Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dealing With Strangers

 I am in a bad mood…
 Why are people such rude little monkeys?
 When I say “people”, I lump myself in with the lot. I know that at one time or another, some random stranger as looked upon some act I committed with irreverence toward their presence and labeled me in their minds a “rude prick”. No doubt, it is a part of the human condition.
 Lately, however, I am trying to change. It is not some altruistic calling for the betterment of my fellow man. No, in fact it is because I am getting more and more frustrated with the people around me, and I do not want to be a hypocrite. It is the little things that have been annoying me. For example, we in Ft. Wayne are currently experiencing roadwork, an insane amount of roadwork; expansions, re-routing, re-surfacing, etc. It’s made for traffic nightmares, although it will supposedly result in smoother traffic flow (personally, I just see it as another more involved roadwork project in the future, when we try to repair all this “improvement”). Now, we have been at it for several weeks. People know where the construction is. And, even if they do not, or they suffer some bizarre form of short-term memory loss, there are signs posted some 200 yards from the actual construction telling folks which lane to get in.
 Yet, without fail, five or six cars are always sitting just in front of the construction site, unable to move further forward in their lane, their blinkers on trying to get into the proper lane of traffic. Either they failed to look up from the little bubble they live in and take note of the traffic until it was too late, or they purposely strolled to the front, knowing someone who is less a prick than they are will let them in, because where they have to be is more important than where the rest of us have to go. So, screw us folks who had the sense to change lanes some 300 yards back and have been waiting in line for 20 minutes.
 You know, I bet it is the same bunch of morons who any other time cannot find their turn signal and just change lanes whenever they feel a bowel movement and shift to compensate.
 It’s not just traffic that gets me going. I find super markets to be a real joy also. It’s not just the shopping, the people letting their brats run where ever they like, or how outrageous the prices seem to be, it’s the lines at the front of the store.
 Here’s my thing. If I am purchasing a weeks worth of groceries plus little knick-knacks that I “hafta-have”, I know that the self-checkout lines are not for me. I know the express lanes are not for me. I know they are there for the convenience of those people who have only a few purchases to make. Even without this innate knowledge, I am aware of the signs near these checkouts which clearly outline the parameters for using them. “12 items of less”, “cash only”, “must be this high to ride”, you know them by heart.
 Why are we, the ones who see some of these rules as common sense in place for our convenience and obey them, the minority? Furthermore, why are we not enraged when some clown inconveniences us by not obeying them?
 I know why they do it. I am a total stranger to them, so there are no repercussions for my inconvenience. That is what I find so staggering.
 I am a total stranger, stranger than you might know. I might decide to follow you to your car and chuck a can of cream-of-mushroom soup through your window. I might be an axe-wielding maniac, and you just caught my attention. I might just be the kind of prick to get out of my car and ask you, in front of your girlfriend, if you’re the kind of ass-clown that can juggle too.
 You know, I am all for getting over on the system. Get what you can from the man. But, when it comes to your fellow human-beings walking the street, just trying to get through their day with as few complications as possible, show a little respect. If anything, you’re an example to all the real idiots out there; people who will steal from your car while your in the shop, who piss on phone booths, people who have absolutely no respect for their own humanity, let alone another’s. They do what they do. We are all strangers to them, and why should they give a shit if you don’t until it happens to you?
 What really set me off is this. Driving to work today, a woman was walking across the street. She wasn’t at a crosswalk, or even a corner, so we already have a problem. However, the real winner was the sterling example of our social condition in the van in front of me. Seems this winner of a future Nobel Prize thought it was high comedy to swerve suddenly toward the woman, then away. The move was so sudden that traffic all around slammed on their collective breaks. The woman actually jumped back into oncoming traffic. It was over that fast, with a lot of horn honking and cursing. The idiot simply sped away.
After all, why should he care, we are all just strangers to him.

Helping Neighbors Remember Not to Double-Park


 I live in a relatively nice apartment complex on the southwest end of town. It is well manicured, has a variety of amenities, and generally my neighbors are conscientious of one another. Like all such environments, however, we do have a few bad apples that insist on making it worse for the rest of us.
 I am a fan of the “social contract”, the unwritten rules of our society that allow us to tactfully deal with one another with a minimum fuss or inconvenience. You see, this is an aspect of our lives that has steadily decreased over time. Back in the 1800’s, a gentleman did not leave his home without his hat, his cane, his gloves, and his pistol. Obviously, people were much more polite toward one another, if anything simply because you ran the risk of being shot if you were not.
 Sadly, these kinds of repercussions are frowned upon today. As a matter of fact, we have created an environment which breeds a total lack of respect toward one’s fellow man.
 I am trying to change that.
 There are those who, whether through lack of concern or by feeling that they deserve to do so, park their vehicles in a manner that uses two parking spaces instead of one. This greatly inconveniences the rest of us by limiting the available spaces, particularly near the entrance of our homes. As a response, I wrote the following letter:
 Dear Sir or Miss,
 As you awoke this morning, you may have noticed your vehicle is occupying two parking spaces, while it is in fact only needs one. While I am certain this is merely an oversight, it has none-the-less inconvenienced at least one patron of this apartment complex. Furthermore, it has breached the social contract.
 What is the social contract, you may ask? The social contract is all of the unwritten rules we have agreed upon, as a society, in order to help things run more smoothly, things like etiquette and "common" courtesy. While actual laws may exist for some of these courtesies, they are rarely enforced, the general public hoping that common sense and self-control will rule the day. The social contract includes such things as not touching another person or their property without permission, not surpassing the maximum limit of items at the express check-out, not going in doors marked “exit”, etc.
 We have learned that harsh looks or even words are not enough anymore to help maintain the social contract, as some people are becoming jaded to others' attempts to shame them into conforming for their own welfare and the betterment of their fellow citizen. Instead, we have chosen to alert the violator of their breach, often harshly, and to punish them with an equally inconvenient breach of the social contract.  It is our hope that by inconveniencing you, you will be more aware of the need to avoid inconveniencing others.
 It is our sincerest hope that you discover which piece of your vehicle has been removed as a means to teach you this lesson in etiquette. Until you have discovered and replaced this missing part, we suggest that you do not travel over 35 miles an hour, that you do not travel more than 20 miles, and that you definitely stay off the highway. The life you save may be your own.
 In the future, we hope that you have more consideration for your fellow man. Have a nice day!
 I have had to use this letter once.  Simply printing and placing this letter under the violator's windshield wiper was enough. Since then, there has been no double parking on my part of the lot. All it takes is a little consideration for your neighbors and a little reckless creativity. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

 In Texas, our standardized tests for public schools is called TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills), and as in other states performance-scores based on this test determine how the school will be funded the following year. I find it odd that schools who perform poorly get less funding, instead of additional funds to help improve the scores... but awarding or denying money is probably not the solution and a potential topic for a future blog. Administrators are encouraged to take an active role in helping to ensure that their schools meets the scores, with the TAKS often given more weight than the rest of the curriculum.

 Given the nature of this system, it makes sense that an assistant-principal would want to do something to motivate the lowest-scoring students in her school. So, in February at a Bastrop Middle-School, just such an administrator called 8 students in the 8th grade who's scores were below the standard into the library via the school's public address system. The students were called by name, and the reason for the request was not provided. The meeting was meant to illustrate where these students' scores were relative to the rest of the student body, why it was important that they take an active role in their education, and to suggest that they assist one another by forming a study group.

 No problem so far, right?

 Well, not quite. It seems that all 8 of the students happen to also be African-American. It was not the assistant Principal's intent to single-out black students. The intent was to single-out the lowest scoring students. At least one black 8th-grader was not called because her score met the standard. Instead, however, of focusing on the commonality of poor grades and an even poorer future outlook, these students focused on their own race. They ran home and cried to their parents, and their parents, instead of being concerned about their students failing grades and the many doors of opportunity that will be closed to them as a result, assumed that RACISM must be afoot!

 Of course, the school district's administration has completely tucked-tail and handed out apologies left-and-right in hopes of avoiding a lawsuit. What they should have done was simply show that these 8 students are below the required threshold, and that their common skin-pigmentation is coincidental and inconsequential. Now, instead of these students getting the help they need with their grades, they are a part of a march on the school. Four people in a photo-op were holding signs with one word each which should have read "We-Shall-Over-Come", but instead read "We-Come-Over-Shall".


 This is why education, and not race, should be the focus in this situation. The common issue being addressed is not racial... it is stupidity.

 I know that sounds harsh. It is not the low test-scores that suggests that these students are stupid. It is how they responded to the news. Their priorities, their race-baiting... that is what is stupid.

 We, as a society, are ever more blind to color and focused on advancement based on merit. We could easily move beyond all issues of race if EVERYONE agreed to get over it. More often than not, when you hear a story about discrimination anymore, it is not an overt act of bias against another based on their ethnicity, it is either an overt act of bias in favor of their ethnicity or a simple and logical act being misconstrued as racist... often because the "disenfranchised" doesn't want to admit their ownership of the issue.

 I would also say that this seems to be intentional. When the society is less concerned about race, those who have benefited from being the victim in race-issues begin to lose those benefits. Attention gets shifted from how they have been maligned and discriminated against in the past to what they are doing as individuals to contribute to their own welfare in the future. You get used to having an excuse, and as that excuse loses its impact, you begin looking for any reason, no matter how off-the-wall, to invoke it and keep it alive.

 The net result will be simple. The school district will create a new round of redundant policies relevant to tolerance. The local media will have something to discuss for a few days. The local minority communities can feel justified for a few months.

 And, 8 students' conviction in their own abilities and self-worth is destroyed as they learn that they don't have to be responsible for themselves because of the color of their skin.

What You Already Know About Taco Bell

  Folks, it is not often that I eat at restaurants like Taco Bell... places that serve cheap "food" (in only the loosest sense of the term) when you are on the run or at all hours of the night.  Here in Austin, after the night at the bar, I at least have the option of a place like Kirby Lane, but sometimes making a "run for the border" (their ad slogan from the 90's) just sounds good... like when your slightly inebriated at 3am.

 And, I admit, I love their Mexican pizzas.

 Anyway, something that has ALWAYS bothered me about Taco Bell and other fast-food joints is their advertising.  What is on their ads is nothing like what they actually serve you.  McDonald's has gotten better about this, and Burger King has its moments, but Taco Bell is the worst.

 Look at this photo.

 On the left is their ad.  This was right outside, view-able from the drive-thru.  Look at those tacos.  They are stuffed with "meat"... or that meat-like paste that Taco Bell uses in their tacos.  Look how wide those tacos are.  I might be able to eat two of those tacos in the ad and be full.

 To the right is the taco I was given.  I would estimate that it has about half the "meat" of the taco pictured in the ad.  The shell is not nearly as wide as those in the ad.  By comparison, it is just pathetic.

 Now, I know that we all know this is how it is.  Still, I think that if Taco Bell is called upon about this kind of blatant exaggeration in their ads, that they should do something to make it better for their customer.  I went to the manager on shift that night and pointed-out how pathetic my taco was compared to the taco in the ad, and first she tried to tell me that it looked the same to her.

 I said, "You have to be kidding."

 She then stated that every taco has an exact amount of each ingredient per the standards set by corporate.  When I said that this is clearly not as the taco was being advertised, she simply said there was nothing she could do and referred me again to the corporate office.

 Thankfully, this is the Internet Age, with instant, public discourse being available to anyone with access to a computer and a connection to the network.  So, what I am going to do, after wrapping up this blog, is shoot off an email to Taco Bell Corporate and refer them back to the photo above.  Then, I will update this blog as to how it all goes down.  Who wants to place bets on a $5 gift card being the offer used to pacify me?

The Saddest Man on Facebook

  I got a friend request a few months ago on my facebook profile: sorrellart... or just look up Jason Sorrell and my handsome mug staring back at you.  Anyhoo, this "friend" was someone I hadn't heard from in almost 10 years, someone I knew since the 6th grade, and who insisted on being a true douche-bag until I got fed-up with it and told him that I was tired of his shit.  There is a mess of history there and witnessing some fucked-up behavior from this... "person".  The root cause of all his woes, his financial and social issues, even his poor hygiene I am convinced is related to a development that was for whatever reason arrested in the 8th grade.  Even way back then, there was friction between this person and his peers, myself included, because we began moving toward our futures while he remained stoically clinging to the crumbling remnants of his past.

 Like poetry, ain't it?

 In my standard fashion when discussing such issues, I am not going to name names.  It is the behavior, and not the person I wish to be critical of.  And, I must admit that I was complacent about these behaviors for years... and enabler if you will.  I wanted to see the guy turn it all around, pulling his head out of his ass with such a tremendous 'POP' that you would be able to hear it three counties over.  Even now, I am writing this out of some mixed sense of disappointment, concern, and a huge portion of thinking this kind of shit is funny.

 I think it is important to give a little background on this guy.  I met him in the 6th grade in some class... he saw me drawing instead of paying attention.  I was drawing because whatever assignment had been given I had already finished.  He was writing, though I think he was writing because whatever assignment was given he did not understand.  We discovered a mutual interest in comic books, and being a couple of misfits we kind of forged an alliance as misfits in Junior High do.

 We did all the moronic shit boys do, especially during that phase when not only have boys discovered girls, but the girls have discovered boys.  He was the big-kid and I was the scrawny smart kid... developing into quite a smart-ass.  This was something that, for whatever reason, some of the girls seemed to dig.  This guy, being 'big' and from the wrong side of the apartment complex, seemed to have it easier at first.  But, as I said above, while the rest of us matured, he just kind of stayed in the same place.

 I moved in the 8th grade to a school district where no one was aware of my many... many social faux pas.  Moving to a new district like that creates a world of opportunity for a misfit who wishes to re-invent himself, and I spent a year tweaking and experimenting.  Mid-way through my freshmen year, my friend moves to the same district and goes to the same high school.  I had laid what I considered to be a good social groundwork amongst my peers at my new school.

 I found myself having to use my wit and sarcastic repertoire to constantly make excuses for my friend, or just to keep him out of fights.  People literally began to refer to us as "Jason and his dumb friend".  Getting him to try to crack-wise on his own was even worse.  Half the time I would have to mock him just to keep someone else from doing it and egging him into a physical confrontation.  Back in the 6th grade, he was the 'big' kid, but in high school he was the same size as everyone else. 

 I moved again, to a new high school, and only on occasion saw my friend over the next several years.  I graduated from high school, joined the Army, and lived in Europe for four years.  I think I did more growing-up during those four years in Europe than my entire previous 18 years.  When I came back home, I was confident, witty, knew what I was doing and were the hell I was going.

 My friend graduated from high school.  He attempted to join the Army, but for some reason did not make the cut (I mean, who CANNOT get into the Army?).  He joined the National Guard, but was eventually kicked out for simply not showing up for his one weekend a month and two weeks a year.  I don't think he was really missed.

 He was one of my contacts when I came back to my home town, and we hung out for the first couple of weeks while I re-oriented myself to life in the States.  It was soon apparent that his life had been radically different than my own.  Sometimes he was living with his mom, other times he was borderline homeless.  When I moved into a house (the party-house on Kenwood near Johnny Appleseed Park... people are still recovering from the '98 Halloween Party), he needed a place to stay and moved in.  Things did not go well.

 It was a party-house, 3 guys splitting the rent and throwing parties every weekend when not out at the few clubs in town.  Our other room-mate, John, and I had a running competition to see who could get the most women in and out of that place.  The focus of this tale, my friend, invited a couple of girls over, and Jon and I did our thing.

 We had another friend who literally came over one day and asked John and I, before he brought his female friend in, not to hit on this girl.  He said this was his new girlfriend.  When he brought her in, I asked, "So, your dating Kenny?"  She looked surprised and answered no.  That was all we needed to hear.

 John and I got with her on separate occasions within the next couple of months.  We thought it was hilarious, and Kenny's struggle with it just made things more entertaining for us. We could be real pricks like that. 

 Anyway, back to my other friend, one of the girls he brought over was with another dude.  The other girl got with John that night.  Our friend tried his best, even tried to get his guests away from us, but John and I had our game down to a science.  

 I was woke in the wee hours of the morning by doors being slammed in my kitchen.  When I went downstairs to see what the hell was going on, I found my friend in the kitchen, basically loosing his mind.  From the basement (John's room) came the sounds of a woman quite obviously and loudly enjoying herself.  My friend's fit was as much to try to interrupt John's session as to express his frustration.

 I had to get him out of the house before he broke something.  I convinced him to walk with me, down to the park.  

 On the way, we talked about his problems.  He lacked the "gift-of-gab" that I have, and he didn't have the same "boyish charm" (some chick described it that way) that John had, so he couldn't do what we did.  His ideas about what women like, or how they respond, were completely backward (he's the guy that tried to serenade a woman at one of our parties).  I told him that whatever he thinks he should do in regards to women, whatever his first instinct was, he would be better-off doing the exact opposite.  We agreed that John and I would start taking him out with us, and if he promised to keep his mouth shut and just let us do our thing, we could work him in to the routine.  He just could not "be himself", because that was not working for him.

 By the time we got to the park, he was calm.  He agreed with everything I had to say, and was even enthusiastic about the prospect of working the game with John and myself.

 As we walked back, he proceeded to dismantle everything we discussed.  By the time we got back to the house, he was convinced that if women did not like him for who he was, then those weren't the women for him.

 Thankfully, John had taken the young woman home and was not in the house.

 Things just got worse form there.  One female friend claimed he cornered her and forced her to kiss him.  Another claimed he tried to force his hand down her pants while the rest of us were in another room they were alone.  I tried to make excuses for him, but we eventually kicked him out of the party-house.  The vibe got a lot better afterward.

 Years later, he caught-up with me again.  He claimed to have turned things around.  He was with a new girl, had a steady-job, and he needed a room-mate to rent a place with them.  I was living with a girl at the time, which back then meant I was more beholden to one person than I was comfortable with.  Still thinking there was hope for my friend, I agreed to rent  a place with him.

 When he started to bail on his portion of the rent and utility bills, I started to get pissed.

 When he punched his girlfriend during an argument while my kids were in the house, I put an end to his bullshit.  

 When we were kids, he was bigger than I was, and in our mock-fights used to knock me around.  He played at martial-arts, always claiming to have an "uncle" who taught him a little Kung Fu or whatever.  As adults, having four years of military training, some actual Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, a little Kendo sword-fighting training (very, very little), and a world of confidence, I intimidated him, and I knew it.  We had only two demonstrations to convince him that I was not someone he could match; there was the day that no matter how much he tried he couldn't hold his bokken practice sword when sparring with me, and the day that an arm-bar and leg-sweep left him on the ground and immobilized before he knew what to think.  From then on, he might wrestle around with our other friends, or even try to intimidate them physically, but with me he knew, for his own safety, to back down.

 I got to him before he could hit his girl again.  Telling him that if he hit her again I would "beat the living shit out of him" I forced him to back down.  My rant at that point was far from over.  He went downstairs to his chair, and I unleashed years of disappointment with this person, and with myself for putting up with it for so long.  At one point, he got angry enough to start to stand, but when I told him that if he stood I was going to beat his ass, he sat back down. 

 I ended my rant by stating that I was done defending him from his detractors and covering for his bullshit.  "From now on," I said, "when someone asks me about you, I will let them know plainly what kind of asshole you are".

 After that, I moved out.  I only heard about this guy occasionally from mutual friends.  My dad ran into once at a bar and tried to be cool with him, but when my former friend tried to talk shit, my father simply said, "Boy, do you want me to call him over here so we can all see how much you run your mouth with him in the room?"  My former friend simply got up and left.

 So, I get a friend request last year.  This guy is just now getting on the world wide web.  Literally.  Just last year.  Talk about coming late to the party.  This in itself is ironic; the man used to play video games to the exclusion of all else except for maybe eating and playing Magic: The Gathering.  You would think that owning or having access to a computer, just for gaming, would be a high-priority for him. 

 Yep.  He is one of those guys.

 So, the request.  I admit also that I had been curious about this loser, a kind of morbid curiosity that one might have for a tremendous failing of the self related to some location or object... both have long since been scrapped yet you return now and then just to see.  I use the FB thing mainly to keep up with my friends, and oddly enough their are a ridiculous number of ex-girlfriends that have managed to track me down on FB.  They add me to their friends list then say nothing to me... probably related to that same morbid curiosity thing I just mentioned. 

 I added him as a friend and immediately went to his profile.  Where is he working, I wonder?  What has he been up to lately?  What pathetic excuse for a woman is letting him diddle her panty-playthings, or has he finally given up the ghost and come out of the closet (the man has always had issues with women, has a history of physical abuse towards women, and according to one of our mutual friends has engaged in a relationship with another man... not that there is anything wrong with that last bit there)?  Did his writing ever take-off (he writes stories that are just above being put to paper with a crayon)?  Has he published anything?  These are the things I want to know.  Instead, his profile is bare.  He has three pictures of himself he lifted from his sister's profile... three photos where he appears to be drunk and badly in need of a shower.  There is no information, no place of employment, no education, no religion... nothing.  He probably doesn't know how to right-click and save a photo online, otherwise he would have raided his brother's profile for pictures from his brother's wedding when dignity and tradition forced him to shower and put on a tux. 

 My curiosity unsatisfied, I send him a PM basically asking how he has been and what he has been up to.  He responds by telling me that he has a "whole bunch of new material" (most likely the written material for a comic book) and that he would like me to provide the artwork.

 As an aside, I always find it interesting how little appreciation budding comic book authors had for the artists that draw the comics.  Writing is hard work, like running a marathon.  Drawing a comic is like running a marathon with a 100 pound backpack through a desert.  The amateur writer almost always assumes that the artist getting his or her name on a book will be worth the effort.  Never mind that it is the art that initially attracts the reader to the book, and the writing is what holds them to the characters and story. 

 Anyway, I can barely keep up with my paying commissions, let alone take on a "for-a-friend" project for a writer that I was overly charitable to in the past in regards to his talent.  I told him I was busy, but I would look at the project.  I suggested he check out my site http://www.creativeodditiesstudios.com/, to get an idea of what kind of work I do and email me his material.

 I've gotten nada, zip, zilch... unless you count requests for FB games. 

 It is mind-blowing to witness while also totally expected.  This guy plays every game... I am certain of it.  He plays so many games that I cannot imagine how he has time for anything else.  There are no other interactions occurring on his FB account, no status-updates, no comments, no messages between himself and his other friends.  Just game updates and requests.  He is not even using FB to try to get LAID!  Just playing with himself on-line, and sharing his chronic masturbation with anyone who engages in the same pointless efforts.

 You would think after all these years that his wrist would have given out.

 Every once in a while, I check his profile to see if anything has been changed, anything to indicate a spark of an actual life.  The profile picture remains that same; a bed-headed profile picture with a vapid and confused, slack-jawed expression.  His wall is covered with game achievements, game requests, and new game listings... a tribute to his worthlessness.

Oh, well.  Game on, sad little man.  Game on.

Is Doctor Scholl's a Sexist Asshole?

  Gang, I have a dirty little habit.  I listen to talk-radio.  I have two stereos near my studio-space.  One stereo plays music while I have a client getting a tattoo.  As soon as that client is out the door, I shut-off that stereo and turn on the other stereo already pre-set to my favorite talk-radio channels.  I don't watch television, I don't read the newspaper... but I do listen to talk-radio. 

 It is bad.

 Of course, between segments, the shows I listen to run commercials.  Commercials were part of the reason I stopped watching television, although there was an era when the commercials were more entertaining than the television shows.  Commercials, more often than not, just make me angry.  This is because so many or them, in the process of trying to sell their product to a particular demographic, almost always do so by demeaning another demographic. 

 For years, the demographic who has taken the brunt of this abuse is the white male.  The white guy is almost always portrayed as out-of-step, moronic, stubborn, not-hip, and/or an idiot.  He is always being rescued by his wife or significant-other from his boorish foibles, or being compared to the guy who is hip-to-the-trends... usually a male who is not white.

 Remember the "Goofus and Gallant" public service messages?  Goofus represented the incorrect, even dangerous behaviors, while Gallant represented the safe, respectful, or smart behaviors.  Goofus and Gallant are drawn as the same kid, just one boy is unkempt and the other has a neat appearance. 

 In advertising, the Goofus-and-Gallant model is an excellent motivator.  Provide an example of the uniformed consumer using brand X (or nothing at all), then present the smart consumer using your brand and living happilly ever after.  The problem is that there are groups of people who have been down-trodden for so long that they are justifiably sensitive to any negative connotations, so you dare not portray them as "Goofus".  Advertisers need SOMEONE to be Goofus...  and the only "safe" option are white males.  Making the other demographics the "Gallant" also helps sell the product to those target audiences.   

 The problem is that we live in a time where gender or racial stereotypes are supposed to be passe.  Catering to or using a stereotype to judge others is an indication that you are behind-the-times, intellectually stunted, or you are border-line neurotic.  Clearly this attitude, this positive shift in our society, is for some reason not applicable to white males, who have been viewed (again, arguably justifiably) as the oppressor of the past. 

 THAT is just another stereotype! 

 So, when I hear a commercial that demeans white males for the sake of comedic effect, I find it offensive not only personally, but also in regards to the progression of our society.

 Yesterday, I heard a commercial that went something like this:

 Female Voice-Actor: "Guys, I am here to represent your wife, your girlfriend, or who ever is around when you take your shoes off.  Your feet.... they STINK!  Now, there is a solution.  Dr. Scholl's Odor-X foot powder eliminates the sweat molecules that cause stinky feet.  Guys, use Dr. Scholl's Odor-X foot powder, or risk having an ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, or ex... whatever."

 Feet stink, folks.  It doesn't matter who's feet you are talking about.  Everyones' feet sweat, and it is a point on the human body where a greater proportion of waste is exhausted.  It is a negative stereotype to attribute this simple fact of biology to men exclusively, as was implied in this ad.  Worse, to suggest that the problem is so great that it threatened to end what we can assume might be a long-term relationship... even a marriage, is either ridiculous or suggests that women are shallow little strumpets.  

 Let's say the roles were reversed.  Imagine a commercial like this:

 Male Voice-Actor:  "Ladies, I am here to represent your husband, your boyfriend, who ever is around when you take your panties off. Your vagina... it STINKS! Now, there is a solution. Massengill Douche eliminates the bacteria that causes a stinky vaginas. Ladies, use Massengill Douche, or risk having an ex-husband, ex-boyfriend, or ex... whatever."

 You KNOW that this commercial would be deemed too offensive to run... and not because it deals with female genitalia, but the stereotype of female genital odor.  So sensitive is this issue that when commercials were ran regarding this issue, it was always woman-to-woman, usually mother-to-daughter, walking along a beach or sipping coffee on a deck overlooking pristine garden... an effort to ease into what is a sensitive topic for women.   This is a long way from the Lysol ads that feature a woman being locked out of a room from her husband because she failed to address her "intimate" problem.

 It could be argued that this is the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction.  That, however, is not social progression, it is instead intellectual dishonesty.  If a stereotype is inappropriate for one demographic, then it is inappropriate for all.  Advertisers like Dr. Scholl's, if allowed to demean a group of people in order to market their products, commit a crime against society and the strides we have made in equality between the genders and ethnic groups.  If we, as a people, do not stand opposed to this kind of intolerance, it will only continue to escalate.

 As always, I have contacted Dr. Scholl's with just these sentiments.  I will keep you posted as to what response, if any, I receive.

What I Learned from Television Thursday Night During the Game

  My wife and I do not watch television, except during football season.  We both enjoy watching the games (she is probably a bigger fan of football than I am), but we find ourselves disappointed by the commercials.  The commercials, either selling particular products or promoting other shows, are like little windows into the psyche of our society.  It is our media reflecting that which we seem to believe should be the focus of our attention.  It goes both ways; the media and marketers tell us what they think we want to hear, and we assume that we are supposed to think a certain way based on what they tell us.  Some may try to manipulate this give-and-take, but I really think that often both sides are completely enthralled by the influence of the other.  The media makes these shows because the people believe that is what they want because the media makes these shows...

 Commercials are a kind of social-barometer, and I find it more and more painful to watch every season.  Here is what I learned about our society based on the commercials that ran during the NFL kick-off game on Thursday evening, September 8th, 2011.

 -McDonald's now makes a type of chicken sandwich that has a "bold flavor" which may cause a temporary suspension of good judgement and common sense, resulting in erratic and questionable behavior.  I am surprised the FDA allowed such a product to go to market.  They should at least not allow these sandwiches to be served to minors.

 -Papa John's Pizza suggests that eating their pizza is akin to an erotic experience with NFL cheerleaders.  This effect is apparently limited to men only, as the woman in the commercial did not have a similar fantasy... indeed, she seemed a bit disdainful about her partner's reaction.  However, she was a 'butterface', so perhaps he is so dissatisfied with his romantic situation that any pleasurable experience becomes erotic.

 -Coor's Light caters to men who have no interest in women, and seems to encourage this.  The man in the commercial turned down a dinner-date with an attractive woman to drink a beer at a bar, alone.  When a couple of other attractive women mistook him for a lawyer and began to have a conversation with him, he feigned ignorance and missed the opportunity to enjoy their company as well in favor of drinking his beer.

 -Old Spice at least displayed some possibility of awareness of its own ridiculousness.  It suggests that smelling like you have been at sea battling monsters all day will make women think that you also have access to ridiculous wealth. 

 -If you do not have the Dish Network, a Deon Sanders fairy will harass you and your dog.

 -It seems that America has got talent, can dance, can sing 'a Capella', and is still looking for another idol.  I find this odd, because from what I understand we have an unemployment rate that is at least triple that of Mexico.  You would think with all these skills and free-time, we could turn that situation around.

 -"Gangsta-Rapper" Ice Cube felt so intimidated by a bottle of beer in a bucket of ice that he arranged a private meeting with the beer-and-bucket in what appeared to be an executive office to debate their differences and issues.

 My wife works in an office.  Her co-workers often chat about what is going on in their lives.  Most prominent among the "important issues" are things like who is doing well on some dancing show, who some bachelorette is being auctioned-off to by some network, and "what that hot-guy is doing to get away from that bitch he is dating on that show".  They encourage her to join the conversation, but when she discusses what interests her; what her district representative is doing to improve traffic issues in our neighborhood, how the local police chief is handling accusations regarding racial profiling, and if our Governor would do well as President of the United States, they look at her either like they are completely lost or they are offended.  They cannot understand why she doesn't see the importance of who is doing well on "Idol", or why she has interests which underscore just how frivolous the focus of their attentions are.

 Ever seen the movie, Idiocracy?

 We all should take time to relax, and we should all engage in occasional excursions into fantasy and be entertained.  When a society is more concerned with the latest distractions offered by our cycloptic-god to keep us pacified than even the things that are sometimes going on in their own families, well, I find myself questioning our general sanity.  I don't think the Media is making us stupid.  I think that we choose to be stupid, and the Media is in the business of giving us what we want. 

Adventures in Recycling

  This, I think, is a story that needs to be told, although it will probably only serve to display my naivete in some regards. 

 This summer, I had the girls gather, crush, and place into a 32 gallon garbage bin aluminum cans.  It took about 4 months of collecting and our own soda-drinking to fill the can.  I didn't expect that we would get much money for the effort, but we had the cans regardless and it didn't make sense to me simply throw the cans away, even if they were only worth 1 or 2 cents per can.  $6-$10 for the effort was $6-$10 I wouldn't have if I didn't make the effort, so why not?

 Now, way back in the 1990's, I dated a number of women who considered it part of their civic duty to recycle, which of course meant that it became part of my civic duty as well, no matter how I might protest or point to the data that suggested that some of their recycling efforts were not only wastes of time but also ended up in the same land-fills anyway and probably did MORE harm to the environment.  The only argument for recycling that made sense to me was the dollars-and cents argument.  If you were paying me to take the extra second or two to sort my garbage before placing it into the bin, they I might go along with it.  

 Recycling did mean a few extra dollars in my pocket.  OmniSource just north of downtown Ft. Wayne was the facility we used, and aside from the grunge that is common to recycling centers, it was an alright place.  The employees were friendly and you clientele seemed just as average as any of us.

 There is a reason I am making this distinction.

 So, we saved up a bin full of cans.  Our first boondoggle was when to get the cans to the recycling center.  My girlfriend and I are busy people, rarely during the week do we have anytime to do anything during "regular business hours".  Weekends are typically even worse.  After doing some research, we found a facility that opens at noon on Sundays, the "Recycling Center" on 9405 Dessau Road. 

 I imagine that there is not a lot of call for creative individuals in the recycling biz, thus the clever name.

 We arrived at around noon to get in line with our bin.  The facility was a manufactured-home with an attached garage/warehouse and a fenced-off back lot.  It had two scales, one for trucks and their large loads, and a smaller walk-up scale for people with items they could carry.  The driveway was gravel, something I hadn't seen in years.

 In line ahead of us were some of the hardest-looking men you could imagine.  Most either looked like they had just left a biker-rally, and a couple were just-this-side of homeless.  I am not certain how well I fell-in with this crowd based on my appearance (big and hairy).

 Jamy, my wife, stayed in the car. 

 Ahead of me in line were the two homeless-looking gentlemen.  They had with them several pieces of scrap and a box full of collected wire, all either rusted or caked in dirt and oil. The attendant at the walk-up scale explained that he couldn't take the metal, which I believe had something to do with the condition and cleanliness of what they had to offer.  They began complaining, and were directed to the pay-window to speak with the manager. 

 The manager told them the same thing; they would not take the metal.  He suggested that they try the City recycling facility, which is open during the week.  The gentlemen began insisting that they had some kind of documentation, and I think they mentioned FEMA, that somehow made their scrap and wire acceptable.  What FEMA has to do with recycling, I cannot imagine. 

 The manager insisted that they would not take the scrap.  The homeless-FEMA-wonder-duo let loose with a string of obscenities, and calling the recycling employees "whores" repeatedly.

 Whores?  Really?  How are they, in refusing to take your goods, whores?  I am under the impression that whores exchange sex for money, or that whorish behavior was selling-out your values, morals, or personal limitations for some form of gain.  These people were not acting like "whores", especially by adhering to whatever standards they used.  

 The gentlemen picked up their garbage, still cursing and calling the employees whores, and vowing to "never do business here again".  I was next up, and moved to place my bin on the scale, when one of the employees said, "move, please."

 Now, there was a bit of a language barrier. The employees, friendly and efficient, spoke mostly Spanish.  I speak Spanish, but none was attempted on me.  When he said "move, please", I moved toward the scale.

 "No, move." he said, becoming a little more concerned based on his expression, but still amused with the display going on behind me.  Obviously confused, I tried to find whatever I was obstructing.  At this point, the employee instructing me to move finally indicated that I take cover behind a truck near the scale.

 You see, the homeless couple had pulled-up their car backwards to the scale.  They were on a gravel drive.  If they peeled-out as a further display of their ire, I would have been pelted with stones.

 This must have been a frequent occurrence, and not my attendant's first trip to the rodeo.  They warning proved to be unnecessary, but added to the over-all element of risk at this facility.  

 For my bin of cans, we received $6.60.  The bin for the cans cast $14.99.  We decided that recycling was not worth the adventure it entailed.  I am now using the bin to hold twigs and branches that we will use as kindling in our fireplace this winter.  Probably the more cost-effective and safer way to go. 

 The cans are going in the garbage for men with far less to risk to recover, if they so desire.

She Took My Sperm Without My Permission

 I know it's a long-shot, but hear me out on this one.  I am kind of excited about this.

 There is a guy in Houston that is suing a fertility clinic for using his sperm to fertilize his ex-girlfriend, resulting in the birth of twins which he is of course now obligated to pay support for.  He claims that the sperm used was stolen, taken from him without his knowledge or consent.

 How was this accomplished, you might ask?

 The gentleman claims that during their relationship, he and his girlfriend would only have sex while using a condom, and she had what he considered the odd habit of insisting on disposing of the used condoms for him.  He proposes that instead of simply disposing of the ejaculate, she was actually storing it for later use in a nefarious plot!

 STOP LAUGHING!

 I know, this is far out.  I KNOW that this guy is just trying to get out of paying some child support... but, MAN I hope he pulls this off!

 Here's the thing, ladies.  You have been demanding equality for decades now.  First off, how equal are you when you have to ask that your equality be granted to you by those you wish to be equal with?  Equality is earned, not granted.  Still, I know you gals are fighting the good fight, and I totally support your struggle for true equality with males.  In fact, I might be more of an advocate for your equality than you are.

 Take the following common situation.  A guy and a gal hook up.  They are together for a few months, and the relationship is almost purely physical.  She's on birth control and he uses condoms.  They are rutting like rabbits for about 3 months, until one day they actually have a conversation and discover that they each think the other is an idiot, based on their mutually incompatible ideologies.  There's a major argument, and the two break-up.

 THE NEXT MONTH, she is late.  Not late for work, or for a date, but LATE.  She gets herself a home-pregnancy test and discovers that, yep, she is knocked-up.  At this point, if she chooses to keep the baby, despite her not being with the father or having any interest in having a family with that asshole (her opinion, not mine). She is fully aware that she can take him to court for child-support and WIN. 

 The guy has no say in the matter.  He has no input.  He cannot say, "Your Honor, I did not intend to have a family, especially not with that bitch (his opinion, not mine).  I took every precaution short of abstinence to avoid this situation, and despite our no longer being together she has chosen to go forward with this pregnancy.  I cannot see how I can be held financially responsible for a decision she has made."  Nope, as sound as that argument might be, a simple blood-test establishing he is the father is all that the State needs to make him beholden to that woman and child for the next 18 years.

 That's the problem.  Women say "keep your laws of my body", and "it's my body and my choice", but they sure as hell won't say "and I am financially responsible for my choices."  Having EQUALITY means also taking RESPONSIBILITY.  As a man, I say it is high-time that we have the same reproductive rights as women.  If you do not have our permission to use our sperm, regardless of the manner by which you came into possession of it or it's potential byproduct (a child), then we should not be obligated to support you in your decision with our money.  Keep your laws out of our genitals, and it's my sperm and my choice.

 Back to our guy in Houston.  If he wins his case, establishing that this clinic and woman used his sperm without his knowledge or consent and he is therefore not beholden financially for the resulting child (or, in this case, is entitled to a cash reward from the clinic), then it is just a matter of gradual escalation based on the precedence established by this case.

 The next guy will say that he was not aware of the pregnancy until after the relationship had ended, and he did not consent to the use of his sperm to produce a child.

 Then the next guy will say that he consented to having a child on the contingent basis that he and the mother would remain together as a family to raise the child.  If she wants a divorce, then he is should be released from his obligations because the situation in which he was willing to consent no longer exists.

 Finally, a man who impregnates a woman will have to give his explicit consent for the use of his sperm and express the desire to have a child in order for financial responsibility to be established.  If the woman chooses to have a child using the sperm of a man where this express consent is not provided, or chooses to discontinue the relationship (and access to the shared finances) she then also assumes all financial responsibilities for her choice.

 Frankly, if a man who donates to a sperm bank cannot be held liable for the resulting off-spring, then the precedence to absolve all men who do not provide their consent for a woman's choice to keep a child by them has already been established.

 All we want is to be treated as equals to our more empowered female counterparts.