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September 13th, 2016

02:01 am - Bee, Stein, Johnson, Nader
I wrote this as a comment on The AV Club, but I realized a lot of it is stuff I've been wanting to write here, so I'm posting it here too! It's about Full Frontal, the political comedy show hosted by Samantha Bee, formerly of The Daily Show. Watch out, it contains naughty words. Don't get hurt by the naughty words.

Well, I just watched Full Frontal and now I feel gross. I shall write an excessively long comment about why I feel that way, because I can.

As someone who supports third party candidates (this is the part where you roll your eyes and stop reading) I'm often frustrated by the unfair coverage they get. As someone who thinks Samantha Bee is kind of great, it hits especially hard when she buys into this.

In this episode Sam Bee is angry at everyone, which I think is pretty justified, but whereas she goes after her mainstream targets with intelligence and wit, her response to third-party candidates is basically to plug her ears and go "la la la I'm not listening". Her criticism of Jill Stein is: 1, she doesn't know much about Jill Stein; 2, Jill Stein is protesting with Native Americans, which can only be a publicity stunt because she's white. (She refers to Stein as "Dr. What's-her-name", then says to send your petitions to "My Snatch, c/o Suck It, You Know I'm Right, Pueblo, Colorado 81001". Okay, that's pretty funny, but "you know I'm right" seems to refer to the notion that Stein shouldn't run for president because she's not well known; meanwhile Trump is a serious candidate solely because he's well-known. I don't like this logic.)

The main thing that bothered me was the "spoiler effect" argument which is always brought up when you don't know anything about third party candidate because you don't hear much about them, which is their fault somehow. The argument goes like this: In 2000, Ralph Nader ran for president, which caused the Supreme Court to give the presidency to the guy who had less votes, and if we vote for Jill Stein, the same thing will happen again. This sounds like bullshit, except when I add that most people believe it, at which point it sounds a lot like the truth.

Anyway, tonight Samantha Bee took this logic from bullshit to extreme bullshit by saying that the reason Clinton isn't further ahead in the polls is because of third-party candidates. Not just Jill Stein, who's the most similar to Nader, but Gary Johnson too. Bee is saying that if Gary Johnson weren't running, all his support would go to Clinton. What the entire hell? Has she willingly forgotten everything she knows about libertarians? The exceeding ineptitude of this argument sickens me. It shows that she's just not going to engage third parties at all. Unlike with the rest of her targets, she's not even worried about reality, she just wants to shut them down, no matter what they have to say.

She goes on to remind us that Gary Johnson, like most Americans, didn't know what Aleppo was. Pretty much everyone, including myself and Gary Johnson, agrees that this is horribly embarrassing and un-presidential. Bee concludes that the long-shot candidates should not have complained that they weren't getting attention because once we know things about them we don't like them. (This is a tacit approval of how the media handles things, but you know what they say about a broken clock: get a new one.) I guess this is close enough for comedy in Johnson's case, but her whole thing against Stein was that she didn't know much about her, so that's awfully lazy. I'm not sickened by this part, just mildly disappointed.

As I said, I think Bee is great, and I applaud her efforts to change our society for the better, but she's bound by a Democratic Party way of thinking and that doesn't give her a whole lot of room.

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July 24th, 2016

10:11 pm - what I've been up to
A few months ago my mom, who is 60 and is just starting to get into the Internet, learned that Rammstein was playing a festival in Chicago. It was called Chicago Open Air and it was advertised as Rammstein's only US performance this year. She'd always wanted to see them and her brother lives in Chicago so she decided she had to go. Also, she took me with her, but I had to help with stuff around here too, so it became a 3-week trip.

To back up a bit, my great-aunt and great-uncle, unmarried siblings, lived together for about 50 years. Then my great-uncle set himself on fire so my sister came to help my great-aunt. Then my mom's house set itself on fire so she came to live with them. Then my great-aunt died at the age of 90, which was still too soon, so it's just my mom and my sister and my nephew here out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by trees and bugs and deer (who seem to know when hunting season is so they just walk right up to you without a care in the world). This was a thriving community when my great-aunt and her 8 siblings were young but then a dam was built that messed up the area so almost everyone moved away.

One positive thing about my mom's house burning down is that the insurance money allowed her to buy a nice new truck. This allowed us to go to the burnt-up and burnt-down house and bring back loads of salvageable furniture and other things. I'm glad the weightlifting I've been doing has paid off, but furniture is still too heavy. Furniture is overrated anyway. Just get a few chairs and you're fine, that's what I say. It's strange to be the one with upper-arm strength now. Back when my mom was younger and I was more wimpy it was the other way around. It's also still pretty crazy to see the house I grew up in as a burnt-out wreck. I saw it when I was last here a few months ago but I'm not used to it.

Now there's stuff everywhere that needs to be dealt with. My great-aunt, having grown up in the Great Depression, didn't like to throw stuff away even if it was broken, so most of the stuff around here is in bad shape. My great-uncle, probably not expecting this house to be occupied after he and his sister were gone, fixed everything with temporary fixes. Now everything is falling apart. Almost none of the doors shut right, and the water system is all screwy. (Fortunately, there's plenty of juice to drink; unfortunately, it's mostly mango. Orange juice is the only juice worth considering, that's what I say.)

Also, this area doesn't get services very well. The phones are full of static and the Internet is slow and sometimes gone, plus we get blackouts. I knew those happened but I didn't experience one until just now as I was writing this. First there was a brown-out, when we had limited electricity. The lights were dim and the fan blowing air into my face spun at a variety of different speeds. Then it was a total blackout for a little while. Now the power is back on. Hurrah.

My mom telling me to do things has alerted me to the fact that I am really bad at understanding people. I've had this problem with my roommate but I thought that was just because he's a goofball, because he's a goofball. However, now that it's happening with my mom too I'm realizing it's my fault a lot of the time. For example, today I was sitting on the porch next to a bag full of something and a coffee table with stuff on it and a smaller table. I was pretty sure my mom told me to put the smaller table on the other porch and put the bag... somewhere. After I'd moved the smaller table to the other side of the house I went to see what she wanted done with the bag and she told me that what she'd told me was to put the stuff on the coffee table in the back porch and then put the coffee table in the living room. There have been many cases of this happening. It's enlightening me about another aspect of my broken brain, although my mother doesn't think I have brain damage (from when I slipped and broke my head open when I was a baby) because I'm smart. I don't think that's how brain damage works. Anyway, I really need to see a doctor about this, but I really don't want to.

My mom has been hiring the local Amish people to build things. The Amish population in this sort of area is exploding because they still keep having huge families, so they're buying up rural properties after their owners die or move to the city. The land across from where I grew up is Amish now, and they might have bought my mom's property but we're not sure. (There was a mix-up with the taxes so it went into auction. Maybe don't send notices to a residence that's no longer occupied?) Anyway, she had them build a really nice porch on the house to replace the one that was completely rotten. Sadly, my great-aunt didn't live as long as we thought she would so she didn't get to enjoy it. My mom also had them build a huge shed, but that construction was interrupted when the father of the guy in charge of the project died. Some jerk on a cell phone crashed into his father's buggy. He finished it later, but when they brought it over here and tried to bring it up on the hill the ground was too wet. Now it's dry so the guy with the machine that lifts giant sheds was going to come here two weeks ago but there was a power outage so he had to deal with that instead. They finally got it up there yesterday, the guy with the machine and a young Amish man helping him. I haven't had much contact with the Amish but this guy just seemed like a regular, hard-working guy with strange clothes and a beard with no moustache (because they think moustaches are vanity... okay, sure). Also he had sunglasses.

Anyway, from the Amish to metal... I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to metal, and what I'm familiar with is mostly European. I wasn't familiar with anyone at this festival aside from Rammstein and Marilyn Manson. It's interesting how Marilyn Manson used to be a huge deal, and he's probably the best known performer at this festival to people who don't know metal, but he was third to last on Sunday.

I'm more of a nerd than a metalhead so I felt out of place. Everyone was wearing a T-shirt but my shirts had buttons. Most of the shirts either had band names on them or aggressive statements, usually with "FUCK" in big letters. I guess this is rebellion, but it's lazy rebellion because it's just rebelling against what you're supposedly not supposed to say in polite company or in school or on network TV. It goes along with pretending to be evil, but this evil is the sort that freaked out Christian groups in the 80s. Being that sort of evil I don't find very meaningful, but at least it's fun.

The volume level was certainly evil. I haven't been to anything like this before so I was amazed that, even when I wasn't near the stage, the sound took over everything. It was so loud I could barely hear it. At least, I could hear certain parts but not others. The drums were the main sound, but the guitars all merged into one sound (I understand power chords better now) and I could only barely hear the vocals a lot of the time. This is probably the sort of thing you have to experience a lot before you can fully appreciate it. Also my hearing impairment doesn't help things, but people who go to these things a lot probably experience hearing loss. My ears certainly felt messed up afterwards.

It sounds like I'm complaining but I had a good time. Rammstein was great but that's just how they are. I will compose a set list in case anyone reading this is familiar with them. I'll organize it by album since I don't remember the exact order.

Herzeleid (1995)
Du riechst so gut

Sehnsucht (1997)
Du hast

Mutter (2001)
Mein Herz brennt
Links 2 3 4
Ich will
Feuer frei

Reise Reise (2004)
Reise Reise
Keine Lust

Rosenrot (2005)

Liebe ist für alle da (2009)
Ich tu dir weh

Also there was Hallelujah, which is a B-side from around the time of Mutter. Oh, also there was Stripped, a cover of a Depeche Mode song that was on some versions of Sehnsucht. My mom was thrilled by that but she was sitting in the bleachers while I was down amongst the crowd. I figured I'd put my crappy cell phone video of that up on YouTube, so here, look at this.

It's interesting that they only did one song from their latest album, but since that was from 7 years ago I guess they don't really have a current album.

There was naturally lots of fire shooting out above the audience, because that's kind of their thing. There were also various semi-theatrical performance elements. During Ich Tu Dir Weh ("I hurt you"), Till the singer and Flake the keyboard player got into a fight and Till picked up Flake and placed him inside a metal tub, then he was lifted far above and he dumped a cauldron full of sparks into the tub. Then Flake got out; he had previously been dressed in black but now he was wearing a sparkly suit. Again, dumb but fun. During Mein Herz Brennt ("My heart burns") Till had flames coming out of his chest. For Zerstören (translation of the chorus: "I must destroy!") he wore a strange overcoat for most of the performance, then he took it off to reveal a suicide vest which exploded. I thought that was in poor taste, but oh well. For Engel ("Angel"), which was the closer, Till wore giant flaming wings and floated above us as he sang that God knew he didn't want to be an angel. Sometimes when they perform Seemann ("seaman") they send a band member out into the audience to crowd surf in a little plastic boat, but we didn't get the boat. Oh well. I've been trying to do my own performance of that song with just vocals and bass guitar but I haven't been satisfied with my vocals so I haven't made a video yet.

This was very exciting but I didn't get as close as I wanted to. There were drunken jerks around me who provided annoying distractions. At one point someone moving toward the front just grabbed me and shoved me out of the way. Still, it was a great experience. I got to sing in German at Rammstein! I got to shout "NEIN!" at Rammstein during Du Hast (which is the song most Americans know them for) and I got to shout the audience part in Ich Will, but I think I was the only one doing that.

Almost everyone there was white but my mom was sitting next to a guy from China. Actually, he'd lived in California for the past few years, but his friend was a photographer who flew all the way from Beijing so he got a press pass. We became friendly with him and greeted him as we kept running into him.

At around the time Rammstein started, someone slipped and fell two stories and hit his head on the concrete and died in the hospital, so that sucks!

There were two stages; the main stage was at the football field and the second stage was its own thing in the corner of the park. I mostly stayed in the seats for the main stage performances but I wanted to get close for Rammstein so I ventured onto the metal-covered football field to see Chevelle, whom I wasn't familiar with at all aside from listening to their latest album a few times. They were good though. I was surrounded by people who were way into them and knew all the lyrics. A couple in front of me got excited and kissed when the band played a certain song, so I guess that was their song. Despite being surrounded by Chevelle fans, when that band finished I couldn't get much closer to the stage.

Before that I went to the second stage to see Meshuggah, a band from Sweden who seemed really interesting so I was trying to get into them before the festival but couldn't quite manage it. They like to use odd time signatures, which I think is a cool thing, but it makes it hard to move with the music. There was a guy in front of me excitedly air drumming to one of their hard-to-predict songs so obviously he was really into them. One of the guitarists had a guitar with 8 strings. Eight! That's incredible! However I noticed later when looking at people's pictures that a lot of the guitars at this festival had 7 strings, which is also a whole damn lot of strings. The singer from Meshuggah was one of the few to directly comment on the recent terror attacks. He wished people would join metal bands instead of terror cells.

We got to the festival in time to see Drowning Pool. My mom really likes that "let the bodies hit the floor" song for some reason. They had an 80-year-old guy come out and help them sing it because apparently he'd been on America's Got Talent singing that song. After that was a band called Periphery, which seemed pretty good, but I couldn't enjoy them because I was blind. My mom had insisted on sunscreen, and I don't normally wear sunscreen so I didn't put it on well and I had too much near my eyes. Then it rained briefly but heavily so I got a bunch of it in my eyes and I couldn't open them without it hurting a lot. I had to walk around the park in tears, holding my mom's hand. I did not feel very metal in this moment.

In This Moment was a really cool band but we only saw the last two songs they did. They were very theatrical and their singer sang songs of female empowerment. For one song she wore a dunce cap that said "WHORE". She made me think of a metal Lady Gaga. I will have to look into them more. After that was Of Mice & Men & they were good. Then there was Ministry, whom I keep hearing of because of their importance to industrial music but never really listened to. I think they may have been the loudest group there. All I heard was noise.

That was all on Friday. On Saturday we got there a little late and had to park like a mile away. We saw Gojira and they were good. I was enjoying their first album but I don't think they played any songs from it. After that was Breaking Benjamin which I only liked a little. They played Smells Like Teen Spirit, which was odd. Then there was KoЯn, which I want to pronounce as "koyan" because that's what the letter Я sounds like in Russian and I'm a big dork. I somehow never really listened to KoЯn before even though they were really popular. I remember nothing about their performance except that I enjoyed it and Jonathan Davis played bagpipes at one point. Also, the bass player had one bass with neon green strings and another bass with black strings. Colored strings are cool.

The closer that night was Disturbed. I had no idea the "ooh-wah-ah-ah-ah" guys were that popular. It was night so they had us show our lighters and cell phone flashlights as they covered Simon & Garfunkel. They also did a cover of the Phil Collins song about how this is the world we live in, whoa oh oh, and these are the hands we're given, whoa oh. I knew they'd also done a cover of Shout by Tears For Fears but they didn't do that one. Late in the show they brought a bald kid with leukema to the stage and praised his bravery. Fortunately they did not follow that up with Down With The Sickness; they had a much more appropriate song called Invincible to play. Of course, Sickness was the last song they did, and I thought it was the least interesting thing they'd done.

Sunday started with Jim Breuer, who used to be on Saturday Night Live but now he has a metal band. His show was about half stand-up and half music. He told us all that his teenage daughter sometimes forgets to flush the toilet. Thanks, Jim Breuer. The most reaction he got out of the audience was when he named off old metal bands he liked. He did that twice. After that we saw a punk band called letlive which my mom liked a lot. The singer climbed up to the top of the stage and I was worried for him, and I hadn't even heard about the guy who fell and died earlier. He jokingly dedicated his set to Babymetal.

Babymetal is three teenage girl singers in black dresses backed up by musicians dressed as ghosts. They're from Japan, so that explains it. They were introduced by a video that said something about how fox spirits are responsible for metal. (They didn't say kitsunes but that's what they meant.) A guy behind me was flummoxed and said that this was either the coolest or the worst thing he'd ever seen. The band was extremely talented and entertaining. I was the closest I had been for any band. There was a ridiculous amount of crowd surfers. It was hard to pay attention to the band and watch out for people flying into me, but they looked like they were having the time of their lives so good for them. At one point the lead singer asked us to form a mosh circle, and she kept saying "Bigger circle!" This was the same thing the guy from letlive had done, so I guess they had been watching him.

There were signs put up in various places discouranging crowd surfing, but that was probably just for legal purposes and it surely only encouraged it. Of course they had like 10 guys at the front at all times to make sure the surfers arrived safely. This makes me think of the migrants who flow through the Mediterranean. There were a few people dressed in full-body suits as various comic book characters: Spiderman, two Deadpools, a few Power Rangers, and a Green Man. That was fun.

After Babymetal I went to find my mom who was eagerly awaiting Marilyn Manson. He was disappointing though. He seemed too high to perform with much feeling. One of his microphones had a knife attached to it and he cut his hand with it but it all felt very perfunctory. After that was Five Finger Death Punch. They were good. Then came the final act, Slipknot. They were another band I never managed to listen to much despite their popularity. It turns out they're actually really good! I'm going to have to listen to them more. They have nine goddamn people in their band, including 3 percussionists and a turntablist. I didn't hear the turntable at all, but I don't know a lot about the performance of a turntable aside from the scratching so I didn't really know what to listen for.

I put up a bunch of videos and pictures of bands and cats on my Instagram if you want to check those out. You can click on this link! Between bands they were showing people's Instagram posts up on the big screens. Two of mine made it up there, along with my name and my big dumb face, so that was neat.

That's a long entry!

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May 28th, 2016

02:57 pm - bass thing
I did a bass thing

Full albums have limited appeal because most YouTube users get bored after, like, a minute of anything, but since I'm doing something that's popular this time maybe this will get some attention. (Well, the ones I did for Pixies and System Of A Down have about a thousand views each so that's pretty decent.) Some British kid who's probably half my age did basically the same thing and he even did it better than me so that's annoying. At least my video looks better.

The most difficult thing about making this video was the wires. I hate wires so much. I'm apparently the only person who has this much trouble with them and I don't understand how most people put up with them. I guess it helps that wireless setups have latency issues and/or are expensive. Pieces of equipment involved in the making of this: record player, record pre-amp, bass pre-amp, audio mixer, computer. Most of these have a wire for input and a wire for output and a power cord. Oh, of course there was also the video camera. Oh yeah, and there was a bass guitar invovled in this too. Getting all this set up so that I can be in frame the way I want requires moving all these things around and unplugging everything and plugging everything back in. Holy gosh darn crap. I wish I didn't care so much about sounding good, especially since the resulting sound quality isn't great anyway.

I wonder what else I was going to write. I bet it was awesome.
Current Music: Derek And The Dominoes - Layla

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May 4th, 2016

01:10 pm - Thoughts on a year of food assistance
Well, I wanted to write an entry about political correctness, and how no one is in fact in favor of political correctness, but rather it's a hugely successful lie perpetrated by the people at the top of the food chain (democracy is pretty cool because it takes a bit of effort to subvert), so regular people can take the most obvious side of an issue because they're led to believe that the other side opposes this obviousness, and the people on the side of social justice are doing a terrible job of making it clear that they do not in fact favor censorship, because winning a short battle is much more satisfying and results-oriented than winning the larger war; and I also wanted to mention that it's sickening that the Internet is full of people who use "social justice warrior" as an epithet without realizing they're mocking the very idea of fighting for social justice, because they're too small-minded to have even the most basic understanding of what the fuck it is that they're saying... but then I realized I've written all that in here before and it didn't matter, so I'll write about something else.

I will write about the time I was on food assistance for a year.

It started in December of 2014 when I accidentally said I had AIDS. I'd been "donating" blood plasma for years in exchange for money. This has a reputation for being very shady but in fact it's extremely well lit and they have an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope clean blood plasma. Every time you go there you have to answer the same series of questions (no, I haven't had sex with anyone from central Africa recently; no, I haven't had sex with a man since 1977; no, I'm not pregnant) to be absolutely sure that they don't miss anything when they test your blood, or at least that if they do they're not liable. For a while it was done verbally, but then they installed kiosks with touch screen computers where you had to tap little radio buttons. One time I got through this process and then the guy who screened me informed me that I'd selected "yes" when it asked me if I had AIDS. "What?!" I exclaimed loudly. My stupidity is pretty shocking sometimes. He was supposed to check on that with me but he didn't see it in time and it went through with me saying I had AIDS. This meant that I couldn't donate until someone from the main office called me to discuss it, which would take... about a month. Bureaucracy!

I waited around for the call and then it was February and I hadn't heard anything. I knew I should have contacted them myself but I realized I just didn't want to deal with it anymore, to keep being awake at normal human being times and ride the crowded bus and be poked and prodded and pricked and fail at small talk. It was almost as unpleasant as having a job! Plus there were probably health effects they weren't telling me about. So long to doing this thing that wasn't as bad as everyone thought it was but still wasn't that good.

I discovered that it's actually pretty easy to keep yourself fed on $1.25 a day. It's boring, but you can do it... assuming you have access to a refrigerator and a stove and some sort of oven. Pancakes, potatoes, macaroni & cheese, ramen... these are very cheap in the city. $1.25 a day is apparently the international poverty line, although I'm also leeching off someone who's paying for the apartment and the electricity and stuff. (To be clear: when I say "leeching" I'm being self-deprecating, not pretending it's a good thing.)

I decided I should just apply for SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It's often referred to as food stamps, but I find it very strange to call it stamps since I didn't get actual stamps but rather a debit card. Most people do not worry about this sort of thing. Anyway, they gave me $192 a month, which was kind of amazing. I gather it's much lower in other states. I figured I would continue eating cheaply and then buy canned goods and donate them, but of course I didn't do that.

After a year of suckling the government teat, I received notice that their policies were changing. Apparently the federal government had lowered requirements for SNAP in certain states that were having economic trouble, but they were restoring things back to normal now that the economy is doing better. (At least, this is the claim. Supposedly Oregon's economy is doing better than it has since before I moved here, but these sorts of statistics are easily muddied about so I have no reason to trust them.) Now you have to work at least 20 hours a week in order to get this extra food money, unless you can prove you're not able to, and I have no idea how I'd prove that. I could probably do that much work online, but again, I don't know how I'd be able to prove it. I guess I should have just figured out if I could, but I'm tired of dealing with the government anyway. That's one good thing about never making enough money to pay taxes.

I think these requirements are pretty stupid. It means that more people are fighting for less jobs, and that they'll be spending less money. It seems to me that this would slow down economic recovery. However, it counts if you do volunteer work so at least jobs won't be quite as scarce. This all comes from the silly notion that people should only get help if they deserve it, which requires a very flawed understanding of capitalism. Your value under capitalism has little to do with what you deserve. Instead, it's based on how many people want you to do what you do divided by how many people can do it. If that matched up with what people deserve, it would be a hell of a coincidence. Do you think that someone who's on their feet for hours at a restaurant deserves to be paid less than someone who sits in a cubicle goofing around on the Internet instead of working? If so, please, stop thinking that.

It's a miracle of modern propaganda that most people in this country mistake capitalism for fairness. I don't think we should overhaul the whole system, but we shouldn't pretend a bad thing is a good thing, because that just makes it worse. (This is also my argument against having a positive outlook on life. Be realistic, damn you!) It's all rigged. The lower class fights for the chance to be a different kind of miserable, while the shrinking middle class mostly ignores it but occasionally remembers it's there and assumes that since life is fair anyone who's not making enough money must not deserve to. I find that idea infuriating after watching my mother work very hard for the reward of being in the upper regions of the lower class, at least until she was laid off.

Prominent economists insist that we should keep unemployment at 5%. If it goes lower, employers have to keep raising their wages, resulting in inflation, and that's, like, bad or something. I don't have a great understanding of economics but 5% sounds a whole lot worse than inflation, at least if you care about human misery. (Of course, I'm not made miserable by my unemployment, but that's because, as I mentioned, I'm a leech. This doesn't mean I'm happy about it though.) If unemployment is built into the system, or at least if some of the gods of finance want it to be, does that mean there will always be people who don't "deserve" to eat? If so, "deserve" must not mean what I think it does.

I think everyone should just automatically be given food benefits, but then most of us would pay it back in taxes. This is probably a crazy idea that would never work.

Now I'm doing work on Amazon Mechanical Turk. As reflected in the ratio above, I get paid hilariously little. Mostly I've been doing transcriptions, where I see about 20 seconds of a video (college lectures, state senate hearings, TV shows about golf, phone calls with people who would probably not be giving out their credit card numbers if they knew this was going to happen) and write down what's being said. If I'm completely focused on it I can earn $2.50 an hour. I've heard people claim they've made $12 an hour on this and I don't know how that's possible. Maybe they're lying but I don't see the motivation in that. I treat it as more evidence of my stupidity that I'm not able to make more money at this, and also that I keep doing this work for so little pay. I should look harder for something else, but it's so much easier to keep doing what I'm doing. If I were able to sleep and think adequately I'd probably be trapped for years in the same crappy job, in a cubicle, goofing around on the Internet instead of working, barely ahead of the new hires, until I got downsized.
Current Music: the theme from The Late Late Show is running through my head and that's weird

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April 28th, 2016

11:54 am - why "don't feed the trolls" is stupid
It's sadly, strangely common for people who socialize on the Internet to think that their particular region of the online world has the same rules as everywhere else... but something I see just about everywhere, going back to the days of newsgroups, is don't feed the trolls. It seems to be regarded as an impermeable rule of the Internet, and yet I think it's massively, harmfully stupid.

To boil it down, it goes like this: Some mentally damaged person wants to provoke an argument, because making people angry gives them pleasure, because they are mentally damaged. Of course, in modern quasijournalism, clickbait writers know that if their headline contains "troll" in it people will be drawn to it, so its meaning has expanded to mean someone who pulls a prank or someone who says impolite things or someone who disagrees with me. For some people, don't feed the trolls means don't interact with anyone who doesn't treat me like a god, and that's its own illness.

I'm not boiling this down very well.

Anyway, on the subject of sadistic provocateurs, they're just playing a stupid game. The DFTT wisdom says, YOU MUST DO EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER TO PREVENT THIS POINTLESS PERSON FROM WINNING A POINTLESS GAME. If we don't want to lose, we have to change the way we think and the way we talk to people so that it fits around the design trolls have laid out for us. That doesn't sound like winning to me.

Plus this encourages us to say any interaction we don't like is trolling. I see accusations of trolling leveled at people all the time and they're almost always without merit. The general consensus seems to be that anyone who is different from us is obviously a troll, ugh, so obvious. It never occurs to us that this person might be confused, or drunk, or new, or bad at English, or suffering from a different mental illness than our own. If you've ever observed someone and thought, "No one could really be that stupid," your understanding of humanity is severely lacking.

I wish I could come up with a better word than "stupid", because it doesn't really mean anything, because everyone is gloriously stupid in their own dumb way, especially the people who've convinced themselves they aren't. I just wish I were less stupid so I could think of a better word. Maybe "foolish" but that doesn't seem to mean to most people what it does to me.

I think we should treat people as they present themselves. Obviously don't go overboard with anger, but if someone says something ridiculous and we respond to them in earnest, we haven't really lost anything if they're just messing with us. If they're being genuine, both of you might even gain something.

I keep thinking of things I want to write in here but I never get around to it. I'm glad I finally got something out, even though I'm sure I've said stuff like this here before.

I just went through and replaced most of the quotation marks with italic tags. How interesting.
Current Music: John Vanderslice - The Parade

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March 22nd, 2016

05:30 pm - Videos I have made
I've been making album-long bass videos lately and thinking I should write about them here, then I don't get around to it, but now I'm getting around to it.

This one took for gosh darn ever. I had all the songs learned before I left for my trip in September, then I came back in October and wasn't good enough at it until December. This is mostly because I was playing it wrong. It's supposed to be played with a pick but I don't like picks. I like pickles though. Anyway, when I play with a pick for a little while my hand hurts a lot. I think I'm holding it wrong, but I don't think it's worth it to learn a new way of holding it. Unfortunately that means I have to get really good at playing with my fingers because it's about twice as slow as playing with a pick. I found that when I didn't play for a few days, my finger strength went away, and sometimes I went for a week without playing because I was awake at night and my playing somehow bothers my roommate even though he sleeps in the opposite end of the apartment and I use headphones. The thing that really got me happens near the end of the first song when it's a bunch of fast notes in an odd pattern. I thought I had it down but of course when I made the video I couldn't get it right after several tries so I just gave up and kept going.

I also did this thing where I played that first song slowed down because I thought it sounded cool. I may be the only one who thinks so. I often enjoy listening to music at the wrong speed.

This one will probably have the least views of all my full-album covers, because it's German and for some reason most copyrighted music is blocked in Germany. It's unusual in that it's a recent album; usually when I do full albums they're from previous decades. This one was just released last year and I was listening to it and there was something about the bass that made me want to figure it out. What I figured out was: holy crap, it's low. My 5-string bass normally goes down to B, and I'd hardly ever encountered a song where I played that low. For this album I had to tune that string down to A. I didn't expect playing that low would even sound good, but I think it's actually the lowest note on a standard piano. (It's kind of a shame that the most expensive piano wire is hardly ever used, but that's also true of the least expensive.) I generally don't like retuning but it felt pretty cool to play so low.

I'd wanted to do this one for a long time. I imagined lighting incense that would gradually fill the room with smoke, but we don't use incense anymore, and it probably wouldn't have worked anyway. I ended up showing the passage of time in a different way. This album flows together very well, particularly since the last song is a much hazier version of the first song. It's almost a concept album on the subject of how painful love can be. Plus it has some good bass parts (though they're a bit repetitive and overlong; most of these songs would be fine with one less verse) and also it's some great music, so it's perfect for this kind of thing.

For these videos I used a new camera. It's both better and worse than the old one. The old one was good but it had two big flaws: it stopped recording after half an hour and the view screen thing, whatever it's called, is tiny. The new one is a cheap piece of crap but at least I can see myself and I don't have to restart the recording. Actually, it stops recording after about 27 minutes but then it starts up again almost immediately, so I just have to put the files together and figure out how many frames were missed, which isn't too hard. One major annoyance about this new camera is that it lies about its resolution. It claims to be 1080p but it's actually 360p, but stretched out to 3 times its size, so there's a whole bunch of reused pixels, so I have to deal with huge files without the benefits of huge files. I even have to use the highest resolution because for some reason the other options don't sync with my audio recording. My old camera was 720p so this is a downgrade in terms of resolution, but I guess that's not hugely important for videos like this.
Current Mood: tired, very tired, so very tired
Current Music: My Brightest Diamond - I Am Not The Bad Guy

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January 26th, 2016

07:15 am - mix and webpage of said mix
I made another mix. As part of my usually unsuccessful quest to get other people to listen to these, I learned how HTML5 handles audio and I made a webpage that plays the mix and it almost completely works right! You can go give a click here and listen to this thing I put together. Doesn't that sound great? Yeah, it really does!

Here is the track list:
1 Definition Of Good by They Might Be Giants
2 Apes-Ma by Captain Beefheart
3 The Whistleblowers by Laibach
4 No Cars Go by Arcade Fire
5 Lover Killer by My Brightest Diamond
6 Diskomo 2000 by The Residents
7 Shout by Tears For Fears
8 Fourth Of July by Sufjan Stevens
9 Unter diesem Mond by Oomph
10 Trampled Rose by Tom Waits
11 Eloise by The Residents
12 The Malkin Jewel by The Mars Volta
13 Bat Chain Puller by Captain Beefheart
14 Future People by Alabama Shakes
15 Aero Zeppelin by Nirvana
16 Black Betty by Ram Jam
17 Dead Fox by Courtney Barnett
18 That Black Bat Licorice by Jack White
19 Ashes by Deantoni Parks
20 See That My Grave Is Kept Clean by Laibach

Current Mood: pretty damn tired, I must say
Current Music: My Brightest Diamond - Lover Killer

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January 5th, 2016

12:23 pm - goose egg dream
Dreams often want to be written about, but they are usually boring to people who didn't have them, but I'm going to write this one up anyway.

In my dream, TV shows were acquired illegitimately through goose eggs. They were like nature's torrents.

I wanted to see the new episode of The Knick so I went downtown to find a goose. Luckily, when I sat down at a table outside of a restaurant, a goose landed right in front of me. I scratched its neck and it seemed to really enjoy this. (It looked more like a turkey or a vulture than a goose.) It laid two eggs for me and flew away. I opened the eggs but there wasn't any TV inside; instead, it was food. One of them contained a scrambled egg Hot Pocket, including the plastic packaging and the little cardboard thing you put it in to heat it. It was already heated, though. I marveled at the generations of breeding that were required to make a goose that would lay an egg like this.

Later I went down to the pond to find more geese. I thought I found an egg that contained the latest episode of The Knick but it turned out to be a Donald Trump speech. Damn geese, mislabeling their eggs.

I guess this is what happens when you combine whiskey, melatonin, and exhaustion.

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December 9th, 2015

04:14 pm - scattered thoughts
I'm constantly stressed out and I don't even do anything. Maybe if I did things then I would be less stressed. This seems like nonsense and perfect sense at the same time.

Something I think about constantly: I want to write a memoir. Often I think about events in my life in terms of how I would write about it and how it would fit with whatever themes I could stitch together. Obviously, this isn't going to happen. First of all, who would read it? Maybe if I were very lucky, 5 people who know me would get through the whole thing. Why would anyone who didn't know me be interested? It's no longer feasible to be an introverted writer, and, as I understand it, it's almost impossible to get a publishing company interested in your book if you're not already known for something else.

Most importantly, writing is REALLY HARD. I'm always thinking of things I want to write but when I actually try to write stuff it's painfully difficult. Sometimes I spend half an hour composing a medium-length comment on The AV Club. Sometimes I spend 10 minutes searching for the right words for a tweet, and at that point my brain is so fatigued I don't remember what words mean anymore. I've been working on this entry for about an hour so far. I certainly don't think I'm able to write a whole book. (I did manage to write the beginning of the first chapter of my novel about a teenage anthropomorphic cat spy and his magician fox slave. It's not as dumb as it sounds, I swear. Anyway, that was a long time ago.)

Everyone and their talking cat says I shouldn't self-diagnose on the Internet, but lately I've been looking at aphasia. A lot of it sounds familiar, and lately I'm finding it unlikely that the only result of the head injury I had when I was a baby was hearing loss. Then again, it is easy to be convinced that you have symptoms when you read about them. That thing where you're unable to remember what a thing is called so you just call it a thing... don't most people do that? I guess I'm not an expert on what most people are like since I have such a hard time talking to them. It's especially difficult since the person I live with, who is my best friend by default, keeps putting restrictions on what I can say and is easily offended and misconstrues what I say in ways I can't predict.

(I was going to start that paragraph with "Everyone and their cat" but then I remembered I'd just mentioned cats before so it might be unwise not to link them together. Was that the right choice? Did I make the opening sentence too confusing? I have no idea.)

(Oh, I should say something about how I know I should see a doctor, yes, I should totally do that, okay, I'll get around to that some day.)

It's very frustrating to be prevented from expressing yourself, particularly for reasons you don't agree with. That's why white men and Ben Carson keep complaining about how political correctness is destroying the world. It's why people support Donald Trump, and also Ben Carson. Being pent up like that makes you appreciate someone who doesn't appear to play by the dumb rules, and it also messes with your mind so that you think completely fucking moronic things like "political correctness is destroying the world." It's not doing that, it's just making you feel uncomfortable.

To be clear, my thoughts on this issue: First, political correctness is a bad thing. Second, it's not really hurting us much. One thing I like about being a modern American is that it's becoming easier to not be part of the existing power structure. For example, if you're transgender, maybe you no longer constantly want to die. Maybe now you only want to die half the time. That's still horrible, but it's an improvement. Unfortunately, the people who were well served by the system as it was lose their minds if they see even a slight change. Since it's not possible for the movement towards non-shittiness to be 100% perfect and mistake-free, every mistake is seen as proof that the entire thing needs to be shut down.

Sadly, the efforts to convince people to not be horrible are often labeled "political correctness". I'm pretty sure PC mostly died off in the 90s when everyone realized how stifling it was. Some people still cling to it but they're not relevant. Lately it's been brought back to be used solely as an insult. This was somehow so successful that people on the side of not being shitty were now mistakenly defending PC. Even ... is it common to completely lose what you were about to say, or is that aphasia? Anyway, uh... something about shit. Skipping ahead: Whenever PC is treated as a serious issue I see that as a victory for the people who want the world to remain shitty.

Well, that entry only took about 2 hours to write. I use my time so well!
Current Mood: frustrated
Current Music: Mike Doughty - St. Louise Is Listening

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November 19th, 2015

07:38 pm - motel adventures
Hi, I'm grumpy because my home is being torn apart and the smoke detector won't stop chirping and Donald Trump is saying horrible things. His latest thing: He thinks maybe Muslims should have to be registered and given special identification. You know, Republican protestors (at least of the Tea Party variety) jump at any chance to compare Obama to Hitler, no matter how spurious and random, and now the guy who might be their presidential nominee is blatantly advocating one of the racist policies of Nazi Germany. My dislike of the US has lessened as I've gotten older, but I kind of don't want to live in a country where there's even a slight chance someone like that could be its leader.

Anyway, back to what I was trying to write about. Two months ago I was about to leave for two weeks and the apartment maintenance people told us they'd have to do work on our bathroom. I thought: That's good, I'll be away while they deal with that. Well, they didn't start it until a few days ago. The managers told us they'd reimburse us for up to $100 a day if we went to a hotel. That didn't give us a lot of options, especially since we needed to find a place that allows cats. We decided on Motel 6. Before we came here I was looking at information on the motel and came across some reviews, and I was unhappy to discover that they were all extremely negative. They mostly complained about how dirty everything was. One person said they had to borrow blankets from someone else and they couldn't walk on the floor without shoes. Well, it's downright clichéd to say that people who post reviews online are too full of themselves to give an accurate depiction, but I don't like clichés so I preferred to believe the reviews were accurate. (Also, generally the joke is on Yelp users and this was part of Google, but people who joke about Yelp might not be giving accurate depictions either.)

The reviews made me dread coming here but it's not that bad. It's a little dirty but nothing I can't live with. The wifi sucks but of course it does. The TV includes HBO but it's surprisingly low-quality. It's like the picture has maybe half the definition it's supposed to and then it's stretched into an imitation of full definition. I don't even know how that saves them money but I guess it must. These aren't big deals though, since this is a cheap place. You expect that kind of thing from a cheap place. However, what I don't think is up to snuff is that the toilet and the smoke detector are being weird. The toilet kept refilling every 5 minutes because apparently it was losing water. I looked inside and poked around and that seemed to fix it, but now it's doing it again. The smoke detector chirps once a minute, which seems to indicate that it needs a new battery. This is really annoying and I think it's frightening the cat, which is why she's hiding under the bed. It occurs to me that the toilet tank cover is sort of heavy, so I could use it to smash the smoke detector into tiny bits. I almost wish I were the kind of person who would do that sort of thing.

Yesterday the cleaning lady came and I was surprised at how little I could understand her. She apologized for her English. It's really weird to me that someone should apologize for not being bilingual. She was extremely polite, to the point where it made me uncomfortable. I mean, everyone makes me uncomfortable, but this pushed it beyond that. It was like she thought there was a chance I could be a supreme asshole who would try to get her fired just for the fun of it, and because of her difficulty with English, I bet someone could do that if they wanted to. Maybe that sort of person would stay here. Maybe that's the sort of person who would destroy a motel's smoke detector with a toilet tank cover.

I told her about the smoke detector and she said someone from the front desk would have to deal with that. Then when she left I couldn't find the cat. I looked everywhere in the room and she wasn't anywhere. I thought it was very unlikely that she would have run outside while the cleaning lady had the door open, because that's not the kind of thing she'd do, and we probably would have seen her if she had. Still, I went outside and looked around for a bit but there were no cats. Then when I tried to get back into the room, my key card didn't work. I went down to the office and since the room was in kotra's name they had to call him up and verify that I was supposed to be there. (He's on his own adventure in a casino in California.) They reset the keys and I came back into the room and the cat was under the bed. I don't know where she was hiding. Maybe she was up inside the bed or something.

Also, the smoke detector had stopped chirping, so I assumed that someone had come and dealt with it while I was gone... but then today it started chirping again! It's very annoying. I should call the front desk about it but I already tried telling people about it and that didn't quite work, so obviously telling people is not the solution. This is bad logic but it's the only logic I've got.

Last night I went to the apartment to do some laundry and play some bass. My key didn't work in my apartment either! There are two locks, one on the knob and one above it; I never use the one above. The people who were tearing things apart locked both locks when they left. When I tried to unlock the second lock, it didn't work. There must be something wrong with my key. Fortunately the apartment manager was nearby so she went and got her master key and it worked. Inside, the only difference was that the walls by the bathtub had been removed. Today I went back again and they were still working on it; this time they had the wall in all torn up on the side of the living room, so they had to move everything away from that and everything was all everywhere. Apparently they had to wait to do the major stuff until today because they had to turn off the water in the whole building.

Tomorrow we're going back, but things aren't going to be done yet so it's going to be awkward. I wish the motel would let us check out later than 11.
Current Music: Midnight Oil - Arctic World

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September 26th, 2015

09:48 pm - My trip
I'm staying in Nowhere, Pennsylvania, also known as Kellettville. It used to be a somewhat lively village but then everyone moved away so now it's mostly just my relatives and moderately wealthy people's second homes. My great-grandfather apparently used to own this whole area; I don't think he was rich or anything, but the government of Pennsylvania said "Hey, who wants this land out in the middle of nowhere?" and he said, "I'll take it!"... or something like that. Later he sold it to various people, presumably due to the Great Depression. He had 9 kids and now there's one left, my 90-year-old great-aunt. My full mom and my half sister and my quarter nephew (wait, what?) are living here too now so this is where I go when I go "home".

The plane ride here from Oregon was unpleasant. First of all I'm huge so I don't fit into coach seats very well so it was uncomfortable. Then one of my planes was late. I thought it was good that my layover in Detroit was only an hour, but that means that if your plane is late you don't get on the next one. There was another one in 5 hours but that was full, so I had to wait for the one after that, so I was hanging out in the Detroit airport, half awake, for 10 hours, which was longer than the entire trip was supposed to be. Also, my mom forgot to turn her cell phone on so she got to the airport and I wasn't there and it was a huge disappointment.

I'm staying here for two weeks to help my mom with stuff, but also for a memorial for my grandmother on my dad's side. That was today. I got to see a whole lot of relatives I hadn't seen in years. My grandmother died a few months ago at age 98, which is a long time to live, but I wish she were still around because she was a great person. Everyone talking about how great she was (which of course is standard for this kind of thing, but she was still exceptional) made me regret that I didn't have a chance see her much when I was an adult.

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September 12th, 2015

07:21 am - Europeans
I used to think Europeans were pretty cool. I'd encounter them online and they were much smarter than the Americans I knew, mostly because they had access to better education. They even spoke English better than me (except, of course, for people from the UK and Ireland). It was like they embraced education as a part of who they were, instead of begrudgingly accepting it as a distraction from who they were. Europe: the nerd continent.

Then I got to know them better and I was horrified to discover the attitudes on race some of them had. It seems like half of white Europeans (hopefully it's a lot less) believe things about dark-skinned people that only the most ignorant Americans believe. This is especially noticeable with the recent wave of migrants from Syria. Naturally this migration causes a lot of problems but plenty of white Europeans see this as an inherent problem with, like, the people of Syria or something. I suppose they think that if a horde of white people were coming to a new land, everything would be fine. Such stupidity.

(To be more accurate: "They come from areas such as the Middle East (Syria, Iraq), Africa (Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Gambia), the Western Balkans (Kosovo, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia) and South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh)." - Wikipedia)

I worry something like the Holocaust is going to happen again in Europe. It's not going to be in Germany, because they're so strictly anti-Nazi now, which I think has a bit to do with how Nazis are now the favorite villains in culture so when the average moron hears a German accent they think, "Oh, a Nazi!" It'll probably happen somewhere like Hungary. The way Hungarians react to the migrants proves that every Hungarian is a horrible bigot. (Not really! I was making a joke!) There were more than just Jews killed in the Holocaust, but if you say that too publicly someone will call you an antisemite. One of the other groups the Nazis tried to destroy were the Roma, AKA Gypsies. Unfortunately, the plight of Roma in Europe hasn't gotten a lot better since then. They're still considered a nuisance for not assimilating (the same reason a lot of Europeans didn't like Jews a hundred years ago). A few years ago I was talking to my friend from Hungary about the Roma. I was shocked to hear him express the opinion that they were inferior people. He insisted that it wasn't racism, it was truth, because that's what he was taught in school. So much for European education!

White people (at least, the white people who don't experience much oppression) often think they understand oppression very well, but most of the white people I see or hear talking about it have no idea what they're talking about. It's the people who bear the brunt of oppression who really understand what's going on, even if they have less access to education. Since I'm a white person, does that mean everything I'm writing here is ignorant crap? Well, I hope not.

One major difference between here and Europe is that most white Europeans' ancestors were in the same place for thousands of years. Here, complaining that the descendants of indigenous people (which most Hispanic people are to some degree, but I think it's weird that you can have 100% European ancestry and not be considered white) are coming to take your stuff is completely ridiculous. In Europe, it's a tad less ridiculous.

My theory: People with light skin are naturally afraid of people with dark skin. To a white colonist who just got off the boat yesterday, you look more mysterious. You're harder to see at night. Therefore, the light-skinned people have a subconscious need to convince themselves that the dark-skinned people have to be kept down. They tell themselves it's a moral issue, because they can't admit they're behaving like animals. (Awful white people sometimes say black people behave like animals, so I'm throwing it back in their face. Take that, them.)

Maybe I'm lucky I grew up in New York State. It was about as far away from New York City as you could get while still being in the state, but the enlightenment from that huge city influenced the whole state's educational system. They went to a great deal of trouble to impress upon us the notion that hating someone for their race was very bad. (Some people call that brainwashing, but those people suck.) Since I left school I've learned that a lot of what I learned in school was untrue or incomplete; even some of the race stuff was oversimplified to the point of being useless, because they apparently thought they needed to make it like that in order for children to get the message. Still, the overall message of "people are people no matter their background" stuck with me. It's just logic, isn't it? When I hear arguments to the contrary I can barely understand how someone with an education would believe them.

However, these educated Europeans I'm talking about believe plenty of stuff like that. For example, one of my friends insists that he has the true side of things because his sources aren't part of the mainstream media. I've encountered this attitude from many people, and I have to say: What? Huh? I don't understand. I mean, I understand the argument, but people actually take it seriously? What? Huh? Pretty much everyone is aware that the mainstream media has some serious problems (not counting the millions and millions of people who watch Fox News and buy their absurd assertion that they're not part of the MSM) but that somehow proves that everything else is true? I can't wrap my head around how anyone can wrap their head around that.

I no longer hold education in such high regard. When I tried to get a job, the saying "it's not what you know, it's who you know" was the purest truth. I had, just barely, gotten a bachelor's degree, but whom did I know? It became clear how much I'd screwed myself by avoiding socialization in college... but if you understood my level of social anxiety, I don't think you'd blame me. (They put me on some drugs that helped a lot but I think it was too late by then.) If I had hung out with all the other partiers and repeatedly gotten so drunk I vomited (I felt so sorry for the janitors) I'd probably be a lot better off now. Maybe I'd have more in-person friends and a job and a girlfriend/wife and a drinking problem. Actually, that's probably not true since my brain doesn't seem to work right. Anyway, I found all that partying to be very stupid, but I didn't realize that being smart wasn't always good for me, especially since I was nowhere near as smart as I thought. If you're really smart you know when to break the rules, but I can't deal with that much uncertainty, which is why I'm always standing still at crosswalks when the sign is showing the red hand even though there are no cars coming.
Current Mood: hungry

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September 5th, 2015

04:26 pm - Things that remind me of other things
Situations often remind me of other situations, but these ones are consistent. They all seem to involve entertainment.

When I'm on an escalator I think of this Nirvana interview where Krist Novoselic complains about people standing still on escalators. I make sure I'm always walking on them, unless there's someone ahead of me standing still.

When I make French toast, I'm reminded of this scene from Kramer Vs. Kramer where Dustin Hoffman's character Kramer wakes up to discover that Meryl Streep's character Kramer has left him and their son. He pretends he's not freaking out and tries to make a breakfast of French toast and fails miserably.

When I take out the trash I think of a scene from The Shield where the cops are interrogating a suspect who lives in an apartment building and they find it very suspicious that he took out the trash after it had just been collected. He explained that he preferred to do it that way because there was more room. The Shield was a pretty good show but that was awfully dumb. Why would someone time their trash disposal based on when it's going to be collected? Do they just keep bags of trash lying around for days until the appropriate time? I doubt anyone involved with the creation of that scene ever lived in an apartment.

When I wash a cucumber I think of the tonally inappropriate intro to Masters Of Sex. The intro is goofy but the show is usually very serious, although it does have occasional goofy moments. The music is nice though.

Also, about 10% of things people say remind me of song lyrics, but that's a different story.
Current Music: Adriano Celentano - Storia D'Amore

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July 8th, 2015

07:48 am - Putting food in my hair instead of poo
For the past few months, starting shortly after I removed all of the hair on my head, I've been washing my hair with baking soda and vinegar. This is, unfortunately, called the "no poo method". That website claims that shampoo is unnatural and that the greasiness of hair that hasn't been washed in a while is actually the result of shampoo messing up your glands.

I don't know. What I do know is that it's working fine for me.

Hair care has been a problem for me because I have really bad dandruff. This includes lots of flaking and general gunkiness but the worst part is the itching. For some reason I'm very itchy in general but on my head it's the worst. It would get so bad it hurt and I'd scratch myself bloody (though of course sometimes it's the other way around). If I were smart I'd shave every day and keep with the baldness, but I hate shaving.

A few years ago, I spent a while trying various dandruff shampoos. The only one that fixed the problem was the strongest version of Head & Shoulders. That wasn't a great solution though, because it's kind of pricey and full of strong chemicals and scents that messed up my sense of smell. Also, it required being left in my hair for a few minutes so if I wasn't careful (and I'm often not careful) it would end up in my eyes or nose or mouth and that would be painful. Additionally, my roommate's boyfriend is very sensitive to chemical smells and one time I was in his car after I'd washed my hair and it made him sick, so that's no good. I'd prefer to be sensitive to people with sensitivities even though I'm hardly ever around him.

He's the one who told me about this method. I was surprised to discover that it actually defeats my dandruff problems, although I have to do it at least every other day or the itching comes back. I should do it every day but I don't feel like it. Baking soda has so many uses it's almost bizarre. I got a big box of it at the store; Arm & Hammer must be taking this renaissance of baking soda's popularity seriously, because the box lists a whole lot of things you can do with it (for example, itch relief), when they used to just sell it for, you know, baking.

Here's what I do: I put two spoonfuls of baking soda in a small cup, then add a little water and stir it until it's a paste. The website recommends a cup of water per tablespoon of baking soda, but I don't like how that works and I think I need it to be more concentrated than the average person does. I rub that into my hair and beard and moustache and then rinse it out. I also rinse out my cup to stave off volcanoes, then I pour a little apple cider vinegar in and dilute it with some of the water that is coming out of the wall and apply that as well. They insist on apple cider vinegar; I don't know what happens if you use regular vinegar. Maybe your face melts off.
Current Music: Rammstein - Mann gegen Mann

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June 29th, 2015

09:56 pm - Troll thoughts
To clumsily repeat things I've said before and change no one's mind, here are some thoughts on trolling. To summarize: Trolls are horrible people and to pretend otherwise is harmful to humanity.

Maybe that sounds too harsh but I don't think it is. By saying they're horrible I don't mean they should be arrested and sent to gas chambers or something, just that they should stop being horrible (and maybe we should keep them away from computers). Anyway, I'm taking that language from this article which is a summary of a study that links trolling to sadism and generally being pathologically awful.

As I see it, it starts in school when one or two or ten kids don't fit in and are bullied and made to feel powerless. Then when adolescence hits they're allowed to spend lots of time on their computers, where they meet thousands of other one to two to ten kids. Maybe they learn some coding, and now they finally feel powerful. One option they have is to use that power to enrich themselves and others, and move beyond their miserable powerlessness. Unfortunately, a lot of them instead decide that those other kids who bullied them were absolutely correct, because the weak deserve to be tormented. Now that they're no longer weak, they use their power to become bullies themselves.

I don't know where sadism comes from, whether it's a learned behavior or something you're born with. If it's the former then spending lots of time among other sadists at a young age probably influences it. Another influence is how everyone acts like it's okay, like it's just a bit of fun. In Internet culture it's often given an allure and a mystique: even when people complain about how trolls are ruining their day, they're promoting the action. Some sneaky ninja-type person is getting the better of you, what a cool person that must be. There are also those who are quick to denounce anything they disagree with as obvious trolling, the implication being "that person is cool, but my ability to see through them makes me as cool as them and even a little cooler!"

Thanks to the allure we've given it, it's no wonder young people with something to prove gravitate toward this awfulness.

The word has become so alluring that people just stop concerning themselves with what it means and use it for any situation. Pop culture sites put in headlines all the time because it'll get people to click on them. It can mean to pull a prank, or to joke around, or to put out an inferior product, or to just be unpleasant in general. Often people use "troll" to mean anyone who says something they don't like. One of the most high-profile examples is when Chris Hardwick, who apparently somehow became the emissary of Internet culture to the rest of the world, used his appearance on the Emmy Awards to joke about trolls. In his view, trolls are people who say mean things to famous people on Twitter and aren't good at spelling. Now that he's brought that notion to a wide audience, surely lots of people think trolling is no big deal.

That really bothers me, because I feel like it encourages the sadists, or at least prevents them from being discouraged. Someone might say they're trolling and you might think they're just pulling a harmless little prank, when in fact they're trying to ruin someone's life by sending them death threats, because they think that's fun. You feign disapproval but it's obvious you're encouraging this behavior even though you've misunderstood what it is you're encouraging. That's a very specific example that probably doesn't happen much, but my point is that devaluing the term makes the awfulness invisible, which allows it to spread.

However, the thing that most allows it to spread is that most people are afraid of criticizing other people's bad behavior. If you're not actively and/or passively making the world worse your friends might not think you're cool, and that would be the worst thing ever! (I'm not sure why you'd want to be friends with someone who likes trolling though. How could you trust them?) Then again, some people take it too far and criticize everything even when it's not warranted, but I feel like most of the time that's not as terrible as some people complain it is.

I admit that most of the sadistic trolling isn't pure evil, like prank calling the parents of a boy who shot himself (but seriously, if you think that's not horribly wrong, fuck you so much). Most of it is in discussions, where people post things they don't believe in an attempt to get people to overreact, because controlling people makes them feel better about their own horrible lives for a short while. The oft-repeated advice is "don't feed the trolls". Well, I don't agree with that. Why does it matter if some emotionally stunted person gets pleasure for a stupid reason? If they're doing a decent job of it they should be expressing a point that someone could genuinely bring up. I think we should just behave normally even if we think the person we're talking to is being dishonest. If they trick us into looking silly, they've won a stupid game that doesn't matter. However, if they get us to mistrust each other and shape our discussions around the possibility of their existence, we've lost something real.
Current Music: Alabama Shakes - Don't Wanna Fight

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June 27th, 2015

02:56 pm - my latest mix
I did that thing that I do. You know the thing. I even went through the trouble of making a video out of all the songs so I could share this with the world, but YouTube's copyright whatsits have gotten to be unpredictable. A few of the songs were blocked in almost every country. I considered replacing them with other songs but it's not worth it. Those songs might get blocked, or currently available songs might be blocked in the future, and hardly anyone would listen anyway.

Well, here's the track list along with some links to the songs by themselves on YouTube, in case anyone is interested enough in this to keep clicking on links.

  1. Cliff Martinez - Son Of Placenta Previa
  2. Oomph - Kontrollverlust
  3. Sufjan Stevens - Drawn To The Blood
  4. Flock Of Dimes feat. Sylvan Esso - Don't Dream It's Over
  5. Sophie Hunger - Supermoon
  6. Phil Ochs - Rehearsals For Retirement
  7. In Extremo - Alles schon gesehen
  8. Jack White - Would You Fight For My Love?
  9. Tom Waits - Dirt In The Ground
  10. They Might Be Giants - Didn't Kill Me
  11. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The Mercy Seat
  12. Wye Oak - Logic Of Color
  13. Alabama Shakes - Don't Wanna Fight
  14. Major Lazer feat. Mr. Lexx & Santigold - Hold The Line
  15. Einstürzende Neubauten - On Patrol In No Man's Land
  16. Laibach - Get Back
  17. Antemasque - Providence
  18. Emigrate feat. Lemmy Kilmister - Rock City
  19. Eluveitie - Helvetios
  20. Alexandre Desplat - Check Point 19 Criminal Internment Camp Overture
  21. My Brightest Diamond - Pressure
  22. They Might Be Giants - Music Jail, Pt. 1 & 2

While I'm at it, here's a video I made that didn't get blocked. It's me playing bass to songs by The Residents! Wow.


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June 25th, 2015

10:24 am - Frequently used song titles
I've been looking through Wikipedia's disambiguation pages trying to find the most used song titles, because that's the sort of person I am. Behold, my findings!

It started when I heard that song Shooting Star by Bad Company in the store. I looked it up and there were 26 of them.

I'd noticed Crazy and One had shown up a lot. Crazy has 36. One has 33.

I looked up other people's lists and checked the titles on Wikipedia. I thought Angel was the clear winner with 75, but I didn't notice they included 17 songs titled Angels. It was still in the lead until I got to Hold On. 71 songs are called Hold On!

Love, 33. Fire, 33. Beautiful, 37. Home, 51. Heaven, 45. Rain, 48. Believe, 38. I Believe, 45. Someday, 52. Satellite, 30. Tonight, 59. Breathe, 41. I Want You, 42. Stay, 60. Gone, 38. Goodbye, 54.

This Time has 43 but Time only has 20!

Why is organized by decade, which would probably be a good idea for all these huge lists, but it makes it harder to count. Let's see... 52. Most are from the last decade.

Of course, this isn't every song since they only include songs by artists notable enough for their own articles, and presumably there are plenty of songs that no one bothered to add to the list, and also they don't seem to include covers.

What conclusions can we draw from this? I dunno. I would say that it means songwriters should be a little more original, but it probably doesn't matter. I guess this was just a big waste of time. Oh well.
Current Music: Cliff Martinez - Son of Placenta Previa

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June 18th, 2015

04:20 am - On the death of a friend
I found out about this almost two months ago. I've been meaning to write about it since then, but... I just don't want to. Then after I wrote it I didn't want to post it, so this is all from several days ago.

Well, my old friend Alex Simko was hit by a car. Considering how badly his life was going, and how he was probably suicidal the entire time I knew him, it probably wasn't an accident.

I'd known him for a pretty long time, actually. Back in the previous millenium when I was in high school and newsgroups were the way to talk about stuff online, we both posted to the They Might Be Giants newsgroup. He mostly was in the habit of annoying people. He liked me, though. At least, he liked my name. He even wrote a song about it.

He wrote songs about other friends, but I think mine was the only one that was complimentary. I was very impressed by his musical ability, but I might be easily impressed. He wrote lots of songs. Most of their lyrics were lazily offensive, the kind of stuff a 13-year-old boy would say just to be naughty, but he was much too old to have that excuse. An example: "Go fuck yourself at the baseball game. At the baseball game there will be lots of pedophiles willing to suck you off." There were lots of references to pedophilia in his songs. I've always found it disturbing that many people think the sexual abuse of children is hilarious.

We met in person a few times. When I was in college he lived sort of nearby so we hung out a little. Then when I lived here in Portland he was wandering around the US and ended up here for a bit. We made this video. He's the one in front.

After that he moved to Austin, Texas, which is the capital of people who loudly proclaim they hate hipsters because they're terrified someone will call them a hipster. I think Portland is #2 in that regard, or maybe Williamsburg is if that qualifies as a city. Anyway, he was certainly that sort of person so he should have fit right in, but I don't think he did. There his loathing of humanity just kept getting stronger. Maybe it wasn't the city, maybe it was all the drugs and alcohol, or the fact that singing and playing the guitar didn't get him anywhere, or just life in general got to him. Fun fact: Life is pretty sucky sometimes!

Here is a video from 2 years ago of him and a random homeless guy being as unpleasant as they can manage. The day after they made this video, Alex woke up to discover that the guy was gone and so was his laptop.

That was pretty awful. You're lucky you didn't watch it. He sure loved the word "retard", almost as much as "pedophile". I tried to explain to him why using "retarded" as an insult was harmful to people with disabilities but I think he was too high to understand. Also he thought it was because I was offended. Some people seem to lack the necessary capacity for logic to understand that explaining to someone that the things they say are hurtful is not the same as censoring them and violating their first amendment rights. Perhaps they're all high.

Hearing of his death hit me in the way it usually does when someone I care about dies. It's a roller coaster. Sometimes I feel okay and wish I didn't feel okay, because I shouldn't feel okay. Other times I feel awful and wish I didn't feel awful. I would lie down but down wasn't as low as I needed it to be. This went on for maybe a week. Since then it's been more subtle. I've been feeling generally crappy, but more than I usually do. When something makes me more depressed and/or angry than it normally would, I realize it's because of this.

Sometimes when people want to kill themselves they do a messed up kind of math in their heads: "You'll only feel bad about it for a few days and then you'll go back to your life. In the grand scheme of things I wouldn't be hurting you at all." Well, he did hurt me.

I've known a lot of suicidal people. This is because I'm a social outcast who mostly talks to other social outcasts on the Internet. Being an outcast makes you really question your worth so it makes sense that the Internet is full of suicidal people. It's always been hard for me to deal with. I think most people see suicide as an abstract concept and don't really know what it's really like. I know because my aunt shot herself when I was a kid, and then I got the awesome opportunity of living through my mother's grief for the next year or so. (Now that I think on it, it would have been nice if my father or some other nearby adult had looked after me during those first few weeks. Were they only concerned about my mother or did they give any thought to how this would affect 10-year-old me? Maybe they did and I just don't remember.) Until now I had often remarked on how I was lucky that out of all the suicidal people I'd known, none of them had died... at least as far as I knew. Many of them I'd just stop seeing online, but that happens with most people.

Something you hear a lot is that these people aren't really suicidal, that someone only would say that to get attention. That's a truly horrible thing to think. Sure, some people just make it up; one person I knew told everyone she knew that she was going to kill herself, but she just wanted to see how everyone would react. She had some pretty severe mental issues though. Most of the time, on the Internet, where the suicidal people go, people are not lying when they say they want to die. Most of them don't do anything about it, but I've heard about plenty of failed attempts, and also there have been plenty friends of friends who have gone this way. If you think the best response to people putting their own lives in danger is to mock them and determine that you in your infinite wisdom know what's best for them, which is to live their lives based on what benefits you personally, then perhaps you should try not being an empathy-void pile of waste. Just a suggestion. Of course, I realize that people who treat others in this shit-tacular manner are probably suffering from trauma themselves, so I understand, but I would still like them to stop behaving terribly.

For some people, the way they react to an unpleasant situation is to make the situation a lot worse.

Then of course there are the sadists who populate troll sites like 4chan and Encyclopædia Dramatica. These people take pleasure in playing mind games with people, trying to ruin their lives as much as they can. If they can convince a suicidal person to take the plunge, I imagine they get to feel an intense amount of power, at least for a few hours. Then they have to come back for more. When I hear about what they're up to now, it makes my blood run cold. (However, according to famous Twitter users like Chris Hardwick, a troll is anyone who says something impolite. Now that term has been whitewashed, and all the horrible things actual trolls do are now okay! Great!) Okay, I get it, though. Some people are just severely messed up. I try to blame their mental illness. Hate the game, not the player. Right. Well, the problem isn't really them; there have always been people who do evil things, but they're not always allowed to infect society like this. Without the consent of others they can't get very far. The problem is the people who don't stop them, the people who see what's going on and don't say anything against it because they're worried other people will think they're uncool and don't know how to have a good time. As far as I'm concerned, that's much less defensible than having an illness. If you're one of the people who sees this behavior and looks away then I think you're more responsible for my anguish (not necessarily in this case but with many of the times I've worried about my friends dying) than they are.

Anyway, I was talking about how my dead friend was an asshole. He certainly had some trollish tendencies but it wasn't as bad as the more charismatic lunatics I was talking about. I think he hated the entire human race except for me and a few other people. He might have gotten somewhere with his music except he wasn't willing to compromise his aesthetic in order to please people... that is, he seemed morally opposed to pleasing other people. Maybe this is what Kurt Cobain would have been like if he truly didn't care about what other people thought instead of just giving that impression.

Before Alex died I hadn't heard much from him in a while. Then, maybe a month before he died, he started talking to me again. I didn't really want to talk to him, mostly because he had been treating friends of mine badly. I tried to hide this fact but I think he caught on even though he was drunk and/or stoned most of the time. (Then again, most people get the impression I don't want to talk to them even when I find them fascinating.) I once said to him that, based on the way he was acting, it seemed that he didn't want people to like him, so liking him would be disrespectful. He was unhappy to hear that so I must have been wrong. When you know someone who kills themselves, it's common to wonder if you had anything to do with it. Of course the real culprit is, again, mental illness, but you can affect someone's actions. Therefore I wonder if, if I had been more welcoming to him, he might have found a reason to stay. People have told me that my concern for them has kept them alive, but I think that's an exaggeration. Anyway, I don't think my lack of interest influenced him but I still have to wonder.

Mourning him is complicated because he was unpleasant and I wouldn't have minded if he'd never talked to me again. That doesn't make it easier though. It might even make it worse.

To end on a not entirely negative note, here is a song of his that I've always liked. Its lyrics are still pointlessly offensive (though I thought they were pretty funny when I was like 18) but the music is fun.

Current Mood: angry, apparently
Current Music: Flock of Dimes (ft. Sylvan Esso) - Don't Dream It's Over

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April 19th, 2015

01:50 pm - Video thoughts
I finally made this:

It took an embarrassingly long time. Partly this is because the sound was bothering kotra the roommate too much even though I wear headphones (I think this instrument is louder without amplification than it should be, probably related to it being the cheapest one I could find with 5 strings and 24 frets) so now I usually only play when he's away, although he's away a lot of the time. Also, that's 19 songs. That's a lot of songs. This Might Be A Wiki has many bass tabs but it didn't have most of the songs on this album, and some of the ones it did have were way off. This meant I had to figure out most of it myself. A lot of them were pretty simple but some of them were wickedly complicated (namely A Self Called Nowhere and Dirt Bike). Usually when I learn a song myself I just remember it, but it would have been hard to remember all this stuff so I made my own tabs and I posted them to that there wiki. People were very grateful but I wonder if anyone will use them.

I don't make these videos to get views; it's more like I want to learn how to play songs and making a video to be potentially scrutinized seems the best way to reach my goal. I know they're only of interest to people who are familiar with the particular music I've chosen and have a passing interest in bass (and also people who like me too much). Still, when I upload this kind of thing I'm inevitably disappointed that I don't get a bigger response. Then I feel stupid because it's not reasonable to expect someone to watch me make noise for an hour. Then I feel like I should pass it around a lot in case people do want to see it, then I feel like I'm being obnoxious and braggy by talking about it too much. I guess my point is: Feelings are dumb.

Back to the subject of cheap things, my cheap old camera is a real pain. I hope to get a cheap new camera at some point, one with display that swivels. With this one, the display just sits there and it has that annoying LED quality where it looks all wrong if you look at it from an angle, but if you look at it straight on your head is in the way! Several times I'd test it by making a quick video then unscrewing it from the tripod, but of course when I screwed it back on it wouldn't be in exactly the same place. Plus I had to stand pretty far away so I couldn't see it very well. I ended up having it pointed too low so you can't see most of my face, but I guess that's okay because I'm tired of looking at my dumb face all the time. Unfortunately that means that the focus is on my huge torso so I got to look at that constantly while I edited this together. I keep forgetting how large I am. Often when I look at the mirror I'm surprised and confused. Maybe I should eat less chocolate... but chocolate is great! Hooray for chocolate.

The most frustrating thing about this is how I somehow manage to have performance anxiety even though there's no one there. Just the fact that I'll probably be seen in the future messes me up. I made several rehearsal videos and that was much harder than when I was playing without recording, but making the actual video was brutal. I started with a great many false starts, mostly because of the bass slapping on Snail Shell. It's a little harder to hit the strings with your thumb on a 5-string guitar that takes up the same space as the standard 4-string, but I could do it fine when I wasn't recording. Then when I turned the camera on I kept hitting the wrong strings. I eventually got it good enough and went on to perform the rest of the album good enough, but not as good as I wanted to. I messed up minorly with annoying frequency, plus I totally whiffed the opening to Why Must I Be Sad because I was so worried about doing it wrong. After that I was completely panicked but I think I managed to get through it. The final video is nowhere near as good as I wanted it to be, but I say: Close enough! I was tired of repeatedly doing the same thing so much. Maybe if I had spent a few more weeks on it I could have played it no matter how nervous I was, but I wanted to be done. I especially want to get rid of all this hair but I wanted to wait until the video was done because I might not look good. Now I'm waiting for my hand mirror to arrive from the Amazonians. I stopped using dandruff shampoo and my entire face itches. Oh, the itching!
Current Mood: lethargic & itchy
Current Music: Sufjan Stevens - Drawn to the Blood

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March 26th, 2015

09:39 pm - A Conversation with President Obama and The Wire Creator David Simon

If you didn't know, I think The Wire is the best show ever and I highly recommend watching it even though you won't know what's going on for the first several hours. Also, you may be aware that I have very little respect for anyone who's sold themselves out to such a monstrous degree that they're able to be a successful national politician. I certainly wouldn't vote for such a person.

It's pretty crazy that Obama is talking with David Simon, especially about his feelings on the drug war. Simon's thoughts on this have always gone against the president, or at least the Democratic Party (not to mention the Republican Party). Simon even titles his blog "The Audacity Of Despair" in response to Obama's book The Audacity Of Hope. Simon does put his support behind the Democrats, reasoning that they're closer to his views than the Republicans are. I'm always disappointed when highly intelligent people I respect (David Simon is literally a genius) say that, because it's so foolish. Under that reasoning there is nothing so awful that the Democrats can't do it, as long as the Republicans do something slightly worse. Further, if they know you're going to support them no matter what they do, it would be stupid of them to listen to anything you say... not that they're not stupid sometimes.

Anyway, the craziest thing about this conversation is how Obama is pretty much agreeing with everything Simon says, even though it's in opposition to his administration's policies. I'd prefer to see Simon yell at him for leading a corrupt institution, but that's not going to happen. I guess the idea is that the president can't just do whatever he wants; instead he has to take his cues from what the people want. That is how a republic is supposed to work even though we forget that most of the time.
Current Music: DK7 - Where's The Fun

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