Engage.

I get messages. In the old days, we’d call it ‘mail’ because that’s what it was…either the analog, delivered-by-a-human-to-your-house variety, or the slightly less archaic electronic mail. But nowadays, it seems like most important missives I receive are via text or the forced-upon-us Facebook Messenger. (I don’t like it. It’s trying too hard to insinuate itself into everything, including group texts, which are bad enough without having some third-party app mucking things up. But I digress.)

Some of the messages that come my way are less than flattering. Some of them are downright shitty. Many of them are simply childish, ignorant ranting. And yeah, some of them have really excellent points wrapped up in vitriol and foul language. And you know what? I read them all. If what I’ve written or posted has evoked enough of a reaction for someone to commit the time needed to put their thoughts and emotions into words and then hit ‘send’? Good on them. And good on me for pushing buttons and moving the proverbial needle. I am, if nothing else, a social media provocateur.

My good friend and staunch Conservative (how come Liberals never get to be ‘staunch?’ Sort of elitist, if you ask me) Todd has a theory. He believes that Facebook (or any social media, really) forces people to encapsulate their point in easy-to-read fragments or memes. Our newsfeed and Twitter and Instagram and so on are all just like the major news outlets; competing for attention and trying to hold our interest. Add to that the audience, both real and perceived, witnessing the exchanges, and the stakes get higher, the arguments become polarized miniature brawls, mosh-pits of political slogans and pithy zingers. Nobody wants to look weak, nobody wants to concede, nobody backs down.

Todd’s point is that if he and I sit and have a discussion about religion or politics over a pint or nine at a quiet, out of the way table in a quiet, out of the way pub, why, the entire tone is different. We’ll actually say to one another “That’s a great point, but…” or “A compelling argument. However…” Maybe we don’t change anyone’s views, but we at least offer the chance to peek through one another’s personal lenses and get a better understanding of the opposing side. Add to all this the unspoken language of body, tone, tension in one’s voice, and the level and complexity of communication increases exponentially. Plus, consider this very important point: you will choose your words so very carefully if you must say them aloud, into the face of the man or woman across the table from you; a person who is quite within spitting or punching distance. That’s a level of enforced respect lacking in your average internet dust-up.

So, anyway. Messages. I recently received one in complaint of a meme I’d created which underscored Donald Trump’s repeated calls to prevent any sort of Syrian refugees from entering the country. And yes, the whole image macro was designed to shock, as well as it was intended to put a human face on the suffering which is a daily occurrence in Syria and other areas of the Middle East. This fellow named Shane engaged me via private message, and I’m so very glad he did. Because even though our conversation began with some the one-sided heat that Facebook is known for, something wonderful gradually happened: we listened to one another. We engaged one another. Shane and I didn’t simply throw insults and swear words. We had a discussion, just as if we were sitting in a booth facing one another over pints of Guinness.

Here is our entire exchange. Shane’s words are black, mine are red.

 

 

Ok I have to ask something….. Obama signed a bill to raise pay for the military….. were you aware that he also signed to hold military pay after that so he and all of Congress didn’t have to miss their cushy paychecks? I was very much aware when i had to figure out how to feed my kids and wife while fighting for him

You may not care but you lost a listener for life

 

I remember the commission’s recommendation to “restructure.” I also remember THIS from AFTER the so-called cuts were announced:

The Thursday veto will jeopardize a host of other specialty pays and bonuses, and has inflamed an already bitter budget standoff between Obama and congressional Republicans.

But it does not alter plans for a 1.3 percent raise for troops effective Jan. 1, which is ensured regardless of how the veto fight shakes out.

“That’s because the defense bill is silent on the 2016 military raise. Obama had pledged to set it at 1.3 percent — below expected civilian wage growth — and lawmakers chose to allow that target to stand unchallenged rather than officially substitute their own wage hike in the defense authorization bill.

It’s the same tack lawmakers took in the 2015 defense bill, and it leaves Obama’s order, issued in August, as the final word on military pay for 2016.

As such, the 1.3 percent raise will go into effect Jan. 1” – The Military Times, October 23, 2015

I know Congress is a whole sack of turds. I know they’re over-paid, especially by the lobbyists. But THEY are the ones fucking our troops.

Also, I haven’t been on the radio for over two years, so no biggie.

Can’t support once side of the fence while crushing the other and expect 100% support. Tell me 1 fact that would make Hillary Clinton a better president than Trump

 

She’s not Trump.

But okay, I like her support of a single-payer health care system.

I appreciate that she would appoint supreme court justices that would NOT overturn Roe versus Wade.

Trump, and to a greater extent Pence, have said they’d like to overturn marriage equality, making it illegal again for gays to marry.

Look, it’s America. The great thing is we can have this discussion.

Hell, we can say “FUCK OBAMA” or “GOD ISN’T REAL” or “NICKELBACK ROCKS!” And there’s nothing they can do to stop us.

I wore the uniform for 3 years. I wore our flag with pride every day and will walk with a limp for the rest of my life. Our society has come to selecting the lesser of 2 evils. I wouldn’t put the uniform back on for a single person in the upcoming election but a marriage license shouldn’t be a deciding factor in how my kids will grow up

The great thing about our system, though, is that we can change it every four years if we don’t like it.

But it’s going downhill consistently.

Also, ultimately Congress is at least as important as the President. They make the laws. They decide whether we go to war.

Those assholes have almost all got to go. Start fresh.

They may decide whether we go to war but the veterans (myself included) decide the true reasons we go and fight.

Anyway, look, you don’t have to like me or agree with me. And I appreciate your sacrifice. You may have seen that I’m doing the 22 pushups for 22 days challenge for the vets losing the war to PTSD. It’s something I care a great deal about, and it’s a tragic embarrassment that we let it happen.

And don’t let me influence who you listen to on the radio (although I think John the Mexican has the best show out there.)

Take care, bub.

I 100% support the support of the 22 a day that we lose. I served with most of them I just don’t want to shut the door on the one man that legitimately cares about them over a country 3000 miles away. You may have not been on for 2 years but I’ve listened to you for a lot longer than that.

Well, I appreciate you listening when you did (before you knew I was such a filthy bleeding heart libtard. Ha!)

I still live every day believing every man would choose his own family (country) before another. I know you would do the same if you were forced to choose between one or the other. It’s different when you don’t feel you can pick both

As every Christian I’m all about helping every man woman or child on this planet, but its time we take care of our own country.

And I think it’s totally possible to do both.

If our leaders would see it that way we’d be a lot better off sir

Take care in whatever ventures you are taking on wear the skates for both of us and God bless the USA

Next time I make it to the fort I’d feel honored to have a beer with you. Takes a strong man to fight off a herd to stick to his word

It would be my pleasure, sir.

I apologize if my intentions came off wrong I’m a man who values my family, my country, and the God I pray to every night. We are all entitled to our opinion I respect yours even if I don’t agree with it

Dude, I only wish more people would take the time to actually have a discussion, instead of just screaming and sharing memes. So, Thank you. And be well, bub. Let me know when you’re in town. I’ll get the first round.

Think we’d all be better off if we listened to our conscious a little more and spoke what we truly believed rather than trying to keep from offending ppl. Hope to have a beer and hopefully be on the ice with you Sir. God bless.

 

 

How about that? Civilized people, having a chat. Now, a couple notes. First, my use of the word “Libtard.” I really dislike that word. Not because it’s an attempt to smear or slur those of us whose opinions are left of center. Rather, because I have a friend raising a kid with Down Syndrome, and the word “retard” or any variation thereof, when hurled as an insult, rubs me the wrong way.

So, why use it in this conversation? Because I assumed, incorrectly, that Shane might be the sort of person to use that word. It was a vain, stupid attempt on my part to neutralize his weapon before he could use it. I shouldn’t have. Anyone scoring this debate would award a point to Shane.

Point number two: neither of us really budged. I don’t think for a second that Shane is going to run out and start polling for Hillary, no more than he believes I’ll cast a vote for Trump in November. And you know what? Thats totally okay. You’ve no doubt heard a friend remark “Never get into a political discussion on Facebook, because you aren’t gonna change anyone’s mind.” There’s a fair amount of truth to that, although I’ve seen it happen. I’ve watched opinions change during the course of a comment thread, and it’s amazing to see. But the point is, that’s not even the issue. The point is understanding each other a little better. The point is that this is still (ostensibly) a Democracy. The point is that the First Amendment owns that place of honor in the Bill of Rights because it is ultimately the most important one. Freedom of speech. Our gift to the world.

So, going forward, just engage a little more. Talk with people, not simply at them. By all means, share memes and stats and quotes…but use those as a starting point, a chance to spark a genuine conversation. Trust me, you’ll feel better, less stressed and anxious, especially as Election Day draws near. And who knows? Maybe you’ll make some new friends along the way. At the very least, you could potentially develop some of that mutual trust and respect people talk about.

Maybe this social media thing is gonna be okay after all. And, just maybe, so will we.

 

 

Mr. Watson

So I’ve noticed something, and don’t know whether it should concern me or if I’m just being an old stick-in-the-mud.  Help me out here, people.  I’ve seen this little meme or photo macro or whatever you want to call it floating around lately, and the basic gist is “I fear for a world run by kids that received trophies just for participating and have never been spanked.”  True enough.  Good point, nameless internet person. Wisdom.  But then I also think that our parents said essentially the same thing about us, and for God’s sake, how many of our moms and dads got kicked out of the house during the 60’s and 70’s for smoking pot, listening to “that rock-n-roll trash” or smoking (GASP!) weed?!?  No, I think the future will be just fine.  It’s evolution.  It’s the job of the younger generation to question the older, and also hold it responsible for its actions, its wars, its recessions, etc.  Ain’t always gonna see eye-to-eye.  It’s natural.  It’s good.  It’s right.

“No, dad. I said FUCK SOCKS!! Go ahead and kick me out. YOU KNOW I’M RIGHT, MAN!”

However…

Something that I’ve picked up on recently makes me wonder if there isn’t a seismic shift underway in our society.  I’m not saying it’s good or bad: I’m just saying the world is going to be very different in a generation, and it has nothing to do with technological advances or the divorce rate or gay marriage. No, it’s the overall familiarity that has permeated everything.  EVERYTHING.  It’s a casual society now.  When the President of the United States of America shows up in a suit with NO TIE and possibly smoking a cigarette, you know something’s up.  Sports bars are on every corner, and yet the martini bar is an endangered species.  (True, shows like Mad Men have brought them back from the brink a little bit, but it’s a losing game.)  And while familiarity is all well and good, it seems like there’s a wholesale lack of respect getting ready to run away and make things…messy.  As an example, I have never once been called “Mister Watson” by any of my kids’ friends.  Not once.  I have been called “Mister Turner” by some, and I guess that’s better than nothing.  And I’ve seen this in other kids, not just the ones my boys run with.  The ONLY people that get the old-school treatment are schoolteachers, and even that is fading.  My kids have referred to their pre-school teachers in the past as “Miss Kay, Miss Jill” et. al.  I seriously don’t remember some of the kids’ teachers last names because, well…I never heard them.

Pictured: Miss Kim gets tired of dicking around and does this shit herself.

When I was a kid, it was always “Mrs. Gillenwater” or “Mr. Crabtree.”  I never even knew Mr. Crabtree’s first name.  He was this older, towering, greying person who called my friend Chris in for dinner.  I didn’t NEED to be on a first-name basis with him, and frankly preferred it that way.  It would never have occurred to me to show up at the Crabtree home, knock on the door, and when the father answered say “Hey, Doug!  Is Chris home?”  That’s some Eddie Haskell shit, and it just…we just didn’t do that.

Yo, Ward! You gonna pass that dutch?

Maybe I’m just too old-fashioned, but it seems like putting the kids on a  first-name basis with the adults makes them feel a bit, um…entitled.  And don’t get me started on how kids today wouldn’t even think about using “Yes, sir” or “No, ma’am.”  It’s just language that’s fading from our culture.  What does it mean for the future?  I don’t know.  It’s happening in the workplace right now.  We refer to our General Manager at work as “Jim.”  Heck, the old C.O.O. was simply “Tony.”  In the old days the most powerful man in the company would’ve been “Mr. Richards.”  Is this better or worse?  Seriously, I don’t know.  I tend to be very old-fashioned in most respects (many of you have seen how I dress from time-to-time) but maybe this is the way the Little Guy feels like he’s on the same level with the Big Guy, even if he isn’t.  Is that so bad?  I’m a Little Guy, so I can’t really say.

I guess time will tell.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Comment below, sir or ma’am!

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…