Expect Little!

My mission to procure cigarettes and beer from the liquor store nearly ended in disaster one night last summer when a woman in a swell car almost ran me down.  She had responsibly checked for oncoming traffic — in the wrong direction — before executing her turn, and as she passed me our eyes met through the passenger window.  She looked at me as if to say, “oh! how long have you been there?” and I stood in the street, toes mere inches from her rolling tires, grinning back at her in frank amusement.

I should have been outraged.  I should have spit upon the hood of her car.  The thing is, I just didn’t feel any anger toward her at all.  I found it funny that she might have killed me outright and, altogether oblivious of her  manslaughter, simply gone on to shop at Target.

Was it remarkable that a person should make such a glaring error among the throngs of humans negotiating the myriad avenues and boulevards of Los Angeles County, thought I?  Oh, hardly.  In fact, only an idiot wouldn’t expect it.

Then suddenly, as I went on my way with a wide smile warming my face, I shrugged, and an epiphany descended upon me as if from heaven.

“Expect little,” I said aloud.

And I’ve been saying it every day since.

The obnoxious behavior of others is normal for human beings. Expect little.

Expect little is a prayer.  It soothes and calms.  It educates.  It’s an unlikely mantra which inculcates a sort of passive humility.

It may be a nice gesture to presume that everyone is endowed with friendliness, elementary skills and common sense, but it’s an unlikely supposition which can only lead to discontent.   One ought rather to expect little of others.  Hate becomes very difficult when people act in accordance with your already-low expectations of them.

It behooves us all to acquaint ourselves with the idea that humanity may not be cut out for greatness, not even in our own hackneyed estimation.

Expect little, friends, because the highest percentage of people is always more rude, stupid, and unkempt than the minority of well-mannered, intelligent, and hygienic people.  This is because exceptional characteristics are by definition above average — which is to say, that they are the exception, rather than the rule.  Expecting little from people allows you to be content with the way people actually are, and pleasantly surprised by above-average behavior, which is as it should be.

To expect excellence from people, on the other hand, is silly.  People have never been cool en masse, but mass media has programmed us to expect everyone to be beautiful, polite, and at least somewhat intelligent.  This is (ha, ha!) not the case.

Expecting excellence from people is not even respectful to them.  In fact, it’s condescending.  You aren’t so cool, yourself, you know, particularly from the perspectives of people who don’t live up to your high standards.  We — you and I — are not cool enough to expect good things from others.  We don’t even know what cool is, in the universal sense.

Let people be stupid.  Let them be themselves, for God’s sake (big G).  Let them be stupid today, because you’re probably going to do something stupid tomorrow.

Think you're especially brilliant? Wrong. Each of us is just as gloriously idiotic as the next. Embrace humanity.

Expect little, because you can quickly become depressed by the amount of people who fail to meet your expectations.  That’s not any good.  Discontent with others leads to treating people as though you do not like them around — which tends to convince people that you do not like them around.  Pretty soon, you find yourself without anybody around, and where do you suppose everyone has gone?  Why, into the next room, of course, where everyone is frowning in your direction and calling you an elitist asshole.

Of you, they would do better to expect little.

We don’t only have irrationally high expectations of people, though.  Occasionally, we even find ourselves angry with luck, itself, as if it were slacking or something, remiss in its duties, not paying close enough attention to us and producing the wrong kind of random event.   This is perhaps our most common madness.  Why should we expect good fortune from random chance?  Random chance is the one thing from which we shouldn’t expect anything at all!

The world’s smartest computer can’t make accurate predictions of what random chance will produce.  Why bother lamenting an unfortunate mishap as if shocked that it might inconvenience you?  Mishaps happen.  In fact, mishaps happen so regularly — and with such colorful variety — that we ought long ago to have stopped guessing what should or should not transpire within the course of a day.  However, the rusty computers between our ears are always half-dedicated to overestimating their ill-collected data and faulty projections.

You see, then, we even expect too much of ourselves.  We’re only human, friends.  Chase your dreams in earnest, quest valiantly for glory, and by-all-means be the change you wish to see in the world, as the neo-hippies say — but…

Expect little.

Luck of the draw got you down? Dice come up snake-eyes again? Take my word for it -- expect little.

Expect little!  Expect your neighbor to make too much noise.  Expect your boss to give you too much work.  Expect helicopter parenting, drunk driving, and repeat offending, often by the same culprits.  Expect your favorite band to use too much cowbell.

Expect people from poorly educated states in poorly educated countries to act poorly educated.  Expect people crammed into tight quarters with millions of others to develop hurtful prejudices.  Expect full-grown adults to parrot what they see in movies, in magazines, and in mainstream music, and expect their teenagers (raised likewise by televisions and gangsta rap) to be perfectly disrespectful.

Expect politicians to lie, and cheat, and steal, not to mention fornicate with people you’d rather they wouldn’t.  Expect people with guns (soldiers, cops, and criminals) to shoot people.  Expect druggies to do drugs and go about in public on drugs, and to act just as though they might be high on drugs.  Say to them when you see them shrinking from the demons down aisle nine at Rite-Aid, “Hello, druggie.  How do you do?”

Expect preachers to sin, marriages to fail, and sons and daughters to leave the family religion.  Expect athletes to take steroids, psychiatrists to prescribe poison, and models to mutilate themselves surgically.  Expect wonder.  Expect marvel.  Expect to be astonished at the spectacle in which every one of us plays a humble part.

In other words, expect people to act just as though they were human — but for your own sake as well as that of others, the next time your friend complains that a significant other has forgotten an anniversary, or that some ruthless businessman has destroyed the local economy, or that a hapless driver has run over his or her favorite author (ahem), just shrug your shoulders and smile sympathetically, offer a beer and say to your friend,

“Expect little.”

With a great big smile and my fingers crossed, I remain,

Yours Truly,

-BothEyesShut

Self-Abasement, Incorporated: an Industrial Revolution

At the U.S. headquarters of Self-Abasement, Incorporated, a boss begins to instruct his underlings in the delicate art of business attire.

I.

Business attire, as we all know, is that particular brand of fashion which obscures one’s personality. Business attire offends people at places of relaxation and amusement, and doesn’t look distinguished in one’s workplace, either, regardless how much money one has spent on it.

Business attire, though having been designed to look respectable, handsome, and elegant, fails to do so, because while companies can require that one wear a pinstriped skirt, they can neither require that one should own several such skirts, nor that one should daily press the wrinkles out. The boss can force us to wear a tie, but not to tie a fresh knot daily. These are discretions belonging to the wearer, and this is the irony of business attire.

When one’s silk tie has been in the same Windsor knot for six months, it’s insincere to feel elegant.

You'd be amazed at how long a necktie can go knotted, how long a bra can go unwashed

Yet the boss, a college graduate of average ambition, has also a boss, and this chief boss is the one telling him to enforce the company’s dress code. The command strikes little boss as odd because the dress code has always been followed with little trouble.

“But no,” the chief tells him. “Following the code is just acceptable; we can’t have our employees looking acceptable. Our employees represent the company, and the company can’t look just acceptable.”

“No,” says the boss, “of course it can’t, of course the employees can’t,” even though he is thinking of the word acceptable, its definition, and wondering why there ought to be a dress code at all if not to define precisely how employees should dress for work.

So the boss bows out of the presence of the chief and makes his way to his own cubicle. His cubicle has a window overlooking the blacktop of the parking lot below, because he has worked with the company for twenty-one years and has earned this luxury. Once there, he reviews the company’s dress code, then clicks his mouse pointer to create a new document. His creation takes forty minutes. Making copies takes three. He delivers them to his underlings in no time at all.

The cubicle creatures have become wary of the boss’s hardcopy memos, so they wait until his squeaking loafers have rounded the corner to pluck it up and take their medicine.

They grimace at the familiar arial font, and they sneer at the bullet points. The tone and content of the memo is no different from any that have come before: heartlessness approximates professionalism; condescension masquerades as magnanimity. Tragic, terrible irony seeps from every typo and grammatical error. The cubicle creatures begin to pop up like gophers. They peer over the walls of their little boxes at one another, holding up the memo and pointing.

What bullshit! They can’t do this to us. I’m going to talk to Johnson right now. Can you believe this shit?

They cannot believe this shit.

I Cannot Believe This Shit

ATTN: ALL EMPLOYEES

AS OF 4/25/10 the dress code is being clarified. Some employees arent following company procedure so this should help them dress aproppriately for work. NO EXCUSES! NO EXCEPTIONS!!!!!!!!!!

– Shirt and tie, men

– BLUE or BEIGE blowss, women

– BLACK or NAVY BLUE slacks

TO CLARIFY IN ADDITION!

– Mens slacks must front crease

– NO JEANS on Fri. anymore per Johnson

– Polo shirts are only all right Fri. on floor 3 if they are blue or beige

– EMPLOYEES MUST SHINE/POLLISH THEIR SHOES EVERY WEEKEND BEFORE MON. Mailroom employees must black nylon laces

– No dangly ear rings

– CLEAR or RED only pollished nails

John Johnson wll be reviewing staff Wed. to make sure these rules are being followed.

Thank you for your cooperation,

Gary Melendez

II.

Sometimes when I’m at my job, tappity-tap-tapping on my plastic keyboard and diddling the little touchpad on my laptop from time to time, it occurs to me that I’m accomplishing work which required hours of painstaking, interminable scrawling on sheafs of expensive parchment not so long ago.

Thank you, Industrial Revolution.

The underlings of Self-Abasement, Inc. do not feel the benefits of that historic occasion, though. They feel the crushing weight of imaginary duties, instead, because the introduction of technology to the workplace has eliminated most clerical work, leaving employees with more time between tasks than ever before, time which bosses must fill in order to look industrious.

Having long ago mastered the art of making two hours of work look like a two-day job, proletariat underlings manage to keep their jobs, and this explains how American employment competes with technology which would otherwise make human labor obsolete.

Bosses know that their underlings cut corners and screw off for large amounts of time, though (because they are very guilty of the same thing) so the bosses spend most of their paid hours playing gotcha! with the rest of the staff, ratting out the minimum of underlings necessary to look busy.

Underlings, bosses, and chiefs all have more free time, but the sergeants to whom the chiefs report have no more free time than previously, because sergeants never did any of the clerical work, anyhow.

Sergeants do labor which C.E.O.s need done but cannot do themselves, labor requiring certain talents and educations which computers cannot be programmed to use. In addition, companies need creative, educated humans in virtually every area of their industry, so these sergeants find themselves in high demand, spread thin, overworked and under-appreciated.

The sergeants have meetings, at which they give presentations, with which they sign deals, by which they secure work and money for their employers, which also secures the employees below. They are hard to reach, rarely seen in the office, and have little time for shenanigans. Their private time is taken up with anything and everything that could possibly relax them.

— Drug habits and divorces, for instance.

The big meeting feels like a summer holiday, when your cocaine has gone up both nostrils and your hands have been up both skirts

As a very protracted result of industrialization, then: underlings inflate their jobs in order to look busy and justify their positions; bosses inflate their jobs in order to look busy and justify their positions; sergeants enjoy the odd amphetamine here and there and become extra-marital enthusiasts.

What, the reader may ask, are the chiefs doing during all this self-inflation?

Sergeants have no time to police them and must be content with available evidence that the chiefs are doing their jobs — but just what, exactly, were their jobs? Since dividing their responsibilities among the bosses, the job of the chief has evaporated into the delegation of labor amongst laborers who are many times more experienced at accomplishing these tasks than the chief ever was. In physical terms, the chief actually does nothing.

However, nothing is a very difficult job to perform, as it turns out.

In order to earn wages for doing nothing, the poor chief must somehow take credit for the work his underlings complete and build hard evidence of having had a hand in it, as well, which proved an inexorable challenge until the late-twentieth-century innovation of micromanagement.

III.

Some definitions of micromanagement stretch for whole paragraphs, while others curtly name it in a concise six or seven words. Micromanagement describes more than a mere business philosophy, though. It is an undiscovered culture. It is an esoteric cabal.

Micromanagement is a sorcery woven over North America which upholds the global economy, feeds innumerable hungry mouths, and maintains the eminent prestige of the corporate-American business style.

It shares also the unfortunate distinction of the Faustian pact, however, in that it happens to kill everyone who subscribes to it.

The micromanager, here seen protected from unemployment by his circle of arcane documentation.

When chiefs first aspire to practice micromanagement, they begin by conjuring new requirements to add to existing regulations. This increases the complexity of the rules, and since they must enforce these rules, this inflates the scope of their job, likewise. In the case of the wretched cubicle creatures at Self-Abasement, Inc., for instance, their chief focuses on the company dress code, which had been a perfectly functional dress code except that it was too easy for his employees to follow and therefore did not give the chief anything to do.

By adding a few superficial, superexacting details, chiefs ensure that their cubicle creatures will resist this tyrannical posturing and fail to observe all new regulations. The chiefs then sign a few official documents of reprimand, obtain the signatures of all offending employees, and in this way create a paper connection between themselves and the actual labor performed by the underlings.

Memos, too, serve to solidify a micromanaging chief’s presence in the office. Suggested by the sergeants and articulated through the chief’s invariably horrific grammar, they explode in mass emails like viral outbreaks, or wind up scotch-taped to cabinetry in the staff lounge, stall doors in the restrooms, or any number of surprising locations where one would not expect a memo to lurk, such as inside the silverware drawer in the kitchen:

DO NOT PUT FORKS AND SPOONS IN THE UTENSILS DRAWER!

These officious memos help to prove the indispensability of the micromanager, and also make his or her presence known throughout the cubicle labyrinth, invoking him or her like the summoned incarnation of a corporate Zeitgeist. Without the ostentation of these memos the chiefs would seem incorporeal, because by nature of their work (which does not exist) they toil alone in their offices, leaving them only to use the restroom or drop in on a boss to make certain the chief’s responsibilities are being sufficiently handled.

This, of course, begs the question underlings have pondered since the inception of the micromanager: if we’re out here doing all the work, and all he does is come up with crazy new rules every two weeks — then what the hell is he doing in there all the time?

It is the opinion of many cubicle creatures that copious amounts of auto-eroticism transpire in the office of the chief.

Connectivity. Infrastructure. Masturbation.

IV.

The Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century put thousands of people out of work, and forced thousands more into new schools instituted to train farmers for life as factory hands. Had those day-laborers developed the sort of industrial sleight-of-hand practiced by micromanagers today, they would have been hailed as geniuses. They would perhaps have spent their working hours in the shade of apple trees, shouting perfunctory instructions to the other hands and winning their contempt, like this:

“Smith, yer gone need ter lift that hoe up t’yer shoulder to keep the furrow nice’n straight, hear?”

“Sho’ is a fine thing we got Johnson ter tellus how ter hoe ‘n sow ‘n plant ‘n scrape. I wonder where he gits his idears from.”

“I reckon those idears o’ Johnson’s come from about the same place as the manure do, but I sho’ wouldn’t mind trading up fer his salary, or fer his shady patch o’ sittin’ over thar, neither!”

That micromanagers work illusory jobs for pay does not seem inherently evil, though, as all the crucial work seems to be getting done, anyhow. Giving people something to do simply because people need something to do hardly appears like the worst thing in the world; mentally handicapped individuals have been employed in this fashion for decades, as have convicts, and even grandchildren (“Do what Nana says and sweep those leaves into a big pile on that side of the yard, and let me know when you’re done so I can show you how to sweep them back again.”). Micromanagers commit but a misdemeanor in duping dimwitted companies into paying them for inventing paltry regulations and decorating the office with memos.

In the innumerable tortures they design for the pathetic, piteous cubicle creatures, though, they betray themselves as the authors of fresh hells, their mass emails sundering the contentment and optimism of scores of people with neither shame nor care. The despair these micromanagers distribute as part of their useless, makeshift jobs horrifies the hapless cubicle creatures slowly, their gaunt faces growing more sallow and lined every day as though forced to watch imperturbable carpet bombs falling over an amusement park in crawling, relentless slow motion. Dress codes, new forms, an additional mite of data entry, an extra stop on the fifth floor to obtain a signature, the straws stack upon the quavering spines of corporate employees all the world over — hourly paid, conveniently quashed like cockroaches.

The proverbial last straw never comes for the cubicle creature, though, because each poisonous favor is only as brutal as the last, and like a cuckolding indentured servitude, they can only endure the apathy of their superiors by the anæsthetic of mindless subservience.

One is not mistaken to also detest the cubicle creature. One must consider that while their financial constraints may convince them to daily demean themselves like cowering, obsequious rodents, the shoe polishers of the world, garbage collectors, sewer scourers, bedpan changers, septic tank adventurers and other dauntless laborers of unseemly occupations go about their business with all the dignity and assurance of a British barrister, the cubicle creature having sacrificed self-love and self-respect for the sake of a dollar or two per hour above the wage that is generally paid to teenagers working in fast-food restaurants.

Marty Feldman, having left his position at Self-Abasement, Inc., re-learned how to smile and began an unlikely career in cinema. Seen here in early recovery.

V.

What course of action, then? When I reflect upon the farmhands during the Industrial Revolution, I imagine them going to work in factories with the same resignation and mental fatigue in their faces I see on those of the cubicle creatures, the bosses, and the micromanaging chiefs. This inheritance of misery cannot be tolerated.

However, the solution is not to stamp out micromanagement; that seems implausible. Micromanagers generally possess few marketable talents and so would not know what to do with themselves were it not for micromanaging. They will defend their philosophy to death. They sink in a quicksand of their own devising, and like Dr. Faustus, they do not believe that it will destroy them.

The micromanagers, themselves, appear doomed.

Readers given to martyrdom may decide to practice the Way of Nice for their respective chiefs, but should one find oneself in the position of the cubicle creature, the boss, the chief, or the sergeant, one would do best to quit the place like a spark leaving the flint.

Corporate offices transform human time and energy into cashola. That is their purpose; they have none other. Unless one could change one’s living days into enough capital to justify such a dark metamorphosis, to take a position in a corporate office is to commit oneself to a sanitarium operated by lunatics.

Most corporate fucks work jobs that they hate in order to feed, clothe, and educate their children, transfusing their very lifetime into that of their offspring. Their personal joy and appreciation for the beauties of life visibly deflate from them with every passing day, and many live in fear of termination like battered housewives clinging to abusive spouses. Self-destruction does not raise healthy children. It were better to live with dignity and pride somewhere in a rent-controlled ghetto and nourish one’s family with ramen.

As the great Al Pacino once said, “There is nothing like the sight of an amputated spirit; there is no prosthesis for that.” No, and there is no salvation for those who commit a daily suicide all their lives, either.

Beware the promise of material happiness or contentment.

Beware the myth of financial security.

Beware the fiscally ambitious and the ones who have it all.

— But most importantly, beware that part of you which dreams of winning lotteries, marrying rich, or retiring in a large, beautiful home.

It’s the part of you the rest of us have most to fear.

With remarkably tenacious optimism I remain,

Yours Truly,

-BothEyesShut

Stumble It!

O’ War! War! O’ Elegant, Heavenly War!

Reason and intelligence lead thoughtful people to reach the same conclusions when those conclusions seem most obvious, and that’s a shame.  We intellectual sorts daily nod and smile at one another, agreeing on many momentous topics of discussion, differing on only the tiniest of distinctions.  Too many discussions terminate with these knee-jerk conclusions, really, and one of these universally agreed-upon topics happens to be the matter of war.

War, says the sage scholar, is a base, savage, corrupt, unworthy use of our time and resources.  War, he spits, defiles our dignity and pollutes our minds, denounces our integrity and poisons our innocence.  War, he decries, is hell.

However, this perspective does not lend itself to a round, fair judgment of martial practices.  War is too ancient a human institution to be flippantly dismissed out-of-hand.  We owe too much of our bounteous, idyllic lifestyle to war for such a hasty expulsion of it.  War is too human to be deemed inhumane.

War, the heart of so much civilization, cannot be immoral, unjust, or depraved. War is not loathsome, nor is it an abomination. War is not iniquity.

War, in fact — is a really, really good time.

War is not hell. Come now, does this look like hell to you?

I. War Brings People Together

“[The most awesomest party ever] grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

— Mao Tse-Tung

Nothing thrills the soul like a good explosion, except maybe a good explosion with body parts flying out of it. Rather than blowing people up solo, though, one can make the minutest bang a resounding ka-boom! by inviting one’s friends and neighbors along. An armed skirmish inspires conviviality, and any reason to hold a shin-dig is a good one.

Many Southern Californians live in apathy of their neighbors, ignorant of their neighbors’ names, ignorant of their neighbors’ proclivities, ignorant of their neighbors altogether except for the kind of car they drive and which households make the most noise.  We repeatedly prove ourselves too proud to love, too haughty to give a heartfelt hug when we need it most. Drop a few cluster bombs on the local strip mall, though, and people cling to one another like infant monkeys.

Never mind the block party; Mrs. Dilweed’s acclaimed potato salad isn’t going to make any friends. It’s suppression fire from a machine gun nest at the end of a suburban cul-de-sac that softens the hardest of hearts. Until cowering in a muddy shell crater with them, one never knows one’s true brothers and sisters. Camaraderie springs from warmth, and the root word of warmth is war (little known fact). This is why most ordnance produces heat, flame and conflagration, and why even cold bullets, once in merry flight, are called fire.

Don’t stay out in the cold. Choose warmth. Choose war.

Did you see that buzzbomb clip Ralph as it whizzed by? Bang! Zoom! What a gas!

II. War Inspires Art

“The object of war is not to [party hard] for your country but to make the other bastard [party hard] for his.”

— General George S. Patton, Jr.

What pastoral oils graced canvases during Earth’s peaceful centuries? What poetry dripped honeylike from the tongues of minstrels during the Great Pacific Period? What music resounded through the halls of humanity during the Time of Tranquility?

Aha! But there were never any such occasions, of course. Do not be silly.

All great art is the result of a vicious, mindless, self-consuming, bullet-tossing, bomb-fumbling world hell-bent on blending hell into every fine thing produced by man. Without the bang of guns, there would be no onomatopœia. Without the need for camouflage, there would be no paint. Without the need for morale, there would be no music, no comedy, no burlesque.

Without war, the Beatles would have been a boy band. Without war, Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls would have been about schoolchildren dismissed for summer. Without war, Leutze’s painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, boot at the prow, would have featured that great general having his shoes shined.

No art exists but that which came from the fertile, menstruating womb of war. What possible inspiration could there, otherwise, be? God (big G)? Please. We have a Sistine Chapel already, thank you.

Without war, we'd not have pretty paintings like "2,000-Yard Stare," by Tom Lea

III. War Improves the Humans-to-Resources Ratio

“The death of one man is [smart shopping]. The death of millions is a [hot deal].”

— Josef Stalin, comment to Churchill at Potsdam, 1945

Limited resources! cry the teachers of social studies. Limited resources! cry the pundits of the mass media. Limited resources! cry the politicians of every country throughout time. All these persons devoutly believe to have spotted the obvious reason for war, when all along they’ve had it backwards. War is not a battle over limited resources. War is the simple solution by which humanity divides limited resources amongst fewer peoples.

What difference does it make if seventy percent of all the oil in the world exists in the Middle East and North Africa, if there are so few people in said world that they couldn’t possibly consume it all in seventy-seven generations? War isn’t a contest of tug-o’-war with natural resources as the prize. War is a game of musical chairs which begins with someone left standing, and ends with everyone seated comfortably.

Every human death brings humanity closer to feeding itself. The practice of warfare puts palatable provisions on everyone’s plate.

Always enough to go around when "around" is less round

IV. War Spurs Science

“You can’t say that civilization don’t advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way [that is consistent with the scientific method].”

– Will Rogers

Dehydrated foods, microwave technology, and countless other advances sprang from the American war machine, yet detractors still picket and march and gripe and whine, saying, “Make love, not war!” and, “Draft beer, not people!” as though these pithy proverbs were the pinnacle of wit and political consciousness. These naysayers have conviction — one can tell by the limitless cash they spend on verbose bumper stickers for their hybrid automobiles, verbose little slogans such as, “Why do people bomb people who bomb people to show that bombing people is wrong?” and “It will be a great day when schools have all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to construct a bomber” — but their hypocrisy outshines their passion every time they stir water into their Carnation Instant Breakfast (™) or nuke their breakfast burritos for thirty seconds on High.

War motivates our sharpest knives and brightest bulbs to design ever-more-efficient blenders in which to purée people, without which the interminable process of old-fashioned battle would positively bore the soldiers to death. Who wants a war without robotic drone fighter planes firing laser-guided ordnance while threading the needle through phased-array radar sites? Nobody, that’s who. Night vision goggles with infrared target-acquisition-sharing capability! Electromagnetic silent supersonic Gauss rifles! Nuclear submarines playing hide n’ seek beneath polar ice caps, with bionic remote-controlled spy sharks to follow them!

Let’s face it, war makes a technological wonderland out of an otherwise unremarkable world, and though it may seem somewhat more destructive, we’d all probably die of boredom without it, anyway.

The hi-tech miracles of war bring delightful conveniences into every home. Every boy and girl will want a civilian version of BigDog under the tree this Christmas!

V. War Brings the Rich and Poor Together

“When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who [benefit greatly].”

– Jean-Paul Sartre

Of the many struggles plaguing mankind, class warfare remains one of the most deleterious. The working class has always been exploited by people with money and power, and has always outnumbered its rich slave-owners by a ratio too imbalanced to ignore. In 2006, the top one percent of the population of the United States owned more than twenty percent of the wealth. This is the same as if the rich had stolen every single possession from nineteen percent of American citizens, not to mention everything these unfortunate nineteen percent are currently earning, and everything they will earn until the day they fall over and die — until the statistic changes again, that is.

What to do for this social sickness? Depose the rich and give their stuff to the poor, á la Robin Hood? That only works in movies. Once again we find that war, that old internecine pastime, is the answer.

The problem is not economic disparity. The crisis is that aristocrats are an alarmingly endangered species, their numbers falling faster than those of the black rhino, the giant panda, or the beluga sturgeon. In order to save this grievously assailed caste, the opposing herd must be thinned. What better use for the poor, than war? War is not only useful for inciting art, science, conservation, and brotherly love; it’s also humanity’s best method of lessening the huddled masses of impoverished paupers to match the dwindling and endangered populations of aristocrats.

Eat your heart out, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Why not? Ancient Romans coined their money and forged their swords from the same metal, and in the same fire.

VI. War Spurs Philosophy

“We make war that we may live in [wine-induced philosophical contemplation].”

-Aristotle

Humanity once needed to laze in order to store up energy for the hunt. Now that our prey comes to us through drive-thru take-out windows, we no longer require such lazing, but shaking the habit has proven too difficult for most of us and as a result, we’re lazy.

Philosophers are no different, and in fact often constitute the laziest portion of society (armchairs redounding). For this indolence the fault falls but partially on them, however. Having explained away the meaning of life with eighteen answers to choose from (and this before even touching upon world religions) philosophers peaked rather young, and the resulting malaise keeps them from coming up with new material for our amusement on a regular basis, lazy bastards that they are.

With the threat and promise of war, though, philosophers and thinkers from every corner of the globe clamber over one another to pose their perspectives to the world. War is detestable! say some, and War is inevitable! say others, and War is glorious! say still more, all of them having worked out valid, logical reasoning to support their point of view.

Without war, whatever would we do for philosophy? Where would we find our bathroom reading? Like it or not, the world has war to thank for the musings of Confucius, Gandhi, Lao Tze, Kant, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the rest of the simpering peaceniks.

No war, no philosophy.

Socrates preferred the M4A1 for its close spread at medium range.

VII. War Holds Religions Accountable

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world [see eye-to-eye].”

– Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi

Perhaps most importantly, war keeps the world’s major religions on their toes. Any religious leader can jaw non-stop about how one ought to live one’s life, but when hundreds of weeping mothers pour in on Sunday begging for a divine promise to bring their sons home from war unscathed, even the most wretched charlatan must turn his gaze inward and ask himself, “Do I really know what the hell I’m talking about? Do I really think there’s an ultimate source of love and wisdom and fairness who could let a war like this happen, simply because people are born imperfect and grow up stupid enough to fire projectiles at each other?”

Mark 13:7 says that wars must happen.  Judaism and Islam have been hurling grenades at one another for centuries.  Hinduism even has a goddess, Kali, dedicated to destruction, and Taoism doesn’t really care one way or the other.  It should surprise no one, therefore, that most of the people recruiting for war, speaking in favor of war, and doing the actual killing practice religion.  War benefits religions by holding them accountable, and by accomplishing the following:

War eliminates the fighters from religious congregations, leaving only the lovers.

War forces religious leaders to answer in detail the most treacherous, and imperative, mysteries of life.

War allows believers to emphasize their belief in heaven by martyring themselves, an otherwise impossible task in the modern era.

‘There are no atheists in foxholes’ is not an argument against atheism — it’s an argument against foxholes,” says James Morrow.  Indeed, nobody wants a godless heathen in the trenches defending America.  What would that say about us here at home?

Warriors of anti-aircraft fire and theosophical debate, may your barbs fly true!

VIII. War Destroys Warfarers

“We have to face the fact that either we are going to die together or live together and if we are going to live together then we are going to have to [die together anyway].”

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Having covered all the aforementioned benefits of war, it remains to note that even if war could be disparaged (not bloody likely) enemies of this most honorable practice would have nothing to fear, because war primarily destroys warfarers. Collateral damages aside, and the odd woman-and-child combination notwithstanding, most victims of war who die with bullets in their chests die also with guns in their hands.

War, then, is a cancer-eating cancer. Who can fear an innocuous thing like that?

Like Romeo and Juliet, war loves war, and war kills war.

IX. War Expedites Evolution

“Violence is the last refuge of the [guy who should have tried violence sooner].”

— Isaac Asimov

The human race has war to thank for much of its enduring success and happiness, but natural selection continues. Having developed foresight, as well as a prototypical reasoning faculty, humans owe it to themselves to help speed evolution along, rather than sluggishly floating through stages of development like flotsam on a wave.

Since evolution depends on the deaths of as many would-be parents as possible, war hurries genetic development exponentially. Millions of heroic, conscientious warmongers with an earnest desire to kill opt out of parenthood, and thereby hurry the filtration process. In addition to these purposeful patriots, millions eject themselves from the gene pool by enlisting under dubious pretenses also, including (though fortunately not limited to) the overemotional, the desperate, the directionless, the uneducated, the unassuming, the weak-willed, and the easily-convinced. With all these excellent specimens volunteering their progeny for oblivion, homo sapien version 2.0 might just be released millions of years ahead of schedule.

One never knows which genetic mutation will prove most useful to the next line of humans, but one thing is certain: war finds those beneficial mutations quickly — much faster than waiting for rest homes to empty does.

Evolution at the speed of boom

With so much to thank war for, how can we continue to castigate this most-precious of traditions? There’s so little the world can agree on! And yet, everyone admires the silent nobility of a rusted, burned-out tank half-hidden in tall, green grass. Everybody can appreciate the natural beauty of an antiquated minefield, the subtle majesty of barbed wire silhouetted against the sunrise, its coils spiraling along the horizon like glittering ivy.

Why must we as a civilized people rebel against our most fundamental natures? Let us enjoin our destinies hand-in-hand, staring boldly, proudly down the rifled barrels of our mutual obliteration. Let us not come to regard our beatific invasions as clumsy mistakes, but as the measured, artful strokes of a virtuoso violinist crafting a concerto.

There’s nothing sick or evil about death. Death, so-called, does not even truly exist except as the briefest juncture between shapes of life, a nurturing moment in the infinite infancy of existence. Let us not stay the hand of the reaper, but take up our plows and sow our seeds in preparation for Death’s gentle harvest.

We did not invent war. We are war.

So stand down the picket signs and snatch up the weaponry, salute the Commander In-Chief and strut stolidly to doom. Our splendor and sublimity await!

With Much Love and Many Rockets,

-BothEyesShut

Stumble It!

American Unoriginal, 501 Blues

The United States of America has always embraced its individuality.  Our land, after all, represents an award for having proven our independence from the European imperialists, and for having developed our own voice, our own style, our own civilization.

After that, we developed blue jeans.  We had been rebels, and having won our independence, we no longer had a cause.  Now we celebrate our independence on Independence Day, then spend the rest of the year discouraging various dependencies exhibited by our children and the so-called co-dependent relationships engaged in by our friends.  We like our independence so much that we invented baseball, basketball, and football to avoid playing soccer with the other countries.  ‘Cause, you know; like, fuck those guys.

We do work together in our 501 blues as a begrudgingly unified American people, too, but this is not the side of ourselves we wish to emphasize.  We want to stand triumphantly alone on mountaintops, shaking our fists in defiance of the global status quo — and why not?  Seems more fun than following others on a well-traveled rail all our lives.  Our rails have naturally (or unnaturally) converged in some ways, however, and some leaders have admonished us to retain our differences and revolt against pressures to homogenize.

Those leaders who champion our individuality become cultural heroes, such as Henry David Thoreau (Mr. March-to-the-Beat-of-a-Different-Drummer, himself) and Thomas Jefferson (“The pillars of our prosperity are most thriving when most free to individual enterprise”).  The punk rock movement, led by iconoclasts like Jello Biafra and Iggy Pop, embodied the Western youth’s violent rejection of the mainstream.  Mr. Paul, who wrote that we ought not conform, happens to represent America’s favorite enthusiast of America’s favorite religion (Romans 12:2).

Mr. Paul, Henry David Thoreau, Jello Biafra

For awhile it seemed we might make these leaders of ours proud, proud of our ambitious creativity, proud of our cultural accomplishments, and proud of our devil-may-care disregard for the world’s opinion of us, but look at us now: our disregard for global opinion has alienated us, our cultural accomplishments have been largely surpassed, and our red-blooded creativity, once symbolized by riveted, indigo, serge de Nimes overalls, has become a sad, poorly-manufactured-in-Indonesia parody of itself.

American Individualism, look upon the blue face of your stillborn spirit, and despair.

There was a time not so long ago when a fella could dress as colorfully as he liked.  Plenty of guys wore blue jeans, sure, but could also step into bell-bottoms, plaid pants, coveralls, or any manner of matched slacks.  Trousers were high-waisted, waist-high, hip-hugging or standard, and could be held up with a belt or suspenders.  Even during times of extremely prevalent trends (trends, plural, mind you) we managed to assert our own personalities through the clever juxtaposition of numerous possible garments.  Look at the variety expressed in this typical ad from thirty years ago:

Bells and whistles. The former garnered the latter, I imagine.

It may be surmised that these clothes came from the same season of the same line, and that the fashion designer had intended the outfits to somewhat coordinate with one another.  These similarities notwithstanding, the variety of colors and fabrics and styles makes modern America look as uniquely fashionable as dental-office wallpaper.

I mean, look at that bad-ass motherfucker on the right.  Have you seen anything like that pilgrim-style collar in your life?  More pertinent to our conversation about American creativity, though, are their pants: endlessly more more fun and imaginative than those merely acceptable blue jeans.  The bell-bottoms apparently came checkered, plaid, or plain with cuffs, and you can bet there were more colors than those offered here.  I’m guessing these fabrics were wool, polyester, cotton, and corduroy respectively, far beyond today’s usual variety of cotton, nylon, or cotton-nylon.  The fedoras are a nice touch, too, but I’m focusing on trousers, here.  And why, you ask?

Because — if modern American creativity could be measured in trousers, my friends, it would look like this:

What color were the socialist overalls in Orwell's 1984, again?

This was merely one of a score of images I could have chosen from (I selected this for the flag waving, which I consider a bonus).

Hypothesis: the American public does not exhibit the level of independent thought of which it seems so proud.

Conclusion: for all our independence and rebellion, we can’t even choose our pants uniquely, anymore.

One respondent to BothEyesShut’s American Trousers Study reported, “Hell yes, we’re independent.  We think fer ourselves, sure do, and if a pair of blue jeans just happens to be the most American piece of clothing we own, don’t y’all blame us for looking uniform.  Just because we wear the same style pants as everyone else, don’t you go thinkin’ you’ve got some sorta creative edge on us, or nuthin’.  Blue jeans were good ’nuff fer my pappy, and they were good ’nuff fer his pappy, and by God (big G) they’ll be good ’nuff for me, my son, his son, and the dog, too, if’n we decide to haul off ‘n buy him a pair!”

Cletus has a point.  As a nation, our creativity does capture the globe’s attention with our radical, unpredictable, freedom-waving manner of dress.  We’re just as edgy and innovative as any of those other countries, like Japan. . .

Gomen nasai.

or France. . .

Frenim-Clad

Or the United England Kingdom. . .

The United England Kingdom

So, OK, I admit it — I admit that we denizens of the United States are not the only ones who forgot how to sew fabrics other than denim, but as anyone can see, we aren’t becoming more interesting by learning from the innovations of other countries.  We aren’t trying to decide whether we’ll wear our awesome Scottish kilts to the party or our dashing Spanish sailor’s slacks.  Rather, we’re destroying whatever cool fashions may have existed in these places before the stonewashed blue plague set in.  We’re not doing it on purpose, though.  Like carriers of a cultural disease, we became victims ourselves before spreading it around.

Levi Strauss, pragmatic inventor of what he insisted on calling, “Levi’s overalls,” did not advertise his way to the top of the fashion charts, however; his product had undeniable merit.  The machine-spun fabric withstood months of laborious mining, and the copper-riveted pockets did not tear out at the corners when laden with rocks, bolts, and other detritus toted by the miners.  In 1890, Strauss added a watch pocket for pocket watches (that little rectangular one at the right hip) because men generally carried their watches on chains in vest pockets, and vests, of course, could not be worn in the mines without becoming torn and soiled.

So we non-miners bought them, too.  Our wives were tired of patching and darning our trousers just as much as Mrs. Strauss had been, and what do you know?  By the time James Dean wore them in “Rebel Without a Cause,” the United States Navy had been issuing them to sailors for over fifty years.  Then theatres, schools, and churches banned them in a last-ditch effort to contain adolescent interest in rebellion, an effort which backfired, of course, and by the sixties they had become commonplace.  Then stonewashed.  Then cut-off.  Then ripped.  By 2004, the average American owned seven pairs of blue jeans.

Seven pairs.  Seven.

Forty years ago, guys could go ladykilling on Main St. on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and expect prospective marks to decorate themselves from the waist down, rather than default to the best-fitting of their seven pairs of blue jeans.

Liberated elegance, from a time when people had to know how to match their clothes.

Yeah, so old Levi isn’t at fault.  Jeans are ubiquitous because indolence is human.  We’re too damned lazy to exercise our character, and fuck, jeans “go with” everything.  They really do look nice, too; I like mine boot-cut with a dark, royal bleu de Gênes color, and always wear ankle boots with them to look less casual.  There’s nothing wrong with them — they aren’t the problem.  If it were up to our jeans, I bet they’d rather not be worn as a matter of course, either.

We don’t have complete control over our fashion proclivities.  Marketing and thought control are synonymous, and even more commonplace than the clothes sold thereby.  In spite of this assault on the American freedom of choice, few high schools in the United States still teach media, leaving teens (and their hard-won pocket cashola) defenseless, unaware that they are always someone’s target audience, victims of omnipresent psychographic advertising.

These mind vipers love us all dressing alike, eating the same foods, listening to the same bands (who all sound alike now, anyway) because it’s child’s play to advertise in generalities when the general public is generally going to like anything that fits the general description of what they generally want to buy.  How can a budding fashion designer build a name for himself?  Why, advertise a logo on magazines and bumper stickers, then slap it on a pair of blue jeans and charge enough money to ensure only affluent people can afford to flaunt them.  Sold.

Do people purchase things they might regret as a result of mass marketing? Oh -- sometimes, I suppose.

Many entities benefit from transmogrifying a free-thinking, unpredictable people into a cowed and colorless one.  Politicians, far from pandering to liberals or conservatives, have aimed at median voters for decades.  We owe this trend to the tendency of most Americans to contradict themselves on the ballot.  Most Americans, for example, call the torture of terrorists justifiable, yet insist on federal investigations into the torturing of terrorists.  Most Americans back abortion rights, so long as women do not abort their pregnancies for certain reasons — gender selection, for instance.  This tendency lets interested parties market to the broadest, largest group of people with a single advertisement, and for this reason interested parties work to make us as similar to one another as possible.

It is, of course, human nature to prefer what does not surprise us, as well, so we shirk the shocking and reject the revolutionizing.  Hippies dressed differently, so they were terrorized.  Punk rockers dressed differently, so they were terrorized.  Women who wear burkas in the U.S. dress differently, so they are terrorized.  The most dangerous thing to a way of life is a new, fresh idea, and many people can’t help but hate the guy with the wacky hat.

The wacky hat is distracting.  It isn’t simply fear that causes us to attack everything creative and unique in our midst.  High school administrations that adopt a “No distracting hairstyles” clause for their dress code know well what independent thought can do to a “sit down, shut up” curriculum (more on this in Part I of “How to Refrain From Being a Dick”).  When we stop worrying about our hair, we also free time from our mind’s busy schedule to think about something else — like how we’re going to afford a three-hundred-dollar pair of Sevens brand blue jeans.  We’ll need the trousers if we want to attract that blonde who makes us hard by packaging her ass in a three-hundred-dollar pair of Sevens brand blue jeans.

Creativity: securing seats in the gene pool since the dawn of time.

Originality is powerful.  Unique traits fuel evolution, command attention, and map uncharted territories in any given scenario.  Best of all, exercising one’s individuality today is easier than ever.  One could, for instance, boycott blue jeans.  The last American Levi’s factory closed in 2003, anyhow.

Levi’s blue jeans: Not Made in U.S.A.

So, go ahead!  Have waffles for dinner and ride a pogo stick to work.  Go apeshit, America!  Take the plunge.  Spend an hour looking for trousers at the mall; look for pants that are neither denim, beige, nor black.  Good fucking luck!  It’s far harder than you think, and if you’re anything like me, it’s going to piss you off to see how few possibilities the market allows you.

There’s nothing wrong with national trends.  Trends become traditions and traditions become culture, and culture’s one of few things differentiating us from dust mites.  When trends control our thoughts and curb our options, though, it’s time to trim them back.  When everyone loves Twilight, it’s time to take a second look at Dracula.  When everyone has a pair of those retro Ray Ban Wayfarer sunglasses, it’s time to switch up to neon blade-style Oakleys.  Do it.  Let’s see your face behind a K-rad pair of those fuckers.

I’m not kidding myself, bytheway.  I know there’s no escape.  But there’s an important difference between the guy who goes gently into that good night and the guy who spits and cusses and brawls all the way down.

Or — I’m imagining that, and we’re all just as boring as everyone else.

No way.  I saw a forty year old man in a swell black tuxedo and pink bow tie slam dancing at a Vandals show, once.

And there was nothing boring about that.

With Great Reprobation, Condemnation and Fulmination,

-BothEyesShut

The Southern California Motorist

In a more lighthearted vein, I’ve been considering the driving habits of Southern Californians lately.  I’m not going to lie; I’ve been wanting to write on this topic for some time, now, and it appears that the moment is come.  Upon reflection, several possible approaches appeared: I could rant about things that piss me off during my commute; I could teach a sarcastic driving course; I could make fun of the habits of drivers from various different areas; or I could make fun of drivers by stereotyping their choice of automobiles.  The choice has been a difficult one though, so I’m just going to do all four.  OK?

So let’s go!  Walk around your vehicle and perform your five-point safety inspection, being sure to check tires for proper inflation, lights for functionality, and the ground for any suspicious puddles of leaked fluid.  Adjust your mirrors, seat, head restraint and steering wheel angle (if applicable), buckle and adjust your seat belt, engage the clutch and brake, and finally, turn your ignition key to start the motor.  E-brake off!  First gear!  Lightly off the clutch and hard on the accelerator, and don’t forget to make that left turn in Albuquerque.

The Average Jane or Joe

The Average Janes and Joes of Southern California drive to familiar places daily and know their roadways.  As a rule, they break posted speed limits by approximately 10 MPH and eye out-of-state plates with contempt.  They usually carry no more than two passengers at a given time (often children) and limit their choice of bumper adornments to one icon or sticker, much like local police cruisers, except that adornments on civilian autos are typically religious or political in nature.

On that score, So-Cal. Average Janes and Joes drive rather like So-Cal. cops drive, since cops give tickets here for failing to drive like a patrolling cop.  In short, the Average Jane or Joe in Southern California is a happy conformist, using signals before lane changes and turns, casually commenting on the mistakes of others, and trying not to text too much during long commutes.  Nothing spectacular.  They may be recognized by their unremarkable vehicle, which generally looks like a nice, shiny used car even when it’s bought brand-new, and which they sell 40,000 miles later with no discernible aesthetic differences.

Personally speaking: I have no beef with the Average Jane or Joe — that is, unless I’ve recently had a run-in with one of the inconsiderate bastards described below.  Almost everyone is an Average Jane or Joe sometimes.  It can depend on the car we’re driving, current stress levels, how many antidepressants we’re on, or even something dumb like what song is on the radio.  So, yeah.  As long as you aren’t doing some intensely ignorant shit, I want you to know that I understand.  We’re all on the same team.  I’ll even let you merge.

The Soccer Mom

The Southern California mode of soccer mom can be seen pacing down the freeway at a static velocity without regard to the surrounding flow of traffic.  She often seems to speak animatedly to no one, though this is really a conversation via Blue Tooth or with children hidden behind tinted windows.  Of course, it also may purport the onset of schizophrenia.  She has a selection of both political and religious bumper stickers on her rear window, and she thinks they look classier there than on the actual bumper.

The So. Cal. soccer mom has also the dubious distinction of pre-menopause, a self-administered sexual repression during what is generally considered to be the peak of female sexuality.  Soccer Mom Pre-menopause, or SMP (a reversal of PMS like menopause itself), causes a particular social apathy which is believed to produce her disregard for the surrounding flow of traffic.  The cause of this phenomenon is unknown, but researchers widely recognize a probable connection to both Oprah Winfrey and the Lifetime network.

Notable hazards include (but are not limited to): ignorance of nearby vehicles, failure to check blind spots before lane changes, and habitual stopping twenty feet before crosswalks at traffic signals.  The latter is particularly dangerous in inner cities, when Soccer Mom’s buffer of twenty feet leaves drivers several cars behind sitting in an intersection when the light changes.

Soccer moms may be recognized by their sensible choice of automobile, typically a minivan or station wagon, though overprotective and so-called “helicopter” parents prefer SUVs and 80s-era trucks such as the Ford Bronco, as these behemoths politely crush anything that otherwise might test the safety specifications of a conventional car or pickup.

Personally speaking: when one of these bitches cuts me off while reaching to slap the brat in the back seat, I begin to fantasize about all the ways I’d like to remind her that there’s a world outside the faux-safe environment she’s contrived around her kids.  Sometimes we happen to be going to the same place, and I once waited to talk to one as she got her kids out of the car.  I wanted to scare her, to invade her sanitary little incubator of a lifestyle, maybe say something to the effect that people who drive like selfish, clueless twats sometimes find Hustler magazine centerfolds flour-pasted to their precious family wagons in the morning, maybe a broken beer bottle or two on the floorboard — oh, wicked world! — but can you believe it took that bitch over five minutes to armor her little maggots against the harsh Orange County elements?  I had to give up in disgust.  They win again.

Nondescript Van Guy

Nondescript Van Guy comes from a variety of possible lifestyles.  He may be driving an airport shuttle, rideshare, or church bus.  He may be a utility worker, IT professional, or caregiver to the elderly.  He may work as a courier, electrician, cable guy, or repairman.  Several attempts to clarify the taxonomy of homo vana nondescriptus have been made, but these efforts are thwarted by several factors.

Strangely, all vans are white.  They have been painted thus since 1994, the year of the popular Harrison Ford movie, “Clear and Present Danger,” in which a string of white vans is exploded with rocket launchers.  This lack of color would be confusing enough but they also all sport tinted windows, tinted so black as to be opaque.  Many do not have side and rear windows at all, these last belonging to branch Chester molesterus, the purpose of which van is commonly presumed.  In addition, many Nondescript Van Guys do not advertise the name or nature of their business on the outside of their vehicles, forcing interested parties to guess at what regularly – or irregularly – transpires within.

Notable hazards include: use of turn signals after lane change has commenced or completed; poor driver field of vision; forward field of vision obscured for following drivers; possible kidnapping/molestation, esp. in 909 area code (watch for TAP OUT, F-Word Industries, or Metal Mulitia logos on bumpers or windows).

Personally speaking: Nondescript Van Guys don’t piss me off too much, usually.  Most of these guys have to drive these lugging steel Twinkies for their work, and they hate the lack of windows at least as much as I hate their inability to see.  Every now and then one of them gets tired of having to be extra-cautious, though, and casually slides into my lane without so much as a glance at his side mirror.  That’s when I take advantage of his lack of a rear window and start chucking stink bombs at his tail.   You’d be amazed how well those things seep into a cab from behind at sixty miles per hour.  Learned that in high school.

Plodding Doom: old people and three tons of moving steel

Though not especially confined to this locale, the elderly motorist takes great interest in the mild Mediterranean climate of Southern California, and like most red-blooded Americans, she would rather lose a limb than relinquish her cherished automobile.  This trend gives rise to perhaps the most ubiquitous known roadway hazard — the Plodding Doom.

Fortunately, the Doom feels out-of-place in traffic over 25 MPH and shuns freeways and highways in favor of community avenues and boulevards.  This sadistic disposition leads Plodding Doom to refrain from exceeding 25 MPH, however, which requires other motorists to evade, circumvent, or simply endure them, even in 45 or 55 MPH zones.  This critical danger is augmented more than somewhat by the condition of the motorists who must pass the Doom in sudden bursts of speed, many of whom are themselves Soccer Moms, Nondescript Van Guys, Grand Prix Guys, or hitherto-undocumented roadway hazards.

Approach Plodding Doom with extreme caution!  They may be recognized by their slight, non-erratic swerve, intermittent brake lights, driver invisibility, or by their vehicle, which is invariably an early model in far better condition than naturally occurs.

NOTE: the Doom is not a dextrous creature; if you suspect that you are being followed by a member of this genus and species, quickly execute a U-turn; the Doom will not be able to reciprocate, thus facilitating your fortuitous escape.  This maneuver is colloquially known as “flipping a bitch,” as the surviving majority of Plodding Dooms are of the female gender.

Personally speaking: I don’t sweat Plodding Doom.  I just go around.  I mean, shit — these people are rolling toward death as it is, and if they happen to plow into a crowd of people on 4th St. in Santa Monica every now and then, well hey, that’s facilitating evolution, too, isn’t it?  Be ever vigilant, my friends!

Modern Harley Guy

Modern Harley Guy is a disarming specimen.  He observes traffic laws, uses his turn signals, and whenever possible, travels in large packs in order to increase visibility for his own safety and that of others.  He is good-natured, magnanimous in heavy traffic, and exudes an aura of a man on holiday.  One must remind oneself at every sighting that Modern Harley Guy is a killer, and that one ought not engage him on the highway without the proper precautions: water balloons, for example.

The split personality of Modern Harley Guy contributes to his hazardous behavior.  He affords his $25,000 motorbike by working days as a doctor, lawyer, or corporate executive, a lifestyle which affords him much stress, little relaxation, and no time with which to exult in a hobby or family (though many Modern Harley Guys purchase hobbies or families intending to invest time in them at a later date).  After his children grow up and monies sufficient for the sustaining of the — often newly divorced — Modern Harley Guy are garnered, the Modharg retires from his job and accedes to  a life of leisure: a maximum of four days at the office; two days maintaining recently acquired real estate; and one day on which he forces himself to indulge in the hobby he invested in during the failure of his marriage.  Without fail, this new hobby is motorcycling.

The Modharg, having grown up in an era of Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, still associates the Harley Davidson brand with rebelliousness, vigor, and freedom, a delusion which impels him to bizarre highway behavior, such as taking in the sunset at a cool 40 MPH without watching the road.  He does not possess any latent mechanical skill and so does not understand some or many attributes of his vehicle.  This lack of confidence causes Modern Harley Guy to operate his motorcycle like a Soccer Mom / Nondescript Van Guy hybrid, riding at static speeds, changing lanes without checking his blind spot, and moving down the road with all the apathy and deliberate ignorance of a doctor on his lunch break.  If the Modharg achieves a level of confidence with his Sunday plaything, he may take a second, younger and more blonde mate to entertain him on weekends, and in this stage of development ceases to cause problems on the road, being only dangerous when inebriated in the presence of another Modharg in a prior stage.

He may be easily recognized by the perfect condition of his new leather jacket, which is usually bedecked in scores of leather tassels, or by his Willie Nelson stars n’ stripes bandanna, which he may be wearing on his head, around his ankle, or out of his back pocket.

Personally speaking: now seriously, I want to stress that it’s the weekend warrior bastards who tend to be total wastes of water.  I mean, I ride, and I’ve met everyone from the crusty ol’ Easy Rider rebels from the 60s to the neon-suited street-bike bros, and honestly, they’re all pretty nice guys.  I mean, hell, there’s alot of camaraderie between riders, anyhow.  But Modern Harley Guys can really fucking suck!  Who gets off the bike and starts bragging about his new Ferrari?  Who fucking does that?  And what about the needless and careless fuck-you-I’m-riding-here attitude?  Needless does not mean independent, asshole.  And careless is not the same as carefree.  You’ll notice that Modhargs tend to ride with other Modhargs.  There’s a reason for that.

Grand Prix Guy

Grand Prix Guy is the villain discussed in most driver’s education courses, the type-A personality with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, a disease stemming from various causes without any significant difference in the symptoms.  These symptoms include neurotic and unpredictable decision-making with a tendency towards active rather than passive, sharp versus gradual, breaking-through instead of blending-in.  Grand Prix Guy finds himself unable to escape the delusion that everyone envies his lightning reflexes and commanding presence on the road, and studies show that the rise in testosterone levels during his commute actually makes him feel sexier to females whom may be sharing the road with him.

Grand Prix Guy may rev his engine at stoplights to entice other drivers to compete against him or as a show of feigned self-confidence.  He may also do this as part of a bizarre mating ritual which has baffled experts, baffled them because the mating call has no record of success outside of classic movies and therefore does not lend itself to the evolution of the species.  Another step in GPG’s mating ritual is to show his poor taste in music by playing it as loud as possible, music typically of the top-40 hip-hop genre; this has changed through the years, having been gangsta rap in the 90s, heavy metal in the 80s, and in the 70s — disco.  He advertises his poor taste in music in order that Grand Prix Girls (also called “Bro Hos”) might associate themselves with him through their own poor taste in music and thereby seek him out if he happens to park nearby.  This scenario is also part of GPG’s delusion.

He may be recognized by his erratic behavior and shocking gambles on the road, but not by his vehicle.  Terrifyingly, Grand Prix Guy has been known to drive every known make and model of automobile, including even the forklift, the golf cart, and the La-Z-Boy.

Personally speaking: I used to brake-check Grand Prix Guys, until one day this jackass in a fucking Trans-Am (of course) was so close to my bumper that when I hit the brakes he fishtailed behind me and almost lost control, and at the next light he got out to threaten my life.  This motherfucker was so high on amphetamines that he looked like his face was about to tear free from his head and float away, and so pissed that he couldn’t even talk.  When the light turned green I just cruised on ahead and regretted having almost created a terrible accident.  That Trans-Am didn’t hurt anyone.  Why should I take my aggression out on a helpless macho relic from the 80s?  The moral is, when you see Grand Prix Guy and want to flip him off, remember that GPG is very likely PCP — on wheels.

S.U.V. Captains

SUV Captains have been piloting their tuna boats through the narrow straits of our cities and suburbs for a little over a decade, now, and calculating the amount of damage this misgiven trend has caused could crash the most stalwart computer processor.  Without even considering ecological complications, drivers of SUVs are six times more likely to kill other drivers in a collision, and they know this.  The Southern California breed of SUV Captain often does not own a sports-utility vehicle for sports or utility, but rather for the selfish safety of their families at the expense of other people’s safety everywhere they go.  SUVs also afford their owners all the luxury and comfort of an early-model conversion van, with an entertainment center instead of a sink and wooden cabinets.  SUV Captains drive without regard to laws, social conventions, or other drivers, and can be expected to commit any of the atrocities here described when it suits their fancy.

Large trucks present an obstacle to the flow of traffic as well as myriad other hazards, and for this reason the drivers of conventional vehicles distaste having one nearby, a lesson that newly commissioned SUV Captains learn soon after leaving his or her port-of-call.  They resent that no one wants to let them merge and do not understand that they obscure the forward field of vision of everyone following them, so they quickly begin to neglect their turn signals and opt instead for the “Fuck you, I’m coming over” method.  They also do not understand that without being able to see ahead, everyone behind them depends on their SUV’s brake lights to warn them of any approaching danger whatsoever, so they do not keep a large following distance in front of them but instead tailgate others, using their mammoth size to intimidate drivers into making way for them.  It takes no time at all before the SUV Captain sees that he is reviled on the road, and rather than rethinking his rash, self-serving decision to buy a behemoth, he sides with the other SUV Captains and simply decides that all common courtesies and civic codes were intended for common people in common cars.  A small example of this elitist mentality is pictured above.  Note the CA plate.  No surprise there.

Personally speaking: when these fucking Tonka toys first gained popularity, people made lots of dick jokes, the kind we used to tell about the Lamborghini owners and Corvette bastards.  Guy steps out of something flashy like that, you pretty much automatically figure he’s got a little dick, but it’s always seemed extra true about SUV Captains to me, maybe because I’ve never seen a tall guy step out of one.  It’s always some Napoleon motherfucker in a polo shirt, looking around and hiking up his Dockers before strutting into the local Trader Joe’s.  If their demeanor were yoked to their driving habits, I could stand being around these Rear Admirals, but the ones I’ve met have almost uniformly been assholes (and having worked in Orange County as a kid for ten years, I’ve met hundreds).  My hypothesis is that the “fuck-you-I’m-coming-over” attitude leaks into their personality until they drive their lives the way they drive their fucking Tonka toys.  Or, alternately, perhaps they were like that all along, and it took the advent of the S-U-fucking-V for them to feel right at home in their jerkmobiles,  a selfish little castle for selfish little men — oh, and for their Soccer Mom Pre-menopausal wives, lest we forget.

Rolling Status Symbol Guy, Addendum I.

Rolling Status Symbol Guy drives like a cross between a Modharg and a Soccer Mom, except I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what it is that causes their utter apathy.  They aren’t necessarily assholes in person, and they don’t seem particularly unintelligent.  Whatever it is, I know that I should never get behind one, because the nicer the car, the less urgent the business, and I want to get where I’m going preferably before my unborn grandchildren do.  You ever notice how a late model Lotus will never exceed the speed limit by even a little?  And speaking of the Lotus, why are they all neon?  Who wants to spend 60,000 dollars on a lime-green sports car?

That’s nothing compared to the Lamborghinis, though.  The way Lamborghini drivers get around is irony beyond compare.  Imagine! $300,000 just to putt around like you were in a Volvo.  What the fuck is the point in that?  If I could afford something exorbitant like that, and if I could justify its expense to myself, I’d be able to justify driving like I was on the autobahn, too, and I’d poo-pooh speeding tickets just as if I were shooing a fly.

Of course, maybe it really is just a status symbol.  Really?  Really?  These fucktards are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so other people are forced to accept that in some parts of the world, this is considered a standard purchase?  I guess if I were at the top, I’d be lonely, too, and this sort of reaching out for some semblance of respect, some distant glimpse of a smile in my direction might be all I had that kept my uneventful existence from becoming an exciting front page murder/suicide story.

On the other hand and to be fair: maybe they’re just sleepy, boring fuckers with irrational spending habits and a penchant for leather seats?  Couldn’t tell you.  Last time I tried to interview one, I practically jumped out the window myself.  Those poor bastards converse like a real-estate firm’s answering machine.

The Fixer, Addendum II.

OK, OK, I know — the fixed-gear bicycle is not technically a car.  But they’re on my fucking roads, and they’re in my fucking way everywhere I turn here in Long Beach, CA.  These entitled sons of bitches actually seem to think that I have some obligation to them and their $3,000 fashion accessory.  They want to merge into traffic at 30 MPH in the 45 zone.  They want extra room in the slow lane so they can ride in their trendy little cliques, three people abreast, their cute little capri shorts showing off their cute little emo bottoms.  They actually lobbied and won their own stupid lane in the road here where I live! Never mind the heavy traffic — we have goddamn fixers to coddle.

That was to decriminalize behavior like this jackass exhibits here, in the above photo, shown doing a K-rad skid out in the middle of the fucking roadway during heavy traffic.  Awesome!  Good job.  And who would you suppose snapped up this fantastic photo opportunity?  The driver of the car behind, who was completely impressed, I’m sure?  No, it was one of the other fixers in the fashion-fuck echelon of Tour de France assholes behind him, of course.  They probably took turns doing fabulous skid outs for one another to take iPhone pictures of while riding one-handed, downhill, in traffic, so that they’d all have the eye-catching splendor of themselves in fixed-gear fashion on their Facebook pages.

Well, fuck them.  And you know what?  Even if they weren’t riding around like they owned the place, popping up in swarms of self-acceptance like the result of a Lance Armstrong gangbang via members of Paramour and My Chemical Romance, I still wouldn’t be OK with the spandex-free cycling fad, because fixers’d still contend that they’re engaged in this ridiculous trend for reasons other than that it’s fashionable, and I can’t stand a lack of introspection that grievous.

*                *                *

So that’s that.  I’m not going to say any more about any of the other kinds of shitty highway behavior or anyone else’s lack of etiquette.  To be completely honest, it’s frickin’ horrifying to look back on all this and see that this is the amalgam of death that we gamble our lives on here every day.  It’s even more chilling to reflect on ourselves honestly and realize that from time to time, we’ve all been one or two of these assholes.  Some of us are Grand Prix Guy every Friday after work.  Others are Plodding Death every Sunday after church when we’re still feeling “the spirit of the Lord.”  Still others of us much resemble the Rolling Status Symbol Guy, except that instead of Vivaldi’s “Quattro Stagioni” on the stereo, we have Sly and the Family Stone, and instead of a Bentley, we’re bouncing along in a VW bus, and instead of a Cuban cigar, we have a British-Columbian cigarette. . .  You get the picture.

Anyhow, the point is, nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “Today, world, I am going to drive like utter shit all over you, and on top of that, I intend to be a total dick.”  Nobody says that, so keep it in mind when you really loathe that motherfucker in front of you clogging up the fast lane, or start to kind of hate the swerving madman who really may be drunk, or begin to detest whoever parked that goddamn SUV half on the sidewalk in front of your apartment.  If there’s any difference between your Average John or Jane Doe and the other people on this list, it’s that some drivers work together to keep from getting home any later than necessary, and some fuck it up by trying to do it their own way.  I guess that’s all I have to say about that.

Have an Awesome Trip and Happy Motoring,

-BothEyesShut

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