3.30.2011

On Disappointment

"Disappointment is your own fault. You expected too much."

A person I considered a friend told me that once. I thought he was an asshole. Turns out, he's right. If you don't want to be disappointed, don't expect so much. That's not pessimistic, it's realistic. If someone disappoints you, it's because they didn't live up to your expectations.

They're YOUR expectations. Don't make them so high next time, you won't be disappointed.

But then, you'll also never be rewarded for anything, ever. It's called trust. And the more of that you have, the more opportunity you have to have that trust rewarded. And the more risk you have of disappointment.

And that's how things like being taken advantage of happen to me, because my entire methodology in life is to first do what I can for things and people I believe in, and then see where it takes me. I do favors first, without being asked. I offer. I give.

Nine times out of ten, I'm rewarded with a new friendship, and when I'm really lucky it becomes an old friendship.

And every so often, someone takes me for all I'm worth. And I'm disappointed in them. My fault. I shouldn't do that.

I'm still going to.

3.29.2011

Here's "The Thing"

As you can imagine, this weekend was rife with comic-book-related discussion. If you can't imagine why, well... Go one post back. That's why.

Anyway, there was a discussion with some comic book pros that actually departed from the controversy of the time, and at one point, the "Which Superhero Are You?" conversation came up.

Now, this is a conversations comic book nerds have, oh, once a week at least. And it's because, pro or fan, the reason we love comic books is because we want to be superheroes. We long for this revelation to occur in our lives where we discover that we have a latent mutant power, or are bitten by a radioactive insect, or get visited by a world-eating cosmic entity who turns us silver and gives us a surfboard.

Wow, the Silver Surfer sure sounds stupid when you describe him like that.

Anyway, whenever I'm asked that question, I usually say something silly like Moon Knight or Beppo The Super Monkey. Because I do that when I don't want to really talk about a thing; I deflect with a joke and say something stupid. And if you're not a comic book fan, you should know that Moon Knight and Bebo the Super Monkey are both very, very stupid.

But the truth is, I've always seen myself as "The Thing."

Online, or on paper (in my books or journal), I feel like Ben Grimm.

Gruff, but somewhat intelligent. Aware. I am normal. I speak to people normally and naturally. I am able to chat with them without any difficulty. I can share my thoughts and my feelings and I have great ideas. I can get those ideas out and people read or view or interact with them, and there are occasionally times where I feel like my work pays off.

In person, people meet me and no matter how hard they try, I see it in their faces and their body language and the first thing that I get from them: "Whoa."

I'm huge. I'm covered in tattoos. I'm a freak. I speak loud, but I don't especially mean to speak loudly. It just comes out that way. I speak my mind, and even when I try to temper it or hold it in, it comes out as brash. I take big steps when I walk, and I move with purpose. But sometimes I'm big and clunky and bump into things, and I feel bad when I do.

I'm enthusiastic, say some. Crazy, say others. And still others go and and use two words, choosing from a mix of terms that all translate into "Fucking annoying." But at the end there is this 6' 3" 299 lb guy trying to communicate with people who, at least initially, see a gorilla fumbling with the tv remote. And they "ooh" and "ahh" when I miraculously get it to work, like being right was a fluke, but one borne of a really smart monkey putting himself in the right place at the right time. And certainly there's some merit for intelligence in simply doing that.

Sometimes, they even give me a banana.

This isn't self pity, this is the truth. And I laugh about it. I am okay with it. It is what it is. I cannot tell you how many times a year I hear the words "I never knew you were intelligent" (or some variant of it; "I never pegged you as a writer," "I never knew you knew so much about [computers, the internet, digital campaigns, whatever]", and so on).  I mean what the hell is that supposed to mean? In what universe is that actually a compliment? You're not applauding my insight in that last statement, you're telling me it is the exception which proves the rule. I'm a doof who just said something you considered amazing for my assumed level of intellect.

Inside me is this Ben Grimm, this guy who wants more than anything to be understood and heard, because he really does have dome good ideas and wants to share them. Conversation is cherished and the sharing of ideas is the number one thing I seek. And it gets reduced to a sideshow, more often than not. And so, I just hang out in the engineering bay, moving what heavy things need moving, and showing up when it's Clobberin' Time.

This stopped making me sad a long, long time ago. But it's why I am the way I am. And a good many of you whom I've known online for a good number of years are going to meet me for the first time this weekend at the Fark Meetup in Vegas. And you should know, this is how it goes.

And it's alright. Because that's how it works. And I don't blame you. For me, it's actually a game these days -- how long before it takes someone to look past the "dumb jock" exterior and hear something I actually say for what it is, without it having some specific weight or caveat or asterisk because it's me saying it.

And I'm not going to rip into you if you discuss the redesign kerfuffle from '07 with me, and I'm not going to beat you up if you disagree with my opinion on the Barenaked Ladies. When I see myself in the mirror, I don't see this guy who towers over most he meets and needs people to bring a ladder to give them a hug. I just see a guy. And that's what I see when I see you -- just guys and girls, whom I'm excited to get to know. I don't think of myself as The Thing most of the time. But there it is, always with me.

Just know that it's alright, and if I crush your hand when I shake it, it was simply an accident caused by overexposure to Gamma rays.

3.25.2011

Who Is Rob Granito? I Can Tell You (UPDATED)

UPDATES - Latest at 9:55PM 3.27.11! See below this post for updates.
Quick links: Rob Granito Is A Fraud - the wall is entertaining, the info page is cataloging the story. Artists who got clipped can reference the entire CD Rob sent me to do his website (tons of photos in there). Also, check http://jaydiddilo.com for a few laughs. I felt it fitting to reuse the code I did for Granito's site, for very obvious reasons.


As of 9:55PM, I have shared everything I know about him, talked about how I feel about the situation and my involvement, made available every image I have so artists can find their own work that has been stolen, and made the jokes I wanted to make. It was a crap situation, and I consider myself past it now. Unless something massive happens, I'm now done with having Rob Granito in my life, and am moving on to other, actually productive things. Thank you all who have encouraged me and helped me feel better, and good luck one and all with your endeavors. 


*************

I was working on a story for an upcoming project when an IM window popped up.

"Have you seen this yet?" asked a good friend of mine, a professional in the comic book world. He is the cover artist for the GI Joe series, among many other things. And above all of that, he's a really, really good person.

"Seen what?" I asked.

"http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/03/24/who-on-earth-is-rob-granito/" he replied.

Now, if you're like me, you read the URLs you receive from people before you click them. And when I saw that one, my very first thought wasn't "Oh, this must be an expose on my friend Rob Granito." I knew it was bad.

It had been a long time coming.

I've known Rob for about three years. We met at DragonCon in 2008, where I complimented a painting of Catwoman he did and he subsequently sold it to me. And it really is a nice painting of Catwoman, in a Darwyn Cooke style (whom I am a HUGE fan of). If you've watched any live webcasts of mine, you've seen it. I'm not going to link to it here or post it, because it goes against where I'm ultimately headed with this blog post. But it's a nice Catwoman.

We got to talking about hockey and other things, and as far as I could tell, we really hit it off. He told me he worked on Batman: The Animated Series, and I went into hysterics. "I LOVED that show!" I exclaimed. He went into his relationship with Paul Dini, what it was like working on the show, and so on. I mentioned that I collect animation cels (among other things) and he mentioned he had a bunch from when he worked on it.

I demanded that if he ever decided to sell them, to contact me first. He agreed. I mentioned that I was an author, and agreed to send him some of my books. I did, and he said he liked them. We kept in touch.

The next year, we met up at another convention (I forget which), and we got to talking. He mentioned he was having trouble with his website, and I offered advice. I mentioned that one day I'd like to write for comics, and he offered advice as a pro in the industry. "Heck, I'll put you in touch with people at DC," he offered.

I mentioned that I was working on putting together a show for The Art of Akira Exhibit; that I had finally met someone who could actually share my vision and had the perfect venue: Joe Wos, at ToonSeum in Pittsburgh, PA. He immediately offered any help I wanted.

Near Christmas, Rob emailed me and offered me a Batman cel. I gladly took him up on it, and when I received it, I got a Bane cel signed by Paul Dini, with a matte featuring a hand-drawn Batman by Rob Granito. I thought "Hrm... Why didn't he sign this cel?" When I asked him, he said "Oh, that wasn't one I worked on."

When the Art of Akira show opened in May of 2010, Rob drove out from New York to see it. He brought a ton of paintings and cels from cartoons with him, and even did prints of some iconic scenes from Akira. He actually showed up with 8 paintings. I had no idea he was going to produce that much Akira-related work -- I thought at best, we'd get 2 or 3 pieces. But no, there were 8. And he offered all of them for auction or sale to benefit the exhibit, along with prints.

It was a very nice gesture. And to pay him back, I offered to do his website. He gladly took me up on it.

The entire time he was in Pittsburgh with us, he kept dropping names and credits on stuff he worked on, and offered to bat for me in studios and publishers with the exhibit, with comics I wanted to write, and so on. Mind you, I only mentioned once to him that I would like to write comics one day, but the offers promises kept coming.

The entire time, artists in the Pittsburgh scene were annoyed and one of my really good friends, Ed Piskor, even got up and left due to being so frustrated. He later told me he could tell most if not all of the work Granito brought with him was projected onto a canvas and traced.

I couldn't tell. I'm no artist. But they could. And they were annoyed.

Something really, really strange happened. Derek, Rob's "manager" (and bodyguard), complained about how his holster was chaffing. I asked what he meant. He produced for me a Glock 21 (.45 caliber) handgun, which was in a holster under his jacket. "I'm always strapped," he said. "There's crazy people at these conventions."

I figured, okay, well, he IS a bodyguard, so I guess it's okay that he carries a gun, but what does this artist guy need a bodyguard for? But then I realized, I hang around weird people too. It's what makes the world go round. And they were nice to me, and helping out with my exhibit for no money (I paid for their hotel room though).

When DragonCon 2010 rolled around, we had a HUGE showing with Art of Akira there, and Granito was at a table right next to us. By this time, I'd met and started becoming friends with some pros in the comic book and animation world. And when we had the pros-only showing at the convention, a LOT of artists and pros were very leery that Granito was in attendance. I'd come to find out that they didn't want to mention anything to me, because they didn't know how close we may have been and didn't want to rock the boat.

But it turns out, even then, Granito had a VERY VERY VERY horrible reputation in the industry. No one could actually pin down any of his claimed credits, and artists were beginning to recognize their own original works in his. Of course, I didn't know any of this. I just knew that this guy Granito produced a ton of stuff to help the exhibit, and had all these professional credits at Marvel and DC and Warner Brothers and whatnot, and was really, really nice to me.

Once Jeremy and I began working on his site in December of 2010, I started getting a little leery. He sent a CD full of photos of his "original" art. Now, by this time, I'd been to a few studios and seen how artists worked. I saw pros who work on Pixar films, DC and Marvel comics, and other productions treat their original material. They sell the shit out of it, because that's a HUGE part of their income.

Not one single original comic page was in his portfolio. Not a single cover. Just paintings, sketches, and con commissions. And that's fine. I didn't really question it then, because he had told me that most of his comic-related work was as a "ghost artist" -- much like a ghost writer would do for a celebrity or a very busy writer, he came in and worked on the title uncredited.

But when I got to his published works page, I had to question him. I sent him two emails, both of which asked him to flesh out his credits more. "They're really vague," I explained. For instance, he simply lists that he worked on "Calvin & Hobbes." The work he had done (or, claimed he had done -- I now question everything he's ever told me) was for a postage stamp for the USPS of Calvin & Hobbes. But the way it appears on his site, he's just flat out claiming credit for the strip.

He just replied that it was fine, he was listing the properties on which he worked.Again, what the hell did I know? I figured, he's the pro. He knows what he's doing.

And so it launched, and it wasn't a smooth experience. Every email Rob ever sent was rife with typos. It was impossible to get him to reply to something directly, and half of my requests got lost as they went to his Manager (Derek). Rob called repeatedly, telling me that San Diego Comic Con wouldn't accept him until his website looked better. And of course, I knew that was bullshit, but I figured the guy really just wanted his website done and was trying to motivate me without being a total dick. But we got it done, and that was that.

Then, yesterday, the article I linked above drops, and so does the other shoe.

I got emailed by a LOT of guys in the industry, asking had I seen it. My GI Joe artist friend was the first. He's always the first, cause he's a good guy.

My response to him: "No." My response to everyone else after that: "Yes, and I'm sick to my stomach about it."

Granito was a guy I considered a friend. He'd come through in a pinch for me, and I'd done favors for him. We've broken bread together.

People draw copyrighted properties at conventions for commissions, even if they don't work on that character. It's just how things work. People like Batman. They like guys like Mark Brooks. Ergo, if I have a few hundred dollars and really, really want to see what a Mark Brooks Batman would look like, I can pay him and it can be done.

But that's not the same as what Rob has done. He's outright stolen original works by tracing them onto canvas and reproducing them for money. Worse, he's stolen credits from people who worked VERY VERY HARD to get where they are (namely Brian Stelfreeze). People I know and like and respect very much.

And then, there's the fact that he outright lied to my face about who he was, what he'd done, and what he could do for me. And for what?

A few hundred dollars I'd paid in paintings, and a website.

And now, he's a pariah. A joke. I can say with 100% full authority that working artists in the industry HATE him now. Before, they really, really didn't like him, but couldn't really point to a reason to cast him out. He had no honest professional credits and hadn't worked with anyone at any of the conventions, and yet somehow got table and booth space out of the convention, which of course means an artist somewhere who actually did work in the industry had to go without.

But now there's actual proof. He's listed titles he had nothing to do with (Shadow of the Bat, issues 12-25 -- which are very clearly Stelfreeze, who has never worked with a "ghost" artist) as his own, and then went and tried to establish an identity of some editor at DC named Jay Didillo, who no one in the industry knows of.

The comic book industry is SMALL. I was alarmed at how small it was, until I got to know some of the people involved. And it's really, really tight knit. Everyone knows each other. Everyone talks. And no one has ever seen a single credited piece of Rob Granito's work, and no one has ever heard of Jay Didillo.

But they absolutely do recognize their friends' works in Granito's. And they can tell when photographs are painted over, or projected onto canvas and traced.

And here I am, a part of his deceit. It's a small part, yes. But I'm partly responsible for sales made for Rob Granito; for his reputation being protected and defended to actual working artists who were just trying to warn me; for his getting space at conventions I attend.

I feel foolish. I feel like I've been had. And it really makes me sick to my stomach to look at his face or hear his voice on YouTube interviews that are being linked around, where he lists off all these phony credits.

It feels like hearing the voice of an ex, after they've cheated on you and left you.

Here's a guy I've talked to as a friend, who I trusted, who I stood up for.  And good, hard working people I respect very very much tried to tell me who he was, and I stood there and said "No, you're wrong."

And the thing is, on the totem pole of victims, I'm actually only about 1/3 of the way up. The real victims here are the guys he ripped off by stealing their art and the credits for their hard work. That's not just theft by taking, that's actually reaching into their lives, their hearts, their souls as artists, and ripping away from them something far more precious than money or items. It's a crime of the lowest form. It's plagiarism. It's the lowest of the low.

I've decided not to take his site off my servers, because some artists had a REALLY good point -- this is a reference for artists to find out what he's stolen or claimed credit for, and by taking it down, I'm actually helping Granito out.

I will be wrapping up and sending back all of the paintings of his that I have, as well as the prints he did. And he can do what he wishes with them. I wish him no ill will, but I don't feel comfortable having them around anymore.

Guys like Granito thrive on the fact that people either a) don't have access to, b) can't afford or c) don't know how to approach real working artists for sketches and original art. To fans, being a fan of an artist is actually separate from having a really cool hand done painting or portrait of a character they really like, so they do what I did -- they see a really cool Catwoman and they buy it for a cheaper price. And because it looks nice, they're satisfied.

And so long as the artist making the Catwoman does it in their own style, I think most everyone is okay with that. It's when they rip off the original artist, by tracing, lightboxing, projecting, or copying in some way, that it becomes a sin. And Rob Granito has been sinning for at least 10 years that I know of, and possibly as many as 15.

When it gets into those numbers, it's not an oversight. It's not a fluke. It's purposeful and deceitful and wrong. And I for one am sad to have played even a small role in it, and sadder still to know that I can be so blind to someone like him and get taken advantage of myself.

It's like trying to sleep in your house the night after it's been robbed. You just can't accept that it happened to YOU.


UPDATE 1:10PM:

Woke up from crashing at 8 this morning, and got this email. I'm not the only one who got scammed.



Subject:Granito
Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2011 07:41:01 -0400
From: (name redacted)
To: joe@joethepeacock.com


Hello Joe-

I just saw your blog about Rob Granito- Please don't beat yourself up too much about having been fooled by him and his "work". I have done some inking for him over the years, always kinda laughing at how I could pick out his reference- Adam Hughes Catwoman here, Tom Grummett's Robin there, but I never knew it went to this extent until Cully posted the link on his facebook yesterday. I have since written Cully same as you posted on his page apologizing for my unintentional contribution to this whole mess.

What sucks most is that you go into meeting new people trusting that they are who they say they are and have done what they claim to have done, and people like this not only prey on that but also, when you find out about their deceit, take that away from you after you've been burned a few times. Of course we all have to be careful of who we meet, but don't let this guy ruin that for you-

It's really obvious that this has gotten to you, and I totally understand. I was supposed to meet up with him at MegaCon and get paid for some inking work which I already did and pick up something else to work on, which of course will not be happening now and makes me feel like a POS for helping this guy out, but yeah, again don't let this ruin anything for you- He's the conman who's doing wrong, and you (And I, and everyone else who unknowingly helped him along or were ripped off by him, both artists and people who bought stuff from him) are the victims.

Take care my friend, and if you want to chat more I will be back in front of a computer Sunday night after the show...

And what woke me up was a phone call from someone in the Granito camp. I've not heard from Rob directly, but people close to him have expressed to me that, after reading this post and the comments on the followup on the Bleeding Cool piece  that they don't know where they stand anymore. It'll be interesting to see if ANYONE sticks by Rob after this.

UPDATE 2:41PM: I was just informed by some artists in attendance at MegaCon (who wish not to be named) that not only is Granito not being asked to leave and gets to stay, but his manager is allowed to stay with his weapon, as he has a concealed carry permit. In Georgia, even with a permit you're not allowed to carry a weapon into a public gathering over a certain amount of people (500 I believe? If only there were a resource I could type a question into and search for answers...)

And more, this guy is posting YouTube vids of Rob hawking his copied work at MegaCon. My favorite so far:




(Can't see the video? click here)


And if you listen close in this one, you can hear him talk shit about me:



(can't see the video? click here)

And Rob, for the record, I very much welcome that call from your attorney. And I find it sad that, despite the fact that I emailed and called you, I have to find out your reaction via a stealth recording on YouTube.


UPDATE 3.27.11 1:00AM:  I was contacted by the totally legitomite top DC writer, Jay Diddilo, about making his website. So I obliged.


UPDATE 3.27.11 2:37PM:

It seems Granito has decided to take his astroturfing defense campaign straight to the hub, the Rob Granito Is A Fraud page on Facebook. He's created a fake account called Gary Taylor. It's painfully obvious this is Grantito -- it shares the exact same spelling and grammatical errors as the fake comment he posted on this blog and on other blogs, and uses the "innocent until proven guilty" comment he's made here and references "raping a child" as a form of crime worse than what he's being accused of, like he did in the Youtube videos (click the image for the full-size, to read the nuttiness).


And here's a screencap of the "Gary Taylor" account. Look at the recent activity, and the fact there's NOTHING else going on on this account except this (and the fact that he likes Ric Flair???):



UPDATE 3.27.11 4:18PM: I finally located and uploaded the entire CD Rob sent me to do his website. In the gallery are tons and tons of photos, many of which didn't make it onto the site, but are in his "collection" or that he sold to folks. Hope this helps artists locate their stolen material. 


UPDATE 3.27.11 9:55PM: I've read all the blogs, followed the events of the weekend, shared my part in this calamity, and honestly been both delighted and saddened by the whole thing. I've been delighted with the fact that people are really supportive, both of the fact that I feel betrayed by someone I considered a friend and about the fact that I feel bad about my part in his fraud. 

I'm disappointed, because as the weekend has gone on and people have been made aware, I've seen pictures of Rob's kids and family pushed around and insults made about people who are innocent in all of this.

I've seen people with no dog in this fight jump in and try to make something out of it when it has nothing to do with them (I absolutely understand fans feeling gypped, even if they didn't buy a painting -- when something like this happens, we as a society feel repulsed by it, and the good among us want to right the wrong. That's not what I'm talking about here -- it's the piling on and the needless kicking of a corpse). 

I absolutely DO NOT want that to be a part of my legacy. I am working very hard to do things with my writing, my books, and Art of Akira, and they're positive things. Things I'm proud of. And while I absolutely do want everyone to know the extent of Rob's fraud, the things he's done, and the impact on me and my life, I'm not going to continue on with this. 

Not that it shouldn't still be talked about and discussed. It should. The industry needs everyone to know, this will not stand. It needs to be always remembered. Rob should not be allowed at any cons ever again. It has been proven he cannot draw, and that he will justify the blatant theft and selling of others' art. He's a textbook sociopath, and the stories that have been shared with me all weekend by pros and fans alike via email, phone and IM have ranged from sad to heartbreaking. 

But I don't want to make Rob Granito any part of my legacy in my work. I have books to write, websites to design and an art exhibit to run, and I want to be proud of all of those things. My energy is better spent smiling than crying. It's been a hectic, somewhat sad, somewhat encouraging weekend. I've met some incredible people through Granito's nonsense. I've found out that I've got friends I didn't know I have. And now it's time for me to move past it. 

I've shared everything I've got in an effort to expose Rob, give the artists who were harmed the chance to find their own work in his, and get the word out. I've even vented and shared some feelings on this whole thing, and that part felt good. But there's a line, and going past it means riding this situation farther than I'm comfortable riding it. It's a lame horse. Time to get off. 

Thank you everyone for your attention, response and support. When next I see you at a con, book signing or the bar, let's shake hands, smile, and share some happy stories. 

3.24.2011

The 1000+ Word Letter Defending The Barenaked Ladies (And A Response)

Two days ago, I did yet another in what is apparently a series of somewhat reflective posts, talking about my intense personality and how I only have two emotional settings, 1 and 10. I also missed an obvious Spinal Tap reference by not saying my emotional dial goes to 11. I did this because the person who pointed out my whole emotional dial thing never said 11, and the post is based on what he said, and I wanted to stay true to the source material, and blah blah blah.

So, in that post, I threw in a curve ball, shaping it like an apology letter to Barenaked Ladies fans, and then curved it again into yet another scathing attack on the band and their fans. I'm tempted to throw another one in right here. But this post is serious, and I don't want to diminish that.

Sometime that evening (around 8:26 PM EDT, going by the timestamp on her email which is in GMT), I received an email. A very, very long email. And it was from a fairly new reader of my stuff. She was moved to write in response to that long, self-reflective email. Here, with her permission and in its entirety, is that email:

Subject: Re: Ripping on BnL
Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2011 00:26:40 +0000
From: Sarah (name and address redacted)
To: Joe Peacock

Hi Joe,

So I couldn't really read your latest blog post and let it pass me by without making some kind of comment. I'll preface all this by saying straight off that I'm a massive BnL fan. I openly admit this, I'm not ashamed of it and nor would I ever feel I had to be. I've followed them around on tour, been front row every night, stayed afterwards to meet them, been on 3 of the music cruises they headline and have done a whole bunch of other awesome stuff as a result of being one of their fans.

I've seen previous examples of when people have contacted you and you've given a decent reasoned response and not gone on the full out attack, so I hope this will be one of those times too.

Ok, that said, today was interesting as I sat at work, catching up on one of the few blogs I actually bother to keep up with because it's written by a guy that I have a certain amount of respect for (this is you btw) love his writing, love his honesty and bravery and admire the way he's gone after the things he wants to do and even if it's not always ended well, never really let failure hold him back for too long. I own his books and have happily donated money in exchange for some of his art as a way of supporting what he does.

But then he starts ripping on my favourite band (who I also have a lot of respect and love for) in a seemingly unprovoked and unjustified attack on both them and their fans. This leaves me with an awkward feeling.

I already knew you didn't like them, but the force that was written with.........it was kind of like finding out that the guy at work you hang out with on your break, goes home and drowns puppies.

Now don't worry, this isn't gonna turn into a long and rambling attempt to convert you into a BnL fan and show you the error of your ways (ok I might do that a little) it's more to ask the question of why all the hate for them? I get that the whole point of that post was you either don't care about something or you care a lot and display that accordingly. So yeah, if you don't like them, it's gonna come out that way.

But why? Is it that one song? Cos that annoys the crap out of most of their fans too and I would gladly have them miss it off at any show I go and see.

And their fans.......fucking idiots for not being able to find decent music to listen to? Again, is that just aimed at that one song? Is it because it exploded and went mainstream and was everywhere for a while? Is it because they sampled a lyric from another song you actually like? (cos obviously that has NEVER happened before or since)

I'll admit I only started reading your blog recently, so I've started at the beginning and am working my way through (it's an effective way to kill time at work) so maybe I'm yet to get to the post about how one of the band beat on you and slapped you around the head with his dick, thus festering an immense hate for them. If it's coming then I apologise and take it all back.

I'm just looking for some justification, which I accept you have no obligation to give as you're opinion is your own and you entitled to it, but you must have some, right?

I listen to a lot of music and while I'm sure you'd probably hate most of it and likewise I probably wouldn't like most of what you listen to, I reckon there would be some crossover in there somewhere.

There are bands I don't like, there are songs I hate and will go to great lengths to avoid listening to. But I don't think any less of the people that do like it. Music is one of those things, just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it's wrong.

Yes, if it's a bunch of people singing about the joys of dog murdering and paedophilia, then that would be an example of when it clearly is both wrong and unlikeable, but those bands very rarely go mainstream.

I don't know, I guess I just needed to make the point that they are more than just that one song and I'm a fan of them for more than just that song. The list of bands and artists I like and who I've seen play live is long and varied, from the big names like Bowie and Springsteen, to tiny names that nobody has ever heard of. BnL stand strong in that list

I'm 24, I live in England, I have a good job that pays me well and affords me some slacking time whilst still letting me be in charge of people. I spend some of my time online, I spend some of it playing video games, I spend most of it listening to music. I hang out with my friends, I go to concerts. I save some money and use it to go off and have adventure vacations and do stupid stuff. I've been on 3 music cruises around the Caribbean, I've stood completely naked on the top deck of each of those cruise ships with a thousand other people to get a picture taken. I've climbed a waterfall in Jamaica and swam with sting rays. I've been scuba diving, I've been snowboarding and I've been inked.

I'm not a fucking idiot and neither are any of the people I've met that are BnL fans and with whom I've done most of the stuff I just listed.

Ok one or two of them are idiots, but only the ones that get a bit stalky and still think the lead singer is going to run away with them

The last Barenaked Ladies album was awesome, you should check it out, even if you only make it through the first track

...Right. I'm tempted again to throw another curve ball in right here. But no. Again, I want to stay true to the source material. This is real life we're talking about here, with real people with real feelings on real things. So with that direction in mind, here is the nearly-equally-long response I sent to her, again in its entirety. And with my permission. But I think you knew that part.

Subject:Re: Ripping on BnL
Date: Tue, 22 Mar 2011 21:17:14 -0400
From: joe peacock
To: Sarah (name and email redacted, again)

Okay, first I have to say, this is not at all what I expected or am used to seeing from people who disagree with my stance on Barenaked Ladies. Usually, people just start singing their lyrics at me to get back at me. This was kinda deep. Didn't know I could provoke a response like that. Nonetheless, thanks for taking the time to write me.

So, that said: It's definitely an unprovoked attack on the Barenaked Ladies and their fans, just like all my attacks on Barenaked Ladies and their fans. Hating the Barenaked Ladies has been an eight year thread on my blog and in my stories on Mentally Incontinent. So, it's not exactly out of the blue.

But I can't always count on the fact that everyone who reads what I write, reads everything I've ever written. Such is the nature of writing on the internet -- new people find your stuff every day, and the longer you do it, the less likely they'll be interested in digging through years and years worth of archives just to catch up on the in-jokes.

As far as why: It's not just that one song. I just can't stand them. They play well, they play together, they make a unified sound, and they know their instruments and can craft a song. That much is true. But the music they make, makes me want to pull my ears off and coat the holes with putty.

The same is true of Nickelback, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, James Blunt, Maroon 5, Coldplay (except for that first album, which was pretty good), No Doubt, and about 300 other bands. It's the fact that, as with all art, everyone likes and wants different things from the art they choose to consume. Some people like Spiderman, some people like Batman. Some people like both. Some people hate comic books and think they're kids stuff.

When it comes to music, the very first thing I want is something with soul, whether it be from the lyrics or the technical merits of the musician, or just the way the entire song is written and arranged. Something that resonates within me. And nothing that the Barenaked Ladies has written that I've checked out has ever done that. In fact, half of what they write actually irritates me. You know that feeling you feel when you listen to them and you just feel with it; you feel the music coarse through you and you want to sing and close your eyes and let it wrap around you?

I feel that with the music I like. And is there a type of music that just irritates you? Rap, Metal, Country? That's what popular frat rock does to me. It makes me angry to listen to it. There's no real way to explain it any better than that. It's like trying to describe a spiral staircase without using your hands.

And as for why I wrote what I wrote: At some point, I decided that my job on this earth is to provoke. I want to get under your skin and make you question why you like what you like, or defend it, or whatever my arguments do to you. But more than anything, I want you to realize no one -- not me, not your best friend, not your parents or anyone -- has absolutely any sway over you unless you let them.

So what, I hate something you like. What's the net result? Some words were said that you disagree with. Does that change how you feel? Does it makeyou feel stronger or less empassioned? If so, why? What if you never read those words? What if you missed today's blog entry? What changes in your life? Really, what effect did the blog post have on where you stand on the Barenaked Ladies?

There are times I write to educate, and times I write to just poke at people and see what happens. Today was the latter. And longtime readers (and believe me, there are only a few) know by now that when I take swipes like this, it's just me lighting literary firecrackers and watching them go off.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't do it on purpose. Throughout the years, I've very purposely thrown out opinions I knew would divide or provoke people. Not that they're false -- the decision isn't "what can I come up with today to piss people off?" It's "do I voice this opinion I honestly have and watch the fallout, or not?" And when I do decide to do it, I know I'm pushing buttons.

It's the same reason I used to go and delete inactive accounts on my Mentally Incontinent site, or automatically unsubscribe people from my email lists if they didn't respond to the 6-month "do you still want this?" check. I cull my audience of the people who don't want to be a part of it, for one reason or another. It keeps the message clean and lets me know who I'm selling to.

I don't want huge numbers when it comes to sales or subscriptions or whatever metric you want to pick. I want to know that the people I'm reaching want to hear from me.

And if pithy, very-obviously-ridiculous opinions about things as insignificant as bands we like or dislike cause people to leave me, well, that's something I don't really mind. It may sound antithetical and pretty much the opposite of what most writers or authors would want, but again, that's me. It's how I am, for better or for worse.

But at the end of the day, this is all just fun. I'm after reactions, and I always hope those reactions come in the form of laughs. And a lot of people do laugh at things like the Barenaked Ladies running joke. But occasionally, people like you who a) aren't really in on the running jokes and/or b) REALLY care about something I poke at (like BnL, or Sarah Palin, or the Tea Party, or The Big Bang Theory) get caught in the crossfire. I'm saddened that something like that would cause people to leave, but hey, we love the things we love and ultimately, it's your decision.

I actually lost two readers the last time I ripped on The Big Bang Theory. Somehow, my opinion on that show (which is quite low) was enough to cause two people who had been reading my stuff for YEARS to tell me to fuck off.

And off I did fuck. Because when I find out someone is going to toss me over a tv show or a band or something that small, well, I can't be bothered to care.

That's not to say I don't care about you and don't want you as a reader. I sure do. And I hope you don't write me off. But if you do, do trust that I'll be getting over it really, really quickly. And if you don't, I look forward to the next few years of writing and talking to you, as I try to do with all my readers who want to engage in conversation.

The only thing I will add outside of the context of these emails is that Sarah responded, was very thankful for my response, and came to understand my methods and no longer feels that I choke puppies or whatever it was it felt like I was doing when I was hating her favorite band.

I'll also mention that she told me Barenaked Ladies are doing the theme song or a video or something for The Big Bang Theory. I'm glad she gave me a heads-up. That combination of horrible and awful, when they merge, is going to create an event horizon of suckage so powerful that not even light will escape. I'm writing my final words now in preparation for the end of the Earth.

3.23.2011

How Exactly One Becomes 375 Pounds (Or More)

I read this article on Rulon Gardner's Biggest Loser experience by Joe Posnanski this morning. And since I have, I've been staring at this Blogger editing window, trying to find the words to explain exaclty how I feel.

It's hard, because it's an extremely complex array of emotions, braided into a single thread. Andrea and I have been watching this season's Biggest Loser, and it's hard not to root for Rulon. He was my hero in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. I watched every single match of his. I cheered when he beat Karelin, and I NEVER cheer at my television for anything, ever.

Okay, well, that's a lie, I cheered in 1994 when the Rangers beat the Canucks in game 7 to win the Stanley Cup. But other than that, yelling at the TV isn't really a habit of mine. It drives me NUTS in bars and restaurants when retarded frat boys and wannabe jocks yell at the tv when their team scores. But I cheered when Rulon won. He was what I wish I could have been when I wrestled. He was the underdog, and he beat an undefeated, overmatched Russian for a gold medal.

And so it is in The Biggest Loser. Rulon, a two time Olympic medalist, lost his battle with his own willpower and shot up to over 400lbs. Again, I see myself in Rulon, but this time, it's not a hero-worship situation. I actually did that. I let myself get incredibly overweight and then had to battle to lose the weight and reclaim my life. And I'm watching this guy who I looked up to face the exact same challenge, and when I root for him, it's not because I wish I was him. It's because I actually was.

And so, in the article I linked, Posnanski (one of my favorite sportswriters) joins Rulon on his mission to compete on the Biggest Loser. And I found the piece very interesting, until I got to this part, which found my jaw on the ground and a tear in my eye:


* * *
February 7
Weight: 242.6 pounds
What does inspiration mean in sport? Can watching Michael Jordan rise and dunk lift us all just a little higher? Can seeing Marshawn Lynch refuse to go down make us slightly more invincible? When Secretariat pulls away does that make us a little bit faster and more brilliant in the stretch?
“The problem,” Rulon Gardner is saying, “is that calories are cheap. Have you thought about that?”
I had not thought of that
“They’re cheap. And they are everywhere. Think about wherever you go. What do you see? Calories. And you don’t need a lot of money to get them. For 10 bucks you could get five or seven or nine thousand calories. Well, I’ve got ten bucks. I might not have anything else. But I’ve got 10 bucks, you know what I mean?”
I knew what he meant.
Rulon Gardner used to look into the mirror, and he says, “I didn’t see what I saw.” He knew he had gained weight after his wrestling days. He knew it, but didn’t KNOW it. His sister, a cardiologist, told him that if he did not shape up he would die soon. His friends told him that when he slept, his snores sounded like gasps, like he was being strangled. He would get winded walking down a hallway.
All the while, he would look in the mirror and he would see … yesterdays. Beautiful yesterdays. He would see himself as an athlete. He would hear the cheers. He would feel invincible. How many times in his life had he cheated death? Even Rulon Gardner can’t say for sure — it depends on how close to death you are talking about. He walked away from a motorcycle crash. He swam away from a plane crash. He survived a night in the Wyoming wild after a snowmobile accident — the pain from the cold was so excruciating that after a while he took solace in it. “As long as I hurt,” he told himself, “I am alive.”
“I didn’t think I could die,” he says. “You know what I mean?”
I knew what he meant.
* * *

That entire section struck a chord within me. I heard it loud as it rang in my ears. The cheapness of the calories. The looking in the mirror. The not knowing what he was seeing when he saw himself so overweight.

That absolutely WAS me. I used to look in the mirror at 375lbs and think to myself "You know, three months in the gym and I could drop the weight. And I bet even at this weight, I could still compete in Judo and out-wrestle anyone. It's not a big deal."

I didn't see the strida of fat in my heart's muscle wall. I didn't see the toll it was taking on my knees. I didn't see the premature death of my wife's husband. All I saw was a former athlete who could "cut weight" anytime he wanted.

And the calories ARE cheap. You can get them anytime you want, from anywhere you want. And for most of us, food is equated to entertainment and escape. Lunch period in school, lunch break at work, dinner with friends, cookouts, pot luck dinners... These things ARE escapes, and it's natural for us to celebrate great times with food. But what that does to some of us is engrain in our brains that food = entertainment. We eat when we're bored.

And the more you eat when you're bored, the less you fill that boredom with activity and healthy living. And when you finally decide to, it's a challenge of the sort that finds you saying "To hell with this shit, it's painful and not fun, and I can spend this time playing Xbox and eating Cheetohs."

And that's what happened to me the past few weeks. I got really, really sick a few weeks ago during travels to and fro, and when I got home, I physically crashed. I spent the whole of the past week and a half in bed or on my couch attempting to get well and recover. And during that time, I found myself catching up on video games I've been wanting to play and eating bad snacks and putting off until tomorrow getting back into the gym and taking fitness seriously again.

I gained 15 lbs in three weeks.

Now, that hasn't put me into firm fat-ass territory, but it did put me back near 300lbs. And while I'm comfortable with the idea of weighing 300lbs, so long as I can run half marathons and Tough Mudders and push the kind of weight I like pushing in the gym, I am NOT comfortable with how I got there.

I slid. And it's just that easy to do it. A week of being sick, or lazy, or overall needing a break turns into three weeks and before you know it, the switch that governs your love of exercise and fitness flips to "off" and you're right back where you were in your most comfortable, lazy and lethargic days.

And you feel like shit the day you walk back into that gym. Even though they can't, you feel like everyone can see the weight you put on, and can tell how hard it is for you to just run a mile on the treadmill, or lift the weights you're used to lifting.

And worse, when you look in the mirror and you see those fat bits showing, you think "eh, just a few weeks back in the gym, I'll cut the weight."

Just. Like. That.

And here's the raw, horrible truth that every single ex-athelete and overweight jock and glory days guy will tell you if they've lived through it: You can't cut the weight in a few weeks. You can't just jump right back into your old life. And the day you try is the worst day of your entire existence, because you feel used up and washed out and exhausted, and mortality finally stares you in the face for the first time and looks right into your eyes with it's hollowed out, deep dark sockets that somehow still seem to glow and says "You're mine."

And so, I cried when I read that article. And I cried when I heard his story on The Biggest Loser, about losing himself and being afraid to try to find it again because he thought it was gone forever, and was afraid to know that that was actually true. Because I know what that's like.

The thing is, I think we all do. Whether or not you played a sport when you were young, or were ever fit, there was a time in your life when you didn't have to actually prepare to walk up a long flight of stairs or rest afterward, and it's so much easier to just not do anything about it than to try and realize you can't go back.

And you can't. But you can go forward. And that's really the point. A life worth living, not a life having worth led. You can't control anything that's already passed. It's gone. But you can certainly work today to make tomorrow a better day. This isn't just about fitness, either. It's true of your financial and emotional health as well.

3.22.2011

One and Ten (or, Yeah, I Care A Lot About Stuff)

My friend and homeboy Drew Curtis once gave me the most insightful, helpful and impactful critique of my personality I've ever received. And no, he didn't tell me I was an asshole. I mean, he has before, as have thousands if not tens of thousands of other people. But that's hardly a revelation.

He told me, and I am probably butchering his exact words, that I have only two settings on my emotional dial: Zero and Ten. If I'm not at "zero" about a thing, I'm set to "ten" about it -- meaning I'm very black and white, with no middle ground.

And this isn't a measure of liking and hating. It's a measure of caring. I either don't care at all about it, or I care a WHOLE FUCKING LOT IN ALL CAPS. The things I like, I love with a fiery burning passion that I want to spread to everyone in the world, and the things I hate, I want to punch everyone in the world who like it just because they like it.

He gave me this bit of insight during a pretty dark time in my life. He was being a good friend, and it was was a revelation of the sort that doesn't come with bright lights and neon and a horn blaring. It was the kind of revelation that you listen to and ponder on for a minute, and then go "Hm, yeah, I guess I DO do that." The kind that actually do sink in and take hold and make you ponder yourself a bit. The horn-blaring-bright-light kinds just hurt a while until you accept them and realize you don't care. These, however, actually get to you.

And for a long time after he told me that, I tried imagining stuff I was going to talk about as having a setting on a dial, a la Tony Robbins (or whoever came up with that, I've heard it expressed a few different ways by people who somehow think someone is going to deliver happiness and confidence through a few cassette tapes and a folder full of jargon for $149.99). I'd try to tone it back if it wasn't that big a deal, or dial it up if I didn't actually care but needed to at that time. And that works, for a little while. It's a brain hack. And like all brain hacks, eventually the brain patches itself and it stops working.

What I realized a very short time ago is that Drew had absolutely no idea how much I actually do or do not care about a thing, except for what he observes me reacting to. He wasn't really in my head, showing me some facet about myself I never knew before. He was saying "Dude, you wear your emotions on your sleeve." I gave him all of the information he needed to provide the observation he did.

And so, I tried the very short lived experiment of Not Doing That. And for the duration, I felt false. Fake. Like I was lying all the time.

There's some part of me that feels that even the mere fact of hiding how I feel about a thing is being dishonest about it. And while I won't ever attempt to fool myself or you into thinking I'm some paragon of truth, I will say that, white lies aside, I absolutely do try to live honestly. I feel falseness is a sin. It's deception. It's altering who we are, at our core, in order to attain some sort of goal, wether it be getting ahead at someone's expense, or just convincing someone of something we want them to believe.

It actually physically makes me sick to be false. And it makes me even more sick to realize when people are being false with me. It's not just the act of deception, it's the wasting of my time that really kills me. Things go so much faster and more smoothly when we cut the shit and just get down to brass tacks, doesn't it? If you don't like a thing, say "I don't like this thing." It lets me know where you stand and we move on. It's smooth. It's easy. It puts an end to a thing you don't like, and allows us to get on to something else.

But, and I think this is where Drew really wanted me to land on all of this, that doesn't mean I have to be so damn intense about everything all the time.

And that's difficult. It's not an act when I get intense about liking or disliking a thing. It's just me expressing how I feel about it, and sure, there are definitely things I'm ambivalent about. But for the most part, for me, it's not so much about liking or disliking, it's caring or not caring. If something deserves my attention, I think that warrants caring about it. And if I don't care about a thing, I don't waste my time on it at all.

But that doesn't mean everyone wants to hear about it. And I get that now. So, it's with this in mind that I want to apologize to the Barenaked Ladies fans out there. For years, you've heard me complain about how much I hate that lazy, horrible piece of shit band. You've heard me go on about how ridiculous it is that anyone would give them a single dollar for a single note they play. You hear me rip on their abuse of changing "Chickity Choco, The Chocolate Chicken" from Busta Rhyme's classic lyric in "What's the Scenario" to some stupid whatever thing frat boys the world over think is genius.

And the reason I'm apologizing is not because I've expressed these opinions, or that they may have hurt your feelings. It's because I'm so sorry you're such a fucking idiot that you can't actually find some decent music to like.

And as far as changing my 1 and 10 method of caring about stuff: I am who I am. And while I have changed to some degree my reactions to things in front of certain groups or people, it's only because I value the relationship I have with them and want to preserve it. And the method I've used to keep from feeling false is to simply not express an opinion at all, because the last thing I want to ever do is lie to someone. And faking my opinion on things is lying, at least to me.

You may not like me, but at least there's one person on this Earth you never have to wonder where they stand on a thing. And there has to be some value in that.

3.18.2011

Why High School Was Hell (For Me, Anyway)

The other day I wrote a letter to my 16-year-old self. That letter got a LOT more response and attention than I ever intended. I kinda thought it was just a nice catharsis, and somehow it resonated with a great many of you. Thank you for your notes and emails.

But some others of you, especially those who know me, emailed to ask why exactly I felt that time of my life was so hellish. They remembered me being a happy, carefree guy in high school who seemingly didn't give a shit about almost anything, taking every opportunity to have as much fun with my friends as I could and generally getting along with everyone.

You're right. That's pretty much how it was in high school. I attribute that to the fact that I was 6' 3" and over 200lbs the day I entered high school and wasn't afraid to pop a smartass in the face if they pushed me around. All I wanted in high school was to be left alone and get through it.

Now before high school, I was pretty much bullied every single day of my life. The reasons are varied, but the bottom line is that I spent every single day of my life being told why I didn't belong, and then beat up for it. By the time I finally stood up for myself in 8th grade, it had become painfully clear -- I was not one of you, and I never would be.

And that's where high school became a different kind of hell for me than it probably was for others, but for a lot of the same reasons.

I wasn't part of any crowd. I knew kids in every clique that I got along with, but I never really had a set I belonged to. I was bored by all of the material I was being taught. There wasn't much being discussed in class that I didn't already know from reading the entire textbook the first week and a half of class. I spent as much time as I could trying my best to not get in the way, but it got really difficult after I'd drawn comic book characters or D&D maps on every piece of notebook paper I had in my notebooks.

And in the classes where the teacher absolutely demanded attention, I became a horrible dick. I felt like, if I was passing your tests and not making a peep while you taught, what the fuck did you care if I just sat there and drew? Why did I have to put my eyes on you and stare at you obliviously like everyone else in class, especially when I couldn't care less what was coming out of your mouth?

So I made a point of becoming the bane of this type of teachers' existence. And this didn't sit well with the smart kids, who were trying their best to get their AP credits so they could have a great career later on in life. And while I was sorry it was so hard for them to pay attention, I didn't quite get why they cared. So they got to skip a fucking class in college. Big deal.

By the time high school rolled around, I'd already gotten over the fact that I wasn't allowed to care about English or Math or Social Studies for longer than an hour at a time. It didn't matter if I really got into Fahrenheit 451 and wanted to read it longer than the reading period allowed. God forbid something capture and hold a child's interest and get them excited about continuing through it! NO! Bell rings, you quit caring. You will work your shift on your appointed job. You will switch to the next appointed job when the bell tells you to.

Fuck that fucking bell. And fuck the people running it. This is what I was thinking at age fourteen, folks. I was so angry that my life centered around an hourly chime which forced me to fracture my ability to concentrate on one thing I found important or interesting.

And while it didn't bother me at the time, I came to realize just how disgusting it was that the entire day revolved around lunch period for me. I would get to school and count down the minutes until I could see my friends at lunch, and then count down the minutes until I got to get the hell out. And in the years since, I've discussed it with hundreds of others for whom it was the same. No wonder we have issues with food as adults in this country. We've spent at least 12 years of our lives equating time to eat with time to get away and relax and be with our social groups. Food is your escape.

Gym class is meant to encourage exercise in youth. Instead, it places all the maladjusted children in a locker room during the greatest time of physical metamorphosis, embarrasses us, then expects us to get sweaty and tired in the midst of trying to look cool and be hip the rest of the school day. No wonder so many adults hate exercise.

And here I am, at age 34, and I've not been in a corporate job for six years now. And even though I can come and go as I please; I don't clock in anywhere for anyone and I have absolute dominion over my own schedule and freedom, I still, for some reason, look forward to Fridays. And Sundays always have that sense of fleeting; like my time to myself is always up. It actually makes me ill when I realize why that is -- because I spent so damn long being indoctrinated to feel that way.

So yes, high school was hell for me, but not for the same reasons most outcasts and geeks and dweebs will say it was. I was an outcast; I was a geek and a dweeb. But no one would come slap my tray out of my hands while I was walking to the lunch table or push me into a locker or trip me in the hall. I was a football player and a wrestler and I would have crunched their faces with my oversized hands.

But there was hardly a moment when I wasn't reminded by every single social group and every teacher save two (my art teacher, Mrs. Daughtry, whom to this day I love and respect, and a full-blood Scot named Mr. Calquhoun, who was a Rhodes scholar that taught calculus because he was disgusted with the school's curriculum in English) that I not only didn't belong, but I wasn't even wanted. There wasn't a minute that passed during that time that I didn't long to be somewhere else.

And what no one ever realized: they weren't ostracizing me by that point. I was casting THEM out.

I wore the wrong clothes in their opinion, but that's because I bought shit I liked because I had to work for my own money to buy my own clothes. I was working for cash under the table since I was 13 years old because that's the only way we could afford stuff like clothes. When you spend your own money on stuff, even as a kid, you suddenly quit giving a shit what's fashionable and instead buy what you want.

I didn't have time to care about homework, and it didn't matter -- I somehow graduated high school with a B average having only done exactly ONE homework assignment, which was painting a window at Kroger for Christmas my Junior year. And if that alone isn't a testament to what a joke the entire experience was, I don't know what is.

I didn't watch the shows anyone else watched. I hated their music. I hated their movies. I hated their books (those of them who actually read books they weren't forced to read). I hung around a small group of five people  I found value in (one of them being my sister) and didn't give a shit what caste they belonged to. I don't know how many people tried to be in our little friend group, because we didn't hold auditions. You made the cut right away or you were dead to us.

And yes, midway through my high school career at age 16, I came to a moment where I realized that I'd spent the first half of my life up until then being picked on and abused and the second half wondering what the point of it all was. I wanted out. I couldn't stomach another two years of getting up at 5AM to do morning workouts for a sport I hated and only played to make my father happy, then going to classes I got nothing out of with teachers who hated my guts and kids who had no idea how to relate to me, then going and wasting hours at a time on football, only to leave and work the three or 4 hours left in the day to earn a bit of money to get clothes no one liked.

So yes, for those of you who knew me then: it was hell. Because if I'd had it my way, I would have been doing something -- ANYTHING -- else that mattered. Instead, I had to waste four years of my life doing shit I hated around people who didn't even come close to understanding me.

Am I bitter? Not anymore. Don't mistake writing all this out with obsessing over it. I'm over it, and in a lot of ways, thankful for the experience. 

3.17.2011

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

A lovely message for all of you on St. Patrick's Day, from me!



HEARTS AND SHAMROCKS AND SHIT

3.16.2011

Dudes, Here's The One Secret To Talking To Girls

I'm talking to a friend of mine about his problems when it comes to talking to girls.

"I can't help it," he says. "It's what I do, I worry about stupid shit and let it get in my way. I can't stop thinking about all the reasons she wouldn't want me."

Here's the thing, and I think it's pretty universal for almost everyone with self esteem issues: we reject ourselves before anyone else can reject us. For some reason, that's easier.

Girls, by and large, are attracted to confidence. And unfortunately for you, obsessing over all the things you hate about yourself -- your looks, your job, your interest in comic books -- is just going to ruin that. it's the great prank of nature. We obsess over the thing girls don't care about and that makes us suck at the thing they do.

So stop doing their job for them. Stop rejecting yourself before they ever get a chance to. Make it hard on them. Don't just give up, make them give you a good reason why you shouldn't talk to them. Hell, make them sell to you.

The same goes with job interviews, asking for favors or anything else. The second someone perceives that you don't honestly think you're worth what you're asking for, they can't help but wonder why. You know yourself best, and if you're putting it out there that you don't deserve it, why shouldn't they just take your word for it?

The thoughts don't go away, by the way. I still have them. I always have. I'm just a really, really stubborn asshole, and want to see if I'm stronger than my own doubts. I put my head down, plow through the walls, and see what's on the other side. Ususally, I don't regret the momentary pain I experience doing it. Of course, it doesn't really apply to my talking to girls. But as I said before, I think it applies to any situation where you're trying to impress upon someone you're worth a chance. I do this daily.

Doubt is always there, until you begin proving to yourself it shouldn't be. The only way to begin believing in yourself is to first trust that you can handle what happens if you actually succeed. Give it a shot. Fake it till you make it. All that shit.

In other words, Jeremy, stop being such a pussy and ask that girl out.

3.15.2011

Karma, Part Infinity

I'm stupid.

Thousands of you have been waiting to hear me say that. Well, joke's on you, I say that about myself all the damn time. It's not my fault you're not there in my garage as I attempt to learn how to build Tetris bookshelves or replace my own brakes. Maybe you should quit being so lazy and show up from time to time.

Anyway, some of you might remember a few years ago when some thieves stole my truck out of my driveway. It turned out it was just neighborhood kids out to impress each other with how brazen and lawless they could be. I thought I learned my lesson; I locked my doors and even had Georgia Power come out and install a new streetlight to cover the dark corner in our cul-de-sac.

Well, it turns out that whole thing about lax security being a result of being too comfortable is true. I got robbed again.

Andrea was going to drive us to the gym last night, so I went out to my truck yesterday to grab my gym bag. And much to my dismay, I couldn't find the damn thing. More than that, I noticed my glove box was open and the center console lid was up. But nothing immediately struck me as weird. The night before, I took Mike up to Wal-Mart, and he likes to open compartments.

It's an odd compulsion. But it's actually a legitimate one. He's pretty OCD (yes, I just verbed a noun, and I also call vampires "Draculas," so fuck you) and opens up containers seemingly for no reason.

But when I couldn't find the gym bag, I immediately shifted to "well, okay, so I at least need my iPod to go to the gym" mode. And when I couldn't find that, it clicked. I'd been robbed.

They basically did a quick hit-and-run and stole what they could quickly get their hands on. The iPod, a FLIP camera, a pair of sunglasses and the little spring-loaded change holder that sits in my console. Oddly enough, they left the other pair of sunglasses, a multitool, and all the cash in the visor zipper holder... um, thing. Whatever it's called.

But what really pissed me off was the gym bag. The only thing of any worth to anyone that isn't me that was in that bag was the earbuds. Everything else -- my knee brace, my cycling shoes, a tube of Butt Paste (don't laugh; when you have to wear a brace one day and it chaffs, you'll discover the awesome power of Butt Paste)... Now I have to go and get another fitting for another brace and replace the damn bike shoes.

What really sucked was the fact that I was in a pretty bad mood that entire day, and the last thing I needed was a legitimate reason to be sour. And now I had one. Which means I had no choice but to lock myself away, because the last thing anyone in the world needs is me in a bad mood in public.

And I can't help but think that the reason I keep ending up a target of the retard neighborhood kids is from an entire childhood and adolescence spent being a complete pain in everyones asses.

3.12.2011

How You Know You're An Adult, #1771829: Being Sick

For those wondering, when I do these "How Blah Blah Blah: #1891917" posts, I just slap the keyboard and then delete the letters to get that number. No, there's not a bunch of others. Well, sometimes there are. It depends on the topic. But for the most part, I'm just trying to be all clever and whatever.

It rarely works. Maybe that's "How You Know You're An Adult, #1771830: When You Realize You're Not Actually Clever." But this one is #1771829: Being Sick.

I'm sick right now. I'm very, very sick, actually. I felt a cold coming on last Saturday, and began the usual "KILL IT! KILL IT NOW!" regimen of zinc (200mg a day), orange juice, DayQuil and Muscinex. It seemed to be working, as Sunday I was feeling just fine again. I was able to train with my team for the Tough Mudder which is taking place this weekend. We had a great training, and it was a lot of fun.

Monday, I flew to New York for the day. When I got home, I felt like a truck hit me. I went to bed, woke up, and realized I really needed to see a doctor if I was going to avoid becoming a human sickness factory. So I went, and I got a prescription for antibiotics, a strong decongestant, and two shots in the bum -- one antibiotic, one steroid.

I haven't had shots in my butt since I was a child. Maybe that's #1771831: You Stop Getting Shots In Your Ass. But yeah, the shots went in, and I went to the gym that night and felt a bit better. I trained through the buzz that was beginning to build in my chest and my sinuses, and felt like everything was going to be alright.

Wednesday, I got up early and flew to Los Angeles. I felt alright. I stayed on my meds, along with the DayQuil and Zinc and Orange Juice. We had some meetings, a fine dinner and went to sleep.

When I woke up Thursday, it felt like the truck that hit me Tuesday sped out of Atlanta as fast as it could, drove cross-country and without stopping slammed right into my face. I couldn't breathe. My sinuses and chest were jam-packed with crap. My cranium felt like someone poked an air compressor into both ears and left it on all night.

We did our meetings, and right before each one (4 total), I'd visit the bathroom, hork up crap from my chest, blow my nose and drink a whole green tea from whatever coffee shop happened to be nearby. It was enough to get me through. At 4PM, one of my companions took me back to our hotel, where I crashed until 6AM the next morning to fly out.

The flight Friday was horrible. I wrote a bit about the experience itself yesterday, but being sick on top of it certainly didn't help anything. When my wife picked me up in the afternoon, we went and picked up dinner, came home, and I ate and fell right asleep.

And that leads to now, where I'm sitting here trying to keep post-nasal drip from falling into the keyboard of my laptop. And it strikes me that when I was a kid, I would have loved to have come down with a cold during all those meetings and this weekend for the Tough Mudder, because it means I get to play the new release Dragon Age 2 all week.

But as an adult, it's been hell. I can't play Dragon Age 2. But more than that, I don't WANT to play Dragon Age 2. I mean, I do, but not at the expense of other stuff that means a lot more. And I guess that's the difference I'm talking about. When I was a kid, nothing mattered more than an entire day of video game playing. Nothing.

Now, I have all this responsibility and ambition and whatnot. I've trained like crazy for the Tough Mudder tomorrow. I'm actually supposed to cover the event for AOLNews. But I can barely sit up for longer than 20 minutes at a time. In fact, I started writing this at 7AM after sleeping nearly 12 hours, thinking it was probably time I get something done. It's noon now. It's not that long a thing.

Being an adult sucks. And it sucks not just because of the stuff you have to do. You can easily just stop having to do that stuff -- just stop caring.

It's the caring that sucks so much.

3.11.2011

The Tsunami vs. The Airplane

The lady next to me on the plane is sleeping.

You have absolutely no idea how thankful for this I am, or the weight that particular statement carries. I've been on the plane for about an hour, and for 50 minutes of that hour, the lady next to me has been absolutely adamant that she have a view of the ocean. When she sat next to me in her middle seat, she grabbed my arm, looked right into my eyes, and said "WE MUST SEE THE OCEAN!"

We're in a middle row.

I said "Uh, I don't think that's going to happen..."

She replied that we will be flying over the ocean for a moment as we depart from LAX, and we need to see it. I replied that I knew we would end up in the air over the ocean, but that our seating would make it difficult.

She then began hyperventilating and breathlessly trying to say "OHMYGOD" over and over and over. The entire time, she's got a death grip on my right arm.

Now, aside from the whole I-fucking-hate-strangers-who-touch-me-thing, this death grip wasn't that big a deal. She's tiny - maybe five feet high, if that, with hands that can't even begin to wrap around my arm. So I'm not in any pain during any of this, I'm just freaked the fuck out.

As is she.  And during the fifty minutes this ordeal went on, she went on to explain how vital it was we get in the air on time, and did I know there was an earthquake in Japan which caused a 300 foot tsunami which is racing toward us and is going to plunge Los Angeles into the sea?

I tried to explain to her that no one else was panicking, and for good reason, because even though the destruction in Japan is devastating, the swell that would reach the west coast in just a few minutes would be between one and three feet high, and as such, the only people who are going to really need to hurry to get anywhere are surfers, for the primo spots.

It didn't help much. She was panicked. She seems normal in every other regard. I suppose she just got the idea in her head that we were in danger, and it was really hard for her to realize it wasn't going to happen the way she was imagining.

I tried employing the earphone defense, which left the guy to her right to deal with it all. It worked for a short while, until I felt a tap on my shoulder and a series of incredibly hard to understand questions about flight times, scheduled departure, sea swells and if I knew anyone in Japan or Hawaii. I do, and all have been heard from and accounted for. They were healthy and fine.

When we took off, I let her lean over and look out the window through the gaps formed by the faces of our neighbors, and things seemed somewhat calm -- a little froth on the shores, but nothing crazy. That seemed to calm her down.

And now, she's asleep, and I'm on the airplane WiFi, typing this up for you fine folks and trying my best to breathe, as I am terribly sick. I'm willing to bet that between her hyperventilating and my horribly nasal, raspy responses, the people around us think we're both from a Baltic country of one sort or another.

Excuse me, I need to get some ginger ale and orange juice.

3.04.2011

Has Anyone Ever Considered Black-Vanning Westboro?

I'm tempted to make a joke about those of you who may not have heard that the Supreme Court found in favor of Westboro Church on March 2nd, but given the insane amount of "news" coverage that Charlie Sheen has been receiving for merely being a celebrity who is unashamed of living like a celebrity, it's altogether too likely that this bit of actual news was lost in the fray. For the record, that is not "winning." I really feel that CNN now stands for Charlie News Network.

Anyway, if you're unfamiliar with Westboro, they're the ridiculous cadre of fuckwits who find it suitable to protest funerals of soldiers carrying signs reading "God Hates Fags," "Thank God For 9/11" and "Thank God For Dead Soldiers." They believe that war and other instances of bad luck are visited upon us because of America's tolerance for homosexuality.

And for the record, I support the Supreme Court's decision. We cannot ever, for any reason, cap free speech. It was disgusting enough to see "free speech zones" during the Iraq War protests. Last time I checked, this nation was supposed to be run by us, the citizens. We pay the taxes, we elect the officials. WE RUN THIS SHOW. For any law to be made by someone we pay the salary of to tell us when it's okay to voice our concerns is a big, big deal.

In this case, Westboro are not yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, causing an unsafe environment. They gather peacefully and lawfully. The only violations they're guilty of are those of good taste and decency. They say things we don't like, in the least appropriate places. That's not a crime. The courts cannot, and should not, be involved.

But we should. And that's why I wonder why no one else has thought of getting a black panel van and a group of hooded thugs and snatching these fuckwits, driving them into the woods, and giving them a good, old fashioned beating.

Pipes. Rubber hoses. Soap bars in socks. Brass knuckles. Claw hammers to the toes. You know... What they deserve.

I love that the Patriot Guard Riders are out there, doing their best to protect the families and friends of the deceased at funerals from the pain of having to listen to or read the Phelps' horrific and disgusting crap. They're doing good work.

But it's not enough. These assholes need a serious and brutal beating. They should be buried up to their necks in an ant mound and covered in honey, with their eyelids and nostrils slit so their eyes and sinuses dry out while the ants feast on their flesh. They should be physically paid back in torment for the pain and suffering they've willfully caused these families.

The law should not be involved. It's not up to the police and the courts to regulate their speech. It's up to us as the citizens of this nation to decide what is appropriate and right in the social morays of our land. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from concequence. And I fully believe that Westboro has a huge steaming pile of consequence just waiting to be crammed down their throats.

And let me be clear: I absolutely am advocating this. I want it to happen. Whomever makes it happen will be heroes. While you're at it, black van Glenn Beck too. He's just as bad, if not worse, than these tits.