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The Birthday Card

I really like The Birthday Card.

No, not the card you get in the mail with a check for ten dollars.

I mean the metaphorical card you get to play in order to get special privileges on your birthday.

“It’s my birthday, I want free cake and singing waiters!”

“It’s my birthday, I can eat leftover Taco Bell for breakfast all I want!”

“It’s my birthday, I can fart in the office!”

“It’s my birthday, you can’t yell at me for anything I do wrong!”

“It’s my birthday, I will spend my rent money on a new tattoo!”

#PlayingTheBirthdayCard

The Story of the Single Biscuit

Ketchup. Chocolate milk. A disgusting biscuit.

These are the three things I remember about a random sleepover I had with my best friend when I must have been five years old. I don’t know why I remember so vividly except that a vivid memory is my blessing and my curse.

But in any case, I remember sitting in my friend’s kitchen in Bartlett, Tennessee. We were eating sausage biscuits for breakfast. He dipped his in ketchup. We were given glasses of milk, and unrestrained use of the Hershey’s syrup… not a wise thing to give kindergartners, but this was the 1980s and deregulation was politically popular.

And the sausage biscuits, while I could stomach them, just tasted… off. I couldn’t explain why. When my mother picked me up, I mentioned to her that the biscuits we ate tasted off (because that’s an important topic of conversation to a five-year-old).

“Oh, biscuits from a can?” she asked, matter-of-factly. I was shocked. A can? Biscuits came in cans?! And people bought them, even though they tasted like… that?!

Biscuits in my home were made from scratch. They weren’t perfect, of course. My parents were not gourmet chefs, and there were some things they made that I didn’t like. But the biscuits were real. As biscuits should be…

So begins the story of The Single Biscuit, my new cooking blog I share with my friend Aine. Check it out!

2014: You Say You Want a Resolution?

You say you want to... "turnover" a new leaf?

You say you want to… “turnover” a new leaf?

During this arbitrary point in the orbit of the Earth around the sun, people in Western culture and elsewhere like to make all sorts of promises to themselves that they’re not going to keep. I’m going to be a better person, goddammit! Good luck with that. I’ve done it, too. Many times.

One of the reasons we do this is because New Years isn’t about looking forward. Not really. It’s about looking back… and looking back, it’s easy to forget the good. And so we look back and see the year as a failure. We see the vague promises of “better” that we wanted, and we haven’t gotten them.

Sure, I’m in a loft apartment in an awesome neighborhood of a great city, I have the most fun job I’ve ever had in my life, and I quit smoking and recorded a bunch of original songs, but that all  means nothing if the webcomic I started two years ago fizzled after a few short months, right? Where are the chiseled abs I was going to sculpt, why am I still unable to play the piano, why didn’t I dress up for Halloween or make a gingerbread house at Christmas?

And so we decide we are failures.

But  there is a better question: Why are our goals for the new year so A) vague, and B) broad? How do you know if you’ve really achieved them? Or achieved them enough?

I’m done playing that game. I’m done pretending to give certain fucks every January. Done.

Instead, I’m setting goals. I’m giving most of them dates. And I am making them simple. Many are things I’ve done before, many are things I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t. And many are just ideas that I’ve had.

  • I will attend the songwriter discussion that I joined a MeetUp group for, before the end of January.
  • I will make cookies and bring them to work for Valentine’s Day.
  • For my 30th birthday, I will go and play pub trivia somewhere at the very least,  and within a week I will get my second tattoo.
  • On St. Patrick’s Day, I will make an Irish cheesecake recipe that I have had for years, but have never gotten around to making.
  • I will paint eggs for Easter.
  • Between March and May, I will fly a kite in Piedmont Park at least once.
  • I will complete no less than three ten-mile runs.
  • Before the end of September, I will take my hammock to the park and laze around in it.
  • I will carve a pumpkin and dress up for Halloween, and go out. Even if I have no one to go with.
  • I will make broccoli casserole on Thanksgiving.
  • I will decorate my apartment for Christmas.
  • I will make cheesecake for Christmas dinner.
  • I will send birthday cards to my family and friends. (okay, maybe not ALL of them. But at least 10).

Notice that all of these goals are specific to things that I can do. I didn’t include things like “lose weight” or “fall in love” because those are out of my control (and a little cliche if you ask me). Maybe no one will like the cookies I bring to work? Who cares? My goal is accomplished whether they like them or not. Maybe I won’t be able to get the kite off the ground, or will trip and limp the last five miles of one of my runs. I’m not setting any goals for the quality. It’s just time to start doing, and stop wishing I’d done.

But in any case, these are just goals, not a resolution. What is my resolution?

My resolution for 2014 is this: If I complete everything on this list, I refuse to let myself see 2014 as a failure.

Maybe I’ll do more. I certainly hope I do, but if I do these, I have accomplished something. And when I inevitably ring in the new year in New Orleans at that big party where Cowboy Mouth plays every year (yeah, keep dreaming), then I will be able to look back with pride. Because I will have kept my goals. And in keeping my goals, I will have kept my resolution.

Now it’s your turn:

What are your attainable goals? The goals that are within your control, that don’t depend on other people? How are you going to achieve them?

Fuck a Duck and See What Hatches

ZZ Top has said something offensive, which has led to Darkwing Duck being canceled. Pope Francis weighs in at 11!

phil-robertson

It’s time to kick off the Fifth Age of Sam’s Blogging Habit by grabbing the tail end of the latest blog bandwagon: Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, the aftermath, and the comments upon comments that appeared on the Facebook pages of people I know.

For those who have had better things to do in the last year than follow the career of a guy who looks like the picture above, allow me to fill you in with a brief timeline from my perspective:

  • About a year ago: My Facebook friends began talking about “Duck Dynasty”. I assumed it was a reality show, meaning I wouldn’t be interested anyway. When I found out it was somehow related to duck hunting, I knew I wouldn’t be interested.
  • Over the next few months: I still wasn’t interested. Some of my more religious acquaintances began talking about what a “great man of God” someone was. I assume it was either the man in the picture (Phil Robertson) or one of his clones. Something about abstinence before marriage was also mentioned, but looking at the pictures of these dudes, are you really surprised?
  • About a month ago: My curiosity got the better of me, and I read a synopsis on Wikipedia. I was surprised to discover that A) They’re not actually duck hunters, they’re a rich family that owns a duck call company, and B) Scratch that first one, they are also duck hunters.
  • Two weeks ago: an acquaintance of mine heard the phrase “fuck a duck” for the first time, and thought it was hilarious, and wouldn’t stop saying it. That’s not really related to the story at hand, it’s just funny.
  • Yesterday or two days ago: An interview with Phil Robertson was published in GQ. I read the article, which makes me about 4 pages more informed than 90% of the people posting opinions about this. “About what?!” you ask. So glad you asked. Robertson said, in his interview that:
    • Homosexuality leads to and bestiality[*]. [Nope]
    • Black people were happier under Jim Crow, because they weren’t so “entitled” [Somehow this comment got lost in all the hullabaloo over that first point]
    • He voted for Romney, because Romney’s from Salt Lake City [Nope] and Obama’s from Chicago [Illinois Senator, so we'll give him that, at least he didn't say Kenya], and Salt Lake City is safer at 3am because it is.
  • Yesterday, all day: People on Facebook lost their shit, one way or another. Some justified, some not. Late in the afternoon, A&E, the network which broadcasts Duck Dynasty (I learned something!!) announced that they were suspending Phil Robertson from the program. [Cue the false persecution claims in 3... 2... ]
  • Today, all day: People continue to lose their shit all over Facebook.

I’ll share a couple of comments I read on the Facebook feeds of people who will more-than-likely unfriend me if they read this, even though I’m not sharing their names.

Completely agree with Phil’s comments and completely agree with you that A&E has right to “suspend” him (whatever the heck that actually means).  I just feel that most of my friends championing A&E today were the same ones who complained vehemently in the past about conservative boycotts of Disney or country radio boycotts of Dixie Chicks.

Lot of comments here, so for now I’ll just stick with this for now: I hope he hadn’t actually read the comments before claiming to agree with them.

This will get much worse before it gets better for Phil Robertson. He has decided to go up against the god of this age. If you haven’t been to Walmart yet to get it, go purchase your Duck Dynasty gear today, because it might not be on the shelves much longer. Note the final paragraph in the article…quoting from 1 Cor. 6 is like sounding one’s own cultural death knell.

I thought the “god of this age” was money? Phil Robertson has gone up against money?! Oh, no, wait “go down to your local Walmart and buy some Duck Dynasty swag” is right there. This is probably my favorite comment, because it’s the perfect blend of culture war fear and rushed consumerism.

Have I mentioned how proud I am of the the Robertson Family! Especially Mr. Phil. We live in such a difficult time in our nations history, it’s great to see people like Phil speak the Truth of the Word of God boldly to the media! Keep it up Robertsons! We’re praying for you guys on the frontline!

I like that during times of actual war, when actual soldiers are in actual firefights and actually getting killed (and many of those soldiers are Christians, I might add), a reality show star making an obnoxious statement against multiple minority groups … HE’S the one on the “frontlines”.

A world where everyone else can proclaim their opinions on the highest mountain, but the second a Christian stands up for what the Bible says, even in a loving, non-judgmental way, they are ostracized and hated.

Today I learned the Bible says that homosexuality will morph into bestiality.

And now you’re all, “But freedom of speech!”

Freedom of speech is a limit on government censorship, not on a company suspending an individual for expressing, well, any opinion, but for an individual in the public eye to make boldly ignorant statements like the ones he made? Yes, A&E should suspend him or cancel his program.

So then you’re all “Well, they shouldn’t have asked him the question and then been shocked by the answer!”

Actually, if you read the interview, Robertson made the comment initially, bemoaning how “Sin becomes fine” in modern society. The question (not directly quoted) was what we call a followup question. It’s Journalism 101, people! (I’m kidding, obviously. Interviewing was a 300 level course when I was in school). Robertson volunteered these opinions, and went a step further with the comparisons.

So next you’re going to claim “Oh, but people on the other side do the same!”

Probably. I honestly couldn’t tell you. The examples provided above were the Disney boycott and the Dixie Chicks boycott. The Dixie Chicks boycott is likely comparable, but I remember very little of it, because people were still pretty pissed at the Dixie Chicks for their awful cover of Landslide.

The Disney comparison, though, is likely not valid. A lot of “charges” (in the moral court, of course) were thrown at Disney in the 90′s, including providing domestic partnership benefits to same-sex partners of employees.  But the big one that was used on all the literature was “GAY DAY” (omg!)  Someone mistakenly believed Gay Day to be a Disney-sponsored event (it wasn’t), and wrote out letters to organizations who passed the misinformation on to members, who could have then verified the information for themselves (they didn’t) and a boycott ensued. It wasn’t a case of “Boycott vs. Claims of Free Speech”, it was “Boycott vs. THE FACTS”.

kanyeBut ultimately, these “well someone else did it too” comments are a case of classic derailing.

“Well, remember when we were boycotting The Golden Compass movie based on a chain e-mail we received, and someone said that we couldn’t because of free speech? This is the same!” [hypothetical example, identical principle]

If that’s true? Then yes, it is the same, in principle. It’s also irrelevant. Whatever pet boycott you still remember from the past is not this situation, and there’s no need to bring it up now. The issue right now is Phil Robertson’s comments, and A&E’s reactions.

If you want to discuss your pet boycott, discuss it in its own arena.

If you want to claim that liberals don’t care about freedom of speech unless it’s for their own causes, need I remind you that the ACLU defended Westboro Baptist Church in an actual First Amendment case?

“What’s the big deal with Phil’s comments anyway?”

Here’s where I tone the snark down a bit, and turn on my serious face.

serious

Phil Robertson’s comments were more than just a statement of what he believes. They were more, even, than an apologetic statement of his belief, or even the echoing of a sentiment shared by many of his fans (which it certainly was, troubling as that may be). His statements were offensive because sexuality is more than just who you have sex with. Sexuality is more, even, than who you’re attracted to. Sexuality is an identity. It is part of who you are, not a thing you turn on from time to time. Even as a cis-het person, I understand my sexuality is a major defining part of who I am. For LGBTQI* individuals, it is not only an identity, but a part of their identity that sets them apart from many others. It is a part of their identity that some have taken years to accept, and some still may not have fully dealt with. Many have been ostracized from family and friends, they cannot obtain legal marriage licenses in many states, and in some countries, they can be put to death. Not for who they’re attracted to, but for who they are. Their identity.

So when a reality television star who has never had to deal with identity issues, second-class citizenship, etc. compares their identity to nonconsensual sexual acts with children or non-humans, it is harmful and destructive. A&E made the right call in suspending him from the program, and the Robertson family’s Notpology does not begin to make up for it.

I read somewhere recently that arguments of equality and rights do not occur in a vacuum, and this is true. [if someone wants to find me that source, I'd love you for three seconds!]

It’s tempting to say “Both sides need to respect each other” but that assumes both sides are on an even playing field. In reality, one side is trapped in a well, and the other side refuses to let them climb out, so the party trapped in the well is justifiably angry. That is not a remotely comparable form of “intolerance” as the person standing at the edge saying “shut up and stay there!”

It’s time for those of us in the privileged classes to examine that our “freedom”, while legally protected, does not justify speaking cruelly of groups that are already marginalized.

Phil Robertson is a symptom of the problem. But the crowds of people jumping to his defense are the true cause.

*
NOTE:
In the original version of this post, I mistakenly listed pedophilia here along with bestiality. This was incorrect, and I have removed the reference.

Redesigned

Does that mean I’m actually going to start updating again?

Perhaps.

It fell like judgment, but it was only rain

I’m kind of a sucker for acoustic covers of Bad Religion songs. I finally tried my hand at doing one of my own.

Eventually I want to record a good one of “The Pride and the Pallor”, but I think right now the lyrics to Only Rain are my favorites.

No, Being Single is not “Prolonging Adolescence”, and Your Single-Shaming is Harmful

I saw a post on my Facebook news feed by a recently graduated high school senior, titled “Boys to Men”. The description said it was about boys prolonging their adolescence into their 20s and 30s. A valid point in some cases… independence is a huge part of adulthood, and able-bodied adults shouldn’t be remaining mainly dependent on their parents.

However, that was not the point of the video at all. It was a pastor named David Platt saying “Don’t wait… get a wife“.

Well, David Platt… obviously, as a nonbeliever, I am not your target demographic. But you are now telling thousands of impressionable young men who do value your opinion that their adulthood and maturity is solely based on their ability to marry someone. Anyone, really, as long as they fit the misogynistic “Proverbs 31″ standard. You are telling them to see all hobbies, education, and private study – study intended to better one’s self – as secondary to marriage.

You are telling thousands of young women that they are not supposed to seek a man out, but wait for him to seek them out. And, presumably the “worth” lessons remain there, so if they aren’t sought out, they too are not really “adults”.

You are telling thousands of mothers that the message you deliver on their day of honor is actually for young single men?

No matter your religious view, the decision to get married is a serious one. And you are shaming young people into making that decision hastily, telling them that their maturity depends on it.

So, regardless of what David Platt tells you, it is okay to be single. A single person is more than just a potential married person.

What Brian Russell Remembers About Dinosaurs

dinosaursA while back, Brian Russell, artist of the webcomic The Underfold, announced a Kickstarter for a book called What I Remember About Dinosaurs. The idea is great. I’ve lamented before about how much common knowledge regarding dinosaurs is either obsolete or just plain wrong. Brian’s idea was to compile a lot of this false information into a humorous book… basically an educational book written off the top of his head. A great idea. But how does it work in practice?

In the introduction, he immediately warns the reader: “Don’t let this be the only book you read about dinosaurs”. A wise piece of advice. He also states that the book is meant to be “Humorous and a bit educational.” And it is both of those things, I suppose.

The art is reminiscent of The Underfold (without the trademark tentacles). Simple line drawings and lack of detail make for a fine webcomic. For a book, though, I think that large pieces of white space need to be filled with something besides gradient skies and grass. The best visual page isn’t even dinosaur-related, it’s a visualization of the timeline between “millions of years ago” and “now”.

The content is more or less what I expected. I like the explanation of “brontosaurus never existed” shown alongside a picture of a crying brontosaurus. In places like that, Brian’s humor comes out in one of its better ways. He pokes fun at cultural ignorance of dinosaurs by showing them mostly non-feathered (velociraptors are shown with feathers, but the T-rex and other bipedal dinosaurs that were feathered aren’t shown that way). My favorite line is probably “While most of the information you’ll learn is from the Cretaceous period, there was a movie, and now all anyone remembers is Jurassic”.

What bothers me in the content itself, though, is that while the book is only meant to be “a bit” educational, the writing style shows it more skeptical of science. The creationist idea that “the flood caused the Ice Age” is actually introduced before the dominant idea of the asteroid collision, regarding dinosaurs’ extinction. The plesiosaur is shown with its neck poking out of the water saying “call me Nessie”. If the book was more straightforward in its humor, these issues would fit right in, but the way it’s written, they seem oddly out of place.

Overall, though, What I Remember About Dinosaurs is a fun little romp into all the things we remembered as kids. I’d recommend it for a teenager or preteen who is interested in dinosaurs or science in general, to be used as an educational tool regarding skepticism or general knowledge of science in general. Or, if you were a fan of The Underfold (which is on a break), you definitely want to read it, because it’s the same kind of humor that makes the comic so fun. You can buy it on Amazon!

All in all, I’m pretty impressed that Brian remembers more about dinosaurs than most people I talk to, and I look forward to the return of The Underfold, and I can tell from reading this one that his next book will be even better.

Sam’s Weird Movie Theories: Ned Ryerson is Caught in his Own Time Loop

Happy Groundhog Day!

I’d like to take this time to outline a theory I have about Ned Ryerson from the 1993 movie Groundhog Day: there is evidence that Ned Ryerson has also been experiencing the same day on repeat.

Ned Ryerson (portrayed hilariously by Stephen Toblowsky) is an insurance salesman who approaches Phil on the streets first thing in the morning on Groundhog Day. Phil does not remember him, but Ned is able to pull out a ton of references to the past (including the fact that Phil’s sister is named Mary Pat), claiming they are actually old high school acquaintances. He then exploits this connection to attempt to sell Phil insurance, even though at no point does Phil ever show signs of remembering.

The scene in question, in case you’ve forgotten:

(The video is all the Ned scenes, but we’re just addressing the first one)

NED: Phil? Phil Connors?! I thought that was you!

PHIL Hi, how you doing, thanks for watching-

NED Don’t say you don’t remember me, ’cause I sure as heckfire remember you.

PHIL Not a chance

NED Ned! Ryerson! Needlenose Ned? Ned the Head. Come on, buddy. Case Western High? Ned Ryerson, did the whistling trick with my belly button in the talent show. Bing! Ned Ryerson, got the shingles real bad senior year almost didn’t graduate. Bing again! Ned Ryerson, I dated your sister Mary Pat a couple of times– ’til you told me not to anymore. Well?

PHIL Ned Ryerson?

NED Bing!

How does Ned have all these details from the past, when Phil obviously doesn’t remember him? Well the interesting thing about this conversation is that it parallels another conversation later in the movie… specifically, one that Phil has with a complete stranger named Nancy Taylor:

PHIL Nancy? Nancy Taylor?! Lincoln High School! I sat next to you in Mrs. Walsh’s English class!

NANCY Ooh.. I’m sorry?

PHIL Phill Conners!

NANCY Wow, that’s amazing! (still obviously confused)

PHIL You don’t remember me, do you?

NANCY Um…

PHIL I even asked you to the prom!

NANCY Phil Conners?

PHIL I was short and I’ve sprouted.

The initial introduction is almost the same. Phil, thanks to information he garnered from a cryptic conversation that Nancy won’t remember, is establishing a faux history in order to get what he wants (sex, in Phil’s case).

So if Ned is caught in a time loop, why go through the effort of finding out information about Phil just to use it to sell insurance?

Simple: Because Ned believes that’s his way out of the loop. Phil’s way out, as established in the movie, is to hook up with his producer, Rita, with whom he’s in love. He can’t do this through nefarious purposes (and believe me, he tries), he has to do it by using his powers to create a better world for everyone.

But Ned’s key, at least in his mind, is much simpler. He needs a big fat commission check from a major insurance sale. But he’s stuck in Puxatawney… how is he going to find someone rich enough? But look here… this big-shot television weather man from Pittsburgh is in town. That’s his target. So on Ned’s previous day, he grilled Phil for information about himself, and now he’s trying to score. Unfortunately for him, that’s the day Phil got stuck in the same time loop.

“But why doesn’t Ned remember that he’s stuck in a time loop?” you ask.

Because they aren’t stuck in the same degree of the loop. Ned’s loop and Phil’s loop run independently of one another. Ned might be on Day 502 of his own loop when he grills Phil for information. Then, Day 503 of Ned’s loop – the day he attempts to use this information – becomes Day 1 of Phil’s loop. So Day 2 of Phil’s loop is still Day 503 of Ned’s loop, from Ned’s perspective.

So did it work?

In the end of the movie, we find that Phil bought a shit-ton of insurance from Ned. If that was Ned’s way out, then it did work, and he woke up the next day as well.

But personally, I think that it probably did not. Phil couldn’t arrive at February 3rd by manipulating Rita, he had to actually become a better person (oooh relationship metaphors!). Ned, 502 days in, is still trying early tactics. And now that Phil has escaped the loop, Ned will wake up on his Day 505, and it will still be February 2nd. But it will be Phil’s perfect February 2nd that he created.

Poor Ned is going to have a hell of a time trying to make Puxatawney a better place in the shadow of a man who already did.

BING!

January Animation Month Day 8 – Spider

Back to GIFs for the day… having issues with the software, and I was working on some freelance so I didn’t have time to work through them. (may have to click to see the animation)

08_spider

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