Charity: Brought to you by Facebook!

There’s an old-timey saying I just invented that says “the only people who should know about your charity work are the IRS and your Maker”.

Which makes it all the more gauche that recently, Mark Zuckerberg announced he was donating 99% of his income to charity because he had a kid, or something like that.

i’m sure if this was a gif, you’d see his left hand pumping up and down

Most people with kids will tell you that once they “pop out a unit” the last expense they want to worry about is charity. But then again, most people with kids don’t have net worths that rival the GDP of even the most profitable African dictatorships.

Bokassa literally spent 1/3 of the Central African Republic’s budget on his coronation — that’s ballsy

Good on Zuckerberg for amassing his fortune and for having a kid, mirroring the trajectory of most people around our age we went to school with minus the fortune part.

But that “charity initiative” he’s bragging about for his kid? It’s just a giant trust fund LLC so he doesn’t have to pay taxes on the majority of his fortune and can dispense his money most efficiently.

the arrow indicates where the money goes…and stays

I don’t fault him for that either. What I do fault is all the dishonesty about it.

Why not just claim that the taxes in this country are out of control and this is your only resort to avoid being penalized for amassing enormous wealth?

Why not shed light on the fact that it’s your money, that you’d like to do with it what you see fit, and it’s none of the government’s business?

Why not point out the fact that you’re worth more to the IRS dead than alive?

Because you don’t get “positive vibes” from calling out a fakakta tax system or getting into the depths of corporate structure.

What you *do* get is tons of likes, hearts, stars (why don’t we just skip all these meaningless indicators of approval and go straight to a little fellatio emoji you can click?) for bragging about your charity.

explain to your grandkids you didn’t amass actual dollars as they’re waiting in line outside the Chan-Zuckerberg soup kitchen but you got a sh*tton of likes!

Which brings me to basics shouting from the Facebook rooftops about their charity work.

Exhibit A: this girl Hailey Mayo, who made an unctuous Facebook post about all the charity she did in a day.

Give her a medal!

Give her ALL the medals.

She did all this charity yet still had enough time at the end of the day to write an extraordinarily complex public post detailing that specific charity.

Think of how many more handicapped transgender orphans would’ve been helped if she spent the hour detailing her charity efforts doing something to help them instead.

“i don’t care if you don’t have a can opener to crack open that dollar store soup, i’m too busy Instagramming me unloading the cans from the back of my Highlander”

I have no qualms with people bragging about their accomplishments.

But charity isn’t an accomplishment.

It’s our duty as human beings.

You don’t see people bragging about the fact that they made a bowel movement *in* the toilet this time on facebook.

It’s your duty as a good person to not just squat and crap wherever you like just as much as it is to be charitable.

For my more simple readers, please don’t confuse the two and try to flush a can of green beans in your Kohler while popping a squat in a Salvation Army kettle. I’ll be impressed you made it through the coin slot, but the bell ringer won’t be.

only a FAKE bell ringer would wear a vest saying “I AM A “BELL RINGER””

Bragging about your charity while claiming to be humble is like bragging about your weight loss while double-fisting turkey legs.

I pointed that out as follows:

Hailey Mayo’s do-gooder-partner-in-crime, Dana Amireh, snapped, bless her.

I’d be upset too if I was the Gretchen Wieners to Regina George.

Unsatisfied with her dotty replies to everyone who responded to my post, she took matters into her own hands, making a public post calling what I did “bullying”.

Let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge: guys don’t do this.

Guys don’t brag about their charity work unless they’re trying to get laid (*cough* Richard Branson *cough*).

Girls fold charity into their social standing, along with manipulating their less-cute friends to do things for them.

and into *staying* less-cute than them

Girls are also more effective bullies than guys could ever be.

Guys will beat you up.

Girls are psychological.

Drunk guys punch.

Drunk girls tell you they were never your friend to begin with.

If guys are a bunch of brawling Irishmen after a soccer match, girls are Aum Shinrikyo.

guys: “no hard feelings, let’s have a pint”

girls: “i will make sure you die from the inside out”

Dana claims to be a victim of “bullying” (while, you know, actually bullying).

But how?

A really effective form of bullying is for a bully to claim they’re a victim while shaming everyone “beneath” them because it leaves no fingerprints.

As the recipient of that kind of covert bullying, you feel bad about yourself and you don’t know why.

You also feel bad for the person claiming to be a victim.

It’s manipulative – when it works.

Almost as manipulative as claiming that you’re giving away 99% of your wealth – to your own tax-dodging trust fund.

Exciting update: there’s a part 2 to this story!

The paradox of free speech

As a culture we’re approaching a point (with increasing speed) where more speech is actually leading to a worsening of society. There is little delineating anymore between thought and speech. Nothing is off limits, nothing is left better off unsaid. Self-censorship is at an all time low. Unfortunately the florid prose of centuries past has given way to a coarsening of what comes out of our mouths. If there are no guardians at the gates, what’s the point of having gates at all?

More speech leads to louder speech and louder speech leads to only the most simplistic, worst things being heard. In fact, that’s how free speech brings about its self destruction – through the zenith of its proliferation.

More darkly, the more that speech is allowed the more that people want to censor. “You can’t say that”, “you hurt my feelings”, “your speech creates a climate of [insert unsavory thing here]”. Speech is racist now, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, agoraphobic.

Phobia.

Fear.

What is there to fear in speech besides someone else being correct?

Why should that be feared?

By allowing speech to be free we’re not understanding *its* limitations, but ours. More things appear to be taboo the more that things are uncovered. We’re less comfortable with more uncharted territory. A “naughty word” used to be representative of sex. Now naughty words are no longer sexual, there’s “hate” speech. There are certain words that “represent hate”.

Which is patently ridiculous. Words represent nothing but a series of letters and a clinical definition. Intent, tone, context, audience – THOSE can be hateful, prurient. A change in tone can turn a cold statement into a pickup line. A sharpness of voice can change an academic description of terminology into a racist slur meant to cause injury.

Text culture places more undue burden on speech. It takes the emotions out of words, the tone, and leaves it to our imagination, which is usually a horrible place to go. It’s made us understand more about what was said (it’s right in front of us) but pay less attention (we don’t have to impolitely ask to repeat, it’s right in front of us). It’s made us robotic, turning previously face-to-face human interaction into robotic, quick phrases.

Which explains why emojis are so popular. People want to impart *feeling*. There’s a reason why hieroglyphics, cave paintings, oral histories, and ritual re-enactment were one of the earliest forms of communication – we have to “monkey see, monkey do” with each other to know what the f*ck is going on.

The more we communicate, the better we are in the long term. The more we talk, the bigger our brains get. The less limitations we have as humans.

Freedom of speech means no limitations.

Without it, how could I be saying what I’m saying now?

What to expect when you’re expecting…anything

Sometimes you just feel so empty that you have to escape your body, look at yourself, and laugh at yourself for how empty you feel.

Screenshot 2015-10-17 21.35.19

“i enjoying mysekf by the lake, but then i remembered instances of regret in my life, and pain i have caused others” — @bakkooonn

Expectations are a b*tch, aren’t they?

You have expectations for how your life will go and they’ll never materialize. You have expectations for how relationships will turn out and you wind up in divorce court arguing over just how few of the wedding gifts you’ll get to enjoy in your studio apartment.

no room for the breadmaker

With anxiety comes that small, shouting voice in your head saying “IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. IT’S GOING TO FALL APART AND BE A HOUSE OF CARDS AND YOU’RE GOING TO BE A LAUGHABLE EMBARASSMENT”. Normally this should be a voice of reasonable doubt, but the doubts are never reasonable because the expectations are never reasonable. You live on the edge of possibility forcing something to work because you want it to, deluded that desire is the only thing keeping you from the true thing you want.

But is it really ever what you want?

Is it what you think others want for you?

Do we know what we want?

Or are we just boundless electrons, hovering full of negative charge around a nucleus more immense than we could ever imagine and sparked with pure imagination?

Imagination helps you get through difficult times in the short term. It’s a safe place to escape to, a place where everything goes right when everything around you is going wrong.

In the long term it’s toxic, separating you from reality like an astronaut unmoored from the shuttle.

You’ll rewrite history, you’ll insert how you wish things went in place of how you see them going, you’ll cling to the good times and kick dust over the failures.

You’ll tear out every nerve ending in hopes to not feel it anymore, not feel you kicking the living crap out of your bruised and battered limp body for having expectations only to lose them.

I wish I could end with a thumbs up and a Colgate smile and say to have no expectations and that life will be wonderful.

for god’s sake of all the countries you could’ve asked to smile…

Because you won’t.

I won’t.

We’ll imagine and we’ll expect and we’ll set ourselves up for fantastic disappointment.

The only thing we can do is strap ourselves in for next time and relish that rollercoaster as part of being alive.

don’t worry, only one person’s been killed on thunder mountain!

You’re most intolerant of yourself

I was talking to a friend of mine when she was saying that she couldn’t just “chill out”.

Being too lazy to offer to come by and “Netflix and chill”, I realized that maybe I could talk through this one.

this man is an american hero

After asking her what’s wrong, she said she felt like a “slacker because I’m sick” and that it was “[keeping] her from bringing [her] A game which was the plan”.

I don’t know what came over me, but I responded as follows:

that’s ok
you just have to respect the process

I paused, not knowing what the hell I just said.

i know it sounds weird
but you have to have some tolerance and acceptance of where you’re at
and then once you’re there, it will be easier to be more productive and move forward

What have I gotten myself into? This is completely incomprehensible. She knows it, I know it, dammit why didn’t I just drive over for some for some N’n’C?

sage advice

As she was describing how she felt, the first thing that struck me was how hard she was being on herself.

Normally I’m not one to criticize something like that. I usually feel that people should be harder on themselves than they already are.

that time peta fat-shamed doe

But it seemed so negative, and not in a pitying way either, more in a “I take full responsibility for this situation but that obviously doesn’t make it any less shitty way”.

And then it hit me – you’re most intolerant of yourself.

We spend a lot of time and even more air talking about intolerance towards this group, or that person, or some identity you didn’t even know existed until last week.

If you’re an intolerant person to others, chances are you’re more intolerant of yourself than anyone else – after all, you spend more time around yourself than anyone else. You being intolerant to yourself is the number one opportunity to be intolerant every single day, and that accumulates.

what are the other two?  THIS IS OUR WATERGATE PEOPLE

But what exactly is intolerance?

Impatience.

Criticism.

Holding yourself to an excessively higher standard than you hold others.

By the way – excessive self-love is a form of intolerance. It’s trying to heal wounds through a form of self-gratification. You shouldn’t love yourself, you should accept yourself to improve yourself.

too small to read sorry folks i can’t improve

Also, acceptance without change is intolerant of yourself.

Doesn’t sound like you’re not fully representing yourself.

Sounds like you’re doing a crap job as your own attorney in the court of life.

“WU TANG CLAN AINT NOTHIN TO–”

*judge furiously bangs gavel*

Being tolerant of yourself is acceptance and still trying to change.

The tolerance comes in when you accept the speed at which you move to change, the steps you have to take, the setbacks and the pushes forward.

Even if you’re, as she describes herself, a “spleenless mess mad scientist but shi**y scientist”.

We will forget

On my previous WordPress, I wrote a small 9/11 tribute message that I’d refresh and repost every year:

“Seven Years Later”

Seven years later, and it still feels like yesterday.

The images of that morning will be forever seared into our memories.

Never has this generation seen such fear, such horror, such bravery, and such courage.

We must remember both the good and the evil from that day.

We must never forget that radical Islam attacked us on that day, and we must continue to fight the encroachment of such an evil ideology on all fronts.

We must never forget our ability as Americans to come together as we did in the hours, and days, and weeks following that September morning.

Seven years have passed, but the memories still remain. The families who lost loved ones that day are reminded every day of that fateful day. Those of us who pause once per year cannot forget those who pause as they awaken from their beds every morning, as they see that empty place at the dinner table every evening. We must always keep them in our prayers.

I would like to end with a quote by President Bush, something that he spoke poignantly today at the dedication of the remarkable memorial at the Pentagon, “On a day when buildings fell, heroes rose.” We will never forget.

It always brought it back home for me because it helped me remember what that day was like.

I remember my mom waking me up and showing me the television.

I remember teachers with bewildered expressions, trying to comfort and calm.

I remember adults all around me with more uncertainty, confusion, sadness, and loss than I’d ever seen.

When the adults don’t know what to do, how are kids supposed to?

say what you want about him — staying in the classroom to avoid frightening a roomful of children was the correct choice

It brought politics to the forefront for me. I’d previously been insulated in the worlds of science, writing, art, and dismissed politics as just useless back-and-forth.

But then I saw something happen that threw every rule book out of the window.

People came together on an unprecedented scale.

The worldwide outpouring of grief and comfort was enormous.

Stories like the Masai tribe that sent a gift of cows to the United States are particularly touching.

9/11 made us see that grief and comfort are a part of the human experience.

Beneath everything — hatred, violence, bitterness, division — there’s a small but strong fiber of goodness.

Maybe it’s shared survival — the hope that kindness spread will be kindness returned which benefits all — but it’s still goodness.

9/11 also showed us that evil is a universal part of the human experience as well. That battling with that sense of goodness is unspeakable evil, callousness, cruelty, that had just taken another form: Islamic extremism.  And that evil comes from a sense of survival just like good — the sense that the only way you can survive is by brutally harming others.

The thing that scared us the most about 9/11 was the fact that no matter how advanced we become, that battle between good and evil will always be a part of us as humans.

People in the most advanced office building, pursuing a completely civilized existence, could be taken out by people who had experienced a completely different sense of modernity, using technology as a tool for evil instead of good.

Perhaps some day we’ll be supplanted by artificial intelligence that won’t be good or evil, just neutral, in a goal to sublimate humanity past notions of good and evil.

Perhaps that day will come in this century, when human-created artificial intelligence reaches a second-generation of artificial intelligence that creates itself — to completely remove it from the boundaries of human control.

Perhaps that’s the only way we could completely prevent another 9/11 — when we remove humans completely from the equation in being able to determine our fate.

For there will always be evil, and there will always be another 9/11, and it will come when and where we least expect it.

But to return to 9/11 itself: I just realized that it’s been 14 years since 9/11 this year.

That means that the kids who are freshmen starting high school were born the year 9/11 happened.

It also means that the seniors who graduated high school this year likely have no memory of that horrible day.

By the end of this decade, you’ll have college graduates who have no memory of 9/11.

What does this mean?

It means the first-hand memories of that day are aging along with those who hold them.

This is not a bad thing.

Most of those memories are sharp, painful — from those who lost a loved one in the Towers, at the Pentagon, or on Flight 93. Our brains are not designed to fully digest traumatic memories, but to pass them.

The argument has been made that truly evil acts come from those with traumatic memories of evil being perpetuated upon them. And that may be the case in some instances, but something about that day seems to not fit that description.

After all, the hijackers were by no means poor nor actually victimized. They were driven by an ideology that told them to kill — apparently an ideology that also looked another way when they were living it up in Vegas with booze and hookers just hours before the attacks. Is it really about the 72 virgins when you’re getting action a couple nights earlier?

It wasn’t for some kind of evil supervillain profit either — after all, how can you profit on the kingdom of Earth when your goal is to exit it?

The writings of Sayyid Qutb have been said to influence the Muslim Brotherhood, and later, al-Qaeda. Many are surprised to hear that this Islamic “scholar” studied in the US, living in the town of Greeley, CO in the late 1940s. He observed church gatherings and dances through an incredibly distorted lens, denouncing Americans as immoral. This was his description of women in 1949 (i.e. your grandmothers):

The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs — and she shows all this and does not hide it.

No wonder the burqa is coming back into fashion in the Islamic world.

They danced to the tunes of the gramophone, and the dance floor was replete with tapping feet, enticing legs, arms wrapped around waists, lips pressed to lips, and chests pressed to chests. The atmosphere was full of desire…

That’s quite a stretch for a church dance to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in a dry city 100 miles north of Denver during the late-40s.

I guess you can say that they “hate us for our freedom” then, although judging by the receipts from the hijackers, they certainly indulged in the freedom quite a bit while they were here.

Maybe simple jealousy was the cause — but can it really be that simple?

I’ve referred to extremist Islam before as a “sex-obsessed death cult” because when you look at the base instincts behind these horrific acts, it’s true.

The infliction of trauma across decades and generations can probably cause someone to go absolutely crazy down the line.

That’s memory being used for the purposes of evil — using it to inflict harm on those that follow, instead of helping the next generation actually understand.

True memories of hurt don’t pass many generations along.  At some point they have to be exaggerated, falsified, magnified to still hold resonance.

It’s why one hurricane that hits a tribe can hundreds of years later be remembered as a great bird that came from the sky to punish them for their evil acts.

It’s why one simple disagreement with a neighboring tribe can become a generations-long blood feud.

That having been said — our culture will forget the painful memories of 9/11 as years and anniversaries pass.  It holds incredible historical weight as the first truly global, simultaneously-experienced tragedy in human history.

But we’ll forget the pain, the shock, the fear, the sadness.

That’s ok — as long as we never forget the cause.

Guess what? Your pursuit of experiences is ruining your life

Millennials disgust me.

I grit at them like a Clint Eastwood gif.

Partially because I felt like one once.

I know it’s hard to believe by my youthful, radiant complexion, but I *lived* through the 90s.

I remember unfettered optimism.

I remember Scholastic book fairs, drinking Squeez-its and watching Wishbone.

note to future hooker: my likely fetishes start with the listed above. If you can flash me a few foil Pokemon cards I’ll tip you extra

As tempting as it sounds, trying to create that now is making millennials absolutely miserable.

Why?

The number one life value of the millennial is “experiences”.

They’re bought, sold, and bartered like spices in the Renaissance.

this was the Birkin of the Middle Ages

And like said spices (was the mutton THAT bad in the 1450s?!) they’re willing to cross dangerous waters on shoestring budgets to acquire these “experiences”.

Every travel Instagram (#hotdogsorlegs #legscuztheresnofoodhereduh #LoveMogadishu) is no different from what Vasco da Gama would’ve photographed 5 centuries ago.

i’m gonna call bulls*t on that #nofilter dude

Nobody Instagrams their depleted bank account or horrible diarrhea. That’s for Snapchat.

By that same token, da Gama wouldn’t have Instagrammed the empty treasure chests and violent scurvy.

There’d absolutely be lots of selfies, inebriation, sunsets, and beaches. Humans haven’t evolved much since the Mona Lisa.

The “Living the Experience Life” voyeurism is reminiscent of the Victorian-era travel craze and 50s-60s family vacations, but dark. Whereas those were an indication of having reached some status and comfortability in life and being able to afford leisure, Millennials are putting the leisure before the work, creating more work after the leisure than if they did the work in the first place.

Millennials aren’t completely to blame.

They’ve been sold a false bill of goods since birth.

Remember when movies were an “escape” and nobody took them seriously?

People treat them as *real* now. Experiences are just the real-life versions of movie adventures.

Let’s use “The Road to El Dorado” as an example of saccharine, over-designed 90s film.

“someone watched us!”

Here you have two main characters looking for the City of Gold, and finding love and other crap along the way.

They didn’t know this was an “adventure”. They simply were seeking gold. If they could’ve found the gold without crossing a river full of piranhas, they would’ve chosen that option, as would any sane person.

The problem is that millennials are treating their journeys as the gold in the equation, which is completely foolish.

You’re supposed to look at The Journey as The Gold *AFTER* the adventure. That’s the whole point. You can’t go into the adventure knowing it’s an adventure. Why is everyone trying to break the fourth wall on their own life?

After all – life has setbacks and challenges – otherwise, it wouldn’t be life!

Now, we’re so detached from reality we’re having to create false realities.

There’s nothing challenging about modern suburban life, unless the maid shows up late and you have to have the uncomfortable Spanglish conversation with her that she’s only getting $40 this week.

But there is a challenge in backpacking through India. It’s an “experience”, despite the fact you can get the previously-mentioned horrible diarrhea at your local Indian restaurant that you can in Uttar Pradesh.

Here’s a textbook example of the millennial fetishization of “experience” (look for future hookers to offer “Instagram travel companion” as the new “girlfriend experience”).

A couple with decent, steady jobs quit their jobs and decide to travel worldwide.

Sounds expensive. They patiently saved about $10k beforehand for flights, meals, and rooms, right?

NOAP.

They dove in headfirst *on purpose*, and are now picking up sh*t to fund their shoestring strip through the world.

quick!  do “slave laborer” pose!

Does it count as a vacation if you’re spending most of the day scrubbing kitchen floors in the 3rd-world country with a toothbrush instead of walking through a museum and relaxing on the beach?

Of course not.

You’re doing some weird Orientalist wet dream where you drop in poor, live as a local for a few days, then ride the next train out of there “for the experience”.

It would be like someone born and raised in Santa Monica moving to West Virginia for a week, taking a job washing dishes at a local diner, then flying back home.

why it’s practically Nighthawks!

The West Virginians would be pissed, because not only did you not spend any money there to help the local economy, you temporarily took a job away from a high school kid who wants to earn a few dollars so he can get to Santa Monica.

Experience tourism is far more damaging than luxury tourism. If the Dominican Republic focused on experience tourism, it would begin to resemble Haiti more than the Bahamas.

separated by a giant chasm in the earth!

You can’t blame Millennials for the great “experience” lie, however.

You can, however, blame Baby Boomers.

These people all climbed in vans to go to Woodstock, follow bands around the country, packed up to go to California in search of “experience”.

They had everything. They had stable suburban lives, parents who loved them, great job opportunities, and they threw it away to have regrettable acid-fueled orgies in the back of dingy Microbuses.

you can almost hear the creaky slide of a window as a hoarse voice says “let’s not turn this rape…into a murder”

Although most didn’t. THAT was the aspirational goal.

The 60s and 70s could have been more like the 80s and 90s if this generation didn’t pursue fake “experiences”. We could have been living in the 50s-predicted hyper-automated future of flying cars if promising college grads didn’t decide to pursue narcissistic self-enlightenment instead of doing something to improve humanity as a whole — ironic considering their stated goals were to help build communities.

the only thing they couldn’t predict was traffic

We’re still feeling the effects of this deleterious culture on society today. We don’t have a space program because they didn’t work hard enough to become physicists. We’re devoid of cures for cancers and other infectious disease because they sat out for a generation instead of becoming doctors and scientists. The page of “To Kill A Mockingbird” used to roll a joint instead of read could’ve led to hundreds more “Great American Novels” — instead we have to deal with crap like Infinite Jest.

spoiler alert

Millennials are not like hardworking Generation X who had to live as the battered children of this narcissistic, “experience-seeking” ambition. They grew up to idolize it. Miley’s parading around a stage with a weed leaf bra because she thinks it’s cool. She’s not counterculture, she *is* the culture.

“it’s sexy because it’s NOT sexy because it’s sexy, see?” –some fifteenth-wave feminist rn

What Millennials don’t understand about Baby Boomers is that they had to work *hard* to achieve their lazy, drug-seeking lifestyles. Scoring drugs was not as easy as texting that guy you met at a party, it meant actually walking to meet with someone in a stinky one-bedroom flat in Hell’s Kitchen and having to listen to 2 hours of the same Grateful Dead record you pretended to like so he’d just give you the damn hash already.

Of course, Baby Boomers are the same generation who had a hard-on for the “college experience”, hammering it into the heads of the Millennial generation who treats it as some rite of passage that it’s not.

The same Baby Boomers are now professors and administrators whose salaries rely totally on your Millennial child being fed the line of bullsh*t from an early age that, without a college degree, and more importantly, the “college experience”, they’re a bunch of handicapped babies trying to enter the race of adulthood on a motorized wheelchair stuck in neutral.

as per usual, I’m Cartman peering at this just off-screen and plotting

The correlation between Debt Culture and Experience Culture is staggering. Real life experiences generally don’t cost money, although if they do, they usually come with a lesson to spend money more wisely next time. Faux “experiences” like unnecessary college and experience travel cost a great deal of money for staggeringly little reward or the equipment to pay off those experiences when you’re past them.

What else are people doing “for the experience”? Well, travel is costly, so now you’re beginning to see a slew of idiotic ideas like “I stripped…for the experience”.

there’s a lot going on here

Life is not a giant Jezebel thinkpiece.

We’ve completely discounted our abilities of reason and common sense.

Let me guess: your feet hurt every night, most guys were respectful but there were a few creeps, you gained some canned insight about feminism, you have a newfound respect for women who “choose” to do this.

Or you could’ve guessed all that beforehand.

It’s unfair to “Kayla” who’s stripping to afford to move out to California for a job while you’re playing dress up in her job for an “experience”.

Her grandchildren will probably be proud of and impressed by her for doing work she didn’t want to do so they can live in a nice house with in the Hills.

Yours will laugh at and be embarrassed by you when you show your holoslides of Snapchats where you convince a lonely Baby Boomer to buy a bottle of champagne before you sit on his lap…for the experience.

Shame works! Here’s how

Let’s face it – we’re moving towards a society that seems to be forgoing manners.

Before I go full church lady on you, here’s an example: dogs at Starbucks.

It used to be on the odd occasion you’d see a clearly blind gentleman with a German Shepherd in a highlighter-bright vest that said “SERVICE ANIMAL” and you’d understand. This was an animal trained specifically for this purpose – to be this man’s eyes. It was also trained to function in crowds and be generally pleasant and well-behaved.

But now you can get an official-looking “SERVICE ANIMAL” vest on eBay and slap it on your flea-ridden pooch, granting you access anywhere. Bank? No problem. Deli counter? Bring him on in. Airplane? Of course!

The problem happened when the definition of “service dog” became “service animal” and “service” which used to mean “can’t see sh*t” to “emotional support” as well. Carrie Fisher started this trend because she was an addict of some sort and the dog was used for her therapy so it was like a sober coach that crapped with impunity.

I’d love to bring a lot of things for me with emotional support. I’d love to put my CA King bed on a dolly and wheel it with me everywhere. I’d feel emotionally-supported taking a nap in line at the Post Office. I’d be able to skip asking for phone numbers and get right down to business.

In fact, I’d bet a lot of folks would feel emotionally-supported bringing a concealed-carry gun into Starbucks, especially victims of assault or rape or someone with a stalker.

Between the service animal and the concealed-carry pistol, Starbucks only allows one (of course). If someone pulled a Lindt Chocolates and took people hostage at gunpoint I’d feel safer with a Beretta than a Bearded Collie, but what do I know?

Service animals are the new handicapped placards. Good intent, completely warped execution. It goes to show – when you allow special privileges through regulation, no matter how well-intentioned, they will be abused. Especially if the regulatory body is as slow-moving as the government. A man trying to sneak a cheaper beer on ladies’ night at a bar gets thrown out right away. A lazy Beverly Hills housewife could use a phony handicapped placard for years before anyone even noticed and she gets a meager ticket for it that’s still less than the parking meter and ticket fees she would’ve paid in the first place. One could extend the “special privileges” to a discussion of legal and illegal immigration too. A club with a sleeping bouncer would be packed over capacity in minutes with people who shouldn’t be there. And if the punishment was to walk people outside and tell them “you can’t be in here”, you won’t be surprised when they try to get back in.

What does this service animal insanity say about us? We have warped, selfish priorities. Adam Carolla has ranted similarly on the subject – how people view dogs as a narcissistic extension of themselves, how up until a few years ago most people would tie up their dogs outside, how as soon as “THIS IS A SERVICE DOG GET OUT OF MY WAY” became a legitimate excuse that was abused to no extent for bringing a whole menagerie of animals with you, EVERYWHERE.

So co me shocked when I saw a woman with a Pekingese in her arms at Starbucks, dangling the little turdmonster over the counter as I stood in line behind her.

The barista, who I know casually, started backing away from the register.

“I am deathly allergic to dogs”, she said, after taking the woman’s order. I lean in and told the woman she should take the dog outside where it belongs, and she scuttled outside, without a fight.

As the barista recovered from an itchy spell, I was expecting a cavalcade of complaining entitlement from Dog Lady (a word that rhymes with “itchy” comes to mind) but the shaming worked. Most people are the type of people who are “too afraid to say anything” but will quietly grumble when they see someone doing something wrong. I know because I’ve been one of those people. But lately the voice in my head that says “SAY something this is CLEARLY wrong” has been louder than the “shhHHHhhhshhh don’t say anything this complete stranger will disapprove of you” voice. And guess what? It kept the barista from having an allergic reaction and having to run away from the register.

Assertiveness saves lives.

And shaming works.

They killed my people

Armenians gather around the world to recognize the Armenian Genocide today, April 24th. Today, on April 24 1915, Armenian intellectuals were banished from the city of Constantinople, which is modern-day Istanbul, Turkey.

Approximately 1.5 million Armenians were brutally and systematically slaughtered by the Sultan and Young Turks of the Ottoman Empire, in what is considered to be the first genocide of the 20th century and one of history’s most calculatedly evil acts.

this was AD.  just 100 years ago.

The Genocide, in fact, was used as a model for the Holocaust just two decades later. Hitler himself was said to have remarked on the subject.

We are a diaspora community. Because of the killing of our people, we were forced to spread to cities and countries across the world, including France and the United States.

A note:

Out of every photo I’ve posted, this one devastated me the most.  

The phrase, “starving Armenians”, came from the Genocide, when so many generous Americans and Europeans donated money and provisions to feed young Armenians who were left orphaned and to die.

What devastates me the most is that this photo of little Shushan looks exactly like my mother when she was that age.  And that my mother’s grandmother fled with everything she had, from a land where little Shushans and Anis and Armens starved, to a giving land where my grandfather and my mother could be born.  To think of what my great-grandmothers thought when she saw my mother as a young girl, as Shushan, haunts me.

My ancestors were forced to flee their homeland and the only lives they knew. They entered the US through Boston and Canada to escape, changing their names in the event they were hunted down. They assimilated to American society, and started a new life in this land of opportunity.

They told the stories of the relatives they left behind knowing they’d never see again. Of ancient cities obliterated by an evil force, seeking to extinguish all things Armenian and Christian from the land. They hoped — they prayed — they would be able to visit those left behind. They would earn money in this new land, sponsor them to come.

Most didn’t survive. It took another 70 years for some extended family to escape from the then-Soviet Armenia and join their brothers and sisters in this new land.

Hemingway referred to the “Lost Generation” as those who grew up during World War I, “lost” meaning “disillusioned, wandering”. Armenians had a real “Lost Generation” – a majority of our population wiped out, obliterated from the face of the earth. Their potential, their contributions to humanity that could have happened were lost to history – doctors, scientists, artists, intellectuals.

Families.

Children.

The camera had come into more common use during the early teens, and the pictures of that time are an indescribable horror. If you’ve ever seen photos out of Auschwitz or Bergen Belsen – you’ve seen these photographs.

Despite every atrocity, Armenians have survived. For thousands of years we lived on blessed land that allowed us to experience the best the world had to offer, between Europe and Asia. But that left us vulnerable to attacks from every ethnic group who went through that area. Persians. Seljuks. Mongols. Turkmen. Russians. Azeris.

No matter what, we survived.

We rebuilt.

We started life anew.

We are the first Christian nation, established over 1700 years ago, before Rome. It is a part of who we are, an indelible hallmark of our identity.

Today, we honor those who could not make the journey with us.  The martyrs who died for their beliefs, for who they were.

To this day, we face an incredible obstacle.

The current Islamist government of Turkey does not recognize that what they committed was genocide. That word, one word, is anathema to them. They lobby with extraordinary force for the US and other governments to not recognize the Genocide.

Germany owns their crimes in full. It is a crime in Germany to promote Nazi ideals.

In Turkey, it’s celebrated. As this country seeks to enter the European Union and become a part of the civilized world, we must take pause. They are engaging in an ugly and systematic campaign of genocide denial. They are holding our American troops stationed in the country hostage, threatening to withdraw support and remove them from their base if we don’t comply to their terroristic demands.

It is a great shame that our country still cannot recognize the Genocide for what it was. That we must talk like children in euphemisms because a regional power puts the lives of our brave men and women on the line. It’s not an easy decision for those in our government to make. But the right decision always becomes immediately clear in the eyes of history.

So many have worked so hard to raise awareness for our cause. Of special renown in recent times is the Kardashian family, who traveled to Armenia and have rallied faithfully to have the Genocide recognized. They didn’t have to. They chose to.

It goes to show that support in times of need can come from the most unlikely places. It’s a lesson I’ve seen play out in my own life, and it’s one I hope to spread to others through mine.

On a day like today, we remember. We never forget.

In high school, I wrote a poem about the Genocide which was reproduced and which my parents proudly shared. I’m recalling it from memory here, with a few tweaks from the past decade.

Few remember that time

Horrible as it was

The pain, the suffering, the consternation

The screams that cry out of from a hellscape between life and death

One point five million lives extinguished

One point five million lives lost

Banished from this earth

Unrecognized by history

Forgotten to most

Forced to leave their homes, their every possession

Marched through the valley, of the shadow, of death

An identity reduced to a statistic

A century forward, the killers remain

Proud, arrogant, selfish

A paragon of evil in this world

The old ones remember

But there are so few old ones left

And the young ones don’t know

But let me tell you a story

From one generation, to the next

Let us always remember

Let us never forget

The millions of fears

The one hundred years

The sea of tears

My child dear

Scabs, existentialism, and Welch’s Grape Juice

I once got a papercut as a kid. I shiver to think about it now and immediately recall that part of Jackass, the only part I had to fast forward through multiple times and out of all the times I’ve watched the movie, I’ve only seen it in its entirety twice and with my eyes open through its entirety once. I got a fun Band-Aid on it though, and then I started putting Band-Aids on everything. They were magic. You’d put them on top with some Neosporin and…voila! You were Iron Man.

As I would get more cuts from roughhousing or playing outside or riding my bike, I got more Band-Aids. So naturally I put them all over my toy robot, because if I was going to have Band-Aids then goddammit, so was he. This event made my mother worry and it was definitely a topic of discussion with the child psychologist.

In 1st grade I skinned my elbow on the playground. It was on the concrete and blood poured out like an oil spill. It stung a little, but it formed this amazing, beetle-like thing atop it – a scab. The scab was crunchy and if you poked it, it hurt. And if someone bumped into it rushing through the hallway, it bled all over again. It was tasty too, like sand, but that’s another discussion.

But it was a sign of my mortality in the same way the Band-Aid was a sign of my mortality. Cuts and bruises went from being “things that heal” to “things that heal with a scar” – and that scar is with you forever.

Mortality – well, more specifically – permanence that was not of my choice – was obsessively fascinating. And soon — horrifying.

I didn’t see the other car coming and neither did my mom when it turned in front of us. All I remember was the sound of the glass shattering and my mom being more angry and scared than I’d ever seen her in my life. The nightmares were unbearable. That’s another story for another day.

At that point, mortality went from “fascinating” to “devastating”. How does it happen? Can it happen that easily? Does it happen to all of us? Will I die?

It went from being a mere mental exercise of existentialism to a complete panic breakdown reallyfuckingquickly. Forget mid-life-crisis, this was an end-of-life crisis and I had barely reached mid-elementary-school. Is there a way to not die? Is there a way to have some sort of eternal life?

I started becoming intensely religious. I dusted off those children’s bibles and read it. I asked my mom to go to the religious book store. I had to read more. More Chicken Soup for the [insert demographic here]. Prayers every night. So many rules to learn. So many things to not do. I never cussed before because I knew it would piss off my mom. But now there was someone else telling me not to do it. My religious beliefs supplanted my relationship with my parents. They were mortal and flawed, but this was truth. Seeing them as flawed actually made me love them less. Why didn’t they give me a religious upbringing like other parents? Did they not love me?

I didn’t have a religious upbringing, and resentment began to grow from that. My mom went to Sunday School, my dad didn’t, and while my mom and I would pray and I knew right and wrong, it just seemed like a whole other world of really-happy people who were all having fun while I wasn’t. They weren’t depressed about dying. They weren’t obsessed over non-existence in this life. They were happy. They were joyful. And they had structure. I wanted all of that.

I started self-flagellating over everything I ever said or did. If I thought bad thoughts, I’d scold myself for it. I’d mutter “sorry” under my breath if I expressed an undesirable emotion. I was this kid sitting outside the cafeteria drinking a box of Welch’s Grape Juice and crunching the mental scabs that grew over my fears over and over again. I withdrew from other people and wanted to stay home more. The world wasn’t safe and it was full of evil and I was evil and home was safer and while other kids enjoyed sports I became terrified of getting hit too hard on the football field and dying.

Everything I wrote and did, every project had religious themes. I wanted to be saved. I had to make up for lost time where I didn’t have a religious education or upbringing. I needed to go to Heaven because – what if I died? What if I was ejected from my seat on the drive home? What if something happened to my parents and I lost one of them?

As I went from 6th grade into middle school, I just wanted to be home with my mom. I literally cried at school because I missed her. I was afraid of losing her. I was afraid of getting lost. I was at this scary place where kids got stabbed (thanks, “Pay It Forward”, you horrible goddamn movie) and things were changing too fast and I was a mess of churning fears and anxieties. Of course, just as I started to get over all that by 8th grade, my mom’s accident happened, in a car no less, so imagine your own private “Sum of All Fears” while being tied to a chair and unable to stop it.

I miss being a fearless kid because those obsessions of life and death and morality and religion still exist. I used to slide-tackle people in soccer and get scabs during recess and loved it. I was a thrill-seeker but a smart one and a moral one– not the bungee-jumping kind, but the kind who wouldn’t be afraid of a fight. The kind who would laugh at a papercut.

You have two brains and you don’t even know it

I am in consistent admiration of those people who can seemingly get so much done in the course of a day.

Whether it’s a CEO that can hold 5 meetings and still find time to get out of the office and spend time with his family, or the mom who wakes up at 5AM to workout before going to work, it’s always one hell of a balancing act.

When I’m having a panic attack over realizing just how much needs to get done and the fact that it’s just not happening today and it seems like everyone around you is both trying their best and dropping the f*cking ball, I’m wracking my brain like Tara Reid’s plastic surgeon trying to fix that stomach – “HOW DO I FIX THIS?!?!”

DON’T LOOK IT IN THE EYE IT’S SENTIENT

I’ve heard from nearly a dozen people that “mindfulness” is the key. Be present. Live in the moment.

It’s the Hallmark card of psychology right now, and it doesn’t goddamn work. Sure, it can calm you down for one moment. And then the next moment the panic machine starts again and you feel even MORE anxiety because you screwed up at doing the one thing that was supposed to keep you from being anxious.

The key is to act like a camera aperture: be able to zoom into focus and zoom out quickly.

Anxiety, and by extension, anxiety attacks, usually come with the symptom of “tunnel vision”. You become so overwhelmed by stimuli that as a survival mechanism, your body focuses on literally what’s in front of you. If your eyes were camera lenses, you’d be blocking out everything around you and focusing on a pinhole because it would be literally all your system could handle.

It’s a learned skill to be able to focus on the minute but not lose track of everything else around you. Imagine if you’re standing on train tracks and you’re focusing on a piece of gravel next to the ties. You’d ignore the fact that a 100-mph locomotive is about to fricassee you into bite-size chunks.

Similarly, if you’re focusing solely on the train that comes, you won’t notice the penny on the rails that will derail the train hilariously.

I’m about to veer on the edge of science here.

You have two brains. You have a functional brain which manages your normal functions, and you have an uber-brain which manages your brain. If your regular brain starts going off the rails, you have a second brain to shout “CALM THE F*CK DOWN”. Otherwise, the slightest thing that’s off, from the rustle of a leaf to a crooked painting would cause our hearts to explode in panic. You have a body that can govern your sensibilities – that’s what separates you from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Hyper-focusing is the product of your regular brain. Predators and those at the top of the food chain have specially-attuned instincts and senses, like smell, that’s far beyond ours because their standard brains have developed the ability to pick up a scent from miles away.

“Big-picture thinking” is the product of your uberbrain. The ability to manage enormous amounts of input and stimuli, the depth of memory you use at your disposal that’s beyond typical muscle memory – that’s uberbrain talking.

And talking is important.

When your uberbrain can’t talk down your regular brain, or when you become lost in your uberbrain and lose what’s right in front of you, your body panics. It’s akin to a loss of consciousness. Overwhelming experiences, trauma, anything that causes you to faint – all of these are a sign that your system is overloaded.

But when your uberbrain can calm down your brain and tell it that everything will be ok, when your brain can see the steps in front of it and use that input for your uberbrain to function – you’re at your best. You can zoom in and zoom out like a camera aperture, and do it quickly enough to get two simultaneous pictures of what’s going on around you. It’s a muscle that’s responsible for this communication, similar to the corpus callosum which connects the right hemisphere and left hemisphere of your brain and allows them to “talk” to each other.

Like all muscles, it must be trained. And you can do it where you’re sitting right now.

Think of an emotionally difficult situation. Could’ve been a traumatic situation, a time where you experienced loss, an accident, or a bout of nervousness. Let your memory experience the feelings, the sights, the smells of that time. Focus. Engage your animal brain.

Your heart rate increases. You may sweat a little, shake a little. Your body is re-experiencing the traumatic situation.

Then use your uberbrain to rise above your body and look at the world around you. You’re sitting on the couch, or at a desk, or in bed. You’re not actually in a dangerous situation. Everything’s fine. Look at the big picture. Engage your uber-brain.

Let the animal brain talk.

Then let the uberbrain talk.

Let them talk to each other for a few minutes. Feel a little worry (“but what about THIS”) and let your higher brain calm it down (“you’re literally sitting in Triscuits crumbs watching Real Housewives—there’s literally nothing to worry about and you’re safe”).

You’ll notice your regular brain is picking up the stimuli around you (cat hairs, 72 degrees, soft blanket, comfy desk chair, novelty mousepad) and feeding it back to your uberbrain which is thinking about possibilities (what if the faulty accelerator pedal on my Camry causes me to drive through ANOTHER cupcake shop?) This is great progress, because it means your brains are talking and helping each other, using all functions of your body to both calm down and move your body and mind and consciousness through this situation.

What you’re doing isn’t easy. It feels a little like exercise, doesn’t it?

That’s because you’re exercising the muscle that communicates between your two brains.

The more you do this, the better you can handle what life throws you. Because it will throw you challenges and curveballs and completely unexpected holy-sh*t-the-world-is-collapsing-around-me-how-will-I-survive-through this situations that you’ll want to numb or distract from and you can’t. You can’t numb them all and you can’t distract from them all. You will never, ever be able to, in the same way you will never be able to just sit around in bed while everyone around you takes care of you for the rest of your life. You’re gonna have to get up and walk to the fridge eventually.

Train your brains.

Succeed.

Win at life.

And you’ll be happy.