Thursday, April 30, 2009

God bless (white, heterosexual, middle-to-upper class, Christian) America

Yesterday at the Martin's Corner Cafe, of which I am now night manager (wow, my life has so much direction and purpose!), we changed over from Coca-Cola to Pepsi products. It was a change heralded by the guys in charge of the Cafe, both of whom prefer Pepsi to Coke, but also by Pepsi's better offer to us than what Coke could make. So we changed, and now where there once was a giant, dripping red machine is a giant, dripping blue machine whose ice-dispenser has a mind of its own.

As you may already know, I prefer the flavor of Coke to Pepsi, along with their subsidiary products, from Barq's Root Beer (over Mug) and Sprite (over Sierra Mist). But it is a virtually insignificant preference (except for the root beer one--Mug has got to be one of the worst root beers on the face of the earth), so the change didn't really concern me at all. If anything, I was excited that there would be a change, just for change's sake.

But my excitement was not shared by all. It was first mentioned to me by a co-worker weeks ago when the announcement was made that we'd be moving over to Pepsi, and now again yesterday at work by a customer. "Don't you know about the boycott?" he asked. Before I could catch myself, I had to egg him on, just to see if he really was going where I thought he was. "No? What do you mean," I said. At this he sort of rolled his eyes exhaustedly. "They donate money to..." he began, then paused, trying to find the right word, "...alternative lifestyles."

"Oooh," I said, and went back to doing the dishes. He let it sit at that, but it fueled my co-worker who had mentioned the same boycott, charged to all God-fearing, family-loving Christians (God-fearing, family-loving Jews and Muslims not invited) by the American Family Association last month--though she'd used the decidedly stronger wording: "They're supporting the homosexual agenda." As they mumbled on about how the gays were most assuredly destroying marriage, the Constitution and our nation's fertile topsoil, I slinked down the bar and took out the trash, knowing I'd be unable to contain myself if I remained a moment longer.

So after work, I decided to do some research, even though I knew damn well what I'd find. What was this "homosexual agenda" that Pepsi was fueling? What were the queers up to this time? Were they building cannons out of baby skeletons to blow up the churches that stood in their way of soaking the Bill of Rights with the anmiotic fluid of a thousand aborted fetuses, then lighting it aflame while listening to Geore Michael's "Faith"? As interesting as that may have been, it turns out that the money Pepsi was donating to these decadent ass-bandits was being given directly to PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Gays and Lesbians) and the Human Rights Campaign (you've probably seen their logo, the blue box with yellow equals sign, on the back of a lot of Priuses). And the programs PFLAG and the HRC were putting that money toward? Primarily, sexual orientation and diversity education workshops to encourage teamwork and tolerance in the workplace.

Holy hell, the gays are dragging us all down to hell with them.

Because, you see, if we tolerate them--let alone accept or appreciate them like we would any other human beings (well, except for the Mexicans)--we're all in for it, big time. Being anything less than virulently hateful toward these disgusting abominations of nature is a sin, don't you hear? We must hate them, lest we feel the fiery wrath of God lashing against our backs with every waking minute. But why waste my time sarcastically hyperbolizing when I can let the AFA do it for me--and without the irony!

"Pepsi gave a total of $1,000,000 to the Human Rights Campaign and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays to promote the homosexual lifestyle in the workplace," reads their Official PepsiCo Boycott Website. "Pepsi requires employees to attend sexual orientation and gender diversity training where the employees are taught to accept homosexuality."

The outrage!

Are you kidding me? These sound like pretty good things to me! Accepting people for who they are where you work? Being able to put away your differences long enough to get your work done efficiently with them? No one is asking you to go home and eat pot roast with them (and then, naturally, get butt-raped by them)--this is just about workplace tolerance! This is about not sending nasty emails, or giving the new sales associate a swirly because he wore a paisley tie. It's about acting like adults! What a fucking concept! One that the AFA doesn't agree with, that's what. Not with their open call to stall H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a proposition that was written to make participating in a hate crime an increased and specialized offense. This bill isn't about arresting you for calling someone a "fag"-- it has to do specifically with causing someone bodily harm, kidnapping or murdering them because of their actual or perceived sexuality, race, gender, or even religion. So what does the AFA have to say about that? "Don’t allow President Obama to remove America’s most basic freedoms!"

The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of destructive, blind hatred. Hallelujah!

This is one of those times I'm so glad to be above this kind of shit. It doesn't even concern me because no one but a few thousand dickweed nutballs are mobilizing on a boycott of Pepsi products and H.R. 1913 passed through the House of Representatives with a 57% majority. Even at the extremely conservative, Mennonite-owned grocery store where I work, we didn't think twice about switching over to Pepsi. That makes me so happy. And it makes me even happier that people don't like it. Because, frankly, this is Ephrata. It's what it's always been, and I fear, what it will be for far too long. Which is why I need to get out of here. I'm surrounded by racism, stupidity and intolerance and I need to move back to Pittsburgh. Better yet, give me a few months in Seattle to completely detox, to let the city's hyper-liberal vibes just wash over me like a gentle tide. I just want to scream when old men make cracks about the Cafe serving barbecue chicken, asking each other in voices loud enough for most of the store to hear: "What, are we catering to the blacks now? What's next week, cornbread and watermelon?"


But these doddering pricks couldn't even handle it when we moved the coffee machine ten feet to the right, why would I think they could handle any other change? I mean, it's only been 50 or so years since we decided black people might be humans too--they're still in a transitional phase. I can't even imagine what they think of the "homosexual agenda." Oh wait, yes I can. I, for one, welcome the change. The equality. Not just tolerance, but the acceptance and appreciation that everyone deserves.

And as for Pepsi? I'm coming around on it. At least I can definitely support where they're putting my money. Their new logo is pretty sharp too.

Richard Dawkins - The God Delusion *****

You know how they always say, "The truth will set you free"? And how usually when they're saying it, it has to do with being a Christian? The Protestant notion that simply having faith and hope will get you into heaven, and you don't have to worry any more about anything? Well, quite ironically, I had that feeling as I read Richard Dawkins' 2006 tour-de-force, The God Delusion.

When I finished the book, all of my questions were not answered (not that I expected them to be) but I still felt as if some kind of warm relief had washed over me. That my distrust in American religiosity is not unfounded or unshared. Not just by opinion--every idiot on earth has an "opinion"--but on well-researched, rational, scientific fact and theory. To agree with the angry hippie down the street is one thing, but to be able to read Dawkins' words and find yourself slowly nodding along with each of his arguments is another thing entirely.

Some would peg me as pretentious for such an act, as they similarly railed on Dawkins when he published the book three years ago. But to them he would no doubt argue that he is only self-assured, like someone reasoning that 2 plus 2 is 4, while everyone else is positing that it, in fact, equals carrot. A light of reason in an otherwise ridiculously misguided and harmful atmosphere of self-inflicted stupidity. The same critics took umbrage with his words, claiming them harsh and mocking, but I can't help but think that the man just knows exactly what he wants to say and refuses to pull any punches. Sure, he's a jerk. But wouldn't you be, if you were certain that the answer to a worldwide epidemic was staring everyone right in the face and they still ignored it?

Of course, that's the other argument: that what Dawkins spends the 464 pages of The God Delusion arguing is just plain wrong. Those with such an argument are almost certainly in the camp of Didn't Actually Read It. An atheist reading the book would have his beliefs confirmed beyond any shadow of a doubt, and a lost, pseudo-religious fence-sitter like myself would (and did) have his faith shaken to the core and all but completely broken down by it. But even deeply religious people that read the book with as open of minds as they can manage will come out of it changed in one way or another. It is that well-written and that well-argued. And funny to boot.

But what it is most is enlightening. Even if you disagree with him from almost every angle, Dawkins gives you an opportunity to look beyond what information has been passed down to you and look at it in an altogether new light. Without waxing too spiritual, the freeing experience you can have through the book is the mental equivalent of skydiving. The evidences of truth that can be found in The God Delusion allow you to shrug off fear of a Cosmic Surveillance Camera, watching your every move and just waiting to punish you for making a mistake. It can alleviate the parnoid threat of karma coming eternally back to bite you in the ass. It even lets you forget about whatever belief you hold and fear that everything around you is wrong--or worse yet, that you are the one that is wrong. Because, chances are, it probably doesn't matter in the end at all. And I mean literal chances: there's a lot of talk about statistics in this book.

For me, it not only gave a differing view on religion, but it really got me thinking, and--if it's not too terribly cheesy to admit--it sorta kinda really mighta changed my life. Or at least some of my core values and opinions. Though "change" might not be the right idea. More, "Strongly Encouraged Heading in a Philosophical Direction I'd Been Mulling Over for Quite Awhile," perhaps. Disappointingly, Dawkins doesn't wander into discussions of theoretical fourth-dimensional planar beings and an existence of a "god" thereby as I hoped he would, so I can't discard my last twenty-odd years of spirituality completely. But it's certainly turned me around on Christianity. Hoo-boy, has it ever. Far more than I thought it would a few years ago when Mark Rawlings bought multiple copies to hand out to people. Now I understand why. I don't have the money to do that myself, but I've got a list of people to whom it is being loaned for probably the next few years.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jonathan Lethem - Amnesia Moon ***

Jonathan Lethem's Amnesia Moon was the third of three books I picked up at an amazing little used bookstore that I stumbled upon in Hamilton, New Zealand. It is also the second book I've read and reviewed from the genre-bending, middle-aged Brooklynite--my first being his National Book Critics Circle Award-winning 1999 novel, Motherless Brooklyn, which I enjoyed profusely. Amnesia Moon dials back the timeline another four years from Motherless Brooklyn, to Lethem's second novel, a dystopian cyberpunk novel set in a fractured America.

An event has taken place, changing all of America into a very Mad Max-ian landscape of warring cults, burned-out cities and lots and lots of conspiracy. Only, no one has any idea what made the change in the first place, because in each town and points between there are people in seats of power telling different tales about what was really going on. But not in words, not standing before podiums and shouting on about what is right and wrong, fact and fiction--but directly into the dreams of anyone who is within range. Which is where we first find Chaos, living in Hatfork, Wyoming, his dreams being fed to him by the local tyrant who calls himself Kellogg and claims that bombs were dropped all over the country, splintering it into what he sees around him.

But Chaos starts having dreams of a past that doesn't coincide with Kellogg's visions and he goes off in search of the truth. It's a road story at its heart and a sci-fi adventure at its soul, but cerebrally, like any good science-fiction literature, it is an indictment of our political system. With every faction Chaos finds, living their own separate truths in the middle of nowhere, its hard not to imagine how our own country would be dismantled by some huge disaster; where lines would be drawn and who would join who in a fight for supremacy or just plain survival.

On the other side of that coin, however, much like most science-fiction literature, Amnesia Moon has got its fair share of glaring flaws. A lack of characterization is prevalent, a complaint I usually don't make because it's a flaw I readily accept in my own work. Here, however it's a bit more prevalent than usual. Though we should get to know Chaos inside and out, I find myself still unsure about who exactly he is. I know his place in the canon of sci-fi, what his character is meant to portray--but as a person, Chaos gets little time to be anything at all. The novel is also very episodic in nature, and even in that, flies about through reality and dream, hither and thither through time and space. With its sparse description and quick pace, along with the somewhat complex ideas Lethem presents about the subjectivity of reality, the story does become a bit unhinged at times.

Amnesia Moon is not Lethem's best work (and I haven't even read The Fortress of Solitude yet) but it is quite an intriguing piece when looking at from whence the author came. Seeing his work in genre before he, along with modern lit cohort Michael Chabon, began twisting around what it meant to be a mainstream author is invaluable. If nothing else, a window into his progression as a writer is worth the price of the book if not the story itself. Which still is. Though I did only pay $7NZ for it. Bargain shopping abroad, baby.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Aaaaand now for something completely expected!

Earlier this month during a speech he was delivering in Waco, Texas, everyone's favorite Science Guy, Bill Nye, was booed for saying that the Moon reflects light from the Sun.

Yes, if you have to read that again, I can wait.

According to the Philadelphia Examiner (and confirmed by a reprint in the Waco Tribune), Nye was giving a family-oriented science lecture focusing on the possibilities of life on Mars and the importance of conservation when he strayed into the realm of religion. Mentioning Genesis 1:16 which reads, "God made two great lights -- the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars," Nye pointed out that this "greater light" is actually only one of millions of other similar stars in the sky, and that, in fact, the "lesser light" is not a light at all, but rather exudes its glow from reflecting the light of the Sun.

To which jeers were jeered, boos were booed, and a number of people actually stormed out of the lecture including one mother with three children who said, "We believe in God!" as she herded her little hellions from the auditorium.

Really? This is actually a point of contention in the Science vs. Religion debate? Whether the Moon creates its own light or not? Holy hell in a handbasket, somebody needs to crack open a second grade science book.

But honestly this speaks to a much bigger problem we've got in America: our breeding of stupidity on the backs of Faith. Not just religious faith, but Faith in general. Some call it Belief, others Opinion. They're all slightly different, and none are bad in and of themselves, but teamed with our inordinate sense of entitlement, our Beliefs and Opinions don't even need to be grounded in reality to become our Truth. Like the bumper flair I saw at Green Dragon today. Miller and I were walking by a stand selling Christian books when he pointed out their selection of Jesus Fish. There was the standard plain fish, another with "JESUS" written inside it for those who don't want drivers behind them thinking that maybe just really like Swedish Fish or something, and then there was another I had never seen before. It was a giant Jesus Fish with its mouth open, swallowing one of the opposing Darwin Fish With Legs--but on the Jesus Fish it did not say "JESUS," it said "TRUTH." That's right. It's not Jesus that is better than Darwin--it's The Cold Hard Truth of Life that is better than scientific fact. Whose Truth is that exactly? Somebody might have to find a fifth grade science book for that one. I hope they can handle all the big words.

Faith can be a good thing, as can Belief and Opinion. Really, they're what defines the vast majority of our Selves, our values and our personalities. But when we start trying to mold them into Truth--especially Ultimate Truth--I start to have a problem. If you want to close down your mind and allow yourself to believe that the world was created in six days in the face of carbon dating, I guess I can't stop you. If you want to believe that the dinosaurs are an elaborate joke on the part of God, I guess that's your prerogative. If you think that every word and every idea that you find in a 2000 year-old book written from dreams and visions of men who displayed schizophrenic tendencies is 100% true and gives you the right to hate gay people, I guess I just have to let you go on your merry way. Freedom of Religion, right? How about Freedom From Religion? I might try to educate you first, or at least discuss the fallacies in your argument, but chances are you'll just boo and run for the door. Because we keep ourselves stupid. We can believe in anything so long as it doesn't get in the way of watching American Idol. Truth is, more than ever, relative.

And our power elite couldn't love it more. As long as we believe whatever Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh tell us, they can convince us that President Obama is a secret Muslim and that his winning the presidency is all just part of his plan to bring down This Great Country from the inside! They can make us love capitalism and fear socialism, even though if you'd break both philosophies down to their barest of parts, stripping away buzzwords and bullshit, virtually every middle to working class voter in America would vote Karl Marx into the office of King of Fucking Everything. But keep those scary words in play and the American people, off reading Twilight instead of the Washington Post, will suck it right up. Where does funding get cut first when the government has to scale back? Libraries and public schools. As long as you know how to put a thingy on a whatsit, you can make Hummers for the rest of your life. Who cares about Aristotelian ethics and the works of Mark Twain? That stuff's boooooring anyway. I'd rather watch the movie. Ooh, I hope Zac Efron is in it!

I know I sound like a psychotic conspiracy theory nut (maybe I should get together with some other people with the same opinions and we can put a book together and you can all worship us for the next couple thousand years), but it really has become all but completely transparent to me. The dumber we are kept, the easier we are to use. We do it to animals all the time, conditioning them to behave in proper manners. We just don't see the leash tied around our own necks because there's so much shiny stuff to look at over there. What's it matter? We get fed, we have a place to sleep and someone to scratch us behind the ears. But is that all we want? To just be led on through this mess until we die and can finally get our prize? Our prize. Good one, very clever. The ultimate dumbing, unprovable but even more disprovable because it's become Truth over thousands of thousands of years of a need for a higher meaning than just existence itself.

I just hope that if the Afterlife really does exist that it's not up on the Moon; it's gotta be pretty toasty up there with all the chemical reactions of gases burning to make it glow. Oh wait, I mean Magical God Farts. Sorry, got a little too science-y on you there for a second.

Friday, April 24, 2009

To serve and protect

I fucking hate cops. I mean, I'm sure there are some good ones in the bunch. The state trooper that pulled me over for speeding on the Turnpike last fall was a nice enough guy (which made me even angrier, because I couldn't get mad at him though I think hiding your car behind bushes beside an empty stretch of highway is pretty fucking sneaky), and Officer Curtis Smith of the Pitt Police was certainly a sweet dude whenever he did security for WPTS dances and concerts. But cops in general--even the idea of cops at this point--can suck my veiny dick.

My most recent personal run-in was with Jess around midnight a few weeks ago, just before she started her new job at Susquehanna Bank. She wanted to know where the building was in Lititz, so we drove there and checked the place out, then turned around in the parking lot and started on our way home when we passed a patrol car. He followed us for blocks, until we were almost out of the town when he finally flashed his lights and pulled us over... for driving too slow. Jess was keeping her speed down to about 5 or 10 mph below the speed limit just so he wouldn't have an excuse to pull us over, and he did anyway. He probably thought we were high, pulling out of a darkened parking lot after we smoked some weed or whatever, so I guess I can see where he's coming from. I just can't believe we got nailed by the po-po for doing 25 in a 35 zone.

But that's not what has me riled up tonight. It's a video I saw online from just a few days ago, of a man at an outdoor music festival getting hassled by the cops. As you'll see, the man is naked and refusing to put his tie-dyed robe back on, tossing it into the air as the cops insist he get clothed. Finally, frustrated by his refusal, the cops do what any level-headed humans would do in the situation: they tackle him to the ground, kick him in the face, knee-drop him in the ribs, and repeatedly taser him in the chest and the back of the neck. Three huge beefcake pigs versus a fat naked hippie. There definitely wasn't a better way to take care of that problem.

I know, I know. Being naked is a crime. This guy was breaking the law. It was the cops' duty to brutalize him in front of a screaming crowd, to make an example of what happens when you don't listen to what you're told! If you find yourself agreeing with that statement, than buddy, we've got a different set of priorities. Pigs is pigs, as they say. They were just doing what God and four years of high school football intended for them to do. The problem, really, isn't the cops at all, but the law itself. The cops just get the brunt of it, because they are a shining example of why these laws are so stupid, of what violence and stupidity they inevitably breed.

Why the hell is being naked a crime? Holy shit. We're still that puritanical in this day and age? Yes, we are, I know. We can't even show certain fingers when they are extended. Blur it out! Someone might get ideas about things we can't have them thinking about! Words can damage young minds forever! First it's "booger" and then it's "crap," then it's "fuck" and suddenly little Johnny is on the street corner giving blow jobs for coke. And naked, nonetheless! How dare he subject the general public to the sight of something EVERY ONE OF US HAS? Let's be scared of our genitals! Maybe we can get sexual education out of our schools completely! Then when our kids fool around with each other like we know damn well they will (because we all did, no matter how many times we go to church a week) and they get chlamydia, they can pass it on to all of their friends because they don't know why the hell it burns like razors when they pee!

But I digress.

What the cops in this video do just smacks of pointless brutality to me.  If we take for granted that he was doing something horrible (which I still refuse to, but for the sake of argument), they couldn't have used their meaty cop hands to hold him still for the ten seconds it would take to cuff him and then calmly carry him out of the fairgrounds?  Was it really necessary to tazer him repeatedly?  To kick him in the face and ribs? To take down a guy who was just enjoying being naked? If he were brandishing a loaded shotgun, I would have no problem with their actions. If something dangerous really were going on. But I'm in the minority apparently. Check out the comments that follow the video. 90% of them are in favor of exactly how the police responded. Another 5% just make fun of the guy's dick size, leaving a miniscule amount of plain old good-hearted realists that don't see what the big fucking deal was, or why the guy had to be stomped into the ground to end it all. One commenter actually suggests an idea that I would have loved to see take place: what if the rest of the crowd, instead of standing by and screaming at a bunch of holier-than-thou, costumed meatheads who were busy getting their rocks off to shocking the shit out a disrobed hippie, had all started getting naked too? Hundreds of people suddenly nude! What would the police have done then? Called in an air strike? Nuke the whole motherfucker? No price is too big to pay to keep our priggish standards of decency! Think of the children!

I, for one, would much rather my child see a naked man dancing to a Grateful Dead tribute band than be subjected to the brutalizing and electrocution of a fellow human being right before their eyes. Call me crazy, but I think that kind of dehumazing violence is a lot more affecting on a child's psyche than a penis is. But that's not what the rest of America believes. Especially not our boys in blue, as is made blatantly evident in a similar story from September. Only in this one, the guy dies.

If you can read that story without your blood boiling, you should probably just kill yourself. Or consider a job in law enforcement. There's still room at the trough.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Omegle, Part II

It's only been two days since I found out about Omegle, and already, my mind has been blown so many times it feels like Bill Clinton's dick. Just like any other chat service, 80% of its constituents are guys who want to cyber you, 15% are chicks who won't cyber you and the last 5% are just people who want to talk about their boring day. But unlike other chat services, Omegle is actually aimed exactly at that last 5%. It's just a place to randomly meet someone and talk about nothing. It's so simple that I'm having a hard time understanding what the hell its purpose really is. I mean, if it were a sex site where you went to meet people and cyber and exchange naughty pictures of you and your cats--then I'd get it. But it's not. It's just for... talking. Which almost seems creepier somehow.

It also allows for unfettered racism, hatred and stupidity. Because you can just randomly log in and out with perfect strangers, it allows you a level of anonymity found not even in regular chat rooms and messageboards. There, moderators keep an eye on what's going on. Even if you change your name repeatedly, people get to know how you talk and act, and you'll get your ass banned for being a homophobic prick. Unless you're on 4Chan I guess. But on Omegle, it's like a drive-by. Sure, it's stupid and virtually harmless, but I'm sure that in the 4150 people active at this very moment, there are at least a few with their feelings hurt. And I don't want to sound like a hippy or anything, but that's just not nice.

Though I suppose I shouldn't be one to talk. Half the fun of Omegle is definitely that anonymity and the ability thereby to just be a total psycho. I already linked some great conversations, but I ended up having a few of my own memorable ones last night:

Stranger: you American?
You: YEP
Stranger: solid.
Stranger: nobody else is
Stranger: we have to Americanize this site
Stranger: no NIGGERS
Stranger: or WETBACKS
Stranger: or FAGGOTS
You: whoa now
You: faggots are fine
Stranger: not in California
You: rehoboth beach wasn't built by no straighties
You: and i like it there
Stranger: here, we don't let them get married 
Stranger: I mean
Stranger: we can let gangbangers buy as many guns as they want
You: haha
Stranger: and Fred Phelps can protest soldiers funerals
You: preachin' to the choir baby
Stranger: but god forbid two men get married
You: i'm a straight up libertarian socialist
Stranger: nigga
Stranger: YOU preachin' to the choir.
Stranger: thats my game, all day er'ry day
You: hhhhheeelllllzz yeah
Stranger: spittin' game from Kropotkin to Guerin, all the way to that P.J. Proudhon shit
Stranger: cheaaaaaaaaaaaaa
You: noam chomsky on the 1s and 2s bitchezzzz
Stranger: michael parenti spittin' on the bass-line
Stranger: howard zinn bumpin' niggas at the door
Your conversational partner has disconnected.

Stranger: riddle me this
Stranger: Brad stared through the dirty soot-smeared window on the 22nd floor of the office tower. Overcome with depression he slid the window open and jumped through it. It was a sheer drop outside the building to the ground. Miraculously after he landed he was completely unhurt. Since there was nothing to cushion his fall or slow his descent, how could he have survived the fall?
Stranger: fuck
Stranger: you're smart
You: goddamn right
Stranger: you get me so wet when you answered that rite
You: i popped like, seventeen boners
Stranger: did you ever had that elephant toy when you were a kid?
Stranger: that like shot out butterflies
You: we were poor
Stranger: why
You: i just had a big dildo
You: my mom was a prostitute
Stranger: dude
You: i thought it was a ROOOOOOCKET SHIP
You: so i sent it to URANUS
Stranger: youre a fag
Your conversational partner has disconnected.

But that's only half the fun. Because while Omegle advertises the fact that it will connect you to a complete stranger somewhere around the globe, it's a testament to just how small our world is when you end up talking to people you are connected with in strange ways. Last night I met two people from New Zealand. One was a girl from Wanganui, with whom I bitched about the entire countries lack of wireless access. But more interesting was a guy from Hamilton, who regularly parks his car in the parking garage on Knox Street where I lived for three days. Chances are, I probably walked by his car as I brushed my teeth. I might have even waited in line behind him at Esquires Coffee to get a mug of hot chocolate the day I was sick.

How crazy is that? Of the thousands of people online in the billions of people on earth, I happened upon some dude I may well have bumped into during my three weeks on the other side of the world. I mean, I don't think we're soulmates or anything. I don't even know the guy's name or how to contact him if I ever want to talk to him again--that's just sort of how Omegle works--but despite not believing in fate, I definitely believe in the total weirdness of chance. The amazing math behind statistical improbability, and the way we constantly see it proved wrong. Just the existence of mankind is an epic smack to the face of probability. Anything "coincidental" that happens after that is basically just an insignificant drop in the statistical ocean.

But I'm getting heavy here.

My point is, Omegle is pretty cool. It's scary and stupid and really weird and totally pointless, but it's still pretty interesting. I have absolutely no idea why, nor how long it will hold my interest (I'm giving it the rest of today), but as of right now it tops the list of Things I'm Enjoying, along with the ridiculously soft grey henley I just bought from Eddie Bauer and building custom deck boxes out of oaktag for my Magic cards. I really do need to get a life.

Monday, April 6, 2009


It's past two in the morning, which really isn't that late for me but it feels like the sun should be coming up any minute because I'm exhausted from riding 14 miles today with Jess, on top of stomaching a family get-together at my grandparents this afternoon. Actually, that wasn't so bad. Especially the part where we rode the ancient Suzuki 4-wheeler through the woods and felt like we were living in the Seventies (courtesy of Jess' oversized sunglasses, my new Banana Republic polo and my grandparents' amazingly dated wallpaper).

And I know I haven't been writing in a while, and for that I must apologize. I still have books to catch up with reviews and things to complain about, so don't worry about this blog petering off into nothingness. It's just that I've been busy. Or at least busier than I have been in months. I've got a part-time job at a local grocery store to try to keep up with my student loan payments. I've also been writing for an online magazine whenever I can think of something interesting enough to pitch them. So far it's been graphic novelists, internet browsers and Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper, Kasey Keller. Hopefully there will be more on the way soon--whenever I can pin down what the hell frat guys who only care about boobs want to read about (other than boobs). Not exactly my target audience, but it's a gig.

So why, with all of these things going on in my life, with my eyelids hanging heavy and laundry to be folded spread all across my bed, am I wasting my time on the internet tonight? Because I discovered Omegle, and it is blowing my mind. It's a pretty simple concept, as you'll see when you visit the site: you just click into it and you're randomly connected with someone else in the world to chat away. It doesn't sound that interesting, and a lot of the people I've already met are also not terribly memorable, but I'm amazed all the same. I feel like I've taken my second time warp of the day, back to 1996 when I'd get up in the middle of the night and sign into chatrooms while my parents were asleep. Ever since I realized how creepy chatrooms are, however, (and lost my interest in role-playing as Greyleaf Darkclaw, the Elven Warrior) I haven't stumbled back into people randomly on the internet except for the occasional porny MySpace nonsense that cuts through the spam filter. And those aren't even real people. Or so I hope, for their sakes.

But Omegle. What an idea. Bringing back the entertainment and potential hilarity of a chatroom without all the creepy propositions for anal sex. Well, with less of them. If nothing else, this kind of a site might bring back the antics of the internet's beloved son, Bloodninja or at least someone to follow in his glorious footsteps. There is already a compilation of hilarious conversations being made by people I know in Pittsburgh that have tried Omegle out. In fact, I'm not even chatting anymore, I'm just reading these and trying not to laugh out loud and wake up my parents.

Congratulations, internet. You've outdone yourself again. Bringing back the "a/s/l?" with a vengeance. I like it.