Friday, June 8, 2018

On Suicide

This is a subject on which I'd hoped I would never have to write again. But, in retrospect, I see how foolish that was to assume. Suicide is pervasive. And in the wake of such high profile cases as Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, it seems as relevant as ever to rehash and discuss.

I'll admit, there is a selfish element at play here. Bourdain was, and still is, a massive influence on me. I have Kitchen Confidential on my bookshelf, and have watched just about every episode of Parts Unknown. His death hits me particularly hard, and I'd be lying if I said, upon learning of his suicide, I didn't immediately think to myself that silliest of thoughts: "He had it so well, why would he do this?" But, of course, I never knew the man. Never met him, nor anyone close to him, and I certainly couldn't speak to his lifelong struggles, regardless of how candid he was in front of the camera or via his writing.

But I do know his demons. Which is why the thought that his fame, money and influence could somehow wash away entirely that darkest of notions is so utterly ridiculous. Anyone who has suffered suicidal thoughts can tell you that no amount of perceived success and happiness can silence the "voices" in your head.

Roughly three years ago, I wrote an open letter on suicide to college students. It was just after my own alma mater, Appalachian State, suffered the loss of three of its students. And it is worth noting that preceding these tragic deaths was the very publicly discussed suicide of Robin Williams. Indeed, it has been found that celebrity deaths as a result of suicide have a direct effect on increases in suicidal ideations in the community.

In other words, now more than ever, it is important to take mental health seriously. And after this news has been fed through the media machine and dumped out on the other side, it will still be important to take mental health seriously. There should never be a time where we are not openly discussing, without shame, the (again) pervasive issue of suicide. Because it is just that: pervasive. It may spike, and ebb, and flow, but it doesn't cease. I wish I could tell you that there is some magical cure for suicide just around the corner, waiting to be discovered and eventually gifted unto the ennui-ridden populace. But there isn't.

And yet, everything is not hopeless. I won't tell you that things are particularly great, because they're not and never will be. But life is not futile. And while I don't like to interject myself into these sorts of discussions, in this case, I think it's necessary. I have suicidal thoughts. Nothing that has been even close to manifesting itself for quite some time, but there all the same, lingering in the back of my mind. Unidentifiable shapes at the edge of a dark forest, threatening to step out into the light.

I live with that every day, and people far stronger than I am live with it even closer. Their thoughts don't exist in the back of their minds, instead taking up residence a little closer to reality and certainly too close for comfort. But people persist, and live, and do so without the notion that these demons will ever truly go away. Because there will always be triggers. Little things that seemingly come out of nowhere and threaten to swallow you whole.

But with enough serious discussion of mental health, and the very real effects it can have on our society, we can help keep some of these triggers at bay. Listen to people, and never downplay someone's struggles because of who they are or where they are in life. Open up to those who would listen, and never think for a second, that because of who you are, or where you come from, or how you've acted, means you are unworthy of being heard. Your mental health is important, and what you are feeling is very real and always worth discussing.

Like I said, there is no ideal solution to this, no perfect little word or saying that will make it all go away. It's really not that kind of problem. But we can, and will, continue to live in spite of it.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to for a list of additional resources.

RIP Kate Spade 1962-2018

RIP Anthony Bourdain 1956-2018

Monday, February 13, 2017

Stop Sharing That Damn Fox News Article About Alpha Women

Two days ago, Fox News shared an article (which I will not link here) about alpha women and how the world needs less of them. The idea being that they're ruining marriages or cutting off men's penises or causing the apocalypse. I actually have no idea what it said because it looked stupid and I didn't read it. This is not solely due to it being from Fox News (though that certainly contributed to it) nor because I recognized the author's name (which I will abstain from writing here, for what will hopefully become an obvious reason). I didn't read the article because, by the time I caught wind of it, I was staring at a Facebook news feed stuffed with liberal friends sharing it, complaints appended to their statuses.

This, to me, makes little sense. Naturally, Facebook is a sound chamber of political complaining, something not wholly evil nor useless. Indeed, much of the recent mobilization against Donald "Bing Bing" Twitterfart has been a direct result of people sharing and voicing their opinions on Facebook. But alongside the potential for revolutionary protest, there also lingers the possibility of free advertising. Which is exactly what liberals have been doing. This is not, I'm afraid, the first time this has happened.

When Milo Yinopologalumpf (that's right, isn't it?) went galavanting about America last year, he chose to speak at colleges. The man knew exactly what he was doing. Conservatives, of course, were delighted to see Milo shaking the snowglobe full of the so-called liberal snowflakes (though, as has already been scientifically proven, it's the pasty-white doughboys that seem to have the most snowy, flaky qualities). Liberals, on the other hand, were less than amused. Protests were sparked and people at these colleges fought back. Rightfully so! Idiocy and assholery should be fought tooth and nail, especially when it slinks in under the guise of "truth" and "daring." Meanwhile, Milo's book deal was announced, and within 24 hours it was sitting pretty at the number one spot, ensuring that every moron with a "Make America Great Again" hat would finally own a book. Why?

Tell me: before 2016, did you know who Milo Yigglethumps (this has to be right) was? Was he even remotely on your radar? Probably not. He was a mouth-breathing dipshit long before all of this, but at some point, he realized the money-making potential behind angering social media activists. It's a business model that has, for some time now, proven to be an easy catapult towards fame. Lest we forget, we do not live in the same world as we did two years ago. The public dragging-over-the-coals has been co-opted and turned into a marketing strategy.

Which brings us to the heavily vilified (and sexist) Fox News article. The article was, unsurprisingly, an excerpt from a book. (Hmmm.) It should be no stretch of the imagination to presume that this article was written with the express intent of angering the left and goading them into angry-sharing. Because, as justified as liberal anger (usually) is, it is also incredibly predictable. And predictability of publicity is marketing gold. We've opened up a conservative talking head goldmine, allowing everyone from Milo YIsThisNameSoHardToSay to Tomi Lahren (god forbid) to get behind a computer and dictate a book to a ghostwriter.

So what do you do? Ignore them, preferably. Yes, tyranny and comic book evil manifesting as chewed up dog food slathered on the back of Howie Mandel's head, Donald Trump should be taken to task for as long as we're allowed to openly share our opinions, but his "celebrity" fans trying to make a quick buck off of liberal outrage should be dissuaded from cheering from the sidelines. Their entire business plan takes into account that we, the morally diligent, will sound off on Facebook and either A) anger other people into sharing the article because they disagree with it or B) anger other people into sharing the article because they agree with it and they want to outrage more liberals.

The point is: You can be angry and outraged and morally offended, but doing so by actively spreading the source of your offense is akin to sneezing on the doctor trying to cure everyone. Simply ignore the never-ending parade of Ann Coulter wannabes and stick to PresidentBannon hashtags. At least that seems to be having an effect.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

How Donald Trump Wakes Up in the Morning

Motionless for some time, and then roused, it unfurls itself from the shoddy remains of a once ornate bedpost, each limb unsticking from the cold brass with a pop of suction, leaving behind a viscous residue, misshapen and wrong. It takes its first breath of the day, emitting a low hiss that grows upon itself and eventually amounts to a ragged breath, a wheeze that gives color to the air. Its innumerable limbs unstuck, the creature lurches across the bed and plops on to the floor with the stomach-churning sound of raw meat being dropped on linoleum. The body contracts and releases itself like a fire bellow, a flow of orange liquid dripping from the very same orifice that its now steady breath rasps through.

A slight sliver of light cuts through the darkness at ground level, the result of a lamp being turned on beyond the room's singular door. This cut of light reveals the creature, malformed and grotesque. An imperfect monster coated in a thick layer of bulbous pustules, each its own quivering mass of uncertain mortality, forever at the brink of bursting. Its complexion notwithstanding, the creature's body resembles a bloated python, minutes after its feast of prey roughly three times its width. The head protrudes as its own awkward pimple from the very top, discordant with the rest of its being. But it is its extremities that engender the most disgust, they themselves not quite tentacles, but neither are they arms nor legs. Instead, they are like that of a squid with five smaller appendages protruding from each elongated tentacle, some horrific and unnatural bastardization of a normal human arm. It is with these limbs that the creature does crawl across the ground, wheezing grayish smoke into the air and leaving a trail of clear liquid, its viscosity similar to that of the blood-riddled spit coughed up by a soldier dying upon the battlefield.

With a sudden creak, a metal flap is opened at the base of the door, and a large golden bowl is tossed inside, landing with a thud at the feet(?) of the creature. The contents, still shivering from impact, are the fatty remains of long-gone Trump steaks, still caked in a day-old layer of grease and steak sauce. The creature rumbles with delight, sputtering a bit as its mouth forms a wide opening. The airflow that erupts from within bends the bowl like a powerful heat, warping it irreparably. Using its tentacles, the creature shovels the lot into its mouth, bowl and all, and packs it into the lumpy folds of its body, filling in the parts that sag until they are made taut. Fully formed, the monster manages to bring itself upright, steadying itself with a warped and tiny paw, newly developed from the primordial appendage that once slithered unconsciously at its side.

The creature doubles over. It grips the sides of the room, no more than three feet wide, and orients its orifice to the floor, arching its back and beginning a sequence of retching that creates its loudest noise of the day (so far). The attendants outside shuffle back and forth and stare stoically ahead, the haunting cacophony within a daily ritual they have become far too accustomed to. Eventually, from the creature's maw, a wiry orange object discharges, dropping to the floor with a wet splatter. This profane spawn moves with its own sense of purpose and affectionately crawls towards the creature, cooing with delight. Scrambling up its side, it eventually rests upon the monster's pate, contorting itself into a more permanent fixture for the day.

This unholy union complete, the monster steps forward, grunting and heaving, and scratches at the door twice. Immediately, a single phone it sent through the open slot. The creature reaches for it with tiny phalanges and pulls it towards its face. Its breath lowers to a ragged whisper once again, cut short by the revelations now displayed on this tiny computerized link to the outside world. The creature pores over it and begins to bristle, almost angrily, but with such wild intensity that it resembles fear. It uses the almost microscopic extremities of its now fully formed hand to write the following:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

American Media is Dying

Too often we fall under the presumption that the pearl-clutching market has been cornered by conservative blowhards, eager to shriek at the sight of nipples, vulgarity and (gasp) Holiday Parades excluding Baby Jesus. But it's worth remembering that even left-leaning so-called progressives still retain the capacity for fanning themselves and falling over at the sight of a stray "fuck."

In case you aren't up to date on media gossip (I suspect you aren't), former Politico contributor and fuck-slinger, Julia Ioffe, has been relieved of her position for a tweet she sent containing the words "fucking" and "Donald Trump's daughter" in them. You can guess where this is going. The tweet was deleted, but because this is the internet, not really.
Yikes. But also, as Ioffe later notes, doesn't Trump imply the same thing fairly regularly? Sure, it's not...great. But is it a fireable offense? Politico seems to think so.
It's worth pointing out that Ioffe was already ending her tenure with Politico and moving on to The Atlantic, a publication who, like your cool parents, will let you cuss so long as you don't do it in front of your grandmother. This sort of renders Politico's cutting of ties as more of a "you're not breaking up with us; we're breaking up with YOU!" than anything else.

Of course, I'm being glib. I suspect the real reason Politico broke ties with Ioffe has less to do with the word "fuck" (though that plays a part) and more to do with her insinuation that Donald Trump would have sexual relations with his daughter. They say as much when they note that:

Gratuitous opinion has no place, anywhere, at any time - not on you Facebook feed, your Twitter feed or any place else. It has absolutely zero value for our readers and should have zero place in our work.

Okay, sure. That last point I can get on board with. Politico should probably not run a headline that asks, "Is Donald Trump Fucking His Daughter?" because they are not the National Enquirer. But let's not forget that the National Enquirer was once nominated for a Pulitzer. Also, gratuitous opinion is certainly of value to your readers. In an age where everyone and his brother can blog about what happened, the cold hard facts have become less of a commodity and more of a free-flowing river. Everyone can take a dip. It's what people say about the river that matters these days. And true, Ioffe's opinion was worded in a way seemingly unbecoming of someone who calls herself a professional, but "professionalism" more and more these days reeks heavily of being unoffensive for the sake of preserving readership.

The notion that writers and contributors for Politico shouldn't share their "gratuitous" opinions on Donald Trump ANYWHERE is fucking ridiculous. Namely because it's an impossible wink-nudge sort of request that the editors have to know is neither possible nor probable. But also because it undermines the spirit of journalism. As Gawker once reported (in response to Trump's criticism of Politico no less), media is bias. Reporting the news is only half the job. Disseminating and, yes, offering opinion on the news is the other half. And lest you fall under the spell of Politico's strategically worded criticism that Ioffe's opinion are "gratuitous," remember that this is, in and of itself, an opinion.

What qualifies as gratuitous really depends on the beholder, as it were. That Ivanka Trump is getting her own office in the White House (the fact that started all of this) IS worthy of speculation of nepotism. The inclusion that it might also be because she's fucking her dad is, while incendiary, also a point of speculation. Is it true? Probably not. But to dismiss it because it's vulgar is to subvert the entire notion of journalism. And one has to wonder how much of a part the wording of Ioffe's tweet played in Politico's opinion of it. Would she have been fired if she asked "Does Donald Trump have a 'special relationship' with his daughter?" The whole thing is remarkably arbitrary and centers a whole lot around old ideas of public decency and respect, two things the President-elect has quite thoroughly quashed all on his own.

I want to be clear. I'm not advocating for a fuck-frenzy revolution amongst old guard media outlets, speculating wildly left and right about the proximity of Trump's tiny hands to his daughter's nether regions. What I am saying is that the minute we start firing our reporters and writers for offering gratuitous opinions, we lose some of the power that journalism holds. We erode the confidence in the idea people have on the free market of opinion, and we give power to people who once feared being exposed for the monsters they are. Firing Ioffe does nothing but play right into Trump's pleas that the media be nicer to him. Rather than give him what he wants, it's important, now more than ever, to reject that.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Calling a Spade a Nazi

There's been a recent and inexplicable resurgence in media dilly-dallying as writers/news commentators across the land have heralded the age of the new "alt-right" movement. First of all: you're late to the party. When you have a room full of people "sig heil"-ing to Donald "Don't Call Me Responsible" Trump, it's pretty clear that whatever white nationalism is currently boiling to the surface, has been around for some time now, festering in a collective and racist hatred for Barack Obama and his ilk.

But instead of calling it what it is, media outlets have resorted to mumbling "alt-right," in lieu of the more incendiary (but accurate) titles: white nationalists, Nazis, racists, bigots and Hitler fanboys. Granted, there is a movement currently happening to change that, led in part by ThinkProgress who has publicly denounced the use of the term alt-right and will no longer refer to it on their site, except in quotation.
The point here is not to call people names, but simply to describe them as they are. We won’t do racists’ public relations work for them. Nor should other news outlets.
 This is good. Phenomenal, actually. Because they're right, of course. In the article they cite Richard Spencer, leader of the white nationalist think tank, National Policy Institute, as coiner of the term "alt-right," essentially saying that we've all been duped by a guy who still thinks Hitler may have had a point.

It took a video of a bunch of these assholes (accompanied by Tila Tequila??) all throwing up Nazi salutes in a hotel in D.C. for Donald Trump to disavow them, and even then it was a pretty soft disavowal.

Ok. But this is also the guy that apparently slept next to a book of Hitler speeches and whose slogan "Make America Great Again" has drawn comparison to his equally follicularly ridiculous counterpart's insistence that his countrymen needed to "Make Germany Great Again." This is the guy who was endorsed by the aforementioned Richard Spencer and assembled Nazi bretheren and David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK and member of, you guessed it, the Nazi Party of America

I hesitate slightly to attribute Trump's rise to power solely to white nationalists, but only slightly. Perhaps I'm being optimistic, but I'd like to believe there are at least fewer than 50 million white nationalists living in the United States. But that's not to say that their existence and being provided a media platform is not still harmful and dangerous. Because they did, in some part, contribute to the slow march that led us here, the terrifying world we live in today where a man with recorded evidence of bragging about sexual assault is our next President.

The problem lies in our response to racism and our weirdly prideful insistence that it is less prevalent than is often noted by the people experiencing it. Most people responsible for the dissemination of news and information are, in fact, middle to upper-middle class white people, for whom racism is a fun buzz word to drop whenever you want to seem #edgy. It's not a real threat and it's something more akin to a tsunami in Japan. Horrible, but not personally threatening. And so it's pawned off by well-meaning (arguable) white folks who, because they are not racist themselves (also arguable), insist that racism must not exist. It's a thing of the past, typically seen depicted in history textbooks as a bygone product of the 1800s.

But it is still here, and our depictions and descriptions of it have softened to a flimsy description that gives racists the benefit of the doubt and allows for a narrative that this is all some sort of harmless nostalgia. Nazis were from Germany and they were defeated in the 1940s! We had a trial and everything! But they miss the fundamental point: Nazism and white nationalism are not stuck in one point in time any more than capitalism, communism or hare krishna is. They are part of an ideology that propagates racism, no matter what age of history it exists in.

Attempting to sideline these people as fanatics and allowing them to define themselves is bad news for a country already heading into a time of unprecedented (or maybe precedented) division and hatred. There's a lot to be said for ignoring and refusing to give them a stage, but it would do us no good to dismiss them and pretend that they don't exist. Especially for those particularly affected by their rhetoric and, eventually, actions.

So, please, when you see someone use the term "alt-right," correct them and make sure they're aware that although Nazis are no longer goose stepping through Berlin, they're certainly not gone, and racism is by no means dead.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Most of You Need to Fuck Off

Well that was a clusterfuck. There's not much that hasn't already been said, and far better than I could ever say it myself. So let's just jump right into it.

First of all, I'm going to go ahead and redact my previous blog post. This election definitely deserves to be discussed further. I originally wrote that post with the expectation (along with many others) that this election would go to Hillary. Quite unfortunately, I was wrong. Silly me.

The election, instead, went to recycled pile of old leather wallets doused with liquified orange peels brought to life by necromantic means, Donald Trump. Excuse me, President-Elect.

But fuck that. The refrain of "not my President" rings true today as Americans (roughly half, but likely more) find themselves staring at their hands in the hopes that they'll become robotic spiders and crawl away, ensuring that this is all some sort of horrible dystopian nightmare. But it's time to dispense with our coping and begin the process of moving forward, I guess. This post isn't really about that yet, though. Because honestly I'm still coping.

I don't know what to say. This blog is typically reserved for measured thought and calm reflection, but I'm beginning to think that I might be full of shit and that maybe we should just say fuck it and yell at the top of our lungs for a few months. Or four years. Which brings me to some of you on Facebook. A lot of you, actually.

There have been several variations of people in the wake of the news of Donald Trump's victory, with many leaning towards awful fuckwits hellbent on lording Trump's victory over the rest of us. To you, I have little to say, as I imagine not much will change you mind. The insults are mainly for my own self-satisfaction.

It's those of you taking a sort of passé apathetic approach to the whole thing that are so irksome. Congratu-fucking-lations on being born into a situation where you can afford a lack of feeling about the whole ordeal. The rest of the country is meanwhile scrambling to figure out how to proceed with their lives from here. If you are still saying that this is just as bad as if Hillary had won, then you're actually a fucking moron. Because you fail to recognize, as is wont to happen among the portion of the population most prone to self-advertised apathy (white dudes), that it's not just about how you fucking feel about things. It's also about how the others (women, PoC, LGBTQ+, Muslims, etc.) live and breathe. Which is decidedly not well, after last night.

And those of you who are still blaming the Democratic Party or Hillary's voice or whatever the fuck dumbass shit you've conjured up to delude yourself out of responsibility: well, also fuck you. We did this, together. Men and boys. White guys who hold social issues at arm's length in order to keep everything as abstract as possible. Living by an ideology is fine, but separating yourself from it is, frankly, cowardly.

I am to blame for this. In some part, at least. And to my fellow Americans (and, let's face it, citizens of the world) who will be far more affected by this than I: Um....sorry doesn't cut it. I owe you far more than an apology. I don't know what I'll do yet, but I'm not going to sit back and pretend like this is happening without my input. All I can do at the moment is urge my fellow fuckwits to try and do the same.

And that's it. No clever sign-off. This really isn't fun nor funny. If you wrote Harambe in, please jump into a gorilla cage and join your chosen candidate's brethren. That's it. G'night.

Monday, November 7, 2016

What Will We Talk About?

So, it's almost all over, thank GOD. Tomorrow we'll found out who gets to sleep with the nuclear codes and we can go back to just being existentially angry. Problem is: what the hell will we talk about? Up until now, we've spent the past >year (Jesus...) filling dead air with inane openers designed to steer conversation towards "So this election, huh?" But when it's all said, done and bitched about, what will we do?

Okay, well first: Let's dispense with the idea that discussion of the election will immediately dissipate post-tomorrow. I give it a good several months more of think pieces and unbearably long essays contemplating the notions of power before we finally settle back into our normal state of mind. What is that again? I can't remember a time before this election, can you? We can be glib and pawn it off as a sort of post-election mindset shift, but that's probably horseshit. As unique as this election was, it certainly didn't awaken a portion of ourselves that wasn't already there. And to say otherwise is to be remarkably narcissistic. Who really cares how you feel about this election? Don't worry, the question is directed right back at me too.

No, we're still the same self-absorbed, morality-hawking, human Bluetooth speakers connected to our subconscious that we were pre-election. We've just had a convenient and relevant vessel to distribute our anger through for the past year. But after? I don't know, I guess we'll complain about Game of Thrones spoilers and the occasional hour-long bump in social justice interest on Twitter. That's fine, I guess. Here are several other things you could talk about, though:

  • California's drought 
  • The Rock's movie career 
  • Millennials 
  • Westworld season 2 
  • How cool Obama was
  • A new Drake record, probably 
  • Something Kanye did 
  • Ken Bone (it'll be retro by then) 
  • Whether you should buy a dog 
  • Yourself 
  • The North Dakota Access Pipeline (this is the right answer, btw) 
  • This blog (this is the wrong answer) 
  • Me (???) 
  • Where your keys are 
And if none of those tickle your fancy, you could always just talk about nothing. In fact, that might be preferable.

Good luck, America.