Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dear Salvador: Lesson #2 - A Few Words on Women


Dear Salvador,

On Fashion:
When undressing for sex, your socks should always be removed before your pants. If you end up being seen in your underwear and still wearing your socks, you may not recover. This situation doesn't apply to women, so don't get tricked by watching women undress and trying to emulate them.

On Touching:
Imagine a naked woman standing with her arms at her sides. (Feel free to play along at home.) This is easy for you, because you're high school, and you were probably doing it before I asked you too. Now, imagine this naked woman standing under a shower faucet slowly dripping water. Drip. Drip. Drip. Like this.

If your powers of concentration are strong enough, you can see the individual water droplets moving downward and eventually off of her, via her toes or her fingers. It is important to realize that the path the water droplet takes is different each time (ala Ian Malcolm). Whenever you make contact with a woman, it is important not to repeat your own actions too much. You don't want to touch her the same way over and over again. She is not a cat.

To return to the faucet analogy, take your imaginary woman and move her around barbie-doll style. Have her bend at the elbow, putting her hands in the air for instance. Which way is the water moving now? The "toe water" should be the same, but the "finger water" is now moving off of her by her elbows, not her fingers. If she lifts her leg out to one side, the exit point is now the heel. If she bends at the knee like a flamingo, the exit point is the bottom of the foot.

The reason I mention this change in body position and why it's important is that your movements when you're touching a woman should be akin more to moving outward instead of downward. That is, your goal should never be just fingers and toes, but elbows, knees, wrists, backs, etc. etc..

And your actions should follow-through to their completion. If you're stroking a woman's arm, for example, your hand should never stop halfway between the elbow and the wrist. (You can try it on yourself if you're alone right now.) It feels weird, it looks weird, and it actually will make her feel like a pet, instead of a woman.

That is also to say that you don't need to mimic the water droplet originating at the top of the head either. Of course it would be really awkward if you started your hands on the top of her head and moved it all the way to her toes. In practice, you should consider the water droplet having a different origin, not necessarily the top of the head. That is, imagine your hand and the drop of water starting in the same place and leaving in the same place.

On Shortcuts:
You've probably heard of the really stupid book, "How to Make Friends and Influence People". One of the key pieces of advice this book offers is the platitude, "interested is interesting." (That is, if you feign enthusiasm for someone else, they will think you're an interesting person. This is complete bullshit, and I'll explain more about it later.)

Take a look at this picture of Farrah Fawcett. This poster went on to sell 12 million copies and was the definitive image of the definitive sex symbol of the 1970s. We can safely assume that this is a sexy picture (although dated).

Now, my question is "Why is this picture sexy?"

You can quickly name a lot of things: the hair, the eyes, the smile, the legs, the breasts, the obvious nipples, so on and so forth. What I want you to do though, is take the Farrah in this picture and imagine her standing with her arms at her sides, staring at the ground. It immediately becomes less sexy. In fact, it actually becomes nothing more than a study in anatomy, instead of sexiness.

The thing that makes this a sexy poster, as opposed to a poster of a sexy woman, is that Farrah is smiling and looking at you. That is, she is finding you attractive. In fact, if you do a quick google search of any and all PG rated pictures of this kind, they are almost always looking directly into the camera. They are looking at you.

Therefore, we can agree that if a woman finds us sexy, the situation itself becomes sexy. This works the same in reverse, albeit a little differently. If you can convince a woman that you find her sexy, it will help convince her that you are sexy. The problem is defining the line between showing your appreciation and just plain being creepy. All people like to be looked at in a positive manner, to be sure, but not everyone appreciates being eye-fucked. This is a distinction that I can't teach you, and you'll probably just have to practice. (Consider this your homework assignment.)

On Dichotomy:
The semanticist SI Hayakawa described everything as being either a two-valued orientation, or a multi-valued orientation.

The two-valued orientation is easily characterized by "good/bad" although it branches out into other orientations. For instance, if you're starving, he writes, everything in the world is either "food" or "not food", and anything that doesn't fall into one of these catergories does not exist for you. Meaning, if you're hungry in Calcutta, a bench in Rome is not even a part of your world. It doesn't exist. A second example he gives is fear. If your life is in danger, everything around you is suddenly divided into "things that can help me" or "things that can hurt me". Nothing else matters besides these two things.

The multi-valued orientation is when you take a look at something and can acknowledge both the good and the bad, as well as an infinite number or other possibile values. For instance, you will never divide all the movies in the world into the two categories "good" and "bad". You will instead say, "This is a funny movie" or "This is a sad movie". And even within that, you acknowledge that not every second of the movie is funny, and that some scenes are funnier than others. No movie is 100% of X and 0% of Y.

The two-valued orientation is used for stuff like eating and surviving. Human stuff. The multi-valued orientation is better for things like art, politics, and things like that. (We'll probably come back to this idea, actually, when we discuss politics.)

The problem with this is that sex is one of those "human things." This means that, as men, we categorize women into "good" "bad" or "doesn't exist." If you sit back and think about the women in your life, you will do this. Some women you will like and want to date, some women you don't like and don't want to date, and there are probably a multitude of women that didn't even register in your thoughts, some that are probably close to you and you see every day.

Start doing this today. Stop asking "Do I like her?" and start asking "What do I like about her?" In other words, stop using the two-valued orientation and switch to the multi-valued.

Your relations with people will improve tremendously. You will be able to acknowledge a person's strengths first and foremost when considering them (something that is important to them), as opposed to think about whether or not you like them (something that is important only to you). I can't say that this is the instant shortcut to popularity or that you'll be a Cassanova in no time, but I will tell you that this is the very best way to treat people in the best way.

This has the added benefit of quickly making you immune from entering into a bad relationship. If you ever had a conversation with a friend whose dating a monster of a girlfriend, you'll find that he has trouble naming a good quality about her. Usually he'll respond with something like "She makes me happy" or something along those lines, which implies a two-valued orientation as though the woman were food. With the multi-valued orientation, you can say that you appreciate X and Y qualities about her, and then ask yourself if those qualities are the most important to you. (Example: If Girl X is really smart, but Girl Y can snowboard, you have to ask yourself which of these qualities is more important in a mate.)

And that is your lesson for this week. I can't stress enough about the multi-valued orientation, about how you should start asking what it is you like about each woman (and person) around you, as opposed to whether or not you like them. Start doing that right now.

Master Splinter

Dear Salvador: Lesson #1 - A Disclaimer

Dear Salvador,

Your first lesson is going to be the most important: Do not trust me.

One of the more interesting polls I've heard about in my lifetime was done Americans asked to rate their own driving skill. Over 80% said they were above average.

The first reason I say this poll is interesting is because the majority of people think they are above average, which means that at least some of them have cogitated themselves into delusion. They think their way of doing things must be better. (Perhaps by sole virtue of being their own ability and irrelevant to driving skill.)

The second reason this is interesting is that even though 80% of the people thought they were above average, 100% of the people think that they know what average is.

This is how the human mind works, and it is not limited to thoughts on operating automobiles. It can, in fact, be applied to our thoughts on life in general and every aspect of it. Whether we think we're living above average, below average average, or even perfectly average, we all are certain as to what the ideal is.

Think about yourself for a moment. You try to do things as best you can (every person does) but even when you know you've done something wrong, you usually know what you should have done right, and you know how serious your offenses are. (Missing homework to play video games = bad. Missing homework to punch your mother in the neck = worse.)

Even if we feel we're not living well, we still have an idea of how to do it. This is where advice comes from. The reason you shouldn't trust it is because one person's ideal life is not necessarily better than the ideals of the 99.99% of people on this planet.

I want to make it unambiguously clear, then, that I don't want to tell you what to do or how to live your life. For one, it will make me look like a completely arrogant asshole (which might not be false, but it doesn't mean I'm trying to make myself look like it.) For two, if I tried to teach you or anybody else anything, it would probably have the opposite effect I sought. Nobody likes to be preached to, especially when they probably consider themselves to be a pretty good driver.

So why am I wasting your time and my time by giving "lessons"? The reasons actually have more to do with me than you.

One of my more idiosyncratic personality traits is the urge to think things through until their completion. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but it is what it is. For instance, if someone mentions "Master Splinter", I have the uncontrollable desire to learn everything about him. Or the television show VR Troopers. I sat on the bus the other day and wondered why some animals were better domesticated than others. (Was the domestication process started for dogs and cats earlier than ferrets and rabbits? Are dogs and cats simply more genetically capable of living with humans?) So when I jokingly christened you as my "pupil" to initiate you to our circle of friends, my mind immediately went off on "what can I teach the young padawan?" One month later and my mind is still working on this wide topic. I can see that it won't go away, so I'm writing it down.

Which leads me to my second reason for doing this (besides my neurological damage,) I like writing, and I don't even think I care about what I write about. Some of the ideas I'll share would have probably found their way to the inner monologue of a fictional character I would have created, or an angry rant about politics, etc. etc.. The point is, for the moment, this will be the outlet for my thoughts. Until I get bored of it.

Which is not to say that you might not benefit from it. Even if you don't trust me, it doesn't mean I might not be right. To follow-up that claim, there are certainly some things about which I am most assuredly wrong. (My advice on women is highly suspect, for example. But consider these lessons as a part of the cataract of knowledge thrown in your face for your entire life. As with everything, you can choose to accept, reject or ignore it.

The third reason I'm doing this is because it helps out personally, as an exercise in self-awareness. I have to think about why and how I live the way I do (which is a beneficial practice for anyone) and then make my thoughts coherent enough to write them down and still make sense. After that, because this blog is public, have them held up to scrutiny (which I welcome whole-heartedly, by the way) by my closest friends and complete strangers looking for sonic porn.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is, don't trust me.

Master Splinter

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

Xenomorph Reference #3,083

To continue with the previous nincompoopery, I found this link today:

From Adkisson's manifesto:
Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals. There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country & these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation, trying to turn this country into a communist state. Shame on them....
These are the views expressed by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and other right-wing media celebrities. Millons of Americans rely on these sources as their only source of news and political commentary. Be afraid.

Do you hear that? Be afraid.

Aneurin Bevan

"It is inherent in our intellectual activity that we seek to imprison reality in our description of it. Soon, long before we realize it, it is we who become prisoners of the description. From that point on, our ideas degenerate into a kind of folklore which we pass to each other, fondly thinking we are still talking of the reality around us."
-- Aneurin Bevan

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Xenomorph Reference #3,082

In the world of politics, there are what I like to call "teachable moments," places in time where the people of any given country sit back and go, "Huh. Well, let's never do that again." The Watergate scandal is a good example of this. That was a "whoops" moment, and we learned from it, watching our elected and appointed officials much more carefully from then on out.

I feel like, if I pulled up any random link on this blog, something about how we didn't learn much after 9/11 would appear. Or a joke about poop. Could go either way.

Regardless of how you feel about the actions of the Bush administration, it is clear that the country went in two different directions. I hate categorically labeling everyone in the nation as "one" or "the other" but I think that description is apt enough to keep. And, if I were to completely oversimplify the situation, the dividing line occurs at the issue of how dangerous Al Queda is. Questions about whether you think the actions of the Bush administration were right or wrong, questions about civil liberties, questions about interrogation tactics...whatever, are all originated in the question of exactly how big of a threat you feel these people are.

I won't get into the reasons why I think what I think about terrorism, but in general, I'm not too scared of it. And again, to speak in general and to oversimplify the situation, I think most the left-of-center crowd in America agrees with me. Yes, they are scary, but not world-ending scary. These are not xenomorphs we're talking about.

You may have heard about this news story. Maybe you didn't, because to me, it doens't sound life-changing.

Adkisson, the guy that did all the shooting and whatnot, wrote up a four-page suicide note slash "manifesto" which was recently released to the public. If I may provide the juiciest of bits:

"I thought I'd do something good for this Country Kill Democrats til the cops kill me."

David Neiwert, over at (fairly popular for a blog), had this to say about the incident.

It is fearmongering, pure and simple. The comparisons to this blog post and the language of post-9/11 terror is almost identical, to say nothing of the hyperbolic nature of the piece. If I may:

James Adkisson has been sentenced to life behind bars for the deaths of Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger, the Unitarian Universalist martyrs who died during his assault on their church in Knoxville, TN last July. (emphasis mine in this and all subsequent quotes)

Adkisson will likely emerge from this as a new hero of the extreme right wing.

We are no longer safe, not even in our own houses of worship.

A significant part of this country's media infrastructure is thoroughly devoted to inciting people to commit horrific acts of violence against us.

Neiwert seems incapable of focusing on anything other than "us and them". That is the only way he can see this event. For me, I am looking at the act of a crazy person, who killed victims, who will be seen as a hero only by other crazy people.

This is where our political discourse breaks down, and it's a big problem. I have to wonder how somebody can sit and without a hint of irony, write that the media wants people to harm him. This is insanity.

He even makes the very broad statement about "[us] being no longer safe." Without bothering to define the "[us]", he makes it clear that yes, the world is ending. The media is out to get "us" and people who follow right-wing ideaology want nothing more than to murder liberals. This is insanity.

A big part of many people's problems is that Adkisson was a fan of such-and-such right-wing media personality. To say that any form of media -- this includes music, radio, TV, video games -- incites one to murder is, well, insanity.

It's insanity of the worst kind too. It has bred fear amongst a group of people, ill-defined they may be, and cast members of the American public as homocidal psychopaths and people that cannot be reasoned with. The sooner we stop drawing Xs over people in the world, the better off and less murdered we'll be.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Love It

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Baby-Face Ike

Friday, February 6, 2009

Also, Romance Novel Out in June

Obama has an op-ed in the Washington Post today. Has this ever happened before with a president?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Stimulus Package, Part the Third



    There is established a board to be known as the ‘Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board’ (hereafter in this subtitle referred to as the ‘Board’) to coordinate and conduct oversight of Federal spending under this Act to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.



    There is hereby appropriated to the Board $14,000,000 to carry out this subtitle.

$14 million dollars to make sure we don't spend too much. Washington is so funny.

In their defense, the website is pretty shitty, thus far. I'm sure with a few million they can buy some pictures.

The Stimulus Package, Part the Second


    None of the funds provided by this Act may be made available to the State of Illinois, or any agency of the State, unless: (1) the use of such funds by the State is approved in legislation enacted by the State after the date of the enactment of this Act; or (2) Rod R. Blagojevich no longer holds the office of Governor of the State of Illinois. The preceding sentence shall not apply to any funds provided directly to a unit of local government: (1) by a Federal department or agency; or (2) by an established formula from the State.

Can I make this any funnier? What happens if he robs the train with all the money on it? This is a serious concern.

The Stimulus Package


    None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool.

You know what that means. That's right! Hookers for everybody!

Seriously though, is frivolous spending at the aquarium a problem in the federal government? And furthermore, there are so many other places you can blow your money besides these five places. Hello? Six Flags?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Happy 2009!

Mission accomplished. I have successfully avoided the month of January.

I would love to tell you people that writing, any writing, is like a well. If you leave alone for long enough, it will surely be brimming with delicious metaphorical water to drink. Alas, writing is like a big ugly rock you have to roll from place to place. This post is a pathetic attempt to get that thing moving again.

Case in point, this post originally began with the word "miccion". What I'm getting at here is lower your expectations, and sharply.

There have been things that I've been thinking about, and save for the occasional rant I beam towards my unfortunate friends and coworkers, they get bottled up. I am afraid of Obama. There, I said it.

I've often said that 9/11 provided us with an opportunity to examine deeply and impartially quite a number of things: our place in the world and religion's place in the country, to name the two most important. We chose to forego that noise in favor of making kerploodies around the world. Three cheers for American hubris, the only thing we still manufacture ourselves.

I can see the same thing happening to the country with the "changing of the guard" that just occurred. People love Obama a lot or they hate Obama a lot, but it doesn't feel (at least to me) that anyone is looking with a skeptical eye. The method may have changed, but it results in the same unquestioning loyalty that the Bush administration cajoled us into adopting. This time it's love, and not fear.

I've been able to catch a little TV here and there in slow days. It's disturbing to see Jon Stewart cheer Obama on every night. No Jon, you should not be doing that. Make with the yuk-yuks, funny man.

There are a lot of things that should be on the table right now, but they simply aren't. 3 Pakistani children died a short while ago because of one of our missiles. Obama ordered it and has -- repeatedly -- declared that intends more of the same. He has stated he fully supports Israel in its recent battle against Hamas, despite knowing that 1,300 civilian deaths is frowned upon amongst people with souls. He has passed a bill with tax cuts, despite being against tax cuts throughout his campaign. He is seeing imaginary Iranian nuclear weapons in his head, with contradictory, American-based intelligence at his fingertips. He's also been hanging around quite a bit of assholes lately (Daschle, Lynn, Warren) and some of his recent cabinet posts have been considerably confusing (Clinton, Gates). Jury's still out on DOMA, healthcare and the prosecution of war criminals. The aforementioned stimulus plan doesn't look too good, but I'll save judgment for later.

And I just don't hear the opposition for this. The guy is nice, I agree. He's completely likable. But this is our chance, our second chance, as a nation, to look at our president with a skeptical, discerning eye instead of blind adoration. My recommendation is that we take it, but we won't receive another chance to redefine ourselves for a long time.