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Texas: We should have let Mexico keep it.

Ultra-conservative wing-nuts on the Texas Board of Education have decided to rewrite the nation’s textbooks.  I hate to be a doomsayer, but we are so utterly fucked.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/education/13texas.html

These are some of the actual changes to be made to the books:

  • Creationism will be included alongside evolution as a legitimate scientific theory.  This one alone is enough to make me weep for the future.  But wait…there’s more.
  • Thomas Jefferson will be a footnote in our history, his punishment for having coined the phrase “separation of church and state”.  The man who will take his place?  John Calvin.  I shit you not.
  • All instances of the word “capitalism” will actually be erased because it has “negative connotations” in its place will be the word “free enterprise”.  I’m guessing this wasn’t the idea of anybody on the Texas school board; it’s too sophisticated for them.  I bet $100 that this was the idea of some douche-bag at the Heritage Foundation or the AEI.

They’ve finally gone and done what I had most feared they would.  I always feared that this was our weak spot, that by going in and rewriting the history of the world, we have finally destroyed any chance of getting this nation back on track. Everyone knows you can’t fool an educated populace.  So what do these shitbags do?  They set out to make ALL of America’s children as ignorant as they are in Texas.  I only wonder what force of nature kept them from having done it sooner.   Mark my words, people – that Texas vote marks a new low in American history.  You probably won’t read about it in the future, so better memorize that shit.

People, if you have kids, now is the time to seriously consider home-schooling. In fact, it would probably be better for our nation if our kids skipped school entirely from now on; they’d be smarter for it.

Thanks a lot, assholes.

Diesel Ad Campaign: “Smart listens to the head. Stupid listens to the heart – Be stupid.”

Uh huh.

The reason we’re mired in debt up to our ass, our kids are intellectually lagging behind China and India’s kids, and we’re more concerned about keeping up with the big booty bitches, is because hardly anybody listens to their head anymore.  In fact for most people the head is on life support right now, atrophied by years of neglect.  We’d all much rather talk about the douche-bags on Jersey Shore than keep an eye on what Congress is doing to fuck up the health care bill.  But then again, isn’t Diesel one of those douche-bag brands anyway?  Almost as bad as that Ed Hardy shit.w

And I’m going to be honest – Obama got some of you by the heart.  That’s the God-honest truth, and it’s a fucking shame.  Those who considered him the Messiah now realize that he can’t fix everything that is wrong with our country.  His administration is in dire need of a swift collective kick to the nuts.   For those of us who voted with our head, we saw it coming.  We just didn’t think he’d be THIS ineffective.

Listening to Glenn Beck saying that social justice is a bad thing, is to listen to the heart and give in to its worst instincts.  Check this out:

God I hate that man.  I hate him because he knows just what to do to turn people into the worst they can possibly be.  Hell, I don’t even have to agree with him to be a worse person just for listening to him; see the reaction he’s getting out of me?

So you have it, that values that were once universally applauded (such as social justice) and those that have been rightfully scorned ( stupidity) are now switching places.   All it takes is somebody with enough gall, someone with virtually no conscience to speak of, to stand up and say something like “social justice is bad”.  The obvious implication is that all you need is somebody equally vile to start speaking in favor of INjustice.

Enter Ayn Rand.

There is Ayn Rand’s way of looking at the world: cold, uncaring, and real.  Ostensibly, Ayn Rand’s entire philosophy of objectivism is about thinking with the head, and not the heart.  I too, believe in trying to look at things objectively (believe it or not.  I think that we’re so far to the right in this country that we NEED a bit of populist socialism just to move it to the true center).   Ultimately, I believe her books are nothing more than apologetics for egotism and selfishness.  I don’t see how looking at the world through clear lenses equates to being a dick.

OK, so perhaps it does come down to a happy medium between smarts and stupid.  I’m just saying though…let’s step the smarts game up, people.

“Health” “Care” “Reform”

When that corporate shill Joe Lieberman had the public option gutted from the health reform, this bill went down in flames.  Now the only thing it does is guarantee new customers for the health insurance industry.  Now, if you don’t purchase insurance from Blue Cross or Aetna, you commit a crime.  Now, there is no reason to support this bill, and every reason to oppose it.

Well, you can start slapping the cuffs on me now if that bill passes.   I draw the line here.  Fuck Aetna, fuck Joe Lieberman, fuck Max Baucus, and fuck everybody from the political whores in Washington to the free-market ideologues, down to the brainwashed birthers/deathers/sister-fucking sheep in middle America who worked so hard to destroy health care reform.  Fuck you all.

The 50th Law: a Book Review

Today it’s 6:30 in the morning, west coast time, and I’ve been back from the hospital for a little over 1 hour.  My father had his rosary and was reciting Hail Marys; my inconsolable mother waited anxiously for good news from the doctors; my 36 year old uncle sat shell-shocked, no doubt wondering if this was the day he would lose his father, so soon after having lost his mother, too.  I had a copy of The 50th Law in my pocket when I went into the waiting room and I sat there reading it for hours on end.  I’ve already read this book cover to cover twice; I think it will take a while before I can internalize the very valuable lessons in this book.  I could certainly use them now; particularly chapter 10…

In high school, I made an appointment to see a counselor.  Sensing a profound lack of self-esteem in me, she forced me to write down a list of 5 positive things about myself.  I struggled for 5 minutes thinking of a single answer.  It’s not that I was being modest, or even that I didn’t know.  I knew I had one positive trait, but it’s one that I didn’t want to admit.  I didn’t want to admit that the only good thing I had going for me was my intelligence.  I didn’t want to be a nerd, and all that it implied.

Fear has been my biggest obstacle ever since I can remember.  For me it was the fear of failure.  Not the everyday “I might fall on my face and look like a fool” fear.  I’m talking complete and utter failure as a human being.  Because of an inability to relate to kids my own age, I never developed the kind of social awareness that even the least popular kids seemed to possess.  On the home front I was pressured into getting good grades and not even think about socializing – school was for learning, not for friends.  Because of my lack of social skills growing up I just knew – as a kid – that I would somehow end up homeless and alone.  I just KNEW it.  As a KID.  From that I developed an intense fear of growing up that only stunted my social progress further and made me suffer the lasting consequences to this day.  I scored excellent grades in elementary school but by the time high school came around I hovered in the mid 2.0s.  Suddenly I didn’t even consider myself smart – I was a socially awkward nerd, only without the perks of being smart enough to fund a high-tech start-up that would at least make me insanely rich.

Sure enough, I developed a pattern of fatalistic thinking that still plagues me to this day.  The thing about fearful and negative thinking is the way in which it reinforces itself; little did I know then that I had the power to shape my own reality all along and that I had instead been using that power to sabotage my own success.  The 50th Law confronts the fear that hold us back. It is applied psychology for the fearful mind, disguised as self-help, only it never condescends or treats you with kid gloves.  It has profoundly affected the way I look at my own life.  I was surprised to learn the many ways in which fear manifests itself – I didn’t know I could fear being bored!  But when Robert Greene breaks it down, it makes perfect sense. I now know that the yellow lens of fear is and has always been the most paralyzing force in my life and sadly, in the lives of countless others. This is the book I wish I got for my high school graduation.  Maybe earlier.

Don’t let the fact that 50 Cent gets top billing on the cover fool you into believing that this book was written by some illiterate hoodlum with shiny teeth.  You would be grossly underestimating 50 Cent, a mistake that countless others have made in the past, to their own detriment – just ask Ja Rule.  If you don’t know who Ja Rule is, that’s exactly the point.  The book uses the story of 50 Cent – née Curtis Jackson – to illustrate the lessons in each chapter of the book.  They are lessons that Fiddy had to learn the hard way as a hustler on the street, the tools and tactics he used to make it out alive and rise to the top of the music industry and beyond.  Just like fear manifests itself in many ways, so too does fearlessness.  It manifests itself in 50’s business savvy, his leadership qualities, and even his ability to stage beefs.  In many ways 50 Cent is the idea of “Makaveli” taken to its logical philosophical conclusion – not the passion-driven, at times hedonistic, thug poet embodied by Tupac Shakur, but rather the shrewd, cold and calculating mastermind like the man who inspired him – Niccolo Machiavelli.  If he hadn’t been murdered, Tupac might have become 50 Cent.  Or maybe he always was.

But this isn’t really 50’s book.  This is a Robert Greene book all the way, from the anecdotal stories of historical figures and power players past and present such as 50 Cent, to the neat authoritative analysis of the lessons derived from each story.  With the 50th Law, Greene has identified the key human characteristic on which his other books depend on for their success – the 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and The 33 Strategies of War – and that element is fearlessness.  The 50th Law is not a companion to these books; it is the spinal cord, the very essence of all his works to date.  For without fearlessness, you can never really apply the laws of power, seduce the fair maiden, or confront your enemies.

This book may challenge deeply held views for many.  For me it was Chapter 5, which raises questions about morality and “reaping the wages of humility”. Jesus’ idea of humility on Earth in exchange for inheriting the kingdom of Heaven always felt right to me, a righteous fulfillment of karma.  I’m not even a religious church-goer, but I always gave Jesus credit for his un-worldly wisdom; Robert Greene’s books, on the other hand, are decidedly “worldly” (Ironic how even the book is designed to look like a Bible, from the leathery cover down to the last gold-trimmed page). I’ve tried to mesh the two world views into a new paradigm that I could feel comfortable with, but I just can’t do it.  Greene’s books at times promote the use of “badness” for our own ends is the antithesis of everything Jesus talked about.  Greene argues that all of us – especially the moralizers – have flexible morals anyway.  Jesus never said we were going to be perfect, but weren’t we at least supposed to TRY?  After 8 years of Bush/Cheney in the White House, certainly the last thing I want to do is embrace the kind of selfish ideals that led to the suffering of others halfway around the world.  I read language like, “push people out of position to get our way” and I think, “what ever happened to ‘turn the other cheek?” I read words like “taking on those who stand against your interests” and remember Condi Rice talking about “protecting our interests in Iraq”; I always knew that was code for “slaughtering civilians for oil and military contracts”.  But Greene preempts my bleeding heart liberal response by making examples of FDR and Abraham Lincoln; one lifted the US out of the Great Depression by crushing his political foes and the other ended slavery and maintained the Union by baiting the Southerners into a fight.  I was even surprised to learn that Machiavelli, raised a Christian, went through the exact same thing!  So maybe the ends can justify the means.  Sometimes.

Perhaps my beliefs are based on a lack of self-esteem, but I’d hate to believe that humility and peace are nothing more than a reflection of fear.  And yet, I can’t deny that much of what has held me back in life has been fear.  I know because I’ve been able to see the same qualities it in so many others ever since reading this book.  I see it in my grandfather, who just suffered a heart attack brought on by years of alcohol abuse.  My grandfather lived with the spectre of fear for most of his life.  A deeply sensitive man raised on the streets of Mexico in dire poverty, he turned to many vices to drown the pain, not the least of which was alcohol, which have brought him no shortage of self-pity, regret, and poor health in his old age.  He could have used this book more than anybody I know.  Well, almost anybody; his son, my uncle, suffers from a potent lack of self-worth, no doubt caused by not having had a positive father figure he could look up to.  I only wish they had learned to conquer their fears when they were coming of age. I hope I can still conquer mine.

Bow-Gate: Faux News Reaches for The Stars

THE INTERNET IS “ABUZZ” BECAUSE OF YOU, DIPSHIT!

Bow-gate?  Really?

WHO GIVES A FUCK!

This is what one of my homies calls “reaching”.  This is what happens when you run out of things to say about a man, so you gotta reeeeeeeeach a little further and grab any any irrelevant shit that you can find.  What’s funny is that I’m sure there’s lots of other shit Fox can do to ruin Barack Obama’s credibility, and they wouldn’t even have to dig that deep.  Come on you lazy fucks, you’ve done better than this.

It’s almost as if they know they can count on their usual gang of bumpkin fucktards to get all hot and bothered over this non-issue, something to rally around  after the whole “Obama is Hitler” thing got old.  After all, there’s enough of them around to make Sarah Palin rich and famous.  If any of you happen to be reading this (as if you read), I seriously despise you.  I despise you, and your philosophy of arrogant exceptionalism.  Get the fuck over yourselves you mindless idiots.

Be a Pro, not a Tool – How to beat Crowdsourcing

I for one welcome the growing crowdsourcing trend. Many artists in my position loathe the idea because it’s unethical and threatens their own livelihoods.  I happen to agree – crowdsourcing spells ruin for the art of design, and pretty much any other discipline that can and will be turned over to the masses for a buck or two, or none.

But there is always opportunity to be found.  Not in crowdsourcing, mind you; the risk to the artist is too great to participate in a crowdsourcing project – so don’t waste your time.   The practice of crowdsourcing is based on greed and the idea that design is not worth anyone’s time and money.  Logos are small, simple images that anybody with Adobe Illustrator can just crank out…at least that’s the prevailing attitude – why pay possibly thousands of dollars for a logo, illustration, or web site when you can make starving artists fight for the “opportunity” to GIVE you more free work to choose from than you can handle?

The truth is that many people will leave the design and illustration industry because of crowdsourcing – not to mention the already damning effects of stock houses.  There is, however, the part about crowdsourcing that few people like to thing about and the way you will be able to capitalize on it.  A glaring flaw in crowdsourcing is the unprofessional veneer that it gives anybody who promotes or participates in it.

Therefore, I think that if you have the nerve to withstand the assault and not quit, then you can effectively market yourself as a professional.  That word is too often taken for granted, I think, because there’s too many professionals out there.  Everybody’s a pro nowadays; anybody who can draw can design, and anybody who can design is a professional.  What people expect from crowdsourcing is the insight of hundreds of professionals; what they get, on the other hand, wouldn’t pass for a C grade at a community college.

Make your professionalism a selling point and it will set you apart from what I believe is a growing trend that will in all likelihood never go away.   But that’s good – finally, it looks as if you don’t have as many professionals to compete with.  Hell, you might even be able to charge more, seeing as design pros are harder and harder to come by every day.  Compare your work to those of crowdsource houses and it’ll be like comparing a pint of Guinness to that stale shit your toothless cousin makes in the bathtub.  Crowdsourcing does as much for the artists as it does for the client – you know which clients to avoid working for in the future; they’re not professionals.  Forbes magazine writes an article proclaiming the virtues of crowdsourced design?  They must not be professionals – don’t bother with them.   Is there a company holding a “logo contest”?  They must not be professionals either – why would you fuck with them in the first place?  Non-pros don’t know the value of your work and may not even pay you for it either.  Non-pros are sloppy and half ass Mickey Mouse outfits – you ain’t got time for all that.

Of course, if you’re not actually in the business it’s OK to be a non-pro.  Last week the corner store around my house held a mascot contest in which kids from around my neighborhood submitted their designs.  They were swamped with tons of cute picture of animals, and aliens, and monsters.  But I don’t expect the corner store to hire a graphic designer for a mascot to go on a banner; why would I?  They’re not art directors.  They work hard for a living doing their own thing.  But would any professional bother submitting a design for a mom and pops logo contest when there’s paying work to be had?  Let the small fries submit their pictures of Mickey and Goofy; let them worry about “crowdsourcing” – the rest of us got grown man shit to do.

It’s not that crowdsourcers are bad people; they just don’t know any better.  You don’t have time to educate them – work with pros.

The World on ‘Ignore’

I have a cell phone that I keep for keeping in touch, and I never have it on me.  It’s bulky and takes up valuable pocket space.  This is the reason I usually never pick up your calls; I don’t have you on ignore or anything.  I do pick up my phone at the end of the day to find 5 missed calls from all sorts of people.  I have myspace, a twitter, and facebook accounts, none of which I use regularly – but apparently when I do, I drop gems.  My boy Ian told me that I rarely ever pop up but when I do, it’s like Jesus preaching the Gospels himself.  I don’t know if I’d dare compare myself to the good Lord.  Maybe L. Ron Hubbard.

And speaking of Jesus, my boy Joaquin called me up today and it was probably just to say hi.  I consider Joaquin one of the most down to earth homies on the planet, one of only a handful of non-phony Born-Again Christians that I know of and one of even fewer people that I’m proud to call my friend.  But the last time he called, he mentioned the fact that he’s always the one calling, and I made a point of remembering to hollar back at him soon – and wouldn’t you know, he called me first.  Again.

It was then I realized that I really, really suck at keeping in touch with people.

It’s not intentional.  As a kid, I didn’t know how to relate to the others; over time it led me to develop a more detached personality.  One notable exception to this was high school; during high school I found people who shared some of my interests, and because of that I was able to confidently express myself in front of them.   Nowadays I rarely ever see even 1/5th of my friends in high school; I can easily go months on end without hearing a word from them or calling them up.  I understand that most people pick up the phone and call their friends out of the blue to do things, or just to say hi. I don’t.  It’s not that I’m purposefully trying to ignore them; it simply doesn’t occur to me to do it.  I tend to believe that people have their own lives to attend to and that the friend roster is “full” for most people.  I don’t speak unless spoken to; in fact, everybody I’ve ever met was through someone else.  I seem to be able to go for days without coming in contact with a single human being.  It’ll come in handy when I end up living alone, without a wife and kids.  Perhaps I’m just prepping myself for that day.

Human interaction has always been a mystery to me.  I remember being younger and seeing couples out at a park.  One moment they would be held in embrace, smiling, kissing and looking into each other’s eyes; sometimes, without taking their eyes off each other, the girl would then whisper something to the guy, and then he’d say something, and then both would just laugh like bubbly idiots as they looked into each others eyes and kissed.  I’ve always wanted to know: what were they saying? Personally I’m still baffled at what guys are supposed to say to a woman when they approach her, and I’ m not counting corny pick-up lines either.  I also doubt very much that the answer is as simple as “hi”; what’s the follow up to such a weak opener?  What do people gathered in groups at social functions talk about, and how do they manage to avoid the awkward silences that seem to plague my attempts at “mingling”?

When people talk to me, I have a feeling they see me as simple and uncomplicated.   I avoid emotional minutiae like most people avoid technical minutiae.  I don’t particularly care about the mundane details of every day life; maybe that’s why I naturally gravitate towards fantasy.   Nerds, I find, are fascinated with technical trivialities, but even when the topic is something I’m interested in I could not stand more than 5 minutes of conversation with some of them.  I can’t recite 20 years worth of Simpsons quotes; I don’t care about the extended Star Wars universe.  I’m somewhat peeved that George Lucas digitally inserted Hayden Christensen’s head onto the astral form of the deceased Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, but I’m far more interested in what it means in terms of the limits of authorship and whether the public even has a say in the matter.  Just like Star Wars technicalities leave me bored, so does the everyday banality of small talk and gossip.  What somebody said to somebody else and how they feel about it doesn’t really catch my attention.  Just reading that last sentence to myself made my eyes roll.  Naturally, I’m out of place at any social gathering where people stand around with wine glasses and talk; what are they talking about?

What does it mean to keep in touch?  Why would anyone call anybody else out of the blue; at any moment there are dozens of people you could be talking to right now – who would you choose, and why?  The question only gets harder the more time passes by until so much time passes that one day you decide that just sending them a Facebook comment would be really, REALLY awkward.

Perhaps those you do choose to keep in contact with are those worthy enough to be called friends.  Perhaps I don’t really have any friends.  Or maybe I’m not appreciating my friends as much as I should.  I guess the only way to know for sure is to make a better effort at it.  I’ll try harder.  But if I don’t take your call, chances are it’s nothing personal.  Keep trying until I get the message.  Better yet, just leave a message telling me I’m being a douche again.  That should do it.