Monday, September 14, 2015

(Animal) Protection Racket


It's two in the morning. You're sprawled on the couch, drifting in and out of consciousness. An episode of Forensic Files flickers unwatched across the TV screen ... the oddly comforting white noise of a grisly tale of murder and depravity easing you into slumber.

And then you hear it.

The slow plinking of a very sad piano filters through your haze.

Instantly your eyes SNAP open!


With all the grace of a pile of lumber tumbling down a flight of stairs, you lurch up from your repose, scrambling madly for the remote!

You mash all the buttons in blind panic ... desperate to avoid what's coming ...!

But it's too late.

"They call me 'The Night-Ruiner'!"

Before your fumbly, sleep-palsied thumb can find the GO-AWAY button ... you've seen them.

The filthy, the emaciated, the scabrous. Quivering in rusty cages. Their terrified, imploring eyes boring holes straight into your soul.

Like a pitchfork twisting through your guts, reminding you what you already knew ... humans, whether by action or neglect, can be goddamn monsters.

And yup. It's official. Your night is ruined.

Thanks a LOT, Sarah.

(And not only that, you used to like that song! Can you ever hear it again without having a Pavlovian tear-gush response?)

But I have a humble suggestion for Ms. McLachlan and her various cohorts whose seemingly feature-length misery-paloozas haunt my late-night cable box.


I mean it.

My proposal:

The ASPCA, Humane Society and other such organizations should band together and launch Kickstarter campaigns in each of the major media markets.

The purpose of the campaign? To raise the funding needed to run their good and vital operations in those regions, of course.

But what do we get if they reach their goal?

They promise NOT to play their horribly upsetting ads in that area.

I suspect I'm like a lot of people out there when I say I would pay cash money to ensure those deeply troubling and tear-inducing ads do not show up on my television. Ever.

The thing is though, their current ads just can't be working very well. Because logically, people who love animals don't want to see soul-searing footage of animals being abused. They're going to change the channel.

In fact, I personally have NEVER seen the end of one of those commercials. Like a lot of people, I've changed the channel long before they've had a chance to make their donation pitch. I wouldn't know where to send the money even if I wanted to.

So why not make a promise that if folks donate enough cash, they'll withhold the thing that so many of us find so horrifying?

If that sounds familiar, it should. That's precisely how a protection racket works.

"Some nice tear ducts you got there. Be a shame if something happened to 'em."

Now I realize this is a dangerous precedent to set. If it worked, other less scrupulous advertisers would surely try to exploit this same tactic to try squeezing money out of a beleaguered public by crafting the most irritating and grating commercials possible. (To be honest, I can't say for sure the people at Intel aren't already setting us up for this right now with those execrable and profoundly unfunny Jim Parsons ads.)

But I'm willing to take that chance.

Now, if the anti-animal cruelty folks wanted to sweeten the deal and really make us love them, they could replace their existing ads with ones featuring cute, hilarious and heart-warming animal footage.

After all, if the Internet has taught us anything (I mean, other than: "never read the comments"), it's that people LOVE LOVE LOVE looking at pictures and videos of adorable cats and dogs.

If they really want people to watch their ads all the way to the end, they need to make it possible for us to watch them all the way to the end.

Because I can say with absolute certainty that you're MUCH more likely to get money out of me by just showing me pictures of, say, this guy for sixty straight seconds:

"You can't look away, can you. And you know what? You don't have to! Yay!"

Seriously, where do I send the check?

Till next we meet ...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Object of My Affectation

I have no patience for affectation.

Never have.

You know the people I'm talking about. Whether it was the kid from theater camp who always carried the sword cane, or the guy from junior high with the fish ties, or the girl in homeroom who dyed her giant mohawk every color in the rainbow.

Look around your workplace right now. You're bound to spot a guy with a handlebar mustache, or skinny jeans, or sleeve tats, or one of those huge, upsetting tribal-earlobe-disc-things. (Come to think of it, you'll probably find all of those things on the same guy.)

"My neck gets cold." 

"Look-at-me!" behavior has always just rubbed me the wrong way.

Which is pretty ironic.

Because since I could walk I've engaged in nothing but look-at-me behavior.

When I was a kid I was constantly writing, acting, directing, drawing, sculpting, animating, filming, and generally extracurricular-ing my ass off.

On and on it went. You name the activity, I was desperately trying to draw attention to myself by doing it.

But back then you'd never have known I wanted you to look at me just by ... well ... looking at me. The way I dressed or cut my hair was never flashy, unique or even remotely fashionable. My oft repeated mantra was, I wanted BE unique, not LOOK unique. I wanted attention for accomplishing things, not for how I dressed. I never wanted to visually stand out in a crowd. If somebody was going to notice me, I wanted there to be a good goddamned reason.

I wanted to be known for doing, not for shopping.

Which I suppose could be considered commendable.

You know ... if I hadn't been such an unbearable asshole about it.

For some reason, I really felt the need to harangue people who had the temerity to decorate themselves for their personal pleasure. They drove me up the wall and I didn't mind one little bit explaining that to them -- with all the judgmental, acid-tongued sanctimony I could muster.

Which was a lot.

I was a teenager, after all.

From my roost waaaaay up on that high horse, I'd lob long, preachy diatribes down at all sorts of innocent folks whose only crime was engaging me on the subject. Like Deidra -- my high school's version of Mohawk Girl. We'd have long arguments that usually ended with me feeling smugly superior and her feeling shitty and bullied.

(Did I mention that I was mean, pompous little fuck when I was a kid? Well, I was. "Recovering Asshole" isn't meant to be a clever title for the blog. It's more "Science-facty".)

The problem is, it's now thirty years later and while I've somewhat successfully managed to sand down some of the more objectionable corners of my personality, I still can't quite curb that knee-jerk aversion to affectation.

I know how I ought to feel. I ought to be rejoicing that people are celebrating their glorious and beautiful differences and letting their freak flags fly. Because, honestly, I LOVE the beautiful and bountiful banquet of different faces in the world!

I do!


Objectively I know there is nothing wrong with wanting to look different or unique or stylish.

It's not a character flaw.

I know this.

But for some reason I just can't help instinctively recoiling. It's a bone-deep, lizard-brain reaction that I've never been able to shake.

And it's swollen over the years, into a kind of blue-collar snobbery.

It's actually become a point of pride for me (rather than shame, as it probably should), that I own just one solitary necktie. An inexpensive accessory that I had my father tie for me about 20 years ago, that I loosen and tighten as the occasion dictates.

"No. Mr. Grey will not see you now. Go torture-sex yourself, you unprofessional shit-heel."

My lower middle class upbringing (or more accurately upper lower class) taught me early and often that money wasn't free. And since I've never had any, trendy clothes and haircuts have always been the equivalent of the expensive dishes that were on that page of the menu we weren't allowed to order from.

So I've never been able to stomach the idea of spending money on pricey outfits just because some magazine said I should. (Also, let's face it, the Fashion Industrial Complex is responsible for perpetuating some pretty awful things in our culture, so defying them can't be so bad.)

(Plus, as I've pointed out previously, I am in fact shaped like a mailbox made of meat. So there's a fair amount of fashion (read: all of it) that isn't tailored for my body type anyway.)

So it's all cargo pants and tee-shirts for me. Unfashionable in any decade.

"Dress for the job you want," the old axiom goes. And a cursory glance at me should tell you I apparently want to be homeless. Or a writer. (Not mutually exclusive, I suppose. Also both equally likely.)

Such is the level of my reflexive bias that simply "dressing like a professional" in my mind has become akin to "showing up at work in mutton-chops and a monocle."

"We're putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports now, wut-wut. Bumbershoots!" 

But all of that is prologue.

Because The Universe has tossed me a bit of a brain grenade recently.

An extremely worrying thought crossed my mind the other day:

What if my staunch anti-affectation stance is actually an affectation unto itself?



"Well, that sure looks delicious! Better start swallowing until I wink out of existence in a puff of well-earned, self-absorbed karmic retribution!"

Well, if the hypocrisy fits, I guess I have to wear it.


Suppose I'd better start shopping for a top hat and a unicycle.

And I gotta call my dad. Gonna need him to tie my new fish tie.


Somewhere, I hope a smile just curled across Deidra's pierced lips. It's been a long time coming.

Till next we meet ...