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Saturday 1/11/20

* The worst things to happen to humanity: Nazi Germany, slavery, war, the internet, 21st century publishing/media

* I have noticed a preponderance of people who now will not express a thought--the kind indicative of critical thinking--without the tag line "Only my opinion." That is now how scared we are to think critically and put our vetted thoughts out there. The would-be point/argument/observation need not be a barn-burner. It can be as innocuous as apple pie. But people have that fear, the need to stick in a kind of mini-begging note which says, "please, please, please don't be mean to me or get offended or try to end my life and career and come for my family." I saw this morning where someone argued for Curt Schilling's on-field merit as a Hall of Famer, citing his WAR, ERA+, the era he pitched in and the number of innings he pitched per season in that era, which is very different than pitching 170 innings in our current era. They cited how he would have won two Cy Young awards were it not for two historic seasons by his teammate Randy Johnson. It was a well-reasoned argument, though I would also call all of this obvious, if you have any understanding of baseball, or have ever applied your brain to evaluating on-field performance. Nothing controversial here. And still this person felt they had to add, "Only my opinion." We are so scared now. Let's look at it a different way. Ever wanted a relationship to work out with someone you really cared about, but it was hard for you to take any risks? To be vulnerable? To be trusting? You tried to do the relationship in half-measures. Or maybe you were the one who was doing it in full-measures and only getting half-measures back. Not because of a lack of affection, but rather fear. Let us call it the playing-not-to-lose strategy. And what happened? It didn't work out. The relationship came to an end. And whatever person you were in that relationship equation, you were devastated. The same thing is happening in almost every exchange--and would-be exchange of ideas--in society now. Consequently, we are getting stupider, more alone, more depressed, more broken, more mentally ill.

* There is nothing wrong with telling someone who was morbidly obese, who is no longer morbidly obese because they decided to exercise and eat better, that they look good, which we are now ordered to believe, lest we get attacked, is evil. (By the way: Women frequently comment on my appearance in the Monument. They will stand there and tell me I look good, or fit, or comment on my legs in summer, when I have shorts on and the muscle is visible. Happens all the time.) We should not aspire to be a world where we congratulate people for reaching 400 pounds and that individual thinking this is awesome and the way to go. Dying at fifty-seven because you are morbidly obese and hurting your family and friends is not the way to go. Leaving your kids behind. We now make a virtue of anything that might be negative. (And yes, I understand that in some cases, weight is a complex issue, tied to genetics, tied to depression, tied to other things; but sometimes, often enough, it's not about those things; we are intellectually, mentally, morally, emotionally, spiritually, lazy. Does it not follow that we would also be physically lazy? You know how many miles per year the average person walks? By which I mean, in their life, including everything--going down the hallway, going to the bathroom, walking to Starbucks. It's 160 miles. Do you know how few miles that is? I have walked over 100 in a week. Because I'm not busy? Come on. I am obviously busier and more productive than anyone, and I have no desire to live at all at this point and it takes everything i have not to kill myself. The average person walks three miles per hour. So think of how little time goes into 160 miles. Here is a tip, too: Stop taking escalators and elevators. I never take them. No matter where I am. It's not the same as running up and down the Bunker Hill Monument five times, but it adds up. Come out of your subway car, get your ass to the stairs. If the stairs are close together, don't take them two-at-a-time, which is easier, take them one by one. Over a year, it adds up to a difference.). Are you lazy? You are living your best life. Are you an absolute moron? Your voice counts as much as that of an expert, and experts are bad, they should be hated, we should be jealous of them, because they make us feel less consequential when it comes to talking about what they know a lot about. Are you morbidly obese? That's not unhealthy, that's healthy if you think it rocks. In publishing: Were you born with a silver spoon in your mouth, are you unctuous, do you possess no talent, did you go to Yale, do you write work that no one in the world could possibly care about, do you trade on race and gender because you are in actual fact a racist and a sexist, do you click the like button for the right causes and people (like when you spot a post by a talentless, failing-upwards editor about her new, dreadful book, and you want to make sure she sees that you like everything she posts, because maybe, maybe, maybe she will put you in her magazine that no one actually reads because it's filled with work by people like her) often enough on social media to send the message that you are one of the good ones and are you a massive bigot who wants to perpetuate a system of evil that has killed off one of the most vital life forces there has ever been for humanity and humans? Then you are the ideal candidate for faux-glory in a dead, noxious system. We are all about the inversion now. Good must be bad, bad must be good.

* Until someone--perhaps the greatest genius of all-time--makes us about the reality.

* A twenty-four-year-old hot woman sends me a GIF on Tinder the other day. I casually mention this to a friend, as we are having a discussion about going through the motions, doing something half-assed, and how I, personally, have no interest in anything half-assed and will not go through any motions. I only do substance. And to find what I am looking for, on the romantic front--if I ever do--I will wait until I see it. I am too evolved at this point to waste time or energy on nonsense, non-brilliance, non-substance, in my personal life. The wasting of that time and energy is going to be worse yet after I interact with someone who will say inane things about being a Virgo or what not, and how they are living their best life, and how Netflix rules, Trump is the devil, cops suck, etc. The endless recycling of the same vapid phases: At the end of the day, just sayin', fixed that for you, etc. The GIF was of Phoebe from Friends. I am not a GIF person. I don't want your GIFs, your acronyms, your emojis. I want your intelligence, your perspective, your ideas, your individuality, your spark, your magic, your cheekiness, your playfulness, your wit, your character, your decency, your thoughtfulness, your actual goodness and not your pretend social media goodness. There is next to none of this in the world right now, a world of robot people. In the GIF, Phoebe is asking for a spanking. I look at the photos of the hot twenty-four-year-old. She looks smart. Can I say that? I can say that. Some people look intelligent. It's the eyes. In photos, even, you can see how they are engaging with the world around them. Other people have this vacant I-might-as-well-be-dead stare.Same stare you see on the T when people are looking into their phones. I suggest that perhaps she should use words? She says something about wanting to call me daddy. Okay. Then adds that gestures mean more than words. Actually, words mean infinitely more than gestures. If there were a village idiot in 1599 with the Elizabethan form of a GIF--say, a bad charcoal-drawn stick figure with bug eyes on a piece of bark--and Shakespeare with a few lines, pretty sure the Shakespeare lines are going to be more meaningful than what the village idiot is selling. And in this case, the gesture is a Phoebe GIF. A Phoebe GIF means more than anything we might express to each other? Really? I add that she seems quite smart, and doubtless an intelligent person such as herself must have something more meritorious to say, and I would like to hear that. So she starts talking. And she's interesting. She graduated college early, works as an independent podcast producer in Philly. She has a range of clients, in different fields, and she said what has interested her most is learning about a range of things, but she hopes to transition to a company rather than continue working for herself, presumably for more money. Now, I am sublimely, artfully debauched, and will there be filmed, orgastic pulsing holes? Yes, of course there will be filmed orgastic pulsing holes. But I cannot be interested in that when there is nothing else there. Anyway, I told her sort of what I did, without getting into huge specifics, because 1. That's impossible to explain to a stranger in four notes and 2. It sounds completely impossible to believe and 3. All you need is my first name, and you can go find out for yourself, frankly. I am not on an app like that to have endless exchanges on the app, so I gave her my number, so she could call or text whenever, then ditched the thread when I knew she had my number. (If you are too scared to phone or text, or that is too much for you, you are far too safe and boring and weak for me, because there is little of less consequence or greater ease in this life than shooting a text or making a call, and if I can do what I do every day, which no one can do or endure, and you can't even do that? Nah, ain't gonna work.) I didn't expect to hear from her again, and I did not. What instead happened was she thought, "huh, that man actually wanted to talk to me, he was drawing me out," and she went back to sending her Phoebe GIF to guys she wanted to flirt and/or hookup with/be spanked by, jizzed on, whatever it was. Ours is a world of extreme disconnection. Hollowness. Nullity. Emptiness. Self-medication. My friend, meanwhile, points out that he once advised me, as a good-looking guy with the whole genius thing going, to just bang lots of people right now, as I was able to bang, in his view, people from college students to woman in their forties. I told him at the time that that would not interest me, as unslakeable as my lust is. Other things override it. I need substance. And right now, too, I don't want to have to try and explain the ins and outs of going through the single worst form of discrimination--because it is not centered on people of a race or religion, but one single person--in human history. Because that is kind of complicated. And it's horrific to try and explain, and it takes so much time and the passing on of so much knowledge. I'm not doing that with someone with whom there will be anal for a few weeks and then we never know each other. It's not worth it to me. But my friend is now getting sidetracked. "I could get into the whole spanking thing," he adds. "Or having my wife get spanked. And used." And we're off. "But when my kids grow up, I don't want them getting used." Ah, sterling parenting. "But maybe I could take things out on my wife's ass, and it would be, what's the word, if that's good for me, and good for her, allowing that she likes spanking," to which I said, "the word is 'symbiotic,'" and that I had to go.

* (The same friend who says, "The stage is set for you and could not be more set.")

* Alcohol-related deaths have doubled in the last twenty years. When people cannot handle reality, they drink. When they are alone, cut off from people and true connection, they drink. When they are consumed with self-loathing, they drink. When they are consumed with insecurity and doubt, they drink. When they have little in their lives, they drink. Is it a coincidence that alcohol-related deaths have spiked with the growth of the internet and social media? Of course not. The more you drink, too, especially as you age, the more weight you will put on. You cannot drink a lot and not put on weight after a certain age. But it is bad to know all of this?

* Connor McDavid scored this goal the other night. I read about this goal--in heavy-breathing articles practically dripping with lube--before I saw the goal. There are people paid a lot of money to write about sports and they know nothing about sports. And to talk about sports. And all they do is talk and write from their asses. I read, for instance, that this was the most physically impressive goal in NHL history, in prose that read like it was busy beating itself off. Panting prose. Then I watched the goal. There are thousands and thousands of goals that are more impressive from a physical standpoint. Check out this Denis Savard goal against the Oilers, when he goes through four guys, one of them--in Hall of Famer Glenn Anderson--twice. What makes the McDavid goal notable is its mental component. When he button-hooks towards the blueline, he's selling the defenseman, who has a major mental error. The latter relaxes. He thinks McDavid is buying time for a teammate to enter the zone, join him on the rush. It's almost a gadget play, the kind of thing you can do once, then it's on tape, and McDavid won't be able to do this again--or it shouldn't work again, anyway. The defenseman checks out at this point, relaxes about McDavid, who throws on the brakes, reverses, easily beats his man who has mentally checked out, then accelerates--that's the notable physical element, how fast he ramps up to top speed, which might be the highest level of speed in the game's history--and tears in on the goalie to execute a nice--but normal, standard--deke. You know nothing about hockey if you think this is some end-all, be-all physically miraculous goal. It's almost all mental. That psych-out, which was in McDavid's head as his plan when he was in the middle of the neutral zone, is the entire foundation of the goal. It's not that there just isn't talent anymore in the world of writing, or the world of almost anything, it's that there is no competence. Morons rule all. They are awarded, paid, taken care of. The world now makes rich gods and goddesses out of idiots. That's the criteria: Be an idiot, be connected.

* I read something this morning about the Covington kids, and how there is some fight between the legal representation of some of them and the legal team of Nick Sandmann. First of all, the non-Sandmann kids shouldn't have a lawyer because nothing happened to them to damage their lives going forward, whereas Sandmann got big-time damaged, with that image, and that spin. I recall watching people I know froth at the mouth in demonic glee when they could plaster that kid's image on their social media and run him through with as many knives and talons as possible to term him evil, the face of bigotry, etc. Now, these same people go on and on and on about Trump every day on social media. Trump is no solution. But Trump is not the problem that these people are. They are a large part of the reason society and humanity is fracturing and devolving. They are. It is them. With their hate and their ignorance and their agenda. I belong to no party, I am on no side; truth is not party to parties, and it is solely truth in which I am concerned. But I also know that on some level these people like having Trump--which is not who you want to have--because hate is a big part of their lives. Hate is a big part of their downtime. Hate is what they have for a hobby. By the same token, when Trump is gone, you are going to see even more magazines and newspapers fold, because they have built their brand on him and hate. They sold out to hate and agenda, turned their back on truth. But I know people--I suppose I have token friends--who saw nothing wrong with demonizing this kid--a kid, not an adult--with absolute glee, before bothering to get facts or a story straight. People so ignorant, and so drunk in their hate, that they think your facial expression means anything. You can have a facial expression for all kinds of reasons. My late father, for instance, was a deeply loving man, a gentle man, an open-minded, tolerant, forgiving, brave man, but if you looked at him across a room, you'd think he was kind of scary maybe. He didn't look hugely approachable. It's just how he looked. The true story, of course, is that kids were mocking the Covington students, using race to do so, and a criminal, who also stole valor, who is a conman, an attention-seeker, got up in this kid's face, banging his drum, trying to provoke a moment. And the kid, well, I don't know why he smiled. Maybe he was being smug, maybe it was his, "Okay, dude, fuck off," which is perfectly fine when someone gets up in your face trying to bullshit you into their glory-moment for attention. (When I was a kid and playing hockey, I had a coach who said that when the other team started taking cheapshots at you if you were beating them handily at the end of a game, to just smile in their faces. That was the high road. Don't cheapshot them back. Just smile. And I never thought at the time that that could make you a demon to large swaths of the people who were themselves demonic.) To goad you. Bait you. Bearbait you. Or maybe he was an awkward kid who felt dumb and didn't know what the hell to say or do. I mentored a teenage girl once, as I detailed on here, and this particular child was someone I loved--and of course still love--as much as anyone I have known. I'm not going to go into all of that right now. Readers will know. And when this child was scared, embarrassed, or freaking out, sometimes she would laugh. It was a defense mechanism, it came from panic. So I don't know. But I do know that smiling, smugly or not, does not mean you are a freaking racist. I know that saying that someone smiling smugly makes you a racist is in fact someone who is a racist, and I know a lot of racists who spend their lives saying "No, never me, it's you!" I know a lot of racists who have gotten rich that way--Ta-Nehisi Coates, for instance. Now, could this kid be a horrible person? Yeah, obviously. I mean, chances are. As Flannery O'Connor said, a good person is hard to find, and I will update that to say that a good person is harder than ever to find. Who do we know as a good person? How do we have to know them? Because we've all known people for years and thought they were one way, only to learn they were not. So how could you know? I don't know--maybe if they poured their heart and soul out in an online journal every day for the world to see, you'd know, but I don't see anyone else doing that, do you? But I do know that kid had his money coming to him, after what people did to him--they made him the lasting image of racism, perfect for GIFs and memes. And he did less wrong in that moment than almost everyone in the world will do today at some point in their day.

* This is an amazing Chuck Berry TV appearance-cum-mini-concert from 1965. He does not get enough attention as a guitar virtuoso. I like how the MC does that weird running thing off the stage.

* I have had this Sonny Boy Williamson song, "Fattening Frogs for Snakes," in my head for days. It's one of my favorite titles in any medium. The drumming is nuts. As is the harmonica playing.

* I will now make some art for the ages.

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