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Consistency is a real bitch to master. I was supposed to be keeping up with this blog to prove my ability to keep up with anything, but it fell by the wayside as more pressing concerns took center stage like trying to feed myself and maintain personal relationships and a healthy lifestyle and a cat and pursue comedic endeavors….
There’s just too many goddamn things to do in the world and I want to do them all. The scatter-brained nature of this blog is a testament to my mildly ADD curiosity. This is to say I’m going to start branching out with content. I like my previous writing style, but its not all I want to do so fuck it. Here goes whatevsville.
Kicking off the new style is this dumb drawring I made today. Boom.
This spring I visited my sister in Italy, and we decided to visit the Amalfi coast for some siblingtastic beach bonding. The journey required two trains and one stupid bus ride down a winding cliffside road. Imagine Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu only half as wide, twice as twisty, and with much more lax public transit laws. (Keep in mind we made this journey on only a few hours of sleep and a hefty vino + spicy Italian liquor hangover)
We, along with the other tourists and stressed newlyweds, board from the train station after a brief but intense scramble for cabin space that sets a nice aggressive tone for the trip. Immediately one American man establishes himself as the token douche of the group by shout-talking at the other passengers to move. For some reason he and his wife thought this was the perfect kind of vacation to bring a 6-month old infant on. Who wouldn’t want to drag their own luggage, a stroller, diaper bags, and a helpless human child through various italian trains and overcrowded busses?
Within minutes two old Italian men start screaming at each other with the douchey American couple in the crossfire. The more fiery of the pair only settles down when a random stranger talks sense into and/or whispers sweet nothings to him.
We speed along the narrow road past rented vespas and various euro hatchbacks as our driver honks feverishly to alert oncoming traffic at each turn. My hangover, which had settled after train naps and shamefully scarfing down MacDonalds, is reignited by the bus reeling around each corner. I look over at my sister who has a rich history of motion sickness. Her face is sullen and serious, and she begins emptying the contents of her purse. “Want me to ask if anyone has a bag?” I offer. “No it’s fine.”
A few moments later I look over just as her chest and throat heave and her hand cups her mouth. Like a champ, she swallows it back down with only a small bit of Micky D’s laced saliva escaping. I want to help her, but I also want to laugh. Then I realize I need to stop thinking about it or I’ll vomit myself. There’s still 40 minutes of windy, horn-honking bus ride left.
Soon we stop to let an Australian family off at an earlier town. I tell my sister to watch that no one takes my bags because I have about $2000 worth of camera equipment in an unsecured tote under the bus (In the scramble I didn’t think to take my camera bag out). They don’t steal it, of course. But a few moments later my sister, recovered from the near-spew, is forced to blow her nose into what will henceforth be known as the Barf Scarf to remove a bit of french fry caught in her sinuses.
We continue down the road until the driver jams on the breaks to avoid a head-on collision with another bus. It’s a battle of the wills to determine who will be the alpha bus and who will have to reverse to a wider stretch of road. We win the faceoff and barely squeeze by- the mirrors scraping through lemon trees on the right and just inches from the other bus on the left.
By this time everyone has about had it and my own nerves are killing me. We whip around a corner and zoom down a hill when suddenly there’s a loud THUD followed by gasps. We screech to a halt and everyone jumps to the windows to see what’s happened. My first thought is “Oh fuck we hit a vespa!” but then I overhear that the luggage has just flown out from under the bus. “Fuuuuck my camera! Those goddamn Australians didn’t close the hatch properly!”
Next we see the driver and a random pedestrian retreiving a couple generic roller suitcases so I can breathe a little easier. “At least it’s not my shit,” I think along with everyone else whose stuff didn’t fly out onto the street at 40 mph (kmph? eh). Minutes later we arrive at our destination and I book it out of there as fast as I possibly can. My luggage is intact and my camera unscathed. All that’s left is a mile long uphill hike to the hotel– a breeze by comparison.
As with any vacation, there’s an inevitable return journey. My sister and I planned ahead to avoid a hungover bus ride back, but after three days of cheese, mussels, wine, and cappuccinos, my digestive tract was not happy with me. Waiting for our ride, my stomach ache grew but I couldn’t find a restroom in time. I popped an Immodium and hoped the sharp pains would subside long enough to make the 75 minute journey to Salerno.
While my sister enjoyed a nice bus nap, I spent the entire duration in a cold sweat trying to hold the elastic waistband of my tights as far away as possible to avoiding adding more pressure to the situation. With each excruciating minute, I debated which was worse: diarrhea-ing my pencil skirt and dealing with that aftermath, or demanding the bus pull over so I could shit in a lemon grove on the side of the road. By the time we reached Salerno, I was in tears, but I made it to a tiny unisex bar bathroom just in the nick of time. Neither the impatient knocks of the line forming behind me nor the weird Italian toilet seat could diminish that sweet, sweet sense of relief.
Due to the positive response to my post about why I love DVD workouts, I decided to write some quick reviews comparing the series I have tried. Hopefully this is helpful to someone! (please enjoy this terrible photoshop job)
Important tips before starting a new fitness routine:
It took me a while to figure out how to get (and more importantly how to stay) in shape, so I understand where people are coming from who can’t seem to get it together. But more often than not, people self-sabotage to get out of taking care of themselves. So here are a few common excuses and why they shouldn’t be a roadblock to a healthy lifestyle.
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
Not to brag or anything, but I am preeeeetty good at talking shit. It just kind of happens when you combine average intelligence with a certain level of observational skill and firsthand experience of people being sucky. This isn’t a skill I’m proud of or anything, but I used to think shittalking was fine as long as I reserved my judgments for things worthy of criticism.
Recently I had a change of attitude, but you’ll have to follow me on this train of thought. I was considering how we are only capable of processing and interpreting the outside world in terms of our own understanding of it, which is based on knowledge and experience. We are the lens through which we view the rest of the world.
I can’t remember who I was talking (or thinking) negatively about when it hit me that I had been upset about something I knew I, too, was guilty of on occasion. From there I ran through a list of all the people I’d been critical of recently and the nature of what my problem was, and blammo– these were things I’d done in the past, was currently doing, or potentially might do in the future:
I was annoyed when a car cut me off in traffic.
I had been upset with a girl for bending over backwards to please a less interested guy.
I mentally rolled my eyes at someone for vaguebooking.
One of my friends was too wrapped up in her own personal drama to listen to my problems.
I laughed at a sloppy drunk chick for making a fool out of herself in public.
I railed against Americans for being lazy, fearful, self-medicating overconsumers.
I told a friend he would get more converts to his political cause if he didn’t act like such an abrasive asshole. Ha! (If you’ve been my Facebook friend for a while you’ll understand why that’s rich.)
There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of similar criticisms- big and small, justified and unjustified– that pop into our heads. I realized that all these criticisms I was making were reflections of my own shortcomings. I was able to adeptly rip people to shreds because I had firsthand knowledge of these flaws in myself. This hypothesis was bolstered by looking at how the people I admire most as “genuinely good people” rarely speak ill of anyone.
I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only person for whom this phenomenon holds true. Like Julian “I’m Perpetually Late to Gigs Because I Don’t Respect My Fans’ Time” Casablancas (sorry, it jut spills out sometimes) sings, “We’re so quick to point out our own flaws in others.” In criticizing, it’s as if we hope to distance ourselves from our own flaws. It’s like saying “Hey, look over there! That’s where the problem is, not here” or “I couldn’t possibly be guilty of that because I obviously disapprove of such behavior.” It’s a deflection.
Aside from just being a dick move, this behavior is problematic because when we hide from our shortcomings, we can’t fix them. So now every time I think something critical, the next thought is “What am I really upset about? Is this actually something I don’t like about myself?” It’s a worthwhile exercise. Of course this doesn’t hold true for every situation (I’m not critical of seal furriers because deep down I secretly want to club baby seals to death), but it is worth exploring in your personal relationships. Changing my pattern of thought from criticism > dismissal to criticism > red flag > self-examination has been helpful for me, maybe it can help you too.
**Special thanks to Mr. David Hook for his drawring skills!
In celebration of my 40th disjointed post, here’s a disjointed list of 40 things I’ve learned since starting this blog (the author recommends enjoying while drinking a 40):
40- I’m going to die sooner or later so I need to hurry up and do all the awesome stuff I’ve ever wanted to do.
39- Being physically fit will make you happier, and the inverse is just as true. Luckily, exercise is an antidepressant that will fix part of the problem instead of just treating the symptoms.
38- Quinoa is as delicious as it is difficult to pronounce: Very.
37- Humankind is inherently good. At least based on how everyone rushes to make way for ambulances.
36- Humankind is inherently evil. I forgot it’s against the law to obstruct emergency vehicles, so people have to move whether they want to or not.
35- Humankind is hard to figure out. Fuck it.
34- Making memories is widely underrated. Did making two costumes and driving 8 hours to a music fest for Halloween weekend substantially complicate my life and require a great deal of time, energy, and money to execute? Yes. Was it fun as fuck? Definitely. Studies have shown that the happiest people are those who purchase experiences instead of things, so go do stuff.
33- Those Sally Hansen stick-on nail polish strips are awesome. They should invent a way to create custom designs. Maybe sell blank sheets of polish that people can decorate and peel off..? I don’t know, I’m just spitballing here but someone should get on this.
32- I’ll miss being forced to read books I wouldn’t normally encounter. Por ejemplo, Joseph Conrad is a pain in the ass to read but brilliant when it comes to using language and exploring existential crises and moral dilemmas.
31- Cities are beautiful, dazzlingly complex embodiments of the best and worst of man’s accomplishments. And living in them is fun.
30- Find people you can be yourself around. It makes everything easier.
29- Weird kids turn into awesome adults. They also have hilarious weird kid anecdotes.
28- You can gain a lot from spending time with people different than you. Like, for realz.
27- Skydiving is awesome. Do it.
26-Institutions of higher education just want your money, but you can still have a valuable learning experience if you take advantage of the opportunity.
25- Almost everyone is lonely. Some are better at hiding it than others, and some don’t think about it because they’ve filled their time with enough people and things to distract, but everyone wants to feel connected.
24- My joints are feeble as shit, and dealing with athletic injuries is really annoying so use good form, y’all.
23- Throwing ice cream is fun. Fact.
22- Everyone deludes themselves from reality in some capacity. Whether it’s justifying past decisions, rationalizing present circumstances, only seeing what you want to see in others, self-medicating, or self-theologizing, most people prefer their own version of things to the truth.
21- Consistently generating content is hard.
20- I need to find a reasonable income if I’m ever going to afford that great white shark cage diving trip.
19- It is important to know when to hold and/or fold ’em. A few little risks here and there in the name of fun is one thing, but actual danger is not worth the consequences. Shark dives don’t count, they’re mostly safe, although honestly if I’m going to die I wouldn’t mind getting eaten by a shark.
18-Lachrymose is a good word. It means tear-inducing/weepy, FYI.
17-If everyone is cool, no one is cool. Being hip is a mass produced cultural trend, so basically everyone is average. Which is redundant.
16- There are artificial estrogen-mimicking chemicals in air fresheners. [source] Probably to keep women in constant nesting mode buying products like more air fresheners…
15-Routines are incredibly efficient. Not having a routine is the opposite of that.
14- Nobody’s business is anybody’s business.
13- Our generation didn’t create the fucked up world we’re inheriting, but it’s still our responsibility to make it better.
12- If hell exists, it’s probably run by towing companies.
11- Dancing is undervalued.
10- A lot of people seem okay floating from one societal threshold to the next without worrying about why they’re doing what they’re doing. You can get a lot out of self-reflection and evaluating your motivations.
9- Balance is the key to just about everything. Yin and Yang had that shit down.
8- Thinking up 40 things I’ve learned recently is harder than I expected. And most of this shit sounds like clichés. But clichés are clichés for a reason so…
7- Water your friendship plants regularly. Some are delicate violets and others are durable cacti, but it’s important to take care of them.
6- Putting creative work on display is an embarrassing but necessary evil. I hate rereading old posts but fear of embarrassment is a too common roadblock to creation. Everybody sucks at first, you just have to keep going.
5- The War of Art is an incredibly useful book. Everyone, especially creative types, should read it.
4- Laughing is the best. More, please.
3- We naturally gravitate toward the things and people we need in order to grow. Just like plants!
2-Better to look like an idiot trying something new than to never try anything.
1- Settling is for suckers. Don’t do it!
Shel Silverstein is one of my all time favorite children’s authors. His absurd wit, childlike illustrations, use of language, and deep philosophical themes combine in several timeless stories and poems that are still relevant to adults. A fantastic example is the story The Missing Piece Meets the Big O. I wrote a paper about this book for one of my first college English courses, so the following is essentially a paraphrase of that paper.
In case you forgot (or haven’t read it), The Missing Piece Meets the Big O is about a wedge-shaped character called the Missing Piece who is looking for its corresponding shape it imagines has a void the exact size of itself where it can fit in. The first line reads, “The missing piece sat alone… waiting for someone to come along and take it somewhere.” Over the course of the story, it roams around looking for the perfect match with the right size hole to fill. It joins up with one piece, but soon outgrows it. Several failed attempts to find a match later, the Piece meets the Big O who has the ability to roll around on its own. The Big O rejects the Missing Piece who becomes inspired to try rolling alone, too. After a while, The Missing Piece flops and rolls until its edges wear down and it becomes round like a circle. Only then is it able to reunite with the Big O so the two wholes can happily roll along side each other.
By now, the true meaning of The Missing Piece Meets the Big O should be obvious to adults (and honestly probably impossible for a child to comprehend). It’s about growing out of the naïve view of love as the coming together of two soul mates like puzzle pieces who compensate for each other’s voids. At the beginning of the story the Missing Piece is lonely and thinks he needs to fill the void in another person who will “take it places.” Through its journey we see several archetypal relationship situations: the couple that grows out of each other, the pairs that are simply bad fits, attempts by the Missing Piece to make himself more attractive to a mate, those with too many pieces missing (too many emotional voids to fill), or those that “didn’t know a thing about fitting” aka how to have a meaningful relationship.
The allegory demonstrates how we must be whole before we can be happy and sustain healthy relationships. It’s our own responsibility to take ourselves places instead of relying on someone else to do it for us or fix us. Otherwise, when we fill our voids with each other, we make our happiness dependent on them and often fall into the trap of codependence. Codependent relationships are unhealthy (with the exception of parent-child relationships) because they’re based on need, not want nor choice. Two people grow so entwined in each other’s existence until the thought of separation is too painful, yet neither is happy or whole because they’re sustaining themselves off each other– draining the life out of one another. It becomes a situation where they are together because they need to be because the alternative is unpleasant, not because they want to be. As soon as one party no longer needs whatever the other was providing– be it companionship, sex, money, transportation, or whatever– the codependent relationship falls apart. The Missing Piece should be a reminder to us all: to be happy with another person we must first be happy with ourselves.
Let me begin by saying I spent the first 19 years of my life avoiding any kind of exercise. Then, as with most of us, as I grew up my metabolism slowed down so I began to take fitness more seriously. Spurts of athletic enthusiasm and periods of guilty procrastination punctuated the first several months of my attempt to get in shape. This was my basic strategy: 2-4 days a week begrudgingly attempt jogging or one of my mother’s outdated workout tapes. Then, feeling a false sense of accomplish having gone through the motions of working out, overeat and destroy any potential benefit I may have had from exercise. Needless to say I wasn’t getting the kind of results I wanted. I had no idea what it took to be committed to a healthy lifestyle.
Then, as cheesy as it sounds (I hate the fact I’m about to publish this– I sound like a fucking infomercial), I came across a workout series that changed my life. I received Tony Horton’s P90X as a gift (shoutout to Rocks). I’d seen the infomercial late at night and was intrigued by the straightforward, no shortcuts, results-based approach to fitness. Unlike so many frivolous As-Seen-On-TV products promising unbelievable results, Horton’s attitude of was different. He didn’t try to sugarcoat the amount of work it takes to get fit. Soon after consistently integrating P90X workouts into my routine, I started seeing the results that have since kept me motivated for the long term.
For the past four years I’ve kept it tight using at-home workout DVD series like P90X, Slim in 6, TurboFire, Chalene Extreme, and Insanity, and I can’t praise them enough.
Here are 5 reasons why DVD workouts are great:
1) Privacy. These workouts are fantastic for the socially retarded, gym-shy, and the self-conscious because you can do them in the privacy of your own home. Most of these workouts require little equipment (weights or bands and a yoga mat will suffice) and a minimum of about 5×8 square feet of floor space. For the past two years my gym has been a square of carpet next to my bed. It’s not fancy but it works (and it’s free). You also don’t need to worry about looking gross or stupid so you can more fully concentrate on what your body is doing.
2) Engagement. With so much competing for our attention these days, one roadblock to fitness can be having to disconnect from the world to focus on physical activity. These videos help curb athletic A.D.D. by grabbing your attention in much the same way any other TV show does– dialogue, music, quick cuts, catchphrases– all there to keep you engaged in your fitness. I can’t speak for everyone, but if I try sitting in a quiet room to count off squats or crunches by myself, I always magically end up sitting back at my computer fucking around on the internet, so it’s extremely helpful to have cues provided by an instructor.
3) Accountability. Part of why these DVDs have so many success stories is because they create a sense of accountability towards oneself and the program that will keep you coming back each day until it’s a fully integrated habit. Not only do they provide calendar style workout plans, but the fitness gurus will keep you motivated toward consistency. They’re charismatic, positive, educational, and inspirational (although not everyone will like every instructor’s personality– it’s important to find someone you can stand listening to for an hour a day).
4) Thoroughness & Versatility. A lot of people get going with fitness but poop out from boredom when they hit a plateau. Sometimes this is because we get in the habit of only working on the things we know we’re already good at (Runners only running, weight lifters only lifting, yogis only yogiing, etc.) because we feel confident in those areas. It’s an easy trap, but we can only improve if we get out of our comfort zones. That’s easy to forget if you’ve been active for a while because when you do the same thing over and over, you get so good that you can’t remember what it feels like to struggle. These DVD workouts involve an array of activities to keep the body challenged (cardio, strength, martial arts, dance, yoga, plyometrics, interval training…) as well as tips on how to intensify each workout to challenge you as you progress, thus warding off dreaded plateaus.
5) Education. Finally, and perhaps the most important key to long term success, is how these programs attempt to educate viewers so they have the tools to make healthy decisions on their own. Being healthy is a 24 hour job, so that’s 23 hours away from our instructors that we are free to sabotage their good influence. I’ve found that these programs not only provided useful information (by way of the literature included with the DVDs as well as the tips given throughout each video), but they also catalyzed a desire to learn more on my own. I’ve since taken fitness and nutrition classes and read up on the subject on my own. It is only by getting educated on health and fitness that you can learn how to make smart decisions by yourself.
These are a few of the main reasons I love workout DVDs. Having said all this, it’s important to remember the following: First, check reviews of workouts. Obviously the more success stories there are the more likely it works (or maybe it just has great marketing…). I’m particularly biased in favor of Beachbody‘s programs because of my own success with them. Of course if you do any fitness consistently you’ll see results, so no one “needs” these series per say, but they are helpful. Secondly, don’t forget about the great outdoors! It’s good to mix up your routine by getting active in actual sunlight doing real things– running, biking, hiking, rock climbing, swimming, whatever. Sprinkling in these fun activities will help keep you on track with a healthy lifestyle. There are also some things you simply can’t do in your living room, like improving your distance run, so don’t forget to take to the streets.
I hope this has been the slightest bit helpful to someone. After all, fitness not only improves your physical well being, but also your mental health. It reduces stress and builds confidence, so get moving!
Why do we laugh at such terrible things? Because comedy is often the sarcastic realization of inescapable tragedy.
-Bryant H. McGill
As the purpose of comedy is to correct the vices of men, I see no reason why anyone should be exempt.
Rhetoric does not get you anywhere, because Hitler and Mussolini are just as good at rhetoric. But if you can bring these people down with comedy, they stand no chance.
Recently I heard someone say flat out that there were at least two subjects they would never make a joke about. My gut reaction was a suppressed eye roll followed by disappointment that this individual couldn’t understand how comedy is a healthy way of confronting the worst parts of existence. If we can’t talk about these things in the pleasurable medium of humor, how much harder will it be to talk about them coldly and seriously? Laughter helps us cope with tragedy. Have you ever seen someone so furious, crestfallen, or full of despair that all they could do is laugh at their situation? It releases tension and brings us back from the edge (serotonin or whatever).
As I mentioned in my post I Fucking Love Cursing, I believe that when we designate certain words, or in this case subjects, as off-limits and unmentionable, we cede them control over us. If we’re afraid to talk about them, then these concepts have the power to hurt us. That’s why Harry Potter doesn’t pussyfoot around like the rest of the wizarding world by allowing the taboo of Lord Voldemort’s name frighten him. Adoy! Furthermore, the more taboo a subject is, like say erectile dysfunction or girls pooping or (ready?) abortion, the more shame is experienced by those whose lives are affected by those subjects. Another example is how shame-based religions that refuse to address sex in an honest, healthy way can create sexually dysfunctional individuals that are afraid of the subject (That’s probably the point, but I digress…).
Comedy is not only indisputably intertwined with tragedy (there’s about ten million BrainyQuotes on the subject), but it’s also sewn into the fabric of truth. There are different reasons things can be funny, but one thing for sure is that we like relating to jokes. How many times do we basically think “that’s so true!” in reaction to a good comedian? We like it when they talk about things relevant to our lives, and sometimes there’s a lot of terribleness in people’s lives– so why ignore the truth? We also use jokes as a way to say what we really think under a the guise insincerity. Just think of the ol’ sassy-remark-followed-by-“just kidding.”
The primary requisite for comedy is observation. Comedians look at the world and point out the (many) ridiculous things about it which can be a huge benefit to society if it inspires them to think differently or if it gives a voice to the voiceless. Names that come to mind are Bill Hicks, David Cross, Louis CK, Tina Fey, Dave Chapelle, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Rob McElhenney and the Always Sunny writers, and a shitload of Saturday Night Live. They can reach people and make them think about issues because when we’re relaxed and enjoying ourselves we’re more willing to hear an opposing viewpoint than if we were being sternly debated. Humor helps people lower their guards and open their minds. It can make a huge difference; just consider how SNL’s portrayal of Sarah Palin affected the entire 2008 election.
In sum, comedians should be able to talk about whatever the hell they want with one stipulation: it should be funny. I realize what’s funny is subjective, but the goal should be to amuse, not to hurt. No flat-out-meanness or irate rants without a sense of playfulness. My dad once told me a quote and although I have no idea where it’s from (and Google isn’t helping), I think it nails down this issue completely: “The only joke that’s in bad taste is the one that isn’t funny.”