion, in the face of the mechanical animal’s presentation, the mechanical animal will add the seven words that will forever taint the relationship that exists between the homeowner and them, “Hell, I can fix it for you.”

If homeowners want to endear themselves to the mechanical animal, my advice is to let the mechanical animal explain the full breadth of their knowledge in this arena. Let them provide their intricately detailed three-to-five-to-seven-to-nine point plans on how they would fix your dilemma. Smile when they enter their wheelhouse, nod a lot, and say, “Holy Crackers!” and “Man, you sure know what you’re talking about!” Dazzle them with your lack of knowledge, and keep your head in a non-confrontational and subservient position, and you’ll have a friend for life, but do not take this guy home with you.

He might seduce the desperate homeowner with conversation points that express the love and care he will show their home’s bolts and nuts, but soon after the lubrication is applied, the mechanical animal will start wrecking everything the desperate homeowner holds dear. When the job is “done”, the mechanical animal won’t mind leaving a fella incomplete because the homeowner’s satisfaction wasn’t the reason the mechanical animal injected their ideas into the conversation in the first place. The plan never involved them driving over to the house, screwing or unscrewing, or saving the homeowner one, thin dime. The purpose of the conversation was the conversation. They’re mechanical animals.

Mechanical animals have had this money saving and time saving three-to-five-to-seven-to-nine plan programmed into their head, note-by-note in the manner programmers program the notes of a Rachmaninoff tune into a self-playing piano. Like any song, a problem is fixable in programmed notes, but the difference lies in the variables. Mechanical animals are often great at communicating the intricate details of their pre-programmed knowledge on a lawn with a beer in their hand, but they often fall short when variables arise. They’re mechanical animals.

Mechanical animals are also great at informing a group of fellas on a lawn, with a beer in hand, that the corporate guys they’re planning on hiring are not as qualified as they think. The mechanical animal will inform his audience that he had a friend of a friend of a friend that hired them once, fourteen years ago, and that man wasn’t satisfied with the work they did. If the homeowner is brave enough to proceed headlong this gale of wind, they will ask, “Well, who would you hire then?”

“You don’t hire anyone silly,” the mechanical animal says. “You fix it yourself.”

This all makes for excellent “males on the lawn, with a beer in your hand” conversation, but it’s been my experience that the least expensive course of action for a desperate homeowner to take, is to smile, finish that beer he was gracious enough to slam into the homeowner’s hand, walk into the house, and listen to the conversation the females are having about the finest upholstery known on Earth. This conversation might not be as engaging to the male mind, but it will end up being far less expensive in the end.  

The homeowner should not ask for another beer, or listen to further “guys on the lawn, with a beer in the hand” conversations regarding the mechanical animal’s expertise, with a twinkle in the eye, because the homeowner thinks they’ve finally found someone that appears to have some expertise. Doing so will leave the desperate homeowner with a half-assed fix and an inoperable dullness in the eye that will last the rest of their adult life.

Mechanical animals are our wife’s brother-in-law, our neighbor, that guy that stops to chat with us at the local Home Depot, and just about every male that we know beyond a smiling nod. They’re mechanical animals –often named Morty– that have encountered just about every obstacle in life, and they can diagnose any problem a person puts forth in T-Minus two minutes, but if that person makes the mistake of turning a dime on them, they’ll be screaming: “Houston, we have a problem!” in T-Minus two weeks.

As discussed, this breed of Mechanical Animal often has an archetype male sitting atop their personal totem pole that knew how to fix things. The crucial difference between the two is that that archetype male needed to know, and he likely didn’t have the money necessary to hire an expert. If this archetype male didn’t know how to fix the plumbing in his house, in other words, the family would have to learn to live without plumbing. A Morty type will often have one great story regarding this archetype male going to a hardware store, picking up a pamphlet, and wiring the family home for electricity based on the instructions that pamphlet provided. The audience of this narrative may revere those industrious, rugged individual characteristics of Morty’s archetype male, but Morty will temper that awe with a conclusion, along the lines of, “It’s not as hard as one might think, all one has to do is …”

Throughout the course of a Morty’s testament to his father’s greatness, we learn that Morty’s archetype male was industrious, self-serving, patient with the trial and error variables involved in fixing things, and undaunted by matters that leave the rest of us breathless, but, again, that knowledge was borne out of necessity.

At some point, the import of Morty’s fixation on his archetype male will unfold when he attempts to fuse his knowledge with that of his father’s. “The man taught me everything I know.” 

The homeowner might consider such adoration of a father romantic, and they might recount some of their own feelings for their father, or they might wish they revered their father in the manner Morty does. We might not recall this romantic moment as the moment when we also began fuse their abilities, for his testimonial swept us off our feet. When forced to reconcile his best efforts with his actual ability, we might wonder when we fell for what this well-intentioned man was saying. A moment such as this one will be it. For in our desire to be as industrious as our forebears, we identified with Morty’s romanticized portrayal of his father, and we conflated our desire with his, until we were convinced of his actual ability.

Morty’s generation, our generation, loves the convenience that technology has afforded us, but the luxury of technology has also deprived us of the need that drove our archetype males to become what they became.

Reliance on this greater technology has left most males feeling less than macho, when we compare our knowledge to what our archetype image of a man dictates what it should be. As a result, Morty types spend their lives trying to replicate their archetype’s model. At some point in their lives, most Morty types will realize that they have fallen short of this idyllic image. They know how to wire cable to their TV sets … with some margin of error. They know how to change their own oil, spot a car, and they can relay some inane facts about some inane car. They know how to mow and fertilize a lawn, and perform some perfunctory plumbing chores, but they pale in comparison to the archetype male of their lives, often their father, because they don’t have a need to be as industrious. This is where the listener comes in. This is where the listener needs to list the distinctions and be mindful of them while playing the role of circuitous conduit to the goal of the mechanical animal’s conversation.

Playing the role of circuitous conduit to this goal of the mechanical animal, allows the mechanical animal to touch the face of their archetype male, even if it’s just for one moment, on a lawn with a beer in hand. It also forces the listener to play the role of the idiot in their story, but the mechanical animal will love you for it, for as long as it lasts.

“A trained chimpanzee could fix that,” is something they might say from their newfound stature atop the industrious male totem pole, a place that the obliging homeowner’s open-mouthed awe has created for them. “If they were willing to put forth a little effort, a trained chimp could fix that for a Frito reward. What kind of man are you that you can’t?” Morty types often don’t add the latter, for most of them are polite and fun loving, but their characterization of the listener implies it. At this point, the listener would love to have their own idiot among the other fellas standing on the lawn with a beer in their hand, but most of us don’t.

“All you need is a telescopic, shrub rake and a milled face, framing hammer,” is the manner in which a Morty type begin such assessments. “If you want to call a fix-it guy, be my guest,” they say in tones that provoke compulsory responses. “If you want to go into debt, and listen to a guy demean you for not being able fix your own home that’s fine, but if you stick with me we can fix this thing in a couple hours for less than a hundred dollars.”  

To be fair to Morty types, there are Morty types and there are Morty types. Some Morty types will confess, in typical Morty type humor, that they know “just enough to keep out of trouble”, or “just enough to be dangerous”. They’re often fun-loving beasts that may rear their ugly heads after they’ve had a few, when they’re with a bunch of fellas, looking out on their dilapidated lawn. It is not the goal of these Morty types to make members of their audience feel stupid, inept, or less than male however.

“Hey, you know your stuff and I know mine,” they may say to reveal how congenial, patient, and humble they are. If, however, the listener doesn’t make it a practice of lowering their head to the subservient position, the mechanical animal might feel a need to take them deeper into their weeds.

There are other Morty types, and everyone knows one, that will cause those that know anything about mechanical animals to dive into a row of insulation, at Home Depot, the moment we spot these mechanical animals walking their way down the aisle toward us. These Morty types will lock onto overwhelmed, vacant eyes and giggle: “Hey Martha, writer dude here doesn’t know what a milled face, framing hammer is.” To which a more cultured Martha type will instruct him to, “Be nice Morty!” and he will, if there are no other fellas around looking at a dilapidated lawn with beer in their hands. He will, if the experienced listener finds a way respond to all of Morty’s quick-fix theoretical fixes with careful responses that provide the mechanical animal the illusion that we know something about what he’s discussing. He will, if the experienced listener adds something that alludes to the idea that they have some knowledge of the telescopic, shrub rake, and the intricate web of seductive knowledge the mechanical animal has.

The thing is Morty types do know just enough to secure a crowned position on the conversational mountain of knowledge, with a beer in hand. The moment after the desperate homeowner joins them up there, they will note that the mechanical animal has all of the same brown patches in their yard, and a board they’ve had covering a broken window on their garage for over a year. The homeowner might not want to call Morty out on these inconsistencies, but if they’re considering asking this man to fix the headache in their home, these are crucial observations to note. We also need to note that the bed in their spare bedroom collapses when a man that weighs under 200 pounds climbs on, and even though he installed his own saloon doors on all of his rooms, we need to make note of the fact that they won’t close properly.

Once a guy leaves the idyllic conversations on a lawn, and they remove their beer goggles, they witness the realities baked in a foundation of half-truths and makeshift aggrandizements. We do need to note, however, that Morty types are not attempting to deceive the homeowner into believing they know how to fix whatever ails the home, beyond that which they’ve deceived themselves anyway. Most of them know what they’re talking about on this subject. They know the logistics of the fix, and they know how to go about getting things fixed, but they just don’t complete these tasks very well. They’re mechanical animals.

Those of us that have made the mistake of turning a dime on these conversations have realized our mistake soon after saying:

“Well, hell, if you can fix this for half the costs, then you are my man!”

If the reader is anything like me, it was never our intention to find out if the knowledge they displayed was theoretical or not. We just wanted our home fixed, and we were so desperate that we didn’t take the time to look for the realities of the man’s ability in the man’s home, in his garage, or on the dilapidated outskirts of his lawn. If the reader is anything like me, they’ve made the mistake of not knowing the difference between mechanical animals and mechanical animal conversations that occur on a lawn, with a beer in hand, and a bunch of fellas around.

If the reader is an inexperienced observer –with no precedent– currently debating about whether to bring in your cousin’s cousin to come in and fix your light fixture, I urge them to talk to these Morty types throughout the task. The mechanical animal might know what they’re doing, and they might even be able to fix what is required, but the reader should know that they would be making a huge mistake by leaving the mechanical animal alone in the room that needs some fixing. It would be rude, of course, to invite them into our loving home and just leave them to fix it, but that doesn’t cover what we’re discussing here. What we’re discussing is placating to the desires of a mechanical animal that is kind enough to attempt to relieve your headache without pay. To do that, those of us that have experienced such things firsthand, advise the reader to affix vacant and overwhelmed eyes on them, and say, “Wow!” and “Holy Crackers, you’re smart!” a lot. Let the mechanical animal provide detailed instructions on how to maintain, or fix, your problem in the future. The listener might not retain a single word of the diatribe, but that is not the goal of the mechanical animal. The reason that they collected the necessary tools for your project, and drove over to your home was to have their listener hear all the knowledge that they’ve accumulated over the years.

My experience with Morty types is that it’s also not enough for them that their audience promise to pay them, for nine times out of ten Morty types don’t need the money, or the steak that they’ve been promised them if they can fix a something something that’s plagued us. It’s also not characteristic of Morty types to like the homeowner so much that they’re willing to fix something for them just because, and my advice is to keep filling those void with various forms of those “Wow!” and “Holy crackers, you’re smart!” responses. Chances are, if the homeowner is an inexperienced observer, with no precedent, they might find these expressions tedious after a time, or they might believe that these mechanical animals will work harder, better, and/or faster if the homeowner leaves the room to get them to stop talking about what they’re doing and just do it. That homeowner will realize the huge mistake they’ve made soon after the mechanical animal climbs down the ladder, saying they need to get a milled face, framing hammer from home, and the homeowner is left calling that “over-priced” professional three days later, paying far more than they would have if they had just called him in the first place.

Would You Eat Someone Somebody Cared About?


Would you eat something someone cared about? Would you eat something someone whispered to sweetly?

On an episode of the brilliant, hidden camera show on TruTV called Impractical Jokers, the comedian Salvatore (Sal) Vulcano assumed the role of a worker at the counter of a bakery. In the course of his duties at the bakery, in an episode, titled “Who Arted?”, Sal spoke to one of the pastries a customer ordered before placing it in that customer’s take home pastry box. The implied joke, in this transaction, was that Sal developed a familiar bond with these pastries that went beyond the usual, professional association a baker has with his creations.

“I’m going to give you to this lady now, and she’s going to eat you,” he whispered to the pastry. In response to the confection’s purported plea, Sal Vulcano added: “I’m sorry, this is just the way things are.”

In reaction to this display, the customer on the other side of the counter, decided that she did not want that particular pastry. She didn’t reveal anything about her decision making process, but it was obvious that she was uncomfortable with the idea of eating that particular pastry. Without saying a word, Sal selected another pastry, and he proceeded to speak to that one too. The woman interrupted him saying:

“I don’t want one that you’ve spoken to.”

At the conclusion of the segment, all four comedians provided comment on the segment, and they admitted that they wouldn’t eat food that someone has spoken to either. Why, was my first question. I have no idea why, all things being similar, a person would prefer a pastry that hasn’t been involved in communication. We can only speculate why, because the show did not interview the woman after the segment, or if they did they did not air it, and the four comedians don’t say why they would reject the pastry either. My guess is that the four comedians wanted to let this woman off the hook. 

freee-range-turkeyIn this space of philosophical confusion, I put the question to a friend. He said that his decision would be based on what the person said to the pastry.

“Okay, but what communication would you deem so unacceptable you wouldn’t eat it? It’s not something we see every day, I’ll grant you that. It might be weird, a little creepy, and I may join you in giving the man an odd look when he does it, but I would then sit and eat it without any uncomfortable feelings or guilt.”

The obvious answer is that Sal’s presentation animated the pastries in a manner that this customer found disconcerting. In her world, presumably, it had always been socially acceptable to eat pastries, and she wanted to return that world. She didn’t want the guilt associated with eating a product that had a friend, or that someone cared about, or at the very least she didn’t want to watch their interaction, or in any other way know about it. She was so uneasy with the association that she made a boldfaced demand that Sal give her another pastry, one that hasn’t been spoken to in any manner, and she did this without acknowledging the lunacy of such a demand.

Proper analysis of the segment is almost impossible, since we don’t know what was going on in this customer’s head, but it appears to be an excellent portrayal, albeit incidental, of an individual who over thinks matters. She appears to be an individual who cares about what others think of her. She appears to be the type who makes informed, compassionate decisions about her dietary preferences. When she watches documentaries on food preparation, we can guess that they affect her dietary choices

An author wrote a book that awarded “light counts” to each being. In this book, the author suggested that some animals are more aware of their existence than another, and that that awareness could be said to be a non-religious soul. Humans, he wrote, are the barometer, as they are the most aware of their existence. In the next tier of his “consciousness cone” he lists the dog, the cat, and various other animals that he considers more aware of their existence. The human is at the top, and the atom is at the bottom. The purpose of his piece, the reader soon learns, is to inform the reader what the author considers acceptable to eat. A plant-based diet is entirely acceptable, for instance, to eat plants, vegetables, and fruit, because they have very few light counts, and little to no soul.

Some have suggested that talking to cats and dogs animates them in a manner that improves their life. Others have suggested that talking to plants can improve their condition. Does this affect the way we care for them, is it all a myth, or are we, in essence, transferring some of our light count to them? What if a human decides to transfer some of their light count to a piece of pastry? Is that possible? Is it possible that this woman believes this on some tangential level, and she prefers to eat a pastry with no light counts attached to them?  

If this woman knows about this multi-tiered philosophy, or thinks about it anyway, we can presume that prior to her interaction with Sal, she was always comfortable eating pastries, because she assumed they had no cognition or awareness of their own being. She is a woman who makes informed dietary choices based on similar compassionate bullet points. Thus, when Sal assigned the pastries such characteristics, it made her so uncomfortable that she asked him to give her one without communicating with it.   

Who would eat something that someone cares so much about? A cad would. Someone who doesn’t care about a person, place, or thing would. They might even worry that doing so could reflect poorly on them if they eat the pastry without a second thought. You’re saying you would eat such a thing without guilt? What kind of person are you? How do we sell ourselves to our peers in the aftermath?

Would we eat a small child’s beloved dog? Most would say no, to quote Pulp Fiction’s Jules Winnfield, “A dog’s got personality. Personality goes a long way.” If we agree with that sentiment, what are our parameters? Would we have any problems eating a small child’s beloved turkey? What if we met that turkey, and that turkey displayed some personality? What if that turkey displayed a little spunk that we couldn’t help but appreciate? What if that turkey befriended another turkey in a manner we found it endearing? What if the bird displayed an act of kindness that left an impression on us? What if it allowed us to fondle its wattle? What if that turkey had a name? How could anyone we eat a living being with a name? What kind of people are we? Would we rather eat a turkey that we’ve never met, that some individual in a factory farm slaughtered and packaged for us? We are informed, compassionate beings who don’t want to see anyone, any animal, or anything suffer, and when an individual does something that suggests they’ve bonded with something we plan on eating, do we consider how much pain that food might go through when we gnash it with our teeth, do we want to avoid thinking about that, and does it challenge what we think we know about light counts, the soul, and overall cognition. 

The different between a quality baker and a top-notch one is the care they put into it. Some top-notch state that they put love into the confections they create. They care about their creations in the manner any other artist might. Sal’s joke might have been a spoof on the love and care some bakers put into their creations, and he did not expect the reaction this woman gave. 

Once that reaction was out there, however, I wouldve been obsessed with drilling down to the woman’s philosophy behind rejecting the pastries to which Sal spoke. I would ask her if Sal redefined her philosophical stance on eating pastries in all the ways described above. If she said yes in any way, I would ask her why she considered another pastry acceptable. If he redefined it for her, wouldn’t that definition apply to all pastries? If she said no to this preposterous notion, I would ask her if she thought Sal transferred some of his soul, some of his light count to the particular pastry that she rejected. What’s the difference? Where is the line? It’s a pastry you say, and a pastry does not have the recognition of its own life in the manner a turkey does. 

If a person has difficulty eating a pastry that someone spoke to lovingly, they may be a little too obsessed with their presentation. They may be as susceptible to commercialization and suggestion as those people they claim to hate. They may take the line, you are what you eat, a little too literally. They may consult websites that contain modern intellectuals who detail who we are by what we eat. They might refrain from eating a pasty, because of what it says about them if they do. They might be so afraid of what is says about them that they cannot sleep at night after taking a bite out of something that Sal appeared to love. Do they think too much, do they have too much time on your hands, and are they a result of the problem or part of it. If this woman was a spectator of the joke, as opposed to the subject of it, would she think less of the person who could eat such a confection without guilt?

How do we make our decisions on what not to eat? Does a vegetarian, or a vegan, make their dietary choices based entirely on a love of animals? Some of the vegetarians and vegans I’ve encountered initially say something along the lines of, “I don’t care for the texture of meat.” Or, they tell a story regarding the moment they made their decision and how they experienced a moment that shaped that decision in some way. Some others will detail for us the health related benefits they’ve explored. All but the very few will openly address anything political about their decision, and even fewer will state that they did it to achieve some level of cultural superiority by becoming a vegetarian or vegan. The minute we deign to put a piece of meat before our mouth, we will learn about their politics on the issue. We will also learn of their feelings of superiority over meat eaters before we learn their last name. If neither of these are the case, or if my experiences could be called anecdotal, why would a seemingly reasonable woman reject a pastry based solely on the fact that a Sal whispered sweet nothings to it before placing it in a pastry box?

If Sal had a Snickers bar perform the Can Can to animate that candy bar in a realistic, non-comedic manner would that woman, a vegan, or a vegetarian, be able to then eat that Snickers bar without regret or guilt? I realize that Snickers bars and pastries are relatively inanimate, but with proper, serious characterization would it be possible to animate them in such a fashion that a person, with susceptibilities to messaging, could be made to feel guilty about eating them? If that was successful, could an enterprising young documentarian launch a well-funded campaign, steeped in political pressure, to lead a segment of the population into avoiding eating Snickers candy bars based on videos about the inhumane manufacturing process involved in the creation and packaging of Snickers bars? With the proper documentarian displaying the inhumane process through which the peanuts and caramel are adjoined with the nougat in a final process that involves what could be called a suffocation technique employed by the layer of chocolate placed over the top, would it be possible to substantiate this cause to a point where a person would not only stop eating Snickers but denigrate those that do and anyone who supports Big Candy to be in line with evil? It’s not only possible, in my humble opinion, the seeds of it were on display in the inadvertent brilliance of this comic sketch on this episode of Impractical Jokers.