Monday, October 22, 2018

My Comedy Album Now Available

I beat booze and heroin just to bring you this album, as far as you know! It's now available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play for about the cost of an Uber. For my friends who have waited for this for years, I hope it's worth it. In high school, I paid $15 for the Spin Doctors album, and that was a horrible investment. Mine is under $10, and it's totally better than "Pocket Full of Kryptonite."

Google Play:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

New Podcast!

I've started a weekly podcast called "Yes, I'm Still Sober". It's been a long time coming. First episode is up now.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Black Mirror Reality

There was a sign at the Women's March on January 21st that read, "This episode of 'Black Mirror' sucks."

The "Black Mirror" TV series tends to have a twist and a depressing ending in each episode, and I'm assuming people consider Trump winning the election to be that big twist they didn't see coming. I think it goes even further than that, and I find the statement on that protest sign to be even more accurate than people probably realize.

Think about all the social media posts and issues that went on over the past three years. Slate called 2014 the "Year of Outrage". The AV Club posted an article called "24 times 2015 totally lost its shit. Daily outrage was the norm, and we also had backlash against outrage that was just as self-righteous and loud. It seemed like many of us lost our perspective on how good things actually were comparatively. There were of course real issues to address...but we seemed to focus on trivial matters that really didn't mean anything. "I can't believe some random celebrity said something I feel is insensitive. Let's go to Twitter, everyone! Public shamers unite!"

If you read Facebook and Twitter, you would've thought the world was ending every single day.

But then, after all the faux activism and snark and preaching from a high horse and telling each other why they're wrong (often people on the same side), it culminated in progressives losing the election. And now...finally...last week...there are serious issues to be outraged about. It is no longer "Trump said this, omg", but it is now "Trump DID this, holy fuck", and our outrage falls on deaf ears because we've been yelling at our social media circle and into the air for years.

And now here's the actual twist at the end of our Black Mirror episode. Instead of collectively realizing our error of unsolicited opinions over discussions...of wanting to be right over actual truth...instead of working towards a new strategy (or any strategy), everyone seems to be doing the same thing they were doing before...faux activism and snark and preaching from a high horse and telling each other why they're wrong.

The response to criticism is usually "at least I'm doing something" or "do you have a better idea". My gut tells me that it's possible your poster and marker budget would be more effective in the hands of organizations fighting this administration in the courts. Keep marching and protesting, but in addition we either need to use lobbyists and lawyers in our corrupt system or we need to revolt.

The media needs to quit trying to "get" or "take down" Trump and just report the facts and lies as level headed and objectively as possible. Quit being baited by the troll(s), because they feed off of your outrage.

Breathe. We can't rationally discuss solutions and game plans when we're worked up into an emotional frenzy.

I'm not right about anything. Neither are you. Let's quit trying to be right and seek real truth.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Stop Payment

In 2005 (when my only drug of choice was Jameson, I had only been arrested twice, and I and all my friends thought we were better at poker than we actually were), I had a hard time finding someone to be my roommate. I had a three bedroom house that I didn’t want, buried in a north Austin suburb that I couldn’t stand. I had bills looming over my head, and I no longer had a cushy overpaid job at Apple to solve my money issues. Then it hit me: what if I just stop paying all of it?

At my weekly poker game (I remember reality, I probably lost), I brought up that idea.
Me: So...what if you just don’t pay your mortgage?
Them: You’ll lose your house.
Me: Is that all? I don’t want it.
Them: You can’t not pay them. It’ll ruin your credit.
Me: What do I need credit for? I have a car. Bartenders take cash.
Them: But…
Me: Credit rating is a prison.
Them: You have to pay bills.
Me: Eh.

More research needed to be done. But I said “fuck that” and did what I wanted to do. I declared my cat. I said, “Kitty, we’re bankrupt.” She didn’t seem worried, so neither was I. I stopped paying everybody, and I squatted in my house for a couple of months. Once I started receiving really angry mail, I moved into a central Austin apartment and changed my phone number. I refrained from filling out that “change of address” form at the post office. The rest is very fuzzy and mostly nonexistent history.

I bring this up because I’ve recently done some research on those companies I stiffed. Here is the list:

Washington Mutual - I always wondered why it was so easy to refinance my $125,000 house twice in 2 years. After watching “The Big Short”, I said, “Oh.” I stuck these assholes with a termite-infested money pit filled with discarded furniture, belongings and broken dreams. They called themselves the “Wal-Mart of Banking,” owning the largest savings and loan association in the country...until it all went down in 2008.

Bank One - I inherited a credit card of theirs in my divorce, and maxed it out after funding a kick-ass weekend in New Orleans. I owed them about $12,000 according to the last invoice I read. A year earlier, Bank One was involved in a the actual company I screwed over was JPMorgan the same year they paid a $2.2 billion settlement to Enron investors and a $2 billion settlement for their part in the WorldCom accounting fraud. You should check out JPMorgan Chase on Wikipedia. The “Controversies” section is divided into 17 parts.

Wells Fargo - Hey, anyone read the news recently? They created 1.5 million checking/savings accounts and 500,000 credit cards that were never authorized by their customers. I opened a $6000 credit line with them in order to be able to pay Bank One and Washington Mutual. I have no idea what the interest was...I just knew there was zero interest on MY end, amiright? Huh? Ah, me.

Also, $350 to Time Warner Cable. Fuck Time Warner Cable.

I am not writing this in order to justify being a drunken deadbeat or to encourage similar behavior. I am not implying that I sabotaged my credit rating to subconsciously become a Wall Street freedom fighter (although that delusion sounds pretty rad). I am communicating all of this simply to say…

You’re welcome, America.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Chess With a Non-Friend

Last year, I was using the "Chess With Friends" app, and a random user named "YoungMoneyRepublican" challenged me to a game. After a long gut laugh at the username and a profile pic of a very large head wearing a SF Giants cap slightly tilted, I went ahead and started playing him.

We traded a few standard opening moves. But then, he moved his knight to an unexpected spot, and then followed that with another move that completed a brilliant trap on one of my pieces. It was good...but I felt it was too good. Now, I'm decent at chess, and I recognize when excellent players kick my ass. But this didn't feel right. It was his username, really. Somehow, I didn't think anyone with a stupid name like that could play chess that well. It's assumptive and judgmental, sure. But I was bored, so...I started investigating.

His stats on Chess With Friends were phenomenal. 75 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss, in just 4 months. Average game was 24 moves (he would win moving all of 12 times). Well, that's kind of a red flag. This guy is a prodigy...or he's a cheat. Side Note: if you use the same username on multiple websites, it is unbelievably easy to stalk you. I won't share his name, but I found his Facebook page. All of his status updates, set to Public, were bits of wisdom that I suppose he wanted to put out there to inspire and motivate his friends. The thing is, while he posted everything like he was writing them, they were all lifted quotes from other people or shitty memes. "Nothing irritates me more than someone who constantly complains about a situation they’re in but does absolutely nothing to change it" - this pulls up several memes on Pinterest. Or, "I love Huey Lewis, but not the News, because the News is too depressing" - which is a joke by author Jarod Kintz...and probably about 14 comedians in 1989. What kind of a person passes along "quotable quotes" as his own? The same kind of person that cheats at chess online (and probably every online game).

I searched online and found a couple of free chess engines, which are programs that generate optimal moves for any match. I replayed our game from beginning to present, and he was indeed using the GNU 6 Chess Engine for every move. He was also playing 10 people at the same time on Chess With Friends, probably challenging random players to beef up his stats.

I was going to message him to tell him off and let him know that I knew...but then...I had a better idea. I found a stronger chess engine (Stockfish 5), so I started playing his computer with another computer. Worst case, it would end in a draw. Also, since he was so keen on beefing his stats quickly, I waited 4 or 5 days to move every turn. I figured I could make the game last at least 6 months...or I'd make him resign the game in anger. Because...fuck him.

Anyway, I'm posting about this because tonight, 8 months and 108 moves later, he finally had enough and resigned the game. Had we played it out until the end, it might have lasted a year.

If you play Chess With Friends, and YoungMoneyGOP (his current name) challenges you, either decline the game or play him with Stockfish. I uninstalled it. I'll play you in person, though.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Your Calling is Being True to Yourself

This is a response to the piece Resist that calling. It’s probably not your purpose in life posted on Medium by Fred Swaniker. In it, Swaniker states that we are “defined by our ‘Moments of obligation’” and that we should ignore 99% of these moments. The reason being that we each are on this planet for a purpose, and if we pursue ventures that are not this purpose, then we are delaying our calling from coming to fruition. He suggests applying three questions as a screening process for potential moments of obligation when they present themselves. These questions are:

- Is it big enough?
- Am I uniquely positioned, more than almost anyone else in the world, to make this happen?
- Am I truly passionate?

Three yes’s and you should pursue that calling. If your moment of obligation does not produce three “yes” answers, Swaniker recommends that you ignore this potential venture, “no matter how guilty it makes you feel.” Keep on your current path and your purpose in life will be revealed in time as part of a greater plan.

I must admit up front that I did not read this piece objectively as I do not ascribe to the concepts of fate and destiny. My answer to the question “What is my purpose in life?” has been and will continue to be, “Experiencing life is your purpose for existing.” From the position that we do not have a higher calling from a deity or the universe, I think we use our intuition or gut feeling in a similar way as these three questions to determine if we should follow new opportunities that present themselves. It appears to me that the difference between following your gut and Swaniker’s questions is that he is suggesting decision-making removed from empathy or guilt…to look at your moment of obligation coldly and logically along with personal desire or goals. This is what had me opposed to this from the beginning (by beginning, I mean from the title).

While I personally object to the concepts of fate and destiny, let’s say we all have a greater purpose in life, and we are each here for a reason. If that’s the case, then why have a filtering system for your life choices at all? Instead of being true to yourself and seeing where life takes you, are you attempting to help out fate? Swaniker states that being distracted by moments of obligation that are not your true calling only delays you from reaching your destiny. Okay, but we still reach it eventually? He didn’t say we could sway from our true path and then never find our way back. If you die while off your path, weren’t you actually on the real path? Isn’t your “true path” just based on perception?

I am not a fan of a simplified formula presented for mass consumption as a universal mantra because it ignores the numerous complexities of life’s experiences and the individual. We are all on our own trajectory with different backgrounds and unique thought/emotion structures, and the concept of everyone applying the same 3-question quiz to every major life decision or fork in the road is absurd to me. It is even more unsettling when you analyze the questions themselves. Let me address them in reverse order.

“Are you truly passionate?” I agree with this one. Too often we pursue an avenue because we believe it to be a great opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up. We eventually find ourselves regretting this decision as our heart was never behind it in the first place. The great opportunity transforms into a cause of stress and unhappiness because we never really wanted to do it. I’m all for pursuing a calling that fuels passion and drive.

“Am I uniquely positioned, more than almost anyone else in the world, to make this happen?” This one is perplexing considering there are 7.4 billion people on earth. No matter what your moment of obligation might be, there is a decent chance there are numerous individuals who are also in a position to make it happen.

But will they? This question assumes that if the issue you are contemplating is common enough, pass it up because somebody else will take care of it. Human nature, however, has shown that if an issue does not directly affect an individual and requires effort for that individual to take action, then the individual does not address it. A good example of this is trash on the side of the road. Anyone with at least one arm (i.e. mostly everyone) is positioned to clean it up. Most people choose to walk on by with the assumption someone else will take care of it (if they give litter any thought at all).

This question could be used to reinforce the decision to follow a calling if you were on the fence about it. Being in a unique position to help would probably tip you over to the side of yes. Using this question to completely rule out pursuing a venture doesn’t make sense to me.

“Is it big enough?” I find it presumptuous to determine that a good deed is greater than another based on a vague internal criteria. How do you quantify “big”? Do you refuse to initiate or participate in an idea that can benefit three or four people because anything less than half a dozen people is a waste of your time? Swaniker is suggesting making your decisions with a view of the big picture instead of what you feel is right. He says, “You should be solving the biggest problems for the world, not small ones.” This is infuriating to me, because as I mentioned earlier, people tend to ignore small problems, and small problems left untreated usually become bigger problems. Also, why is that a choice, big vs small? Shouldn’t it be, can I do something about this issue without it being detrimental to me financially, emotionally or physically?

This question’s main function seems to be for guilt alleviation, not for guidance to your perceived true purpose. Guilt, of course, can be very unhealthy, and it is not a person’s job to save the world. And actually, I don’t like the phrase “moment of obligation” because it implies that we owe the world something based on our position in life. I don’t feel I’m “obligated” to do anything. That being said, to completely ignore guilt as Swaniker suggests is to become an unfeeling machine that reads all the 1s and 0s and calculates all the factors to determine if the solution is equal to or greater than “big”.

The three questions almost sounds like an abbreviated strategy for business and professional success. To apply business principles to acts of goodwill feels dirty. From a purely selfish point of view, the reason to help other people is because it ultimately is supposed to make you feel good. That should be your true purpose: help people and feel good. This isn’t a matter of quantifying the number of people or the number of good deeds. That’s along the same lines as being a good person, not because it’s right, but because you’re trying to get into heaven. If you want to improve society and the world, you have to use empathy. Emotions need to be involved. Is it big enough? How about, is it the right thing to do?

The idea that I’m here for some higher purpose is an ego trip mired in delusion. Not everybody gets to have a calling that society will deem “great”. It doesn’t matter what society thinks of you, your profession, or your actions. What matters is how you feel. If you are doing for others based on what you feel is the right thing to do…If you are being true to yourself using both thought and emotion…then you should feel good about the path you’re taking. That is your calling: being authentically you.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

End of Year Reflection, or Introspective Nightmare, or For Jay Whitecotton

No one makes me think "fuck you, you're right" on a daily basis like my friend Jay Whitecotton. He is my confidant, adviser and sounding board. He recently mentioned how much he enjoys reading a person's "year in review", which was motivation enough to write this. And considering I've been a bit desperate for inspiration recently, I'll take what I can get.

This has been a tumultuous year for so many people, so it has been a little odd that 2015 was, for me, "The Year I Did Jack Shit." I needed it, though. I've spent the previous two years creating a new lifestyle without drugs or booze while jumping through hoops for probation. Having a year free of any obligations outside of my job and my cat was a welcome change.

There were a few things in the realm of "self-improvement" that I pursued and successfully infused into my daily schedule. I read every day now. I drink smoothies because it's the best way to trick myself into consuming fruit and vegetables. I work out. Yes, really. Shut up.

Those are all nice things. But I noticed one change from the previous couple of years. I hardly posted any blogs or essays this year. I think this occurred for a couple of reasons. First, I became very comfortable with who I am and the life I lead. My anxiety due to addiction or daily struggles had subsided significantly, and I didn't feel the need to "write that shit out" as often as I used to. The need to work it out is a big motivator for my writing, and I almost think I was spoiled with a consistent need to have something to say. The downside to this was I got used to only writing when I was inspired. So once everything was fine...I quit posting.

I'm not a fan of not writing, by the way. When you constantly overthink and analyze every thought, interaction and activity of your day, you will at some point feel guilty that things are fine. "Really, John? It's a good day, is it? Then why aren't you being a productive artist?" It's like my brain will impose some kind of creativity quota for the day that has no logic to it. "You can't just watch that TV show now. You need to write something. A new joke would be nice. Okay, fine, that was an impressively mediocre tweet. Enjoy Rick & Morty."

(Incidentally, if anyone has any suggestions on how to escape thoughts without self-destruction, I'd be glad to hear them. I am visiting the concept of meditation's not as effective as heroin or Jameson, unfortunately.)

I did write a bit this year...almost 2 composition books worth of journal entries and random thoughts. But here's the second reason I didn't post as much on my blog: I wanted to be "right." 2015 certainly felt like "The Year of the Opinion." Daily outrage coupled with multiple convenient soapboxes to jump on turned social media into a very loud place. It's like a crowd of people gathered together, and everyone has a megaphone. How do you make yourself heard? And if people actually listen to you, what if you're wrong?

Being wrong is one of the three big fears of people like me (white). We don't want to be thought of as a) racist, b) a hipster, or c) not in the right on a subject. Keep that in mind if you really want to nail someone. Ooh, or sexist! HOMOPHOBIC, yeah. Fit all those in. You're full of shit, you racist, bigoted, misogynistic hipster motherfucker. (brain explodes)

It seems to me that the reason opinions online are expressed so strongly (besides uncontrolled emotions and lack of empathy) is we're compensating to quiet any possible doubt that what we're saying might not be the whole truth...that it's a point of view based on our limited experience and perception. The fear of publicly being wrong and taking damage to one's ego could be key to why we don't really listen to each other. We don't share ideas and have discussions. We take turns vocalizing points of view without compromise.

Strong opinions are odd when you consider that really, we all know nothing. Outside of personal experience, everything we know we've read or been told, and we assume it to be true. So it's really presumptuous to think that we know the whole truth about anything.

Even knowing and observing this, I felt like just avoiding any possible confrontation on social media. What is the point in presenting questioning thoughts that conflicted with the opinions of friends or acquaintances, I thought. In retrospect, I think the point is to add another perspective to the collective.

No, I don't think we need to ban guns, but it would be nice if they weren't easier to own than an automobile. I don't think all cops are bad, but the system sure makes it difficult to not be. There's a difference between "racism" and "prejudice." If there is no god then let people believe dumb things and move on with your life. Caring about money more than people isn't Christlike. Some people like to victimize themselves so that they can appear to overcome adversity that isn't really there...because we all want to be the protagonist in an inspirational movie. No one asked you to formulate and vocalize a verdict on whether a sexual assault victim is telling the truth or not. Being an American and telling another American to check their privilege seems kind of stupid. Redefining language and terminology is easier than actually having a conversation and addressing the problem...which is why we do it so much. Maybe we shouldn't quantify and compare suffering of individuals and instead attempt to rectify problems. You don't know how it feels to be another person.

Sorry. I needed to get all that out. Here's the deal. I'm probably wrong about some of those things. The more I think about it, maybe I need to be vocal not because I have something to offer necessarily, but because I need to be wrong. You don't get anything out of being right other than an ego boost. Being wrong leads to actual growth...and that's what we all need. We grow and learn until we die.

That's what I've learned this year, Jay. Be vocal but questioning rather than accusing, if possible. Attempt to share thoughts and ideas vs opinions. Don't be another asshole with a megaphone. Be open and willing to be wrong.

Also, I should smoke less.