Father’s Day, South Haven, MI

I like sand on me. I like the loose sand that you don’t realize is there on your forearm until you reach for your drink and there it is, a pale dusting of cinnamon sugar. It comes off easily, just a brush of your hand.

Rhys and I are sitting on the deck of my father-in-law’s place in South Haven, Michigan. He lives right across from the harbor, and we’ve been enjoying the evening watching people walk by. Some tool is “tuning” his cigarette boat, alternately idling and revving it loudly. Rhys asks for more ranch dressing for his carrot sticks, so I show him how to pile what he has left up in one side of his little dish.

Any time now, my wife and eldest son will return. They’ve gone on a quest for lemonade from a beachside vendor. I’m having orange juice and Admiral Nelson spiced rum. Rhys asks if what I am drinking is “yucky” and I confirm his suspicion.

“When I get a little bit older it won’t be so yucky for me?” he asks. I tell him to wait a few years. The cigarette boat captain finally kills his engine.

I look down and see the smiling faces of my returning son and wife. They hold aloft a plastic tumbler of lemonade, their trophy of a successful hunt. Steaks are on the grill and a little more sand falls off of me.

Ahhhh…

A Conversation With Ed

I was cleaning the remains of Easter Porn from the melted sole of my Chuck Taylor the other day.  Easter Porn was the name of the stick-horse belonging to my boy Joe Schultz.  Was.  See, my friends and I had decided upon first meeting EP that he had to die.  Damned horse didn’t go easily, though.  Numerous attempts on his life left him battered, scorched, and scarred…but it wasn’t until someone got the idea to douse Porny the Pony with gasoline and ignite him that he finally met his fate.  (OR DID HE?!?)  Anyway, whilst putting the flaming artificial horse carcass out with my foot, it decided that a good final act of vengeance would be to fuse itself to the sole of my shoe.  Well played, stick horse!

Anyway, as I was doing this, my friend Ed showed up, Alpine menthol cigarette between his lips, and sat down cross-legged in my driveway.  Ed was wearing his usual black long-sleeved sweatshirt, some jeans, and a pair of white athletic shoes, just as he had back in our college days.

“Problem?” he asked, smirkingly.  I explained the whole horse situation, and he chuckled.

“I love seeing you dig holes, Watson, ’cause it’s so much fun to see you dig out again.”

I would normally be annoyed, but it’s hard to stay mad at a ghost for long.  See, Ed lost his battle with MS back in 2005, but sometimes he comes by to chat, often when I need someone else to talk to or when I need a dose of reality.  That last observation is interesting, because, you know…he ain’t really there.

I changed the subject.

“So, what’s the truth about life on the other side?  How much of what we learned in church is bullshit?”

Ed took a drag of his smoke.  He always smokes menthols because he knows I won’t bum one from him.  Tricky cat, that one.  He flicked the ash off with his index finger and paused.

“It’s all bullshit.  And it’s all true.”

“Explain yourself, you spectral Jew.”

“Well, one thing I have learned is that you really can’t grasp it from your perspective.  And by that I mean that since you are trapped in that skull of yours, you can’t really appreciate what it’s like to be free.  It’s like trying to explain the concept of  algebra to a cat.  The cat knows you love it and feed it, scoop its litter box and so on, but at the end of the day, it just wants to lay down next to you and get hair all over everything.  It gives a shit about sine, cosine, tangent…just doesn’t care and doesn’t understand. Won’t understand, even if it wanted to know. Which it doesn’t.”

I scraped a little more dead horse stuffing from my shoe.

“Okay, well give me the basics.  I think I can grasp some of it, even if I don’t, you know…’get’ it.”

“Okay, the reason Western religions have been so successful is that they put God into bite-sized, human-relatable nuggets.  Stories, events, moral parables, etc.  We, or rather you, can handle that.  Doesn’t matter if it’s one God or many, like the ancient Romans or Norse.  You can identify with these supreme beings, because at the end of the day they look like you, talk like you, use language you can understand.  Even if sometimes they talk down to you, like parents to their children.”

Ed paused for another drag.  As he exhaled, he continued.

“These things’ll kill you, you know.  Anyway.  I’m not saying the idea of a consciousness or a supreme architect of the universe or whatever is totally wrong.  I’m just saying that a lot of the smaller details are complete bullshit.  There’s no ‘one’ way into heaven, and heaven ain’t like they describe it anyway.”

Now I was listening. Ed adjusted his sitting stance and went on.

“Now, the Eastern Religions have a better grasp of things.  I think those little fuckers know their place in the universe a little better.  Buddhism especially.  See, it’s all connected.  Everything.  It’s like the goddam Force.  Every single atom in the universe came from the same place, and it’s all still IN the same place.  You perceive this great gulf of space and time, but that’s not it at all.  You, me, the rice farmer in Laos?  We’re all right here in the same place.  Even better? So is your dead grandmother and Abraham Lincoln and Hitler.  Time and space are the same thing, but we’re on this log, right?  Floating along this river current.  We pass a tree on the riverbank and it passes back behind us, passes away in an actual physical sense, until we can’t see it anymore.  But it’s still there.  That tree didn’t go anywhere.”

“Okay,” I responded. “But I know for a fact that I cannot reach out right now and touch Australia.  It’s physically on the other side of the globe, Einstein.”

“So you say.  Ever heard of the double-slit experiment?”

“Yeah.  Copenhagen, right?  They shot photons through these slits and saw how they reacted.  And the scientists discovered that the photons reacted the way they expected when they were being obvserved and went batshit crazy when they weren’t observed.”

“That’s the basics of it, yeah.  Einstein called it ‘spooky behaviour’ because there really isn’t any explanation for it.  There’s no scientific reason for the laws of physics to change simply because the subjects are or are not being observed.  That’s why we need some new laws.  Quantum physics, man.  Humanity is about to uncover some of this shit and it’s going to blow the lid off of the way people see the universe. Forever.  More than understanding gravity or inertia…shit’s going to get real.”

“But how does that explain things like, well, no offense, the afterlife?  If there even is such a thing.”

“Of course there’s an afterlife.  You think this is all in your head, me talking with you?”

“Well, yeah.  I mean, I have a healthy imagination and–”

“Don’t give yourself too much credit, blog-boy.  Thoughts, matter, energy, souls…it’s all exactly the same.  Those photons in that experiment behaved that way because they were expected to.  Expected to by the observing scientists.  In other words, those men and women shaped the outcome of probability by bending it to their will.  The universe did what they told it to.  Because, and here’s the kick in the nuts…they ARE the universe.  Get it?”

“Not remotely.”

By now my brain was hurting and I had ceased cleaning my shoe. Ed explained himself.

“There are another set of experiments where they generate two identical quarks, okay?  And they separate them by some great distance.  Well, when they heat one of them, the other gets hot.  When they move one, the other moves.  They shine light on one, the other is illuminated.  This shit really happened, too.  That’s what I’m saying: those two different particles of matter were created together and are still connected.  They are essentially the same thing, in two different places.  Just. Like. You. And. Me.  That’s what I’m talking about.  Everything shares that connection, but you living types ignore it.  You come up with silly ways to explain it, things like deja vu or coincidence.  Sometimes crackpots go further with remote-viewing theories, ESP, flying saucers and such.  When you guys finally crack the language barrier, the scientific language barrier, you’re gonna see how simple it all is.  You’re living in a million different universes right now, but only perceive one.  And I think that’s what God had in mind with this whole heaven-and-earth analogy.  He wants you to understand your universe so that you can expand your mind in a way that you understand that it’s actually ALL the universes!  Heaven is just another plane of existence, and I guess so is hell: that’s why everyone’s ideas of hell are different.  Because you bring that shit with you.  Matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed.  Just can’t.  So, your mind, your soul, whatever you wanna call it, it just changes states when you ‘die.’  Whatever baggage you bring with you, well…that’s what you sort of become.”

I sat there trying to wrap my mind around all of this, and knowing at the same time that Ed was absolutely right.  But I had one more question.

“So, you mentioned God.  God exists?”

“Of course it does.  God is literally in you.  Haven’t you been paying a god-damned bit of attention to anything I’ve said?  Humanity is God, and so is the Earth and the stars that make up Orion.  And yet it’s so much more.  That’s a whole ‘nother conversation, bub.  But yes, it’s real and yes, like those scientists in Copenhagen, it is aware of you.  Because it’s in you.  Aw, fuck, I ain’t got time to get into that.  You got me freewheeling and off-topic.  Yes.  Yes, there’s a God.  And yes, God is love, jackass.  I gotta go.”

I scraped the last bit of scarred pseudo-horse from my foot.  I looked up, and Ed was gone.  For now, anyway.

Editor’s note:  Edward J. Shovers and myself had a combative relationship during our college years, primarily due to chasing the same women.  But after working with him at a radio station after college, we better understood each other.  The last time I saw Ed, his Multiple Sclerosis had gotten worse, and he was having trouble getting around.  I knew that he wasn’t going to be in this world much longer.  Then, in 2005 I received word that he’d passed away in Indianapolis.  There is now a scholarship in his name for Communications students focusing on Advertising at our alma mater, the University of Southern Indiana.  I hope you liked this, Ed.  You Shakespearean-looking Jew, you!

A Few of My Favorite Memes

I PROMISE to get on a more regular blogging schedule.  New work hours, kids out of school…it’ll be rough, but I think I can do it.  Thanks, in the meantime, for your patience.  Now, on with the countdown…

Let’s begin with a bit of a primer for those who have been off-net since 1998.  Merriam-Webster defines a “meme” thusly:

“an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture”
Fair enough.  But that doesn’t really capture the modern interpretation.  Specifically, the Internet meme (rhymes with ‘beam’).  Since it’s the future and everything, here’s what Wikipedia has to say: ‘An Internet meme is an idea that is propagated through the World Wide Web. The idea may take the form of a hyperlink, video, picture, website, hashtag, or just a word or phrase, such as intentionally misspelling the word “more” as “moar” or “the” as “teh”.’

In other words, Pedobear.  It’s “I see what you did there.”   It’s goatse (I WILL NOT HYPERLINK THAT!!!)  It’s “Dog Fort” and “LOLCats.” It’s “Chocolate Rain” and so on.  Usually, these things find their way to Facebook and other social media in the form of a one-sheet graphic with some sort of hilarious caption, because those are just easier to share.  And that’s all the education you’re getting, because if you didn’t know what a meme was previous to this post, you are now saying to yourself  “Oh!  So they’ve got a name for this phenomenon!”  They do.  Here endeth the lesson.

On to my faves.  I actually sort of got a minor meme going a while back with a photo of my son Simon enjoying his sixth birthday celebration.  Like many modern memes, it was based on (stolen from) another well-known image:  the Cocaine Bear.  Basically, a large Kodiak bear with snow all over his face bellowing “I FUCKING LOVE COCAINE!”  Mine was a kid with birthday cake.  So, yeah…

Happy birthday, kid. You’re internet famous for .18 seconds.

Others hopped on the bandwagon for those .18 seconds and replaced my caption with their own, with text ranging from “THIS IS SPARTA!” to other less savory remarks that made me glad that this one was short-lived. And therein lies the life-cycle of most internet memes.  They come and go so very quickly…today’s Gotye and “Call Me Maybe” memes will be tomorrow’s “Scumbag Steve” or Rebecca Black. But the truly great ones endure.  Memes like…

Philosoraptor

This one has been around for so long, there are actually a variety of different image macros in use.  My favorite is the one seen below, the two-color raptor pondering the universe, a wise finger/claw to his lip (even though the large claw on velociraptor was on his foot, so…he must be fairly flexible.)  Philosoraptor often asks simple questions about things no one ever truly answers, like “Where in the story does it say Humpty Dumpty was an egg?”  Because this meme is so popular, there’s a lot of complete crap out there associated with Philosoraptor.  But there are tons of  gems, too…

Also, “If atheism is a religion, then is ‘bald’ a hair color?”

Fry

Yes, the guy from Futurama.  You’ll also see this meme listed as “Suspicious Fry” or “Doubting Fry” or some other description based on, well…the look on Fry’s face in this particular macro.  The beauty of this entry is it can be used over and over and over.  It is truly timeless.  Most of the best Fry meme entries begin with “Not sure if…” and then an ironic observation.  This message is so omnipresent, you’ll see the phrase used in regular text posts and Facebook comments: Not sure if ugly baby or retarded dwarf…

Fry (and all the Futurama characters, actually) can be found in multiple memes, often cross-pollinating and taking on lives of their own.  Fry pops up in “Oh!  I see what you did there…” and countless others.  Classic.

Not sure if X or just Y. Instant comedy!

Courage Wolf There are dozens of great Advice Animal internet memes.  Some of them aren’t really giving advice; they just make observations on specific situations, like “Socially Awkward Penguin” and some go out of their way to give terrible advice, like the aptly-named “Bad Advice Kitten.”  But Courage Wolf (along with his considerably more aggressive and downright psychotic cousin, the “Insanity Wolf”) dishes out the ass-kicking that you need.  Take those trite, over-used motivational posters and turn up the volume 550% and you get Courage Wolf. One of the best examples that I can remember is where Courage Wolf (just a snarling wolf head on a yellow-gold pinwheel quartered background) looked me in the eye and told me “The only thing standing between you and your dreams is YOUR pussy ass!”  Fuck, I needed to hear that.  And honestly felt better after reading  that message.  “If God gives you lemons, FIND A NEW GOD!!

See, Insanity Wolf always goes juuuust a bit too far…

60’s Spidey My love of ol’ web-head has been well-documented.  He’s one of my all-time favorites for so many reasons.  That may be why I like this meme so goddam much.  It takes scenes from the old 1960’s Spider-Man cartoon (from whence came the insanely stupid but catchy Spider-Man theme song) and adds non-sequitur quotes or captions.  Most of them make absolutely no sense, and many are hilarious.  My faves are the “LOL What am I doing?” captions,  because after looking at the damned scene you ask yourself the same question.

Honorable Mentions

You’re gonna hafta Google these or play catch-up on Reddit, ’cause I ain’t got time to get into ’em all.  Some of these are fairly recent, and as such haven’t proved their mettle.  But dig ’em while they last…

Berks.  I love the “Berks” meme.  Specifically, I love trying to translate what the unfortunate-looking young lady is saying in the captions.  The good ones will literally make you cry with laughter.

Scumbag Steve (Scumbag Everything) It started out as a chavvy-looking douche in matching coat and flat-brimmed cap basically bumming smokes, weed, your sister, etc.  It’s since evolved into  Scumbag *insert person/website here* wherein one thing is promised but something else entirely is delivered.

All The Things! Another X the Y style image macro.  A crudely drawn cartoon person holding a broom (or paintbrush?  Unlit torch?  Hard to tell) and pumping a fist in the air exhorts you to “Upvote all the posts!” or “Close all the tabs!” or somesuch.

Brace yourself…X is coming. This sprung from the iconic picture of the stoic Ned Stark from the Game of Thrones HBO series warning the people of Westeros that “Winter is Coming.”  This meme is used on the likes of Reddit to warm “Brace yourselves.  The Halloween costume posts are coming.”  In other words, an impending flood of comments or posts on some recent event or news item. The incredible thing is, this meme lives on even though the Ned Stark character is (spoiler alert!) beheaded in season one of that series.

Call Me Maybe.  This is fairly new, and in response to that insipid song that you’ll hear all summer.  My favorite thus far involves George Michael from Arrested Development hopefully saying “call me, Maeby.”  Darth Vader, Leslie Nielsen (“Don’t call me maybe.”) amdothers have taken up the chant, but this one will only last as long as the song.  In other words, prolly as bit too long.

Oh, jeez.  Out of time.  Of course, as I put this puppy together, I see no fewer than two other sites doing “Top Meme” posts.  Good timing…I haz it!  Until next time…

@TheJoeSchultz

The other night I was kinda pissy with my good friend, teammate, and all-around swell guy Joe Schultz.  Long story, but I know this other guy who got some really horrible news this week, and I guess it kind of affected me, so I took it out on Joe, since he’s always sleeping with my wife and such (allegedly.) Anyway, I felt bad.  To make amends, I’m dedicating this blog to @TheJoeSchultz (that’s Joe’s Twitter handle.  Catchy, no?)

Some of you blog-followers are already familiar with Joe from the blog I did around Halloween, wherein myself and others blew up his Facebook wall with costume suggestions.  You can read it here.  Some others might know Joe as the drummer for the rock band Rains.  They have their own website and everything! I joke around because I know the guys, but they’ve actually toured the country with some heavyweights (ahem…5FDP for starters.)  In other words, Joe is the big King Shit as far as I’m concerned, which is why I was bummed when the band decided to go ahead and make a video for one of their singles WITHOUT JOE!!! In fairness, it was during a time when Joe was not with the band and they had some other dude drumming.  but, STILL!!!!  THAT’S MY BOY!!

Anyway, here’s that video, which is pretty lackluster without @TheJoeSchultz if you ask me.  But enjoy it anyway, and just imagine Joe’s big, bald head is back there behind the kit.

 

I LOVE JOE SCHULTZ AND I’M NOT AFRAID TO SAY IT!!!