No One Pays You Fifty Bucks Burning Out Your Retinas


Here is the thing about eyes – they’re multidirectional.  And where you direct your gaze, like everything else, is a subject of scrutiny.

Mostly, it is whether you cast your eyes up or down that cause most people to lay judgment upon you.  Take for example these lyrics from Cage the Elephant’s song, Shake Me Down:  “Plagued by constant misery, eyes cast down, fixed upon the ground, eyes cast down – I’ll keep my eyes upon the sun.”

The concept here, of course, is that casting one’s eyes down, to the ground, is a signal of defeat of some kind.  One is emotionally beaten into looking at the ground, rather than up at the sky, where things are hopeful and optimistic.  While on the other hand, looking upward suggests that one is taking life head-on, with a sense of vibrancy and self-assurance.

But to assume that focusing your eyes up or down will always mean you’re either aspiring to take on the world or slowly dying inside is an injudicious fallacy.  (You know – it’s stupid.)

First of all, I don’t think we even need to discuss what a bad idea it is to “keep your eyes upon the sun.”  The lens of your eye works just like a magnifying glass; it channels burning sunlight on your retina like a kid setting ants ablaze on those long summer days.  That is blinding optimism.  Literally.

Additionally,  my eyes are fixed upon the ground all the time – do you have any idea how much loose change I find?  I easily make fifty dollars a year just picking up coins in the parking lot, dropped by individuals too blinded by sunlight to realize they’ve lost it.

Yet we still find it easy to make judgments about people based on the direction of their eyes.  For example, when conversing, the path of one’s vision communicates more than you might mean to.  If someone is speaking to you and they are looking over you, that is insulting.  I mean, who does that guy think he is, anyway?  And if they are looking down, it is usually a sign of avoidance, maybe shame.  Perhaps you should ask them where they’ve been in the last 24 hours (and possibly what that smell is).

The truth of the matter, really, is that none of us should be looking up or down.  We should all be looking where we’re going – paying attention to what we’re doing.

As a person who looks down a lot, I can tell you that I walk into a lot of walls.  (Winner, right?)  And on more than one occasion, while sitting on a park bench, I have witnessed a person walking with their eyes gazing skyward…until they tripped over that stray dog and ended up with a face full of cobblestone.

So, I have a new suggestion for you Cage the Elephant.  Try these lyrics on for size:  “Because my eyes are sensory, I won’t cast down, fix upon the ground, or keep my eyes fixed on the sun.  Shake me down – I won’t walk into the people left around.”

The Upcoming-Has-Been-Happened Zombie Apocalypse


For anyone who doesn’t follow the news, the world ended about six months ago.  At least it was scheduled to.  On the winter solstice of the year 2012 there was a large and unintelligible hubbub regarding the end of the Mayan calendar, some interpretations calling for the end of days (or something to that effect).

Of course everyone had a different way of coping with the coming of the implosion of the world as we know it.  Some prayed.  Some went on spending sprees and engaged in orgies.  Others outfitted themselves with Kevlar suits, strapped AR15s to their backs, and wrapped a belt of hand grenades and flash-bangs around their waists, preparing for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

This, of course, was all in vain.  Not so much because the world didn’t end, but more so because, if I have learned anything from popular culture, you cannot prepare for a zombie apocalypse.  On the one hand, I’ve never seen a zombie movie where they knew ahead of time the zombies would be coming.  But, on the other hand, I can tell you that the guy who comes to the party prepared – the guy who is fitted with the necessary weaponry, the guy who is well-studied in whatever calamities are raining down upon us, the guy with all the necessary training and experience – that guy never wins.  Why?  Because we’re Americans, and we love ourselves an underdog.

Don’t get me wrong – we love ourselves a badass too.  If you were escaping from L.A., or happen to be a Terminator fighting another, better Terminator, or were caught in a game of cat and mouse with Alan Rickman – yes, badass would definitely be the way to go.  But we are talking about zombies, so your prowess as a rugged ex-cop/marine/green-beret playing fast and loose with the rules does not matter here.

The point of this cinematic analysis is that, if you really want to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, fitting yourself for ground warfare is clearly not the right survival tactic.  I have surveyed some relevant zombie survival materials (you know, Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Zombie Strippers…essential texts on the subject) and I have surmised, if you really need to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, these are the three ways that one can:

Your first choice is to go into a coma.  It seems that zombies can’t smell you when you are in a coma, probably because of a diminished activity in brain waves.  This is a sure-fire way to not get eaten.  It also seems that if you happen to wake up from said coma in the middle of a zombie takeover, you are the right kind of ironic hero that will be able to survive, while the mentors you pick up along the way will all die off.  So coma seems like a great choice, you know, providing you can find a way to become comatose without accidentally killing yourself in the process.

Your second choice is to not believe in zombies.  It seems that ignorance is bliss, and, more importantly, idiocy is a survival technique.  The smart guys are a lot like the bad asses we talked about earlier; they can survive for so long, but they are walking on borrowed time.  It seems the purpose of the smart guy, the informed guy, the guy who knows everything there is to know about survival in post-apocalyptic zombiedom – his only purpose in life is to live long enough to impart everything he knows to the guy who waited until his wife got eaten to notice anything odd was happening.

Perhaps, if you are that guy – the guy who knows it all – your best bet is to not share what you know with anyone.  You might live longer.  Providing the coma thing didn’t work.

The last option is to suck it up and realize that you are just not going to be that guy.  The fact of the matter is you are just not going to survive this thing.  A zombie apocalypse means that the world is being overrun by zombies.  And where do zombies come from?  Zombies are just regular people who have been turned into zombies by being bitten by other zombies.  Therefore, the definition of “zombie apocalypse” would suggest that  everyone will eventually become a zombie.  Those are pretty slim odds.  Slim being, like, zero. Your chances of being that guy, that one guy, are so slim they are incalculable.  (Okay, that is hyperbole.  They’re very easily calculable.  But the resultant answer would be so small it would lose all significance.)

Being a person who puts all of her faith in the principles of mathematics, I personally go with this last one; I am well aware that I am not going to survive.  On the other hand, I’m not too crazy about the idea of being eaten by a zombie.  Having blunt, undead teeth gnashed into my skull so my brain can be zombie dinner fodder sounds somewhat unpleasant.

I reconcile this by keeping a cocktail of drugs leftover from my abdominal surgery in the back of my medicine cabinet in a bottle labeled “For the Zombies.”  While I’m not a supporter of suicide, generally speaking, in this lesser-of-two evils scenario, I chose death by sedative drugs over being eaten alive.  Plus it has the added benefit of me not turning into a zombie afterwards.

And, if anything goes wrong, I’ll just end up in a coma – and then I’ll be in pretty good shape indeed.


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I Had a Great Post, But Then Some Asshole Bombed the Boston Marathon

I had a great post.  Like, a great post for this week.  But now you are going to have to wait until next week to read all about the upcoming-has-been-happened zombie apocalypse, and all the things you may be able to do to prepare for it.  Why?  Cause some jerk bombed the Boston Marathon.

Of course when one is confronted with an act of terror – whether the perpetrator be a high-profile terror organization, some nutjob with a homemade bomb and a personal manifesto, or my seventh-grade bully, Abonezio – the only way to combat said act is to not allow this act of terror change the way you live or think or act.  Terrorism is only effective if you can be terrified.  So there are those who would argue that I should post my zombie article as I normally would have.

But understand, naysayers, I am not choosing to hold my zombie post in reserve because I feel terrorized.  I am refraining from posting it because no one is paying attention to me right now.  Bubble gum, band aid, rocking horse, sandal.  See what I mean?  No one saw that, because everyone is too busy checking their CNN newsfeeds to see if they’ve found out who the perpetrator is, and what his motives are, or to watch the death/injured count rise.  Or they’re updating their Facebook status to those neat little candles, and “liking” various Boston-Marathon-related items.

Therefore, I am going to hold on to my post, which I worked very hard on and like a whole lot, until next week.  And if we are overrun by zombies and no one knows what to do – well, you can just add that to the CNN newsfeed.  Here is what you get instead:

5 Reasons Why Abraham Lincoln Would Think Helicopters are Cooler than Airplanes

1.  Helicopters don’t fly, they are lifted into the air when their propellers beat the air into submission.  Take that, air.

2.  Helicopters are designed to have supreme maneuverability whereas airplanes are only designed to go forward.

3.  Helicopters explosions are much more exciting to look at.  (Which is good, cause they’re so much easier to smash to the ground.)

4.  Helicopters are easier to smash to the ground.  See, if you cut a helicopter’s engines and the propellers cannot work – thwap.  If you cut an airplanes engines you still have a chance to safely land the thing based on its aerodynamics, depending on various factors.  …doesn’t make for a very good Schwarzenegger movie.

5.  You can land a helicopter anywhere.  It just goes up and down.  Airplanes require a lot of runway space to get up and down.  Airplanes have such codependency issues.

Some of you may be asking, “What does this have to do with Abraham Lincoln?  Why would he think these are the reasons helicopters are cooler than airplanes?”  Cause I say they are.  Go ahead, prove me wrong, smart guy.  You go get yourself a time-travelling phone booth and bring me Abraham Lincoln.  Then we’ll talk.  Until then, I declare these are the five reasons Abraham Lincoln finds helicopters supreme.

…The End.

The Highly Depressive Zebra

zebraK In Christopher Moore’s novel, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove,it is posited that depression is a kind of natural selection.  The idea is that depression is a naturally-occurring, chemical affliction in animals that makes them sad, and therefore slower, and throws them off their self-preserving game.  This, in turn, makes them a weaker member of the pack and an easier lunch to be caught by pursuant predators.

When I read this, it sounded completely viable.  And the nice thing about writing essays rather than research papers, is that I can deliberate on this topic under the assumption that it is true without having find out if it is first.  Score one point for philosophy.  On the other hand, anything I come up with is just well-formulated blather, without any real experimental research to prove said hypotheses.  Score about twenty thousand points for science.

Before I begin, I would like to address Christopher Moore directly:  you, sir, stole my clever wit.  I do not care that you are twenty-six years older than I am, and I do not care that you have been on the New York Times Best Sellers list four or five or six times and I have a five-entry blog.  All I know is that I am absolutely sure that I wrote the Amish/Mennonite/blender dialogue in the beginning of Lust Lizard, and whatever telepathic prowess you use to extract this from my subconscious mind, please stop.  …Big fan, by the way.

Back to depression.  Depression is a chemical affliction.  I know this because I take this neat little pill every morning that successfully stops the notion of jumping out of a twelfth story window from sounding appealing.  Do I still need to see my therapist?  Absolutely.  Just because I feel better physiologically doesn’t mean I don’t remember that there are hungry people in the world, or that there are homeless people in the world, or that there are a number of lonely socks coming out of the dryer missing their life partners.  But the stabilization of brain chemicals makes it easier to deal with these facts while still living and breathing and eating and possibly even laughing.

Clearly I did not choose this affliction.  My body was just built that way.  And natural serotonin imbalance, when untreated, affects everything that I do.  When highly depressed, no, I do not move as fast, if at all.  My arms and legs hurt.  And my reaction time is slowed, you know, providing that I’m paying much attention to anything at all.

So, yeah, if I were a zebra, I would definitely be lagging behind the herd.  I’d be grazing in the grass, thinking to myself, “Why do we even bother with this?  Eating and drinking water.  We’re all just prey, anyway.  And those of us that don’t get eaten will just graze and drink water until we die.  There is no point to life.”

Then another zebra would come up to me.  “Hey, Zebra K. Jean King.”  (Yes, that is what I would make the other zebras call me.)  “Do you think we’re black with white stripes, or white with black stripes?”

And I would zebra-scoff at him and say, “What does it matter?  We’re all going to die anyway.”

And then he’d walk away, because saying things like that is definitely not how you make zebra friends.

Then, all of a sudden, the herd would start to run.  And I would stand there in the grass going, “Is everyone running?  Did everyone start running all of a sudden?”  And then the lion would appear in my peripheral vision and, depressed or not, my natural survival instincts would kick in and I would start to run as fast as my pained, depressed, little zebra legs could carry me.  But it wouldn’t matter because the rest of the non-depressed zebras have a head start on me, and I am now the visibly-lagging member of the herd and I’ve captured the attention of my predators.  And the last thing I would think as those large lion-y teeth sunk into my jugular would be “See, there is no point to anything.”

As a human, I am not natural prey for any wild beasts.  (And even if I was, there aren’t that many wild beasts in Philadelphia.)  But I also have the benefit of being sentient.  (Or the affliction – the jury is still out on whether sentience is really a benefit.)  I am aware of my own existence, and by extension I am also aware of the factors that make my existence what it is.  So when I escape from the constructed world, comprised of retail sales, and housing crises, and the cancer that is politics, and I retreat into nature I am left with this:

I was naturally selected to be eaten.

We talk about natural selection as though it’s a third-party idea, as though it’s applications only exist abstractly to extinct species of tree frog.

But I have depression – I was selected, by nature, to be easily eliminated by prey.   I have been selected to be the weakest member of the herd so that my natural predators may eat me.  I am population control.  I am…the food chain.  I am some quadruped’s Thanksgiving dinner.

I was naturally selected to not survive.

Whew.  That is heavy.  Thank goodness I’m a human and it has no real-world affect on my life.  See, I take this neat little pill that makes none of this matter…  I suppose, though, out of all of this I feel a sense of gratitude that my affliction is actually born out of purpose, and that my suffering isn’t for no reason.

So I would like to thank Christopher Moore, that best-selling, telepathically-dialogue-stealing sonofabitch (huge fan, by the way) for either doing the research I don’t or making this up completely.  Either way, I feel better.

Street Cred by Proxy

I am not gangsta.

When I am bored, instead of doodling I make up quadratic equations and solve them.  I not only know the difference between “further” and “farther,” I insist at all times that those around me use them correctly.  I still know all the words to the entire 1988 Hangin’ Tough album and sing it in the shower.  And in my car.  And in line at the grocery store.  And when I am at the bank and the song “Glad You Came” starts humming from the ceiling, I will stop in the middle of the transaction to say to the teller, “You know this guy is actually saying that this girl looks healthy when she is on top of him, right?”  It’s a compulsion.

The closest thing I have to street cred is what is left when I overpay my real estate taxes.

But my partner, on the other hand – he’s got a ton.  It’s not that he’s a “gangster” of any kind, and maybe the term “street cred” isn’t right.  He’s got the closest thing one gets to street cred when one grows up in suburbia.  In high school he was friends with all the skaters, and all the punks who smoked behind school.  He could also talk to any athlete like they were best buds – probably because he didn’t use terms like “best buds.”  And because of this reputation, he had the kind of status that made him alluring to everyone, not just those he already knew personally.

And of course this system of repute followed him into adulthood.  Throughout his higher education, and later his career, his company was always prized.  There are several reasons why:

First of all, he doesn’t sit around going, “No, dude – I’m the speaker so I imply, you’re the listener so you infer.”  In fact, he doesn’t say much of anything.  You would think the most popular guy in the room would be the loudest, the funniest, the most entertaining – not so.  He’s actually the guy who never gives his opinion on anything, and therefore never makes waves.  He just smiles his debonair smile and lets everyone else do the talking.

And then there’s that – he’s friggin’ hot.  You certainly can’t play the tall, dark and quiet card if you aren’t, you know, tall and dark and pleasing to look at.

Now, what is convenient about my partner is that he has a very unique name.  We’ll call him Lance Kerspletchersneft.  There is no other Kerspletchersneft in the area.  Possibly no other Kerspletchersneft in the country.  For all we know, it’s a totally made up name.

So, when I show up to places and I am identified as Mrs. Kerspletchersneft, I am automatically awarded his street cred.  “Oh, you’re Lance Kerspletchersneft’s wife?  Come on in!  Hey everyone, this is Lance Kerspletchersneft’s wife!  Someone give her a beer!”  He doesn’t even have to be with me – his name is.

Even if I go to a party, or some like event, and I come into contact with people that I already know – people who I have already told, “you mean ‘could have,’ not ‘could of’” – they are still willing to grant me the benefit of the doubt, simply cause Lance Kerspletchersneft did.  If Lance likes her, well, she must be all right.  Give her a beer.  And don’t spit in it this time.

Now that I’ve gained this street credibility, if even by proxy, I certainly don’t want to give it up.  So I take a page from my partner’s book and I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still the person I was before.  I’m still the life of the party.  (And oh-so modest about it, too.)  But between telling jokes and spinning tales, when I hear someone say, “No, Brah, he lives further down the road,” instead of pulling out my white board and beginning a long and involved grammar lesson, what I now say is, “Someone pass the Jack Daniels – I need a top off.”